By request. I posted this on Twitter originally; it’s been reassembled here.

What happened to today reminds us all that will ban anyone permanently and not even offer evidence to back it up.

This is why I haven’t done anything with my gathering-and-exploring-only character for years; reported for botting once, because someone didn’t bother to try to talk to me – they just saw me running around a zone gathering nodes and assumed. So that character is level 42 and will never go any higher. Stuck as an AH mule. What else can I do?

“But if we let people know what botters look like, botters can correct for it!” Yeah, but at this point you’re making it clear that people aren’t allowed to get attached to the characters they’ve put a full decade of work into. You don’t get to celebrate a decade of your players’ loyalty at the same time you’re throwing them out without stated cause.

My sub runs out in September, and at this point, I think I’m going to let it lapse. Blizzard CS does nothing to inspire confidence that I won’t get screwed by a false report and banned. And there go ten years of boxes and subscriptions, with no appeal.

I have lost my patience. Blizzard CS, you are fucking up. Players are your lifeblood. Treat them with at least the tiniest bit of respect. “We don’t have to care about you. There are eight million people just like you.” How long do you expect that to work? Here’s a hint: very, very few of your players play your massively-multiplayer game solo.

Businesses have figured out that “the internet is social” but haven’t actually figured out what that means. On the one hand, it means that your customers – whether that’s “someone who signed up” or “someone who paid us” – are connected tightly. On the other hand, it means that none of the businesses in the game have figured out that means people are creating social networks. Not “Social Networks”, as in “Twitter is a Social Network”, but social networks, as in “I have my own personal social network”.

And that means that when a Business decides to remove a user, they are not only cutting that user off from their capital Social Network, but from their lowercase – and WAY more important – social network. A business removing a user means that user is cut off. Period.

Sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes a user’s social network is just a group of fellow assholes with similar interests. Sometimes it’s a group of people who are connected on every platform, and losing one platform means they just congregate on the next.

But sometimes the social network is important. Sometimes that’s what you have. All you have. And cutting someone off from that without even so much as an explanation does damage. Not even “this is what you did wrong”. Just “nope, you’re gone”.

That doesn’t feel like “I broke the rules and I’m doing the time”. That feels like “this business hates me and I can’t talk to my friends”. Actually, even worse than “this business hates me” – “this business is completely indifferent to me. I have made an emotional investment in this business and they could not possibly care less about that.”

Users have a choice of platforms. Businesses cannot get away with not caring whether or not a user chooses them anymore. Like just said, we play WOW for the nostalgia – but not at all because we have any illusions that we matter to Blizzard. And sooner or later, nostalgia just isn’t going to be good enough anymore. Neither is speed (Twitter). Neither is family (Facebook). Et cetera.

If you’re running a social business, you have to actually invest in your customers. That means supporting and communicating with them – and not just fuckin’ around and assuming there will be more customers if those guys you didn’t give a flying fuck about leave.

 

Check this out: Alyzande/The Gold Queen found out about a single mom who had to cut her WOW subscription so she could pay bills, and she organized a fundraiser that brought in nearly half a million gold to help her buy tokens so she could continue to have her account.

I love it when the community comes together.

Go read Alyzande’s blog; I haven’t paid for my subscription with cash since tokens launched, and she’s part of why I can.

 

How often do I talk about console games? Rarely enough that I had to invent a “Console” tag and category just for this post.

As this is a review, there will be spoilers ahead.

On Friday, Splatoon arrived.

I bought Splatoon on faith; because of my well-known internet issues, I hadn’t been able to participate in any of the betas or public testfires. In fact, truth be told, I hadn’t even heard of the game until people started talking about the first testfire on Twitter. But many people I trust told me I’d like the game, so I gave it a chance.

Splatoon is a third-person over-the-shoulder shooter, like Saint’s Row, released exclusively for the Wii U1. You play as an inkling, a member of a race of sentient squid people who can transform into actual squids, whose main sport is a shooting match where eight participants, four to a side, use colored ink to claim territory for their team, and also to knock members of the opposing team back to the starting point. This sport, called Turf War, is the main focus of the game. You can either play as a completely random group of the first eight people to sign up, or with friends – although that has some issues too, which I’ll address below.

There’s also a single-player campaign, which allows you to use ink to fight against computer-controlled octopus people – octolings or octobots – and includes several features that don’t show up in the multiplayer matches (and a final boss fight that must be seen to be believed), and ranked multiplayer battles, which have a slightly different format from the regular multiplayer battles2.

How is this third-person shooter different from all other third-person shooters?

Well, first of all, nobody’s killing anybody. The ability of inklings to transform into actual squids – which lets you move quickly through ink of your own color, allowing you to move easily to the edge of your territory – also comes up when you take too much damage (“get splatted”); you retreat to your squid form and run back to the safety of the spawn point, where you can regroup and rejoin the battle.

Second, it’s colorful, which is lacking in a lot of recent console games, especially shooters. (Check out this image, which is pretty accurate aside from substituting “Bioware” for “Bethesda”.) I’m playing on a television that I’m pretty sure dates back to 1991 (I am not joking), and the colors still pop off the screen and make the game a joy to play.

Third – and perhaps most controversial – there’s no voice chat. None. In fact, you can’t really communicate with your teammates at all.

Many people hate this. I love it. There’s no trash talking, no berating, no baffling racist or homophobic slurs. You enter the arena, you do the best you can to score points and help your teammates when you see them, and you leave the arena. Matches are quick enough that communication is almost supernumerary; you just assume that your teammates know what they’re doing and go from there.

The closest you can come to communicating is with the use of a recent Miiverse post – and that’s only displayed in-game in Inkopolis, the main hub of the game, and only when you get close to someone. And since Inkopolis is instanced so that there are only a few dozen players (at most) in any given copy of the hub, it’s rare that you’ll run across someone you played with before.

Another feature of the game, although one that doesn’t necessarily stand out from other shooters, is that, as I mentioned earlier, the games are short. You have 180 seconds to score as many points as you can, and then your points are tallied and you’re given the chance to move into a new match.

We get it, you like the game. Does it have any flaws?

Well, yeah. It wouldn’t be a Nintendo game without some shocking missteps.

First and foremost, although there are many weapons and equipment to choose from, you can only change what you have equipped by saying “no, I don’t want to battle again” after the end of a battle and going back to the main multiplayer lobby. Among other things, this means that if you’re playing with a friend, you’ll have to link up with them again.

That leads me to the second major flaw: the feature that allows you to join friends is great in theory, but in practice you can only choose one friend to join, as long as they’re also in the game, and then you’ll join the next battle they do. This lets you chain friend groups – so that if you have three friends you’d like to play with, you can join Friend 1, they’ll join Friend 2, and Friend 2 will join Friend 3 – but it’s a hassle to get it set up correctly. (Additionally, if you’re playing with a friend, that just guarantees that your friend will be in the same match – not necessarily on the same team. This leads to some awkward situations.)

More on multiplayer: the connection is peer-to-peer, rather than server-based, so you’re connecting directly to the seven other people in the match. This means much faster connections if you’re in the same area – but much slower connections if your opponent is on a different continent (or, like me, has to send a signal into space in order to connect to the internet). This means that lag spikes are not uncommon, and – especially for me – it’s easy to splat someone and then get splatted by them after they’ve died because their connection caught up to yours.

Finally, although the single-player campaign is excellent, it’s relatively short; most of the people I’ve talked to have finished it in under six hours, and most of the time I spent on the single-player campaign was on the final boss. (Man, that’s a hard fight.)

So why do I need Splatoon?

It’s a colorful, fast-paced, zero-commitment post-apocalyptic shooter with fantastic music and designs. Yes, “post-apocalyptic”; you can find ancient documents in the single-player campaign that reveal that the world of Splatoon is built on the ruins of human civilization, after ten thousand years of mutation and evolution on the part of the squids and octopodes. The backstory is surprisingly rich for a shooter, and although the single-player game is short it has a fair amount of replay value to find the aforementioned ancient documents.

Oh, and inside the game – playable while you’re waiting for a match to start or at an arcade machine in Inkopolis – is Squid Jump, a faux-NES jumping game that has you climbing a series of platforms to reach a bird at the top. I don’t think I have to explain that one.

(Why a bird? I have no idea.)

Splatoon: 9/10

1 Understandably, since Splatoon is a first-party game, developed and released by Nintendo.

2 Author’s note: I haven’t played in ranked battles yet, so I can’t comment on them.

 

(It was a year ago that I said I was going to try to post here once a week. We see how well that’s gone!)

Wildstar continues to be fun, although the lag is frustrating. It’s much more of an action MMO than I’m used to – more so than GW2, which has a similar dodge mechanic that I never use – and while getting out of telegraphs was doable early on, the difficulty ramped up around level 10 and I found myself constantly taking damage.

Still, I persevere. Theande, my Mordesh medic, is level 16 now, and doggedly pressing onward. I’ve been able to assemble a mix of damage and healing skills that allow me some additional survival without sacrificing too much killing ability, and I’ve been paying more attention to Optimal Builds so that I can keep my killing capacity up. Ultimately, I can take at-level NPCs without too much trouble, and that’s really all I need. (If a higher-level enemy, or a strong at-level enemy, shows up, I can just wait!)

The game is still lovely to look at. Celestion, the Aurin/Mordesh starting area, feels like it’s been designed to ease the transition for players coming from Pandaria, with its rolling green hills and flowing rivers (and they do flow – this is the first MMO I’ve seen with water that moves your character). Thayd, the main Exile city, feels like a mishmash of each race’s sensibilities, just as a refugee city should, plus a central section lifted straight out of William Gibson’s Sprawl.

One thing I do have trouble with is Challenges. They’re intended to be done as you pass through an area – typically, they match something you’re doing anyway – but they’re timed, and since killing mobs and completing objectives takes me longer than other characters (because of both my lag and the suboptimal build I have to use to compensate for it), I rarely come through and complete a challenge on my first try. Thankfully, you can come back and try again later; at higher levels you get less XP and rewards that are less meaningful, but the completionist in me appreciates that I can finish them.

Ultimately, Wildstar is not just World of Warcraft with a hat on; it’s its own game in its own world with its own mechanics and quirks. (And lots of fun jumping puzzles – those I can do!) Someone who is expecting WOW 2 is going to be disappointed – and I know a few people who were and are – but if you can break out of the WOW mindset, it’s worth playing.

(The UI is still pretty awful, though.)

 

On Tuesday I bit the bullet and bought Wildstar – in a box, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to play until nearly July! (Downloading large files – Wildstar weighs in at over 20 GB – over a rate-limited, metered connection is an exercise in patience.) I still ended up downloading nearly 1.5GB in patches during the install, but it was finally ready to go Sunday morning.

(An aside: Wildstar comes on three DVDs. Remember when World of Warcraft came on four CDs? That’s a maximum of about 2.6 GB, as I recall. How times have changed!)

Wildstar feels an awful lot like Guild Wars 2 mixed with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Like GW2, it has a very mobile combat system; in fact, Wildstar‘s is even more mobile and quick-paced, since nearly every ability can be used while moving and abilities are generally skillshots rather than attached to a specific target. Like SWTOR, the quest system is dynamic, and again Wildstar takes it a step farther. While I haven’t run into class-specific or race-specific quests, a third character customization, path, has abundant custom quests, and certain aspects of the world do change based on your race and class.

The races of Wildstar are divided into two factions: the Dominion and the Exiles. This actually is a little frustrating, not only because faction-based player divisions feel a little outdated but because the Dominion are so blatantly the Bad Guys in a way the Horde and even the Sith never were. They are an empire based, at least from what I’ve seen, almost entirely on the idea that they deserve to rule, and the Exiles having rejected their rule – in at least two cases because the Dominion destroyed their planets – is seen not only as an affront but as a reason to treat the Exile races as Less Than.

The Dominion are so outright evil that I almost expected the Emperor to be Snidely Whiplash. A recent post on Mapjabbit talked about an Exile-side “torture” quest, a fair way into the game, that turned out to not actually involve significant torture at all. Meanwhile, one of the very first quests as a Dominion character asks you to assault citizens with a shock prod to convince them to undergo a mind probe, and when some of those citizens are identified as disloyal, they are, in groups, incinerated, dissolved, or transmuted into horrifying ooze-beasts that provide the character’s first combat encounter.

If you’re prepared to accept comedic sociopathy, you can probably withstand Dominion-side play. If you’d rather a more light-hearted game… well, Exile appears to be the more common faction for a reason.

Anyway. I’ve logged less than 10 hours playing so far (across four alts) and I haven’t even reached level 10 – but if someone asks you what I’ve been playing, now you know!

 

I’m retiring from World of Warcraft.

(It’s not just because of the issues brought to light by Rob Pardo’s recent interview and comments, although that’s part of it.)

Mostly, I realized this week that a lot of why I was playing WOW was nostalgia. I first started playing in February 2005, when my friend fade brought me a copy from her store in California (back then, Blizzard hadn’t predicted how massively popular WOW would be, and it was incredibly difficult to find for a few months). I even remember what got me to try it: her description of the harvest golems in Westfall. Thottbot had screenshots, but she told me I really had to see them in action and hear the sound effects. So I threw down the $64.19 (sales tax!) and bought a copy, and I was hooked.

My first character was a human warrior named Corver. He made it to level 15 before I rolled an alt. As far as I know he still exists; he started on Lightbringer, but between server splits and migrations I have no idea where he is now.

My first character to reach the massive wealth level of 1 gold was Lishan, a night elf hunter. She was also my first character to level 20.

The first character I really took seriously was an undead priest named Stazane. I leveled her as Shadow, and made it to Arathi Highlands before meeting some friends at college (the second time – long story) and creating a character on their (PVP) server.

That character – a Tauren hunter named Takareg – was my first character to reach level 60, a little while after Burning Crusade launched. I busted my ass to get him to level 60 so that I could join a Molten Core run my friends were putting together.

Takareg is currently level 65, and sitting in Zangarmarsh with his pet gorilla. He likes it there, I think.

Soon after that, the guild fell apart, and I joined another group of friends on a different PVP server (they wanted to play Alliance characters, and back then you had to pick a faction and stick with it on PVP servers). I’d created Theande, a Draenei priest, on Burning Crusade’s launch day, and she became my main. (Looking back, I wonder what I was thinking, maining a priest on a PVP server.)

Theande was my first character to reach the level cap, and the first character I raided with. I spent hours grinding battlegrounds to get an epic mace, which helped me get into heroic dungeons and thereby into raids. When I fell out with that group of friends, I stuck with Theande, transferring her to a PVE server and joining a raiding guild there. (In fact, Theande has been through two server transfers, ending up on the role-playing server Moon Guard.)

Theande was my first character to 70, to 80, to 85, and to 90. She’s not my only level-capped character; I’ve brought one death knight, Sisuphe, to 80 during Wrath; a different one, Ixtamna, to 85 during Cataclysm, along with Rusted, a goblin shaman and my first Horde level-capped character; and a paladin, Rolastra, to 90 just a week or so ago.

All of my characters have stories and meaningful names (part of why I ended up on an RP server). Tiryns, my faithful rogue (now level 70!), is named after an ancient Greek city, and lost her father when he was corrupted by the Nightmare. Ixtamna, named for an Aztec god, was a druid before the Scourge killed her, and still prefers to dress in leather when she can. (She misses being able to heal.) Rusted Screwloose, the goblin shaman, should have been Trade Princess and won’t let anyone forget it.

I put so much meaning into WOW that it seems almost like losing a chunk of myself to walk away from it.

But ultimately, WOW isn’t the game I got excited about when I was 25 – and even if I could turn it back into that game, it wouldn’t make me 25 again. I know all of these characters, and I don’t need to keep grinding away levels in order to keep them close. I can continue to write their stories if I want to – or just revisit them now and then as old friends.

For now, Rolastra’s training with the Shado-Pan to prepare for the next big threat to the world. Tiryns is camped out at Stars’ Rest, keeping an eye on the dragonflights. Rusted is in Orgrimmar working on gadgets and trinkets.

And Theande is sitting in her farm in Halfhill, tending her crops and fishing in Jogu’s pond, laughing and drinking with Farmer Joon and the Tillers, or just leaning back and watching the Vale, her Weathered Fishing Hat tilted down to shade her eyes.

It’s a nice retirement.

 

(idea via dee, crossposted from Tumblr)

“Theande was a proud Alliance healer, but something changed during the Pandarian campaign. She’s followed Garrosh to the past not to aid or stop him, but to take revenge on the orcs who caused the destruction of Draenor.”

Theande is a multi-phase fight; the phase shifts depending on her health.

Phase 1

Theande begins the fight in Shadowform, which reduces damage dealt to her by 10% and heals her for 0.5% of the spell damage she deals. Two tanks are usually recommended due to her Mind Blast effect. She attacks the player at the top of her threat list physically, and casts the following spells:

  • Mind Blast – Theande casts Mind Blast on her primary target every ten seconds, on average, which deals substantial damage and reduces healing done to that player by 30%. This debuff lasts 15 seconds and stacks, with the duration refreshing every time she successfully casts the spell. Tanks should switch off immediately after the spell hits. Mind Blast cannot be interrupted.
  • Mind Sear – every thirty seconds, Theande casts Mind Sear, targeting a random player. This deals moderate damage every second for three seconds to everyone within 20 yards of the targeted player. Theande emotes with the player’s name before beginning the channel, and does not attack the tank during this time, so players should move away from the named character. The Mind Sear channel can be interrupted.
  • Summon Shadowfiend – Theande periodically summons a Shadowfiend at one of four locations around the room. These have a threat table, but start off attacking the nearest player. They deal moderate physical damage, and increase Theande’s spell damage by 50% for 30 seconds if they are killed, so they should be kited around the room. This spell is instant and cannot be interrupted.

Phase 2

When Theande reaches 50% health, she will leave Shadowform, and all Shadowfiends will despawn (without giving her their spell power bonus). At this point she loses her threat table and begins healing herself. She uses the following spells:

  • Heal – Theande heals herself for 10% of her maximum health. This spell takes two seconds to cast and can be interrupted.
  • Power Word: Shield – A spirit barrier appears to protect Theande, absorbing damage equal to 5% of her health. This cannot be interrupted but can be dispelled.
  • Penance – Theande targets a random member of the raid and attacks them magically, dealing massive damage in three bursts over 1.5 seconds. This channel can be interrupted. Theande emotes with the name of the player she is attacking when she uses Penance.
  • Holy Nova – This deals moderate damage to anyone within 20 yards of Theande and heals her for 5% of her maximum health. This cannot be interrupted.
  • Renew – This heals Theande for 25% of her maximum health over 10 seconds. It can be dispelled, but not interrupted.

If Theande reaches 65% of her maximum health again, she returns to Shadowform and Phase 1.

Theande’s focus shifts from damaging the players to healing herself as her health drops. If she drops below 11% of her maximum health, she casts Inner Fire, which doubles her casting speed (but not casting frequency) and the effectiveness of her healing spells. This effect falls off when she rises back above 25% of her maximum health.

If the fight with Theande lasts longer than twelve minutes, she enrages; her casting speed, casting frequency, and area of effect double, and the effectiveness of all of her spells triples.

When Theande is reduced to 1% of her maximum health, she surrenders, turns friendly (for Alliance characters) or non-hostile (for Horde characters), and offers the victors her cache of trophies.

Achievements

  • [Make Up Your Mind]: Allow Theande to return from her healing form to Shadowform four times in a single battle before defeating her.
  • [Stronger Than You Can Imagine]: Destroy four Shadowfiends within 10 seconds, then defeat Theande.

Notable loot

  • [Tea Chalice]: Spell power trinket. Use: change your character’s gender for 10 minutes.
  • [Falling Star]: Two-handed DPS mace. Best in slot for retribution paladins.
  • [Roll of Adhesive]: Off-hand frill; increases intellect, haste and critical strike.

Quotes

  • Aggro: “Why do you insist on delaying my revenge?”
  • Mind Blast: “Your mind cannot withstand these torments.”
  • Mind Sear: “Watch, [name], as your friends run in terror!”
  • Summon Shadowfiend: “My friend from the Nether would like to meet you!”
  • Phase 2: “No! I must gather my strength!”
  • Penance: “The Light will show you no mercy, [name].”
  • Holy Nova: “Get away from me!”
  • Re-entering phase 1: “I feel so much better now.”
  • Burn phase: “I won’t let you stop me!”
  • Enrage: “You’ve wasted enough of my time.”
  • Player death: “Tragic.”
  • Surrender: “Enough! I see… the error of my ways.”
 

I had the opportunity at the beginning of the month to update SWTOR to the latest patch, so I’ve been spending a lot of my gaming time trying the game out again. My main account has Preferred status (since I was previously a subscriber), and I had a handful of their Cartel Coins currency saved up (Cartel Coins are what you use to buy stuff from the in-game store), so I’ve bought back some of the functionality you lose by not being a subscriber. I also started a second account, as a free-to-play member, just to see what the differences are.

I suspect that if you were coming in fresh – that is, you hadn’t been a subscriber before – the basic account would seem perfectly fine; all of the complaints about “restrictions” that I had were because I’d gotten used to the game as a subscriber. That said, if my biggest complaint about the restrictions is “I’m not getting for free now what I was paying for before”, it’s a pretty petty complaint! Beyond that, in comparison to, say, the first incarnation of World of Warcraft (I dislike the term “vanilla”, but that’s a different post), it’s actually roughly similar to the privileges we got as part of the base game, and there are quite a few additional benefits (for instance, being able to craft directly from the bank/storage, which WOW still doesn’t implement).

On the other hand, as a Free or Preferred player, Bioware does tease the extras you get as a subscriber in the interface (“Subscribers get extra reward options when they complete a quest!”, “Subscribers can hide their head-slot item!”, “Subscribers get a full set of action bars!” etc.), which means that even if you’re not a subscriber, you know what they get that you don’t – which is, I have to confess, a pretty good way to get people to pony up the $15 a month.

The two biggest complaints that I had do still hold: you can’t disable Auto Self-Target on buff and healing abilities (meaning that you have to target the person you want to affect before you start casting; this is really only an issue because I got into healing classes in WOW and RIFT, where you could toggle the spell and then click the person you wanted to affect, and so my muscle memory is wrong); and there’s still no water in the entire game that’s more than calf-deep, which means that there’s no swimming. The latter sounds ridiculous, but it’s a matter of verisimilitude; if, for example, you have to cross a body of water (as you do in the Republic trooper and smuggler starting zone), you’re just wading, instead of having to swim across it.

There’s also the issue of same-sex relationships; these have been teased and promised since before the game launched, and they’re still not implemented. Part of this, I suspect, is that they want to add new characters to have same-sex relationships with, instead of, say, letting my female Imperial Agent have a relationship with Kaliyo; I’m not sure I understand the justification, but that would be a stumbling block. And, to be blunt, the percentage of players for whom this is an issue is smaller than the percentage of players who want to see additional endgame content and off-rails starship combat, so that’s what’s getting the developer attention right now. Still, I hold out hope.

All in all, I am actually having fun with SWTOR again now that I can play it, and I’m hoping that this time, I can keep it updated and actually be able to play in the long term – since being a Preferred member seems to be enough for me right now. (Although Bells gave me a week of Subscriber status as part of SWTOR‘s recruit-a-friend program, and the subscriber benefits are pretty sweet…)

 

The trouble I’ve been finding with playing games is that I haven’t been going in with goals. I’ve just been logging in to log in; and without a goal, I find myself just logging out again five minutes later. (Or shutting the program down, or closing the book – you know what I mean.)

So this weekend, I experimented with gaming with intent. When I logged in on Friday, I decided that my goal was to get Rolastra to level 72 and to complete Howling Fjord, and I was involved enough that I made my goal. (I wrote an addon, a while back, that tells me to get up and do something else every half-hour, and starts giving me grief if I stay logged on for more than four hours at a time, so I’m not just plunking down and not doing anything else until I meet my goal; in that time I also cleaned up the house and wrote about 1500 words on a different project.) On Saturday, I decided to get to level 73 in Dragonblight, and made it with plenty of time to spare. And while I didn’t log on for more than a few minutes yesterday, I’m looking forward to the next time I get to log in and play the game – for the first time in quite a long time, the game is something I want to do, and not just something I do because it’s there, and it’s because of the goals I’m setting and achieving.

Now, granted, there are some caveats. You can’t make yourself enjoy an otherwise-unenjoyable task with goals; these mini-endpoints would mean nothing for my motivation if there weren’t a fun (for me) game underneath. You shouldn’t set your goals too high; I’m not setting my bar at “80 the next time I log in”, for what I hope are obvious reasons. And you shouldn’t set goals that rely on the random number generator; if your goal is “win [whatever the best and brightest loot is] when it drops”, you’re assuming a) that it drops, and b) that you’re going to win it. Don’t base a goal on an event whose resolution is fundamentally out of your hands; it’s just as bad as saying that your goal is to win the next time you pull a slot-machine arm.

Still, the magic of explicit goal-setting has been a great way for me to rediscover an interest in the game (especially since it’s been so long since I went through Northrend that I don’t really remember it very well), and for the first time in a while I’m actually enjoying playing games, so that has to count for something.

 

Well, I caved. After nine months away from the game, I finally bought 30 days of game time for World of Warcraft. Amusingly, it was with the intent of playing with Alex – and we haven’t managed a single minute of play time together since I bought in. Instead, I’ve been largely playing my draenei paladin, Rolastra. She’s currently in her early 70s (I think I hit 71 the last time I played), and wading her way through the Howling Fjord up in Northrend. (She hit 68 less than halfway through Nagrand, and her hearthstone’s been set in Dalaran since Wrath was the current expansion, so it was easy to just pop on up.)

Rolastra is actually the character I created with the express intent of seeing how far I could get her just by running dungeons, and I intended her to be my tanking character once I hit max level (which was 80 back then). I spent a lot of time running a lot of dungeons with my friend Jess’s priest Noore, but between Jess quitting WOW and my connection moving from smooth, buttery cable to “an internet connection only in the broadest sense of the term” satellite, I haven’t run a single dungeon since before Mists of Pandaria was released, and in light of that, I figured I’d see how Rol did in the wild.

Turns out she’s pretty fun to play. She was 50 when I stopped dungeoning with her, and while I won’t say those 21 levels have been easy to come by, they’re a lot easier than I thought they’d be. For some reason, too, I have much less trouble with her than I do with my Death Knight Ixtamna, which is why Rol is getting my attention and Ixy is sitting, unloved, in Paw’don village. (Let’s not mention poor Theande, who is currently on the Timeless Isle waiting for me to get her the hell back to the Alliance Shrine because between my connection and her squishiness, the Isle is a deathtrap, of the “literally spending more gold in repairs than I’m getting in drops and grey items” variety.)