Musings about music

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I need new screenshots…

There’s a lot of music in this post. Take your time and listen to some of it. Or not – you decide.

For reason unexplained, as I believe Tom Petty (or possibly Bob Dylan) put it, I all of a sudden came to think of music. First, a tune in particular, namely Johann Pachebels Canon in D Major. This is the original version (well, an interpretion of it):

Now, this is strange. You see, I’ve always been a great fan of classical music (wich is why I always listen to the ingame music in World of Warcraft). I’ve listened my way through the typical classics like Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn. I’ve become entranced by Wagner, Mahler and Brahms. I’ve been teary-eyed at the excrutiating angst of … ah, yes: Albinoni:

Adagio in G Minor. The “tune” that spawned an unfinished script of mine, a story in a cyberpunk setting about a damaged mercenary on his way to retirement who for various reasons got involved in a global conspiration … you know the theme, I guess. It wasn’t that innovative. But I still think I managed to create a pretty good character; the thing that kept him going in spite of his old injuries was that tune. Albinoni. The wailing violin … the torment of a soul. Or the hope of peace. Finally. Peace.

In stark contrast to the above, the swede, Alan Pettersson . Please. Take 10 minutes of your life. And listen …

It is said he composed parts of his symphonies while riding a bike. true or not, Pettersson had a rough time in life. The thing is – all of these composers have left their mark. I might be imagining, but every once in a while I find fragments of them in the soundtracks of our lives (this is a pun). Our lives in Azeroth.

You know what? The first time I happened upon a piece of music that stuck with me while playing a game was the first one. Pachebel. It was a game for Amiga, Utopia a colonisation real time strategy game (or so I think). This:

I was so amazed by the soundtrack I actually looped it on a C90 tape (yes, that’s how old I am!). It played in my ears with a Walkman over and over again. It played on my stereo over and over again. I cried myself to sleep to it. I dashed through my apartment, trying to flee from demons I never saw – and Pachebel was there. Andl ater on, so was Albinoni, and Mozart … And Wagner. Turht be told, Wagner drove to the edge of a commuter train platform; I was about to step off to the sound of Valkyries when a priest happened by. Call it divine intervention.

Music. It’s funny. The music of games is a part of me. Even Pachebel made it to the cut. I’ve spent hours listening to this, Unreal OST:

I remember some of the bad guys yelling something akin to “ostkaka!” (that’s cheesecake, more or less, for you anglicans). I remember the giants, the puzzles, the frantic action – the friendly natives who moaned “Ni’na! Ni’na!”.

I’ve spent hours listening to this, Halflife OST:

Gordon. Barney. Ah … Shepard. What’s up with this Shepard? The first time a Shepard showed up was in Black Mesa. The second time, thanks to my partner, was is Mass Effect. There’s something special about Mass Effect. It’s the characters … and the music:

I remember I argued, more or less, with my partner wether the ME OST was “good” or not. This was the ME1 OST and I never really got into it. Not even as a backdrop to the game. The OST was just a backrdrop, a “white noise”. It was the same thing with Mass Effect 2; the music is good, but it didn’t catch “that” in me.

Pehaps it’s a combination of many different reasons, but let me elaborate a bit about Mass Effect 3. Specifically the segment “Leaving Earth”. You know it, I’m sure. The boy. The rescue shuttles. The Reaper. The laser. The utter and absolute tragedy. Shepard (thee it is again) agast in the still open back of the Normandy. The cutscene . The Piano.

I’ve stopped counting the times I’ve hummed this on my way to the store. I’ve stopped counting the number of times it simply appeared in my mind … sometimes at the most suprising moments. Standing in the shower. Waiting for the subway. Waking up at 5.30 AM, knowing my partner would attend a funeral a few hours later, playing it over and over again. Reasons, you know. The piano. I like to think it gave my partner some solace, if my partner ever knew (I think there was some notation on Facebook I had listened to it). That … tune. That piano.

Once upon a time I was despondent, desperate, depressed. I was a young man, caought in a youthful fantasy of how an artist should suffer in order to Create. Let me tell you – the things you create when you suffer is shit. Don’t do it. anyway, the ME3 piano reminds me, in a way, of Claire d’Elune:

(Yes, there’s a reason I chose the Depeche Mode version; it was the first version I heard. I’ve heard it in other forms many time s since.)

Where am I going with all this? You know … I’m not sure. to balance all the violins and pianos, let me tell you about my very first gaming experience: I played Doom, the original, on a 486 computer without a soundcard. Instead of the in-game music (or whatever it was) I listened to the stereo. There was a lot of tunes but none except one -wich eventually was on repeat – gave me “the mood”. The FPS mood. What it was? Ministry, Burning Inside:

I ran out of Doom eventually. I kept going with Duke Nukem, still on the same computer (the one with no soundcard). But then Ministry had made way to something completely different. Sepultura, Chaos A.D:

I’m telling you! Try Duke with that shit in the room. It’s total carnage, man! But alas, I grew out of it … or so I thought. Because by the time I came around to Quake I still didn’t like the FPS music so, you know, I played Quake to this:

Good ol’ Rick, huh? Dropping bazooka-bombs on unsuspecting Bad Guys was never as fun as with the Valkyries!

See where I’m going? no matter what my forays may be, venturing into the unknown land of Rock and Roll (and heavy metal), I always return to the purples. the epics. You know, I’m hard pressed to find anything more epic than this:

But no … that’s not true. In game terms, there’s something more epic. Something that never, ever, no matter what John Williams cooks up – something that never will leave me indifferent. It’s been the same from the time I heard it for the very first time … to every time I doubleclick the icon, wait for 20-45 seconds and then …

Lean back. Place a hand on the mouse. Another hand on the keyboard. Takes a deep breath …

And plunge into Azeroth.

God, I love this theme!

– – – – –

(Seriously dude, you need a new fracking computer. You can’t keep “playing by proxy” forever!)

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Less is more

There’s a reason my hunter Cassanna languish in Dalaran, forever trapped in a state of level 70. There’s just too many damned buttons! The hunter button bloat in combination with the tedious proffessions leatherworking and skinning put an end to her adventures. Her bankspace is slowly filling up with Elemental Fires and other stuff from whatever places her “sisters” might visit.

So the question posed by WoW Insider in this weeks Community Blog Topic – Do we need an ability squish – is a topic that’s very dear to my poor hunter. She’s not the first hunter I’ve played. But it appears she will be my last. I just can’t find the “fun” in hunters, not anymore.

I’m one of those people who, when faced with a gazillion buttons, end up using four or five of them. It’s not the best way to play, I know – especially if you’re running dungeons. But I just can’t get myself in the mood. By the time I’m done hitting all the keys there’s nothing left to shoot at. Eventually I end up at rock bottom on the DPS meter. While I’m not one of the most competetive players around, I do find it satisfying sitting on top of all others DPS. Cassanna ends up last, always. If I’m not removed from the group I usually ends up rage quitting.

There’s a limit even for my patience, even though it’s as long as the Great Wall. So – do we need to squash some buttons? Yes we do! Well, I certainly think so anyway. but there’s a debate worth mentioning regarding the topic of abilities: The Master Gamer, as I like to call it.

The Master Gamer
Once in a while someone says “If you know how to use your abilities you’re playing it right”. This is usually followed by a declaration of mastery: “I use blah blah blah and dominate all teh (sic!) meters”. Sometimes there’s a tone of “l2p noobs!”, sometimes not. The Master Gamer equation goes something like this:

The number of available abilities (buttons) equals imagined proficiency for the game.

The perception based on the above equation means that the more slots you fill (the more buttons you have), the better gamer you are. It doesn’t matter what class you play – your worth as a gamer is measured in how many buttons you can hit. How many macros you need. How many add-ons you juggle in order to be “the best” . It goes without saying that the Master Gamer sneers at “casuals” or anyone who don’t rebuild the default UI.

It’s a silly argument.

Let me use an analogy: Why would you spend hours building a campfire if there was an electric stove available? You wouldn’t, of course. Why would you “master” something overly and unnecessary complicated if you could do the same job in half the time with half the buttons? There’s where the prestige kicks in. We all want to be a little bit “better” than the other player. The Master Gamer imagines their worth in the number of abilities they can juggle at any given time. Logic takes a back seat.

Humans are, more or less, rational beings. If we can do a job in an easier way we will. That’s why we have forklifts instead of manhandling goods. The generic World of Warcraft player is a human (albeit some of them barely qualifies for the species; I’m looking at you, LFR-douchebag). As such we could expect even a Master Gamer to choose the easier methods. Strangely, this is rarely the case. Playing the keyboard as a consert pianist gives a sense of entitlement. Prestige. Status. Truth of the matter is: The more abilities a class have, the more said class caters to the elitist Master Gamer.

That’s just my casual point of view, of course. Perhaps I’m jaded by the eternal debate of Who Is A Gamer and Who Is A Real Gamer*.

The Smart Gamer
Blizzard have gradually smartified World of Warcraft. Some would argue they have done the exact opposite of course – and “dumbed it down”. The reason a portion of the consumers believe Azeroth has been dumbed down is, I believe, connected to the Master Gamers. While the hardcore players are a minority, they are a very vocal minority. They also have a posse of prospects who, while not hardcore themselves, hope to come through as hardcore. There’s a certain status to being a “progressive cutting edge player”, you know. But …

This is also a silly argument.

World of Warcraft is not dumbed down. The game have been streamlined, it’s become more effective, more modern. In parts it have become easier as well – that is, easier for the allready established players. Heirlooms, overpowered gear and an increased know-how on how to solve different fights – all of it has contributed to an “easier” game.

The fact is, World of Warcraft is still a medium to hard difficulty leveling game. If you on’t believe me, roll a completely new character on a completely different server, cutting short your supply of both heirlooms, gold or other helpful things such as bags. Level a fresh character as if the game was completely new; even for a seasoned and skilled player there’s a lot of challenges ahead. Without heirlooms, World of Warcraft is both balanced and at times hard.

If you really want a challenge, try the Ironman playstyle. That’ll teach you.

As the game has evolved and slowly steered away from outdated trends in how to play an MMO, the game has become more accessible. One of the last vestiges of “the old ways” is the abillity bloat. Much the same as the ever increasing iLvl problem we get new abilities with every new expansion. Right now we sit with (more or less) five games worth of abilities – in one and the same title. That’s too much.

The Smart Gamer neither have time nor patience for the balancing act of two dozen abilities. The gaming culture in itself has changed; the median age of a gamer is 31 years old. That’s a person in mid-career, a family, bills to pay, softball games to play, other hobbies – but still with just 24 hours to do it all. The Smart Gamer is sometimes lucky if there’s 3 or 4 hours worth of game time per week.

The faster the learning curve is, the better it is. The more fun it is. A smart game for the samrt gamer needs to rid itself of the old ways. Truth is, World of Warcraft isn’t a hardcore game, not anymore. There’s room for it, sure, but the majority of players are – casual gamers. People with 3-4 hours available. Per week.

Lesser abilities is just but one way to streamline the game. The new and (in my view) improved talent tree is another. Even the dread daily quest is a way of giving the consumer the power to play the game like the player wants to play, not how the developer force us to play. The fewer buttons you have to push in you 40 minutes of free game time, the better. As teh age old adage says:

Less is more!

– – – – –

*: Real Gamers need many buttons. The also don’t play Farmville. They do however own a farm in Halfhill. They do however spend gold on new clothes (sorry, gear!). In a sense World of Warcraft isn’t that different from, say, the Sims – a game any Real Gamer would sneer at, probably with a quick and scornful “it’s a girls game!”. See?

World of Warcraft is a girls game. We earn gold to dress our paper dolls. (And kill internet dragons.)

The debate of hardcore vs cassual is in itself a typical example of intersectionality. There’s a feminist angle (soem would probably say agenda) to it as well. That’s not for this post however. Neither is the definition and distinction of who, exactly, is a Real Gamer. Have some statistics, courtesy of ESA! 

These are not the droods you’re looking for

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This is not a druid

This week is #Druidweek (look for that tag on Twitter if you like). The idea of an Alt Appreciation Week started out over at World of Lae with “Death knight week” a week ago and thus it continues with druids. We all know that DRUIDS ARE FIT 4 FITE, right? Well … Everyone else knows it. Apparently. My excursions into the realm of druidism has of now not been very lucky.

I mean, there’s a limit in every family how many species you can actually adopt. My family is (mostly) draenei with a “naturalised draenei” of human origin thrown into the mix (that’s my warlock, the foulmouthed Sharenne but with a heart of gold, at least when it comes to kittens). There’s a glaring lack of night elves. Or, you know, any other druidic race. Add to this my own personal dislike of druids and you get a severe druid shortage in my character roster. That doesn’t stop me however. Rules are meant to be broken!

I’m not a total druid noob. I have played druid once in a while, allthough none of them last longer than level 20. this in itself is a conundrum since I find the idea of a shapeshifting class very interesting.

My first druid – she’s now running an inn at Teldrassil – was born around 2009. Altariel (wich at the time I thought was a fitting night elf name) made it to I believe it was level 20. Then my subscription ran out. When I returned a few weeks later I did what I always do: I started a new character (a draenei, of course; I think it was Creannah the Shaman).

Altariel languished for some time in my roster before she eventually opened an inn (that is – deleted). I didn’t think much of it at the time even though I did have some fun with her. Most memorable moment was in fact a level 80 Tauren druid who bowed to me while I was trying to find my way in Moonglade.

My second druid was born around 2010. Alas – I can’t remember the name. No doubt her bones are still somewhere in Ashenvale; there’s where she fell victim to a wolf. There’s where I rage quit, fed up with her career. Not every druid is a good druid, you know.

My third druid was a night elf as well. Her name was Efrosyne. My plan was to level her as a healer and nothing but a healer. My old guild, now defunct but reborn as Eternal Exiles, planned on leveling a complete dungeon group. the plan petered out into nothingness due to lack of interest and a stormcloud of petty guild drama (wich eventually led to the destruction of the guild in question; I remember a “guild meeting” with me and a few others stuck right inside the entrance to Gun’drak while all the accumulated bile and bitterness of Some People just spewed forth … and 48 hours later I had removed 9 characters out of 10 from the guild and joined the Eternal Exiles).

Yeah, you guessed it, no doubt. Efrosyne opened an inn close to the Stormwind harbor. Given the prevalence of alts opening inns maybe I should start a franchise of Azeroths version of Starbucks.

Anyway!

There you have it. I’ve been known to roll druids. My druids either die or start cooking for hungry heroes. None of them, as of yet, has made it past level 20.

These are not the droods you’re looking for.

Death Knight Week!

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Zavannah the Death Knight, aka “the Dead One”

World of Lae made a shout-out for Death Knights to start off the very interesting idea of Alt Appreciation Week. This is an opportunity I simply can’t resist. After all, how to drag readers – most likely kicking and screaming – to my place in the Matrix is always something I’m at a bit of a loss figuring out. It’s a new blog, this one, so I’m not too despondent about the “3” new visitors per day or week – but still!

Readers are fun.

With a stroke of luck I realised I actually have an alt, a Death Knight. Fortunately I also have a decent enough presentation of her. Right here in fact – Let me introduce her. This is …

Zavannah the Death Knight, aka “the Dead One”.

Currently at home on server EU Saurfang.

Enjoy.

I want to be alone, part 9

Part 9 of the ongoing story is now up.  Shuanna the Paladin beats up a reformed dwarf warlock but is apprehended by the very person she’s looking for – Zavannah the Death Knight.

By the pricking of her thumbs … Something wicked this way comes …

A plot to assassinate a Very Important Person is revealed!

You will find Part 9 here. Don’t know what this is all about? Read about it here!

Hope you enjoy it!

Addicted to the ding

“Look sharp, boys!” the dark iron dwarf medic snickered.
Zavannah let them get the first punch. There was “bink!” as a hefty axe struck her midriff. There was a “clonk!” as something else struck her helm. She didn’t stop, pulling more and more attention to herself. Surrounded by hundreds of dark ironers she let a howling blast of ice cold air rip the flesh from their bones. Then she went to work, swirling, dancing, stepping. Slicing. Less than a minute later silence fell. Then:
“Oi! Not fair, lass!” the medic choked on his own blood. He tried to crawl away but his limbs were frozen to the ground. “Yer ruined me cape too!”
“Mister clergyman … ” Zavannah smiled and lowered her voice to a dramatic whisper. “Prepa-aare yourself!” There had to be flair, after all. She walked up to him and scissored her swords across his throat. “I will RAVAGE this land!”
“Whu-“
She cut his head off.
“Huh.” Zavannah sighed, whiped the blood of her swords and muttered as she headed towards the Grim Guzzler: “I thought you people were levelheaded … “

– – – – –

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This image does not reflect the contents of this post.

Once again I trailed off up there. Ahem, sorry about that. To quote the goblin: “Anyway!” WoW Insiders Community Blog Topic of the week is pretty straight forward: Do we need more levels? I don’t know about you but I need them. You see, my brain – and I imagine yours as well – loves tangible rewards. Let’s break it down a bit:

The Ding Drug
It’s chemistry of course. Endorphins, stuff like that. That rush of accomplishment and completion you feel whenever you’ve suceeded in doing something, be it land a new job, finish the script for a novel – or reach level X. We all are simple beings no matter how complex we think ourselves to be. The ever so tiny fraction of our bodys own happiness drugs sends our minds into exhiliration. Even if it just last a few seconds it’s enough.

Just like anything else we enjoy – sugar, nicotine, tea, Hubigs Pies or whatever – there’s also a risk involved. The thing with addiction (even harmless ones like wanting the next “ding!”) is the threshold of tolerance. It gets higher, and higher, and higher. Eventually one spoon of sugar isn’t enough. A new player will probably feel overjoyed when “You have reached level 10” lights up. A seasoned veteran wether it’s the tenth alt or not just push past the explosion of golden light. You know, cool players don’t look at the ding. On the other hand, even a hardcore altoholic will undoubtedly feel a sense of relief akin to happiness when yet another character dings final level. We’re all addicted to levels, wether we accept it or not.

Other “Ding Drugs” can be whatever goals we set. I get the feeling we constantly fool our brains into accepting whatever gives the same sensation as the “ding”. Sometimes we scream and shout out of happiness. Sometimes we just smile, ever so slight, then check wich guildies are online. Spreading the joy is half the fun, you now (even if a barrage of “gratz!” can get annoying when you’ve gone through 25 levels in 30 minutes).

This, in my awkward laymans words, is part of the psychology behind rewards. World of Warcraft is just like any other game a reward driven game. Each new level is a reward. Just like each new set of gear or anything else that turns us into happyraging guinea pigs. Everyone loves rewards, right? Right!

In a way we’re still children. The new shiny toys might be different, the “parent” might be a company in the US – but we still laugh at the new shinies. Be it levels or gear. Mayhap I’m stepping on some sore toes here (I doubt grizzled old raiders who has gnawed teeths through heroic progression would appreciate me liking them to children). No matter – the amount of tantrums whenever the game changes is like watching a supermarket run out of icecream. Imagine the roar if we didn’t get more levels.

We need our dings. How else are we going to
(get our fix)
have fun?

Level alternatives
If we don’t get new levels, steps must be taken to ensure a living and exiting world. This could be solved in a number of ways. From the top of my head we could see the following in old zones:

Unchanged:  Just something to slog past as fast as possible. This would be easier with more XP boost items, both as drops, buffs and purchaseable in the In Game Store.

Old quests are changed to daily quests: Likely some old quests would be removed … with all the trouble that will bring.

Hero classes: Apart from death knights, who effectively can skip an entire expansions worth of quests, we would see new hero classes. Perhaps starting at level 65 (getting to level 68 in a starter zone enabling the player to go straight to Northrend) or even level 75 (getting to level 80 in a starter zone enabling the player to go straight to Cataclysm zones such as Hyjal). This actually feels rather appealing.

All of the game is End Game: Imagine if everything became end game through a scaling system. No matter what level you are the world would change accordingly to your level: You could go to Pandaria as level 1, or go to level 1 zones as a level 100 – and still find it challenging. I think this would require extensive use of phasing and other inventions but it feels like a good idea. It could bring challenge back to a game that is often berated as “too easy”.

Instant 100: Imagine you pay an NPC X thousand gold and in an instant is promoted to “champion”. It might not be especially fun for those who like leveling alts though … because a system like this would become “mandatory” in a split second. It would also be unfair to completely new players who want nothing more than end game participation but can’t afford it. On the top side it would speed up the leveling process, especially for bored altoholics. With an NPC it would still be a “choice”.

Tailormade Timeless Isle zones available for low level characters: Imagine having the choice between open world exploration and open-ended quest lines, or the traditional quests and leveling. Tailormade Timeless Isle zones could reward 10 times more XP than usual quests, making leveling in these zones faster and possibly more fun. Both systems would coexist. The fast and the furious could speed through levels in a couple of hours and start end game within a day. The sloths of World of Warcraft could trudge along wellknown quest paths for their own enjoyment. Nifty, no? Sure it is!

I don’t think we could do without levels completely. I do think we will see the mechanism of leveling to change. Hopefully for the better. Hopefully with more choices. Hopefully even more fun than it is now. PErsonally I love levels and leveling.

I’m addicted to the ding.

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Other blogs on the topic: Working TitleFantastical MadnessDeletrixDead Gnomes SocietyToonacious, Sportsbard

Saving faces

The ever eminent WoW Insider posted an interesting read, Know Your Lore; A Precarious Position, part 1 – Horde.

The article got me thinking about … Just where is the Horde going, once Mad King Garrosh is dead? What will happen with the Horde? And just how can the situation be resolved in a manner that saves both the Alliance and the horde?

You know, there is a way out of this for both the Alliance and the rebels of the Horde. A total obliteration of Orgrimmar would be a pyrrhic victory for the Alliance. Well – not just for the Alliance. The way I see it deposing Garrosh is one thing – trying for “justice” is something else.

There’s a lot of sentiments within the Alliance akin to flat out revenge (mind you, I’m a proud Alliance myself and wouldn’t mind it). The question is not – is revenge justifiable. The question is – is revenge, justice?

It’s not.

A total genocide of at least the orcs wouldn’t be justice. The destruction of the Horde wouldn’t be justice. Death or slavery – or even worse, concentration camps (ahem, internment camps) – wouldn’t be justice. Kill every living thing in Durotar – it won’t bring Theramore back. Or Southshore. Or all the fallen soldiers.

What of the rebels of the Horde? Let me elaborate, not from a gameplay standpoint but from a “lore” (or rather azerothian) standpoint: What will happen within the Horde once the victory parades are over and Garrosh head is on a spike on the Orgrimmar wall? Well – likely what happens every time an empire falls, the emperor is dethroned and a junta of “good honest men” seize the power.

Revenge. Extermination of dissidents. Prisons full of political prisoners. Rebellion. Civil war – especially considering all the “warlords” soon to be unemployed. The Horde will be ripped apart from inner dissent – unless a clear and above all Respected Leader can calm everyone down.

(The magic eightball tells, of course, of a looming outer threat. There’s clear and present danger in the air, either from the Old Gods or from the Burning Legion. Azeroths people have a knack for joining forces to kill the Bad Demon – and then get back to the usual petty grievances.)

Whoever becomes the new Horde leader has his (or hers) work cut out for sure. Most of all – how to appease the Alliance (Who’s more than likely thirsty for revenge). But there is a way – and that way is actually purely logistical.

There’s not enough soldiers for one more battle. Think of the different battlefields. From Andorhal to Southshore. From Theramore to the Barrens. From Jade Forrest to the Vale of Eternal Blossom. All these battlefronts must have bled both armies to the bone. The Alliance won’t be able to sustain a prolonged occupation of Orgrimmar – there’s not enough soldiers. The rebels of the Horde won’t be able to fight both the Alliance on different fronts And the Garrosh loyalists inside Orgrimmar.

So, in order to save lives and avoid unecessary bloodshed among their own, the Alliance withdraws. Perhaps there’s still fighting spirit in the soldiers but there’s not enough soldiers. A “Picketts Charge” would be honorable – but stupid.

In order to establish peace and benevolence in the Horde, ripped to shreds by animosity within, the new Horde leader will likely consolidate “ancient” Horde territories such as Durotar and the Barrens. While the Alliance withdraws victorious the Horde will still see a “liberated” Barrens as a victory.

Both sides win. Neither loose face. As for reparitions – well, that’s for the diplomats to sort out. Not that they will have much time. There’s a rain of demons incoming.

Or tentacles … from the Dark Below …

How old we are!

For reasons unexplained I sort of got hooked on my “About” page. I tend to skim what I’ve written in the past in hope of threads to unwind, secrets to explore, ghosts in the shell to excorcise. Perhaps it’s a sort of literary narcissism (does that word lack a “c”?). My memory is pretty darned good but at the same time I also have a “google memory”; you know, that slight insecurity prompiting you to muter “I better google it”. And waddayakno (that’s a word with 508 results by the way)!

I skimmed through the mentioning of my first World of Warcraft toon – Taramek the Warrior, who died at level 5. So maybe she was 15 (human) years when she died – that’s still a tragedy, by the way. Wich leads me to my first thought:

How old we are!

The age of our characters are a mystery. As far as I know, canonical lore have never elaborated on our characters age. There might be something in the paper roleplaying game but I don’t have a copy (also, it’s not considered canon). Now, I’m going full head canon here, because the topic of age interest me. Since I haven’t found any reliable World of Warcraft source on this topic I’m going to extrapolate with a twist from what I know of our own history.

If we consider Azeroth a more or less medieaval, “Dark Ages”, world, a superficial google search states that the median age in the 14th century was about 30 years of age. A lot of people lived longer, for sure. Once you reached 50 or 60 years of age you were considered old (and most likely extremely lucky). Case in point: Richard Plantaganet was I believe 19 years old when he set off on his crusade. The 14th century thus serves as a benchmark for my thoughts on the matter.

Let us agree on the following (for the sake of the argument): Each level roughly equals 1 month of experience. If our character starts out at age 15, level 1, they will be about 23 years old at level 90. Why 15? Well, usually our characters are neither nobles or wealthy at level 1. Age 15 is a good starting point; midlife and all. they are no longer children, they are (young) adults. The concept of “tweens” didn’t exist until the 21st century on planet Earth, you know.

So how old was my Taramek? Well … I’m at a bit of a loss, really. I haven’t found any reliable information on orc years versus human years (this touches on another subject – which calendar is the baseline for Azeroth? Human? Elf?). For simplicitys sake I’m going with 1 orc year equals 1 human year (both species are humanoid and I think this is a logical assumption; the demon taint likely influence body mass, not longevity).

Taramek was almost 16 when she died. 15 years, 5 months old. That’s when the hyena ripped her apart. That’s when a giraffe smashed her skull in. Now … my second Horde character, “born” around mid 2008 I think, was a troll. For simplicitys sake I’m sticking to the assumption trolls also age the way humans do.

Taramek the Troll (yeah, I reused the name!) retired at level 44. She was a warrior, a fearsome warrior in her own ways. One of the lone wolves of the world. I never ran her through dungeons. I leveled through questing alone. As such she was sort of a mercenary. She retired (and opened an inn at Zen’Jin Village!) at the age of 19. I guess there’s a bunch of troll kids running around these days. She did survive her “career” as a warrior. She’s likely running a safe house for people fleeing the wrath of Garrosh. Taramek was a great troll, honorable. She never learned how to ride but you now, dat’s cool, mon.

The oldest living Horde character I have is … uhm … 10 020 years old. Yeah, that’s right. Liftraser, a blood elf warlock. Amazing really, she’s still around – flaunting her thies and red hair as she struts around Undercity muttering “Reg’s rent’s been due for the last year bloody undead freeloaders!”. She did take a “business trip” to Orgrimmar shortly before Pandaria was discovered and I left her there, close to the bank. She’s residing on the EU Alonsus server, by the way. A level 71 warlock, dressed in a haute couture dress. It was a fun suprise to find her bank full of lock boxes and Scarlet Crusade Insignias (back then I didn’t know rogues, or blacksmiths, could open lockboxes; those boxes are pre-Cataclysm … imagine what might be inside them!).

I stuck around on the Alonsus server for awhile even after I changed allegiance and turned Alliance. I was a bit bored with the Horde so I thought the grass would be greener in the Eastern Kingdoms. I rolled a night elf hunter named Priss and reached level 68 on her before I grew bored with World of Warcraft. This was … a few months before Wrath of the Lich King. When I returned, about a month or so before Wrath of the Lich King , I felt the need to explore something completely new. So I changed server – and I’ve been on the same server ever since, EU Saurfang. I chose the name because it sounded cool and at the time it was a medium population server. Less queue-times, you know. I was … charmed, yeah that’s the right word, I was charmed by a draenei paladin. Shuanna.

She’s pretty lively for a person aged 15 008 years old! That’s level 87, if you wonder. I was on my way to level 90 when my computer said no, had a fit, felt the weltschmerz close in and decided World of Warcraft was a No Go-zone. Damned graphics card – left my Shu in stasis, the Big Dark.

I’ve tried to find a great way of ending this post but I haven’t found anything better than pure dadaism. So:

FISH!

Virmen in the machine

Or:

My brain is not a disc priest

613px-VermingThe Thunder King is coming to Sweden. At least he seems to have extended his terrible ozone smell to parts of the nation. To be specific – about right over my head. The air is stale, there’s a sort of yellow tinge to the light if you look at it from the corner of your eye. The air is heavy – and my head throbs like the Masters never ending drums – Bam bam bam Bam!

In other words, I can’t stomach doing what I’m supposed to do (this week I’m writing about brothels – but not here, mind you!). Aspirin (sort of) keeps the thunder king at bay, at least inside my skull. So have some faith in this winding sort of bloggery now … I’m not sane.

I better keep on topic. My brain is not a disc priest. My brain is almost as unruly as a pack of virmen (that’s an natural state; editing something sometimes takes longer than writing it!). This becomes more apparent the longer a text becomes. Case in point – The Story.

I’m about to embark on Part 9 of The Story. What I perceived as a leisure time short story “project” has grown into something … I’m not sure yet. It’s almost as if there is a Sha of Preposterousness (I know there’s a Sha of Happiness, so why not a Sha of Preposterousness?) I think I’m one of the first recorded victims of the Dread Powers of the Shas. Just what is the word for plural Sha anyway? One Sha, two Shites?

See! There it is! the virmen pack! Crazy ideas surging forward across the lush fields of creativity like a zerg attack. Biting the ankles of poor hapless writer victims. “We’re Rowdy!” the ideas scream. but you know what?kobold

I would rather be chased and harassed by a pack of virmen ideas than an over-protective kobold keeping the Light of Ideas close to its forehead (mounted on top of a leather helmet). “You no take candle!” doesn’t ring as true and good as “We’re rowdy!”.

Anyway!

The short story got away from me. the story became … reanimated. This usually happens when I don’t have a set deadline for a project. Or when I don’t need the Writers Discipline. the Story (working title “I want to be alone”) is more of an experiment. Stream of Conciousness. At least it used to be …

38 pages later (that A4 pages mind you, not Legal) I’m nowhere near an epic conclusion. that’s 18.000 words, close to 100 000 characters. Here’s the scary part:

I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE ALL THOSE WORDS CAME FROM!

wickedwitchoftheeast

(An unrelated scary (?) image of a flying mage in “underwear”)

The Story is quickly growing to the size of a raid boss. to make matters worse – it’s a raid boss with quirky mechanics. Massive AoE insanity and obliterating melee one-shots … ok, not really. The thing is, I have no idea where “my brain” wants to go. Maybe I should start thinking about it, but … just where do we go from here?

I’m trying to sort out the dramatic need and all the other little things. The process of writing is almost organic in its nature, wich is why my brain really should be disciplined. On the other hand – trying to reign in this wild stallion of a stream of consciousness-story … can it be done? Should I do it? Will it bow down in front of me? Or kick my head in? To quote one of the characters from Oliver Stones JFK“It’s a riddle hidden inside a conondrum.”

I’m going to leave The Story alone. See where it leads me. Instead I’m trying to sort out just how to present it. The Drop Down-menu is getting longer. More virmen-like. As if the code behind it all jumps around yelling “We’re rowdy!”. As if there’s  virmen in the machine.

“I know kung fu!”

“So this machine is supposed to …” Shuanna raise her eyebrows, staring at the strange contraption. “This is supposed to teach me something new?”
“Oh yes!” the gnome said. “It’s a prototype of course. Just sign this waiver.”
Shuanna hesitated. The gnome prodded the air in front of her with a pen, waved the waiver in a very hurried but yet inviting manner. The smile on his face was whiter than snow. She took the paper and the pen, signed on the dotted line and let them install her in the machine.
“Right,” the gnome nodded, closed his hands around a iron driving wheel and turned it. The machine hummed. “Here we go!”
There was a flash. There was a sensation of being … jolted. then strange memories of thing she never had mastered before filled her brain. A minute later they released her. She stumbled out, shook her head, regained her balance and whistled. Then she slowly turned her head towards the gnome and said, awestruck:
“I know kung fu!”

– – – – –

Merc

Yeah, sorry about that. Got a bit carried away. So anyway – this weeks Community Blog Topic from WoW Insider is: Should all classes get a fourth spec? There is a simple answer to this: No.

I think simple answers are boring. The world is rarely simple, not ours, not Azeroths. So the more complicated answer is this: Yes, we should get a fourth spec – under certain conditions. Let me explain. I have an idea, you see.

I realize adding a fourth spec would cause a lot of balancing problems. At worst it could cause utter chaos in the (some say barely) balanced game. Now, there is a few solutions to this problem:

  •  Make a fourth spec PvE only.
  •  Make a fourth spec optional.
  •  Integrate a fourth spec with existing specs.
  •  A fourth spec with just a few new abilities.
  •  Make a fourth spec conditional.

PvE only:
This is risky business. PvP players would probably feel cheated on something potentially awesome and extremely effective. The old and old discussion of PvE vs PvP would flare up giving community managers a headache. Again. Not to mention all the other hot topics – hardcores vs casuals, for instance. Still, if it could smooth things out … maybe. I have to say even I am not sure this is a great idea. It could be a terrible idea to be honest. It probably is. Dangit!

Optional fourth spec:
This is also risky business. The very second the theory crafters get their hands on the most effective fourth spec, that second anything optional becomes “mandatory”. We’ve seen this before, from add-ons like Recount (or Gearscore befor iLvls) to LFR (and possibly soon Flex Raids). the trick is to find a fourth spec that is appealing but not appealing enough. How do you accomplish that? Well …

Integrated fourth spec:
Say what? Yes, it’s an innovative design! The best existing abilities from various specs have been cherrypicked to enhance your class abilities! A warlock who suprise his enemies with frost bolts. A mage who scare the dirt out of a kobolds fur with a shadow bolt. A warrior who calls forth the powers of divine light. A paladin who bellows so loud dozens of enemies shrink back in awe of the Holy Rage. A priest who goes into a frenzy with a Spinning Crane Kick – a dervish figure dancing through the battlefield. A monk who sneaks through the shadows mutilating and garotting. A rogue who handles a gun as only a rogue can – silenced, from the shadows. A hunter who … uhm … who rolls need on everything; “It could be useful, allright!?”. Sorry about that last slur. My mind wandered.

One or two abilities, no more, from existing classes, intertwined, intermingled. One big screaming family of cross-educated heroes and insane murderers!

A fourth specs few new abilities:
This is completely integrated with the last point of interest – Make a fourth spec conditional. Now, what exactly is the condition? This, my friends, is la piece la resistance: A new Hero Class – MERCENARY.

The mercenary – a conditional fourth spec:
The condition is once you’ve hit level 90 (and possibly reached an iLvl threshold) you get the option of turning Mercenary. A Mercenary class would work for a short period of time: say as long as a questchain (of dailies or weeklies) is still in progress. Or B) by paying a (large) amount of gold – say 50 000 gold – to an NPC and thereby gaining a timed debuff lasting for instance, a month. The Hero Class would become a goldsink. I think a much needed goldsink at that. The Mercenary have the ability to work with any faction.

A human warrior turned mercenary would get a “merc debuff” rendering the warrior unattackable by the Horde for as long as the debuff is active. The human warrior would also be unable to attack any Horde (even om PvP realms). You, the human mercenary, can pick up any and all Horde quests you like as long as you operate as a mercenary. The same goes for Horde who venture into the Alliance territories. A mercenary might not be well liked, some would even consider them a traitor – but money doesn’t smell.

The debuff could last as long as you don’t hand in the mercenary quest that bought your services. That way we could finally play through Silverpine as worgens – even as Alliance. That way we could get some much needed help against the Defias – by orcs, no less. Or whoever. The possibilities for an enriched gaming experience are endless. Or so I like to think. Just be careful not to loose the debuff.

Once you’ve accepted a career as a mercenary, the Fourth Spec becomes active. You will gain a few new abilities tailored for a Mercenary alone – plus whatever cherrypicked abilities the spec otherwise contains.

Would a Mercenary class be “optional”? Only until it became Mandatory (2 seconds after it’s been known, the cynic in me says). Excluding the raiders – would it be cool and fun for everyone else? You bet! Because, you know. Imagine the grizzled warlock veteran who’s fought both Gods and Demons, stumbling out of the hut where the contract was signed … shaking the head, muttering:

“I know kung fu!”

– – – – –
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