Various Current Thoughts

I have something like four draft posts that I’ve written chunks of in the last couple of weeks that will probably never see the light of day, simply because they’re no longer timely or perhaps even relevant. (One might question the actual relevance of ANY of my blog posts, though, I suppose. ;)) That said, I’ve obviously wanted to blog, so here I am.

New on Twitter

One of the blogs I’ve been reading for, oh, forever, is Blessing of Kings. It’s written by Rohan and every time I see he’s updated, I run to his blog to read his thoughts. We don’t always agree on things and there are some topics (SWTOR, for example) that I’m not interested in at all, but he’s a smart guy who writes very well. Happily, he’s now on Twitter! Go follow him, ASAP: @rverghes

New (to me) Blog

So I started up my Guild Chat forum a couple of weeks ago (go, read, ask questions, post your guild recruitment ads, etc!) and one of the members introduced himself and joked about me not following him on Twitter. I searched my emails to see if it was someone I knew or whatever and I saw a couple of emails exchanged between us — and it turns out that the guy is the amazing individual who runs WoW Lemmings. Not only is he awesome for running that site (because that site has SAVED MY GUILD’S ASS more times than I can count), but he’s got a WoW blog. It’s called “Eight Years in Azeroth: Memoires of a Casual/Hardcore Raiding Guild Leader“. Basically, he tells the story of his guild, from its inception to… well, he’s up to somewhere in Wrath now, I believe. I’m only a couple of entries in, but I’m really enjoying it. He’s a good storyteller and, of course, he’s currently talking about Vanilla, so I’m enthralled. ;) (Hilariously, I just noticed the URL can also spell out “Eighty Ears”, but I’m pretty sure it’s “Eight Years”. ;))

First entry is here: http://eightyearsinazeroth.blogspot.ca/2012/03/1-1.html

Hearthstone

I admit it. Since losing my King Krush card in the wipe, I’ve been a bit sad. I LOVED that card. Sure, I could craft it — if I had 1600 Arcane Dust lying around. I have, oh, 380. I’ve already spent some cash in the beta (pre-wipe), so I’m not particularly inclined to spend any money right now, so I’ll just have to deal. That said, I do still quite enjoy the hunter deck. It feels really good and I think it’s got a lot of synergy.

I do plan to post something about card synergy for hunters, but, well, not today.

Hearthstone 2

The hot topic today, I expect, will be the fact that Hearthstone ranked players have just experienced their first rank wipes. Prior to the patch and general overall wipe last Tuesday, I’d made it up to Platinum 2 with some half-hearted playing in the weeks beforehand. I got to Gold 3 this last week with some occasional play and experimentation with new hunter deck builds. And yet, I logged in today and it was like “Last week, you hit Gold 3!” And I’m now apparently back to the start. Since I haven’t put in a lot of effort, I’m okay with that. But I can see why some people are annoyed.

On the one hand, if you hit the top rank (Masters 3, I think?), what else are you going to do if ranks don’t reset on a regular basis? Plus, eventually, most people will be somewhere between Gold and Masters, I would imagine, leaving newbies to die hideously. There would be too much of an advantage for the older players, no? Something like that.

But on the other hand, why bother playing ranked if your progress is just going to vanish on Tuesday? That’s… it’s sort of like levelling a WoW toon for a week and hitting, I don’t know, 77, and then getting it wiped. There’s talk about “weekly tournaments” or rewards or whatever, but I haven’t seen too much info about this yet (not that I’ve been looking particularly hard). Still, one needs to ask what kind of rewards are viable for each type of player. Card packs aren’t useful to players who have all the cards (and there are people who do — or almost all of them). Dust isn’t useful to those people either. Gold, then? Gold allows Arena entry, so that’s a possibility, but ranked play is very different from Arena play. Ranked play is all about you customizing your own deck and painstakingly tweaking it and testing it out. Arena play is “hey, here are three heroes. Pick one. Oh, good, you picked one! Now, here are 90 cards, pick the best 30 you can and, by the way, you have no idea against whom you’ll be playing, GOOD LUCK!”. Arena play is basically throwing you into the deep end, because you can’t change your deck and you can’t even choose your hero (okay, you can, but the choice is one of three — if a hunter, for example, isn’t offered as a choice, guess what? That’s right, no Rexxar for you.). You have to be really familiar with all the classes and all their abilities in order to do well in the Arena, IMHO. (This would explain why I’m not good. Yet.)

So my question is, what kind of rewards would be good for BOTH new ranked players that would get them to work to be better in ranked play AND highly-ranked players who have clearly mastered ranked play and have the vast majority of cards in the game?

Good God, it’s like Blizzard’s replicated the WoW “casual vs. hardcore” in Hearthstone, too! ;)

World of Warcraft

It’s been a year since I got back from my trip to Italy which means it’s been about eleven months since I last played WoW (barring a 30m quick bit of testing on a trial account – on my laptop – for Module 2 of my GM Guide, to properly ascertain which Horde race can get to Trade Chat the quickest). I last properly played on November 10th and, I admit, with all the talk of 5.4, it’s tempting to go back and screw around a bit, maybe form some flex raids or some such thing.

Then again, it’s not all that tempting.

But Proving Grounds seem interesting. And it’s tempting to see how long it would take me to get a legendary cloak, since I’d be starting from scratch…

Yet every time I get the urge to play, I question if it’d be worth it. I know myself well enough to know that I’d play a LOT until all the newness has worn off and then I’d be like “why am I even PLAYING if I’m not RAIDING?” and honestly, do I want to learn boss strats? Nope, not particularly. And since I don’t have the client on my desktop, I’d be in for something like a 17GB download, which is enough to dissuade me from impulsively signing back up.

I will go back at some point — apart from anything else, I’d like to try to get server-first skinning in the next expansion, which has LONG been a goal of mine — but I don’t think that time is now. Plus, going back now seems silly when I’m so close to a year without playing. Maybe after NaNoWriMo, when it’s December and it’s cold and snowy outside.

Speaking of Majik

Majik and his wife are coming up to Montreal in November. Those two, plus my brother, Fog, and his wife, and I will all be going up to our parents’ cottage in mid-November for a three-day weekend. Should be fun, although cold. Plans currently include a lot of board game playing: The Resistance (which I just picked up this week), Pandemic, Settlers of Catan and possibly more. We may also get to canoe if it’s not TOO cold, perhaps have a short hike up a small mountain (assuming my brother and I can remember where in the hell the mountain is and where the path is) and possibly have a bonfire while keeping an eye out for the shooting stars stemming from the Leonid meteor shower. It should be a good time. And maybe I’ll get him to SING for the old Blessing of Frost podcast listeners.

(I still have a very short mini-episode thing I need to finish editing, one of these days, that was recorded back on Maj’s wedding day.)

Kick-Ass Raider’s Guide

Writing my GM guide this summer was a fantastic experience. I was really into it and very passionate about what I was doing and wrote a lot. I haven’t found the same energy for my raider’s guide, but I do plan to get some serious writing done this week. I feel like I keep saying this, but hopefully I’ll have a sneak peek for you guys Soon ™. Right now, it seems as though each time I try to write, I end up going through my GIGABYTES of screenshots, trying to find examples for what I’m talking about and then I, invariably, get caught up in old memories. Not useful for writing something, surprisingly. ;) Anyhow, you should sign up for my announcement list at Kurn’s Guides for info on when things are launched and released. :)

Okay, I think that about sums up what’s up with me and current stuff. Maybe I’ll get some guide writing done, now. :)

Updatey Goodness

MAN, this place gets dusty quickly, doesn’t it?

Anyway. Hi. It’s been awhile. I just thought I’d share a couple of things about what’s happening with me in this strange, strange post-WoW world.

1) SimCity: The launch was unbelievably terrible. We’re talking worse than D3′s Error 37. It was catastrophic. Gameplay is still not great and, honestly, when I think about how I should go play (since my brother Fog and I are collaborating on a region), I just get depressed at how craptastic portions of the game are. It’s a sad state. I haven’t asked for a refund, but I can’t recommend anyone purchase the game at this time. Maybe in a couple of months. I just lost a relatively young city to the rollback/unable to load city bug. Again. Ridiculous.

Don’t even get me started on their customer service. You who still play WoW do not know how lucky you are that Blizzard’s CS is, frankly, outstanding.

I would take a role-playing GM over the imbeciles at EA ANY DATE OF THE WEEK. That’s how bad EA is.

2) Job stuff: I can’t go into any real detail because I signed a non-disclosure agreement, but I recently had four rounds of interviews for a sweet job as community manager for a specific product for a specific video game company. Sadly, I didn’t get it, but it was a fantastic process. Why?

Among other things, they wanted to make sure the job went to a real gamer. So much so that in one of my interviews, the guy had me rattling off my raid progression from WoW.

Let’s think about that for a second.

In order to get a job out there in the real world, I was asked to talk about my in-game achievements. in World of Warcraft. (No, it’s not a job for Blizzard. Like they would hire me after my rants, anyhow. ;D)

But seriously, talking about my in-game achievements? My meta-achievements? My raid leading and guild leading and healing assignments? All in order to get a job in the real world that has nothing to do with WoW?

My head kind of exploded.

We didn’t get into too much detail about my raiding, but this blog, my Blessing of Frost podcast, my Twitter account… all of these had hits and followers and downloads that pointed to the fact that I knew how to build a community. And my raiding accomplishments were used to point out that yes, I am, in fact, a gamer.

Basically, my seven years of playing WoW, of engaging other players, of organizing people, of writing stuff, of doing countless posts that have math in them (UGH), of doing loot lists, of putting up with Majik, for crying out loud… all of it was absolutely worth it if only because it got me farther in a job interview than someone who hadn’t done so.

Granted, it was for a video game company looking for a community manager for a specific upcoming video game product. I don’t know that my raid leading is going to have as much importance in other interviews. But knowing that I went through a screener call from a recruiter, followed by a much more in-depth phone interview by the recruiter, followed by another phone interview with the two people with whom I’d be working, followed by a full afternoon of four interviews with five separate people… all thanks to my past job experience but especially my experience in WoW?

That felt pretty good.

The guy who asked me about my raid progression actually said:

“Soooooooo. Tell me about your guild.”

I think he was trying to throw me for a loop, but it energized me. My passion for what I had put together in Cataclysm really came shining through, my joy at getting to play with these people not just in BC but in Cata as well was evident.

So regardless of whether or not I got the job, I was thrilled by the process. I was so glad to have spent the time that I did in WoW. I was even proud to have done so, because I knew it distinguished me from other candidates. I made it to the final round of interviews and they went with someone else, but I got there, and a lot of it has to do with my guild, this blog, my podcast and my Twitter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you. I’ve had 350,000 visits, garnering 454,000 pageviews with almost 175,000 unique visitors from December, 2010 until today. Thank you for helping to make me one of the better places for holy paladin knowledge, at least back in Wrath (because I know I fell down on the job a bit in Cata) and thank you for all your emails, comments, tweets and support throughout the years.

I may not play any longer and I may not even post very often anymore, but please know that I appreciate your support, dating back from late 2010 through to the present. Those of you who made it through some of those exceedingly long posts, thank you in particular for dealing with my long-windedness. :)

What’s next for me? Back to square one in the job search. But hey, if you’re looking for a community manager, drop me a line. ;)

(As to the state of the place here, well, I’ll try to drop in more often to keep the dust away!)

Six

So there’s this “Six” meme going around and Jasyla tagged me and Serrath_ complained that I haven’t posted in forever, so here we go.

  • Go into your image folder.
  • Open the sixth sub-folder and choose the sixth image.
  • Publish the image! (And a few words wouldn’t hurt, though I dare say I couldn’t stop a blogger from adding a few words of their own.)
  • Challenge six new bloggers.
  • Link to them.

Yeah, so my image folders are pretty scattered, so I’m going to do six different sixth images.

2007 WoW Screenshots, sixth image:

This is five members of Apotheosis and four friends/puggers looking to play around in Level 70 Naxx. Tip: it did not end well. Obvious tip: Yes, my UI was absolutely ridiculous back then. This was July 4th, 2007.

2008 WoW Screenshots, sixth image:

This is Gneiss. Or actually, his name at the time was Holyfog. It was originally my brother’s priest and I brought him over to Proudmoore to play with my RL Friend the Resto Druid’s enhancement shaman alt. We got the toons to 70 and played around a bit together. Primarily, I would hop over to Proudmoore after Apotheosis raids and mine/look for gas clouds in Nagrand, in circles, while my friend would wipe over and over to Sunwell bosses, complaining about it in our custom channel.

2009 WoW Screenshots, sixth image:

While flying through Storm Peaks, I came across another guildie — whose drake appeared to be stuck on the ledge. Odd!

Random BC Screenshots folder, sixth image:

September 28th, 2008. I’m guessing this is either Rage Winterchill trash or Anetheron trash. And yup, we’re 24-manning stuff. Ah, the good ol’ days… (The UI is a BIT better, though not much, I know. :P)

Random Wrath Screenshots folder, sixth image:

One of my favourite quests in Borean Tundra. This was taken on live servers (as opposed to on beta, where I had a lot of fun /dancing as a murloc.) on November 13th, 2008.

Current Screenshots folder, sixth image:


And this is Apotheosis getting our first Heroic Morchok kill on January 3rd, 2012.

If you haven’t done this meme yet, consider yourself tagged. I think half the blogging world HAS done it, though.

Catching up with Kurn

I have been a bad person of late, not responding to (m)any comments of late, for which I sincerely apologize. I’m currently writing this post as a break from working on a project for my Video Games as Literature class. Things should be less hectic as of Wednesday!

That said, I had to talk a bit about Heroic Ragnaros, recruitment, Blessing of Frost, Majik and a couple of other topics.

Heroic Ragnaros

We pulled him once on Thursday night. We got Baleroc down for the first time that night, had a third kill of heroic Majordomo and still had time left in the raid. So we pulled Heroic Ragnaros (and I frapsed our infamous FIRST attempt, too!). We didn’t do too badly, in that we didn’t die instantly. ;) We did die to sons hitting the hammer, though. I think doing the nerfed version of regular Ragnaros for so long meant that we were expecting the sons to melt as they normally do. Hot tip: they don’t die so easily!

We spent Sunday night, our last night of the raid week, working on Heroic Ragnaros. 20 pulls on heroic, then one pull on normal to kill him.

According to WoL, the best pulls lasted four minutes and two seconds, four minutes and three seconds and four minutes and four seconds.

For anyone familiar with the heroic Ragnaros fight, that’s a pretty clear sign that the Molten Elementals and/or Molten Seeds kicked our asses. And you would be correct.

It was pretty clear that at least some of the group hadn’t watched the L2R video I’d linked in the forums and didn’t really understand the concept of all grouping up for Molten Seeds. On the one hand, bad preparation. On the other, at least they understood that grouping up for Molten Seeds is normally a bad thing? (Silver linings, Kurn, silver linings.) Still, we eventually got away from the Molten Seeds with just a couple of deaths, but it’s the Molten Elementals that would then catch up to us and brutally murder us.

Someone had suggested using a moonkin’s Typhoon to knock them back. I was going to respond that it probably wouldn’t work when Hestiah, who was asked to go moonkin for the occasion, answered in raid chat:

For some reason, this had me howling with laughter. I mean, absolutely cracking up. It continued for a couple of minutes, too. Oh, man.

Anyway, so yes, the current sticking point is the Molten Elementals. It didn’t help that we had 2 healers and a tank in their DPS offspecs, either. Of course, we don’t always GET to Phase 2, because sometimes, the sons reach the hammer and KABOOM, we are all dead. We had some AMAZING saves, though! Great work by so many people. (Seriously, a 1/7 split is not a lot of fun, though.)

What now? Well, we’re gonna do another week of heroic farming, I do believe — try out some apps, get some gear, get the heroic Baleroc achievement for people who weren’t in for the first one… and then maybe work a bit more on Ragnaros. Ultimately, we don’t know if we’re going to push him, but I think that we’re just going to run out of time before 4.3 comes out. What we will do is spend two resets and get people their Glory of the Firelands Raider achievements. Heroic Baleroc again will finish off the hard achievements, leaving us with things like Bucket List, Not an Ambi-Turner and the others.

I do worry about Alysrazor’s achievement, though. I can’t do anything about the air team, but I’m thinking I’ll use a sacrificial lamb method to have people mark a couple of SAFE places to stand for the tornadoes. So we’d go through P1 and then, when the tornadoes come out, have people mark the ground with safe marks. So to the left of a right-moving tornado, or to the right of a left-moving tornado. And then wipe it and do it again. Doing the achievements on normal mode will make things a lot easier, like we’ll be able to really lock down the initiates on Alysrazor and kill them before Brushfire comes out. We can hopefully get the hatchlings to eat worms quickly and burn them down and use CDs to go through tantrums so that Lava Spew is out of the equation. Then the tornadoes. And hopefully, the air team will have done a good job of not eating clouds. And then kill her during her first ground phase.

That’s the plan, at any rate.

So after we get the meta achievement… then what?

Well, more heroic farming, but I figure we’ll have, at most, one or two more resets after we finish the achievements. So a couple more nights on heroic Ragnaros or do we kill him on normal and give people some time off to recuperate before 4.3 hits?

To choose to work on Heroic Ragnaros, when Beru’s guild, Monolith, just got him down last night after 388 pulls… well, it kind of seems foolish, doesn’t it? It took them over two months. I’m pretty sure we won’t have two months until the next patch.

But shouldn’t we still go down fighting? That’s what we did in Tier 11 content. We pushed heroic V&T and got them down just five days before 4.2 dropped and we even played with heroic ODS, which we didn’t get down.

The time people put in on the Heroic Ragnaros fight, though, makes it seem as though it’s not an achievable goal unless we don’t go to Dragon Soul right away. And that’s the difference right there. Do we bash our heads on something that is likely not to be achieved? Or do we rest our raid crew and prep for 4.3?

Having said that…

Apotheosis Recruitment

Apotheosis is still recruiting! We’ve had some snazzy apps — an enhancement shaman and shadow priest will be starting their trials with us this week. We have an interesting elemental shaman app and I’ve been going back and forth with a hunter.

We could still use a mythical retribution paladin and any spec of warrior, so if you’re one of those and can attend 75% of raids that take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, from 9pm ET until midnight (invites at 8:45!), apply now!

Blessing of Frost

Then, there’s Blessing of Frost! We didn’t record last week because Majik had no power, due to a snowstorm and such. We can’t record today because Majik has actually lost his voice. Last night, during the raid, was hilarious. He honestly couldn’t speak, and took to threatening me in raid chat. (We will ignore the fact that I was probably taunting him about being unable to speak.)

So we’re going to let his voice recover and aim to have a new episode of Blessing of Frost out on Wednesday at some point, maybe Thursday at the latest. (We’re going to try to record on Tuesday.) It’s made all the more hilarious because MAJIK HAS IMPORTANT THINGS TO SAY!!! So, uh, yeah. Tune in this week (probably!) for a new episode of Blessing of Frost. :)

Majik Gets a Crazy Idea

And in case you’re missing your weekly dose of Majik (and who would?), he has decided to set up a blog.

Majik’s Missives is a blog where Majik will talk about his gaming life. Not just WoW, but TF2, League of Legends, reflections on older games, all that kind of stuff. He’s actually a pretty decent writer, so definitely check out his first post. He’s got a couple of others already written up and will be posting them throughout the week.

And on that note, my dear readers, it’s back to my Video Games as Literature project. Have a great Monday. :)

Do I think World of Warcraft is a game?

The other week, I asked you all if you thought World of Warcraft was a game, based on this (admittedly very specific) definition of a game:

“A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.” – Sulen and Zimmerman

My first instinct was to say yes, WoW is a game. Then I realized something. While WoW attempts to set you up, right from the start, in this artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome, you don’t have to do what they’re telling you to do.

When you start a character, you are placed in the starting zone and you are right next to a quest-giver. (Bear with me, I’ll be speaking primarily of the human starting zone.)

The developers (and common sense, really) expect you to interact with the quest-giver and complete the quest. Right off the bat, there’s the artificial conflict — you need to go kill wolves in Northshire, for example. As soon as you accept a quest, you are thrust into the artificial conflict. That initial human quest (as all others, I would imagine) immediately pits you against the environment and NPC mobs (wolves or what-have-you) in that environment.

Once you accept the quest, you have three options:

1) Complete the quest (quantifiable outcome — experience, quest rewards)
2) Drop the quest (quantifiable outcome — the lack of gaining experience, quest rewards)
3) Ignore the quest (quantifiable outcome — the lack of gaining experience, quest rewards)

All of that, however, hinges on actually picking up the quest.

If you don’t pick up the quest, there’s no immediate conflict. Nothing in the starting area will aggro on to you. You can essentially run around with impunity until you leave the Northshire gates and enter Elwynn Forest.

When you enter Elwynn Forest, you will encounter NPCs that are, for the first time, hostile to you and will attack you upon sight. This is a conflict and it’s defined by rules. The rules are simple: defend yourself with attacks until either you or the NPC dies or run away, knowing that the NPC is limited to a small area and will almost certainly not run away themselves. The quantifiable outcome is either victory (you lived and killed the NPC), defeat (you died because the NPC killed you), or a stalemate (you ran away and both of you lived).

My argument is that WoW itself is not a game. WoW does not inherently force you to engage in any of its sub-games, such as questing or exploring, PVPing or raiding, dungeoning or crafting, gathering or levelling.

Having said that, I believe that WoW is host to many, many games. Everything that can grant you experience, gold, achievements or feats of strength is a game. Anything that puts your character in danger of death is another game. Healing is a huge game with many sub-games, such as tank healing, raid healing, cooldown use, mana management, as well as the various encounter mechanics. (I’m not even going to touch on PVP healing!)

It might be splitting hairs to some, but I feel strongly that WoW is not a game on its own. It is a system that hosts a plethora of games. Most of those games, like healing, have sub-games within them.

However, I feel that WoW is more than just a system. It is definitely a system, but it also comprises all the social interaction that comes with an MMO. While there can be arguments made that “the social game” is a game, I think that the social part of things is less of a game, from the definition I gave, and more of a tool that can either help or hinder you in your game-related goals.

Following instructions in a raid setting will help your team defeat the encounter (assuming a competent raid leader) while not paying attention to instructions will likely end up killing you or others in your group. As such, the game of raiding within WoW relies heavily on communication and cooperation between raid members to emerge victorious after an encounter attempt. This is, of course, very different from the “socialness” of Trade Chat.

Is Trade Chat’s “socialness” a game? Again, I would argue not. It is merely a tool to help you to know who to avoid teaming up with, or that some people may be seeking others to help them with a dungeon or raid. Perhaps people playing the Auction House game (I do believe that’s a game) use Trade Chat to announce their auctions. Chat is a tool, not a game in and of itself. And chat belongs to the system that is WoW.

Essentially, while I do call World of Warcrat a game for simplicity’s sake, there are really just a multitude of games that WoW hosts and those are the games about which we are passionate.

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