Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for August, 2012

Tides of War (with spoilers galore!)

Technology has not been kind to me today. I waited patiently for the patch to deploy (these things take time) but some weird glitch prevented Vosskah’s install from patching correctly and so I spent a lot of time fretting about that. I wrote an entire blog entry that WordPress then ate. (This isn’t that post, that post is gone forever and you only get this post). I had just enough time to mess around with addons a bit before a guest arrived. I spent some precious moments with the target dummies after; long enough to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that FIRE MAGES ARE AWESOME. More about that later.

Meantime, the technology that worked most unfailingly for me today was my Kindle, as it happily delivered the new Christie Golden book, Tides of War, while I slept. I read it in bits and pieces throughout the day and then in one big gulp at the very end. What follows is part review, part synopsis, part reflection on the events in the book – and most importantly, it is chock full of spoilers.

Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers for the new Tides of War book about Jaina Proudmoore.

I can’t say this more plainly.

Come back after you’ve read the book if you intend to, and you don’t want anything spoiled for you. If you are someone who is subscribed by e-mail, delete this e-mail before reading it!

If you 1) don’t care about spoilers or 2) have no intention of reading the book but want to know what happens in it anyway, then read on. I’ll put a big image here to keep people from seeing spoilers they may not want to see. If you scroll past the image and have things spoiled for you, I claim no responsibility.

Jaina Proudmoore art from the WoW TCG.

Okay. Are those folks gone? Now let’s talk about the book.

I’ve found the Warcraft books in general to be somewhat hit and miss. Arthas was a big miss with me (and I bought that one in hardcover). I like Rise of the Horde because it is the most information about draenei ever put in one place. This book continues more in the vein of the pre-Cataclysm book in that it’s closely tied with in-game events as well as published concurrently. The book itself opens about a week to a week and a half before the destruction of Theramore. The way it’s structured actually worked extremely well for me, lulling me into a false sense of security. In a way, even though I knew events would somehow lead to Theramore’s destruction, I was still deceived by the beginning parts of the book. Jaina is in Theramore, Jaina is generally happy, you get to meet Jaina’s new apprentice and all of her friends and staff in Theramore. They joke about conjuring cookies. I’m not even kidding.

So I started out really excited. This book is awesome! There are so many mages! They are my cookie-conjuring brethren.

Then things start to get real.

The initial conflict of the story begins with the blue dragonflight losing control of the Focusing Iris. You’ll remember it from such events as making it possible to use the surge needles in Northrend and channel the arcane power from the ley lines while under Malygos’ control. It also helped to animate Chromatus (in the Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects) book. This is an artifact of truly awesome power, and you’d think they’d keep a better eye on it. The Iris is stolen while the blue flight is attempting to relocate it – no word on how the Horde knew where and when to find it, incidentally. They were going to disguise and then hide it in the ocean but that didn’t pan out.

Things escalate from there, with Garrosh announcing plans to move against North Watch and subsequently Theramore and ultimately all of Kalimdor; he wants to use a victory against Kalimdor to isolate and eliminate all Alliance presence from it while helping himself to the resources and lands contained therein. Not everyone in the Horde is too happy about that, and it’s a subplot throughout the book that Garrosh’s methods and his Kor’krons grow increasingly violent. Orgrimmar is for all intents and purposes under martial law. Though this is understated, it’s understood that if someone isn’t cheering loudly enough for the warchief or if they dare to voice any discontent, they’re going to either quietly disappear or show up with a few more bruises than they had before. Baine and Vol’jin aren’t excepted from this, though Baine is the more outspoken of the two. Unfortunately for the trolls, their weaker position with the Horde makes it so that openly defying Garrosh is tantamount to suicide and Vol’jin’s hands are tied.

Baine is also victim to what happens here, because the Tauren need the Horde but Baine violently disagrees with Garrosh’s motives, methods and leadership. It’s made clear from the start that he feels ambivalent about what is happening but is caught up in events. Yet I think even Baine doesn’t immediately understand the depths to which Garrosh will sink.

This is actually worth mentioning here, before I forget, and it was Voss who asked me – do I think that Garrosh’s actions in ToW are out of character or forced? All along, people have been saying that Garrosh will need to do something truly horrific before it can be justified that he be the end-boss of an expansion. Heck, Rades and I did a comic about this very thing. Many people seemed to say “Yes, Garrosh is warlike, but he hasn’t really done much to warrant being especially targeted.” Well, the events in Tides of War sure change that in a shocking way.

Back to the actual synopsis of the book – so the blue dragonflight loses control of the Focusing Iris. It’s not known who has it, merely that it’s gone. Kalecgos is able to trace it somewhat but then his sense of it disappears. He’s lost and frantic about how the artifact could be used, and so he seeks aid which is how he winds up in Theramore and meets Jaina. (I believe this is the first time they meet). Jaina, Kalec and a crack force of mages try to discover how to uncover the artifact so that he can trace it. How they do so doesn’t really matter – the crux of it is that Kalecgos is eventually able to sense the Iris and it is zigzagging all over Kalimdor. This should have been their first hint that it’s somehow airborne, but this doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. It’s not being borne on a dragon’s back, so how is it doing that? Anyway, Kalec realizes he will just be exhausted chasing it all over the place so he goes back to Theramore.

Here’s where the romance part comes in. If you’ve read the interview WoW Insider did with Christie Golden, this romance is alluded to. I have some feelings about it. First, Jaina and Kalecgos as a pair isn’t too far-fetched, I suppose. He fell in love with Anveena, after all, and she was human(oid) and ended up being the Sunwell. So his romantic indiscretions with the ‘younger’ races are documented; he obviously doesn’t always have a thing for other dragons. It’s a joke in the book itself that Jaina isn’t exactly known for choosing the best romantic interests – Kael’thas (though they were barely involved, and Arthas…we all know how that one ended. Anyway, I don’t think Kalec is actually a bad choice for her. He’s a blue dragon so they have magic in common, and they’re both obviously powerful magic-users. In short, I like the romance but I think it was constrained quite a bit by the nature and length of the book. This is often my feeling about “one-book romances.” If you have a trilogy of books telling a story, you have time to do the more leisurely “maybe they’re starting to have feelings for each other” followed by the “something happens to keep them apart” that ultimately culminates with the satisfying “they’re finally together” feeling. In a book of this scope with this much story to tell, it’s tough to write a convincing romance but I think Golden did the best she could. You could also argue that in desperate times people will often turn to one another with feelings that are more quickly realized than would otherwise occur.

Personally, looking at him makes my heart go “pitter-patter” but maybe not for the same reasons. Mostly because: whoa big blue dragon teeth, scary.

Still, I tend to think of dragons as being less impulsive than regular people. They seem to love each other awfully quickly, which makes it less believable, but again – you work with what you have. So Kalecgos and Jaina are together by the end of the book, and throughout it he seems to flit back and forth a bit as he’s torn between his desire to recover the incredibly powerful artifact his people lost (whoops) and his twitterpated feelings towards Jaina. It’s rough, though. I feel for him. The guy only got to be a dragon Aspect for no time at all (to a dragon) and now he’s mortal again and his dragon buddies are all “Whelp, see you later” and he’s left holding the bag for having lost the Focusing Iris. So perhaps it’s natural that his attentions would turn strongly towards an engaging young woman – a powerful mage and extremely intelligent and powerful lady in her own right.

I feel like I’m dancing around the immediate facts of the book: the destruction of Theramore. It’s almost something I don’t want to put into words. I don’t want to talk about it, I’d rather talk about blue dragon courtship rituals. It was disgusting, and awful. Completely reprehensible and the opposite of honorable combat. This is how it happens: Jaina and Theramore have word of the coming attack thanks to Baine. North Watch falls easily as Thrall’s shaman harness the power of extremely dangerous molten giants (a power that could lead to another Cataclysm, according to the book). Theramore has time to prepare. Jaina calls upon the Kirin Tor, who send aid somewhat reluctantly and with the caveat that they will only defend and not be the aggressors. Stormwind sends a fleet of ships along with a number of great generals. One of them is a draenei! Rhonin is here too. Kalecgos himself comes to Theramore’s aid so that when the Horde come knocking, they’re ready for them. They’re able to repel the attack even though one of the Kirin Tor mages (a blood elf, naturally) is a traitor and was weakening the gates instead of strengthening them.

So it seems as if they’ve won at least the initial skirmish, although they’ve suffered losses – including all of their aerial defenses, down to the last gryphon. This is where the other shoe drops. Kalecgos suddenly becomes aware of the Focusing Iris again. It’s nearby, because it’s on a goblin ship. And underneath that ship is the biggest mana bomb anyone has ever seen. Kalecgos tries to detonate it in the air (where it won’t harm the city) but is repelled by the defenses on the zeppelin. In a last-ditch suicide effort, Rhonin draws the power of the bomb towards himself while sending Jaina through a portal to safety. The mana bomb explodes in Theramore, killing everyone in a really large radius. Jaina is teleported to one of the rocky islands surrounding Theramore, where she still feels a significant impact from the blast but isn’t killed.

I repeat: She’s not killed horrifically like every single other person, including Rhonin.

I’m afraid I can’t really do justice to the emotional impact of this part of the book, at least for me. Jaina’s sassy gnome apprentice, Kinndy, is killed. Everyone. It’s established earlier in the book that Kinndy is the only daughter of the gnome in Dalaran who lights the lights, Windle Sparkshine. I LOVE this gnome. I can’t remember how many times I have followed him around Dalaran, and gone out to help light the lights myself. Just giving this character a tie to an existing in-game character meant that when she was cruelly snuffed out I sobbed. I didn’t want Kinndy to die, or for her parents to lose their only daughter. I didn’t even want Rhonin to die, and goodness knows I’m no Rhonin fan. (Although now that he’s dead, maybe we can stop hearing about what a mage he is, a damn good one.) But for him to die like this, in such an atrocity, through such an act of treachery… it’s unconscionable. Going back into the wreckage afterwards drives Jaina to the brink of sanity, as I think it would for anyone. It’s not just that people died, it’s that they died in a way that is so fundamentally wrong. Grief-stricken, Jaina goes to touch Kinndy’s body and it dissipates into purple sand. The infusion of arcane magic fueled by the Focusing Iris has wrought awful changes on everyone it worked on. Bodies are floating, there are rips and tears in the sky itself.

Meantime, Garrosh is celebrating his flawless victory. It’s clear that he feels no remorse whatsoever for the manner of this massacre, and here incredulity and hatred for him begin to set in. Baine and other Horde-members with a conscience are sickened by what has been done. Whatever the Horde has become with this madman at its helm, they feel no connection to him or his further conquests. Without going into a tiresome conquest, the rest of the book plays out fairly predictably. Jaina takes the Focusing Iris with the intention of using it to level Orgrimmar in the ultimate act of vengeance. Anduin and Varian are both appalled by the change in her, and ultimately Kalecgos and Thrall manage to talk her out of making what would have been a mistake that would change her personally even as she achieved her revenge. There are a few other good moments – Anduin blessing the Alliance troops as they leave for Kalimdor, while reflecting on the necessity of war even when you love peace – and the fact that draenei were actually mentioned in this book a few times besides as “awe inducing shaman.” It seems the people of Azeroth have grown more used to draenei, or else the writers are sincerely trying to integrate them into the ongoing story. I would have only wished that one of the mages sent from the Kirin Tor had been a draenei (they had one of nearly every other race!) but we can’t have everything. Draenei are always shaman and paladins and that is just the way it is (brb, rerolling).

Tides of War was a good book. I appreciated as well the subtle integration of the in-game scenario, although I missed it at the time and had to go back looking for it. At some point, there is mention of “five people” helping Jaina and Rhonin. I can see where the scenario will fit, although I honestly have no idea how that’ll work for Horde players because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for them to help Jaina or Rhonin at that part of the book. Even friendly Horde aren’t going to be very welcome in Theramore at that time.

I’m also regretful that today’s From Draenor With Love won’t necessarily make sense in the context of actual events, although it could happen during the initial assault on Theramore! Anyway, we conceived and created it at a time when we didn’t have all of the information. I think it’s still a useful reflection on the horrors of war in general, especially when you have mixed allegiances and your feelings don’t lie with factions but with people. For this reason, Baine is one of the most sympathetic characters in ToW for me. What an untenable position he’s in. Jaina is the more obvious and sympathetic character because she’s just been through truly horrific things. Baine also lost his father at the hand of the orc he’s now duty bound to serve as he leads the Horde to ruin. I’m glad that by the end of the book he basically says, look buddy, eff you and don’t come around to Mulgore either.

This all paints Pandaria in a completely different light for me. I am happy to explore the new land and to see the wonders it has to offer, but there’s a sombre feeling. Where will all these struggles end? What more harm can Garrosh do to our people (and his own) before he’s finally taken down?

Another thought: wouldn’t it be awesome if the Let’s Kill Garrosh raid was the only raid that you could accomplish cross-faction, with both Alliance and Horde in your party? It makes sense, doesn’t it? You guys will want him dead, we’ll want him dead, why can’t we work together to do it?

Randomly: nice touch that when the Earthen Ring heard about what had happened with Theramore, a draenei starts to cry and she’s comforted by her troll friend. I like any emphasis that our races don’t necessarily determine who or what we stand for, and the Earthen Ring is one of those truly neutral groups wherein faction divisions cease to matter. See, draenei can be friends with trolls and orcs, too.

So, that is my huge ramble about Tides of War. If you made it to the end, you deserve a conjured cookie. Please feel free to say all that you need to about the book or the events in it or whatever you want in the comments. This is a spoiler-rife zone, so you don’t have to hold back. Everyone was forewarned!

The Road to Perfection

Joe Perez (Lodur) over at WoW Insider wrote an interesting article about using the new scenario dungeons to create a way for healers to learn/practice on their own, the same way that fancy new DPS dummies in Shattrath simulate a raiding environment by granting raid buffs etc. I’ve also heard that these new dummies are only for beta use and won’t make it to live, but that’s beside the point (and I’m not sure either way).

I used to spend more time with target dummies than I do now. It’s a certain mark of pride for a DPS player – make a new spec, test it out on the dummies. Want to try different gear configurations? Test them on the dummies. Playing a character you aren’t that familiar with? Get a “feel” for the rotation by paying a visit to the target dummies. I remember when I was still pretty new to the game and a player I admired used to say, “Time to go visit the target dummies.” It cemented itself in my mind as something that “serious” players do. They serve a useful purpose; sometimes you want something to attack that won’t just keel over like a regular world mob. When I wanted to figure out what I was doing with tanking, I went out and found some of the big elites in Icecrown and that was somewhat useful but not exactly the same. The premise of giving healers a place to practice healing (especially if they are new) seems to follow along with this notion. DPS players have target dummies, tanks and healers have a harder time “practicing” what they do.

I think that’s a good thing, though. I don’t think target dummies are all that useful, either, as any DPS will tell you. They can give you an approximation of how you might perform in a raiding or boss environment, but we know not to expect those numbers to be accurate. Firstly because the “live” dummies don’t give raid buffs – I hear the ones in Shattrath do, so that’s a step closer to “reality.” But dummies can’t simulate things like movement, or adds, or phases, or distractions from Mumble or otherwise. I know that if I stand there until my evocate and mana gem are on CD I may have done x amount of DPS over the course of three minutes, but during a raid fight it’s going to be a different story altogether. The same is true for healers. When it comes to being a healer, my “testing” usually consisted of asking someone to group with me so I could make sure my UI was correct. There’s always the tried and true method of casting spells on yourself. And Joe is right; in no way does that prepare you for an actual healing situation. You don’t see those bars dropping. You don’t have someone ignoring an important mechanic almost getting one-shot – someone who might be your tank!

At the same time, though, while I can see the value of such a tool I am almost leery of introducing any more of these types of practice activities or zones. Why? Well, because at some point I just want to play the game that I am here to play. I don’t know if this is a reflection of my newer, more casual mindset, but pretend DPS or pretend healing strikes me as the height of boredom. If I want to practice DPSing I don’t go to a target dummy, I’ll queue for a five man or LFR (with or without friends). I’m not ashamed to admit that after I got my Dragonwrath I queued for LFR repeatedly just so I could pit myself against other casters with DW in a raid-like environment. (And no, I never post a meter or boast about my DPS and if you do that there is a special place in hell reserved for you where a voice echoes endlessly, “Is anyone running Recount? Is anyone running Recount?”) When I was learning to heal, I mostly did it with friends in five-mans. Actually, the first dungeon I healed was as a former shadowpriest at level 40 something in Zul’Farak. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I’d never healed an entire group. Someone in my guild needed a healer for ZF and this was before the days of LFD so I was roped into it.

I was practically hyperventilating the whole time. Did someone die? I’m pretty sure they did. Was I perfect? Not even remotely, but that’s how you learn. To me, that’s what playing a game is about. The comments on that article are interesting because some of them say, “We tell our new healers to go practice in pugs.” Other people reply, “How can you DO THAT to your friends? I would hate to be in your guild,” etc. I’m actually 100% behind the first guy. You all know I’m not a stranger to pugging. Pugging is one of the best environments to learn to heal. You have an element of chaos and unpredictability that you’ll seldom find in a “safe” guild or friend run. Yes, it can be taxing and frustrating. Yes, you may leave some groups. But you will leave those groups a better healer than you went in. I like to play a little game with myself. Instead of practicing retribution healing, I make it my goal to keep the worst player in a group alive. Does the group have a melee DPS who’s never heard of fire on the ground, pulls aggro on every pull and then tries to run from the tank? That guy right there is my prime target. In addition to keeping everyone else alive, I will keep that guy’s bar above zero, against all odds. It’s like a mini-game.

That’s why I could go from healing five-mans to healing Naxx to later healing heroic Firelands coolly. Not because I am this awesome super healer, but because I practiced and I wasn’t afraid to put myself in situations where I was at a disadvantage. I’ve been the healer barely able to drink, slamming mana recovery abilities on CD, desperately chasing after my tank and hoping he doesn’t pull an extra group because I’m still clad all in greens. I understand what the article is saying – the punishment for a tank or a healer who doesn’t perform well is usually much more severe than that of a DPS. Many DPS get by simply coasting, and it’s not fair but they are less likely to get called out. There is great power and responsibility in the healing and tanking role and they are hard to step into. You have to cultivate a thick skin. I ran a Zul’Aman pug with a guy once who made fun of me every time I used Tranquility.

“lol why you Tranquility?” he’d say. I grit my teeth and ignored him; he continued. I finally told him, look, it’s a three minute cooldown, not ten minutes anymore. Using it on trash doesn’t hurt you, it heals the group, and will you just shut up about it? If you want, next time YOU be the druid and ignore your Tranquility button all you want. Until then, this is my show.

There will be guys like that. You may need to leave groups. You may be removed from groups. But the only real penalty there is pride. If you leave an LFD group, you may have to take a deserter debuff – play another character or do something else until you can queue again. It’s not really that big a deal. I’m reminded of this book I read a few years back by Carol Dweck called Mindset. Basically, in a nutshell: everyone is one of two mindsets, either fixed or growth mindset. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book changed my outlook and even my life. I grew up with a completely fixed mindset, no question. I was proud of my accomplishments but I also felt that I had to be perfect…at everything. With this mindset, you might find that you attempt less because if you try and fail, you will be a fraud or a failure. It’s better to “play it safe” and do things you know you can excel at. Everyone thinks you are really smart and awesome, and nothing ever happens to challenge that.

A growth mindset is different. It approaches the world and challenges from a malleable perspective – everything is a learning opportunity. Of course you will fail at things and you won’t be perfect at them right away because you have to practice in order to be perfect. Do you see what I’m getting at here? If there was a place for healers to practice in a basically no-risk environment, sure, it might help them to try healing when they otherwise wouldn’t. But I’d argue that it’s a lot better to just dive in and start healing from the get-go. There will be bumps and scrapes, but who cares? It’s not a reflection on your character, it doesn’t mean you’re bad, it means you’re learning. And anyone who has a problem with that can take a hike (or you can leave them in your dust). I was thinking just last night about how Voss and I joined Business Time. Without any hard mode experience and with gear that was only as good as we could get outside of raids at that point, we were more of a liability than an asset. But we promised we’d be able to learn quickly. I studied the Mimiron hardmode video for hours. I took notes. I knew I could apply my skills to that environment. Over the years since then, I’ve taken on tasks I’m not always comfortable doing. I hate messing up and feeling like I’m wiping the raid – and obviously, it’s a continuum. You start out learning in places like five-mans, then maybe LFR, then a raid. You can start PvP healing in a battleground and then move to arenas if that’s your goal. All experience in the game will serve you elsewhere, whether it’s just to sharpen your reflexes or help you fine-tune your UI or whatever.

When 5.0 drops next week, I’ll respec and set up my UI and probably visit the target dummies to make sure all the buttons are in their proper places and get a feel for them. After that, I will want to hit some fives or an LFR or whatever else is going on, because I’ll want to really learn what’s new and the only way to do that is with practice, practice, and more practice. Remember that there’s no shame in being new, or needing to improve, no matter what anybody tells you. Whether you’re playing an unfamiliar alt or a completely new spec or role, you can do a certain amount of preparation on your own but at some point you’ll need to play with other people to really learn and get truly great.

Cinematic Retrospective: A Look At Warcraft Trailers

As most people have probably heard, the Mists trailer is out this morning! I watched it eagerly and I really enjoyed it. I saw some comments going around where people were comparing their “favourite” trailers or rating and numbering them. It seemed like a good opportunity to go back in time a little bit and reflect on the trailers for the previous expansions. It’s interesting to see the evolution in both aim and tone.

Vanilla

For me what really stands out about the classic “World of Warcraft” trailer is that it’s quite ambitious for the time. Keep in mind, I didn’t play the original Warcraft RTS games nor did I watch this trailer when it was current. Based on the way it’s put together, it feels to me as if they really wanted to highlight and showcase the various races that would feature in the game that people knew and loved from the originals. So it’s very, “Look, it’s a dwarf! Look, it’s a night elf! Look now she’s a panther OMG you guys!” That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either!

Something interesting to note for later (if you’re watching the cinematics along with me) is the characterization of the orc versus later orcs. The orc in this cinematic is very much “ROAR” and look there is fire and I am big and scary. To my ears he even sounds more bestial/brutish; if watching this trailer were my only experience with any Warcraft stuff I might think he was a monster rather than a playable, sentient race. This cinematic sets out to get people excited about what they will see in the online version of Warcraft, and is obviously aimed mostly at fans of the Warcraft universe.

The Burning Crusade

This is a trailer I watched closer to when it was actually released. I didn’t have any idea of the backstory of Illidan (Tyrande, Malfurion etc) at the time so I had no idea who the scary guy with the voice was. Watching it now with different eyes, I can appreciate the impact of the Illidan voiceover. You know it had a lasting effect, because how many times did you hear someone make a joke or quote, “I/You/Your Dog was not prepared”?

The blood elves and the draenei are characterized; they did a particularly good job with the female blood elf, in my opinion. Especially the first time you watch this trailer, you’re surprised by her sudden shift in attitude from seemingly innocent to sinister. There is a need in her that’s frightening, which is exactly the story of the Sin’dorei in the Burning Crusade.

Up until this point with the cinematics, Blizzard has been outdoing themselves each time. I’m not talking about the actual graphics of the cinematics (although they have obviously improved, along with technology) but also the scope and ambition. This one shows the Dark Portal with its swirling door – challenging players, even mocking them. “You are not prepared” became a catchphrase because it was so memorable and it hits right at the heart of gamers. You think I’m not prepared? I’m going to show you how prepared I am!

Wrath of the Lich King

This trailer. (Did you watch it again? You really should.) This trailer gave me chills. It’s so cleverly done. The juxtaposition of Terenas Menethil instructing his son on the responsibility of royalty paired with the dark visuals and the true horror and irony of what his son went on to become are nothing less than masterful. I don’t know if it’s because Blizzard had such a legendary figure from the previous games to build upon, but in terms of cohesiveness and impact this trailer blows all of the others out of the water. I can’t even find something to nitpick about with it. It has awe-inspiring visuals, emotional heft, and it also tells a story. Even the music used for it is phenomenal and it lends much to the story itself as the trailer unfolds. It is a tragic lament, an incredibly sad song – in keeping with what is also a tragic story.

The cinematic leaves you wanting to defeat the horrors that are hinted at here. I look at the legions of undead and I still get twitchy even to this day. I really want to kill the Lich King and everything he stands for. And this is knowing that I’ve already done so! This trailer is successful even when it’s an anachronism. Basically, I love it, and I loved Wrath, so I am clearly biased.

Cataclysm

The trailer for Cataclysm is an interesting case. I would argue (and you’re welcome to disagree) that it is much less successful than any previous trailer, even the Vanilla trailer. Oh sure, it has impressive visuals. You get the lava and the forge and the big dragon. But for me therein lies the problem that we’ve been talking about for all of Cataclysm: the story told in this trailer really boils down to “I am a big dragon destroying your Azeroth rawr.” It’s sad because the character of Neltharion has a lot of meat to it, none of which featured in Cataclysm at all. I found myself struggling to remember whether I even heard his voice when you’re fighting him, or if I only read what he said on the screen? The fact that I can’t remember seems eloquent enough to me.

That’s where this trailer falls down. It has some emotional impact, yes, but all of the weight of the trailer rests upon the locations Deathwing is destroying. It relies on you caring about seeing them destroyed. In that sense, it works. Seeing Thousand Needles awash in a great tidal wave is definitely upsetting. But other parts of the trailer just expose the suspension of disbelief necessary for Deathwing to work as a villain, and why he simply wasn’t that effective in Cataclysm. He was STANDING on Stormwind and he didn’t just raze it to the ground. Yes, it’s distressing to see a dragon with his claws planted at the front gate of Stormwind. But you know that Stormwind wasn’t actually destroyed, and then you have to wonder, why not? It took us an entire expansion to take him down, but for the majority of that he was just flying around randomly breathing fire on some things. Someone on Twitter pointed out (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who to attribute this to) that Deathing is basically a griefer. He waits until you are AFK and then ganks you by setting a zone on fire. I know some people joked that during Wrath we saw Arthas a little too much, but we saw him just enough as far as I’m concerned. I’ll never forget running into him in the “dream world” near Utgarde and how he squashed me like a bug. He was a villain who made things personal.

Other people have delved into this more deeply than I want to get into here, but essentially: Deathwing is just a big dragon (yawn) and that’s basically this trailer to me.

Mists of Pandaria

Now we get to the exciting new shiny that everyone wants to talk about! First of all, I want to talk about the orcĀ  here. (Remember how I mentioned orcs earlier?) Notice what a huge difference there is with this orc versus the first orc featured in the classic WoW trailer! This orc is canny. He doesn’t just come lumbering up to the human, he’s watching him for a moment, gauging his opponent, thinking. Oh, there’s no doubt they are going to end up fighting (hello, orcs and humans) but he doesn’t just charge in blindly. When he accidentally reveals his position with a sound, then he’s lost the advantage and he seizes what he has left to him to try and catch the human off-guard.

I really like the way they chose to portray both the orc and the human here. The human is also a grizzled veteran and someone used to command. He’s not going to back down from a fight with the orc, and it’s a great fight scene. As the trailer goes on, the appearance of Chen Stormstout just makes it better. Of course it has all the kung fu movie type tropes (effortlessly dodging attacks and putting both opponents down repeatedly, etc. Although the human does take a chunk out of his hat!) This is basically just a good, wholesome fight scene and it’s enjoyable to watch. There are moments of subtle humour, too – Chen replaces the pedestal the orc broke and then straightens it (you can almost hear him thinking “HMPH,”) and when the human hands the orc the spear their open-mouthed gaping is priceless.

But what about the story, since I was so down on the Cataclysm trailer and Deathwing for lacking a story? Well, it’s an interesting trailer because unlike the previous three expansions (and as Blizzard themselves have made this clear) it doesn’t have a “big bad.” You don’t see any villains in this cinematic at all, unless the humans and orcs are the villains, and we just might be in this context. But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking a story. Chen’s voice over speaks volumes about that with the more philosophical questions. “Why do we fight?” etc. The moment when the mists dissipate to reveal the rest of Pandaria gave me chills just like the Wrath trailer. Again, it’s a completely different approach and that’s what I like about it. It takes several themes – the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance, the nature of the new race we are meeting – and interweaves them.

We know that Mists doesn’t have one overarching villain the way previous expansions did. That doesn’t mean it lacks conflict. The trailer left me with a strong wish to explore this land and get to know its mysterious inhabitants. That is the best place you could hope for a trailer to leave you – excited, anticipatory, and impressed. If this world is even half as beautiful as the trailer would suggest, I am going to be ridiculously happy wandering around it at the end of September.

Tuesday Art Day: Kinnavieve and Shianti

This is a pair of avatars I did for the inestimable Ratters of Needs More Rage fame. It is Ratters’ character Kinnavieve (who I’m sure you all know) and his wife Julie’s character, Shianti. He asked me to make them so that they could go together and would be looking at each other, like so. Accordingly I did the background in one long piece and then pasted it behind them. They do also exist as separate avatars, though.

I was happy with them! More importantly, I think that Ratters and his wife were happy with them as well. Ratters just recently hung up his (Warcraft) blogging hat, you should go and read his last few posts. Bring tissues though.

Meanwhile, Outside Azeroth

I know it’s always frustrating to see a blog slowly begin to flounder as its owner posts reassuring messages, “I promise I will be posting again soon!” And either they just never post again, or they eventually have to post to admit that they are closing or stopping or taking a break.

I’m not necessarily at that point, I’m more dancing along the shore of something and knowing that it is struggling to stay afloat but not knowing how to stop it. I would like to post more often and yet I seem to become paralyzed every time I see this white space for typing (or else I start writing an entry, get frustrated with how its going and leave it saved, never to see the light of day).

The thing is, this isn’t a personal blog. It’s a Warcraft/Gaming/Mage blog, and so I’m not comfortable going on and on about personal life things, but for the sake of this post I’ll give a snippet. I have a chronic illness that I don’t usually talk about (that I in fact, for years, told no one about) because I don’t want to be seen as a “sick person.” I don’t even want to see myself that way. I don’t think my biological father even knows. Anyway, I may have even been pretending for a long time that I don’t have a chronic illness. I’m not writing this now to say “oh poor me,” either. Many friends of mine struggle with worse things and they don’t talk about it much, either. For me, this is coming to the forefront now and it makes it tougher to deal with. I’ve been at the doctor, or the lab, or both, pretty much weekly (or more often) since June. I’ve got lab requisitions galore so it’s not letting up any time soon. I’m tired. I started some new medication that makes me feel nauseous/ill – but I’m confident it will ultimately feel better, just that right now it doesn’t. We’re trying to have a kid and it’s not working (related to illness) so there are more tests/doctors/medications/worry in our future.

Voss and I have both been coping with the grief of losing his father. At the same time, he started a new job which was good and exciting but it meant that we lost his group health insurance and had to acquire private insurance and no preexisting conditions (read: anything I’d ever need covered) are paid for with the new insurance. We can afford it, it’s just one of those worrisome things on top of other things. Also, this morning I found out my credit card had been compromised and a bunch of charges put on it before my bank locked it down. This happened right at the time that Blizzard announced they’d been hacked. Now I’m not saying that for sure this was how my information was obtained, but you might want to keep an eye on your credit cards just the same. The timing was awfully close, and I’ve used a credit card online for a decade without incident – but perhaps it was just a coincidence. Perhaps not. Anyway, better safe than sorry, right?

I’ve been trying not to let any of this stuff affect my professional life or my other endeavors like the blog and From Draenor but they do affect it because my state of mind hasn’t been good. I can’t seem to concentrate on things for very long. Every small thing feels like a struggle. I haven’t missed a From Draenor, but unfortunately the blog was one of the first things to suffer. I’m also working very slowly on my list of commissions. Unfortunately I swamped myself with (much appreciated) new business right after losing my wedding ring, not knowing that we’d be making an emergency trip for a funeral, or that medical stuff would leave me so tired. If you’re on the list or in any other stage of waiting, I appreciate your patience so much. I’m going to try to knock out some of the avatar list, but most of the “new” commissions I got were larger ones and so they aren’t completed as quickly.

Someone on Twitter remarked the other day that they thought I had stopped playing WoW (presumably because I haven’t been blogging, or because before a drop in blogging I talked about how we were “going casual.”) I am still playing WoW along with my guildies and also picked up a bunch of games on Steam I’ve really been enjoying. Most recently, I spent the weekend playing Civ 5 as the Egyptian empire. I’m also playing through Bastion and I’ve played Borderlands once with a friend. I have Mass Effect I and II ready and waiting for me when I get to them. The summer heat has been fairly prohibitive for much computer time (we don’t have air conditioning, something that we’ll be remedying in time for next summer, I can assure you). I’ve spent some nights curled up on the couch in the basement watching Firefly on Netflix. No, I’d never seen Firefly before! Yes, I like it. I know I’m a bit behind the times.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is that the blog is still here and I still think about blogging. I have a few possible post topics lined up and I’d like to make writing them more of a priority. Blogging is a hobby I really enjoy and I love interacting with people here. I’ve just been a bit distracted, and far from a bid for sympathy, I just thought I had to get a bit more personal for at least one post to explain myself. I expect I’ll have more to say about Warcraft and mages as Mists creeps closer to release – just over two months away, now! I’m excited for it in a way I wasn’t really excited for Cataclysm. I think Mists is going to be just my speed. I am also still staunchly a mage, so no worries there. Voss interjects randomly to quiz me on a regular basis.

“So, I was reading about this thing on the Globe and Mail the other–“

“Who’s your main?!”

“Millya.”

“Okay.”

I didn’t end up playing much beta because I really like to experience things for the first time when they are “live,” and I realize that now. I’m definitely going to make a pandaren character (class to be determined) and a draenei MONK. I just need to think of a name for her. If you’re looking for mage specific stuff, Christian Belt of Arcane Brilliance has been doing a series covering the basics. The inestimable Lhivera has been handling more of the theorycrafting mage stuff over at Lhivera’s Library. If you have any other great mage links, feel free to leave them in the comments. I may or may not do a gear guide similar to what I did at the start of Cataclysm. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also pretty prosaic and straightforward and that might be a good focus for me as we get closer to the new expansion!

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,355 other followers