Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Final Countdown

I suppose it had to happen, now we know Blizzard have no qualms about grabbing people's money via the medium of XP Boosts... ^^

You're gonna want to rename the Pet Store, fellas ^^

Last night, Blizzard announced that a selection of Transmog Helms would soon be available to buy from the 'Pet' Store. It was inevitable, and I am sure a lot of people will be very happy with the introduction of such items into the stable of transmog 'goods' but it does now indicate a real and distinct sea change from Blizzard: if you didn't know already they wanted to make money from these kind of sales, you do now. This puts them on a par with just about every other MMO, after all. Those of you who like to naysay will, I'm sure, already be working out how close this ticks the Doomsday Clock onto midnight. For the rest of us, it begins to throw up some interesting choices, and may begin to cause some lively discussion both in and out of game.

Once upon a time, your way of telling who was ahead of the curve was what they rode and wore. Current tier was instantly recognisable, well before the days of titles and mounts tied to metas. That was your indicator to who was best, and who was moving your Server forward. Of course now anyone can complete content below their own level, wear a title they never achieved whilst current, swan about clothed in virtually anything. Suddenly you'll be able to instantly identify who dropped cash for these helms, because I'm kinda betting if you buy then it will be distinctly for the animations and special effects. Only one of these however lets you show your actual face, and I'm betting that's going to make it the most popular in the long run.

However, what this will mean if I'm looking at the Transmog market as a way to make money, I'll be quietly beginning to pick up both white, red and orange items that would compliment these helms as the weeks go on. I'm betting those people who choose to buy these will also own sufficient in-game cash to drop it on making up the perfect outfit to match, and that could mean the Transmog market will get a much-needed shot in the arm. If these are released to coincide with the 5.4 release that also means you'll be selling your items on new Virtual AH's to boot, so this is an absolutely perfect time for those on low-popuation servers to take advantage of rare spawns and perhaps do some useful speculation in the summer months.

Whatever your thoughts on in-game transactions, the drop in sub numbers is clearly forcing Blizzard into other areas to continue to take advantage of their remaining numbers. If helms are coming, you can guarantee this is only the beginning...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Staying Out For the Summer

Standing in the Fire since Cataclysm... and well before...

This is my last week of freedom, as next week the kids Summer holidays begin.

It also traditionally marks a drop-off in both game players and participation. This year's drop off may be worse than previous, if my 45 minute queue as DPS for the Throne of Thunder ON A THURSDAY is going to become the norm. However, this Summer is different: I reckon I've got seven weeks before 5.4 drops. If I were a smart game developer I'd want 5.4 ready to roll as soon as everyone returns to the fold in September, which means that every day will count in terms of stockpiling materials to capitalise on the introduction of Virtual Realms and (by extension) the Virtual Auction House.

Seven weeks will be more than enough time to ensure I've finally learnt every Gem cut and Tailoring pattern. It may well be enough to get my Blacksmith levelled to 90 and have a good punt at learning all those new recipes as well, if I put my mind to it. In fact, if I were a sensible woman, getting people to 90 and finally exploiting that Tillers farm herbalism thing would be another option. Then there are pets, and points, and legendaries... as we have previously discussed, probably far too much stuff than I will ever get a chance to play. As a result, I think we'll use the Wednesday reset as a weekly 'circuit' to attack and address specific issues. What I want to continue doing this week is building up raw materials for transmutes (mostly Ghost Iron) whilst building up enough blue gems to be able to transmute with the JC-er for a good couple of weeks. I'm finding Kyparite is by far the best raw material for this and have 600 already stockpiled to prospect starting this morning.

Then I need to look at a ton of cloth for my Tailoring: the Barrens Weekly is setting itself up to be a great place to do this. What would be sensible to do, and I'll start on this at the weekend, is to send the Mogging Hunter out there to start collecting items and to use what I predict will be seven weeks worth of Mojo to gear herself to a better standard for 5.4. Similarly I ought to do the exact same thing for the Horde Hunter, because once 5.4 hits this area vanishes (there's a blog post on that at the weekend, by the way) and I really doubt I'll have the ability to take advantage of this area for anyone else's gearing by the time that happens. So, we'll make hay whilst the summer means I doubt I'll be fighting anyone for the single mob spawns past the weekend. In fact, I can see this becoming my task on Monday and Tuesday evenings.

At the weekend, I sense there may well be work on the Beasts of Fable. I need to do some LFR if only to see if I can get the battle pets as drops (legendary will be a bonus, I've decided not to get stressed about it) and if a weapon drops... like, WHO AM I KIDDING. The Guild is still trying to raid one day a week, which will fill up the Saturday nights quite well I'm betting. As for the rest... well, I just don't know. Time is the biggest killer... but there is always something that can be done. The trick is to seize the moment, and I'm becoming quite adept at that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

If Leaving Me Is Easy

This man is not happy. Can you tell?

Let us consider for a moment the reasons why people aren't playing Warcraft.

Hang on, what did you just say?

The XP boost potion that will be sold in Asia when 5.4 launches has been introduced for one reason, and one reason only: to entice people back into the game with promises of quick levelling. As I mentioned on Tuesday this makes the journey that much speedier, but the destination remains unaltered: you'll still need to deal with all the challenges that End Game has to offer once you've done your levelling and handed over your hard earned cash. It's that state of affairs that we want to talk about, because part of me is doubting that it's the levelling progress that been driving people away from playing. In fact, I know this is the case, and this man is proof of that.

He doesn't look best pleased, and frankly I don't blame him.

There are a lot of potential issues wrapped up in the question: why have you cancelled your subscription? We have discussed those in my Guild who are not 'engaged' by current content: that it is repetitive, predictable and ultimately depressing. There are those that, after over eight years, simply have run out of interest (not unsurprising considering a decent console game can be 'completed' in a couple of days.) Then we have people like my good Twitter friend @loopnotdefined above, who have a very specific, but completely understandable beef not with the game, but the other people who play it. I'm going to guess he's not alone in his issue either.

Timestamps may not represent actual posted order, but that's how they happened ^^

We can continue to maintain (with some justification) that the Warcraft community is hugely helpful and friendly, but there is a flip-side, normally found on Official Forums, or indeed the hangouts of the major fan websites: the pedants. Many of these people are useful and provide a great service for the Dev community, but there are far more who, frankly, need a damn good slap. Yes, I SAID IT. When you've been playing since Vanilla there is a temptation to end up sounding like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons when you start discussing encounter design and class development. There's nothing you can do about it sometimes either except hope that someone you like comes along and politely gives you a sharp shove points out you're making a fool of yourself before moving on.

I have also seen some individuals also maintain that people who 'leave' act in a manner roughly akin to addicts who have recovered from a major substance abuse problem, and therefore only have themselves to blame. The key here is grasping a bigger picture that rarely includes an excess of immersion or distraction as the sole reasons for 'stopping playing.' People love to be able to attach a label to people's behaviour, after all (and yes, I just did that to prove my point.) When the game you play has become a self-serving phenomena, there's inevitably going to be that internal consumption going on, when one sector of the community blames the other, and vice versa. What seems to be a far more concerning issue, at least from a personal point of view, is the aspect of time. Or, in this case, the absence thereof.

I logged into my main yesterday to find that mail I'd sent to myself had bounced back: that means that it had been 30 days since some of my alts had seen the light of day. With the speed at which content is being deployed, I realise I'm just not keeping up, and frankly over the last week my physical exhaustion in the real world, being obsessed with important real-life concerns has meant even the faffing has taken a back set as I've struggled to cope with getting everything done. Even if I'd had a 100% XP Boost for my Monk I still require the actual hours to be able to play. Then I have to fit in exercise and cleaning and writing... something has to give. I may still be paying my sub, yes, but playing is becoming less of a given and more of an option.

There are a lot of factors to consider when asking why people aren't playing, and they are likely to be so personal that it is impossible to accurately categorise them all. We won't know until the Q3 Activision Conference call exactly how many people like @loopnotdefined have left the subscription model: until then I can only assume that Blizzard will continue to look at ways to 'stop the rot' and actively encourage people to return by the medium of increasingly attractive enticements. What is clear however is that for every friend I know who leaves, there is still a vast majority who remain unaffected. I only have to worry when I'm the only one left blogging, I suppose... assuming that you're all still out there listening and haven't all gone off to enjoy the Summer...


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Poison Arrow

This is what happens when you let Hunters PvP ^^

In the latest 5.4 PTR Patch notes, I found myself having to do a double-take. Hunters get a new ability, Counter Shot, which is apparently learnt at Level 22. The tooltip above is deliberately incorrect, because the only place I can currently locate said replacement ability on Wowhead is being used by an NPC (Admiral Hodgson) in the Battle for the High Seas Scenario. What makes this significant for anyone who plays a Hunter is that this is the shot that will replace Silencing Shot in our talent trees. That ability will return to being a Marks only choice.

Of course, there's only one reason this change is being implemented. Yes, PvP types, I'm looking at you.

An instant cast silence is pretty potent. Sticking in away in what has become the poor relation of Hunter specs could be seen as giving that a boost, or could simply be assumed to be taking it away from BM and Survival where it makes their abilities even more awesome. Replacing an instant cast with something that takes nearly two seconds is, I have to say, going to take some getting used to. I'll use my Silencing Shot in instances or Scenarios to pull a caster mob into melee range for my husband tank, or when soloing to get it to run into a trap. Both of those tasks will be considerably harder with a spell I have to cast. In good news however it has no focus cost, so that's at least something.

The question then remains, why is this change even necessary to begin with?

I understand how important PvP is to Blizzard's long-term gameplan. It's a part of the equation that doesn't require instance tuning, or indeed 24 other people to help you play. The fact that Arenas are going full-on matchmaking in 5.4 also says to me that this is something people are clearly asking for. I've played both PvP and PvE. One is considerably harder than the other. Taking away things from the easier to handicap the harder may seem like a great idea on paper, but those changes only work to a certain extent, because there comes a point where easier becomes less useful... or if you will, harder.  Yes, we know, this is the eternal quest for Class Balance, which has been celebrated in memes and has entire areas of the Forums dedicated to its complexity and annoyance. Yes, I know getting grumpy about this isn't going to change anything one iota, and the fact will remain that if something's OP in whatever spec, you're going to get a swipe with The Great Big Bat of Nerf (TM)

What is encouraging however is to see that all this poking to appease the PvP-ers isn't the entire story.

I've read the following blue posts this morning which I would urge all Hunters to take a look at. In this discussion we learn that the nerf to Stampede (that happened because of PvP) is great for initial purpose, but (not unsurprisingly) it makes the whole thing pretty pants as a PvE ability. As a result, lo and behold, it's going to get a buff. Lots of other things might be buffed too, as a result of further PvP changes having less than optimal consequences, and breaking stuff all over the shop. Look, it's that balance thing again, meaning that we get shafted so we can be fixed... so I know I shouldn't start getting annoyed that we have to be smashed into tiny pieces to begin with, but I still do. It all boils down to an issue of perception. Why, when you get something working properly, can't you just leave it alone? Stop fiddling when we're good, for the love of all that is sacred... YES I KNOW, JUST LET THE WHINY HUNTER HAVE HER MOMENT ^^

In conclusion therefore: plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. I'll continue to moan, Blizzard will keep breaking perfectly good abilities, and everyone stays happy.

Job dun :D

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

In the Court of the Crimson King

A myth, you say?

Once upon a time, you only had one way to do stuff.

With time has come diversity, a myriad of options: no longer is the freshly-minted End Game player forced to run 5 Mans, then Heroic versions of said 5 Mans, before trying to find a PuG Raid in which to improve their gear. You can go biff stuff in the Barrens, you can queue for a Scenario, or if you've been saving your pennies there's a ton of stuff to buy on the AH to make that all-important iLevel tick over to the required point so you can go shove your inexperienced behind into an LFR queue. Nothing's really THAT hard any more, right?

Hmm, or perhaps it is.

Ghostcrawler is in a position that most of us aren't: quite apart from being a Crab, and working for the company that makes the #1 MMO in the market currently, he has figures that will never see the light of day. These databases are full of statistics that tell him that many players never make it to end-game before giving up altogether. They'll let him know how many quests most players have completed, what areas are popular, and most importantly of all how many people do rise to the challenge before quitting. I'm guessing that database is the one that's of most interest currently, especially considering the fact we're moving towards the end of the current expansion's lifespan. However, I'm going to contend that difficulty may be the least of Ghostcrawler's problems. My argument's less about how hard things are, more about how predictable.

The iLevel of gear has become the be-all and end-all of the Game: without the right numbers nothing is going to happen easily. Without the right level of gear (and the inflation which means three and four figure bonuses to stats on items) bosses just won't die fast enough (which we discussed at the weekend.) Gone are the days when you could easily carry anyone in a Raid environment: current content is brutal and unforgiving unless EVERYONE comes to the table with a level of preparation that is pretty much unprecedented in the game's history. This is before you start factoring in the difficulty of bosses or encounters, in whatever tier of raiding you select (which will become four different and distinct strands when we hit 5.4.) Choice has always been a factor in these decisions, and I am sure Blizzard will argue that more options are better than less. However, the path to getting there remains firmly intractable, especially for the player starting with a level 1. Very little has changed there at all.

With official confirmation this morning that XP boosts via an 'In-Game Store' will be made available to the Asian Markets come 5.4, we finally see a fundamental change to the predictable nature of the levelling game. You will be able to forget 1-90 as an immersive experience altogether and simply jump straight to the end: this may instil fear into some people's hearts, that the game is simply crumbling under the weight of short-spanned expectation. No-one cares about the journey anymore, everyone wants access to the final destination. The key here however is not how long a player remains in game, but the fact they remain at all. Successful titles for the 'grazing' gamer (you know the type, the ones with the short attention spans but who expect high returns on minimal investment) are going to give them what they want and fast. However, simply boosting people to 90 will not be enough. The perils of end game will need to be addressed, and there are many.

Having spoken to several people who consider the game to have lost its ability to engage at maximum level, I doubt in the long run this will actually be of any benefit: this is unlikely to keep more people playing for the long haul. However, what it will do is make money for Blizzard from those people whose remit isn't immersion, it is instant access. They can get to 90 far faster than normally, but there will still be the exact same issues and challenges that remain intractable and immovable when they reach their destination. If they choose then to leave at that point, Blizzard can still have collected their tax for doing so before that happens. For the existing player, the store might bring an advantage bought from not needing to grind secondary characters, but those challenges still remain unchanged and (presumably for many) uninspiring. I'd expect a massive overhaul of end game in the upcoming Expansion as a result: as to how that happens... well, time to get the crystal balls out, guys. Your guess at this point is as good as mine.

It appears that, as is the case in most MMO's currently available to play, Blizzard have finally conceded that there's nothing to lose by making money where you can. Being #1 in your market does give you the chance to do things others can't afford to try: lets see just how well this In-Game store fares pre-Expansion. However, part of me feels that if it is successful in Asia, its introduction worldwide is simply a matter of time... but that does not change the fact that the End Game needs another once over. We know the lessons Blizzard have learnt from Cataclysm, and now Pandaria. Time to see if they now actively address those concerns with 5.4 and beyond...

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Big Sky :: Loch Modan

Title: The Big Sky :: Loch Modan

Author: @AlternativeChat

Character/Pairing: Just the Hunter and the Rogue again. Takes place in the months leading up to the Cataclysm expansion.

Rating: Pretty much good for everybody, this one.

Summary: Patch 4.0.1 is imminent, but several months previously...

A chance to heal, and an opportunity to reflect on what has gone before, or what might yet be...
Disclaimer: All these people live in a computer game owned by Activision and Blizzard. NPC names are specific to the Wrath expansion. The one I play is mine in my mind only.


Again, thanks in droves to everyone who has encouraged me to get this far without collapsing in a spent emotional heap. A hat tip to M, whose fingerprints are all over this, and for that I will continue never to be quite grateful enough.


The Big Sky.

For a long time, everything is white.

Definition forms, familiarity recognised: hazy blue sky, loch green, the sound of gentle waves, lapping against the jetty, water against wood. Toes dip, feet immersed: sharp cold against warm skin, the swish of a line as it flies back and then forward, the plop as the lure impacts and the hook sinks. His voice: constant care and patience, love and reassurance.

Patience, lassie. The fish will come. Give them time.

Music drifts, across the Valley, pipe and accordion intertwined: the song of the season, practice for the Festival. Grilling meat, chopping wood, playing children; the flap of the banners unfurled across the Stoutlager Inn. Summer breeze and green trees, pinecones and the smell of Swifthistle. Peacebloom seeds drifting lazily on air currents, fuzzy annoyances catching in her hair. Unbraided coarseness, unconstrained limbs, the sun on her face and the promise of grilled Frenzy with the Beer Basted Boar Ribs.

His voice is concerned, suddenly distant.

Can you hear me?

A darkness is spreading across the lake, insidious anger radiating from a single point, rapidly and inescapably consuming. The water turns cold, freezing without warning, and she can't move, the scream in her mouth swallowed by overwhelming feeling, life draining away through the soles of her feet --

'Aye, Defile's really nasty -- but you see, she's fine now.'

P's eyes flutter open. She's not at home, but in the Citadel. Icecrown. The final push. It takes too long to grasp she's horizontal, that this time she didn't walk away. The Dwarven Priest standing over her smiles, removing the special elemental wraps from her feet, though there's still no feeling beneath her knees. Events shift, the chronology in her head confused. The platform had fallen away, before the Valk'yr came. She'd panicked and not moved fast enough when the Lich King cast his magic, despite the shouted warning. They'd faced him with Fordring, and he'd pushed them all to the limit...


'Don't you worry about him. You get some rest, you deserve it.'

The past finally settles back into place. Terenas Menethil had resurrected her. Bolvar was still alive, after a fashion. There are tears, relief this time as a hand slips silently over hers, familiar feeling to help her relax, breathe easily. Randall sits on the edge of the camp-bed, face covered in blood she knows isn't his own, and she doesn't want to ask. She is too tired, too cold, and yearns for the warmth of the Loch's shore to lose herself, warm grass to surround her.

All that's missing is the memory of a kill: her body had failed before their enemy had fallen.

'He's dead?'

Randall smiles: there is no satisfaction in his response.

'We're done here.'


This is her home. There was nowhere else she loved as much.

Three months have passed in bliss: nothing seemed painful in the comfort of the midsummer sun. She lies in the grass staring at clouds, working out what they best represented. That cloud looks like Kalimdor. This one is a Crag Boar. The largest was a Crocolisk but quick, it's changing to a Threshadon. Blues shift and deepen as afternoon stretches, purples and reds in late evening, moon-touched black at midnight to white brilliance at sunrise, the day begun anew. The undying constants of life, rising and falling, the backdrop of her existence.

Her nightmares are never remembered, fleeting phantoms of the depravity she has left behind, the past she cannot change. The sky is her constant, a way to lose time and cohesion, becoming a part again with the ground. Fingers dig into the soil, mud under nails, skin and dirt once indivisible and now separate. She works at the Inn and sleeps with the Loch under beguiling skies, and slowly the world heals her torment, makes everything solid and safe again.

The change in warmth wakes her, as the sun finally dips behind the trees. She'd abandoned the rod and line hours ago, the Frenzy refusing to bite, and instead had just laid down where she'd stopped. The earth is lush in summer, a world away from the permanent cold: just returned and not enough done, the Dwarf wonders why she would ever choose to leave. Last time, her best friend had enticed her away with promises of glory, and she had been right. They had won again, but at the most terrible of costs.

It would take something pretty spectacular to even tempt her from home this time around.

There is the familiar swish, then plop, followed shortly afterwards by what she knows is the reeling in of a successful catch, squirming fish in shallow water. Someone else was by the shore. She opens one eye, squinting through the sunlight as she tries to make out the average-heighted shape down by the fringe of the Loch. It appears to be having trouble removing the hook from the wriggling Frenzy's mouth.

For a rogue, his grasp of manual dexterity was sometimes suboptimal.

Crais is still struggling when she reaches him, forcing her to come and take the fish out of by now slimy hands. He never had such difficulty in battle, why should these situations be any different? The Frenzy is a good size, but not enough for an Inn full of hungry patrons. She stares at her friend out of uniform, impeccably attired for a fishing trip, and fails to suppress a smile. He'd look good in a formal Dangui, without effort. Some people were just born lucky.

'We'll need as many as we can catch. Your father told me you had no patience.'

It is, it appears, past the stage where they formally greet each other. Only Randall and she are closer, a realisation that amazes her. When exactly did this happen?

'My Pa is right. I'd rather do nothing. The fish surface late afternoon, I just chose not to exploit that advantage.'

The Dwarf registers he is staring at her and it takes a second to grasp why: he's never seen her in a dress before. It's not a particularly flattering smock, if truth be told, but looking good for anyone was not on her list of priorities when she woke up that day. She is dirty and unkempt and happier than she's been for months, so he will simply have to cope, which he appears to be doing with increasing confidence. As she places the now dead fish in the catch basket, Crais bends to wash his hands, turning to her as he does.

'You were right, this place is stunning. Far better views than Elwynn.'

'I assume you weren't simply passing and decided to drop in?'

'I've never been here. It seemed like a good idea to visit.'

Crais rebaits and casts out into the now teeming water in front of them. He doesn't talk, or even try to engage her further, and the Dwarf wonders at the motivation. This isn't just sudden, it is unexpected.

If the Frenzy kept biting there would be plenty of fish not only tonight, but tomorrow as well. Maybe they should plan ahead and exploit the advantage, as a team.

She picks up her own rod and loads the hook with Nightcrawlers.


The Inn is busy for a Tuesday, patrons spilling out onto the road outside, talk oddly downbeat for the time of year. All eyes have turned north, to the Highlands, where reports of cult activity have increased significantly in recent weeks. A gryphon was shot down the previous day and there are rumours of an impenetrable barrier that has sprung up north of the Ogre Mound. Business, as a result is, up: the Dwarves need to plan and that inevitably is fixed over food and ale. P has been serving all day, clearing tables and preparing meals, and knows she'll have little time for a break as the evening wears on.

Seizing the moment, she takes a bottle of Moonberry Juice from behind the bar and climbs up to the roof of the Inn to watch the sunset: the best view across any zone in three continents. She sits, and for the first time since Shadowmoon grasps that there is something inside that has yet to heal.

'He told me you'd be here.'

Crais appears almost on cue, all in black, the outfit doing everything to flatter but little to deceive, choosing to sit opposite on a stone promontory. He's been strictly business today, deep in conversation with the village elders for several hours. His official motivation, on SI:7's behalf, isn't unexpected. Stormwind too has a Cultist problem, the same group moving in the north, and there's a desire to gather intelligence. His easy charm has worked magic on everyone in Thelsamar, including her father. You son of a trogg, Pa, I know you sent him up here.

'Have you got what you came for?'

'I have enough to be concerned. The Highlands may be the least of my problems.'

His actions are anything but selfish: she knows once you join SI:7 you never leave. He may choose to fight in a five but his loyalty remains united to the Crown, the Alliance cause. He will have been sent here for a reason, but...

'Is that really why you're here?'

Something softens as his fa├žade falters, a point subtly redirected.

'I made a promise to Mirrie.'

The blood is rushing in her ears: she's back in the snow, feet frozen and heart incapable. They are in Icecrown, that night at the Argent Tournament, the day before Arthas died. Moments of their lives combined, when grief became anger and finally acceptance. Separate existence drawn together through laughter, shared strength, remembrance of quests past.

Crais doesn't smile very often, but when he does she finds herself strangely willing, captured. Not a Dwarf's gruff honesty, or a Gnome's infectious enthusiasm... but quiet satisfaction. He stares into her, and she understands: while the earth may heal her soul, her heart is a different quantity. Two things joined, yet separate, both tied together with an unbreakable thread. Mirrie has bound them in life and death, perhaps tighter than she ever anticipated.

As the sun goes down, his eyes are the blue sky of a new day: a possibility of promise, the battle not yet fought.

This debt was not yet paid.

'The cultist activity in Stormwind is of genuine interest?'

'It's a front, a massive deception. There are a lot of very nervous people.'

The desire rises without prompting, the need to help, to offer her services. She knows instinctively he won't ask her, but rather wait for her to arrive at the inevitable. His remarkable ability isn't to push, it is to pull: to generate understanding, comprehension and finally truth. One's own conscience is the guide and compass: the decision is theirs.

'I'll need to wait 'til Pa can hire some extra help.'

'He has two women coming from Coldridge tomorrow.'

She wants to object, accuse him of manipulation, but there's no point. He's anticipated her as he did every time she laid a trap for him to pull an enemy into. Her father knows her better than she does and so, it appears, does Crais. Her smile is enough to move him to standing, to offer his hand. As he helps her up Northrend moves from present to past, as it was with Outland and Kalimdor. This is a new chapter, a fresh beginning.

'You would have let me stay here?'

'Would you have let yourself remain?'

Time has played tricks with her for too long, present and past carelessly overlapping. Perhaps the reasons need not be cataclysmic, the enemy seemingly unbeatable, for her involvement to be justified. Maybe all she desired was a friend to ask her for help to protect the earth and sky, the simplest of gestures meaning more than rewards and glory.

The embrace is a surprise, deliberate pull towards him she won't resist, because she's not afraid of him any more. As she stands, wrapped in his warmth, everything is back in place, leaving simply possibility in its wake.

Looking upwards to the heavens as the stars emerge, she wonders how just how easy it might be to join a cult.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

When Love Breaks Down

Being a GM (and for the purposes of this post that stands for Guild Master/Mistress) is a bloody thankless task.

Like all things in life, your GM experience is likely to vary. Some are colossal tools, others the model of brilliant management. If you care about people and the game, the chances are that if you do the job you'll suffer some personal consequences as the result of your actions. My friend, @ReliqEU , posted last night about how GM's have feelings too. It set me wondering about how my life has been changed by the task I've undertaken for over half a decade, and it made me realise that when you're the one at the top of the pile, that means sometimes there is no escaping the ramifications.

Let me take you back today to Icecrown Citadel, in the days when we ran 10 man ICC, and the week I made a promise to a Guildie that should never have been made.

Insert obligatory old Icecrown jpeg here ^^

We'd made it past Saurfang and were inside the Citadel, slowly making our way through Abominations on our way to Rotface. One particular Guildie (we'll call him T) was very keen to take part on our second night of progress, but knew he'd be late for our scheduled turn up time. He asked me to wait for him before we left, and I committed the cardinal sin of a) not really paying attention when being asked a question and b) saying yes when our rules specifically stated you had to be ready to raid 30 minutes before start time. In retrospect this is a mistake I never made again, so if drama should be used as a way to learn from your mistakes, I can tick that one off my list.

Raid night arrives and with 40 minutes to go before our start time I'm not only oversubbed, but everyone is raring to go. Confidence is high, and people are ready, and it transpires I have two kids in bed and am in a position to pull everything together. At the back of my mind I realise T isn't here, but I have a better dps to replace him with, so I make the call. Off we go and we get an early start, during which we progress past Rotface and move onto Festergut. We're midway through a decent try when T finally logs, and seeing where we are, promptly goes utterly ballistic.

This is possibly the most abusive attack I think I've ever had in my time as a GM: it goes on via whisper, in Guild, and effectively brings our progression to a halt. I immediately apologise, trying to explain I'd made a call because we had people on early to make progress, which we had, but it wasn't enough for T, who then asked his wife to log (she was also Guilded) to continue the personal abuse. I had a mental disorder and was unfit to be organising anything. The rest of the people in my Guild were stupid to allow me to be in charge. Needless to say, things went downhill very fast.

In my head, I knew he had a point: I'd said we'd wait, and we didn't. It was my fault, even though I'd made the call to move with better equipped people. Even though I was sitting at my keyboard in tears at what I was reading and hearing, a part of me could not condone what was happening, because I was the one who'd broken the rules and not him. Officers were lining up wanting to kick them both, but part of me key that it wasn't just their fault. Part of my problem, and still why I have issues today when people leave our Guild or do something that breaks the rules, is the emotional investment I place in everyone who becomes a part of what we do online.

In the end, whenever someone disappoints you in life, there is often blame to be taken on both sides. We may have kicked them both that night, but the consequences of that evening still resonate through me after many years. Understanding blame is important, and sometimes not apportioning it is just as vital as understanding its existence. I have done many things in game I am not proud of, and that extends into my real life too, but there must be a fundamental grasp of the truth that the past is just that, and sometimes needs to be left well alone. However, as was the case reading Rel's post last night, sometimes what you did needs to be discussed with the benefit of time for reflection.

If you have rules for your Guild, you need to stick to them. Everyone needs to know they are covered by the same set of 'game instructions' and that if an incident happens it can be dealt with in a calm and professional manner. This will make life easier for everybody in the long run. You should never make promises for one person when you're dealing with 10 or 25: everyone needs to be treated the same way, no exceptions. Finally, and most importantly, you need to be able to not get involved sometimes and simply step away, because if you don't it won't just be your feelings that get hurt.

I still feel nauseous thinking about this after years have passed, as I do with all the incidents in my GM career that have resulted in drama. I hope I keep learning to do this job better, because I know that after seven years I'm still an utter nublet when it comes to being unemotional. Caring is all very well, but sometimes in a virtual environment its the last thing you ought to do.