Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Safety Dance

I've used this title before, but needs must when things happen fast.

Those of you who read my Blog and use either a) a Mobile authenticator or b) the Mobile Armoury really MUST READ THIS POST AS A MATTER OF URGENCY.

As my Guildie was one of the people responsible for getting this story 'live', I have a fairly unique insight to what has happened. Because I'm not an idiot, I'm going to say nothing more than has been said by WoW Insider. Needless to say, I believe their evidence is sound, and if you use either of these devices currently I would strongly suggest you go check your account.

The EU site is currently inaccessible. If you want to log onto your characters you'll need to do it through the game. More news, undoubtedly, as it develops.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I'm In Love with a German Filmstar

Watch this in Full Screen, HD mode. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.

Some ideas are SO good you find yourself wishing you'd had them first.

Take 'The Lego Movie' as an example. Anyone who's played any of the Lego Video games will be well aware of the absolutely magnificent cut scenes that accompany the action: full of in-jokes not simply for the relevant title, but to how Lego works: block jokes, building jokes... they're all there. A swift search on You Tube exposes a plethora of Lego trailers for everything from Iron Man 3 to blistering parodies of top shows like Breaking Bad. Those who love the medium embrace it, and what is abundantly apparent when you watch the trailer above is that ethos is firmly and brilliantly reproduced, right down to the tiniest detail. Take a look out for 1980's Spaceman: the decal on his chest has been worn down after hours of play and the bottom of his helmet is broken. That's the kind of thought that tells people like me, at least, that whoever made this film has the franchises' best interests at heart.

I can see you thinking: what has any of this to do with Warcraft?

We all know Duncan Jones is in pre-production to begin filming the Warcraft Movie next year. I reckon he shouldn't be filming it, at least not with 'live action' and recognisable actors in exotic New Zealand locations. I'm not suggesting Lego bricks either (before you ask) but what I now believe absolutely has to happen is game footage. Yes, even an entire movie playing out as if you were watching it on your computer screen.

Movie sucked, concept has promise...

Of course, there's a pretty variable history of movies produced 'like this' based on gaming titles (Final Fantasy anyone?) but if we use the Tintin 'model' as an example, there's the means to bring some huge names to the table whilst retaining the authentic Warcraft 'feel'. Although green screens and action have been around for a while, The Legend of the Unicorn was trailed as the first to fully digitise real people 'into' the characters they played: the actors would wear green jumpsuits and act out their scenes on a green-screen 'set', and the animation would be placed around them in post-production. Let us say this technique was to be utilised for the Warcraft movie: it would allow big names to voice the parts we know so well, but they would still retain the obvious characteristics of Orcs and Humans (and everyone else) thanks to the Blizzard people doing the animation we've come to love from cut scenes. The backgrounds we also know and love from game could remain, but with a new level of detail that only a cinematic release could provide. However, the key to all this, I think, has to be familiarity. This is a very discerning audience, and you have to wonder what would fare better at the box office: an actor dressed up 'pretending' to be an animated character, or the same actor 'made' into a Night Elf: clearly a part of the game experience, but still recognisable as something unique?

One of the key strengths of the Lego franchise is the immersion card: tiny block figures can literally do anything you (or your child's) imagination wishes. The Lego Movie looks as if it's going to cash in on that: where else could you intercut so many pop culture references in the same place (without a mountain of potential lawsuits?) Blizzard has a MASSIVE back catalogue of gaming references to call on, an almost ten-year back-catalogue of memes and songs and in-jokes. It is it's own community, just as Lego is, and I think any potential scriptwriter would be foolish not to at least try and bring some of that back-story to the table. The key to making a successful 'franchise' movie appears to be the ability not simply to capture the essence of the source material, but where that is referenced in a wider context, and how it fits into people's lives. I am sure that Blizzard and Mr Jones are already several steps ahead of the game: they'll have a kickass idea, of that I am certain. Needless to say, I think a lot of filmmakers could learn a great deal from this kid's toy and how it has influenced popular culture over the last twenty years (and quite possibly beyond.) As a tool for sparking creativity it is often unequalled, and it goes to prove that if you don't sweat the small stuff, amazing things can appear as a result.

I'm sure we won't have long to wait before we hear what's in store for the Warcraft movie. To say I'm curious as to what to expect is something of an understatement...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Somebody's Watching Me

So what we've done is developed a hidden system that tracks player behavior in matchmade groups on a number of different levels. We don't go into a lot of details about the system for a few reasons: A) we've been constantly evolving how intelligent the system is, B) the system is dynamic so that it can apply penalties based on varying factors -- it's analyzing trends as they change over time and accounting for them in some fashion -- and C) we don't want players to know exactly how the system starts penalizing people for less-than-average behavior and then try to game it. 

I read a post earlier in the week by my good, dear friend Mr Big Bear Butt, which I extensively retweeted and favourited. It is called, rather elegantly, It's Not Looking For Friends. It considers just how 'helpful' people are willing to be when they don't know you from Adam/Eve under certain circumstances and the conclusion... well, you should go read it for yourself. Suffice it to say, this is two ends of the 'Matchmaking' issue that has grown from minor irritation when you were just randomly grouped with four other people to a major honking arsepain when it's twenty-four. Whatever your view on the people who play LFG or LFR, matchmaking is a key part of the game whether people like it or not. Blizzard know this too, and it is therefore no surprise they've been monitoring what goes on.

On the back of this, the above admission has emerged from Community Manager Zarhym, which is being debated in various places (including this article on WoW Insider) Timed as this is so soon after allegations of the NSA in the US routinely spying on their own citizens there's going to be more than the normal number of tin-foil hats being donned by the more cautious in the community. This so-called 'toxic' behaviour is one of the most important issues on the minds of gamers, not simply in Warcraft but elsewhere, but I am seeing some people asking if Blizzard have the right to access this kind of material to begin with. In shock news, as with a great many other things you'll find that 'happen online', Blizzard's been quietly gathering data on you since the first time you logged, and if they didn't the game wouldn't be where it currently is. You'd not have the ability to get items back you disenchanted whilst drunk destroyed by mistake. Blizzard couldn't credit you for that Achievement you completed even though the final boss you killed bugged out. So much we now take for granted SIMPLY WOULDN'T HAPPEN.

The moment you accept the game's Terms and Conditions, it's pretty much a free-for-all on everything you are.

It is interesting to now be aware that your actions in LFG and LFR have consequences. Of course, for obvious reasons stated above, we have no idea what those consequences are. I'm also going to put a hefty bag of gold that this system doesn't look at raid chat in any way, shape or form, so persistent verbal offenders or deliberate racial or sexual abuse won't be covered by this 'system.' However what could happen (one assumes) as a result of someone deliberately griefing over a long period of time would be the ability for Blizzard to link raid chat logs with actual tickets raised by disgruntled raiders. This would make me think that any kind of abuse, whether it be simply pulling a boss and then leaving (which is where this original discussion above began) or something more insidious will finally be dealt with in a reasonable fashion. What we then need to try and ascertain if whether this is actually having a positive impact on the LFG and LFR environments, and for that we will need time.

This is yet another example, if it were needed, of Blizzard making a conscious effort to address the concerns of the Warcraft Community in the most pro-active way possible. I don't think anyone can say they're not trying to make the entire experience as hassle-free and pleasant as they can (except perhaps if you're a Warlock: stop complaining, you got a GREEN FIRE QUEST and you're getting unnerfed in 5.4) and this deliberate acknowledgement that toxic behaviour is an issue being taken seriously should serve to put a fair number of undesirable individuals on notice. Next up: dealing with gold sellers so we may never again receive spam invites via the Calender, and those annoying guys who try and sell you time cards, oh and possibly MAKE HUNTERS MOAR AWESUM *cough* But seriously, don't sit and think Blizzard don't get you're annoyed, because not only are they aware, they're trying to fix it.

I for one welcome our new All-Seeing Overlords...

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Golden Path

As it was before, so will it be again?

Today's question is very simple: will the Spirit of Harmony become BoE in 5.4?

Historically, the signs would point to a simple 'yes': both Frozen Orbs in Wrath and Chaos Orbs in Cataclysm (see above) made the transition in the final patch of their respective expansions. However, history is no longer a reliable indicator (everyone say Epic gems) and the crafting model has undergone something of a transformation this expansion. Crafting progression has been moved away from the easy option of farming on one alt to give the mats to the other to level. The best items were locked to a BoP, segmented drop to restrict supply at the start of the Expansion for obvious reasons... but much has changed. The BoP crafting material may well be here to stay, however, if the current PTR information is anything to go by.

5.4 sees the introduction of a number of new crafting materials for all classes, including Engineers for the first time. Jard's Peculiar Energy Source is probably worth a post on it's own, as there's a ton of incredibly useful (and saleable) items that require its production. Blacksmiths, Leatherworkers and Tailors also get new 'transmutes' (get those old ones learnt asap!) which, in turn for everyone (I assume) will give you a chance to learn entry level Season 14 PvP gear. This is where the bind-quality of the Spirits will become crucial, as we do not as yet know what materials will be utilised to make that gear. It is entirely possible you might need Spirits of Harmony to make these items, but it is (as yet) too early in the PTR cycle to determine this. We also know that the Hardened Magnificent Hide and the Balanced Trillium Ingot will allow manufacture of ilevel 541 belts and legs, but if we look at history for precident there should also be an item only available from DE's in the Siege of Orgrimmar Raid (as has been the case with Blood Spirits and Haunting Spirits thus far this expansion.)

This does relegate the Spirit of Harmony a long way down the order of importance in terms of value in current content. However it remains a key component in levelling and is used in a number of still (very relevant and valuable) crafting items. There is also the ability to swap your Spirits for other items at your Faction's Pandarian capitol (a system introduced with Frozo the Renowned in February 2010 in Wrath look I DID ACTUAL RESEARCH) Having tried to start a discussion about this on Twitter I'm sensing an awful lot of people unwilling to even speculate that the Spirits' binding will change, even if historically that is what we should expect to happen on the PTR. So, what are the chances?

At this point, I'd give it 50/50.

There's no reason for the Spirits NOT to become bind-free. There's also some compelling reasons for keeping them soulbound, especially if Blizzard wants to keep the crafting market on the fairly even keel it has maintained since launch. There will be those in the gold-making community (I know) who will already be looking at me disparagingly over the fact I've even bought up this discussion now, that the only time to start considering changes is when they actually happen. I'd say that might be true under normal circumstances, but 5.4 is bringing Virtual Realms to the table, and with it the merging of Auction Houses. Should the Spirits follow convention (as it is) and become BoE, there could be an awful lot of merit in speculation. There's another post, right there, because Economics dictates that a market merge on this scale is bound to make things more than a little crazy. I'll leave that to someone better qualified than I to consider.

What I can tell you is this: when Blizzard announce the status of the Spirit of Harmony in 5.4, everyone WILL be talking about it. You'll have to forgive me for wanting to start the discussion early...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bedtime Stories


Regular readers will know I'm trying to write a novel, and have been for some time. As it happens I made some good progress on the editing front whilst I was away on holiday a few weeks ago, but I've not committed anything new for a while. That is, until last week, when as a result of much stress and a combination of other factors, a complete piece of Warcraft fiction simply fell out of my brain. I'd been trying to write my feelings on everything had transpired since Pandaria's launch, and had failed to find a way to adequately voice my opinion. When I tried, this was what happened.

It is, in essence, a reaction to what is going to happen in the Vale in 5.4. It is a distillation of my disquiet and unhappiness at the current plot-line in game, and how (if I were a Dev) I'd deal with the fallout. What I absolutely was not expecting was this piece to take on a complete and total life of its own, which it subsequently has. So, here's the deal. If you like this, and you feel you want to know more about the characters, I'll write their story, because I know where that journey will take them all and what is likely to happen along the way. I'll stick it separately on the site so it doesn't interrupt the actual news stuff, but only if enough people want to know more, so this is where comments will be key.

I don't normally specifically ask for feedback, but in this case I'd really appreciate any you can give, good OR BAD (I'm a big girl, I can take it.) If enough of you want it, I'll make this story happen. If not, I promise never to speak of it again. I would like to thank the two people (you know who you are) who have given me feedback and editing on the original to get it to this point. I will never be able to thank you enough for your generosity. To M, who went utterly above and beyond the call of duty with his assistance, just NOT ENOUGH HUGS FOR YOU. Needless to say, this is the very essence of the awesomeness of this Community.

Without further ado...


Title: The Forfeit of the Living

Author: @AlternativeChat

Character/Pairing: My Hunter, and a Rogue I once knew. The other three comprise my imaginary five man of choice. Blizzard better be bringing Dungeons back in the next Expansion. Tinkering Gnomes are there for anyone to claim.

Rating: Suitable for all, including Trolls.

Summary: Sometimes, walking away is the option your conscience needs you to take. The Dwarf knows she's in trouble, and the last person she expects to come save her is exactly the Rogue the Alliance choose to send...

All these people live in a computer game owned by Activision and Blizzard. The one I play is mine in my mind only. I've probably said too much already.


The Forfeit of the Living.

She presses palms into tightly-shut eyes: there is still no escape from the inevitable.

The Inn's noise is just that, background nuisance, events she can divide and identify without thinking. The two Gnomes engaging in raucous tinkering in the alcove, out of sight of the main bar. The Night Elf arguing with the Worgen on the finer points of glaive-wielding. The Human group in the front, excessively inebriated, murdering the same drinking song with the wrong third chorus for what was probably the twelfth time, but she was losing count. It was a good thing her crossbow was upstairs in her room, or else there'd be potential to get into even more trouble.

Residual senses spark: an unexpected patch of silence materialises, away to her right. Average height, waiting. She removes her hands and stares, focusing; recognition comes vaguely at first, then suddenly, definitive and damning. I should have known they'd dispatch you.

'Your camouflage needs work.'

No-one's spoken to her since she arrived, deliberate avoidance on her part, the need to effectively vanish whilst she tried to sort the jumble of unaddressed feelings in her head. She had been foolish to think that she'd stay hidden for long, but had clung to the possibility. Stormwind was still large enough to lose yourself within, if you knew where to begin. He stares, blue eyes suddenly full of what she knows isn't disappointment, but satisfaction. His entire persona was designed to delude, only one of the reasons why SI:7 would have sent him. She knew him better.  If he'd planned to distract her with frippery, to deceive with the most basic of weapons, she already had his measure. It was a game she'd miss if this were the last time they met.

She knows he's waiting for her to respond before he moves. Safety from the familiar allows respite from her disquiet, a chance to focus away, albeit briefly.

'You must know I'm absent without leave. I have a bounty on my head.'

There is the faintest hint of a smile, as if this is somehow more amusing than serious, and it occurs to the Dwarf that she's not considered many consequences since she returned from Pandaria. 'After a while, if enough people refer to you as a hero, you'll believe them,' she'd been told, as if this statement would make everything better, and allow her an opportunity to find peace in her own heart. She'd been a hero in the Wyrmbog, across the Outlands and in the frozen North, and never had she felt the title fitted her by rights. She was just a woman and a bear, doing what needed to be done, without the desire for a moniker, despite being handed so many in her time.

Northrend was where they first met, she remembers with more fondness than she thought herself capable. Sharper blades than she'd ever seen, poisons labelled in impossibly neat longhand. A wooden box, carved with dense ivy, handmade tools in dark and supple leather pouches. Attention to detail, meticulous care in every aspect of preparation; yet worryingly elusive, not simply when he vanished on the battlefield.

'So, Assassin Crais, have you come to collect your coin?'

'I come here to stand and marvel at the hunter who feigns whilst so many of her peers prepare for battle.'

He is both sober and armed, twin daggers camouflaged elegantly against worn battle leathers: the Dwarf knows she is at a disadvantage. Her pet is stabled for the night, no chance to call it as reinforcement. It is simply her and him. Without invitation Crais sits, deliberately taking the chair opposite. She remains alert, ready for anything; except what he then asks.

'Tell me why you left.'

Immediately she wants to run, push the table away from him and camouflage into darkness, not ready to face the demons that demand her attention alone, let alone discuss them in the open. Tears prick, barely contained, cowering scared by the simplest of things: a question. The only response is a reflex, a desperate attempt to disengage.

'I... I don't know.'

Across the table, Crais ignores the part of him that could take from this, if the woman before him were anyone else than who she is. It would have been lazy to have avoided the truth, using his charm and ability to distract her. The rational portion of his brain is amazed, knowing he'd never succeed with that combo but still there is the desire to try. This Dwarf is never to be trifled with, and most certainly not to be considered as a potential conquest. She demands his respect, especially afraid and cornered.

'Yes, you do.'

When she closes her eyes now, all she can see are the charred remains of the Vale. Her doing, despite the Horde's culpability, something she alone might have prevented in the Jade Forest. It's a lie, like so much else, a falsehood her mind needs to grasp, to hold onto what's left of her sanity. For so long it was simply about winning, for the Alliance. The journey of loot and glory and ceremony, never dwelling on consequences, until the first day she arrived on the new lands and realised this was not a place in which to fight. It was a place to respect, and to love.

She doesn't stop the tears this time, falling unhindered almost in relief as she puts her hands together, a fruitless attempt to cover the shaking. She is grateful that Crais simply lets her, because he needs to know how fragile she's become. I am not a hero, and the rogue needs to properly grasp the depth of my guilt.

'I never asked for a war. Not this time.'

He makes no move to comfort, even though he is compelled. She should be held, reassured, but he knows that's scant support this deep into her turmoil. Pandaria is a marked change from the other battles he's faced, a continent away from a clearly-defined enemy, despite what Wrynn's rhetoric might suggest. He's stood close enough to Proudmoore to smell the hate on her breath, despite her protestations to the contrary after Dalaran's repossession. This fight has become far too personal for so many to simply be solved with a massive push on Orgrimmar. An entire continent has been irrevocably altered by the hands of the Horde and the Alliance, pulled into a war it never asked for. Peace-loving inhabitants of a land who allowed anger and hatred into one of its most sacred places, and then paid the price.

The loyalists might blame the Horde for this atrocity on the street corners of Stormwind, but Crais knew that it was only ever half the story, regardless of the conflict. This woman's part in countless events was a testament to that.

'I know what you believe, what happened the night you left. You didn't see me, but I was there. Sky Admiral Rogers' resentment is flawed: blank out the grey, focus on black and white. Nothing is ever that simple.'

She's not interested in other people's battles any more. There is no relevance in the concerns of the Alliance hierarchy, this is not their problem. Her conscience is her own to live with and no-one else's to influence. The deaths she has seen numbered hundreds, ultimately thousands: the Wrathgate, the Temple in Shadowmoon, places she still can't grasp she has visited. The Dragons have a lot to answer for, their meddling and manipulation of time often too complicated to truly grasp. At the core of it all, the beating heart of her anger, are the people she can no longer call as consul. Those whose lives have become forfeit.

'It is simpler to remember the whole than the parts. Without them all, there is no point to anything.'

Crais knows he can't win this fight, that her logic is unshakeable. He understands only too well the motivation, even if he's never lost the desire to fight, the constant thrill of combat, battle and reward a mantra he repeats without thought. Ingrained into his body, flowing through his veins, he would do this until he died. There was no other life he wanted more.

'I find the best way to honour my friends is to avenge their passing.'

He speaks with his heart, deliberately dismantled, the need for her to know his soul is unimpaired, that he understands this pain. Her response doesn't surprise him at all.

'My friends are dead, or missing, or have simply vanished as I had chosen to do. There is nothing left, except the understanding that this battle is one I simply am too tired to win alone.'

He grasps the extent of her forfeit, the terminal motivation. Crais understands the distance she places between everyone and herself isn't simply because of her ancestry. He knew at least one of these friends she speaks of: the human Paladin he'd watched her bury after the disaster at the Jade Forest, the last of the people remaining that she'd fought with against Onyxia. Crushed beneath the giant statue meant to celebrate a rebirth, not one of the Pandarian healers had been able to save him, though they had all exhausted themselves trying. His death had hit her more than any other he could remember.

It was a blow from which she had not yet recovered, but she would. Crais should remind her this wasn't simply her burden to shoulder.

'You are not alone.'

She stares at Crais, through him, back to Randall's face as he passed in her arms, unable to protect him in a land they had both agreed was a revelation. She tries to remember the name of every person they fought with: how they looked, what they loved to eat, the sound of their laughter in the times between. The forfeit of the living are the memories of the dead. Crais had told her that, she realises, a long time ago, at the Tournament Grounds. She'd asked him that night why she was never a target of his drunken desires, if he didn't like Dwarven women. He'd replied with a brutal honesty that he'd never risk trying anything within six feet of her bear.

She knew that this was a human who considered her an equal, not a conquest. What she'd never been sure of was whether he was a friend. It might be time to stop assuming everyone was the enemy.

'Rogers sent you for me?'

Now is the moment to shift towards her, for Crais to use himself to alter the dynamic.

'Yes, but not to collect your bounty. I am to give you this.'

The scroll is spirited from his jacket with a flourish: Crais notes with satisfaction the theatricality is enough to raise a smile, albeit briefly. She's tired like him, too many sleepless nights with dreams conjured by guilt and regret. He watches quietly as she reads Rogers' apology, awareness that the Admiral had seen far less action than this Dwarf and should perhaps consider that dedication to the Alliance’s cause is worthy of more respect than it was initially given. Her body slowly relaxes as the scroll is digested, grasping her actions have not damned her to punishment. Everyone has blame to carry, not simply her.

Jaina herself had appeared the night he was to return to Stormwind, and had impressed on him the need for a cohesive unit in the days before the last push on Orgrimmar. Everyone was necessary, regardless of their personal allegiances, away from their feelings. There were perilously few female hunters left in the ranks to begin with, to lose one so prominent at this late stage would be a massive blow to morale. Dwarven allegiance was an issue too, this he knew from too long lingering at doors he shouldn't.

Crais is acutely aware that the Alliance needed her. Did she still want to play her part?

'I am indispensable?'

The smile this time is more rueful, the rhetoric idly aimed in his direction. He's not sure how to respond: to him, her loss would be irreplaceable, but he doesn't want to tell her that, not yet. He needs first to toe the faction line.

'Lady Proudmoore herself-'

'Oh, don't throw names at me. Jaina's agenda is hers to live with. I've had enough of fighting under her flag, which Rogers was left in no doubt of when I departed. The problem is, I'm not sure what happens now she's apologised.'

Crais isn't surprised at the admission, and he knows she's not alone in her thinking. She's not settled on an alternative either, at least not yet. His next question has to be intrusive, an attempt to expose her intentions.

'You're too principled to be a mercenary. Don't tell me you're considering switching sides?'

The Dwarf knows the colour of her banner isn't a hindrance to doing the right thing. Her desire to travel has always existed, and the destinations present a wealth of potential possibility. The Taurens have fascinated her for years, their life in the plains a world away from her birthplace in Loch Modan. To walk their land, to learn their methods, to track and hunt would be an ambition fulfilled. There are many ways to make a difference, after all, and not all of them would require her to even choose a side.

'There is so much I would like to do, people who I may yet discover have new quests for me to complete. My only enemy is time, as it has always been. If all else fails, I could visit Harrison Jones: I know there's fame and glory to be had in the Artifact business.'

Crais can't help but laugh, but he knows there’s truth in her reasoning. He's seen her happiest when there's been history to uncover, the past to illuminate. She tells stories like no-one he's ever heard, her past bought to life with a passion and vibrancy he'll freely admit he could sit and listen to for hours. Now he wants to close the distance between them and has to fight his heart, rein back the automatic response. He didn't come here for himself, but for her. He knows how much this matters, not simply for the mention of her name in a Troop Report or the sight of her face on the battlefield. She inspires people, they look to her for guidance. Her understanding of tactics is sound and without reproach. Her aspect lifts everyone in battle.

She had inspired him since the day Arthas finally fell.

'Let me make you a deal. Accept this last fight with us, redress the balance in Pandaria and help us remove Garrosh. Once we're done I'll go into business with you. No more taking sides. You can choose who you want to work for, and I'll follow you willingly.'

'Like that would ever happen. There always has to be a reward for you.'

Her urge to indulge his fantasy is immediate, wondering who they might persuade to join them in such a fanciful endeavour. Perhaps Argus, whose skill with a shield and sword was only matched by his ability to throw really heavy stuff at moving objects with pinpoint accuracy. His heart was huge and his singing voice downright suggestive, but no-one ever got past him when he took his stance, not ever. Alyse's skill as a herbalist and healer would be invaluable, but the Dwarf wasn't sure if she'd like a life away from the Alliance's banner. Perhaps there was the spark of rebellion behind the quiet Night Elf exterior, a history she'd love to unearth. There must be time made for discussions, because there was always the chance there'd be no tomorrow...

If she didn't ask Fizz, of course, he'd turn her into a Sheep. Leaving him out of any discussion involving wealth and power never ended well...

'A partnership wouldn't be worth much without some support. We'd require more than just the two of us.'

Crais' response is instant, a reflex. He already has his team picked, their loyalty assured. He'd known he might require backup if the Dwarf couldn't be persuaded. Now, he understands, is the moment for the personal approach: to make her sense how much she is needed, not just by him. He leans forward, arms on the table, pressing the point in earnest.

'Alyse, Argus and Goldfellow would follow you anywhere. They're not the only ones.'

The Dwarf grasps for the first time in many, many months that she does have friends, there would be people to miss if she vanished. Perhaps she is just tired and lost, and needs to redirect her focus. Maybe the Rogue can teach her something more than how not to pick up women and to hide in plain sight. Not everything she does is directed to one aim, that constant goal: the protection of a World that seems too often covered in danger, fraught with perils. If she's honest, that's the last reason she's here, after all this time. Her life is the people, their needs before hers. Maybe it is time to shift that around, if only for a while.

You can't do everything alone.

The noise around her isn't painful any more, and her stomach reminds her that a good meal should always be a priority. The Rogue will have one use, at least for tonight. Let her wake tomorrow and reappraise the land, conduct this discussion again in the daylight and without fear. If the proposition still appeared attractive, she would take Rogers' offer. Not because the Admiral apologised, but for the use of Crais to deliver it, because he cared when she couldn't. He'd done the legwork and picked a team for them, their choices meshing more than satisfactorily. With her bear peacefully asleep outside, anything might be possible.

When he smiled, she knew once more why she was here.

I will remember my friends with honour. My penance is a worthy forfeit.

'You can buy me dinner and then explain why going into business with you would be such a good idea.'

Crais leans back in his chair, quietly pleased there'll be no need to vanish for the rest of the evening.


Monday, June 17, 2013


Remove the word Music whenever it occurs and replace
with the word HUNTER/S

This week's WoW Insider Community Blog Topic is very simple: What is your Favourite Class and Spec? It is high time to re-iterate the first (and often only) love I have in this game, at least at present.

If it's Hunter shaped, I'm going to play it.

I have three thus far at 90 (two Alliance, one Horde) and there's a number of others scattered across accounts and servers. As some background, this all began with the Amazons in Diablo, and when I started playing LAN Games with Mr Alt in the days before my son was born. He'd hit stuff at the front, I'd damage it from a distance. Hence the love of all things ranged was born. My first ever Hunter was a Night Elf (which is why the 'Secondary' Hunter was created when I recruited myself as a Friend to get the new RaF mount) but my longest-serving Dwarf Hunter still exists, although she's languished in the 50's ever since she was initially abandoned on a PvP server. I've moved her recently, and part of me intends to get her finally to 90, just because I can.

As for spec... well, it used to be that I'd play all three specs, with P rocking whatever was currently doing the most DPS for raiding. I was a Marks pretty much forever until this patch, when I've moved everyone over to Beast Mastery as it granted me access to every dps/cc option from pet buffs. I played Survival in Cataclysm when it was required, and a pert of me thinks that I should probably sort my Secondary Specs out at some point so I can swap between both without too much hassle, but they've lain pretty much dormant since the Expansion began. If you wanted a visual indication of the malaise of Too Much Stuff, Not Enough People that my gaming life has suffered from since Pandaria hit, it that the Hunters are, in essence, the only people that have been played because it's just been easier to learn one spec and nothing else with the time I've had available.

The key to my Hunter longevity has to be utility in BM spec: I can solo everything with a Tank pet, it just takes time. That means if I'm doing any kind of farming or need anything in large amounts, it's probably just simpler to send a Hunter to do it. That's also why the 'Secondary' Hunter is a miner/herbalist and P is a Skinner: that's all three gathering professions covered, so should I need raw mats, it's a done deal. I can have a pet in my Stable for Water Walking as well as my tank, I carry my own Heroism buff for burst damage, I can have extra Stamina for tricky Elite fights. Everything I need not only to work efficiently as a solo player but bring utility and variety in group situations can be provided by the wee Dwarven lassie, or the Blood Elf or Night Elf. 'Secondary' Hunter also comes with the Engineering toolkit of Mailbox and Portals, and frankly this combination alone makes a Hunter one of the most potent farming machines currently available in game.

However, and this is probably as important as what they can do in game, my love affair with hunters has as much to do with the way they have evolved over the eight years of the game. The hunter community is one of the strongest and most entertaining parts of Warcraft: the people who play my class with me are passionate, voracious and dedicated to their chosen path. The help I've received over the years, the people whose voices have contributed to Hunter being far more than just a pet class, this is part of why being one of their number has become something I value far more than I have admitted publicly in the past, something I will now change. I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed to my development as a Hunter over the years: my mate Rob (good luck with the new job!) who has pushed me to larger and greater output over the years simply by being a better Hunter than I'll ever manage, to Big Red Kitty for being the inspiration to begin my Blogging career, and to everyone at the WHH who have allowed my work to reach a larger audience in the last four years.

So, now you know. Hunters were my first love, and they will be my last: hunters of the future, and hunters of the paaaaaaaast....

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Get Lucky

Put it all on Red, it'll come up Black...

There's been a couple of days to let the dust settle, and I notice that my one of my favourite podcasts Realm Maintenance is asking this question for the next show:

Despite what you think, this is not a cynical bid for Podcast glory...

Well, if we look back on the last week, I've not been that short of opinion on everything, including Flex Raiding, spoilers and the general speed of patching progress. What I've not done thus far, and  I'll thank Rho for prompting, is focussed some personal thoughts on these potential changes. There's a reason the wheel is up there, at the top of the page, and it's all wrapped up in the element of chance this game seems to maintain a relationship with, back since the first days of Vanilla.

Blizzard do seem to get lucky more times than they lose the spin, at least thus far.

If we look at everything that's been handed to us in 5.4 previews thus far, it could be seen that Blizzard is directly targeting areas where the community has stated there are problems. Flex Raiding, quite apart from the concept, is pretty much being sold as the LFR equivalent for people who want to organise themselves. Proving Grounds could be directly seen as Blizzard's answer to teaching people how to play their classes, and being rewarded for doing so. Scaling enchants to work on any level gear is perhaps the biggest indicator that the Devs want people to be able to use item enhancements regardless of level, and that the 'quality of life' is becoming a huge motivator in what drives not simply the pace of current expansion, but what gets changed and where.

My husband pointed out last night that the Engineering Trainer in the Dwarven District can now repair gear. I'm not sure when this was changed, but if it's enough of an alteration for him to notice, then such upgrades are doing their job. Similarly, in the Brewmoon Festival Scenario Mr Alt's Pally tanks (yes plural) would have a terrible time trying to tank the Water Elemental boss and would consistently fall into the water. Magically this patch that bug has vanished, and I know it won't have been listed as an issue anywhere. Once upon a time, stuff simply remained broken in game. Although this may well still be the case for the older expansions, I'll freely admit that when summat gets bust in Pandaria it appears to get fixed considerably faster than before, and I think the patch progression is also extending to ensuring that the wheels keep spinning faster and longer when those issues do arise.

If we also look at the [SPOILER STUFF] in 5.4, these massive alterations have not actually impacted on existing quest givers: Aki is still alive and well, and the Golden Lotus dailies appear to have been shifted to a safer location. Even though there is traumatic change, the things people still need are accessible. People's concerns are being listened to, and it is very rare these days that something gets tweaked without a decent warning. When the PvP nerfs to Stampede happened this week, for instance, it was one of the VERY rare occasions where people got little or no warning this was happening, and that is very much the exception. I got cross, which I normally never do, and that's only because I know Blizzard don't act that way any more, there's far more planning and thought involved in announcing stuff that changes.

Blizzard no longer rely on luck to keep their player base content. There has been a deliberately structured and very decisive shift in the last year away from content that does not appear to listen and react to the concerns of Warcraft's subscribers. Although there are still those who argue (mostly via Twitter and the forums) that their concerns fall on deaf ears, most of the casual playerbase should be able to find something in 5.4 which will have them interested in the future of the franchise. Speaking as one of those 'target' players, it is really rather hard to pinpoint anything that I don't like or am not looking forward to exploring once the patch hits. However, if I were a more serious raider, there might be some alarm bells ringing. I've seen mutterings from some that Flex is the final nail in the Hardcore coffin for many, especially with the plethora of free-to-play MMO alternatives in the marketplace. However, Summer is coming, an that is always traditionally the time that the game as a whole suffers from loss of numbers. If the massive raid potential for 5.4 can't pull in a large cross-section of players over what is the most difficult period traditionally for gaming longevity, Blizzard might yet see an even larger reduction in subs to report in their Q3 Shareholder Call...

I have to say, looking at my space in the Blogsphere, the reaction to 5.4 thus far is a great deal more positive than I'd expected to see. I'm seeing people actively considering resubbing, some already have, and dormant blogs are springing back to life. I'm also picking up encouraging signs that more and more people could start blogging about the game for the first time (especially a number whose more analytical view would be a great addition to the collective.) All in all, I think this is the best place Warcraft has been in for quite some time.

I don't think luck comes into the next patch's equation at all.