Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Developing Character Backstories in MMORPGs

Thank you to Steve "Slurms" Lichtsinn over at Multiplaying for letting me guest post on their blog. Here is the article I wrote, with minor modifications:

So, you just started your new character in World of Warcraft (or one of those other, lesser, MMORPGs ;) ). You immediately get a quest or mission or whatever they call it in this game, go kill/collect/deliver whatever or whoever and report back. So off you go, continuing through quests and increasing in experience/level/skill. How exciting! But you may come to the point where you ask yourself, "Why am I doing this?" I don't mean playing the game, hopefully you're doing that because it's fun. More like, "Why would my character agree to accomplish this task for someone?" As actors of the Method school might say, "What is my motivation?"
A Motivational Speech
This is when the "Role-Playing" in MMORPG becomes important. I am not talking about sitting around Cantrips and Crows in Dalaran or The Prancing Pony in Bree and saying "thee, thou, and forsooth." Though if that's your thing, more power to you; I am glad you enjoy it. I don't generally do much of that in my own game play. What I am talking about is increasing the depth of your character. In real life, we make decisions every day based on our values--how we were brought up--and current circumstances and necessities. You may work because you need the money, and that is an excellent motivation in-game and in RL. But I bet you chose how you earn your RL money based on a completely different set of not-primarily-financial reasons. By the same token, your character may take a quest for the money, but why is your character a rogue, or a barbarian, or a science officer? You have a background, does your avatar?

Most of the characters I create for the MMORPGs that I play have some sort of backstory, even if it is only in my own imagination. I think of them as having come from somewhere. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what to name them. In World of Warcraft, this is complicated by the need to have a unique name. Having a good name, and not just some random Elvish or Caldari sounding mix of letters, is vital to the background of your avatar. Of course, that random jumble may be a good jumping off point. My first Bridge Officer, Tarah,  in Star Trek Online still has her original random name as a "short name," though I did a little research and developed a full (though non-canon) Andorian name for her as part of her background. Her captain, Rowan Starblanket, has a middle name culled from an online Vulcan dictionary.
You'll probably want to know where your character is from in the game world. This can lead to other motivations based on the history of their homeland or homeworld. My twins in WoW, Rowanblaze and Hollyhammer, lost their home and family to an Orc incursion in the Redridge Mountains, and their upbringing in the shadow of the Cathedral of Light as orphans plays into their classes (priest and paladin) and their talent specializations. In EVE online, to have an Amarrian character means a natural inclination toward a certain set of religious values, perhaps even fanaticism. Or your character may rebel against that background and be a heretic. Gallentes would be perhaps more mercenary or at least mercantile in their outlook on life.

As your characters progress through the game, the tasks they complete and places they go become part of the background of the character. Different locales and situations have a greater or lesser impact on their motivations. These things don't even have to occur in-game. My aforementioned paladin, Hollyhammer, spent time with the the Scarlet Crusade before recognizing the fanatic cult for what it was, and escaping. Of course, in-game it is not really possible to join the Scarlet Crusade. But Holly's mildly fanatical attitude made that a logical thing to include in her story.
Your character doesn't have to have your own personality. You may be Mother Teresa in real life, but your avatar is a nefarious assassin, or a brutal warrior. The opposite may also be true. I would not surprised, however, if your toons are a reflection of you to some degree. Now you may want to to write down an elaborate summary of your character's life so far. You may even end up writing stories about your character's adventures. Or you may want to just have it in the back of your mind as you play. Either way, I would guess your avatar will become more of a living, breathing character instead of just pixels on the screen.

Oh, and READ the mission/quest/task before accepting it. Otherwise killing those Kobolds or Tusken Raiders serves no real purpose, and you might as well be playing Street Fighter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

WoW, I Actually Choked Up a Little

So my GF went and got World of Warcraft and the first two expansions, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, and installed them on her computer. So we've been playing together online for a few sessions. We did the the Recruit-a-Friend thing to tie our accounts together, and it has been cool to get the extra XP. GeeCee was right though: we seem to be leveling ourselves right out of the zones we're supposed to be playing in. Which is good neither for learning lore nor for learning how to control your character, if you're new to the game and to MMORPGs in general. I decided it didn't matter, we'll continue on the lore path and not worry about the XP, because it does make the World a little safer when you're overpowered for the zone you're in.
DGF does have some problems steering, even with a conventional mouse. She has a tendency to push the mouse forward as she runs, which causes the camera angle to climb until she is looking at the sky. We both figure this is something she'll get used to correcting until it becomes automatic for her. I need to look at her video settings, too, to see what can be sacrificed so she can have a decent frame rate.
I have also been playing a new Troll Druid on Silvermoon, named Pawpaw Legba. It was interesting to talk to the druid trainer and find out the lore behind the new ability of the Trolls to become druids. The tutorial quest line started a little different than some of the other noob areas I have been playing, and ended up a little more epic, I think, (spoiler) as Pawpaw Legba was called upon to assist in consolidating the Troll foothold on the Echo Isles. Maybe the other noob quest lines have stuff like it, but I haven't seen it. I got to see the reason for Vol'jin's departure from Orgrimmar, and I wonder if it occurred before or after Cairne Bloodhoof's death at the hands of Garrosh Hellscream. Oh! and talk about "on rails," there were a couple times that I was told to get on a raptor mount and was taken straight to the location of the next quest. No getting lost here. From the beginning, there was an NPC noob that I would encounter here and there throughout the quest line. Unfortunately, he was killed in the climactic battle on the Islands before I was sent to the mainland. I was actually a little shocked and saddened by it. I guess I got a little too involved, lol.
I have also enjoyed the changes to the Forsaken noob zone at Deathknell (playing as Bleeding Lily) but I have not gotten as far there, again playing with my lovely GF. :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Project WoW Noob: Rowan's GF Edition

So I had my own Project WoW Noob on Saturday, and thought I might post about it here, so as not to steal thunder from Jarira. I probably won't be continuing this as a series like GeeCee, though.
Having played D&D as a teen, my GF expressed some interest in checking out World of Warcraft. So I jumped on the Silvermoon realm and had her create a character on my account to try it out. She chose a Blood Elf Paladin. I had hoped she would pick a different race that had seen more changes to their noob quests, but the BElfs are so pretty. She had some fun with the customization screen before hitting the "That Name is unavailable" roadblock. We got over it as this was only going to be a trial toon anyway, and she entered the World.  The race intro started and we learned about the glorious past of the Blood Elf Pe--her phone rang. It was her daughter, so she had to take it. I logged her toon out and started a dummy toon just so she could see the intro in full. I personally love the sense of story I get when listening to these; plus the fly-throughs of areas long familiar to me, but which will brand new to her.

Logging her back in, I directed her to talk to the first quest-giver. She had a hard time using my Logitech M570 to steer, as she rarely uses a mouse at all, thanks to her iPhone and netbook. Plus, the mouse controls steering and camera angle at the same time, which can be tough for a noob. So she ended up using the arrow keys, which made me dizzy as the world spun around her. Also, being a pally meant that she had no ranged ability to start with, so she had to be right on top of the target to whack at it the first time. And those darn mana wyrms wouldn't sit still.
Still, she rapidly improved, using a combination of arrow keys and the mouse to target and attack her prey on the various quests. I have a few addons (OK, a ton), but I really like the relatively new WoW map and quest guide, so I have dropped Questhelper. She misunderstood a couple quests, (spoiler) like the first one from the trainer in which you are supposed to learn a new ability and use it on the target dummies. My GF thought that the ability had already been learned and proceeded to find a target dummy, to no avail.

She spent the better part of the morning wandering around Sunstrider Isle with me sitting beside her on the couch giving tips and advice. I tried to avoid giving to much advice, letting her stumble though mistakes but helping when she asked. We didn't have some of gaffes encountered by GeeCee and Jarira, who are not playing in the same room. Heh, I wasn't playing at all actually. The one thing that I did do for her was jump off the top of the Falthrien Academy into the water below, greatly shortening the trip, but not a move for novices.
We had fun laughing at her noobish blunders, but in the end she had done pretty well. It was interesting for me to see things that I normally take for granted through the eyes of a new player, like how to equip new armor, how to decide what weapon to equip, etc. She had enough fun that she wants to play more, though we haven't decided whether we're going to use a dormant second account of mine, or if she will get an independent one. Plus, she's not sure if her current computer can handle the game client. I may be buying RAM for Christmas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rowan's NaNoWriMo: An Inglourious Failure.

So my official word count is 4,777 on the National Novel Writing Month website. Kinda pathetic, I guess. And I doubt I'll get anything else down. I discovered a little about myself, though. While I enjoy writing, I go through spurts of inspiration; as many do, I suppose. This was not a very inspired month, honestly. I know many authors just write until they are "inspired." But that seems a quick way kill any passion I have for a subject. I'll keep plugging away. But I need a real plan, a real plot with a direction; preferably in a world of my own creation, instead of someone else's copyrighted world. Which means far more research than I currently have done. I'll continue to post stuff on my blog as I write, and I may have a few days coming up quick that will provide more opportunity and inspiration.

I also need to keep a notebook, for times I am not close to a computer. Some of my best vignettes on here have come from handwritten rough drafts.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rowan's Crew: Major Gasira

Fatima Gasira was born in the city of Prairieview, on Cestus III, in 2379. Gasira means “brave” in Swahili. She enrolled in Starfleet’s MACO Academy at West Point, New York, Earth in 2397. Starfleet Command had learned a lot about the value of troops specializing in close-quarters and hand-to-hand combat tactics during the Cardassian War in the 2350s; and during the Dominion War that followed in the 2370s, they decided to revive an ancient tradition of Marine warriors that had faded from Starfleet in the first years of the Federation, rebuilding a dedicated Corps to accompany Starships on exploratory and combat missions. Gasira graduated from the MACO Academy in 2401 with degrees in Tactical Analysis and Kinesiology (emphasis in Martial Arts). She served in the Klingon front on various planets before being placed in command of the 50-member MACO platoon aboard La Gitana. Normally a lower ranking officer commands a platoon, but Gasira is a major, able to hold her own in senior staff meetings aboard ship. She is outranked only by members of La Gitana’s command team: Rowan, Tarah, Larrea, and Thierry. She has a large tribal-style tattoo on the left side of her head, barely visible under her close-cropped hair, part of which extends down past her hairline as a sideburn. Gasira is thoroughly a Marine, direct, gruff; a hard charger. Her combat-expedient approach to problems rankles Rowan, who is leery of the aggressiveness of the MACOs and the need for combat troops on her ship.

Monday, November 22, 2010

What another movie review? MEGAMIND! Plus, a Blurb on 3D

I took my younger daughter to see this fun and endearing film yesterday afternoon. My advice to Will Ferrell: stick to voice acting. Ferrell was quite effective in this role, maybe because I didn't have to look at his face through the whole movie. This is not meant to be an attack, just that I generally find the man to be unfunny. Where his movies succeed, they generally succeed in spite of him.

Woops. OK. So. Megamind is a great movie to take your kids to see, if they have not reached the cynical teenager stage. It was good fun, if slightly predictable. A couple of twists were easy to spot, but it was all right. I quickly developed sympathy for Megamind, and ended up rooting for him even as he pursued his fiendish plots. The visuals, of course, are fabulous. I especially enjoyed the climactic battle and Megamind's appearance on the scene. I don't want to give away too many spoilers, I don't feel that's my place. If you like Shrek-ian humor or have a kids, this is a great film to see. Otherwise you can wait for the DVD or skip it entirely.

It is available in 3D of course, but the show we went to was regular 2D. There were a few sequences that were clearly designed for 3D; I can't wait 'til movie-makers get beyond the gimmicks. I wish they would start tallying box office separately for the 2D vs 3D versions of films. I am interested to see how many people skip the 3D in favor of the more traditional version. Some in Hollywood seem to think that conversion of theaters to the 3D format will help protect traditional movie theaters from the increasing availability of high quality home theaters. Of course, 3D TVs are on the market already. My feeling is that until they come up with a "true" 3D that doesn't try to decouple our natural visual habits, 3D movies won't be as popular as Hollywood would like to think. After all, if even one person in a party has a strong reaction/aversion to 3D, no one in the party will see the 3D version of the movie. Plus there is a certain segment of the population that likes going to the movies. I know I do. I like the big screen and the big sound. Unless I can remodel part of my house to replicate that somewhat, I will still enjoy a good action flick or date movie in the theater.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1

NO SPOILERS, GC (well, a very minor one)
So last night, I took my GF, and mine and her daughters, to the midnight showing of HP7a. Did my huge Potterphile daughters love it?
Yes, they did. I liked it a lot, too. It suffers in many ways from the same thing that "The Empire Strikes Back" did. It is essentially a set-up for the last film, ending on a dark note. In the story, the characters are just about at their lowest. It's the middle of the book, and things look bleak. The filmmakers did a great job of capturing the plot of the book though, without the excessive abridgement of the stories that the last three films suffered. They had to make a few corrections to get there; a minor one being Harry's meeting the oldest Weasley son, Bill. In the books, they'd met a few years previously.
Be warned, the MPAA has rated the film PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality. This is not necessarily a movie for young children. A five-year-old sitting behind us was upset by several disturbing and/or frightening scenes.
The special effects were seamless and very realistic, as is to be expected by now. No real gee-whiz moments, but neither did they detract from the experience. The tone and feel of the movie is perfect for the first part of the book. Like I said, I liked it and am really looking forward to the last film. I never listen to critics anymore. They have no clue what I enjoy in a movie. But I don't need to tell you that, Dear Reader. If you're not a Potterphile like me and my family, this might could wait for DVD or Blu-Ray. If you are, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" is a must see.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNoWriMo Excerpt: More of the Borg Story.

OK so here is an excerpt from my National Novel Writing Month project. It is a continuation of my STO story wherin Captain Rowan Starblanket and her away team were rescuing Borg from a wrecked hulk. Please the forgive the very rough nature of it. In keeping with the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I did very little editing. For example, Corporal Snout is just a placeholder until I have time to do more research on Tellarite names. He's a minor character anyway. Also, while I plan to incorporate many of the previous vignettes from this blog into the novel, I am planning to write 50,000 words this month without using previously written material.

Rowan became aware of an insistent chirping. Trying to stir, she felt a tremendous pain in her side and realized that some of her ribs were broken. Groaning, she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Scanning the chamber. She made out the still forms of the other three members of the away team. The chirping continued, it was her communicator pin. Tapping the badge sent a fresh twinge along her ribs.

“Starblanket here,” she grunted.

Tarah’s voice sounded tinny in the thinning air. “Captain, the Borg wreckage you occupy is on the verge of collapse. We anticipate a hull breech at any moment.”

“Can you lock on to our signals?”

“Negative, Captain. The interference from radiation is too strong at your present location.”

“We’ll move to the other chamber. Keep this channel open.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Corporal Snout, the Tellarite MACO, was closest to her. She crawled closer to him to assess his condition. Realizing her tricorder had flown out of her hand in the tumble, she gently shook his shoulder. He stirred, groaning.

“Corporal, are you hurt?” Rowan asked, visually examining the MACO.

“I’m alright, Ma’am,” Snout said with a grunt. He sat up.

“Check on Commander Brasseux, while I check the Major.”

They moved off towards their separate charges. Major Gasira’s left lower leg was bent an unnatural angle, her foot caught under some debris. Rowan cast about for something to split the Major’s leg. Finding a short piece of wreckage, she began ripping the bottom of her own uniform top into strips. Gasira moaned and her eyes fluttered open. Rowan paused to put a hand on her shoulder.

“Shh, hold still, Major. Your leg is broken. I need to set on splint it.”

Gasira just groaned her acknowledgement. The chamber shuddered again as the remaining gravity generator began to fail. The stressed metal structure groaned louder than the Major. Thierry and Snout made their way over to Rowan and Gasira. Having hit the bulkhead face first, Thierry’s ocular scanner was broken and he was bleeding from his temple where the device had cut him. He had abrasions across his cheek on that side and his nose had swollen, perhaps broken.

“Corporal, help me move this,” Rowan indicated the twisted metal trapping Gasira’s foot. The two tossed the debris aside, freeing the MACO commander’s leg, and Rowan spoke to her.

“Major, I need to set this, then I will split it. Without my medkit I cannot give you a painkiller.”

“I understand, Captain,” Gasira gasped and gritted her teeth. Rowan grasped the broken limb pulled as gently as she could, straightening it and trying to set the bones by feel. The Major cried out in pain.

“There. Corporal, position these strips under her leg above and below the break, here and here, while I lift it.” The MACO did as she asked. Rowan placed the splint along the Major’s leg and tied it in place.

“OK, we need to move out of this chamber or La Gitana cannot beam us away. Thierry, how are you doing?”

“I’ll be alright, sheh.”

“Alright, let’s move. Come on, Major.” Rowan hooked Gasira’s left arm around her own shoulders and lifted the other woman off the deck. The Major stood on her good leg, leaning into the Captain.

“Ready, Captain” she grunted.

“Tarah, monitor our signal. Beam us out as soon as you can.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Thierry leaned on the Tellarite as the chamber lurched again. The deck was now apparently at a steep angle, the exit to the corridor above the debris pile by about a meter and a half. Rowan stepped gingerly over the pile, careful of her footing and her charge. Gasira helped as best she could on her good leg. Thierry and Snout followed behind. Coming to the bulkhead the passageway was on, Rowan propped up the Major.

“Corporal, can you get up into the corridor?” she asked turning to the Tellarite.

“Heh, of course, Ma’am.” The MACO scrambled up the bulkhead and deck into the opening, poking his head back out.

“OK. Thierry, help me get the major up there.” Rowan said. Gasira leaned on the engineer, as Rowan interlaced her fingers into a stirrup. Lifting her foot into The Captain’s hands, Gasira, heaved herself up and reached for the Corporal’s outstretched hands. Together they lifted her in to the corridor.

“OK, you’re next, Thierry.” Rowan put her hands back down to the engineer’s foot to boost him up, grunting in pain as she hoisted him into the corridor. Following the other away team members into the corridor, Rowan reassessed the situation. The tilted bulkheads and deck would make progress hazardous. The groans of the wreckage had not died down.

“OK, move carefully, but quickly. Corporal, you take the lead. Thierry, you follow. I’ll bring up the rear with the Major.”

“Sheh, are you alright? Can you support her?” the engineer asked.

“Yes, just get moving.”

The Tellarite moved up the corridor, tremors in the craft making him stumble. Thierry stumbled after, holding onto the bulkheads. Rowan realized that the gravity generator was causing the corridor to tilt uphill, slowing their progress.

“Tarah, are we out of the interference yet?”

“Negative, Captain.” Came the voice of her First Officer. “Another 15 meters, maybe.”

They came upon the animated but brain-dead drone, blocking their path. Corporal Snout turned back to Rowan. “Orders, Ma’am?”

Rowan sighed, “Shoot it.” The MACO pulled out a hand phaser. Adjusting the settings, he took aim and fired on the drone, disintegrating it. Alarms went off echoing down the passageway.

“Damnit!” Rowan cursed. “Get going!”

Thierry and Snout scrambled up the corridor with Rowan following as best she could with Gasira in tow. Between the groaning structure and the screaming alarms, Rowan barely heard Tarah’s voice.

“Captain, the structure is beginning to break-up, with multiple stress fractures in the hull.”

“We’re moving as fast as we can. Can you reposition to get us out of here?”

“We are already in the prime position relative to the interference, Captain.”

The deck heaved and they were all lifted off their feet. The horrible sound of metal ripping came up the passageway from the cargo bay. Closely followed by the boom of an explosion. Hot gases rushed past the away team, then suddenly reversed themselves.

“Hull breech! Get going!”

They all crawled the last few meters, Thierry dropping back to help Rowan with Gasira. The rushing wind was deafening, but they still had air for now.

“Tarah, beam out Corporal Snout as soon as you have a lock on him!” Rowan shouted over the wind.

Tarah’s response was lost to the roar. The plasma fire behind was consuming the air. Soon enough, Rowan saw the telltale glow of the transporter rescuing the MACO about three meters ahead of them.

“Thierry! Go!”

“Not without you and the Major, sheh!”

They made it the last small distance when the wreckage rocked again from the force of another explosion. But the transporter effect had already embraced the three last members of the away team, pulling them to safety as the passageway collapsed around them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Damn Pirates!

Just to keep y'all updated, I haven't posted the write-up regarding Rowan's promotion to Admiral because I was boarded last week and the pirates plundered both laptops, not to mention a chest of other electronic booty. I am following blogs as best I can with my phone and from work. Posting is hard.

NaNoWriMo has started, and I "wasted" time time this weekend on Hallowe'en activities instead of preparing. So now I have a bit of a block, not sure where to start. I know I don't have to actually start at the beginning, that can come later. But I need to think of an overarching plot that will actually carry me through 50,000 words.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The future of MMOs?

This post is inspired by a short conversation I had with Harbinger Zero in the commentary on one of his recent posts. We were wondering which MMORPG coming down the pike may replace WoW as it inevitably declines in popularity. Harbinger thought it might be sooner rather than later, but I think WoW has at least a few more years to go as the center of the MMO multiverse. I don't know if I'll be playing it at that point. My excitement for Cataclysm--and WoW in general--waxes and wanes almost hourly, it seems.

I think one thing WoW really has going for it is that the game is not tied to an external intellectual property, like LOTRO, STO, or SWTOR, etc. Regardless of the quality of those games, there is a certain large segment of the population that will not be attracted to the them because they are not fans of the franchises. D&D had its own mythos drawn from general fantasy tropes, and WoW echoes that.

Another thing that is discounted by many "hardcore" gamers is that WoW is easy to get into and play, from a UI standpoint. Most of the population, myself included, don't want a complex code of button mashing a la Mortal Kombat to be able to do fancy moves and what have you. Call us lazy, but it's a fact. MMOs in general, and WoW in particular, cater to that. I don't want mindless pea planting like Farmville, but I find I don't enjoy maneuver puzzles like The Force Unleashed and Assassin's Creed either.
I don't know what game will replace WoW as the 800-pound gorilla of MMORPGs. It may not even have been announced yet. It may not even be in development yet. When Ultima Online was released in 1997, followed by EverQuest two years later, could anyone have imagined that any MMORPG would ever have millions of subscribers? Now it's the brass ring every developer seems to strive for. Much like the original Star Wars, World of Warcraft changed the game, from some perspectives for the better, from others for the worse.

I am interested to see what the future brings.

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.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Innovation

Inspired by Yeebo's post on MMO innovation and WoW and a wonderfully predictive article from Lost Garden from 2005. This is also a continuation of the discussion from yesterday's post. (Once again commenting on others' posts. When am I going to feel inspired enough to finish my own stories?)
Interesting that Blizzard and even the Warcraft RTS are mentioned in the Lost Garden article. Of course, he was right, Blizzard is about taking an established genre, looking at complaints about gameplay, and making better or more responsive games. I don't know why people complain so much about the game mechanics of WoW. They aren't perfect, but they are polished and encourage a huge number of people to play.

As far as who is the Nintendo of MMOs? Hard to say, because despite variations in story content, MMOs are a single genre themselves, as opposed to a platform/brand like Nintendo. I certainly would not say Farmville, it is an innovation in casual play, but has its roots in the RTS genre, not RPGs.

I am not sure how innovative I personally need a new game to be. I have said it before, story drives my games. Obviously gameplay needs to be enjoyable but that is highly subjective. Maybe I should say "Lore" instead of "Story." I like the feel of a real persistent world with a history.  But even I am finicky, I dismissed LOTRO as being too similar to WoW, in an "uncanny valley" sort of way. Even now, I struggle to like AoC, but I thoroughly enjoy STO. I am looking forward to SWTOR and even GW2 is intriguing.

The funny thing is that "hardcore" in the Lost Garden article seems to be different than how self-described hardcore gamers would identify themselves, since they are the ones complaining loudest about how "dumbed down" WOW has become, and in comparison to EQ, for example. So what do hardcore MMO players play, exactly, in the sense of Halo, Call of Duty, and GTA, what have you? Is it EVE? Or Warhammer? Maybe Guild Wars? Because if they're still playing WotLK, all the while bitching about WoW is dumb and too easy, I may have to smack somebody.

On a side note, apparently Google has decided to mess with Blogger's picture uploader. Very annoying. Hah! I may have just answered my own question about my tolerance for innovation.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Searching For The World of Warcraft-Clone

Originally posted on Petter M.'s Don't Fear the Mutant blog, edited here for some clarity and to fix grammar. I highly recommend reading the original post and comments, but couldn't believe I'd spent that much time and thought on a comment on someone else's blog :P

What would a New MMO need to not be a WoW clone?

FFA PvP?
Already in WoW; Gurubashi is just one example.

Forced grouping?
Not sure what forced grouping is outside the WoW instancing and LFD scenario. Did EQ do this? I turned off auto-grouping in STO, partly because there was always some clown taking all the crafting mats as we ran the mission.

Meaningful Death Penalty?

Hmm, not many solutions have I found, other than not calling it death at all, like LOTRO and STO ground missions. The problem with creating “meaningful death” in any game is that death IRL is so permanent. I suppose you could shorten the level grind so that creating a completely new character after losing your current one to death would be an option. How about specific injuries, rather than a general HP system. You’d end up with an extremely complex and potentially unwieldy wound system. Remember most injuries that involve sword and/or guns will be debilitating for the remainder of the fight, at best. It’s a game remember? No matter what game you are talking about, the only death penalty that could be meaningful would also be permanent.

How about non-quest related leveling?
I agree with Yeebo about the questless grinding for XP. I certainly would not stay with a game for any length of time if I discovered that sort of mechanic involved. For me, quests represent the story of the game; which is the reason I am playing the first place, to follow the story. Killing boars in the forest for no reason other than XP is asinine.

Another commenter said, “Quests are not at all required if devs can think outside of the box and find new and interesting solutions.” Looking for an actual alternative solution here. If we are talking about just about any genre of fiction, quests are at the heart of the plot. Heck, even RL is full of “quests,” though we usually call them tasks or assignments or some such. They are goals to achieve. IIRC, questing and leveling predate all computer games, starting with tabletop RPGs and arguably, regular boardgames. There is always a goal in a game, usually it is to win in some way–or at least to prove that you have made progress. Regardless of how the "quest" or task is presented, without a quest there is no plot to the game.

More "sandbox" or player created content or drama?
I have no experience with sandbox games, except maybe RTS style freeplay. But I know that EVE does not appeal to me, both for the PvP and the extreme penalty for death/failure. If this is held up as an example of sandbox, then count me out as well.

In conclusion, I like the persistence of the Worlds in MMORPGs. It is the reason I play. I am not particularly social when I play, preferring solo quests with only the occasional group interaction. OTOH, I do like that the social interaction is possible. And I have fun playing and chatting people from my guild/fleet/group. People need to remember that WoW--for all its faults--is extremely popular precisely because Blizzard made a conscious effort to rectify complaints people had with previous MMOs, and continues to do so. Their success or failure might be open to debate, but they have the numbers on their side. They have a rich epic plot to rival any major book series, and players get to participate to a greater or lesser degree in this history. I have enjoyed WoW immensely, just as I enjoy STO and to a lesser extent, AoC. It might be “showing its age”; but I, for one, am looking forward to Cataclysm, and I am willing to try, at least, anything else that comes along that promises to deliver a similar but better experience.

My point is that WoW is already a clone: of EQ, of DIKU MUDs, of tabletop D&D. It is simply more popular than any other  MMO already out there, and most hardcore MMO gamers have played it either currently or in the past. So people will inevitably compare everything new to the big boy.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blogging in Paradise . . .

 . . . doesn't work very well. I have the continuation of Rowan's encounter with the Borg wreck half typed. I was writing a longhand manuscript while traveling and in my spare time at work this week. But how can I write when my desktop background looks like this?
I mean, really. . . even if I am honored (very honored) with a mention in We Fly Spitfires' Best of the Rest (Thank you, Gordon!), I can't help breaking away for vistas like this
taken from a little stop right there.
Heck, I haven't even played a game in over a week. I did log on to WoW, but only to see if I got a meet-up date and time with my Guild Master, who is lucky enough to live here. So, Dear Reader, I promise I will deliver the next installment of Rowan's story in a few days--maybe after the sun sets on Paradise.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do the Borg believe in God?

Edit: Just realized this my 100th post!!


Captain's Log, Stardate 88149.62, Kalandra Sector, We have dropped out of warp in the Chapel System to investigate suspicious readings of a debris field picked up by long range sensors.

As Rowan emerged from her ready room, Commander Larrea looked up from her console, aft of the command area. "Captain, this debris is Borg in origin. It could be from a cube, but there have not been any reports of sightings in this sector for years."

"Can you detect any active Borg signatures?" Tarah asked.

"Negative. I recommend that we scan the debris and try to learn as much as we can about it. Any information on Borg technology could be vital to the Federation."
"Proceed." Rowan turned to the flight controller. "Mr. Gleer, ahead one quarter impulse."

"Aye, Captain."

Watching the viewscreen intently, Tarah commented, "After the attack in the Vega system, we have to assume that the Borg are back with a vengeance. And given what happened at the repair facility in the Ker'rat system, I think we should be cautious."

Rowan looked at her first officer and friend. Tarah had been assigned to the U.S.S. Khitomer, which was destroyed during the Vega attack. Rowan was part of the multi-ship boarding party that had rescued the beleaguered crew. They had been almost inseparable ever since.

"Agreed." To the duty tactical officer, she said, "Mr. Powell, raise shields."

"Aye, Captain."

After some time analyzing the readings, Larrea spoke up again. "Captain, the debris field is more extensive than my original assessment. We will need to move further into the system to ascertain the full extent and attempt to determine the number of cubes we are actually dealing with."

"Very well. Mr. Gleer, lay in a course. I'll be in my ready room."
La Gitana eased past the broken hunks of ship. There did not appear any activity, but the seemingly inactive hulks in the Ker'rat system had taken by surprise the small task force Wayfarer had been part of, so many months before.

---

Rowan sat at her desk, reviewing paperwork (funny that after centuries of digital interfaces, miscellaneous forms and reports were still referred to that way). Despite the recent transfer to La Gitana senior crew evaluations were already coming up. She also had yet prepare the patrol report for the Bajor Sector.

Presently, the red-alert klaxon sounded, along with Tarah's voice over the intercom.

"Captain Starblanket to the bridge."

She emerged from from her ready room and headed for the command chair "Computer, silence klaxon. Tarah, report."
"We've found a semi-active cube fragment. Commander Ymiro?" Tarah deferred to the science officer.

"Captain, we have detected Borg life signs, very weak. The cube fragment has a spacetight compartment, but power levels are minimal and appear to be failing," Larrea said.

"How many Borg are we talking about?" asked Rowan, as Major Gasira, the MACO commander, and Chief Engineer Brasseaux emerged from the turbolift.

"Unable to determine through the radiation, Captain."

Folding her arms, Rowan turned to her senior officers. "Recommendations?"
Auzzie spoke first, "Move in and beam the drones abo--"

"Out of the question," interrupted the major. "Bringing Borg drones aboard La Gitana is an undue risk."
Auzzie shot back, "Do we not have a responsibility to render aid where it is needed, regardless of the race of those in need? Besides, even if they are Borg now, they were not always. And it may be an excellent opportunity to gain insight into the current Borg political situation."

"Our first responsibility is the safety of the ship and crew," the MACO responded.

"I have to agree with the major, Captain," Tarah spoke up. "We cannot risk the ship for a few Borg."
Larrea backed up her fellow scientist. "Captain, perhaps an away team can beam over to the cube fragment and determine the condition of drones. Meanwhile, we can prepare a suitable compartment here that will safeguard the ship and crew."

Rowan turned to her chief engineer. "Thierry, what do you think?"
Thierry nodded toward Auzzie, speaking in his Cajun drawl, "Sho, de beb is right, sheh. Bohg o no, if dey need hep we should hep. We can build a containment section for de drones in Cahgo Bay 4. Ah'll get Shrel on it, toot sweet."

Rowan sat back in her chair and considered.
"We'll prepare an away team to assess the condition of the drones. Major Gasira, you and two more MACOs will accompany Lieutenant Torbin and myself aboard the cube. Thierry, get that containment section ready. Make sure medical equipment and staff is on hand along with the engineering personnel. Mr. Gleer, bring us within close transporter range of the wreckage. You have the bridge, Tarah."

With that she arose and strode toward the turbolift, followed by Auzzie, Thierry, and the major.

To All the Elite Raiders Out There

Congratulations on being at the top of your game. I mean that sincerely.

I was reading a response to GeeCee's post about how to deal with a guildmate/raider who is consistently not pulling his or her weight in a raid situation. The player had been a member of an elite raiding guild running Blackwing Lair, Ahn'Qiraj and Naxxramas. He bemoaned the current "ease" of raiding in WoW, looking back on the days of Vanilla WoW when men were Men and women were Healers. (OK too much sarcasm, I couldn't resist.) Back then, being a Raider meant something, Raiding was for dedicated, elite players who "put in their dues."
Now let's look at how Blizzard saw it, pre-BC. Developers spending well over half their time (80%-90%, who knows?) developing content that maybe 5% percent of the *paying* player base was seeing. Trying to balance two wildly different faction-exclusive classes so that neither side would feel that they were being shorted. Constantly nerfing and buffing different abilities for all classes for PvP balancing (again for a smaller fraction of players), causing those abilities to be warped relative to PvE content.

Meanwhile, for the players, raids were taking upwards of 20 hours a week for a pittance of rewards. Most players were paying full monthly subscriptions for content they would never see because they didn't have the time to commit to what amounted to a second job, much of which was spent waiting for others to get organized, anyway.

Even well into BC and WotLK, I have sat around accomplishing little or nothing, because I am stuck in a raid group waiting for people to join/get organized. And I can't finish that extra daily or whatever. And don't say I should already be at the instance location, because that would be just as big a waste of time, waiting around for people. Not my idea of a relaxing evening playing a game after I've been working all day.

I was in a guild where they would sub people in and out depending on the boss fight, because they needed gear or just as often because the raid couldn't make it past a boss without some particular class and spec. Luckily for me I wasn't anywhere near rading at the time. All the same, it irritated me. IMHO, the reason for raiding should be what is happening in relation to the story/lore of Warcraft, not the meta-game rewards of gear or achievements. The raid composition should be interchangeable within designated roles. Even then, I think it would be awesome to have a class system full of true hybrids, rather than having a few classes be "pure" DPS, or Tank or Healer.
So if you have been part of a 1337 Raiding Team that knocked out BWL, AQ-40, and Naxx, great. I know you spent a lot of time and worked hard to achieve those things. But most of the 9-12 million people who have played this game have not had time to do so, and yet they paid the same $12-$15 dollars a month you did. And they seem to think, and Blizzard apparently agrees, that might just be an innappropriate allocation of resources. Honestly, that's why the raiding content has been "dumbed down." So more people can see it. Dont worry, you can still run ICC in heroic 25-man mode. Or maybe, as Amuntoth from Manifest Pixel suggests, you could try running it without all your addons, just like the good ol' days.