Monthly Archives: November 2012

I Know Why the Caged Author Drinks

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Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between, I would like to announce to you that I am not dead, nor have I gotten bored with the decidedly unglamorous life of a freelance blogger.  In truth, it’s quite the opposite!  NaNoWriMo, however, has been taking up the majority of my time.  Since I started a full 10 days late due to catastrophic hard drive failure, I’m having to write extra fast and hard (giggity) to ensure that I finish by the deadline.  I’ve already managed to bust the 25,000 word mark, a.k.a. the halfway point, like a cheerleader on prom night.  If that simile has not completely offended you, I’d like to also point out that it’s not too late to sponsor my novel with a donation to the Office of Letters and Light!  I’ve also finally got an excerpt up for the curious among you to sample.

I definitely don’t regret entering NaNoWriMo.  I’ve been hearing about it for years, and it’s been a dream of mine to be able to dedicate myself to finishing an entire novel.  But I think I may have slightly underestimated the challenge when I signed up.  I’m obnoxiously talkative, to be sure, but 50,000 words?  That’s tough, even for me.  There are days when I really just want to lay in bed and watch Netflix all day instead of doing the responsible author thing and actually writing.  At least in this first draft, you can tell when those days are, because the parts written during severe cases of lazyassholitis (it’s a real disease, I looked it up) are rough, rough, rough.  Turning off my inner editor, who keeps insisting that if I don’t go back and fix it I’ll be no better than Stephenie Meyer, is no easy task.  Yet my oftentimes irrational refusal to give up on being able to dance around in the proverbial winner’s circle allows me to power through.  The key to winning NaNoWriMo is not necessarily talent.  It’s the ability to be stubborn as all Hell, even in the face of the death of your social life or possibly your sanity.

And anyway, my resume for Blizzard is woefully thin.  If I can finish this, I can add “NaNoWriMo Winner for 2012” to the list, and hopefully be able to actually publish the novel.

Oh yeah, the social life.  I used to have one.  Not this month, though!  I keep getting concerned texts and emails from friends seeing if I’m okay, because they haven’t heard from me in a while.  “When are we going to get to see you?” they ask.  The answer, guys, is probably December, assuming I don’t develop an aneurysm by then.  I’m not being cold-hearted, either.  Every time I get a request to hang out, I make grabby hands at whatever screen I happen to be reading it off of and weep.  Writing a novel, at least in such a condensed time frame, is basically like a 30-day free trial of agoraphobia.  The special bonus challenge level is going to hit this Wednesday, when The Fiance returns to my part of town just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It’s times like this that I wish I were Canadian so I could have gotten the threat of holiday-induced slackerdom out of the way like two months ago.  Three months.  I don’t know, whenever you weird mountie people celebrate your bizzaro-world holidays, like Boxing Day.

In general, I’m starting to understand why Edgar Allan Poe and so many other authors drank themselves to death or died poor and crazy.  The stress of looming deadlines, the isolation, the constant second-guessing of yourself and pressure to, you know, not completely suck — it’s a lot to have on your plate, especially when you’re trying to juggle other aspects of your life at the same time.  And freelance writing in general doesn’t really pay a lot, or steadily, unless you get extremely lucky or have a great self-marketing strategy.  What time I’m not spending on the novel itself is being devoted to promoting myself on various social media outlets and just trying to get the word out that hey, I can write, you guys, and I’d also like it if you threw dollar bills at me like some kind of linguistic stripper for doing it.  All in all, I have just enough time to eat, spend an hour or two to myself, and fall asleep so that I can experience some of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had thanks to constantly using the creative parts of my brain.  I had one where I got hired for the game design team at Blizzard and my clothes got ruined on the way to my first day of work, so I showed up in a toga made out of a Star Wars blanket while trying to avoid my boss so that he wouldn’t think I was being unprofessional.  I’m also eating like crap — quick meals devoured at the speed of light so that I can get back to writing.  On top of all that, I have managed to give myself the worst lower back spasms in the world from spending all day sitting at my desk tapping away at my keyboard.  People assume that I’ve messed up my back while working out or doing something productive.  The look on their faces is priceless when I tell them “No no no, you see, I’m a writer…”

And I wouldn’t change a damn thing for the world.  Writing is still my passion.  It is the first thing I have done, the first “job” I’ve had, even if it is, right now, on an “on my own” type of basis, where I’ve worked unreasonably long hours and had to overcome ridiculously tall hurdles and I haven’t wanted to give up.  For all the self-abuse that being a writer hurls at me, the dirty looks from people who think that writing isn’t a real career or consider me to be a starving artist (I totally would be without all of those Hot Pockets and fast food tacos), the slow months where I find myself looking through all of my stuff figuring out what I can sell or pawn to make ends meet, it is still completely worth it, at least in my world.  I stand tall and proud as I walk down the street.  I tell everyone I talk to about the novel I’m writing, or my aspirations to be a game designer.  When they tell me “Bunny, you’re never going to make it,” I tell them that not making it is not an option for me.

If you’re a writer reading this, allow me to grab you by the shoulders and shake you like a British nanny while I implore you to never, ever give up. If it’s truly your dream, if you’re ready to dedicate yourself to a lot of lonely nights and a lot of ramen noodles, you will succeed.  I’m there with you in spirit, probably ghost-tripping over all the shit you’ve got laying out in the middle of the living room floor (seriously, how old are you, 10?  Clean it up before you kill someone).  Solidarity fistbumps all around.

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In Which Our Heroine Attempts To Plan A Wedding

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Before throwing myself into NaNoWriMo catch-up super fun time (2380 words required by end of day, stapled to my TPS reports), I feel obligated to announce that during my one-month sojourn in South Florida, The Boyfriend was officially upgraded to The Fiance.  Basically, he turned in an epic item called [Engagement Ring] to me, and his relationship standing increased to Revered, and now all he has to do is find 2x [Wedding Ring] and he’ll ding Exalted.

See? Shiny purples exist in the real world. Also, yes, I’m 25 years old and still wear black nail polish. Bite me.

So now I have to plan a wedding.  When I was a wee little overlord, around, say, five years old or so, anyone who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up (still waiting on that one) would be told “A forensic pathologist, a pharmaceutical scientist, a mermaid, and also I want to get married and have babies,” then I’d go back to ignoring everyone in favor of my book or return to playing Funeral or something like that because I was way more ambitious in kindergarten than I am now.  Planning a wedding sounded like a fun way to pass an afternoon, a good way to examine my hopes and dreams.

I am here to tell you that it is a vast political minefield made of treachery and bullshit and I hate it and screw this game, I don’t wanna play anymore.

As much as I love him, The Fiance is not being terribly helpful.  It isn’t that he’s apathetic or lazy, it’s that when confronted with questions like “do you like red or blue better for our wedding colors?” he gets this deer-in-the-headlights look and asks if he can look at paint chips first.  His input thus far consists of “Oh, do whatever you think would be best.”  The problem is that I don’t want to be one of these awful bridezillas who completely takes over the entire thing and leaves their groom standing there wondering what the Hell is going on and why there’s unicorn statuettes everywhere.  A wedding is supposed to be a representation of two people joining themselves together (not Human Centipede), not just one or the other.  Of course, he did help me figure out that the trifecta we’re going to focus on for our nerd-themed wedding is Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and World of Warcraft, so I suppose I should take that and run with it.  It also doesn’t help that my mother, who is an expert at this kind of stuff, lives on the other side of the country, and that right now The Fiance and I are separated by a four and a half hour drive, so sitting down at a table together is a near impossibility.  Trying to plan a wedding over Skype SUCKS.

Then there’s the little matter of the guest list.  Since we’re doing this all on a shoestring budget, a.k.a. “We Have Nothing In Savings So We’re Relying On Other People To Donate Shit And By Shit We Mean Money,” the two of us are trying to keep the guest list small.  We’re limiting it to close friends and family members who we have actually spoken to within the past six months.  Immigrant Grandmother, on the other hand, is offended that I’m not going to invite every single person who ever laid eyes on me from infancy to present day.  Her guest list includes relatives I didn’t even know I had but she insists saw me when I was born.  My memory of this part of my life is a little fuzzy so I have no recollection of them whatsoever.  Then there’s the aunts and uncles (apparently my family likes to bone because I have a lot of them) who stopped talking to me 10 years ago when I turned what they call “weird” and what I call “wearing lots of black.”  I have been told that I have to invite them too.  My grandfather pointed out that even if they don’t come, the more invitations that I send out, the more presents and money we get.  Although I’m likely not going to do that because it’s manipulative and kind of greedy, I still like the cut of his jib.  So much, in fact, that I’ve put him on my Wedding Planning Council which did not exist originally but to accommodate his brilliance I’ve made it so.

Another guest-related thing that’s really giving me trouble is how to delicately phrase “I want you to show up, but your wife/husband is an evil whore/bastard and if he/she shows up I will light them on fire at the reception.”

Immigrant Grandmother is also bristling over the fact that we won’t be serving dinner at our reception — average price per person for that comes out to about $20.  The Fiance and I can barely afford Taco Bell for ourselves, we sure as Hell can’t afford $20 a plate for 50 people.  Our idea was to provide a buffet of nothing but desserts and wine.  She insists that nobody would be willing to come to the wedding if we don’t give them dinner.  My argument is that IT’S CUPCAKES AND BOOZE WITH A SIDE OF FANCY DRESS.  If they don’t want to show up for that, then there’s obviously no getting through to these people.  According to her it’s undignified, which I countered with the tarantella, a staple of all Italian weddings that consists of a bunch of drunk people jumping around and flailing to chase away evil spirits.  She is not currently speaking to me.

Location is also tricky.  Our ideal location is in the courtyard at Blizzard, right in front of the bitchin’ orc statue, but we don’t even know a.) if they’d allow that, and b.) how much they’d charge and I don’t even know who we’d have to talk to about that or how to find that out.  We’ve set the goal for ourselves that by our wedding, which is November 5th of next year, we will be living in California, whether or not our portfolios are accepted.  That being said, goals are sometimes not easily attained, so we’re trying to imagine situations in which we are still trapped in Florida.  We may end up renting an apartment somewhere here for a couple of months before departing for my beloved West Coast, but then that begs the question of whether that apartment will be in Tampa Bay (where I live) or South Florida (where he lives).  At this point, we can’t really commit to any location because we simply do not know where we’re going to be in six months.

At this point I’m ready to just go to the damn courthouse and be done with it.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of a wedding is done for other people’s benefit, i.e. the family.  All of the money that will be spent on decorations, a dress, location, catering, alcohol, etc. could be put towards something like a house or into savings.  It makes the practical side of me cringe just to think of the final bill, even if we do keep to a DIY-style ceremony.  I know this is probably all classified as an Unpopular Opinion, but hey, that’s what Tardbunnies are made out of.  Sugar, spice, and unpopular opinions.

Looking For Nerd Rage: Stop Being Jerks, Also, There’s A Recipe for Cheetos Sandwiches At the End

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Before I get started, I’d like to give everyone a general update, organized with handy bullet points for the attention-deficit-disordered among us:

  • Since I’m out of town until next weekend I’ve been using a loaner computer for all of my internet thingies
  • Said loaner computer is currently suffering from a massive case of “complete fuckery” a.k.a. a dead hard drive
  • It’s not getting replaced because I’m the only one using it and only for like, a week, so it’s totally not worth the money
  • Unless I continue to provide The Boyfriend with tasty snacks and other things to distract him so that I can borrow and hopefully not destroy his main computer, I will probably not be blogging again until the 10th, roughly
  • NaNoWriMo is still theoretically on track for me so your generous donations are not in vain!  I’ll just have to write 2380 words per day instead of 1667.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s talk about a little something called LFR.

I’ve already written about the automated group matchmaking tool that Blizzard rolled out for World of Warcraft at the tail end of Wrath of the Lich King.  I have also already established that this tool was, in fact, a Very Good Thing.  However, there are apparently some players out there who are so enraged by the fact that it also compiles raid groups that they’re turning towards threats of death and great bodily harm to the game developers via Twitter and, I’d assume, other mediums.  This is mind-boggling for multiple reasons, beyond the obvious “what the Hell is wrong with you people” of grown-ass people threatening other grown-ass people over a game.

So far the main arguments I’ve seen against the Looking For Raid (LFR) part of the tool come exclusively from the hardcore raiding section of the player base and all boil down to “it lets these n00bs into our raids and they get our shiny purples and also the raids are too easy, maaaaaan, oh shit, I’m out of Cheetos.”  I am going to address all of these, including the Cheetos, but first I’d like to make it very clear that I am not ripping on the hardcore kiddies as a whole, only the ones who are being complete jerks about the whole thing.  In fact, super-secret time: I spent five or six years as a hardcore raider, myself.  Before I took my hiatus (just before Cataclysm’s release), I had seen all of the currently available endgame content.  I had healed it, I had DPS’d it, and I had topped the meters with both.  This means that everyone who was just about to yell “You don’t know what you’re talking about, nubcakes!” can kindly put their finger down and shut up for a second, because I was once an elitist prick like you.

For those who have never experienced what it’s like to be in a pure raiding guild, let me set the scene.  You log on around 6:30 PM sharp, because your raid starts at 7 and if you’re late they’ll not only replace you for that raid but probably for every raid thereafter, depending on the mood of the officer core that night.  You spend that time making flasks, buff food, gathering any kind of consumable you could possibly need.  Hopefully you’ve managed to get everything gemmed and enchanted with the very best available, and you’re using the proper cookie-cutter spec you’ve been given to work with and memorized your rotation.  Depending on how strict your particular guild is, there may be gear checks, where an officer painstakingly inspects EVERYONE’S equipment to make sure it’s up to spec.  You will be raiding tonight until at least midnight, if not later, and Old Gods help you if you’ve got to leave early to do something weaksauce like go to sleep or give your kids insulin.  You will do this at least three nights a week, almost always on weekends.  There are no birthdays, no anniversaries, no hanging out with neglected friends, no “guys, I have a midterm due, I think I’m going to have to sit this one out.”  While there are a few exceptions to the following statement, these people are not your friends.  If you’re not up to snuff or if you try to have a life outside of raiding, they will boot you from the guild in a second and never look back.  There is no room for error or creativity.  It is strictly regimented to the point of militarism.  You are responsible for doing your own research and reading up on the strategies yourself, because nobody will answer your questions once the raid begins, unless they start the sentence with an exasperated “REALLY?”  Also, if you’re female, there’s a pretty good chance you’re either having to hide it (some of the hardest of the hardcore guilds will not even accept female members) or having to work six times as hard to prove that you’re just as good as the guys and in most cases will never be fully accepted, anyway.

Yeah.  It’s no wonder that there’s so many casual players out there.

Let me restate that I did all of this.  FOR YEARS.  YEARS OF MY LIFE.  After the initial shock of how strict these people were, it started to creep into my veins.  I, too, lost all tolerance for failure and noobery.  I led raids myself, after which the majority of the guild probably hated me because I would call them out over VoIP for the smallest of mistakes or snap at people for being unprepared if they had to ask for clarification on a boss strategy.  Casual players were not allowed in my guild under any circumstances; they were a scourge upon the game, I thought.  But then, I was emulating the type of leadership I had been under.  Yes, I know that not every single raiding guild is like this, but of the four I’ve been in, not counting my own, three of them were.  And if the hatred for LFR is to be believed, these kinds of guilds are still alive and well.

So what was my turning point where I realized how awful the majority of these people really were?  I started dating The Boyfriend, who is a casual player through and through.  Casual to the point that he makes up his specs as he goes along and doesn’t care much for rotations, he just figures out something that works and really doesn’t care about a 0.2% DPS increase.  He doesn’t want to raid.  He’d rather farm Archaeology achievements and battle pets than do heroics.  In the beginning we fought incessantly over it.  We once had a vicious two-hour argument over the proper Beast Mastery rotation after which I sat back and realized the utter stupidity of what had just transpired.  If I may be sappy for a moment, I love this dude, and I think I’d like to keep him around… yet here I was being a complete dickbag to him about, wait for it, A GAME.

That’s about the time that it clicked for me — shock, gasp, there’s more than one play-style in World of Warcraft.  And that’s okay.

The fact of the matter is that I have never met a casual player who was that obsessed with raiding.  I met plenty of decent players who wanted to raid but didn’t have the guild support to get the gear required for hardcore runs and thus were utterly screwed.  We need to stop screaming “DEY TOOK ERR JERBS” when it comes to the casuals because they’re not here to do that.  They would be miserable in a raiding guild environment.  Before raid content was made more accessible to the masses, no casual player would even dream of seeing the likes of Gruul’s Lair or Black Temple.  But then again, they were perfectly happy without it.  The decent players I spoke of, however, were at the mercy of raiding guilds opening up applications, or even having the patience to wait for them to gear up enough to participate once inside.  It’s always reminded me of a common issue in job-searching, where jobs demand certain skills and experience but nobody is willing to help you get those skills or experience to begin with.  Some of the people who want to raid are willing to spend the money on proper enchants and to read up on strategies but simply don’t have the time to commit to three nights a week of raiding.  This is the category that I fall under, and for me, LFR is a freaking blessing.  Anyone can queue up and run through the endgame content.  Nobody is left out.  Everyone has an equal chance at epics.  This is a great thing, and I fail to see how it’s ruining the digital lives of hardcore raiders simply because the vast majority of them are already in guilds that can put together a 10 or 25-man group of people on the same skill and gear level.  There’s no need for them to go into LFR.  In fact, I have never once been in a “fail group” in LFR.  The matchmaking tool itself detects gear level to make sure that nobody’s sneaking through in greens, so the argument of “noobs have bad gear!” is null and void (besides the fact that gear does not equal skill).  But if you still absolutely hate LFR and the people in it that much, here’s a protip: don’t use it.

This part of the argument is not a failure on Blizzard’s part.  This part of the argument is a failure on the parts of these people who are so caught up in screaming “me! me! me!” that they’ve forgotten how not to be an asshole.  A wise woman once said “suck it up, cupcake.”  Take this to heart.

Hardcore raiders do have a point when they say that the raid encounters have been progressively getting easier to the point of most endgame strategies these days being “don’t stand in shit.”  I have actually run into bosses in Heroics that I would consider more difficult than the ones in raids.  This can get very frustrating for those looking for more of a challenge and it has made some of the oldschool raiders feel like the endgame content has been neutered for the sake of catering to the casual players.  Well, truth time: it has.  Because honestly, what’s the point of the developers pulling out all the stops and spending late night after late night to create content that only like 5% of the player base is ever going to see?  This was the reasoning behind the nerfing of Naxxramas.  If I may use the technical term here, it was a totally bitchin’ raid to begin with, but such a small percentage of people ever got to see it in its original glory (you know, when Four Horsemen required eight tanks) that Blizzard realized it was doing everyone a disservice.  I actually wish they’d revise more of the old content to be 10-mannable at max level and throw it into the matchmaking tool.  The work went into making the damn things, so why not?

But again, those pesky difficulty levels.  Hardcore raiders want a challenge.  Casual players, quite frankly, don’t have the experience or the patience for extremely involved or difficult fights.  So how is a major game company to make everyone happy?

Simple-ish, actually.  Starting with Cataclysm, the gear tokens dropping for LFR-based groups were redeemable for a lesser-but-still-epic set of gear compared to those from manually assembled groups.  Why not take this a step further and make LFR easier encounters by default, or at least give players the ability to set them as such?  The ability to switch between Normal and Heroic dungeons has already been implemented.  Challenge modes of many dungeons already exist.  Hell, if you really wanted to go all the way, make the raid difficulty scale based on the average item level of the players in the group.  Casual or newer players would be able to experience the content at a difficulty level still within their reach, while hardcore raiders could set it to “melt faces and /wrists” and go on their merry way.  The quality of loot drops and tokens would still scale, as well, ensuring that it’s not possible for players to get the same tier of gear by skating by on beginner mode as the players putting in the effort for hard mode.

My main point is that every player absolutely deserves a chance to experience all of the content in the game.  Form your own groups from your own guilds if you don’t want to run the risk of having “noobs” slow you down.  To say that a player shouldn’t be able to put together his own group of people at or around his own skill level just because he’s not a Molten Core veteran like you doesn’t make you hardcore, or oldschool.  It makes you a dick.  And if you still absolutely can’t play nice with the other kids, let me throw some of the advice I’ve heard some of the more elitist players offer back at you: delete your characters, uninstall the game, and go back to playing Hello Kitty Island Adventure.

SPECIAL BONUS STAGE: Fun With Cheetos!
My Mother the Hippie is also My Mother the Original D&D Red Box First Edition Gamer.  When I started playing World of Warcraft, I’d frequently catch her looking over my shoulder with a wistful expression on her face.  “It’s like D&D but without the paper,” she’d muse to herself.  So for Mother’s Day that year, I bought her a copy of WoW and thus condemned her to a life of… well, really a lack of a life.  She still plays to this day.

One night I decided to sleep over at a friend’s house so I let her know I was leaving.  She barely even looked at me and just mumbled “Uh huh” as her warlock murdered yet another innocent boar.

Twenty-six hours later I returned home.  My mother was still at the computer, half of the 12-pack of Pitch Black Mountain Dew I’d only recently bought and not yet opened was gone, and there were dirty plates on the computer desk.

“Mom… did you sleep?”
“Uh… sleep… oh.  OH.  No.”
“Mom, you’ve been playing World of Warcraft for like a whole day.”
“Wait, let me tell you about this sandwich!”
“Mom, go to sleep.”
“Okay.”

She does not remember this conversation or drinking six cans of Mountain Dew, but when she finally woke up after her gaming bender she relayed to me a tale of woe in which she discovered that eating Cheetos while playing World of Warcraft resulted in a nasty orange keyboard.  Determined to consume the delicious cheesy bastards, she came up with this recipe that allowed her to eat and game at the same time.

INGREDIENTS
2 slices of bread
Cream cheese, to taste
A bunch of Cheetos

Apply cream cheese directly to bread.  Add Cheetos.  The cream cheese holds the Cheetos in place so that they don’t fall everywhere and the bread protects your fingers from getting gross.  Devour sandwich.  Live with the eternal shame of having changed your eating habits due to your gaming addiction.