Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It Really Has Been a "Long Strange Trip"

So I Earned the "What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been" the other day. I am sure many others, upon getting their Violet Proto-Drake, have done some kind of retrospective. Well, here is mine.
I may have covered some of this before, but I don't feel like reviewing all my other posts for this one. As it is, I have waited to write this until I could devote time to it. Real Life is great. (^^)

So in May and June of 2006, a good friend from work and I were taking a class to improve our computer networking skills. I knew he played World of Warcraft and we had discussed the game, which he really enjoyed. But I wasn't interested. "I'm not a gamer," I would always say. Of course, I had played video and computer games, like SimCity, Age of Empires, SoulCaliber; but I didn't consider myself very good and it certainly didn't take up much of my time. There was a young woman in the class who had played a bit, her husband was an avid WoW player, as well. She would "accuse" me of being a WoW-playing nerd. I denied it, of course--too many years spent with that label in the school system. Anyway, my friend was about to prove me a liar.

In late June, he came over to my house and simply said, "Try it." So I installed it and tried it. The opening cinematic was amazing. I roled a Dwarf hunter named Oakheart, fascinated by the customization choices of the character screen. (Of course, I have come to realize how rudimentary it is.) I watched and listened as the narrator explained my people's history and my "background," finally settling on the now-familiar close third-person view of the game, where I would follow all my characters most of the time. The intro NPC beckoned me to my first quest with the Yellow exclamation point above his head. The world of Cold Ridge Valley and the zone of Dun Morogh seemed so huge, Azeroth seemed like it would be gigantic. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to have that feeling again. But even playing subsequent games like LOTRO, STO, and AoC have not held the same sense of wonder of those first few months of WoW.

I was quickly hooked, buying my subscription for $30 through the WoW website a week before I saw it available for $20 at Walmart. (o.O) I didn't stick with Oakheart, as you, Dear Reader, may already know. I quickly became an altoholic, strangely settling on my fourth alliance toon, Rowanblaze, a human shadow priest. She had a twin sister, Hollyhammer, who was actually my second alliance toon. I didn't even really like her name that much. It has since grown on me, I have even taken on "Rowan" as my nom de blog. My second level 80, Hazelwingut, is my fifth alliance toon. I don't have a ton of 80s, because I have veered off into Horde territory for extended periods, but not long enough to hit 80. Pawpawmojo on Terenas, at 63, is my highest level Horde character.
In the fall of 2006, my friend had moved to another time zone and was rarely playing WoW when I was online. I spent some time in Germany, getting to know some local friends and playing WoW with them. It was cool to have friends to play with, I made new characters to play on their server, Deathwing (still pointing to the Stateside realms), and we had some good times and late nights. My traveling companion made fun of us, until we said, "Try it." Within ten minutes, he was addicted to The Glow. He would go on to hook a friend of his back in the States, making the third generation of conversion from my "missionary." I don't have those characters anymore, I didn't like the PvP server and the bullying it engendered, both in me and in others. Plus, I was no longer involved with my German friends. Because of the distance in time and geography, I lost those friends, but kept the memory.

This side-trip into PvP realms meant that I had no top level toons when The Burning Crusade came out in late January, 2007. I still went and got the game. Luckily for me, that was an icy day, and I had been sent home from work, so I could install the expansion and play my first Blood Elf and Draenei characters. I held off after seeing the chaos of hundreds of people playing the starting zones. I didn't get out to Outland with Rowanblaze until months later, but it was awesome when I did. During this time, I invested in a nice desktop computer to play the game on, the first of a few such purchases to improve my gameplay experience. Summer 2007 came with a job change and more frequent travel. With plenty of time on my hands, I played for hours a day--a casual addict. I read the novels, became very familiar with the lore, and enjoyed the in-game story developments all more for it, I believe. Having so many alts, I am sure I have earned the Loremaster title as a player, even though not on any individual toon. Sometimes I wish they had Account-level Achievements for just that reason. I daresay I know the lore better than anyone else in my guild, where one of the raid leaders refers to Malygos as "she" and Onyxia as "he." He knows the fights, but not the reason for them, IMHO.

Anyway, Rowanblaze and I progressed through the levels to Outland with Hazelwingnut following close behind, eventually hitting 70. As a potential healer, I was in demand for raiding, so I respec'd to Discipline; avoiding the Holy cliche, I hoped. Plus, it fit my "repentant shadow" RP character development. So I began raiding Karazhan with my guild. I had a lot of fun, but we never really got past it to the higher level raid instances before I decided I didn't have time to devote to the raid. When Wrath of the Lich King was released, I was ready to jump straight into Northrend. I attacked it from both directions, Rowan in the Borean Tundra and Hazel in the Howling Fjord. BTW, the Borean Lore Achievement is a LIE!
In January 2009, I met a woman in real life with whom I shared many adventures, both in-game and out. Those adventures in Azeroth were on the Horde side, with brand new characters. Rowan and Hazel were on hiatus during this time. Both Rowan and Hazel had achieved some holiday titles, but when my girlfriend and I broke up in the fall of 2009, I had just missed working on the Brewfest achievement with Rowan. I got it for Hazel, because she had some of the stuff done already. I realized that the Violet Proto-Drake was within my grasp with just a few adventures through this year. I raided heavily last winter and this spring, reaching exalted status with all the Northrend factions. But once again, I realized that the gear grind is just not enjoyable to me. If Rowan had achieved "Brewmaster" last year, Children's Week would have been the holiday she got the Proto-Drake. But now I have my mount. Oh, and if you don't think a casual, non-raiding player deserves an avenue to a superfast drake, you can choke on my Drake farts. (^x^)

I don't play WoW so much anymore. Star Trek Online is a lot of fun, and I don't feel like I have "done it all before." LOTRO and AoC were less interesting. I have had a couple trips that precluded any gameplay and that has helped curb my habit. I also have new things in my life that mean I don't devote so much time to online gaming. I look forward to Cataclysm and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I also hope to blog a little more often than I have been recently. More stories, maybe more insights into this long strange trip all of us are on.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

La Gitana: Suspicions

Spoilers follow, AyAitch.
Starfleet Communique (Handle Via Top Secret Channels):
STARDATE: 88303.39

FROM: Rowan A. Starblanket, Captain, U.S.S. La Gitana
TO:  Jorel Quinn, Admiral, Chief of Starfleet
        James Kurland, Captain, Deep Space Nine

RE: SPR-5195 and Section 31

In Brief: Upon investigation of possible Undine activity in SPR-5195, I discovered "games" being played by Captain Franklin Drake of Section 31.
Acting on orders from Captain Kurland of DS9, La Gitana approached SPR-5195 to investigate reports by several transport ships of anomalies that were "swimming" through space. We detected several anomalies possibly related to fluidic space and the Undine infiltration. During the survey, La Gitana was ambushed by what were apparently Cardassian vessels. We detected a Starfleet runabout, piloted by Captain Drake, being attacked by one of the Cardassian ships. After defeating the attackers, Drake contacted us with a story of the U.S.S. Obsidian, a Centaur class light cruiser, whose telepathically sensitive crew members were allegedly being affected by Undine telepathy.
We beamed aboard the Obsidian with Drake and subdued several officers, administering a neurosuppressor, provided by Drake, that seemed to cure the subjects. Upon which they beamed away from the area, supposedly to the Obsidian sickbay. Their quick disappearances aroused my suspicions about Drake, which only deepened when he told me Captain Anjan Carna, commanding officer of the Obsidian, was a suspected Undine agent. We confronted Captain Carna on the bridge.

Both Carna and Drake accused the other of being Undine moles. Having had some experience with the Undine, I interviewed them both, but Drake's answers seemed more suspicious. My crew and I sided with Captain Carna and a firefight ensued with other apparent Starfleet officers beaming in to defend Drake. Just as we defeated Drake and his people, the Obsidian bridge dissolved into a holodeck.
Drake said that the whole thing had been a test set up by Section 31, and that by choosing Carna over him, I had somehow failed. Though I suspect if I had chosen Drake, I would have "failed" anyway. He then  threatened me, saying that a court martial would be the least of my worries if I told anyone what had happened.


Admiral, you told me to keep you apprised of any Undine activity we encounter on the Cardassian front. Section 31 is interfering with normal Starfleet operations. I don't approve of the actions of Franklin Drake or his cohort, and I will not be threatened. Section 31 is not acknowledged by Starfleet or the Federation. Frankly, if we cross paths again, I will deal with Drake with extreme prejudice.

Submitted,

Captain R.A.Starblanket, Commanding
U.S.S. La Gitana

OOC: This was the famous holodeck mission. I could have gotten to it a lot earlier, it was a Captain level 1 mission. I was sidetracked doing some other things, and now I'm almost Admiral. But it was still a blast to do. As of right now I don't think Drake will appear again, unless new content is published involving him.

Section 31 is definitely on Rowan's list. She refers to them openly because she realizes that to them operational security is paramount over disruption of their operational goals. Drake's threats were empty ones.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sexism in WoW

So apparently there has been quite a kerfuffle over the past few days on various World of Warcraft blogs. I follow one of them and that is what alerted me to the controversy. Larísa over at the Pink Pigtail Inn briefly discussed the controversy before deciding to move on. In her post, she referenced a post by Tamarind at Righteous Orbs that summed up the overall discussion quite well, including a link to a very opinionated post by Adam at The Noisy Rogue. A good time was had by all.
The whole thing reminded me of the this pic. I think it's funny, because that stupid jock has no more business it's absurd to think that the interchoobs or online games or anything else is the exclusive purview of either gender. Both my current guild in WoW and my fleet in STO are headed up by women. Many of my favorite blogs are written by female bloggers, a few of whom I consider friends.

The discussion of the way females are portrayed in World of Warcraft is not new and was not solved in this latest flame war, assuming it needs to be. All media tend to portray idealized--and in many cases stereotypical--versions of both genders. There are often racial issues, as well. As I have written on this blog, I often play female characters in my games, because I like the way they look, a product of my proclivities as a heterosexual male. Other men wouldn't dream of playing female characters, they invest too much of themselves into the character to play a female. I like to think that I portray my female characters positively. But if you read my story posts, Dear Reader, I think you can be the judge of that.

We all have our own opinions. Some people agree with us, and some we will never be able to convince. I have expressed my own opinions--and prejudices--from time to time on this blog. As I said on Righteous Orbs, people frequently misunderstand the First Amendment (or whatever Freedom of Speech clause in their own country) to mean they can say anything they want with no consequence. That “freedom” is only from criminal prosecution. They are not immune from social reprobation. This goes for blogs and all media. You can say whatever you want, but I don’t have to listen.

If you don't like the way whatever facet of a game is being developed, let the developers know. There may be others who like the way things are. But if enough people agree that something should be changed; trust me, the developers will listen.

A note on my blogroll:  this is not the list of every blog I read. It is not even the complete list of every blog I hold in high regard. I don't have a super strict set of criteria for who is included, so don't be offended if you are not on there. I did clean it up a bit tonight after reading PPI, because a couple people hadn't posted in a while, or they had changed their URL.

Thank you for reading. :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cosmetic Changes in WoW: Cataclysm

OK, WoW CATA beta testers, I have just one question. Have the character avatars changed; and if so, what do they look like? I am worried because of some of the stuff I see in WotLK. Let me illustrate.
On the left, you see what Jaina Proudmore used to look like: a bland but pretty face that was available to any player role-ing a human female. I liked her almost as much as I liked my twins Rowanblaze and Hollyhammer (see below). The new Jaina, on the right, is pouty; her lips aren't quite right somehow. And don't even get me started on her eyes. Perhaps it goes with her new whiny, crybaby persona. As much as people seem to dislike Garrosh Hellscream, I think it is the suddenly weepy, pining-after-Arthas Jaina that has suffered the most annoying character change. I can't remember who brought it up in another blog, but why the heck does she call Varian Wrynn her king after the Deathbringer Saurfang fight? Absolutely ludicrous, as she is the sovereign of her own city-state on another continent, and didn't even come from Stormwind in the first place. It's as if Barack Obama were to address Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands as his queen. But I digress.

I am worried that my lovelies will end up looking like they are from LOTRO.
I hope that if they do make these cosmetic changes, that players are given the opportunity to re-customize their characters. I may not like the new face that Blizz thinks corresponds to my avatar's old face, but I may find another I like better.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Do the Borg Have an Afterlife?

The interior of the Borg wreckage was dark and humid. A sick green light bathed the injured and dying drones, while sparks rained from a ruptured conduit. Emergency bulkheads had sealed the compartment from the vacuum of space before the cube had broken up. But the life support system was failing, the air growing stale. The telltale whine of a Starfleet transporter echoed down a corridor toward the chamber.

In another chamber, six figures materialized in a combat-ready formation. As the transporter effect faded, one of the figures holstered her weapon and flipped open her tricorder, which murmered and beeped. Speaking though her re-breather, she declared:

"Radiation elevated but within tolerances. Gravity at 75% Earth normal. Oxygen levels below normal; CO2 elevated, unsafe. Keep your masks on."

A chorus of voices responded with "ayes." One of the other figures, even smaller than the captain and positioned directly opposite in the defensive circle, pulled out her own tricorder and began to scan for life signs. Pointing down a corridor, Auzzie said:

"Picking up faint readings, Captain. Down that corridor."

Major Gasira and one of her MACOs took point, followed closely by Rowan and Thierry, with Auzzie and the third MACO bringing up the rear. Debris littered the floor of the corridor, and the away team cautiously through the wrecked ship. They came upon a widening of the hallway where they found several regeneration alcoves occupied by drones. Rowan and Auzzie scanned the bodies, but they were all defunct. Thierry scanned the alcoves themselves.

"Dey appear to have overloaded, mebe a power surge when de cube exploded."

"Yes," responded Rowan. "The tissue surrounding the cybernetic interfaces is burned, some charring. They died in their sleep."

Auzzie continued to track the life signs. Further down this corridor there is a larger chamber. I don't think the explosion happened more than a day or two ago, Captain."

The metallic groan of fatigued struts sounded through the corridor. Thierry adjusted his tricorder and took in the readings.

"Capitaine, de artificial gravity generators are beginning to fail. Gravemetric shifts as dey go offline may cause the structure to collapse."

"Understood. Let's move on. These creatures no longer need our help."

The structural moans continued to reverberate down the hall as the party moved forward. As they approached the large chamber, they came across their first animate drone. Rowan rushed forward with her tricorder. The drone's face was badly burned; the ocular implant looked melted, and the remaining eye was charred. It seemed to be attempting to rise, at least the mechanical portion was. A strangled gasp rattled in its throat. The wall opposite the drone was just twisted metal and polymer. Thierry checked it.

"Dese appear to be de remains of an interface panel, Capitaine. De drone must have been using it when it blew up."

"Only minimal activity in the brain stem. No activity in the cerebral cortex or cerebellum. I think the machine is keeping this one alive. There is nothing we can do here."

"We should put it out of its misery." This from the major. Rowan glared at her through her mask. Gasira just gazed back impassively.

"Do you not think killing this drone will bring whatever defenses they have down on us?"

"I think whatever defenses they might have are not functioning."

"How is it that a Starfleet medical officer knows more than a combat specialist about the tactics of one of the Federation's deadliest enemies? From the first contact with the Borg by the Enterprise-D, they have not reacted to boarders unless specifically attacked."

"Captain, Voyager and even Enterprise-D and -E encountered Borg that were immediately hostile to boarding parties. It is my assessment that if they have not attacked us, they are unable to. Meanwhile this drone is suffering. I simply proposed a humane solution."

Rowan shook her head, "There is no mind to suffer here. And I will not endanger this team needlessly. Let's move on."

"Captain, I also believe that leaving this creature between us and the beam out point endangers the away team."

"Major, I have made the decision. Move out."

Gasira gazed at Rowan, calculating, then gestured to the rear MACO, who replaced her on point while the major took up the rear guard. Rowan fumbled in her medkit for a hypo and, finding it, made some adjustments and injected the drone with a sedative and painkiller combo, just in case the Major was right.

"The life signs are becoming clearer, but they are fading, Captain." This from Auzzie.

"OK, let's go."

As the team moved cautiously down the corridor, the vessel groaned more loudly. The screech of tearing metal rang through the hallway. The away team stumbled, Auzzie falling to her knees as the deck seemed to lurch then list to starboard of the away team's orientation.

"Report!" shouted Rowan, over the cacophony.

Thierry responded, "One of de gravity generators has failed. De others are tryin' to compensate but dey are already strained. Plus, de altered gravimetric fields are strainin' de superstructure."

"How much time do we have?"

"Too hard to say, given our lack of familiarity wit Borg technology. We need to get trough dis mission and get out of here."

"OK, let's move."

The large chamber was a complete shambles. Strangely, it appeared to be some sort of cargo or parts storage bay. But debris was everywhere. Pipes, conduits, and components looked as if they had been tossed off shelves and out of containers. A few more bodies lay amongst the rubble. The team fanned out, stepping through the carnage. One drone had its skull bashed in, apparently by a large pipe that lay  half across the corpse Another had been cut nearly in half by a structural support that had broken loose. Suddenly, Rowan's tricorder began beeping urgently, directing her toward a pile of loosely coiled conduit. A foot and calf protruded from the material.

"These signs are fairly strong. Let's get this stuff off of it."

Thierry and one of the MACOs moved to assist. Together, they threw off the larger coils slowly revealing an unconscious but apparently uninjured female drone. However, when Rowan scanned her closely, she discovered shattered ribs, a collapsed lung and other bruised organs; the drone was barely breathing. Her pulse was thready and blood oxygen levels were half normal. Rowan could detect the Borg's nanites working to repair the misaligned bones, but was unable to determine the functionality of the drone's mechanical components.
"Thierry take a look at these readings," she said as she handed the tricorder to the engineer. He studied the readings for a few moments.

"Cher, de subspace transponder is not functionin'. She's lost contact with de collective."

"I think we can transport her safely to La Gitana."

Auzzie had discovered two more drones under a collapsed shelving unit. "Captain, this one is pretty bad off, but there is still brain activity. The other seems stronger, but still comatose."

Rowan moved to scan the second drone confirming Auzzie's assessment. The third was indeed better off, but had a brain injury. There were no other life signs in the wreckage.

"Auzzie you will accompany these two back to La Gitana. Thierry, deploy the pattern enhancers." Rowan  turned to the MACO standing over the first drone. "Sergeant, you will accompany that one.  "

The Sergeant glanced at Major Gasira. "Yes, Ma'am."

Rowan tapped her commbadge. "Starblanket to La Gitana."

"This is Commander Shintarah. Go ahead, Captain."

"Tarah, alert the medical team and security detail in the Borg containment unit. We're almost ready for beam out."

"Aye, Captain."

Thierry gave Rowan the thumbs up. Rowan nodded to Auzzie, who tapped her own badge. "Torbin to transporter room. Three to beam directly to Cargo Bay Four from my location." The whine of the transporter sounded over the groans and cries of the Borg wreckage. The transporter effect shimmered around the young Trill and her two charges. Rowan nodded to the MACO.

"Starnes to transporter room. Two to beam to Cargo Bay Four." Once again the transporter whined and the MACO disappeared with the drone. But even as the two figures faded, there sounded a giant crash as the floor lurched again, sending the remaining four flying into a wall on top of the debris.