I definitely go through phases in my gaming (like most people I suspect), and this past week it has been all Warcraft, all the time in the Liore household.
I know some of my friends who used to play WoW are pretty sceptical about returning to it and I don’t blame them. There are a lot of things still in the game from the bad old days like slow content updates, uninspired kill 10 rats quests, and idiots ranting about gear ilevels in trade chat. (Trade Chat: terrible for almost 10 years.)
But I also genuinely think that Blizzard has added some pretty cool things to the game in Mists of Pandaria. The introduction of flex raids is a good example of that, and cross-realm grouping. Account-wide pets and mounts are great, and they’re finally merging servers. Occasionally they surprise even me with their focus on the little things.
I was flying around the Krasarang Wilds in Pandaria on Sunday night doing quests to make Nat Pagel be my friend (I am a sucker who wants a kite mount) when I discovered a big turtle statue and a Pandaran NPC who told me to come back in an hour for the “Wanderer’s Festival”. Who am I to deny the requests of random pandas?
I returned at 11pm PST, and the festival began! First floating lamps appeared along the shore. Then a bunch of Pandaran showed up, including a few familiar faces, and they built bonfires and danced. There were fireworks, and a mass spawn of rare level 23 turtle pets.
I even got an achievement for being present: .
Apparently the Festival takes place every Sunday night between 9 and 11pm PST. It was just a small thing — the party was over in 15 minutes and as my battle pets are only level 6 I couldn’t personally get a turtle.
That didn’t matter to me though! I got to stumble on a little event and see things I don’t expect in this game. It’s nice to see Blizzard trying different things and throwing in little surprises for those who look for them.
I didn’t play many games this weekend because I was too busy mainlining the new season of House of Cards. Man, is it good. If you enjoyed the first season or you like intense political dramas, you absolutely should check it out.
Anyway, instead of writing about games today I’m writing five (spoiler-free) reasons to love House of Cards!
1) Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, is amazing. The character is a smart, beautiful, ambitious woman who also happens to be in her mid-40s and pre-menopausal. We usually don’t get to even see “women of a certain age” on major television shows, much less ones that are amazing full characters. Also I covet her haircut and pretty much all of her outfits so, so much.
2) The relationship between Claire and Frank (Wright and Kevin Spacey) is wonderfully written and portrayed. I mean, let’s be clear: they’re both horrible, horrible people. But I love the chemistry between the two actors, and the utter honesty between the two characters. I love watching their joint ferocity, and the way they subtley back each other up and keep each other going. Nowadays marriages are often portrayed as being irreversibly broken (True Detective) or built on violence and lies (Breaking Bad), appreciate the Underwoods.
3) The multiple journalist side plots have some Things To Say about journalism. Arguably the journalist characters themselves can be a bit daft at times but there’s lots of on-screen discussion about how to put together a good story and when to be be brave (and when to back off, Lucas). The definition of “journalism” is a subject that has come up lately in games writing, and while I realize it’s fictional television the journalists on House of Cards get me thinking.
4) Character actor Jimmi Simpson has a small role this season! I think everyone has their favorite “hey, it’s that guy” actor and I admit to being excited to see mine pop up in the role of a master hacker who loves guinea pigs. (Although I will probably always think of him as one half of the creepy McPoyle brothers on It’s Always Sunny.)
5) The women of House of Cards, collectively, are smartly written. I already mentioned Claire in the first point, but this season you have Linda Vasquez, Janine Skorsky, Jackie Sharp, and more. They’re older, they’re professional, and most importantly they’re flawed in ways often only accorded to male characters, whether it’s cruelty, or cowardice, or all-consuming ambition. (Between this show and Orange is the New Black, I think Netflix deserves some mad props.)
Speaking of politics, Democracy 3 recently released their Social Engineering DLC and occasional podcast guest Aurelia made a great video review with all of the deets. Live out your horrible House of Cards-like fantasies, oppress the masses, and maybe even get assassinated. (Or, you know, be a kind and beneficent ruler. I suppose.)
Watch it below:
I started the guild Machiavellis Cat in late 2005. We began raiding in 2006, starting out in Zul’Gurub and moving on to Molten Core and a bit of Blackwing Lair. The guild gradually got more serious about raids, eventually moving into “hard modes” in Wrath of the Lich King and a bit of Cataclysm.
I stepped down as the guild leader and people manager in early 2011 and quit WoW completely (for a while.. you know) shortly after that. While it was just kind of my time, much of the reason I quit was the Icecrown Citadel doldrums at the end of Wrath. ICC, for those not in the know, was “current” content for a year. That’s a long time to be doing the same raid.
It wasn’t very surprising when people stopped showing up after six months of ICC. I would recruit more if for no better reason than a core of us wanted to finish hard modes, but after a while the drifters and quitters started to get to me. I took it personally, even though it wasn’t meant that way. Over time I started to get pretty bitter from logging on only to see yet again a raid of 21 people, a size that meant no progression could happen, and having to apologize for wasting their time or jolly them through old content.
(I should note that although the situation was pretty terrible for me, it’s not any individual player’s fault. People stop playing games, it’s okay.)
It’s only about six months ago that I fully embraced WoW again as my “main game”, and only in the last six weeks that I started organizing very casual flex raids on Saturdays. That is a break of almost three years. I am certainly no longer burned out on WoW or group content.
But the moment I got an inclination of expectations around these new flex runs — reasonable expectations like actually doing them or having fun during our scheduled time — all of the old anxiety came rushing back. My heart started beating a million times each second and my stomach flopped. I started to panic. “Maybe I just shouldn’t make events. Maybe I should stop wanting to try group content. No wait, I know, I’ll just change my name, disappear, and never log on WoW ever again!”
It’s been three years, and although time has rekindled my enjoyment of WoW apparently that enjoyment is contingent on me never again being responsible for anyone’s in-game happiness but my own.
It’s a testament to the power of MMOs — they can create friendships (and relationships in some cases) and opportunities for amazing positive memories. But on the flip side, all that emotional investment can also set up some easy triggers to make us anxious and terrible, and they will linger even years later.
Ostensibly Liore sat down with Arolaide and Ellyndrial to talk about their beta experiences in Titanfall and The Elder Scrolls Online but what actually happened was… a long battle over the definition of “player generated content”.
Apparently sandbox MMOs are the way of the future because we players tear through studio-generated content too quickly, but what counts as player generated content? Is it building a house like EQN Landmark? Is PvP player generated content, and if so is that why games like Counterstrike are fun even years later?
We’re not sure, but we have differing opinions and we’re going to shout about it!
Also, there’s a little talk about the TESO and Titanfall betas. Just a bit.
This podcast was also livestreamed as a hangout on air:
It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)
* John Smedley’s blog on SOE and player-generated content.
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
In what was probably a mistake, earlier today the live WoW servers briefly displayed a price for automatically levelling a character to 90, and that price was $60. While $60 seems too steep to me, everything is still up in the air and it doesn’t seem worth the effort to get too upset (or too happy) about that number right now.
What did stand out to me was a number of tweets with variations of the argument that $60 is a high enough price point to discourage players from using it “too much”. To be fair I get a little shirty around any authority (you can’t tell me what to do!!), but I kind of bridle at the idea that Blizzard is pricing this service to help save us from ourselves.
First, I don’t think it’s true. Blizzard knows they have a game full of people willing to spend $25 on a horse or a costume hat, and pricing something high to limit sales is pretty counter-intuitive in today’s markets. It seems far more likely that they would price it as high as people will still pay.
But aside from that, I guess I just don’t understand why some feel we need to artificially discourage people from insta-levelling.
A game like WoW has the vast majority of its content for level-capped players. Between heirlooms and the Cataclysm world changes, not to mention the monk XP buff, it’s faster than ever to level a character, to the point where a particularly determined person could probably do it in a long weekend. I appreciate arguments that levelling is an important part of MMOs or RPGs, but it’s hard to argue in the specific that levelling is important in WoW.
And even with paid level 90s, all the levelling content will still be there. If you like to level your characters, that’s cool. And other MMOs still have an emphasis on levelling. Diversity in products is a positive thing for us all!
The argument in favor of curtailing insta-levelling strikes me as another verse of that old favorite tune “You have to play MMOs the way I want to you play them”. And look, I get it, it’s a song I’ve sung myself on more than one occasion. But it’s not a good one.