Saturday, June 14, 2014

#WCOW14 :: Match Report, Silvermoon v Shado Pan

Again we have a cracking match report to present from last night's last game of the first day proper of the World Cup of Warcraft. We would like to extend our thanks to the staff at the Cogitationes Astalnaris website for permission to reproduce their match report here. They were at the last match from Group B last night, where Silvermoon met the Shado Pan...

Before the game even officially began there was some controversy. Not a great way to close the last game of the most unfortunate of days. It all started with the riots on the streets of Stormwind, where people demanded to be payed for their work on the makeshift stadium. Stormwind Nobles, as is their tradition, refused, stating that the stadium is not yet finished. The situation did not go well. Buildings were burning, stadium was shaking, and the last match of the day was about to get started. Once the mob calmed down, the game would begin.

That was the general plan, but it did not go that way. Silvermoon City coach, respected Matriarch of the Blood Knight Order, Lady Liadrin protested that the colours Shado Pan team was wearing, were too similar to the colours of her own team. Truth be told, Silvermoon was clad in red and gold, while Shado Pan wore peach and orange. After a number of strong protests form the Sindorei side, how it is unforgivable for the hosts to not pay attention to what jersey should be worn, Blood Elves returned to their wardrobe to change in something else. They could not stand wearing similar colours as their opposing team. The Pandaren watched all the fuss blood elves were making in bewildering astonishment, asking only when will be a lunch break.

After the fashion disaster was averted, and the blood elves reappeared wearing dark grey and crimson, the game could finally begin. Blood elves led by their captain Bachi played in extremely aggressive formation 4-2-3-1, while Shado Pan under the wisdom of Taran Zhu, their coach, opted for tried and tested defensive formation 4-5-1. This was to be the ultimate show of which is better, to attack or to defend. Both of the sides were certain they would be victorious, but at the end only one could win the game.

Blood Elves had the height, Pandaren had the girth on their side. Former were graceful and energetic, the latter were calm as still water, and fast as a moving glacier. As the referee's whistle opened the game Silvermoon went into attack. It was quite something to behold. Vranesh sent ball all the way back to goalkeeper, Inethven, from where they formed the penetration attack on the left side. They continued to poke holes in the Pandaren defence until Zelanis managed to locate Bloodmourn in front of the Shado Pan goal. It was a nice pass, and had not Lao Chin intervened it would be a lead in the first minutes of the game.

Alas, Shado Pan started to move. Slowly. They passed the ball forward and tried to avoid fouling Silvermoon players. The difference in weight was more than obvious, and at the slightest chance, the blood elves would extort a foul. A stray pass was intercepted by Zenien on the midfield, who charged towards the goal, Bloodmourn was already waiting, and with their combined efforts they managed to outwit the Shado Pan goalkeeper. First blood went to Silvermoon.

From here on, it was only tougher. Pandarens bunkered up, and did not really care if blood elves had the ball. Their defence was as great wall of Pandaria. For almost entirety of the first half, blood elves tried to force through the impregnable wall but it was no use. Lady Liadrin requested the first substitution. She took Rathin out, and put in the game Sunblade. With that change, attacking midfielders Vranesh, Zelanis, and Sunblade were able to draw the Shado Pan defenders forward. A brilliant cross on the other side of the field, and Bachi found himself in front of the Shado Pan goal. Fortunately for Shado Pan Nurong intervened and sent the ball out.

Sindorei defenders moved forward to the enemy's penalty box. Bachi shot the ball from the corner where he found Vranesh. Vranesh sent a header toward the Shado Pan goal, but Lao Chin intervened in the last moment, and sent the ball flying away. It was no use, Sunblade was on the right place at the right time and with a spectacular left volley, he sent the ball in. Silvermoon took the lead of 2:0 at this point, and the first half-time was coming to inevitable end. Shado Pan all but defeated, the elves must have thought.

Their arrogance always was their downfall. As the second half started after short respite they were certain nothing can go wrong. Blood elves did not quite calculate that the only reason why Pandaren did not attack was because of hunger. One cannot fight on an empty stomach. This was rectified during the break, and Shado Pan for the first time in the game moved their wall toward the Silvermoon's goal. Their short passes quickly started to unnerve the Blood Elves who felt helpless as they tried to take the ball from the opposition. Lady Liadrin started to shout from her designated spot on her players and what to do next. Silvermoon players started to actively tackle their opposition, but this opened their otherwise tight lines, and gave Lao Lang a chance for the first goal. Pandaren shot from a 35 meters distance, straight shot on the floor and scored.

This goal appeared to have sobered up the Sindorei who were building castles to their own haughtiness up to that point. Bachi took the lead, and formalised an attack that once again involved an ingenious cross on the other side of the field where Sunblade caught with the ball and penetrated through Shado Pan defenders one after the other with his graceful dribbling and astonishing ball control. As he was about to shoot, he lost his balance as Tenwu tackled him from behind. The elves demanded a penalty shot, but referee gave yellow card to both Tenwu, and Sunblade who made demands to the referee. Silvermoon bench rose in protest, but the head referee Chromie was decided. As his was the final word, the game resumed.

Lady Liadrin replaced number 4, Sarithra with Alsudar the Bastion. It appeared she was decided to keep the current score until the end of the game. As Silvermoon forced a corner for their side, keeping the current score of 2:1 turned out impossible. As Bachi sent the ball to the penalty box, Bloodmourn made a header, scoring for the second time. Much thanks to the confusion of the defenders who somehow managed to bump into each other and failed to mark Bloodmourn properly. It is said that Basion somehow managed to steal their attention just for a second, and that proved fatal.

As the game was coming to an end Shado Pan side lost their ardour, and only thing you could hear, was their stomachs demanding a fitting tribute. The game soon came to a close, and Silvermoon proved that attack is far superior defence than simply erecting the walls. Most of couch experts watching the game from the roofs of Stormwind agreed that in order to play a closed defence, you need aggressive counter-attacks or speed to threaten the enemy. What we saw today was a Mantid breach of the wall, or as Lady Liadrin would put it, Silvermoon proved once again their superiority.

#WCOW14 :: Today's Fixtures, June 14th.

These are Today's Fixtures for the 2014 World Cup of Warcraft:

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) A Poll will appear at the top of this webpage, and will be linked to on Twitter and Facebook.


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

At the end of 90 minutes the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

Results will be added to this post after each game has been concluded. Remember to vote for your team!

Stuck in the Middle With You


It is an undeniable fact that when something's been around for a while, people start using it as a means of comparison. Take Warcraft, for instance. I've been in other games (SW:TOR, Wildstar) and have lost count with the number of times everything and anything is directly compared to the Blizzard MMO. I watch countless people on Twitter point at things from other games as being 'worse' or 'better' to the title, that looking too much like the Blizzard UI is enough to stop people even picking up a new game. Syl on her Blog MMO Gypsy discusses World of Warcraft’s continued influence on our perception of design dynamics and I think it is fair to say that everyone is, at least in some way, could be accused of this crime. When your title's been played by as many people as Warcraft has, there is bound to be some subconscious comparison. The overriding reason other titles 'borrow' from Blizzard's UI is beautifully simple: familiarity.


Conversely, there are many who will argue that innovation won't happen while a game like Warcraft still exists, that as long as games need to 'imitate' it to ensure their player base picks things up quickly and are engaged, there will never be any meaningful evolution in design. The number of people playing your title is pretty much a Holy Grail but not nearly as important as the long-term benefits of typing players to the increasingly important maintenance of a digital revenue stream via in-game transactions. Everyone has an eye to the future, and Warcraft's shortfalls (of which there are many) are being increasing placed under the microscope by players who feel the game is not keeping pace with rapid changes in the Real World.

Is it really sales that define success?

As we discussed earlier in the week, how people benchmark success is a highly subjective matter. Time, subs, content... all of these things are significant factors, of course, but probably the most important of all isn't quantified by anything physical. Does your game make you happy? Do you enjoy playing it? In that regard, all the money in the world doesn't matter one iota if people aren't becoming positively engaged by your end product. That's the yardstick Warcraft created without really trying at all, it just happened. Satisfaction is the most difficult quality to emulate, and the one every single games company since 2004 has tried to recreate.

Redefining the Gaming Experience.

I am as guilty as the next person of not giving Blizzard a chance to do their job. The Alpha Patch Notes dropped last night and I forgot the golden rule when testing a product: NOTHING is final. It is simpler to react and be critical than it ever is to stop and consider the consequences of actions, that there may be a longer term plan in effect you can't yet see. This process of reaction is, in itself, as much a part of the journey of acceptance as understanding the end effect. What should be abundantly obvious to everyone, even this early on, is that the ENTIRE FABRIC OF THE GAME IS CHANGING. Not just questing mechanics, or classes, or the health of mobs, but everything that underpins the way in which people have engaged with this game for a decade. Whether these evolutionary steps are the right ones, or whether they will be accepted by the wider playerbase... we just won't know until everything goes Live. It boils down to one fact: you have to play this game to know what has changed.

For the meantime therefore, people are stuck without new content. This is an enormous risk for Blizzard to take, but the fact remains that if this Expansion is as good as people like me believe it is, that WILL bring players back, and that is the key. The yardstick here has NEVER been the numbers, but the quality of the final product...and this is significantly different from the game it will ultimately replace. You have to trust me on this, until you can play it, and when you do I really hope you can come away as excited I am at what is being presented to you. Blizzard have learnt lessons from Pandaria in questing, that much is apparent. The next key break point will be End Game, and trust me, when I get there you'll hear all about it. Whatever happens, Warcraft will still be the yardstick, like it or not, just remember that comparison is all well and good, but it doesn't matter what physical attributes you use as a measure of success.

If it makes you happy, play it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

#WCOW14 :: Today's Fixtures, June 13th

These are Today's Fixtures for the 2014 World Cup of Warcraft:

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) A Poll will appear at the top of this webpage, and will be linked to on Twitter and Facebook.


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

At the end of 90 minutes the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

Results will be added to this post after each game has been concluded. Remember to vote for your team!

To Build a Home :: Bloody Well Right

See, the thing is...

It's been a while since we had this feature on a Friday, mostly because I'm really busy collating data on the Alpha, but I feel it is worth spending five minutes making a point here, that I feel does need stating in the general scheme of things.

I told you Garrisons were brilliant, and they are.

And so it  begins.

It doesn't matter that we're only in the fledgling days of the feature. It isn't even an issue that we've only seen one half of the story. The Alliance Quest files are now in the Client, and we've been promised a look at how that starts in the next patch. What I can tell you now, with the most objective hat on I can wear, is that this feature GIVES LEVELLING A PURPOSE. No, it's not an utterly new or brilliant approach, it's not hugely innovative or subtle, but what it does is reinforce what you do, for the first time, with a tangible sense of personal attachment. Sure, you've had affinity with the storyline before: from the first time you're playing the game 'solo' this is a way to focus your efforts. It becomes an extremely personal narrative framework on which those explorations proceed, and that is something we've not seen on this scale since the days of TBC. Unlike the 'metaphor' of the war effort in Pandaria there is, more crucially no need to indulge: you can skip all of this if you wish quite easily. The choice, more than anything else, is what makes this feature all the more attractive, because come my 6th alt I can decide to just ignore it at no cost to my sense of completism.

The beauty of optional.

More significantly of all, this feature has managed to combine exploration and progression in a really satisfying way. Yes, you will still have to kill X and gather y on your travels, but when the reward is an NPC who joins your cause, well there's something a bit special in that, because after nearly a decade having people pledging their loyalty to you it actually begins to mean something. I'm already at stupid levels of engagement and having to rein myself in from overplaying this because I KNOW come the time this goes Live I may never leave my Garrison again, just simply because it has the POTENTIAL to be a better alternative for 'living' the kind of life I already ascribe to in game. The key now isn't if Blizzard stuff things up somewhere along the way, it is what they are capable of adding to make it a feature that not only defines the game, but becomes pivotal for Expansions to come. This is Player Housing, but not in a Wildstar style, or a Club Penguin style, or indeed a Animal Crossing style. This is what the concept looks like when you get a bunch of people who make games about strategy and combat to make it, and that works just fine.

Doing it Right, at least for me.

I've not actually sat down and made a real judgement on what I think of all of this, because I've been trying to be objective about everything I see. However, I know now this place as a Hordie is somewhere I'm going to enjoy living in. It will be well-used, not simply for the Professions, but as a place that becomes mine. I look forward to customising each Garrison I own in a unique way that mirrors the character that 'lives' there and I'm even looking forward now with cautious optimism to having defend the place from attack. The thing is with any game, there is a point where you let yourself believe what you are playing or you don't. Like a good book or a movie, you allow the events around you to suck you into the action and become a part of what is being 'told' around you. The Garrison is an absolutely perfect example of people doing just this: some just won't, some will be nervous, many will just hate it because this isn't the story they want told to begin with. That is all well and good, but remember you get more out of an experience if you give a piece of yourself to it when you begin. My heart is in this, and I can already see and imagine the rewards that may be mine if this works.

Now all I have to hope is that other people are prepared to take the risk with me, and jump right in.

#WCOW14 :: Match Report, Stormwind v Sporeggar

Last night's game was every bit as exciting and controversial as pundits had expected: of course, we had a reporter at the scene. Here is Peristasis of Stormwind's view of what transpired in last night's World Cup of Warcraft's opening match:

'Nobody fancied the Sporeggar team going into this contest, and who could blame them? Aside from the home advantage and height advantage of about three feet enjoyed by their opponents, the Sporeggar team had faced a comparatively easy route to the finals – destroying a Kobold team intent taking possession based tactics to a whole new extreme and, most notably, the Ironforge Hammers forfeiting both home and away matches in what has gone down as one of the most chaotic qualifying rounds as the Dwarven team descended into internecine warfare and imploded both literally and metaphorically after an incident with the malfunctioning Gnomish world shrinker and their own goal.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that the Sporelings were a race under constant treat from Naga incursions into Coilfang Reservoir but to see them on the world stage at this, the opening match of the World Cup of Warcraft, was testament to the power of repeatedly gathering funguses for the little guys. It was great to have them here, true minnows of the competition... or button mushrooms. The Stormwind team had the aforementioned natural height advantage and comparative youth on their side, further enhanced by Captain Anduin Wrynn’s bombastic team talks. Fresh from his wranglings with Wrathion the young prince has grown from pest, following adventurers around Stormwind on his flying pony like some kind of needy one-priest conga line asking for help with the filing cabinets in SI:7 or to work out who was killing cows, into an albeit potentially precocious leader of men.

Talking to the Stormwind Coach before kickoff

Stormwind kicked off, immediately trying to play route one football and the now hopelessly excited Sh’iship claimed the ball and set off up the pitch with all the poise and √©lan of an avalanche of shitake. Coach Mycah favoured what can only be described as a 1-5-2-1-1 formation – with a sweeper and a flat back five. The Sporeling’s tackling was poor, hindered by their stumpy legs and lack of acceleration, and their defence of set pieces was hampered by their lack of stature – but Mycah soon realised that five Sporelings, all equally eager for the ball, could quickly smother even the most potent attack in a sea of sweetly smiling fungoid faces and a cloud of fermenting gas.

A wasted throw in again saw the Sporelings launch their surely by now wholly obvious tactic before some sublime and mazy footwork from Lord Grayson Shadowbreaker saw him snaffle the ball with an immaculately timed sliding tackle right through the middle of the herd of Sporelings before popping a Speed of Light and high tailing it for eight seconds from the sporelings (still moving imperceptibly toward the Stormwind goal, seemingly unaware of having been repossessed) before, with only half the pitch and Sporeling keeper, Sprout Om’mommosh’om, stroking it half the length of the pitch and into the top right hand corner. A contender for goal of the tournament already.

Having made the same mistake three times and only really been punished for it once, Wrynn marshalled his team and began a war of long range bombardment of the Sporeggar goal for the remained of the half. Unable to prevent any shots whizzed higher than 5 feet without deploying a raft of fungal growths the Sporelings went deep, and smothered their goal with sticky nodules and organic growths. This resulted not in goals but in four new balls as one after the other the Stormwind team would see their shot eaten away by acidic dips falling from their opponent’s goal. Undoubtedly a cautious end to what had been a promising first half.

Overseeing Security Arrangements for the Tournament.

No idea what both managers said but Stormwind began the second half giving it a whole extra ten percent, bringing them up to 120% and in need of a nerf before the second round. The crudities and limitations of the Sporregar tactics were shown three times in fifteen second half minutes. Firstly a close range finish from Wrynn himself, shielding himself from the unwanted attention of a Sporeggar centre half whose name was frankly too long and apostrophe ridden to note in the frenetic conditions, then with a bullet header by Magister Dumas both delivering peachy corner and blinking to the far post to make it 3 – 1. The fourth arrived soon afterwards, a neat free kick after some overly aggressive pre-aggro noises finished with a screamer over the attempts at a hastily cultivated wall by Shadowbreaker.

Wrynn Senior then made a crucial decision. The Sporeggar goal was so festooned with mushrooms and algae to the point it was unbreakable: he retired three players and replaced them with Cullen, Paddock and Ardus to keep the ball and wind down the clock. It was at this point that Mycah played his secretly developed tactic. Swamping the midfield and moving the defense to the half way line the Sporelings outnumbered the Stormwind midfield and again took control of the ball and surrounded the player in possession. And then they charged. What had been movement akin to continental drift took on the speed of one of the Stormwind Griffons which had ferried fans across the Eastern Kingdoms to see the match. The Sporelings immediately bundled a second across the goal line, knocking Tovald flat. A shell-shocked Stormwind team tried to rally only to see the same tactic employed twice more in two minutes to bring it to 4-4.

The resultant stalemate, as Stormwind tried to find a crack in the goalmouth growth and Sporeggar waited for their charges to cooldown produced some of the most stultifying antifootball of the modern era until the last throw of the dice for the Sporeggar team. Making his substitutions, Mycah brought on a trio of young Sprouts and switched to a much more attacking 4-3-1-2. The Sprout trio up front crouched, readied creeping funguses and spore shrooms and raced through a hindered and dotted Stormwind defence, flicking the ball up high, leaping onto each others’ shoulders and planting a header into the bottom right hand corner of the net, inches from Tovald’s achingly stretching fingertips. At 5-4 there was little a dejected Wrynn could do to muster a fight back and, with a spent Sporeggar team and a Stormwind attack nullified by a cultured defence the game petered out with neither side able to do much else but wait for the ref’s curious bronze timepiece to hit 90 minutes and for the Whistle of Chromatic Bone to signal the end of a truly great sporting upset.'

Catching the Last Disc Home

[HUGE thanks to @The_Dr0wningman on Twitter for this report, and expect to see more from him as the Tournament progresses!]

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Welcome to the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 World Cup of Warcraft.

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) A Poll will appear at the top of this webpage, and will be linked to on Twitter and Facebook.


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

At the end of 90 minutes the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

A full list of Fixtures will be available after the Opening Game is complete, and will be conducted in 'real time' to coincide with the appropriate games in the same groups. We hope to have an online list of results and groups available over the weekend.

Ace Reporter Peristasis of Stormwind (EU) (who can be found on Twitter under the pseudonym @The_Dr0wningman) Is LIVE at the game and will be providing a full match report for us in tomorrow morning's Blog. Make sure you keep an eye out for other reports as we receive them from across Azeroth!

[EDIT: 23:14 BST. The Result is in. Tomorrow's report will be very interesting indeed :D]

ALPHA: Notes from a Small Island 12/06

The Jury is deliberating...

The screenie I *was* going to kick off with for this feature... well, I realised after I posted it on Twitter, it might be considered as a spoiler, because... well, I'm already torn, and I've not yet made it to the end of my first paragraph. As we know this person is in the Expansion, and this isn't actually a plot development per se... I think the fact WoW Insider borrowed this screenie and used it for the lead image in today's Queue probably means I'm worrying too much. Tell you what, I'll use the version where you can't see who it is we're talking about because their name isn't highlighted, and we'll leave it at that.

Just don't look at his staff too closely, k? :P

Nothing to see here, move along.

This guy's appearance means there's been changes to the Alpha after the latest update. Work Orders now actually work, there's new people in the Garrison, some others have vanished. We have confirmation there'll be an Alliance version to play with next patch, which makes me unreasonably excited. There's been an enormous change too, Materials are HISTORY:

Snappy Title there, Blizzard.

I think I preferred the old title but people need to be absolutely 100% clear they are gathering RESOURCES FOR THEIR GARRISON. I really hope however they can come up with a better title: I think I'd take Spoils of War as a preferred option, but that too might be open to misinterpretation. Who knows, they probably have TOP PEOPLE on this as I type.

Its Not Ready yet ^^

I went exploring a bit today, and I found places where, quite obviously, stuff is still being built, even in the starting area. What is abundantly apparent, every time I enter this game, is that it is still under construction. That's really not a problem either, because as I proceed nothing upsets my enjoyment. I haven't found anything frustrating or annoying, that I've avoided doing. Everything engages, I know what to expect. What has been a genuine surprise is how NPC's react when you fight them. It's no longer a static experience with many mobs. Hunters, for instance, use Deterrence to escape from you, and pets attempt to taunt you after they have charged. This is a big change, and very subtle, and belies the fact that clearly an awful lot has changed under the skin of the game world. I for one approve of all of these changes.

As I may get my focus shifted to the Alliance soon, I wanted to start making screenies of as much of the Alpha Horde Garrison experience as I could. This is the spot that you begin with, before the Garrison arrives, and I think it is a poignant reminder that this is supposed to be an evolutionary journey that feels and plays out as any other story would. This is your beginning. Remember it well, because this is supposed to be something particularly epic, and it is really beginning to feel like exactly that.

Won't Get Fooled Again

Just No.

You guys know I love my mounts. I am a Mount Collector. That's what I do. I'm also not an idiot and I understand why Blizzard need cash to continue to make games. How they do this is via a steady revenue stream, that included the sale of items like this here Warforged Nightmare which, as you can see, is now on sale in the Blizzard Shop.

However, I'm not going to buy this.

Once upon a time I'd have parted with my cash without a thought, because OMG NEW MOUNT ONE MORE TO THE TOTAL. However, those times have passed. I have real qualms about the placement of this release, that asking people to part with cash when the vast majority haven't been given any real content for months... well. I'm sorry but it seems unacceptable. That's the word that popped into my head last night. It's not like many people would have a bunch of 'friends' to share this with anyway because a large number of people have unsubbed and walked away, which might have something to do with the timing to begin with.

Yes, I can support and be a fan of a game when I feel that it is doing the right thing. This move? It is as if it is finally clear in my head what the plan is with cash and players, after all these years. I'd spend the money before because I'd feel that the 'investment' in the game was worth it from a personal point of view, and that it wasn't a cynical way to keep me engaged. A lot has changed in six months. Blizzard still have my sub, which is more than can be said for many people, but £22 for something that's got 'hey I'm here to distract you from no content' is just a step too far. I'll wait for it to go on sale, or maybe if it becomes a contest prize I can try and win somewhere but really, the train has sailed.

No, I'm not going to buy it because I don't like in my mind what this represents. I think I'll go back to farming the blue Archaeology Mount instead, because I think that's a far better use of my time.

In the end, that's all that matters anyway.

Fade to Grey

Why yes, YES I WOULD. Your point is?

Yesterday, someone I didn't know passed away. That's why Mr Fassbender's here.

Okay, I'll explain.

I knew River mostly from Twitter. He was a decent, honest human being. He liked the more scantily-clad body type on his web pages too. His type of woman didn't really do anything for me, but I loved to read his stuff, and so I did. He entered the contest I ran for the Wildstar codes last week and won, and so over the weekend I DM-d him with the good news:

And that was the first (and last) conversation away from Twitter we ever had. I presume he never played Wildstar, or indeed the Alpha Client he was invited into.

It is a salutatory reminder, if it were needed, that life just stops sometimes, and we should take every opportunity it presents us with. That's why, as a tribute River's love for the scantily clad, a number of Bloggers decided to use their favourite undressed humans as visual tributes, which is why I'm now having impure thoughts about what's under the nice blue sheets and if Michael Fassbender was ever passing... the point is, it is all about what you do with your life that matters, and this man lived his particularly well. He was hugely well liked, very popular and the Facebook Group that's been formed to celebrate his life is really very inspiring indeed. He has clearly touched a great many people's lives and this, frankly is the kind of decent guy you want to do the full run, because that's how it should work.

So, I've done the one thing I think I can in this situation: I wrote a letter to Blizzard and told them this is the kind of person that deserves an in-game memorial, because he was. Just your typical, average player: nothing special if you didn't know him, but the world to the very many people who obviously did. These are the people who deserve to be celebrated.

River made me think about a lot of things. He will be really very sadly missed :(

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Occasionally, I like to talk about things that affect me as a gamer. Notice the words I used there.

There's been quite a bit of noise today about some press from Ubisoft concerning the lack of a female protagonist in the upcoming Assassins Creed: Unity title. There also appears to be some disquiet over Lara Croft's treatment in the upcoming 'Birth of a Tomb Raider' game that sees her being treated for PTSD in the game's trailer. I got rather cross at the former this morning, but it is probably the latter that bothers me more. Using trauma as a plot device is nothing new, but there seems to be some objection towards this being an iconic woman in therapy. Seeing how the process was used in the Trailer made me more unhappy than the lack of a woman in Unity, if I'm honest. As a writer, these are subjects I am exploring myself, and have been for some years. Watching how other people use them as tools to sell games is, therefore, very interesting indeed.

Sometimes it can also be pretty uncomfortable.

From where I stand, I'd like to make an educated guess as to why we got four male assassins in Unity. Because it was the most cost-effective option when they rebooted the engine as they have and completely redesigned the game. One set of animations repeated four times costs only one set of animations, you just change the external skins. That's a MASSIVE saving in time and effort. Doesn't take a genius to understand this, especially when they're working on the timescales they obviously are for 'new' titles. The more endemic problem with the industry is that no-one considered a female option when they started again from scratch. I suspect, if Ubisoft are smart, that's going to change with the next title. For now, that's how it is. The biggest mistake of all however was how the person who was interviewed about this reacted to the question, and that he was allowed to talk to the Press at all.

You should ask Chris Metzen how that works.

The Tomb Raider thing's a wee bit trickier, because if this reboot is taking Ms Croft on a journey on which this therapy is only a part, then that's fine. If this 'moment' becomes the defining pivot of her career I would sincerely hope it gets more than a passing mention, because that's just sloppy narrative. Significant moments are all well and good, whoever they happen to. The key is then how the character is affected by the consequences. In the end, as is the case with so many other parts of storytelling, it comes down to choices. There are two questions to be asked, and it's pretty much been that way since people started making things other people could interact with:

1. Does your narrative framework support choice?
2. If it does, how much choice is acceptable?

I've been playing games since the 1970's. Choice is what matters more than anything else. Ask Pitfall Harry

It is 1982. I am sixteen, and I've only just grasped that the sex education classes I've taken part in actually relate to my own body. I play the game above and, for the first time, I find myself asking a question that has come back to be repeated I don't know how many times: why am I playing a man? Yes, it is simply a collection of pixels with a hat. I am doing this purely for entertainment, but at the back of my mind I grasp the intractable truth that this is because a man made the game. Over time I learnt another lesson: it doesn't matter about what other people do with labels, it is only your outlook that should matter. How you position yourself and how you react to the World isn't dictated by everyone else, it is entirely up to you. That is your freedom as a human being. or at least, that is the theory.

Then I find myself this week, on the back of all this, wondering why the piece of fiction I'm about to finish has me writing as a man.

I produced the novel for NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago and have finally bought it to completion. In it, my protagonist is a guy, who I realise has actually become quite autobiographical for my own life. I could have written him as a woman, but that would have detracted from my subject matter, which is how we treat certain types of people as objects to be scrutinised and dissected. Women, mostly: objects of desire and attraction. Like the women I see in games I never play, the titles I avoid because if tits and arse is all you're doing this for, we have nothing we could enjoy to begin with. When I'm dealing with these kinds of questions therefore and I see stories like these, I know there is a part of me that wants to do the feminist rant 'thing'but that's not actually the issue, because there are systematic failings that go far beyond that. More women need to be in the Industry to change things, there should be less acceptance that people are happy with things as they are... but that means nothing if the people actually making the games don't think it matters. If it entertains them, what's the problem?

The most basic problem is that women make men act funny, and vice versa. That's what we really need to deal with, and that's not happened since we came out of the caves.

Live by your slogans dammit.

I watched the Unity video on how they have updated all their engine software and gameplay, and noted with satisfaction the two female devs in the team. Then I stopped and wondered what their positions would be on this argument, and whether they thought it was their job to change or it was up to the guys. There's a very good chance all these people making the game never actually thought about the female assassin thing, you know, because they were too busy just doing their job and what they were told. That's what happens in business, you make what you're directed to. So do I stick the blame at senior level? Do I chastise the people working on the thing for not making a fuss? Should I even be blaming anyone for this shitty state of affairs that's been going on since Harry was the default? Then I look at myself, writing as a man, and I realise that in the end, sometimes what matters most of all is just telling the story. Harry gets gems, you win. These four guys beat up people in Paris and co-op play wins. My character finally find peace with his demons and is happy. That's the word that should matter more than feminist rants and privileged white males and doing what's right.

Being happy is the biggest issue here, because for those who feel women NEED better representation, the only way they'll get what they want is if the whole system changes.

Then we go back to the questions about choice, and decide just what is acceptable to the people who make the games profitable, and guess what? We're back to the argument we had with Mr Pardo. He's still happy, I'm betting. The only way the Ubisoft people change is when the people they answer to aren't happy and demand it. Noises in the Press won't do that, but falling stock might. How much choice is acceptable when your budget and production times are all that matters? How happy are you when the profits are the driving force behind whether you keep your job? All of these are difficult questions to answer. Using them as excuses to not make a female protagonist are therefore, in this context, perfectly acceptable.

Just remember that some people judge success on a different set of criteria.

Token Warcraft screenie. The 1% often swings it.

I want to play as a woman, but I'm really good at pretending to be a man after all these years. Maybe it should bother me more sometimes, like it did this morning. Except this morning's events mean I'm here, writing this and telling other people how I understand change needs to happen, but it's not just a case of offering more realistic women in games to change the outlook of players. What about violence in Far Cry 4? What about hypersexualisation of both genders in gaming culture? The press and us as players need to stop simply attacking people and should think first how we prevent these issues from reoccurring, again and again, by considering HOW WE DEAL WITH EACH OTHER AS PEOPLE. If you want to blame someone for all of this, be ready to put yourself in the firing line too.

Choice comes from being given the option. Sometimes, as players, that's something we're not prepared to accept: it's either our way or no way. With this kind of attitude, nothing ever changes.

#WCOW14 :: LIVE from Stormwind,
The 2014 Draw for the World Cup of Warcraft

After extensive negotiations with our sister site, Azeroth in 5, we are proud to present, LIVE from Stormwind, the draw for the 2014 World Cup of Warcraft.

The full draw for the Tournament is as follows:

The Tillers
Hydraxian Waterlords

Alliance Vanguard
Lower City
Shadow Pan

The Darkspear Trolls
Booty Bay
The Zandalar
Knights of the Ebon Blade

Argent Dawn
Kirin Tor

Stormpike Guard
Sons of Hodir

Thunder Bluff
Cenarion Expedition
Explorer's League
Brood of Nozdormu

Gnomeregan Exiles
Silver Covenant
The Klaxxi
Timbermaw Hold

Earthen Ring
Darkmoon Faire
The Anglers

We're already excited for the Tournament starting tomorrow. We hope you are too!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

ALPHA: Notes from a Small Island 10/06

Today, I went and found myself a new Follower for my Garrison:

I knew I recognised him...

I was aware that I wasn't making any progress because I'd failed to locate any followers 'in the wild' and so I went to look for quests. Finding Rala, who I recognised from the Alpha data, made me realise I was on the right track. Bringing him back has kickstarted my Garrison into life, allowing me to create the materials I need to start producing the Alchemy 'currency.' Later today I should be able to make things :D I'm still hopelessly behind on my Guide too, there'll be some concerted effort on that later today. This is what happens when I get distracted by Questing.


What you don't get a real sense of initially is just how large this Zone actually is, and it's huge. The fact you can't fly around it just makes that feeling even greater, and has meant several deaths when I've realised I can't just run through populated areas. This is really going to hurt those people who have come to rely as flying as an escape mechanism, and it's BLOODY MARVELLOUS. As I headed north from Bladespire Fortress above it became more and more obvious how Blades Edge Mountains was formed from this land over time. I hadn't realised this until Alex Ziebart from WOW Insider pointed it out to me.



What you don't realise until you fight them, is how much the new models have changed the way Orcs move and sound. It isn't like they weren't beautiful before, but now there is a natural grace to both sexes that simply didn't exist before. I have to congratulate the Art Department for the work they've done on this, and I SO want my Hunter in the Alpha so I can see how Dwarves now move and feel. It'll happen, I know, and when it does, you'll be able to hear me squeeing for MILES. I may yet go make a L1 Dwarf and start again, JUST BECAUSE I CAN :D Anyway, I digress, because I wanted to highlight the spear this Orc lass is wielding. It is beautiful, and I'd like one please, because perilously few white-based spears exist in game at present. FEED MY INNER MOGGER.


I met the Canyon Icemother up north, another Elite that was more difficult than a lot of dungeon boss encounters I've run over the years: constant add spawn and two types of AOE to avoid. This is one of what Wowhead are listing as a 'Vignette' (as in a mini-story all on its own) and there is an examinable corpse nearby that explains what the reward item will be (NO SPOILING) However, this does count towards an achievement (The Frostwind Slayer) so I'm wondering if every Zone will have this many rares/elites to pick off over time. Should keep people busy between Raiding :P

I'm deliberately not massively immersing myself in things and trying to digest everything in small, sensible chunks this time around. I'm finding, as a result both exploration and questing to be an extremely satisfying experience. Now, If I could only get them to finish this Quest so I can turn it in... :D


When they reset all this I'm going to have to start a new Garrison. OH THE DRUDGERY ^^

#WCOW14: Spare Me the Details


Because Rules are Important in any sporting endeavour, there will now be a short post to explain how the World Cup of Warcraft will be conducted. As in all things, this Blog will do its utmost to be fair, impartial, and show absolutely no bias towards Dwarves.

All 32 'Reputation Factions' will be split into eight groups, exactly as they are in that other World Cup that's going on, and games will be played simultaneously in a desperate attempt to gain interest via the realm of Social Media. You will be asked to 'vote' for the team you would most like to win in every game (using the wonders of SurveyMonkey, which I hope will be robust enough for the task) , and the 'score' of each game will be decided on the percentage of votes received for each 'team' The results will be placed here at the end of each day's play. I think we'll also need to have some kind of Excel spreadsheet put together for results and Group placings, but now we're getting ahead of the process...

You will be able to vote here on the Website, via Twitter and on Facebook. If I've set it up correctly you should only be able to vote once per medium.

At the end of the Group stage, the top two teams from each Group go forward to the Knockout Stage, where the games will proceed as follows:

28th June:

Winners Group A v Second Place Group B
Winners Group C v Second Place Group D

29th June:
Winners Group B v Second Place Group A
Winners Group D v Second Place Group C

30th June:

Winners Group E v Second Place Group F
Winners Group G v Second Place Group H

1st July:

Winners Group F v Second Place Group E
Winners Group H v Second Place Group G

Quarter Finals (A-D Groups still play each other, as do E-H) take place on the 4th and 5th of July with the Semi Final on the 8th, 3rd place game on the 12th and the Final itself on the 13th. Needless to say, we'll keep you on top of what game happens when just as soon as we've got the Drawn complete and been able to hastily construct a World Cup of Warcraft Wallchart for you to copy onto Parchment and stick to the wall of your Hut on the Tillers Farm.

We'll be back tomorrow with the Draw. In the meantime, see yesterday's post so you can pick your team and start supporting the Reputation Group you want to see lift the trophy :D

Monday, June 09, 2014

#WCOW14 :: World in Motion

HUGE SNACKS to @ayligerwolf for the graphic :D

Occasionally, an idea comes to me that I think is SO UTTERLY BRILLIANT I just want to run with it, because it just makes me stupidly happy to see it through to conclusion. Hence it was, this morning, as I wrote my 'This Week' post and realised I am really rather excited for the World Cup, because I am, like it or not, quite a big fan of Football, even though my national side's been a joke for the best part of four decades. I realise this enthusiasm will be for many of you the equivalent of my reaction to Azeroth Choppers, so I'm going to handily tag everything now on with #WCOW14 so you can happily ignore it and carry on about your business.

For everyone else, welcome to one of possibly THE MOST RIDICULOUS ideas I've had for some time.

Tournament Mascot of WIN :D

With Garrosh behind bars, Azeroth has come together in an unprecedented show of unity, and has decided to invite participants from all over the planet (and beyond) to take part in a game of skill, dexterity and hammering leather balls at tiny goals. Race, gender and creed are irrelevant, this is a game where EVERYONE can take part and participate, either Alliance or Horde. The World of Warcraft has united under its many and various Reputation Banners, and the top thirty-two have already been through an exhaustive (and at times quite dangerous) set of World Cup of Azeroth Qualifiers. The remaining 'teams' will begin playing for the newly created title of Azeroth's Top Footballers starting on Thursday, June 12th.

The 'teams' that made it through to the final draw are as follows:

Stormwind (Tournament Hosts)
Gnomeregan Exiles
Thunder Bluff
Darkspear Trolls
Stormpike Guard
Booty Bay
Cenarian Expedition
Lower City
Alliance Vanguard
Explorers League
Knights of the Ebon Blade
Kirin Tor
Sons of Hodir
Silver Covenant
Earthen Ring
Shado Pan
The Tillers
The Anglers
Hydraxian Waterlords
Brood of Nozdormu
Argent Dawn
Darkmoon Faire
Timbermaw Hold

The Official Draw for the Group Stages of the 2014 World Cup of Azeroth will take place on Wednesday, June 11th and we will bring it to you here as soon as it is completed. We'll also provide details on how you can affect the outcome of EVERY GAME PLAYED by voting for your favourite team using Twitter and Facebook.

In the meantime it is time to pick your favourite for the Tournament. We'll be revealing more details as we wind up to proceedings proper, plus there's a good chance we'll sort out some ACTUAL PRIZES for lucky people taking part :D


[PLEASE NOTE: Not affiliated with Blizzard, the ACTUAL World Cup or indeed anything else in case someone comes along and slaps a C&D on me for nicking the idea, because, well you know how these things work. For entertainment purposes only. Filling is hot.]

This Week, I Will Be Mostly :: 500 Days of Summer

 What a difference a Day makes... :D

I logged P last night and realised I'd managed 500 days played. This game really is my first love, you know.

As a result, I spent quite a lot of last week getting excited it is going to get updated.

I am currently a wee bit overwhelmed at the breadth of stuff there is now available for me to indulge in. Quite apart from THAT ALPHA I have various other games I could test in early stages of development (Hexx, Elite) plus my Wildstar character didn't even get a lookin last week. Let's face it, after Wednesday, Warcraft really was the only thing I've been occupied with. I need that to change this week, if only for the sake of my sanity, which means as you read this I'll be in the gym and not hunched over a PC because, frankly, health is the bigger priority. Then I ought to tidy the house a bit as well. What I need to do more importantly than sit down and stream Alpha again is make a hard list of what I know has appeared in the Garrison that I've not listed in my Guide as yet. I spent a couple of hours yesterday gathering intelligence and screenies, now I need to translate that into a coherent plan of action. BECAUSE PLANNING IS EVERYTHING.


I'm currently on a three post a day cycle which I'm hoping I can maintain throughout June. There's enough new stuff to fuel a boatload of discussion topics. I've introduced an occasional series for screenshots (see above) and there's now a lot of knowledge to fuel some more preparation guides. I have a piece of Fiction that I'm going to do my very best to finish today and another with the Beta Reader. Really, there is ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE for top quality, high-octane content. I just gotta stay on top of it all. Fortunately for me there are no other potential distractions this week...


Oh yeah, WORLD CUP THIS WEEK \o/ England's first Group game is Saturday. I'm going to do my best but I warn you, 22 DAYS OF FOOTBALL. Feel free to slap me sideways if I get too carried away, which is more than likely should the National Squad actually turn up and get us past the Group stages ^^ There's a palpable sense of excitement in this household as well, which in itself is a bit of a concern, because whenever we get overenthusiastic about anything major or sporting... Actually, we did that in the Olympics and it all went rather well. Who knows what's going to happen? That's the Amazing World of Football, after all :D

Anyway, don't say I didn't warn you.

PS: Haven't forgotten about Teamfaff Facebook Page. BEAR WITH ME.