Monthly Archives: March 2013

Crossing The Design Line: An Indignant Review of Scarlet Blade

Standard

OPENING DISCLAIMER: Some screenshots and links used in this article may be considered NSFW.  Proceed with caution, and also, stop surfing the internet at work.

Yesterday a friend of mine mentioned that they’d been participating in the open beta of Aeria Games’s new free-to-play MMO, Scarlet Blade.  Though my design goals really lie within snagging a spot on the World of Warcraft team, I figured I write enough about Blizzard games as it is and may as well take the opportunity to apply my creative eye to another title for once.

Then said friend begged “Please don’t tell anyone I’m playing this game” and I became mildly concerned as to what exactly I was getting myself into.

I knew from the get-go that there would be boobs.  Scarlet Blade’s official website features artwork of two female characters with only a few pixels meaning the difference between “barely covered” and “nip-slip.”  This didn’t really bother me, because I will happily play a scantily-clad lady character as long as she still kicks a significant amount of ass.  And to  be honest, boobs are awesome.  I actually like wearing low-cut shirts from time to time to show off my cleavage.  It makes me feel sexy, beautiful, and strong to know that I’m showing off for myself, despite what some other people may think about women in revealing clothing.

Launching the game was a moderate pain in the ass, since you can’t go directly to Scarlet Blade from your program menu — you have to fire up Aeria’s Ignite client (similar to EA’s Origin), sign in there, start Scarlet Blade, sign in a second time, then enter in a six-character numerical PIN on a keypad within the game itself where the numbers randomly shift around with every click.  You can’t accuse them of being lax in security, I guess, but their log-in procedures were dangerously close to becoming the stuff of internet memes.

Okay, Character Creation!  Pretty standard — choose your faction, then choose from six different classes and tweak appearance.  My unnamed-and-ashamed compadre mentioned that I might want to check out the Whipper class to satisfy my desire to play a curvy character for once in a game.  I took their advice and moved on to outfit select…

...Okay, well, yes, she IS curvy, that wasn't a lie.

I’m unsure if the game artists for Scarlet Blade have ever seen an anatomy textbook.

I still haven’t figured out what purpose choosing an outfit serves.  There are two “normal” outfits and two “lingerie” outfits to choose from and to be honest, they could have all been classified as “fabric scraps haphazardly glued to a sketch on the back page of a teenage boy’s homework” and fit together quite nicely.  When I started gameplay, my character wasn’t even wearing the outfit I chose.  From what I can tell, these fancy censor-bars are seen once on the creation screen and then never again.  But okay, whatever.  I mean, it’s not like they’re offering panty-shots on ambiguously aged character mo–

In my dedication to this review, I have now placed myself on a government watch list. I hope you're happy.

In my dedication to this review, I have now placed myself on a government watch list. I hope you’re happy.

But it’s not like you could buy something from the game’s cash shop that basically lets any character model you choose run around the game bare-crotched, right?

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, GUYS?

Oh, and that aforementioned hypersexualization of extremely young/innocent character types isn’t just in-game.  Check out the artwork in this blurb for Scarlet Blade:

SHE NEEDS AN ADULT

NO.

At least this one actually has large enough breasts to deter Chris Hansen for another day, but they still infantilize her by giving her a cute little stuffed animal to cuddle with.

The text on the blurb talks about “womankind” fighting to save the future as if it’s some kind of girl-power game.  Well, yes, it is, in that you can only play female characters.  The handful of male NPCs offer “sexual harassment” and “thinly-veiled double entendre” as the only dialogue options.  According to what’s outlined in quest text, you’re not even playing a real woman — they’re glorified Realdolls.  You’re controlling an “Arkana,” a mostly-naked, completely obedient (and demure, to the point that your character will blame, chastise, and belittle herself for everything that goes wrong), and anatomically impossible avatar to do your bidding.  Oh, and if the dialogue is to be believed, they all want to have sex with each other.

And now the name of the Whipper class makes sense.

And now it’s all clear to me why they chose to name this class “Whipper.”

That’s not even the most eye-rolling innuendo in the game.  The female NPCs you interact with will constantly accuse you of checking out their butt, admit to checking out your butt, ask you why you’re not checking out their butt… a good chunk of the script reads like it was written by the same teenage boys who designed the characters.

You had to phrase it that way, didn't you?

You had to phrase it that way, didn’t you?

Some of it honestly makes me wonder how many anime girl-shaped pillows were rendered too sticky for use during the game’s creation.

...wait for it...

…wait for it…

They seriously tack it onto every line of dialogue that comes out of a female character’s mouth.

......

……

And then this happened.

I can assure you that any grown man calling them "ta-tas" is cause for me to put my pants back on and leave the room.

200% done.

This is just within the first four, maybe five levels.  I started out trying to take screencaps of every ridiculous innuendo or tidbit of sexual harassment and I had to stop, because I was pretty much screencapping the entire game.

It’s pretty clear that Aeria is not trying to tell a story with this game.  The “lore” offered on the website is essentially the bastard child of Avatar and every single post-apocalyptic/mecha anime ever created.  The three spells I started off with used identical icons and I could not, for the life of me, tell you what was different about their effects beyond the fact that they had different titles — I think, anyway, the tooltips were so poorly designed that they could have been giving me a wealth of information and I wouldn’t have known.  Talent trees are massive and offer you the chance to put skill points into various spells without clearly explaining the benefits of each.  I didn’t even see a clear indicator of how to tell what oddly-named stats boost what aspect of your play and which are best for your class.  There’s no traditional stamina-strength-intellect setup; the stats in Scarlet Blade read like the Results screen of a Dance Dance Revolution battle.  Combat doesn’t have any real strategy beyond targeting an enemy and mashing a button until it dies.  Movement uses the WASD control scheme or click-to-move, but the camera is less than intuitive and requires the player to manipulate it themselves if they want to actually be able to see where they’re going, which can be awkward to do while moving.  Even the voice actresses sound unhappy to be involved in this game, with the audio quality making it seem like the entire sound department is using Windows Sound Recorder at best.

The entire point of Scarlet Blade, based on my experience with it, is to inappropriately touch yourself while staring at fake women (one-handed play made possible by the “click on the quest to auto-travel to the NPC or area you need” feature).  They’re marketing it as a regular MMO with an M rating, despite the fact that it’s basically an ecchi game with slightly higher production values.  I feel like if one of your armor sets consists of criss-crossed ribbons on top and what I’m pretty sure is nothing but a landing strip on the bottom (protip, character designers: a thong actually has sides and a back, otherwise you’re drawing fancy pubes) you’ve crossed the line from being able to market your game as a “mainstream” MMO and smack-dab into “seriously why don’t you just admit this is an ecchi MMO” territory.  As it stands, they’re not labeling their cheesecake, nor do they seem to have a terribly effective age verification system in place.  A precursory glance through the official Scarlet Blade forums in an introduction thread reveals profiles and photographs of players both male and female who, like the Sentinel class, do not appear to be anywhere near 18.

It’s also frightening to think of how many players out there may not be able to grasp the concept that the portrayal of Scarlet Blade’s women is completely mired in fantasy and should not be carried over to the real world.  The route of association goes like this: here is an anime-style character that you can treat like a sex doll, who shows nothing in “brains” but everything in the “genitals,” and now you go to a convention where you have real women dressed as anime or videogame characters, potentially scantily-clad.  Now look at how frequently cosplay harassment occurs and wonder to yourself, is this helping by being an outlet for these animalistic urges, or hindering by creating some very terrifying links in our minds?

I uninstalled Scarlet Blade after a couple of hours.  I just couldn’t deal with it beyond that.  I wanted to actually give it a shot, for it to just be a fairly generic MMO that happened to feature cleavage, but what I got instead was an example of how game designers and developers can so easily cross the line of “good taste.”

 

Advertisements

To See Consent Crushed Before Us: The Lamentations Of Nerd Women (Redux)

Standard

I’ve already touched on the extra-special bundle of harassment that us nerdy female types have to deal with in-game, but this recent article by The Mary Sue serves as an alarming reminder that the creepers aren’t all confined to the basement — some of them are disguising themselves as “respectable journalists” and walking among us, leaving a trail of skeev and sense of extreme discomfort in their wake.

In essence, a group of cosplayers portraying Lara Croft at this past PAX East were accosted by a so-called journalist and his cameraman, in what at first seemed like a regular interview.  Cosplayer Lauren Wizemann recalls:

We were taking pictures in the booth and then we moved out towards the walkway so that people walking by could see a group of Lara Crofts. We took more pictures and then this guy comes up and asks if he could ask a few questions. His partner had a more professional looking camera and so I think all of us just shrugged and said ok.

Things quickly took a turn for the inappropriate when the interviewer asked “How does it feel to  be at a convention where none of the men could please you?”  Megan Marie, another cosplayer involved with this incident, describes her reaction on her Tumblr:

My anger flared upon hearing this, and for a moment I almost let it get the best of me. I attempted to calm myself down before walking towards him and the cameraman, and expressing that it was rude and unprofessional to assume that these young women were comfortable discussing sexual matters on camera. I intended to leave the conversation at that, but his subsequent response escalated matters quickly and clearly illustrated that this ran much deeper than a poor attempt at humor. He proceeded to tell me that “I was one of those oversensitive feminists” and that “the girls were dressing sexy, so they were asking for it.” Yes, he pulled the “cosplay is consent” card.

When informed of the incident, PAX East was quick to respond and assured that the journalist in question would no longer be welcome at their events — a heartening display, on their part, of a much-needed dedication to making sure that attendees feel safe and comfortable within its walls.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any mention of the interviewer’s name or the publication he worked for, so there’s no telling if this was a major nerd-news outlet who could potentially remove him from their ranks, or just another example of a creepy guy with a personal blog who’ll just continue to harass women and then throw a temper tantrum when told “not cool, bro.”  I’m not sure about PAX East’s guidelines for obtaining a press pass to their event, but I know that some conventions and industry gatherings have historically required nothing more than a fansite to qualify, meaning that accountability for one’s actions is not always an option.

This guy’s statement that if a girl dresses sexy, she’s asking for harassment, is something that sends a chill down my spine.  It’s the same rationale used by date rapists all over the world.  I’m not saying that if he had offered these cosplayers sodas, they would have definitely been spiked with something, but if he’s already got this mentality in place just for face-to-face interactions with others, what the Hell is stopping him from applying it to something even worse?

How dare a woman dress provocatively, whether in her daily life or for a special occasion?  In the eyes of this dude and so many others like him, if we want to be sexy, this is the price we have to pay.  If we speak up, we’re the bitches, the whores, the teases, the insert-terrible-name-for-a-woman-who-exercises-her-right-to-say-no.  If we had only chosen to wear a T-shirt and jeans and no makeup that day, we wouldn’t have had to endure it.

Another troubling school of thought is that in the case of women who do choose more revealing cosplays, they’re only “doing it for attention” or playing right into this “male fantasy” I keep hearing so much about.  I’ve seen and heard these statements being thrown around not just by men, but by women, as well.  In truth, I find it to be one of the most oppressive and offensive things you can say for a few reasons:

  • By addressing the “male fantasy,” you’re completely ignoring lesbians and anyone not fitting into “traditional” gender roles, such as those who identify as neither male nor female or the intersexed;
  • You are assuming that women are silly naive little flowers who can’t make their own decisions on something as simple as what to wear without being consciously or subconsciously influenced by outside sources;
  • You are perpetuating the stereotype that the only way to be a “feminist” or achieve equal rights is to deny our own femininity altogether, and any woman even touching a tube of lipstick is sending us all back to the Dark Ages.

It’s the same thing as people who can’t keep their mouths shut about cosplayers who are overweight or who they perceive as unattractive — if you don’t like the way that somebody is dressed, don’t talk to them.  Don’t invite them out for coffee, don’t smile at them, don’t ask them to be the godparent of your fifth child.  You are  not obligated to like someone.  You are obligated to not act like a bratty teenager about it.  You are obligated to admit that they have the right to dress however they damn well please and be subject to the same level of respect as you are.  Slut-shaming is not cool, ever.  Whether a woman is dressed provocatively because she’s portraying a particular character who she really likes, or choosing to do so because she enjoys being able to freely express her sexuality and personal aesthetic preferences, she is still a human being, and deserves to be treated as such.

Making A Design Mountain Out Of A Mole-Hill

Standard

I had to stop trusting other players today, at least temporarily, because of one jerk’s actions.

For the most part, I’m a pretty laid back guildmaster.  We don’t even have a real “officer” class.  If you’re a cool person and you make it clear through your interactions with us all that you can be trusted, I’m going to promote you from the beginning rank up to the one right under mine.  My tailor can make the ilvl 476 gloves and robes, so if a guildie needs gear, I’ll ask them to just send me over whatever Windwool Cloth they can and I’ll plant a farm-full of Songbell Seeds to speed up the process of making the required Imperial Silk for it, no charge.  I don’t require applications or anything like that to get in; all I ask before sending over the guild invite is how you found the guild and why you want to be in ours versus the million and a half others out there.  Since we’re Torchwood Institute, I get a lot of “I love Doctor Who!” and that makes me happy.  Sometimes people mention that they read our guild finder note about how we’re all older and they’re looking for other adults to hang out with, which is great, too.  Unless you flat out tell me “lol don’t care just want rep boost,” you’re probably getting an invite.

Last night, one of the guys in the guild who I’ve been playing with for years invited a kid who was looking for a guild in trade chat.  Nothing seemed too unusual about that until I noticed a few strange things with the guild bank and checked the tab logs.  I saw a bunch of withdrawals from the new guy, but noticed our number of members had gone down by one.  Uh oh.

Sure enough, the kid apparently accepted the invite, cleaned out what he could from our bank, and then /gquit for another guild without a word.

I understand that a lot of guilds out there don’t even allow access to their bank until members reach some kind of officer or trusted status, but I have a tendency to  give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  In my eight years playing this game, and others, I’ve only had to deal with one other thief, and that was back in the days when Wrath of the Lich King was still fresh.  He had been taking items out of the bank and asking other members to withdraw for him, then putting them on the auction house to make money for himself.  His argument was that there was no rule against it on our forums.  I replied that if he couldn’t figure it out for himself that doing something like that was dishonest and selfish, then he didn’t need to be a part of our guild, and if he needed gold all he would have had to do was ask us rather than steal.  Against my better judgment I gave him another chance, and ended up having to kick him a few weeks later when it became obvious that he had given his account over to a gold-farming/power-leveling service.  I have no idea what happened after that, if he ended up getting banned or scammed another guild or quit altogether.

Guildmasters usually have to take a player’s history at their word.  Unless they’ve done something so notorious that the entire server knows them as a ninja-looter or a bully (and there have been a few of those in my time), or the guild in question requires references and a detailed history as some raiding guilds do, there’s no real way to know if the guy you just invited is a thief or a botter or any of that.  I have an uncanny ability to tell when somebody’s lying or hiding something from me if they’re sitting across a table from me — as a result, no one ever wants to play poker with me — but when they’re just words on a screen, it’s a little harder to know if they’re just pulling off some kind of act.  With this guy, who knows if this was his first offense or if this is something he does on a regular basis?  He was only level 15, but alts are such a common thing that you can’t even really assume he’s a new player just because he’s a low level.  For all I knew, he had six level 90s fully decked out with the gold and items he’s stolen before.  Paid appearance, name, race, and even faction changes make it even easier to escape detection.

So I very sadly put on my Sherlock Holmes hat to figure out where this kid had gone after loading up from our bank and peacing out.  I knew he hadn’t deleted his character or switched name/faction because I was able to friend him.  He wasn’t online, but a quick character search on the official website brought up his profile and showed that he had joined another guild already.  A /who for the guild name brought up a list of all online members, and one polite inquiry via whisper led me to the guildmaster.  I explained the situation to him calmly, in private, and gave only the facts: this player was in our guild for all of a couple of hours, stole from our guild bank, then quit and joined his guild.  The GM of this guild was quite horrified and apologetic, even offered to replace what had been stolen (thankfully it was all replaceable and of course, not his fault, so no way was I going to allow him to do that), and assured me that he was going to leave the player on a restricted rank and put a note in his tab so that he didn’t forget.  I thanked him for his time, he thanked me for the heads up, and we went on our way.

I’m not going to give out the names of anyone involved, or mention the other guild, because I don’t want this to turn into a call-out.  There’s more to this than me being upset about a thief or the fact that afterwards I had to lower the daily withdrawal limit from 30 to 5 and turn off the ability to withdraw gold, except for repairs, for this particular rank.  Though by this point we only have one or two people still on this lower rank, either because they’re very new or haven’t been on enough for us to get a feel for them, it still bothered me that in order to make sure the guild was secure for everyone I had to throw them under the bus, too.  I like being able to just kick back and hang out with people rather than needing to “manage” them.  I don’t like having to put people on a blacklist.  But sometimes it can’t be avoided.

This all got me to thinking about ways to deal with this from a designer’s perspective.  Obviously, small matters such as a guild bank thief are whatever the in-game equivalent of civil cases are, and should be dealt with as internally as possible.  In this case, simply contacting the thief’s new guildmaster sufficed.  Back in the days of vanilla, you could frequently find someone sitting in trade chat sending out repeated warnings about specific ninja looters or thieves, but I never really felt comfortable with that concept.  After all, there is the chance, no matter how tiny, that this kid is brand new and like 10 or something and didn’t know that doing what he did was a major faux pas, and putting him up for massive amounts of trolling and harassment like that would be horrible.  But what happens if this kid moves on from his new guild?  Will that guildmaster contact the new one as well?  This chain of communication about dishonest players only stays strong so long as people talk to each other, and that doesn’t always happen, whether due to apathy or anxiety about bugging a complete stranger.  So how do you put together a reliable system that can’t be easily abused to let other players know who’s shady and who’s safe?

XBox Live features a scorecard system that allows you to “rate” the person you’ve just played with.  Liked them?  Leave them five stars.  Did they scream abuse into their headset or spawn-camp?  You can choose from the list of preset infractions and have a lower rating put on their scorecard, visible to anyone who checks their profile.  If you didn’t enjoy playing with them, the matchmaking system also does everything it can to avoid pairing you up with that player ever again while showing preference to players you’ve rated highly.  A few alterations here and there, and you could easily tailor it to fit World of Warcraft’s interface with a few different options.  In fact, it could probably be adapted for Battle.Net as a whole to cover StarCraft and Diablo, as well.

First things first — where would this information be displayed?  The addition of a “Statistics” tab to the Character window, viewable on inspect or via Character Search on the World of Warcraft website, could also open the door for lots of useful numbers, such as:

  • Player’s specific raid lockouts
  • List of dungeons, raids, and heroics run, and number of times successfully completed (to last boss)
  • Number of times vote-kicked (with reason recorded)
  • Number of times run in each role
  • Average DPS/heals/threat gen/etc. per run

Here’s a quick and very dirty mockup of what some of this information could look like — of course, headers and such could be switched around, rephrased, et cetera.

All numbers 100% pulled out of my ass.

All numbers 100% pulled out of my ass.

“Contribution” itself would require the implementation of a Recount-esque feature, but World of Warcraft is no stranger to integrating useful code developed by modders into its interface.  I remember back in the day when EquipCompare was required to be able to view two tooltips side-by-side and Scrolling Combat Text was the only way to see your combo points, regen, and really much beyond how much damage you were doing and how much you were being hit for.  Now their features are available in the regular, un-modded interface.  Almost every player I know runs some form of damage or healing meters to begin with, so this would seem the next logical choice for integration.  Of course, when utilizing any system of averages, there are some challenges to be faced to make sure that the end results aren’t skewed, such as in the case of a shadow priest who only heals on occasion, but is great at it when they do.  If it were an overall average, including their time spent melting faces, the number would be much lower than it should be.  If healing done was only taken into account when they engage their Holy spec, then it would be much more accurate.  In this case, I don’t know why I gave the imaginary Death Knight here 125/s healing, but I’m too lazy to open Photoshop and fix it, so just ignore it.

The “History” heading showing how many guilds a player has been in can be extremely useful information for endgame-centric guilds.  If someone has a high number here, it could send up red flags that they may be a guild-jumper who takes useful items from one and then moves right on to another.  For players who have been around for years, this could potentially skew the data, so a “Years Played” or some similar entry  may be useful here to offset any confusion.  Thus, if you see that someone has played for 7 years and been in 7 guilds, that should be less alarming than someone who started playing 6 months ago and has been in 10.

The final category depicted, “Scorecard,” would record player complaints selected from a list of pre-determined values, which is where things can get tricky.  There’s the obvious entries, like:

  • Ninja-Looting/Theft
  • Language
  • Abandoned Group
  • Spamming
  • Verbal Harassment
  • Physical Harassment

XBox Live has infractions listed in theirs for players who queue for matches above their skill level, but that’s where it gets tricky in World of Warcraft, and why I instead chose to implement the Recount system.  The numbers there can speak for themselves, rather than risking abuse of the scorecard system from less savory individuals.  Of course, there’s the risk of abusing any complaint system, but I honestly feel that “skill level” would be the most open-to-abuse option here.  I also neglected to list “Griefing” and instead used the broader complaint “Physical Harassment,” which would cover killing questgiver NPCs over and over rather than being used by those upset about being ganked while PvP flagged or playing on a PvP server when no real offense has been committed.  Link harassment, language, and spamming complaints to the GM ticket system so that a report must be submitted in order to record the offense on a player’s scorecard.  False reporting can result in a suspension or even a permanent ban, meaning that the chance of frivolous complaints being made is lessened, and in the event that they do happen, they can be removed from the player’s scorecard.

Average ratings would be generated based on how many complaints have been applied against a particular player and how many positive marks have been granted to them, although in the case of player apathy (more on that later) having the potential to skew these ratings, some very careful number-crunching will be required.  Enjoyed grouping with someone?  Right-click on their portrait and mark them as such.  The dungeon finder tool could even be modified in order to set priority on grouping you with these preferred players, much like XBox Live does, and applied to work cross-realm.

If it sounds like a lot of complicated change, well… it is, and for this reason, no matter how awesome and useful of a system this would be, I highly doubt we’ll see it implemented anytime soon.  In order for any system like this to work to its full potential, you’d have to find a way to encourage the player base to take the two seconds to participate, which can sometimes be a challenge.  Offering an achievement for rating x number of players, positive or negative, could encourage participation, or perhaps the preferential matchmaking could be enough incentive, but regardless of how it’s done, the danger would be having an otherwise great player with one complaint and no positive votes simply because no one else could be arsed to rate them suffering with an extremely low rating that they don’t deserve.  There’s also the risk of encouraging elitism, with guilds and groups refusing to play with those whose numbers may not be the greatest, thus not giving them a chance to learn what they need, but my argument here is that any guild or group with that mentality is going to find ways to exclude new players regardless of how readily available the information is.  For my own guild, the only extra stats I’d be looking at would be the behavioral ones, since we have a very strict “no jerks” policy; maybe this is me being too trust-y again, but I’d wager that plenty of casual guilds out there would feel the same way.

You know, in a way, I’m kind of grateful to that druid — at the very least, he’s helping me build my design portfolio.

Home Is Where The Hearthstone Is

Standard

It’s official — Blizzard has announced at PAX East that their newest game is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a digital trading card game playable on Battle.Net.

I’ve been running around my house shrieking in delight all morning.  One of my fondest memories as a wee overlord (I think I was eight at the time?) is being at the American Pioneer History Summer School For Smart Kids sitting at a picnic table under the pine trees, Pocahontas backpack clutched tightly as a couple of boys from 5th grade taught me the basics of Magic: The Gathering.  They were patient, showed me each card, explained what it did, even let me hold them so I could study the amazeballs art.  It was one of the only times in my life that I didn’t hear “you’re a girl, you can’t play games!” when showing interest in a Very Nerdy Thing.  To this day, I still link trading card games with that feeling of acceptance, and Disintegrate is still my favorite card ever.

From there, I fell into the Pokemon craze.  Birthdays, Hanukkah, any pocket money I got from my mom was spent on booster packs, and even one fancy box set.  I kept them neatly organized in a binder, grouped by element and arranged in the order of their evolutions.  I saw the Pokemon movie four times in the theaters just so I could get one of each of the special promotional cards they were giving out with ticket purchases.  You could find me sitting on the sidewalk with the other Pokemon trainers in front of the school while I waited for my mom to pick me up.  And yet again, I was able to play with the boys and not be cast out for being a girl.  Hell, I think we had more girls playing than boys at our school.  We’d happily trade our cards, common for common, rare for rare, to help each other get the most complete decks possible.  I remember showing up one day with counters I’d made by taking the flat-bottomed aquarium gem stones and painting numbers in fancy metallic gold acrylic paint on them.  This was my first experience with gaming-related crafts, and certainly not the last.  I was also the school hero for the day.  Everyone wanted a set of their own!

And then I got sidetracked by other things.  Pokemon fever died down, and it became almost impossible to find anyone to play with.  I sold off my cards or made pogs out of them (yes, I’m old, shut it) and didn’t even think about trading card games again until one of my good friends introduced me to Warlords.  By now we were both full-grown adults, yet we still sat hunched over on my bedroom floor, laundry haphazardly pushed out of the way to form a mountain range around our “battleground,” as if we were once again two nerdy little kids during recess.  We sat there for hours, playing game after game until we finally passed out amidst a sea of cheeseburger wrappers and hero cards.  I’m sure by recounting this happy, geeky memory, I’ve just destroyed all of his street cred as a cool rockstar dude, but screw it, there is nothing more metal than being a battle-hardened orc swooping in to annihilate his enemies on the back of a dragon.  Except maybe cooking directions for lobsters.

I was excited when I finally got an XBox 360 and found that Magic: The Gathering had a small downloadable game on the Live Marketplace.  I was less excited when I played it for the first time and discovered just how noob-unfriendly it was.  By that time I was rusty beyond belief, so the AI was a formidable challenge, and anyone playing it online was of a skill level somewhere around “professional assassin.”  Happily enough, they appear to be releasing a new version of it that goes into some more in-depth explanations and has a less severe learning curve, so I may pick it up once again… you know, if I have any time left after playing Hearthstone.

Hearthstone combines two things I love: World of Warcraft and TCGs.  I’m not a good strategist.  I have never won a game of chess in my life.  Though I loved Warcraft III and can’t get enough StarCraft 2, I accept my badness and stick to campaign modes.  I’m slow and deliberate in my moves, meaning that each mission takes me about an hour to complete.  In a versus game, that’s a death sentence.  But I still love games that require them (and yes, I have played BarCraft, quite gleefully, might I add!).  Hearthstone promises to be a simple-to-pick-up game, which appeals to the strategy noob in me and ensures that I won’t be left pitted against only skilled players.  After all, games are even more fun when you can realistically expect to win at least once every hundred rounds.

The digital aspect is phenomenal for those of us who just don’t have the room to keep around binders full of cards, and don’t want to have to worry about losing or destroying them.  I lost a few cards for the World of Warcraft TCG to the maw of a particularly frisky puppy.  If it’s all done online, none of these concerns apply.  The collection aspect is still there, allowing players to purchase, craft, and win new cards, so the OCD among us will still be satisfied — we just don’t have to store the damn things anymore.  Whether or not Hearthstone will feature special loot cards to unlock pets in World of Warcraft like the physical TCG remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if such cross-game perks were implemented.

There’s also the excitement of having an almost unlimited pool of opponents to choose from.  Gone are the days of sitting alone at the lunch table with your deck, desperately trying to wrangle over another player for an afternoon of fun.  Hearthstone will use Battle.Net to match players together, but also give the option play against AI opponents.  No matter what time of day, you’ll always have the option to get a game started.

Oh, and did I mention it’s free-to-play?  Huge perk right there.  Even purchased packs of cards are looking to be pretty cheap, with basic packs expected to start at just $1.  You could presumably earn all of your card money just by playing the real-money auction house in D3 for a couple of weeks and funneling the credits to your Battle.Net account.  What’s that?  An excuse for more gaming?  Sweet!

Despite the shininess of it all, I’ve noticed a lot of disappointment from gamers over this announcement.  I believe a huge part of it was that they were expecting a reveal on the mysterious Titan project or the disclosure of a new expansion for one of Blizzard’s existing IPs.  Even before PAX East, Blizzard straight up said it wouldn’t have anything to do with these sorts of releases.  BlizzPlanet even tweeted this invitation to the Blizzard booth where it’s all laid out in no uncertain terms:

Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas, indeed.

Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas, indeed.

We’ve all come to expect huge reveals from Blizzard, so it’s not surprising that a fairly lighthearted game like this could feel like something of a shock.  With only 15 programmers working on the game, Hearthstone isn’t going to be an immersive IP like World of Warcraft, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be fun as Hell.  Sometimes you don’t have the time to devote to a terribly deep gaming experience.  Sometimes you’re just looking for a game to kill time until your doctor’s appointment (or in the waiting room, since the official “What Is Hearthstone?” video depicts the game being played on an iPad), or you don’t feel like a hugely epic undertaking.  Dismissing it right off the bat because it’s not “big enough” only hurts one person in the end: you.

It is true, however, that TCGs aren’t everybody’s cup of tea.  Blizzard will have to face the challenge of attracting attention from players who haven’t otherwise shown interest in this genre.  Linking it to the already-beloved Warcraft franchise should help; the dynamic and engaging interface shown in the official videos will prove that it’s not your average card game.  The recognition factor of the characters and attacks contained within should assist in an easy learning curve for avid WoW players to slide right in.

I, personally, would love to see StarCraft and Diablo versions of the game.  If Blizzard is keeping this small quicky-and-dirty team (known as Team 5) together for other projects as well, who knows what else we could expect?  With their first foray into console gaming in a very long time, D3 for the upcoming PS4, maybe we’ll see versions of the game popping up on the XBox Live Marketplace or the PlayStation Network.  I could even see it working well on the Wii or DS.  That’s the beauty of Hearthstone’s simplicity — you can do almost anything with it.

We’ll have to wait and see just how addicting Hearthstone really is, but if you’re impatient like me, you can visit the official site and sign up for a chance to beta-test it.  Let’s hope they don’t come up with Zergling Bejeweled before then, otherwise none of us will ever get any work done again.

The Raid Etiquette Compendium: Pinkies Up, Guv’nors

Standard

There’s been an epic battle raging between Overlord Bunny and a sneak-attack of her Shas, predominantly Fear and Doubt, but also Crippling Depression That Makes Her Sleep 12 Hours A Day Not Including Naps And Eschew Human Contact In Favor Of Videogames And Twitter.  But thanks to a couple of hours spent sitting in front of my inspiration wall, which features some new and very awesome additions, I’ve managed to Tokyo Drift my way through the worst of it.  I don’t take it as a setback or proof that I “can’t do” this — living my life med-free, even for a little while, is bound to come with some mountains to climb.  The fact that I’ve managed to still set my feet on the floor in the morning and that I’m still sitting here in my wildly uncomfortable computer chair blogging about it is a personal victory for me, and evidence that yes, I can do these seemingly small things that a year or two ago would have been completely impossible, thus I am not completely screwed and my plans to rule as The Awesome Overlord Bunny of Irvine are still in place.  I’ve got my ten-hour loop of the Game of Thrones theme all queued up and ready to play the whole way out there.

Of course, I’ve also been translating beating the crap out of my own personal Shas into my in-game activities.  I’ve been no stranger to LFR these past couple of days, and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally gotten a severe bite from the raiding bug.  Not that I didn’t want to raid before, but the newer raids (read: since Cataclysm) just haven’t invoked the same kind of desire in me as Karazhan or Naxxramas.  Compared to the raids of yore, they’re remarkably short, and the core mechanics seem mostly the same: don’t stand in shit, do exactly what Deadly Boss Mods tells you to do, profit.  Up until 5.2, I was able to drop into raid encounters I’d never seen before without reading a single word of strategy or watching any YouTube videos and still be alive at the end.  Quite frankly, I found them boring.  But with Throne of Thunder looming ahead and a plethora of better-but-still-obtainable-for-me loot being dangled in my face, the urge to continue gearing up my shadowpriest and even starting on some of my other characters was too strong to ignore.

Am I going back to my hardcore ways?  Hell no.  Not only am I now a grown-ass woman who has left the borderline sociopathic years of her life known as “being a teenager” behind, but I’ve got stuff to do, dreams to chase, all that good stuff that really doesn’t jive well with being able to regularly spend 12 hours a week on the interwebs.  I don’t want to yell at people, and I don’t want to get yelled at.  But I do want to try and push the raiding aspect of my guild just a teensy bit more, find some new or equally casual raiders who wouldn’t mind helping me build a raid team from the ground up.  Maybe dedicate just one weekend night as Potential Raid Night, and if everyone can make it, awesome, but if they’ve got their kid’s recital or an extra shift at work, no big deal.  I want to step back into my raid leader role and lead a team of my friends and guildies to digital victory.

Proud nerd, yo.

But the very idea of putting the Official Raid Leader Hat back on has made me sit back and think about a few things.  For starters, I’m somewhat anxious that returning to that role will turn me back into the mega-bitch that I know I used to be, sort of like that episode of Community where Shirley unleashes her dark past as the YMCA bully to teach Jeff how to play foosball (started watching for the Inspector Spacetime, ended up staying for the awesome).  Lord knows that I sometimes still get frustrated with The Fiance when he asks me extremely simple questions.  I’m hoping that my awareness of the fact will help me check myself before I wreck not only myself, but everyone else’s enjoyment of the game.  Server firsts for progression don’t really appeal to current-day me.  I don’t care if we’re the only guild that hasn’t downed (insert e-peen boss of the month’s name here).  Maybe that’ll go towards maintaining my non-asshole mentality as well.  And I’m going to need every ounce of it, because most of the people in the guild right now are new raiders, meaning they’re going to need to learn the Rules of the Raid from the ground up.

My plan to hopefully mitigate some of the frustration from the inevitable wipes that shall ensue is to run training raids before anything else.  These will be practice runs in a safe space where the goal is to learn the fights over anything.  If we wipe fifteen times on Empress, then we wipe fifteen times on Empress, and by the end know how to, you know, not do that.  Once everyone’s an old pro, then we can worry about the more “serious” runs with feasts and flasks ready.

I’ve also noticed a few things in the raids I’ve been doing that have made me really consider how important raiding etiquette is, not only from the raid leader’s side, but also the raiders.  I’ve seen countless new raiders get chewed out for what amounts to an honest mistake.  Those of us who’ve been raiding since vanilla can sometimes forget that even if something is completely intuitive to us, that doesn’t mean the new guy who’s never set foot in a raid before and just started playing World of Warcraft in the first place three months ago is going to be able to figure it out on his own.  It doesn’t  make him a bad player or an idiot, it just means he hasn’t spent the past eight freaking years of his life playing every single day to the point that he can recognize homages to quests removed two expansions ago (like when I ran down the Lor’danel coast screaming in agony every time I found a dead Auberdine NPC whose name I not only remembered, but could attribute to entire quest lines and locations started by them).  Simply put, if you don’t explain it to someone in the first place, you don’t get to bitch when they don’t know it later on.

That being said, the responsibility doesn’t fall entirely on the raid leader’s shoulders.  Raiders need to also do a little research on their own.  Getting started with this can be overwhelming to someone new to the whole raiding scene, so where to begin?

1. Suit Up!

Raids have an item level requirement for a reason.  If your team goes in wearing nothing but greens, the ensuing failure is going to be epic.  Harder fights require more badass gear, and beyond that, you’re also going to need every stat boost you can get.  Stats are important; focus on the wrong ones, and your character is not going to be able to fulfill their role as needed.  That’s where something called stat priority comes into play.  Websites like Elitist Jerks and Got Warcraft? can help by explaining which stat is most important for your class and spec, and which ones to focus on after that.  How does your gear measure up?  Before you go into your first raid, find out, and make adjustments as needed.  Arcane Reforger NPCs in Orgrimmar and your respective Vale of Eternal Blossoms shrine will allow you to swap out one bonus stat for another.  For example, if your character really benefits from lots of haste, but your gear has mastery on it, and mastery is your absolute worst stat, you can take it on over to the reforger and swap part of that useless mastery out for haste.  It sounds confusing, but once you learn how to play the reforge system, you’re in real good, kid.

Also make sure that your gear is enchanted and gemmed properly.  The only reason to have un-gemmed gear in a raid is because you literally just got the item in the middle of it, and even then, if your guild has the Mobile Bank perk and a steady supply within, it’s an easy fix.  If you don’t have or can’t afford the rare cuts, go with the uncommon ones until you can.  Don’t worry about getting the super-expensive enchants requiring Sha Crystals on blue gear — save that for when you get an awesome purple weapon, and settle for the next step down until then.  Many guilds are able to help their members either by providing the appropriate augments or having a crafter on-board who can make them if mats are provided.  Our guild bank is stocked with both cut and uncut gems, enchants and their required mats, and if we don’t have it ready-made on the tab, chances are we’ve got someone who can slap it together for you.  Belts can have buckles added to them that give an extra gem socket, which is an absolute must once you hit purple gear.  DPS casters and healers can enhance their pants (giggity) with spellthreads made by tailors; other DPS classes and tanks will benefit from leg armor made by leatherworkers.  Inscriptionists can make shoulder enchants for all classes and specs.  The tweaks available to make the most out of your pewpew are endless.  If everyone pitches in and helps each other out, either with crafting items or providing mats, you’ll find yourselves geared in no time.

So where do you get this gear in the first place?  Run heroics, for starters.  Not only do you have the potential to get gear, but you’ll also receive valor points that can be traded in for epic gear from the various faction quartermasters, so start working on your rep.  Completing Isle of Thunder dailies will unlock the ability to purchase an epic belt for gold rather than valor points at Honored with your respective faction, something that’s easily doable within a couple of days or even in one evening if you’ve already bought the commendation on another character.  Inscriptionists can make themselves bind-on-account epic staves and bind-on-equip epic off-hand items for casters.  Tailors and leatherworkers should focus on Golden Lotus rep so that they can obtain patterns for epic robes and gloves (tailors can provide for both DPS and healing clothies, leatherworkers for leather-wearing tanks, healers, and DPS, but also mail gear for all shaman specs and hunters).  Klaxxi rep and kyparite are important for blacksmiths to get their epic patterns for DPS, healing, and tanking plate.  Engineers may get somewhat shafted as far as being unable to make epic guns or bows, but they can make scopes to increase ranged DPS and epic helms for themselves.  Wowhead allows you to search profession and faction databases to see all possible rewards and crafted items, so when in doubt, check there.  If after all of this your gear is still lacking in places, stock up on Elder Charms of Good Fortune (easy if you’ve been doing your dailies) and jump into a few LFR runs.

Oh, and don’t show up to raids in PvP gear.  It never ends well.  Important stats are sacrificed in favor of PvP Resilience and PvP Power, which are vital in battlegrounds and 100% useless in dungeons.  Even if you’ve got the most badass of the epic PvP gear on, you’ll still find yourself woefully undergeared for a raiding environment.  Put in the time and effort to get yourself geared up properly for PvE.

2. Glyphs Are Kind Of Weird, But Ultimately Your Friend

I personally don’t care much for the glyph system and never have.  To me, it feels clunky and tacked-on, but its benefits are undeniable.  Major glyphs will make useful spells and attacks even more powerful, and minor glyphs will make you feel pretty while doing it.  Be sure to at least have all of your Major slots properly filled (again, I say giggity) before you start raiding.  The websites I mentioned before offer advice on which are the best to use, and I strongly recommend that you consult them before making your decision, as sometimes what sounds like a benefit is actually not that great.  Minor glyphs don’t affect DPS at all and are only for cosmetic changes, so feel free to pick and choose as you wish.  You can use various reagents to un-glyph yourself if you make a mistake or decide to switch to another minor glyph.  Once your character learns a new glyph, it’ll be highlighted in the list and permanently usable, so you don’t need to worry about buying another one of the same, which is lucky because certain glyphs can cost a couple hundred gold if you don’t have an inscriptionist at your disposal.

3. Talents Are Also Kind Of Weird Now, But You Need Those Too

No more trees to mess with!  At various levels, you’ll be able to choose between three different spells or augmentations.  Some will be better than others for your particular spec, others will have limited raid use to begin with (usually the first one or two tiers, but don’t blindly follow that for all classes as some may be different) and are pretty much “free choice,” but those same websites that I’m smacking you over the head with will also be able to guide your choices here.  As with glyphs, various powders and tomes can be used to unlearn talents as needed, which is not just necessary for mistakes, but also sometimes to switch talents depending on the fight.  As a result, I’d highly recommend showing up to raid prepared with a stack of these reagents, either purchasable from an Inscription Supplies vendor or craftable by inscriptionists themselves.  They’re pretty cheap, only about 45s a piece for the level 90 versions, so it’s an easy way to come prepared and look like a professional badass in the process.

4. Level Your Damn Professions

Yes, even fishing.  It sucks, I know, but with the exception of Archaeology, you’re going to need every skill point you can get.  I mentioned above how much epic gear can be crafted by the players themselves with max-level professions — alchemists can provide flasks and various useful transmutations of gems for cutting and Living Steel for use in belt buckles and the epic plate chest and gloves, if you max out cooking you can create feast tables usable by your raid party that give some pretty sweet Well Fed buffs, and some of those tables actually do require you to go fishing.  Use your daily cooldowns and learn all the new patterns and recipes that you can.  Not only will you be valuable to yourself, since most classes have at least one self-only perk, such as bind-on-pickup shoulder buffs from inscriptionists and bracer linings from leatherworkers with significantly higher benefits than the ones you can trade to your buddies, but you’ll also help your raid team out in a very big way.  Even those of you who have chosen to go with double gathering professions can pitch in and donate stacks of necessary mats to the guild bank.

If the profession in question is one of the few that still has a particular “spec” you can choose, such as alchemy or now cooking, it may behoove everyone involved if you take a moment to check which specs others in the guild with that particular profession have chosen.  In the case of alchemy, elixir spec means the potential for double procs on beneficial flasks, while transmute spec could mean it’ll be easier to get everyone the primal diamonds they need for their meta gem sockets.  Different cooking paths will offer different stat benefits, and while pursuing all of them at once can be a very daunting task, if six out of your ten raiders take the time to each level one, you’ll have all of your bases covered.

5. Hit The Books

Most boss fights should have a “how-to” type video up on YouTube, and strategies for each encounter should be available on Wowhead, Icy Veins, and other similar websites.  It is the raid leader’s responsibility to let you know ahead of time which bosses to plan for, just as it’s your responsibility to actually study up on them and at least attain a basic understanding of what to do.  My ability to “fake it” in LFR would make me an inconsiderate asshole in a 10-man (normal) guild raid, because not only is the difficulty level higher there,  but by refusing to take 10 minutes to review the mechanics, I’ve just guaranteed that my willful ignorance is going to get at least myself killed, and probably everyone else.  Making an honest mistake is one thing.  Screwing up because you couldn’t be arsed to read an article is another.

This is also incredibly useful for training raids, but chances are that the raid leader is going to give you a quick rundown as a reminder, anyway.  Even still, knowledge is power.  If everyone shows up to the training raid knowing what they’re supposed to do, that’s more time that can be devoted to obtaining phat lewtz and having fun with your friends.

6. You Are Not The Little Mermaid, Use Your Voice

Maybe you spent hours the night before reading up on strategies, but something’s still not clicking into place for you.  When in doubt, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST ASK YOUR RAID LEADER.  Any raid leader worth their salt is going to be more than happy to clarify a point for you versus having the raid wipe because you didn’t speak up.  Unclear on how to gear your character?  Ask.  Not sure which glyph is better?  Ask.  Ask ask ask ask askity ask ask.  A great resource for learning your best spell or attack rotations is to talk to knowledgeable guild members of the same class — believe it or not, pressing certain buttons in a certain order can make a huge difference in your DPS output or how awesome your healing is.  Tanks can definitely benefit from learning the most effective way to manage aggro, as well.  Elitist Jerks has lots of information on this available, but for new players, they can admittedly be a bit on the tl;dr side or even confusing, so actually talking to a human being about it can often make a huge difference.  There’s also the Training Dummies, who have a great podcast that covers commonly-asked questions about how to raid and go into some advanced stuff like macros if you really want to kick it up a notch.

Most guilds will use a voice server once they start raiding, which means you might want to invest in a decent headset with a microphone built in for hands-free communication (third time’s the charm, giggity).  The one I use is great and costs about $40, but there are cheaper options available that will work fine as well.  As a general rule, I’d recommend a USB headset over anything, just for the bump in audio quality both ingoing and outgoing.  If you just can’t get a microphone set up or your guild doesn’t have any kind of voice server, make friends with the chat box, and use it.  Use it to tell people you’re AFK once that fifth bottle of Mountain Dew hits your kidneys.  If you’re the tank, use it to verify that the healers are good on mana and ready to go before a big pull.

By the same token, however, don’t abuse it.  If your team is in the middle of a difficult fight that requires concentration, chances are nobody wants to hear your rendition of I Will Always Love You.  Don’t interrupt other people while they’re talking unless it is an absolute emergency.  You wouldn’t like it if somebody cut you off in a real-world conversation, so don’t do it online, either.

7. Keep Your Cool

It’s easy to get frustrated on a particularly difficult raid, whether you’re the raid leader or just a raid member (gig– blah, nevermind, it’s not funny anymore).  The important thing to remember is to not be this kid.  There’s plenty of videos and audio clips of people out there just absolutely losing their shit over the game (previous link is NSFW for language) and looking foolish in the process.  We live in the age of cell phone cameras and streaming audio rips.  If you make an asshole out of yourself on the internet, someone is going to rat you out and everyone will be making memes of your meltdown for years to come.

And beyond the risk of public shame, this is a game that you are playing with REAL people with REAL feelings.  There’s zero reason to tear somebody down because your raid’s not going well or they won the roll for an item you wanted or any of the other thousand instances in which you could even remotely argue that you’d be “justified” in being mean to somebody.  You never know how somebody is going to react to the cruel things you say to them.  That person could be having a really rough patch in their life and you telling them to kill themselves for being a “baddie” could be all the encouragement they need to actually do just that.

Raid leaders have to constantly toe the line between offering constructive criticism to individual players and making sure that they don’t feel singled out.  If the sentence about to come out of your mouth contains any kind of obscenity, chances are you need to rephrase it.  For example:

RIGHT: “Hey, XxSephirothxX, can you turn Growl off on your pet?”
WRONG: “OMG YOU FUCKING SCRUB HUNTER L2PLAY TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING PET MORON”

But if you’re on the receiving end of the criticism (and it falls under the “right” category), you need to understand that the raid leader is telling you what to do for a reason.  They’re not picking on you or trying to imply that you’re bad at the game.  Everyone makes mistakes, everyone gets confused, and nobody is going to get any better unless somebody lets them know what they’re doing wrong.

It’s also up to raid leaders to make sure that they are providing a safe and fun environment for their team.  If someone is getting abusive either in voice or in chat, they need to be dealt with.  Repeat offenders should be banned, temporarily or otherwise, from raids.  It doesn’t matter how well-geared they are or if they’re good players; if they’re making everyone else miserable, they’re not worth the stress.

8. YOU ARE PREPARED

Beyond gear, glyphs, and spec, you should always show up on time, gear fully repaired, and with a supply of flasks, buff food, and any other items your raid leader might request, such as repair bots from engineers.  It’s just common courtesy.  If the raid starts at 7:30 and you don’t show up until 8, that’s half an hour of everyone else’s evening that they’ve spent just waiting around for you, assuming they didn’t replace you with a substitute.  Sometimes emergencies come up, like you get stuck in traffic on your way home from work or your kid is sick, but if you’re constantly showing up late for no reason, you’re being inconsiderate.  If you know you’re going to be working late or unable to make the raid at all, post a quick note to that effect on your guild’s forums, or let one of your guildies know if you have them on Facebook or some similar form of contact.

Don’t show up under the influence, either.  The number of people who can actually play well while drunk is extremely low, regardless of how much drinking-and-gaming prowess you may think that you have.  Going AFK every ten minutes to pack another bowl is also annoying beyond belief and wastes everyone’s time, not to mention TOTALLY ILLEGAL HI POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS READING THIS.  You should be focused on the raid as much as possible.

9. A Few Quick Ones That Don’t Go Anywhere Else

  • Don’t take loot, either from raids or guild crafters, and then /gquit for greener pastures.
  • Main spec always gets priority over off-spec.
  • Ask about need or greed for vanity items, like pets or mounts, before you roll.
  • If you show up to raid, stay for the entire duration (unless prior arrangements have been made or there’s an emergency).  Don’t just come for one boss and leave if they don’t drop your loot.
  • Don’t argue with the raid leader.  If you’ve got an alternative strategy on how to down a boss, talk to them before the raid, or afterwards so that they can decide whether to try it out next time.
  • Don’t stand in shit.  Seriously.  I can guarantee you that this will be a very important part of the strategy.  There are very few exceptions to this rule.

A lot of this probably sounds more like a how-to list rather than etiquette.  The truth is, by following these tips and tricks, you are showing proper raiding etiquette by putting in a serious yet still reasonable effort, which basically says to your guildies “Hey, thanks for giving up your evening so that we can all get loot, I’m going to do what I can to help out with that, too.”  It may sound like a lot to ask of anyone, but even in a casual raiding environment, endgame content requires a little extra preparation than regular questing.  Some people may not be able to put forth the time or the gold to devote to such endeavors, and that’s okay.  I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again — not everybody is able to or wants to raid, and that’s ok.  Raiding is not a requirement to be allowed into the World of Warcraft.  Play the game how you want.  Everything I’ve mentioned above pales in comparison to the list of rules I had to follow when I was a hardcore raider.

Obviously, with the cross-country move looming over my head, getting set raid nights together isn’t going to be feasible for a while.  But in the meantime, let me take this opportunity to shamelessly plug my guild again!  Torchwood Institute, horde-side on Uldum!  We’re level 25, have seven bank tabs, and are just here to have fun.  All levels welcome, all classes welcome.  We have punch and pie.

5.2 Legit 2 Quit: The (Thunder) King of Patches

Standard

Initially I planned to hold off on reviewing 5.2 until the final stage was complete, but my server is just two stages in and already I’ve got a notebook page full of individual points to discuss, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, 5.2!  Isle of the Thunder King!  Lightning trolls and dinosaurs, every five-year-old and adult nerd’s dream, because let’s get one thing straight: dinosaurs make everything better.  No longer is Un’Goro Crater our only chance to run through herds of dinosaurs pretending to be Jeff Goldblum while the Jurassic Park score plays on our iTunes.  Now we have BIGGER DINOSAURS.  BETTER DINOSAURS.  DINOSAURS, MAN.

MOTHERFUCKING DINOSAURS.

Pictured: MOTHERFUCKING DINOSAURS.

Players must complete dailies for their specific faction’s presence on the island to further their cause and fulfill participation requirements to move on to the next stage.  It sort of reminds me of the rush to open the gates to Ahn’Qiraj during vanilla, something I have surprisingly fond memories of.  It gives a real sense of importance, of contribution to a common cause, a pretty sweet reward for your hard work by, you know, unlocking new and awesome content.

Problem is, a huge chunk of the people I’ve talked to have no idea how to get started.

I’ve heard a score of complaints about 5.2 — no flight on Isle of Thunder, more rep grinding, lag issues while on the island itself — all of which I plan to address later, but the most common one I hear is that nobody knows where to go to access the content.  Level 90 characters will receive an automatic quest at the Shrine of Two Moons (or the Alliance equivalent whose name I do not know, for I am a dirty Horde, but its name is probably Shrine of Goody Two Shoes… you know what?  That’s what I’m going with from now on) to talk to a Sunreaver Onslaught representative at Shado-Pan Garrison and catch a ride from her out to the island.  Easy enough, pretty self-explanatory if you take the 30 seconds to read the quest text.  From there, you’re pretty much on your own on figuring out how to get back there after your first round of dailies.  If you’re not the observant sort, you’re probably going to be confused.  The culling of the weak based on situational awareness?  Maybe.  Even if you do figure out where to go for Day Two, the portal to the island is a bit out of the way.  If you’re level 90, by this point in the game there’s a good chance you’ve finished all of your 5.0 reps, so you’re not doing dailies; you’re more likely to either be at your respective Shrine or working the farm in Halfhill.  It’s a very minor complaint and one easily remedied by taking the opportunity to alt-tab and check your email while you fly, but still another tick in the “support” column for my proposed fix.

Each side gets its own teleport device — for Horde, it’s the Sunreaver Beacon — that will transport the player from anywhere on the Isle of Thunder back to wherever their base of operations there happens to be.  In Stage 1, while fighting to secure the beach head, it was a ship off the coast of the island; now that a push inland has been made and we’re in Stage 2, both the Kirin Tor and the Sunreavers have established bases on terra firma.  Whether the location will change again with future stages remains to be seen, but the generality of the end location is rather nice.  No upgrades or trade-ins required, no temporary boosts, just a helpful little “hearthstone” of sorts on a 10-minute cooldown that can even be replaced for an extremely modest fee if lost or destroyed.  The catch is, you have to already be on the island in order to use it.  But why not let it be used from anywhere in Pandaria?  This would make travel to the Isle more convenient and alleviate any confusion as to how to return after the initial questline flight.  It might even encourage more participation in the event.

The Isle of Giants, a.k.a. BADASS DINOSAUR PARTY LAND, does not have a teleport device attached to it.  Hell, as far as I’ve been able to tell, there’s not even a quest or any mention of how to get there.  It’s off the coast of Kun Lai and requires flying over Fatigue waters, a fact that I only know because I Googled it.  Could I have missed a critical clue in-game?  Sure, anything’s possible, but then that would beg the question of just how obvious of a clue it is.  This is the only place for hunters to get their Tome of Dinomancy, which will allow them to tame the special Direhorn dinosaurs found on the island.  There’s a world boss and four new battle pets that can randomly drop from the Dinomancers on the island, and giant dinosaur bones that can be turned in for mounts, pets, and those ever-so-valuable Spirits of Harmony.  The mobs are elite, so it’s definitely not a challenge for the faint of heart (and bad of gear), but the rewards are awesome.  And yet there’s no breadcrumb trail to follow there, meaning that a good chunk of players are not experiencing content that the design team worked so hard to implement.  Throw in an introductory quest and call it a day.

But let’s talk about these new little mini-dino pets.  They’re unbelievably cute baby T-Rexes wearing adorably oversized stone skull masks (anyone else reminded of Cubone?), and each one of the quartet is a different color.  Personally, I’m a little disappointed at the lack of variety.  There’s at least four dinosaur models already in game that have been there since vanilla, and the Pterrorwing models introduced with 5.2 which are slightly different than the oldschool Pterrordax.  Just using one of the Zandalari hatchlings with their current model and then choosing between the other dinosaurs for the other three would have made the rewards for farming the Dinomancers even better, in my opinion.

There is, however, variety in how you choose to earn your new faction’s rep and add towards total stage completion.  Blizzard gives players a choice between PvE and PvP daily quests in Stage 2, meaning that no matter what your play style is, there’s something to keep you happy.  Unfortunately, PvP dailies appear to be giving about 600 less reputation than a round of their PvE counterparts.  Even though I, personally, am not a PvPer, I have my fingers crossed that the devs re-evaluate this disparity soon.

Going back to sources of confusion, there also seems to be a general sense of vagueness on how to read the progression numbers appearing on the world map of the Isle of Thunder.  The Stage part is pretty self-explanatory, but what about the actual stage progress and participation percentage?  Luckily, Dave Kosak, lead quest designer for World of Warcraft, sprang to the rescue via Twitter:

So sayeth the Kosak, and it was made so.

So sayeth the Kosak, and it was made so.

For those still unsure, according to this tweet, stage advancement is at least partially based on server population.  Elementary rules of statistics state that if you’ve got a smaller pool to start with, it takes fewer people to make up a larger percentage of the whole.  For example, to get 50% of a server with a population of 1000, you’d need 500 players, but if your base population is 5000, you’d need 2500 to achieve that same percentage.  Good on the development team for factoring in the low-population problem and making sure that it doesn’t negatively affect the players’ ability to experience content!

Except, maybe, in the case of the 5-man quests for the Shado-Pan Assault — Setting the Trap and Champions of the Thunder King.  My server, as previously mentioned, is pretty low-pop.  With heroics and raids, I have the luxury of popping over to Dungeon Finder to find a cross-realm group.  Pandaria, including the island, however, does not yet have cross-realm zoning enabled, what with the whole new content thing and all.  Even if CRZ was only enabled in these areas with respect to the matchmaking tool, there is no option to look for a group to complete a regular 5-man quest.  Trying to find a proper group to complete these quests when there’s just not a lot of people around to start with gives some pretty frustrating flashbacks to finding help for elite quests while leveling in vanilla.  I spent an hour just trying to find enough people for Setting the Trap today, and we ended up having to four-man it with off-spec heals using DPS gear and some outside assistance from an Alliance hunter who felt like being nice and helping us out with some pewpew.

To perhaps make things even more frustrating, the Shan’ze Ritual Stones, fairly rare to begin with and certainly not easily farmable, are non-refundable upon death.  If you summon one of the champions using your three stones and die in the process, you’ve got to spend another three for a new attempt.  The island itself is fairly unforgiving with mob density and difficulty — thankfully Ihgaluk Crag gives you a saurok disguise so that you can move freely throughout the mob-filled area while out of combat — so if your gear isn’t up to snuff, you’re probably going to be grinding your teeth a lot.  My shadow priest’s item level is 480 and I’ve still run into some pretty tense situations out there.  The Fiance isn’t even in full heroic gear yet and did a grand total of one round of dailies out there before deciding to wait until he gears up a bit more to continue.  It is possible to experience the Thunder King dailies without being in full purples, but you’ll definitely need to have some health potions and crafty use of your particular class’s mechanics at your disposal.  When in doubt, stick to solo pulls, and be mindful of your positioning in relation to other mobs.  S0me of the quest mobs can be a real pain regardless of gear, too; for example, the Zandalari Spiritwalker, one of the loa you’re required to kill for a daily in Za’Tual, has a Shadow Siphon spell that cannot be interrupted short of using an actual stun and does a sizeable chunk of healing to the mob.  As a shadowpriest, all I’ve got is Silence, which is ineffective against it, meaning I’m stuck doing the “two steps forward, one step back” dance.  It’s not a speedy kill for me unless other people happen to be in the area at the time.  The same goes for questing in the main areas, where mobs are so tightly packed in that it sometimes seems you can’t take two steps in any direction without aggroing.  When lots of people are around clearing them out, it’s no problem.  If you’re on during a non-peak hour, you’ve got to be Secret freakin’ Squirrel to avoid death.  Mobs requiring lots of movement, like the Zandalari Colossus and the Mighty Devilsaur, are a nightmare if the majority of your abilities have an actual cast time on them to the point that I usually won’t even attempt them (Devilsaur more than Colossus) unless other people are killing them, too. When the time comes that the Isle of Thunder is old news, the difficulty level will undoubtedly skyrocket for those late to the party just because there’ll be no one around to help thin out the herd or throw in some extra life-saving DPS.

Getting around the Isle of Thunder can also be a bit of a chore due to the lack of flight.  It’s time to pull out those trusty ground mounts — I recommend the Azure Waterstrider, available at Exalted reputation from the Anglers quartermaster, since it has innate water-walking abilities.  There’s been a lot of grumbling about not being able to fly the friendly skies on the island, as there was about having to wait until level 90 to fly in Pandaria, but it’s a pretty logical design choice.  Simply put, the developers want you to fully experience new content.  If you’re just flying over the whole thing, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the stuff that they worked hard to create.  For the longest time, there was no flight allowed in Kalimdor or Eastern Kingdoms, either; the special flight license to unlock that capability in the “old world” is a fairly recent addition.  As content ages, then the decision to either allow flying mounts or keep the kibosh on them in an area can be made, but until then, it’s set pretty firmly in stone, and all we can do is make the best of it, although trying to navigate through the main questing areas (Ihgaluk Crag, Court of Bones, and Za’Tual) can be somewhat aggravating without it due to differing ground levels, inconspicuous roads, and dead ends.

Lag has been an intermittent problem for those questing on the island, possibly due to phasing for each stage.  I’ve noticed times when standing on a main road on the Isle of Thunder where my zone map will display 0% completion for Stage 2, but moving off to the side will trigger a correct display for the progress bar.  When I first started the Thunder King dailies, I also noticed an annoying issue with capturable battle pets showing up on my mini-map and in the game world, only to disappear as soon as I ran up to them.  Since CRZ is, as previously stated, disabled for the 5.2 zones, I assume that this was also related to phasing, but it seems to have been fixed fairly quickly since I’m no longer having to deal with “ghost” pets.  Some lag is also undoubtedly linked to the number of players in the area at any given time, with more severe spikes prevalent during peak hours.  My hope is that as the crowd dies down a bit and more phases are unlocked, we’ll see some relief from the quirkier among zone behaviors.

Perhaps the most frequent complaint I hear is about Blizzard releasing yet another round of dailies for us to do.  Many complain that it’s the only way to get geared up, others claim it’s just the same old content being rehashed, a viewpoint that, as far as I’m concerned, requires completely ignoring everything written in the patch notes except for the word “dailies.”  After playing for eight years, I understand the burnout.  I really, really do.  I have Exalted with the Zandalari Tribe, now a Feat of Strength, that required more runs of Zul’Gurub than I’d care to admit to.  I ground out the rep for every single Pandaria faction introduced with 5.0 before commendations were released and recently spent months going back to complete the Argent Tournament.  Yes, we have to work for our purples, either by doing raids or kicking it with a good old-fashioned rep-grind (and I use “old-fashioned” loosely since, trust me, dailies have gotten WAY more fun and varied than they were back in the day), but isn’t that what everybody wanted?  Didn’t everyone used to complain about “welfare epics” and how easy it was for players to get geared up without putting in much effort?  Now that Blizzard’s put a to-do list in front of us with regards to gearing up, everyone’s yearning for the days of effortless gearing, where all you had to worry about farming was gold.  It goes to show that you really can’t please everyone.  The gear purchasable from the Isle of Thunder is at absolute worst level 496 (same as Dominance Offensive from 5.1) and at best level 522 (requires running heroic raids).  Just at Honored level with your faction’s Thunder rep, you can straight up purchase a level 476 epic belt for a couple hundred gold.  No valor tokens, no justice points, just a couple of days of questing and a mere pittance.  Is it the best epic out there?  Hell no, but for someone who’s just coming out of heroic gear, it’s an absolute steal.  The release of 5.2 saw valor prices being slashed for “old” gear, with 5.0 epics being cut cleanly in half and 5.1 marked down to 75% of their original price.  There was no sacrificing of stats or nerfing of items.  It’s the same stuff, but cheaper, and with the new dailies giving 5 valor tokens (and 2 Lesser Charms of Good Fortune) with each turn-in, an average of 10 dailies per 24-hour timer, it’s even easier to cover yourself in shiny purpz.  No one is forcing you to do every single daily in the game every day.  It’s not a contest, it’s not a rush.  If you’re in a raiding guild with an item level requirement, chances are there’s others doing the same dailies and therefore the same amount of work to get themselves up to speed.  Tag along with them.  Ask for help from the crafters in the guild — at honored with Golden Lotus, leatherworkers and tailors can get some pretty sweet patterns for epic gear.  If you log on and absolutely cannot handle the thought of doing a single daily, take a break.  Go do some instances, or log out of the game for the evening, pop some popcorn, and kick back with some Netflix.  You will get your gear.  Regardless of whether you’re in a hardcore guild or not, it is still a game, not a job, and just like with a job, if you overwork yourself, you’re going to burn out in an epic manner, no pun intended.

I’ve talked a lot about issues with 5.2, which may give the impression that I don’t like it.  Quite the contrary!  I think it’s a remarkable example of the quality content being turned out by World of Warcraft’s design team.  I daresay I even prefer it to Dominance Offensive, which, if you remember, I enjoyed quite a bit.  Do I really need to start screaming and flailing about how bad-ass dinosaurs are again?  Some of my favorite changes, however, took place off the island.

Remember when I wrote about changes I’d like to see to the crafting system?  I won’t even pretend that anyone from the design team is reading this, let alone was inspired by my suggestions, but somewhere along the line there was a shared wavelength, and each time a 24-hour crafting cooldown is used in Tailoring or Leatherworking (possibly others as well, which I haven’t yet tested), you will discover a new pattern, a phenomenon no longer reserved for the “newer” professions, Jewelcrafting and Inscription.  Season 12 PvP patterns required me to spend precious Spirits of Harmony for purchase, but now all I have to do is burn my daily cooldown for Imperial Silk, which I need to make anyway.

Another thing that made me punch the air was seeing how the factions window now indicates when you’ve purchased a commendation rep.  There’s no more need to commit to memory which ones you’ve bought and which ones you still need to pick up.  The new “star” system for championing Pandaria reputations now allows you to earn credit for whichever one you choose through dungeons.  Mists of Pandaria may have gone back to the old “only Exalted, only vanity” system for tabards, but with this, who needs anything else?  I’d like to see the championing tabards replaced completely by this system, and older reputations added into the mix.

If you’re still hurting for rep gains, you can now buy Sunsong Ranch for your own nefarious purposes, and enjoy hours of entertainment by lovingly trolling people who ask “how do I buy the farm?” in General chat with “helpful” suggestions.  It’s not so much buying, however, as it is taking 30 seconds to talk to Nana Mudclaw and obtaining the whole damn thing for the low, low price of 0 gold.  Much like J-Lo’s love, Sunsong Ranch doesn’t cost a thing.  The only requirement is that you be Exalted with the Tillers and have unlocked all 16 plots on the farm.  Once the farm is under your control, you can set your hearthstone there and fulfill daily work orders, two at a time, for whatever Pandaria faction you need.  The orders are simple: plant eight of the specified crop, then wait till the next day to harvest it and turn it over to the appropriate faction’s representatives who, awesomely enough, will actually show up on your farm upon turn-in to pick it up.  The biggest challenge is remembering to pick up your new work order before planting.  Patch 5.1 made farming easier by introducing the Master Plow to quickly till your empty plots, but 5.2 put the whole thing on cruise-control with the new seed bags that allow you to plant four plots at once using a targeting circle.  At this rate, I can’t wait to see what they’re going to do with the farm in 5.3.

Pet battlers can now fight special legendary opponents that appear solo, but allow you to use your whole team against them.  Though legendary is technically higher quality than epic, I found my experience with the cricket Lucky Yi to be far easier than my attempt against the Darkmoon Faire pet master.  Don’t think it’s a cakewalk, though; there is definitely some strategy required.  I was disappointed that these legendary pets themselves are not tamable, but if you’ve defeated all of the other world pet tamers in battle, you will be able to pick up a daily quest from your faction’s Shrine that sends you out to battle these formidable foes and have a chance to reward you with a special battle pet on turn-in.  Colorful carp pets, similar in appearance to Fishy, can very occasionally be obtained by fishing from special pools available only during the new Anglers event.  El’s Extreme Anglin’ has a comprehensive and frequently-updated guide available for those with enough patience to give them a shot.

For those of us who grew up in the 90s and remember those cheesy game shows where kids like us were given a set amount of time to run through a toy store and grab everything they could before the buzzer, a very rare Key to the Palace of Lei Shen can randomly drop from mobs on the Isle of Thunder, be found in Troves of the Thunder King (if you’re lucky enough to find one), or show up in the reward container from your final quest of the day.  Taking one to the Shado-Pan Assault forces in the secret cave near the northern part of the island will be granted access to a special single-player scenario, where they must sneak their way through traps and collect as many treasure chests as they can in five minutes.  Once the timer is up, they’ll be taken to a treasure room, where they can use special keys that sometimes drop from the chests in the main room to unlock amazing coffers full of everything from Motes of Harmony to Shan’ze Ritual Stones  to Tattered Historical Parchments that can be turned in for special one-time use insignias that give you a boost to your rep with either the Sunreavers or the Kirin Tor.  Rarely, you may also be able to find Shado-Pan Assault insignias, as well.  There’s no limit to how many times you can run the scenario per week — all that matters is how many keys you have on you — but they can only drop from a mob source once during that timer.

The single-player scenario is a new mechanic being used fairly heavily in 5.2, not only with Lei Shen, but also apparently as an “introduction” of sorts to each new stage in progression on the Isle of Thunder.  On my first day questing since Stage 2’s implementation, I was instructed to follow a brave member of the Sunreaver Onslaught as she fought to clear the area of a malicious Zandalari spellcaster and his minions.  The end fight was not dissimilar to a dungeon boss, though the difficulty had been tweaked to be an appropriate challenge for solo play — and let me stress that, challenge.  It was anything but a face-roll and required dancing in and out of different zones to defeat it.  I’m excited to see more solo scenarios like this, as they give a fantastic sense of being a lone, powerful hero and further emphasize the feelings of importance and participation that I mentioned earlier on.

In general, 5.2 seems to be a “meatier” expansion than 5.1 that showcases more innovation than ever before.  Mists of Pandaria itself set the bar astronomically high for improvement, and has continued to vault over that bar with each content patch released.  Though not perfect (and to be fair, what game is?), it’s an experience that absolutely cannot be missed.

Overlord Bunny and the Guildmasters of the Universe

Standard

Ever since I was a wee overlord, I’ve wanted to be the leader of something, but I’ve always hit roadblocks on my ascent to glory.  Class president?  Not popular enough.  Manager?  Something about all of my coworkers being afraid of me.  Grown-Up Person President?  Something about everyone being afraid of me because apparently referring to oneself as a “benevolent dictator” doesn’t foster confidence when it’s written on your campaign posters.

But World of Warcraft offers me an outlet for my tendencies towards complete and utter domination, at least on a small scale.  Over my eight years in Azeroth, I’ve managed to go from simple guild member to guild officer to Supreme Overlord of All That Is Guild-y.  I’m currently the guild master of Torchwood Institute on Uldum’s horde (read: awesome) side, and though our numbers are not as impressive as some others out there, I’d like to think we’re pretty cool.  After all, an online game like WoW is only as fun as the people you play it with.

Uldum is a PvE server with a fairly small population.  Already, the recruiting pool is a bit shallower than normal based solely on the fact that there’s fewer players to choose from.  The fact that it’s PvE also means the majority of the people there are looking for raid progression, thus guilds that can offer regular, structured raid nights are highly sought after.  I thought that raiding was srs bizness when I was playing on a PvP server back in the day, but I honestly had no idea how serious it could get until I switched to PvE and started up a guild of my own.  I honestly believe that the addition of a guild achievement system and perks granted for raids where the majority of the players in the group are from the same guild have something to do with this almost single-minded track of focus, as well.

We’ve lost several members because we weren’t able to organize raid nights quickly enough.  It isn’t that we don’t want to raid — of course a few members don’t have any interest in such things, and that’s totally fine, but the majority of us would love to be able to throw together a 10-man — it’s that we all have schedules and busy lives that make such things nearly impossible.  The average age in our guild is around 25 to 30 years.  Our late nights doing pantsless Karazhan raids have been replaced by having to get up early for our 9 to 5 or drive the kids to school in the morning.  Most of us are married or at least in serious relationships where spending several hours in front of the computer is not an option.  Raid nights are a luxury mostly reserved for the high school and college-age kids whose biggest concern is bullshitting their way through a 2-page essay on Greek mythology, or at least that’s how it seems through our eyes.

In a way, recruiting for Torchwood Institute has started to remind me of job-hunting and finding a plethora of jobs requiring experience, but no one willing to give you the opportunity for that experience.  There’s plenty of people who want to raid… but they don’t want to take the time to recruit more people for raiding, or gear new players up, or take them on training runs.  I believe this goes back to the strong “anti-noob” prejudice cropping up in games, where running LFR can obviously mean nothing other than “you’re bad” and having to take the time to explain strategies to people before a boss pull is a major inconvenience because we should all instantly be able to figure it out and if we can’t then we’re not “real” raiders.  It’s a frustrating mentality, an effect of our society which has largely become a culture of instant-gratification, and one that I believe is going to end up biting us all in the ass when the established long-term players all end up quitting from the burnout (the question is not if they will but when they will) and there’s nobody to fill their roles.

It is somewhat heartening, however, that the players we have lost to raiding have actually left quite gracefully and said straight up that they really enjoyed spending time with us because we were cool and hated to leave us, they just wanted to get something out of the game that we couldn’t offer them.  One of our regular members almost tearfully contacted me the other night during a game of StarCraft to ask for my blessing to accept an invitation for a raiding guild on his main.  I think he was shocked when I congratulated him and told him of course he could leave his alts in with us, that he’d always be welcome back.  At the very least, he made sure I understood that if I ever needed him for anything at all on his main, he’d be there in a heartbeat.  He never had an elitist mentality, but since his time in-game was limited by work and other responsibilities, he needed to make sure he was spending it the way he wanted to in order to get as much out of that time as he could.

And therein lies the flipside of the “raid night or bust” challenge.  I realize that by now it probably sounds like I’m calling everyone whose primary goal is to raid a jerk, and that’s not at all what I’m trying to do.  It’s all in how you express that desire.  For example, here’s a few wrong ways to do it:

  • Belittling other guild members (or the guild itself) for not living up to your expectations
  • Making repeated threats to leave if your demands aren’t met
  • Using the guild bank for your own benefit, then immediately /gquitting for another, more “prestigious” guild
  • Rage-quitting over the lack of raiding or lack of progression (“screw you noobs I’m out” or “you guys suck” followed by a /gquit)
  • Being unwilling to pitch in and help get newer players ready to raid
  • Constantly harassing guild leadership — “when are we gonna raiiiid?”  “are we raiding yet?”  Trust me, you’ll be the first to know.

By the same token, it’s the guildmaster’s responsibility to make sure that they live up to their promises.  I tell people joining the guild that we’re trying to get the numbers up for raiding and regular heroics, and that right now we have a few regular members on hiatus due to real-life stuff but that once they come back activity should pick up, at least for 5-mans.  Hell, I will flat-out say “if you’re looking for regular raid nights, unless you can be really patient with us, we unfortunately cannot give you that.”  It’s an inconvenient truth to say the least, but it’s better than promising “oh yeah bro epics everywhere server firsts progression woooooo ilvl 520 erryday” and then failing to deliver.  Not only does it damage your own reputation, it also casts a shadow on the rest of the guild.

A guild that doesn’t raid, or even players who choose not to raid, aren’t “scrubs” or “noobs” or any of that.  They’re choosing to play the game the way that they want, or the way that they can, just the same as somebody who wants to devote their time to endgame content.  As long as we can foster a sense of mutual respect between the two parties, we’re all doing fine.

In the meantime, if you’re a cool dude or dudette who doesn’t mind being patient while we get ourselves situated to raid, check out Torchwood Institute horde-side on Uldum.  We’d love to have you!