Google+ ALT : ernative: 05/25/2014 - 06/01/2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Big Time


It's in the trees, it's coming...

Tomorrow is June. How time flies.

It also means that all you good people have waited long enough.


Time for some ACTUAL STUFF. Eventually.

#TEAMFAFF is about to go to the next level. If you watch Twitter next week there will be a Facebook Group created just for Faffing, there are going to be Guides and Contests, and most importantly THERE WILL BE PRIZES. It's a concerted effort to give all you good people who enjoy doing stuff your way an opportunity to discuss what you do and how, and then to actually win stuff for doing so. Because we are generous and kind hearted rhinoceroses here at Alternative Towers. Plus, we like to give away stuff.

Needless to say, you'll know about this when it happens.

When I actually get around to it, WHICH I WILL NEXT WEEK \o/

All We Love We Leave Behind


Booty Bay, before The Sundering.

I have a wealth of stories to tell from my time in Warcraft.

Many are brilliant recollections of shared experiences, the significance of which we have discussed here before. There are also some stories I want to share but I won't, mostly because I understand that sometimes, what happens in the past is better off just being left where it fell. There will be those of you who will assert the belief that tackling the hard subjects is worthwhile in the end, and although I am prepared to agree with this belief, there are points at which I think you need to consider exactly WHY you're saying what you are. More often than not, at least in my experience, a wider issue is a spark that ignites personal resonance. Often that resonance can occur from something that's not even related to the subject matter. It is how you choose to deal with your own feelings and beliefs on a wider scale which is very often the essence of good blogging.

Sometimes you don't even have to make a point. You simply need to tell people how YOU feel.

This Expansion has produced more negative emotion from me than any other, without a shadow of a doubt, yet still I remain, and I have had cause to stop and consider the reasoning a lot of late. Most people, when faced with the prospect of something they don't enjoy will quite sensibly take their toys somewhere else. These are the days however of NOT having a favourite, of being able to play fast and loose with your MMO's and flagrantly and publicly admit you're seeing other games. I have my eye on a few things over the Summer: there's that Firefly in Space game, there's the reboot of Elite, and assuming that Wizards of the Coast don't spoil the party I might be able to also play some Hexx come the summer months. Then there's the fact I finally managed to update Sim City with it's offline mode, and don't get me started with Steam...

It used to be what you left behind was what defined you as a player. Now it appears to be all about what you are prepared to embrace.


What's in the Box?

One of my personal favourite bits of Twitter is the Retro Gaming scene, which is hugely popular and which generates significant interest, especially in the UK. It's not just because I grew up with so many of these games, and it isn't about either good or bad memories that are associated with those times, it's about the games themselves. It is how they engaged me and made me think about narratives as a writer, and how they challenged the traditional ways of enjoying yourself. There are iconic images, and notable moments. These are what has defined me as a player of games since the mid 1970's.


10 points if you know where this comes from :D


If I am the sum of my experiences, is it then important to, at some point, stop playing Warcraft as I have so many other games to be able to gain a fair perspective of where it sits and it's relevance in my gaming 'life'? More importantly, is the reason why I still continue to love it so much and return to it even when there are countless other games I *could* be playing wrapped up in the understanding that this game has, for ten years, never stopped giving me a REASON to play? I grew out of many games, I found others exciting because that was all there was. Now I am spoilt for choice and with thousands of possibilities at hand, why is it that I return consistently to Azeroth? Is it the friends I have and the emotional attachment? Almost certainly, but more significantly for me there is the understanding that, for the first time ever, I am watching a game evolve as I do. Maybe that's why some have such an attachment to Mario or Sonic, or even Pokemon or First Person Shooters. The games that first grasp your soul are the ones you return to, and I've always been fascinated by games that played like good books. You could dip in or go from end to end, and there was always something you'd missed or forgotten on each subsequent read.

Warcraft is the 'novel' I always go back to when I want to remember how great game-making can be in terms of narrative immersion. It's odd that, considering how so many people don't consider Warcraft as a narrative framework at all. Even with all its faults, and the current issues on social progression, this is the game that continue to feel most comfortable playing. Maybe it's because, after nearly ten years, it is the one I understand the most. I just wish some days it understood me as well :P

The other novel I always go back to.

I've done my fair share of controversy, and I hope I can still speak my mind for many years to come. However, when it comes to understanding WHY I do what I do, it's still a fairly emotive journey. This post has at least established that however many games I might be given to play in any set period of time, there's only one I can say I'm in love with. I'm not having an affair with any other title right now, even though they might be offering the most unbelievable things as a way to sway me. If you ask me, would I like Warcraft to be better, or more representative of equality and tolerance, of course I'd love that too. However, I live with what there is and I make a conscious choice to remain here and fight my battles on the ground.

And I will.

I live with Warcraft, and I hold onto the hope that eventually certain things will change, but that also many others will remain the same. This is a relationship that maybe, one day, will become more than simply a one way street.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Vogue :: Time After Time


Accessories are EVERYTHING.

Last week, Blizzard made an entire Blog post on the back of the admission that people want more character customisation. The Accessories Post might appear to some as another cynical means of keeping attention focussed on the game when there's not much going on, but what it clearly indicates is that Warcraft designers aren't just looking forward to Warlords, they are here for the long haul. That means cosmetics matter, and the understanding that armour sets no longer get used as the means by which players can distinguish themselves as having completed certain challenges. People less and less want to look like each other, and increasingly crave individuality that such pursuits as Transmog can give them. Heck, if I can spend a week quietly debating which cloak my Priest will look best in (that's the Wispcloak above, by the way) then I KNOW I won't be alone.


CANNOT FAVOURITE ENUFF. I'll miss you, Cyn xxx


Mogging therefore is here to stay. Blizzard are already embracing the long-term consequences of this, but because this is one of the most art-intensive aspects of the game, it's going to take time. So much, in fact, that we won't see armour pouches or quivers for Hunters for probably an expansion. So, in the intervening period between now and then, how does one keep the process of Mogging both current and interesting?


NEW GUN RAR.


The obvious influx of new gear for the Expansion will give players some new stuff to fiddle with, and it will be interesting to see if any specific quarter is granted to Moggers for items that look fun but have no obvious practical use, EXCEPT for covering up something ugly. I'm talking about gems such as the Replica Shado Pan Helmet which proved very popular in this Expansion because of its iconic look. One would logically assume that certain items will also be provided for your Garrison 'look', but there has been absolutely no indicator that this will be the case, which is sad considering the potential inherent in the feature to allow for such customisations. I suspect what is likely to happen is that Transmog will remain pretty much as is for the entire duration of Warlords, and it will be in the NEXT expansion that changes will be applied and refined. Hopefully by saying this out loud this means it WON'T happen and we'll get some massive Mogging changes around 6.1 or 6.2. You can but hope.



Designed for Life.

Until we know however, my mogging is roughly akin to painting the Forth Road Bridge. One you get to one end, it's taken so long you need to go back to the beginning and start again. It is a perpetual Work in Progress, and it's one aspect of the game I'd frankly not want any other way.

I love this job :D

Moving On Up ::
Scheduling Blog Posts for Fun and Profit





You're reading this post right now, but I actually wrote this over a week ago. It is here when it is because I have used a scheduler and a number of social media tools in order to make it LOOK as if I'm sitting at a computer, when actually I'll be on a beach right now, hunting for fossils. That's the joy of Scheduling, and why I'll be taking some time for the NBI (Newbie Blogger Initiative) today to teach you how you can be in two places at once and still write a daily blog when you're up to your ass in alligators or extinct dinosaur bones. Either is appropriate in the context of this Guide :D


YES IT'S ANOTHER GUIDE :D

The biggest single key to successful scheduling is time management, and having a definite plan on what you want to achieve. It should then be possible to write a large number of posts and 'schedule' these to appear over a number of days or weeks, depending on your preference. As a rough guide, I wrote 14 pieces to be published in the 8 days I was away. My process was as follows:

  • Plan on paper the eight day 'window' with required posts per day. Decide which times to 'Publish' (more on this below)
  • Make detailed post 'plans' for each article. This is not really necessary if you're just doing stream of consciousness writing, but I had some distinct goals to achieve (guides, normal features I cover on my website.)
  • Write everything as if I was writing it 'normally' and then schedule using Blogger's schedule function. Most blog platforms have a method by which to post their material at a specific time and date. For instance, this is when this post is scheduled to be published:

  • Follow this up by further scheduling Tweets and Facebook posts that announce the fact that I've just published a blog post I wrote eight days ago. This is the really clever part, because in the main (unless things screw up royally, and it does happen) this will look just like I'm sitting in front of the PC and posting a Tweet and then sending the post to Facebook, the same way I do every day. This, however, will require a specific scheduling programme. If you want free and easy, I'd recommend Hootsuite. There are other social media management tools available, but I'm not here writing that kind of guide. I use this because I know the publishing industry likes it, and that's where I learnt to use it, as an intern on an online magazine.

So simple even I can manage it :D

  • Hootsuite gives you a window which works exactly like Twitter: you type in your message (maximum 140 characters) and then you tell the programme when (date/time) you'd like it to send this. To make the most of this and maximise your character limit, I'd also recommend using a link-shortening service (bitly is free and very easy) which will take what is often a very unwieldy url from your post and make it into a short link which gives you more space to type a description:

That's our new link, with the bit.ly prefix. SIMPLES.

You'll find the url of you link in your Post settings, just give it to bitly and they'll do the rest. Then you can schedule away: Hootsuite covers Facebook and Twitter, and is very simple to grasp (it must be, I managed it!) If I've done all this correctly (and trust me I'll be checking every post when it goes up via my Phone) you'll have a week's worth of uninterrupted posting and I'll be on my holidays.

Now, you have to decide whether to tell your readership or not you're not actually here.


MORAL DILEMMA TIME.

There's still a fair deal of stigma about the process of scheduling: whether the process is inherently underhand or not, whether you actually have the time to schedule to begin with, if there's any point in writing stuff if its not current. Certainly there are pros and cons to both sides of the debate. I'm telling you all this now and hopefully showing you the process works as a demonstration that for someone like me, scheduling allows a blogger to engage and retain an audience when they're not at a computer, which when it's taken five years to get this far to begin with is quite an important factor. It also helps that there's been no real Warcraft news for some time... however, if there is this week I've gone on holiday with a means of making posts 'live', which I hope shows a continued commitment to my audience and the subject matter I'm covering.

Perhaps the most useful advantage for scheduling posts is for the writer that's struck by a huge burst of inspiration, ends up with six posts in an evening, and then doesn't want to publish them all simultaneously. This method will allow you to be prolific and at the same time have a constant stream of posts without the need to stress about sitting down and writing every day, which I know many Bloggers find very difficult. If you use the tools available, many things are possible. Most importantly, you don't have to pay for any of them, they're all free.

There really is no better time to start considering the benefits of scheduling for your Blog :D

Thursday, May 29, 2014

To Build a Home :: Beautiful Day


Insert Graphic Here on your return, Nubcake :D


I did say, before I went away nearly a week ago, that if anything significant emerged on the 'Actual News' front I would decloak and make some noise. I'm sitting here with the English Channel to my right on a very passable late May morning, and I've just read for what is probably the sixth time the much-anticipated Garrisons Blog that Blizzard published yesterday. It doesn't matter how many times I re-digest the information, there is no denying that in terms of actual new data, there is only one major point of interest to be had. We are now aware that you will have a Garrison in your starting area, but you will also establish outposts in every zone in Draenor. You'll also have a choice to make in each zone: pick from two possible options, and that will provide you (presumably) with the opportunity to create a 'different' Garrison experience with every new character you level.

However, what is abundantly obvious from this first 'part' of the four (every week? who can tell currently) part series, is that my assertion that this experience is pretty much integral to the questing experience is on the money. Blizzard are clearly at pains to reiterate that you don't need to do any of this if you want to level using dungeons or battlegrounds and that you can simply buy your way to the same result. However, what is abundantly clear is that they're hoping you won't want to, and that's why the blogs are here to begin with. However, there remains a DISTINCT LACK of any imagery or data apertaining to the meat and bones of your Garrisons exeprience: no Mission screens, no Professions data, nothing but the briefest mentions of what you'll be asked to do when defending your base of operations, and for most this will be the deciding factor as to whether or not they commit to the process.

The view from my Hotel as I type. Classy!

That lack of information is obviously deliberate as this is being trailed as a four part series. However it may also be partly due to neccesity as this feature is still clearly 'under construction.' I've been checking Wowhead daily on the mobile for the slightest sniff of an updated Alpha push, because I suspect when new data happens in the next couple of weeks it will be very significant. In fact, my previous concerns that everything would appear whilst I was away are receding: however, what is apparent is that it is becoming very close to a position where a playable client will be available. Major mechanics are clealy in place, and if Blizzard are prepared to start officially discussing the feature, testing should not be far away.

Needless to say, I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to poke me yesterday and point out the Blog had dropped (you're all lovely) and that even though I may not actually be 'here', I am still listening. Let's hope next week's blog has more revelations than this. More importantly, let's cross everything we actually get the data next Wednesday at the same time. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off for a lovely long walk to work up an appetite for lunch :D

Thinking About You :: Twitter Cheesing 101


COOKIES OWN TWITTER. OFFICIAL.

Super Bowl XLVII was notable in American Football history for many reasons: it was the 10th to be played in New Orleans, it had two brothers playing against each other (Jim and John Harbaugh) and, during the game's third quarter, a power failure suspended play for thirty-four minutes. During that time, the person running Oreo's Social Media account had the bright idea (no pun intended) to produce the graphic above and then post it to Twitter [*]. 15,811 Retweets and 6,505 Favourites later it's clear to see that using Tweets effectively is as much about seizing your moment as it is being informed or funny. In the first of two Guides I'll be publishing over the next two days for the NBI (Newbie Blogger Initiative), we're going to give you some pointers to making your 140 characters work for you as effectively as possible. If we're going to learn from the cookies (and you really should, @Oreo is a great account to follow for smart ideas) it's not just about picking your moment, but what you do with your characters even before you press 'Tweet.'


Let's get ready to Twitter...

10 Twitter Tips to Keep Everyone Happy (especially your Followers)


1. Make an Effort.

Like anything else, people notice when you make an effort. Now that Twitter's trying to model itself to be more like Facebook (because in shock news that matters), it's probably not a bad idea to embrace the possibilities. One of my first tasks when I return from Holiday is to redesign my headers across all versions of Social Media for a more consistent look. Yes, I KNOW I'm not a massive corporate behemoth but I get why a brand identity matters and what it can do for people who have absolutely no idea who I am. You should too. Find a look that people can learn to recognise across multiple platforms, including Twitter. Trust me, it does work.

2. Think before you Type.

There's nothing worse than reacting to something only to discover an hour later you totally grasped the wrong end of the collective stick. The key to Twitter is indeed immediacy, but not if you're going to end up upsetting someone in the process. For the sake of everyone's sanity, including ultimately your own, make sure you consider EVERYTHING you say. This is a pretty good rule of thumb for writing generally, but it has additional resonance in a medium which actively plays on the speed of response time as a selling point. If all else fails, if it would offend you, there's a pretty good chance things won't end well.

3. Don't Spam.

If you're using sixteen Tweets to make your point, you're failing to understand the basic significance of this medium. If it needs any more than five Tweets to make your point, GO WRITE A BLOG POST INSTEAD, then use Twitter to post a link to said post, which is what it is supposed to be for. The same goes for pictures, Vines, You Tube videos, programmes that link your game progress, Tumblr and indeed anything else that doesn't grasp that your audience is alive, breathing and not happy about the cost of downloading all this useless crap you are generating on their 3G Wireless plan. Most likely you'll end up being unfollowed or muted, neither of which gets your message across.


Timing is Everything. No, REALLY.

4. When is as important as What.

Picking your moment, as Oreo showed at the top of the page, is really what Twitter does best. Immediacy and succinct are the two words to bear in mind when you're deciding to make your point, and images do that really rather well. However, you could make the best visual gag known to mankind but post it when half your audience is asleep and lose the moment. This is where, at least for me, being 5-10 hours ahead of the US is a distinct advantage, but a loss when Blizzard pull a late night and I need to be there when they announce summat. No matter, knowing your audience means understanding your timelines, and there are some basic rules to follow to maximise your impact:

  • 5pm local time is a great time for retweets? Why? Because many people are waiting to go home and access Social Media from work, or may already be on their way home and Tweeting from a mobile device.
  • Lunch and Dinner time (12pm/6pm) are also great times as people spend time in front of personal devices before eating, or maybe their screen at work.
  • Both weekends and midweek are great times to generate extra interest and engage your audience.
  • Don't ever tweet too many things at once, unless you're watching Eurovision, major sporting events, TV shows or indeed anything where 'real time' tweeting becomes socially acceptable.

5. Understand When for your Audience.

The thing about general rules of thumb is that everyone is different, and actually what works in one person's social media sphere is quite likely not to work for another's. There are specialist tools online that analyse your Twitter audience and what it does, but you don't need fancy smanchy infographics to tell you this stuff, you just need to get to know who's reading your Timeline. I know the best times to target posts as a result, when the most people on my timeline will be reading Twitter, because I've taken the time to interact with them, and to learn when they're talking to me. This makes this next point possibly the most important of the 10 I'm going to give you.

6. Engage EVERYONE.

If you're not using a platform such as You Tube or Twitch to 'engage' your audience, you may find it quite hard to get noticed. That's because you need to understand that Social Media is about... well, being social. I'm not suggesting complimentary drinks or free sausages on sticks for each new follower, but taking the time to talk to people doesn't have to be the cynical exercise in marketing some people might have you believe it is becoming. I can understand how audiences work and what to do to maximise them, but this doesn't mean I don't also grasp that if you don't actually make some kind of connection with the people you're talking to, there's really not much point. I've met some fabulous people using Twitter, the same way I'd meet people via Facebook or Tumblr or even in Warcraft. Not everyone becomes your friend, but it doesn't hurt to treat everyone the same, with decency, common sense and respect. Because you would hope that's the way people would treat you, and that's why if you want to be friends with Twitter, Twitter will need to become friends with you.

When I said engage... oh, never mind...


7.  Scheduling is Perfectly Acceptable.

Just because Twitter is Immediacy Personified, it doesn't mean you can't sneak in stuff to LOOK like you're paying attention when you're not. Scheduling stuff for Twitter is perfectly acceptable if a) you're honest with your audience and b) you keep an eye on things. Needless to say, if you end up Tweeting twenty-six copies of the same message because you're not paying attention, people will see right through you. There's a Guide on scheduling blog posts using Twitter as advertising coming tomorrow. Suffice it to say, I'll be watching every post that is scheduled this week very closely. Your ideas are only ever as good as their execution, after all.

8. Embrace the #Hashtag

I watch clever companies almost every day use the hashtag to great advantage: a savvy marketeer will add a tag to a post and encourage posters to use it to get themselves noticed. They'll then search for that hashtag amongst the sea of 'noise' that Twitter invariably creates and post the best responses, in turn generating more traffic and updated use of the tag itself. It is brilliant in its simplicity, and when used well is an extremely potent tool for getting your Tweets noticed on a wider stage. Learn how to use your # and the benefits are manyfold, just don't use too many in a post. Why? #TooManyHashtagsAreUltimatelyAnnoying. Or summat :P

9. Make a List, Check It Twice

The other key advantage with Twitter that far too many people overlook is the ability to build custom lists of Followers. For instance, for my Azeroth In 5 account, I have a list of all Blizzard's notable staff members who have a public presence, which makes keeping up to date with news and developments as they report them considerably easier than having to wade through thousands of accounts at any given time. Certainly if you are the kind of person who wants to organise what you're reading or focus on specific interests (You Tubers, Twitch streamers etc) having Lists is a great way of focussing in on a section of the 'output' without getting lost in what can often be an awful lot of noise.





10. It's Not The End of the World.

Unless someone's paying you to monitor Social Media, all of this isn't worth getting upset about, or angry, or indeed allowing yourself to become unduly emotionally invested. Like Facebook, or Tunblr, or indeed anything where you are indirectly removed from actual social contact, it is probably wise not to become overly wound into the significance of events. Don't get hung up on who follows and unfollows you, don't make this about just how many numbers you have. This is a fact I tend to forget myself sometimes too, and it bears repeating: what matters most is what you do, not who listens to you doing it. It can become quite easy to obsess about your numbers, your reach or your engagement. Know they exist, understand what they mean, and then MOVE ON.

==



[*] With thanks to this article which I used for research purposes and which deserves suitable credit as a result, this example really is as good as it gets. Pick your moment, and Twitter can make you a star overnight. Literally.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vogue :: Hit the North


Big Time.


Designing mogs can be quite taxing. If you have a specific item in mind, it can be even harder, especially if said item doesn't totally match anything else in the game (and believe me, there are a fair few of those about.) What happens more and more, at least for me, is the understanding that I don't have an infinite amount of time to farm for stuff and that means that sometimes there has to be compromise. This outfit, for instance, which is in the planning stage for my L86 Hunter, is all about understanding I'm on a timer. The vast majority is crafted, and the gun (the Arcanite Steam-Pistol) drops from the first boss in the Eye, nearest the entrance :P The fact it is animated is beside the point. We all know animation beats all, it doesn't need repeating. What I wanted to do with this outfit was create something that could have been from Pandaria, but clearly isn't. That's where the motif on the Runed Copper Breastplate comes in.


Commando Gear.


I was looking for something that might not be amiss for Special Forces to be issued with, landing at the beach at Karasarang and immediately wanting to blend into the jungle. This outfit combines the Runed Copper legs and chest with crafted PvP gear for a look which I think isn't too noisy and feels at least to me as if it fits together quite naturally. Certainly the reaction this outfit received when I previewed it on Twitter makes me think the elements work on paper. I suspect that this outfit will be topped off by a set of Deadly Bio-Optic Killshades, mostly because I have a pair in the bank already from a previous mogging adventure. I am very keen on recycling elements wherever possible, especially if the toon is an Engineer.


At the Planning Stage.

As you will by now be aware, I do all of my planning using MogIt. I still have the outfit to compile for my Horde Rogue as well as this one officially in 'Planning', after which that is pretty much everybody redone for Warlords in some form or another. I'll also need to re-do the blog header as a result of all these changes. That's going to be an interesting day's work.

Once this mog's finally complete you'll see it on my dedicated mogging page. Don't worry though, once I'm done dressing my team, that won't be the end of the story, not by a LONG way. Watch this Space for more details of Le Grand Salon du Moggage, coming soon...

Alternative Chat :: I'm Sorry


SO sorry.

If you're here looking for my Personal Podcast, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I realise it's been two weeks since I recorded anything, but the run-up to my holiday has meant... well, something had to give, and I decided to write instead of record, as that's what I think I'm better at. There was a brief flirtation mid last week when I'd hoped to record something 'in absentia' but it was not to be.

For now, take this brief Post of Apology (TM) and we will return you to your previously Scheduled Content :D

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Space Between :: The King of Rock and Roll


Let's get ready to DECLUTTER!

It is still Spring, at least until June 21st. That means there are still plenty of opportunities for you to sort out the appalling pile of crud that passes for your bank and bags and make it look like, all along, it was ALL PART OF YOUR PLAN. Let's be honest though, you don't need Spring Cleaning as an excuse to declutter, there's always an opportunity if you have a free 15 minutes whilst waiting for an LFG to pop to spend some time regaining control of your Inventory Space.

Therefore, it is high time we wheeled in here a suitable cheapass graphic:





However, this time around in Warcraft, there are some fairly major changes incoming that you need to be aware of before you start deleting anything you don't think is of particular value. Most significant of all is the introduction of the Toybox feature:


CLICK FOR BIGASS VERSION.

This idea was a major selling point when announced at Blizzcon: all those fabulous, 'fun' items that are currently clogging up your bags? You know the stuff: quest rewards, vanity items, transformation shizzle... well, all of that's going to get its own menu in game. That means all the space currently taken by the items will be freed up. The same should be the case for Heirlooms too, plus many items that currently only stack in 20's or lower will have that number significantly increased. Add to that the promise of an extra area of Void Storage, and suddenly we could be swimming in space. This has a fairly significant effect therefore on pretty much everyone's bags, and for the first time in many, MANY expansions my first tip for Decluttering your Bags is very simple:


1. DON'T THROW ANYTHING AWAY JUST YET.
(No, I don't believe I typed that either.)


No More Space. PLEASE SEND HELP.


This whole part of the process is making me particularly uncomfortable at present: I'd love to throw half the stuff here away but if I do there is currently no written guarantee I'd be able to get it back. As a result, it all has to stay put. That means, believe it or not, this set of bags is pretty close to being decluttered. Yeah, I know ^^ However, there are some things I can see already in this screenie that can be improved. Let's therefore apply some basic space increasing principles with one eye on the fact the Toybox is still not either implemented or clear on what exactly will go into it:

2. Create a BoE Bankalt.

Assuming you've not filled up 11 slots on your server already, having a Bankalt is really useful. It gives you someone to send all your rubbish to, even if it's just to vend and make a nice little nest-egg of cash for the Expansion. It is a character who can be at the Auction House while you're out grinding stuff. Most importantly, it teaches you to restrict the amount of BoE gubbins you keep in your bag at any one time. If you send it all away once you've done an LFR or completed a quest hub, this becomes a routine you adopt every day and allows you to deal with all the saleable items you have in a more structured fashion. Remember, it doesn't even need to be a new character, just one you don't play any more. Pick a target, clear their bags, and START MAKING MONEY.

3. Be Brutal.

The past is often difficult to destroy. However, all those drops from TBC that you're not ever going back to use? THROW THEM AWAY. The Battle Pets you've not learnt because you have too many duplicates? If you can't vend them, LEARN or DESTROY. Those Brawler's Guild quest starters? SELL, USE OR DESTROY. Learn to be assertive with your choices and stick by them when you do. You'll find you can free up an awful lot of space by using things like the Spirits of Harmony (I have eighty in the bags above) to make other things that you can then sell. However bear in mind these MIGHT become BoE at some point in the future (emphasis on the might) so keeping them again may not be an utter waste of space...



THROW IT AWAY DAMMIT!


4. Have a Place for Everything.

I have a family of bankalts (see my front page) Four are under L10, one's an abandoned Hunter project and the last is a L90. However, I don't use them all for storage. Many of my active alts also serve as storage areas for materials, especially those who work with professions. The point here is simple: know where everything 'lives': assign one alt to hold all your Heirlooms, another to be your cloth storage, a third to look after raw materials. Have a notepad or a computer file where this information is stored as well, for easy access. Having a  place for everything will make the process of organisation considerably less stressful.

5. Maintain your Organisation.

The only way anything works, whether it be sticking to a diet or exercise plan or beating a difficult Instance Boss is patience and time. The same is true for getting organised. If you want these systems to work, you need to keep at them and be consistent in your approach. Even if it's only 30 minutes a week, clearing and sorting things can make a huge difference to your quality of gaming time. Find a system you are comfortable with and stick with it. The results will surprise you.

6. Don't Try Everything At Once.

This is actually quite significant: you won't get anywhere if you try and declutter every character you have simultaneously. If you're working across multiple alts make an effort to completely sort one before you move to the next. Perhaps take an evening for each over the course of a week so it doesn't become a chore, and make yourself a list which you can tick off when each alt is 'clear' Trust me when I say ticking stuff off lists is a very satisfying method of feeling you're making progress :D


LISTS ARE FUN. HONEST.

At the end of the day (Brian) this process is all about you deciding what matters for you and what doesn't. I'm not going to urge you to Auction House stuff if you'd rather just vend everything and have done with it. What you ultimately decide to do with your stuff is entirely up to you, but remember that your space is likely to become far easier to make once Warlords finally hits.

You'll just have to resist the urge to gather everything for Transmog until then... ^^

I Am What I Am


Fame Comes with a Price...

I have been asked increasingly over the past few years why it is that I do what I do. I have my days when I wonder why I bother, I'll grant you, and increasingly it does feel as if I'm the only person who's actually writing about the game on a daily basis. Of course, this simply isn't true. In that regard, I am well aware of those people who are struggling with the concept of limited content just as much as I am:


WORD.


I'm not here to bask in some collective glow of Celebrity. I'm not trying to sell myself as anything less than a mother of two with a penchant for words and an (as yet) undiminished love for Warcraft. What I continue to love and desire is to discuss Warcraft in the wider framework of just a game, but as a metaphor for an increasing number of issues that don't simply encompass gaming. I am like Crabby above: I started my life as simply a bit of a joke, a mad lady rambling about her favourite stuff to do in Warcraft. In fact, I still remember one of the few Warcraft EU Forum Posts I was involved in where I was referred to as 'a blog where someone just talks about what they do in game. It's not very interesting.' Needless to say, the fact I still carry that damning criticism with me is testament to my evolution as a writer in the last half decade. Every piece of criticism sticks, and always for the right reasons. A sensible person uses the bad moments to help them become better and not to hold them back.




I always feel slightly uncomfortable when someone outside Blizzard tries to pass themselves off as something more important than the people who make the game. After all, without these people there'd be no podcasts to make or blogs to write, no streams to run or guides to compile. We are all simply here because Blizzard don't get the hump at all of us flagrantly abusing their copyright and because they understand how good it is to have people talking about your products. We are the best advertising strategy any company could ever have, and the people in Irvine are well aware of this. It is just a pity that perception of importance often doesn't go both ways. You should never forget that without an audience you are nothing. That doesn't just go for Warcraft.

That's why I try and keep posts like this to a minimum. I'll always try and find something to talk about related to the game, because even if nothing new is going on, there's always the opportunity to talk about where we are and what we have. The greatest thing of all, of course, is knowing that this state of affairs is only temporary. The time will come, not long from now, where we'll be complaining there's too much to do and talk about, because we'll have a playable client to wrangle and new information to pass on. That's the flame that burns inside me, bright and as yet undimmed. That matters more than what people think of me and where I stand in the Warcraft Blogsphere. Even as there is no news, I am still enthusiastic for content.

Long may this situation continue for many, many years to come.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vogue :: The Sensual World


A thing of beauty...

It is a little-known fact that, for a while in Wrath, this character was my Main. Needless to say, I really do enjoy playing a Boomkin, but not as much as playing a Hunter, and this dalliance with another class was short-lived. However, what I have wanted to do for some time was create a mog for my character that I felt truly encompassed the spirit of the class. That meant greens and browns but with a distinct emphasis on understatement. I've never been a showy type when playing her: I love her ability to stealth and still use this to great advantage even now. This isn't the final version of this outfit either, but we'll talk more about that in a moment.


Still debating the Trousers...

The Cenarion Leggings weren't my first choice for this outfit. I designed initially with the Forest Leather Pants in mind. However, the more I live with these legs the greater the realisation comes that maybe the latter would have ended up being too much green. The thing about these particular legs is, under normal circumstances, you'd never see them anyway as part of the Tier Set, because the Vestments are a dress. So actually there's a lot to be said for bringing the Leggings to the fore and letting them act as a compliment to everything else. The gloves are also a late addition to the ensemble yet fit surprisingly well with the belt and crafted items (Chest and Shoulders.)


Living on an Island...

It's the hat that makes this outfit for me, and the fact that ears (and eyebrows) stick out in a manner that just feels absolutely spot on. I'm still not 100% happy with the cloak: the original choice I designed for comes from questing the Jade Forest, and I suspect once I return from my holidays I will take the time to go finish the progress I need in order to secure the final piece of this puzzle. Because sometimes, when you make something, taking second best ends up as not being enough.



(Almost) Perfect :D

Full List of Transmog Items is as follows:

Right Here, Right Now ::
Writing and Hosting Your Own Fiction


Guide Time!

I was asked by those lovely people at the NBI (The Newbie Blogger Initiative) if I'd be prepared to contribute a number of Guides to various process that may seem intimidating for those new to the art of Blogging. One such area I offered to cover was fiction, which is something I've been dabbling with since last year. Writing stories seems wonderfully simple in principle: using blogs to tell those stories is pretty much a marriage made in heaven. After all, the concept of a daily or weekly 'serial' in written format is nothing new: Charles Dickens' literary career began with The Pickwick Papers being published in 'episodic' format, the last one selling 40,000 copies in 1846. Dickens was also a journalist at this time, so his 'serious' writing and fiction existed side by side. If you have the ability to blog and create stories in the same space, you should grasp your opportunities with both hands.

However, there are some things you ought to consider before you press 'Publish'. If you'd like to contribute others in comments I'd love to hear them: as a starting point, here are:





10 Things To Consider before Publishing Your Fiction on the Internet. 



1. Is is ACTUALLY your Fiction?

Plagiarism is serious business, not simply in fiction but everywhere. If you want people to notice you and be interested in what you do, stealing someone else's work and passing it off as your own is likely to tick the former box but really won't help at all with the latter. With something like Warcraft, people like me are clearly borrowing from an expansive Universe, but at NO POINT am I attempting to make readers believe I invented it. I'm also creating situations that other people have undoubtedly considered and may have written about, but every word comes from my head. I am well aware of some very sensible people who have done some extremely stupid things when it's come to attribution: as a first point of order, these have to be YOUR WORDS and nobody else's. Using other people's Universes is perfectly acceptable, just remember to thank them every time you do with a suitable acknowledgement.

2. Has anyone else read this?

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is as a writer to find people to read your work for you before you publish it. You will be stunned at how much you miss, even down to simple spelling mistakes that your own proof reading may not pick up (it happens, and yes, if you're not using a spell checker in a word processing programme you really should be.)  However, that's only half the battle. What tends to happen, especially when writing about places inside Games, is that you forget that your readers won't have the same frames as reference as you do. Vital details that only exist in your head and not on the page means what you've written may make sense to you but will seem odd and out of place to others. This is where a good Beta Reader will come in. If you find people prepared to do the job thoroughly, hang onto them for all you are worth, for they are a rare and precious commodity (/hugs her betas.)

3. Have a Plan (Sometimes)

Publishing 40,000 words in one lump on your Blog won't keep people engaged, and it won't keep them coming back for more, which is pretty much the point in posting your Fiction in the first place. I always consider myself aiming for the Penny Dreadful approach to publishing stories: cheap, sometimes sensationalist, and designed to keep people coming back for more. That means sticking in a cliffhanger from time to time, and splitting up your stories into easily digestible 'lumps' for people to read at their leisure or catch up on in one large session if they so desire. That means if you have a story, having a plan of what happens what and when roughly in the back of your mind (or even on paper.) Of course, you don't have to stick to it, but it helps to at least posses it for reference, even if everything suddenly changes after a late night burst of inspiration.


Here for Eva Green. Move along now.

4. Accuracy is Everything.

When you're the one setting the rules for fictional content, you can imagine whatever you wish. When you decide to start basing your stories in a fictional world created by someone else, sticking with the chronology is a Good Thing (TM). When you've got almost a decade of lore to consider as backdrop this can actually make your job more complicated, which is why I tend to try and ignore stories bogged down in details. My work tries to focus on characters and reactions to big events, which are only often mentioned in passing. When you pick your Universe to inhabit, be aware that often it comes with a great deal of baggage even you may not be completely aware of. Be ready as a result to stand by your decisions if you choose to do something that isn't part of the already established chronology.

5. Be Ready for Criticism.

It will happen. If you publish stuff, people will have an opinion on it. Many won't say a word in your comments, but those that do deserve to be treated with respect when they do, especially if they are critical of what you've written. Of course, if they are rude or dismissive, that's a different story (see point six.) If people take the time to tell you what's wrong with your work, and they do so in a sensible and rational fashion, at least take the time to read what's been said and understand why it has been mentioned. I have had some really very useful comments on my work from utter strangers which has helped immensely in refining my processes over the last year. It does happen. I love to throw the phrase 'every day is a school day' about because it's absolutely true. YOU NEVER STOP LEARNING. Make sure you take as much as you can from every comment.

6. Separate Trash from Treasure.

This is also a very good time to separate the good from the bad, to grasp when someone is trolling and another is trying to be helpful. If you've taken the time to learn about the people who visit your site you'll know who's around for the long haul and those who've just turned up to cause trouble. Remember to treat everyone with respect and frankly you won't go far wrong. In fact, as a rule, being overly pleasant to people attempting to wind you up is an extremely effective deterrent. Because you had someone read your work first before you published it you know it is sound and worthwhile. Don't let people tell you otherwise, but be aware that nobody is perfect and there is always room for improvement.


Learn what's useful and what's not :D

7. Resist the Temptation to Fiddle.

This one is a bit contentious, and I'm going to do an /epic side eye at George Lucas here because of what he's done recently concerning what now constitutes 'canon' in the Star Wars Universe. If you start a story one way, make sure it ends the same way. It may be tempting to go back and 'amend' details as you travel but this only serves to confuse your readership. This is why I told you to have a plan back at point three, after all. You need, as a writer, to have a conviction in your storyline. If you don't, neither will your readers, and that's an important point to consider if you intend to make a series run overs several months or even years. Trust me, if you change something somebody will notice, especially if your work is popular enough to garner a fandom. Ask George, he knows all about that ^^

8. Pick a Format and Stick with It.

As an aside to this point, consistency in your writing is fairly important. I publish stuff as often as I have it and my beta can get it to a stage where we're both happy it makes sense. As neither of us is a publisher and has other jobs to do, that means it gets fitted around two fairly busy schedules. I therefore try and give people warning of what to expect and when, and when I actually publish the stories they all use the same conventions and layout: this also involves giving a rating for each piece, similar to that you'd get for a movie. These are all standard Fan Fiction conventions I learnt from my early days of writing online. Once you pick a 'format' for your work, try and stick with it. Your audience enjoys consistency, trust me.

9. Personal Experience Works for Gaming Fiction Too.

I feel my best work in Warcraft fiction has come from when I've been able to marry personal in-game experience with the characters I am writing. As you are effectively an 'actor' yourself, playing the part of your avatar in pre-scripted 'drama', all those experiences have a validity if you are attempting to use them to tell a story. Don't be afraid therefore to draw on the feelings you had when you killed Arthas in 25 man, or how you felt when you watched the Wrathgate cinematic for the first time. These experiences are just as valid as real life events in helping you shape a gaming 'fiction' that is as believable on the page as it is when you log on. It will also help other players associate with you and the experiences you are sharing.






10. ENJOY YOURSELF.

Finally, and most importantly, if you're not having a blast writing your stories, it's time to go and do something else. If you're just thinking about the money you can make from site visits, you're doing it wrong too. Eventually, people will see right through you, and your ability to write will become largely academic. What matters more than anything else is the enjoyment that you garner from writing. After all, if I didn't love this job I wouldn't be sitting here now producing this Guide for you. It's all about priorities, people.

Pick your words with care, for they are powerful and can change the world.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Space Between :: Master and Servant


Finally, sorted.

As it's the weekend before a Public Holiday both for my US and EU readers, this might be the ideal opportunity to remind you that I'm writing a set of Guides to help you most effectively utilise the time we have 'Between Expansions.' There'll be another two of these coming this week, but for now here's a link to them:


Click Here for the Guides


You can also find these Guides from the banner link on the main page, over there on the right /points.

I'm welcoming additions and feedback on all of these Guides, please feel free to stick a line in the Comments if there is a particular topic you'd like me to cover or if you have any suggestions or amendments.

Have a Great Weekend of #TEAMFAFF Action :D