When Chris Metzen said at Blizzcon that Aggra, Thrall’s space-wife and baby momma, would not be going to Draenor because “that honeymoon is over, it’s more of a boy’s trip,” you could almost hear the cries of thousands of women players shouting “WHAT?”.
I was discussing that comment over some beers yesterday and my drinking companion noted that Azeroth and other WoW worlds are very good at making mothers disappear after they produce an heir or two. Admittedly my knowledge of WoW lore is pretty superficial, coming entirely from WoW itself and none of the books or whatnot, but I suspect that’s the case for the majority of players.
For example, who is Anduin Wrynn’s mother? Amusingly enough, WoWWiki describes him as “the son of King Varian Wrynn” alone, as though he leaped fully formed from Varian’s brain like Athena. In fact Anduin’s mother is someone named Tiffin, who I have never heard of before now, and she died a long time ago.
So who is Arthas’ mother? We know that his father is King Terenas — he was in both the Wrath of the Lich King cinematic and made a special appearance in the final Lich King battle. Looking at WoWWiki again, apparently his mother was someone named Lianne and “her fate remains unknown”. Okay then.
(It’s notable that Arthas has a sister, named Calia, and her fate is also unknown! Apparently the Menethil family has a problem with misplacing its female members…?)
Who is Moira Bronzebeard’s mother? As far as I can tell she didn’t even die, she just never existed.
Finally, who is Thrall’s mother? Surprise, while Draka is the one mother I had even heard of before, she too died suddenly and tragically at a young age.
So as I see it, aside from Aggra we have two living mothers in WoW. One is Moira Thaurissan, who was either mind controlled into having a Dark Iron Dwarf baby or just kind of a bad person who abandoned her family for an evil dwarf lover. The other is… Onyxia. And we kill her in part for trying to protect her whelp babies.
So what’s the deal with mothers, you guys? If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because the Blizzard people are running with the trope of mothers being killjoys. (That is also the reason that often the mom is dead in movies where kids go on epic journeys.) “Thrall, you can’t go master lightning powers until you finish your vegetables.” “Arthas, if you’re going to try and conquer the world from an icy tower at least wear a scarf.”
It’s a pretty limited view of the role a mother can play. The Game of Thrones series has something of a similar faux historical context (battling kingdoms, sword fights, moderate technology) and Cersei Lannister and Catelyn Stark are forces of nature in their own ways, both supporting their children and fighting their own fights.
Adding Aggra to the pantheon of Warcraft women who are merely baby incubators and toddler nannies (bets on her dying suddenly and tragically?) is not only frustrating, it’s just bad storytelling.
I finally got to try Hearthstone for myself last night thanks to an extra invite from Newbie Blogger The Jazz Panda. I say “finally” because although the game is still in closed beta from what I can tell literally every other person in the world got an invite before I did*. It’s an interesting phenomenon to feel behind in a game before it’s even out of closed beta.
Anyway, I’ve heard great things about Hearthstone and I was eager to play it, but I had some reservations because despite my best efforts “Collectible Card Games” just haven’t stuck with me. I made a pretty solid effort to get into Magic: The Gathering a few years ago, and while friends helped me put together a couple of decks I found the number of options and my complete newbie status to be overwhelming. I didn’t even know what was in the realm of possibility much less what had synergy.
The sheer amount of information I’d need to play at a reasonable level stressed me out to the point where I decided to not bother at all. (This is also the way I feel about League of Legends and to a lesser extent DOTA 2, with their walls of champions and items.)
To be fair, my brief foray into the world of Magic definitely helped me understand the basic principles of Hearthstone. There’s a resource that renews with each turn, there are creatures with a damage number and a health number, and cards can work together to do funky things. But the real reason I feel comfortable taking on Hearthstone is because through WoW I already natively understand many of the mechanics.
For example, last night I was playing against Thrall, the shaman NPC, for the first time. He dropped a windfury totem and my first reaction was, “Oh crap, I bet something is gonna hit me twice now,” which is indeed exactly what happened. I already know that the Frost Nova card is going to freeze everything in place. I can guess without looking that Innervate is going to give back some mana crystals. The Priest deck is going to have a lot of healing, the Warrior deck is probably going to have a lot of charging.
Coming into the game already having a basic understanding of card mechanics has made a huge difference in how much I enjoy deck building. In the current digital trading card game boom, having this additional accessability I think will be a huge marketplace advantage for Hearthstone.
A lot of people have suggested that Hearthstone was a pretty sneaky way to get people back into WoW, but I think that works both ways. One of the neat things about WoW is that it historically brought people into MMOs who didn’t play before, like women and older grown-up folks. This audience is also traditionally not into the CCG scene, but by using WoW language in Hearthstone I think Blizzard has quite cleverly made the genre more welcoming to a larger crowd than ever before.
* This may in fact not be literal.
This post seemed like the inevitable follow-up to yesterday’s about why I’m not playing RIFT!
I moved across town a few weeks ago, and as the movers were carrying a bookshelf into the new space the false back that I did a poor job of tacking on fell off. “Oh man, I’m sorry,” I said to the movers. “Excuse my crappy IKEA furniture.” One of the guys stopped and leaned against the bookshelf, and then replied kindly, “You know, everyone I move has IKEA furniture, and everyone always apologizes for it.”
I thought of this story yesterday as I was apologizing on Twitter for playing WoW again, which I think makes WoW the IKEA of MMOs.
So why do I feel guilty for being fully back into the Warcraft?
Certainly in part it’s that during much of the past few years I downright hated WoW. Its success paralysed the MMO genre, and other games that I would argue were better died on the vine in its shade. WoW has become a force for the homogenization of MMOs, and its producers seem to accept “fluff” content like costumes and housing only grudgingly, if at all.
I suppose it’s sort of similar to how ex-smokers often become radically opposed to smoking after they quit. While some friends have also slowly popped up in Azeroth again over the last couple of months, others remain steadfast ex-WoWers and give me withering virtual stares every time the game comes up. They’re disappointed in me, I think, for going back to the enemy.
Indeed, occasionally I’ve even been disappointed in myself over the past few weeks as I look up at the clock and realize that I have played WoW for the last 4 hours, something that for whatever reason I was hard-pressed to do in other MMOs. “Again, brain?” I ask myself. “We’re really going to spend our nights like this again?”
Even without the old 6-12 hours a week of raid leading, I find it stunningly easy to spend hours doing farm dailies and hunting down mounts. To be fair winter is coming, and I’m trying to save money, and cold dark cheap nights are the best time for games, but still.
Plus, honestly as much as I’m sensitive to the smell of failure on MMOs I’m equally sort of a game hipster and now I’ve gone back to the mainstream, maaaaaaaaan. (Why yes, I am difficult to please.) I mean WoW. It’s so 2008, am I right?
And yet.. here we are. Much like how yesterday I concluded that I simply got bored of RIFT, here I have to conclude that I’m simply having fun in WoW.
Because I really, truly am. And I suppose that’s nothing to be sorry about.
By this point, I have played many healers in many MMOs. Each game has tried to put its own twist on healing, from Tera’s position-dependent spells to RIFT’s crazy multiple soul configurations. But no matter what game I was playing and what kind of healer I was, I always missed one thing: the WoW priest spell Prayer of Mending.
On a visceral level, the spell just feels good. It shoots out from your hands to the target like some kind of starry healing bullet, and their character animation buckles slightly when it hits. Doing this also makes a great, solid sound that you can clearly hear even in the middle of combat. (If you’re totally unfamiliar with PoM, here’s a very quick video demonstration.)
I would definitely count it as one of the most fun spells to use simply for cosmetic reasons, but it also is useful in ways that other games don’t seem to have. The key is that you can apply it before the target takes damage, and it will hang out for 30 seconds waiting to heal something. Once it does, PoM shoots over to another party/raid member, and sits there for 30 seconds or until they take damage. Repeat 3 more times.
This gives PoM two distinct advantages that most other healing spells don’t have. First, you can just release it into the wild, as it were, upon cooldown and rest assured that even if you are doing something else your heals are still out there to a degree. Second, pre-healing. Other games have shields (although they’re still relatively uncommon, in my experience) but the benefits from having a heal already sitting on the tank the very first second they takes damage cannot be over-stated. Often that first pull is totally chaotic enough as it is, and having an extra second to start casting a big heal is very useful.
I’m a little ish on smart heals in general — if nothing else they reduce my ability to grudge-heal puggies, dammit — but no matter what MMO I’m playing my PoM finger is always itchy.
Sorry I’ve been talking about WoW so much lately. (Hi, Corr.) Well, not THAT sorry. Some non-WoW specific things:
I met the super nice folks behind Escape Goat at PAX, and they kindly sent me an alpha version of Escape Goat 2 to try. I made a video of the first 8 levels or so, seen below. If you like puzzles and/or goats who are accused of witchcraft, I highly recommend putting this on your future shopping list!
Be my Battlenet friend! Hit up Liore#1422.
Goblin Liore hit 90 last weekend and has been slowly visiting all the Looking for Raid zones. And there are a lot of them! One of the fun things about coming in at the very end of an expansion is that there is over a year of content to see, which means something like 12 different possible LFRs.
Thanks to the magic of Timeless Isle I was able to hit the proper ilevel for the first raid within about 3 hours. My strategy was pretty simple: run around and open every chest, tag every rare that I could get to, and then blow all my Timeless coin thingies at the Monkey Casino. By the end of the day I had 8 epics, 1 Burden of Eternity upgrade token, two copies of Bonkers the pet monkey, and most surprisingly one Hyacinth Macaw, which I was pleased to see still sells for ~25,000 on the Auction House.
I’ve been running one or two LFRs each night all week, and as of tonight I will officially be able to queue up for the final raid and see Garrosh soon. (Orcs Must Die!) So far I have been pleasantly surprised by my fellow raiders — at worst the groups are stonily silent, at best jovial and helpful.
I’ve been cribbing off No Life @ 90′s LFR guides, which are lovely and compact for that moment when you’re standing in front of a new boss and have about 90 seconds until the pull. Even without them, though, the basics of raiding remain the same: don’t stand in stupid shit, don’t run the AOE debuff through the group.
To be fair, LFR still isn’t much of a challenge. In fact, the only time I’ve died all week was on the first pull of Durumu, who I can only imagine was a raid-killer in his prime. (For those who don’t play WoW, late in the fight Durumu covers the floor in purple junk and the raid must navigate through the “maze” on the fly, which is exactly the sort of thing that kills otherwise solid players.)
The simplicity of LFR has been great for me to jump right into and learn the Pandaria class changes, but it’s also made me fairly determined to come back sometime in a flex raid, if not normals. “Organized chaos” bosses have always been my favorite, and there seem to be a lot of them.
One of the guidelines I set for myself in this return to WoW was to not worry about anything that I don’t find fun. There will be no chasing achievements, no grinding out boring reputations, no pouring over rotations and stats if I find myself not really caring about it. So far, so good.
For the past couple of months myself and a few of my friends have been meeting up on Monday nights to play WoW. I was pretty cranky about it at first — ugh, WoW? Why? — but we rolled brand new characters on a new faction and a new server (and no heirlooms!) and it turned out to be legitimately fun to get on Mumble with the gang and see all the changes to dungeons from level 1 up. I log on at 7pm, log off at 9:30pm, and don’t have a single thought about WoW until the next Monday. I liked it that way.
Last night while we were playing I mentioned that as I logged in I saw a warning about a patch. The response was an explosion of details from my friends. “Yes, it’s 5.4 and it’s the best patch of the expansion! There are solo challenges. And a raid where you kill Garrosh! And flex raiding! And a new zone! And a pet battle tournament!”*
That just opened up the floodgates I think, because then they started talking about all the things us clueless casual quitters may have missed about the expansion in general, like the Black Market and the Brawler’s Guild.
I tried to ignore them. La la la I play a baby cat druid 2 hours a week and I like it that way. I am happy to not know everything about WoW, unlike my TBC/WotLK days, and enjoy being genuinely surprised by things in the game.
After I logged off at 9:30pm, though, something stuck with me, and that’s the Proving Grounds. It’s a single-player scenario that can be completed by healers (or DPS or tanks, but whatever). Participants will be awarded a result and gold, silver, or bronze medals, and the best of the best will be listed on a leaderboard. Gear is normalized for all participants, and everyone has equal buffs. So I can compete for being an awesome healer, on my own, with little but skill as a measurement. Oh Blizzard. You beautiful bastards.
So anyway, maybe I should level Liore to 90. You know, just to keep up with expansions and all.
* All quotes from friends are paraphrased. They don’t actually speak with so many exclamation points. Well, Ellyndrial kind of does.