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Posts Tagged ‘wow’

I’ve been having a great time playing Starcraft 2′s campaign this week – I was really bummed to only get one mission done last night but I had some trouble with it and had to restart. Sure, I’m playing easy mode but I still feel like I’m playing the game.

Anyway as we’re getting flashbacks and cinematics explaining who Kerrigan, the Queen of Blades, is, and what’s she’s up to, little “this seems familiar” bells are going off. Powerful female warrior, risks everything in defense of her cause, then defeated, left to die – but no, it’s worse, instead she is transformed into what she most hates and becomes the embodiment and leader of it? Hmmm. Sylvanas, is that you?

Now some Forsaken loyalists may accuse me of being unfair with my further characterizations here but bear with me.

I’m a writer. I work on novels sometimes (like in November; plug for http://www.nanowrimo.org, National Novel Writing Month). I’m totally into characters and characterization, and I’m loving Starcraft for the amount of character interaction they put into each little cut scene. Each character is recognizable and different and the way Raynor interacts with everyone on his ship is great – each interaction is slightly different. He doesn’t talk to his old friend the way he talks to a new ally. It’s awesome.

So why, oh why, are the very few female roles so – well – weak? I’m not talking about how apparently women are medics or fly med transports (or, yes, the Banshees. Yeah.) Or the way the medics speak – dripping with innuendo even in innocent lines. Whatever. The Thor sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger; they’re not going for realism.

So far in Starcraft, I’ve encountered three females: one mercenary who I had a mission to pay off (she was creepy as hell and hasn’t been seen since), the aforementioned Queen of undead Blades, and a scientist chick who I had along for a while. Now, when it came time for her to leave, I had a choice of missions and I picked the one that lead to her [spoiler!] getting turned in a zerg and killed. So that doesn’t help my perception of the game so far.

Then look at World of Warcraft. I can think of precisely two female leader-hero type characters: Sylvanas and Jaina. Jaina may not be a victim-villain-bitch, but she’s not much to recommend her sex either. We’re talking about a character whose defining characteristic is “I used to date Arthas and I abandoned him at Stratholme and feel guilty as hell about it”. Realistic character? Maybe so; I think feeling guilty is reasonable and I liked Jaina just fine up until the Halls of Reflection, where she went all angsty -”No, I must know if he can be redeemed!” Since then, I’ve seen her once, showing up after we kill Saurfang and being Varian’s cheerleader-slash-mommy, simultaneously patronizing the leader of the Alliance and demeaning herself.

Where are the women with stories as complicated and interesting as Thrall, as Tirion Fordring, heck, even as compelling as Thassarian or Varian Wrynn?

My guess is it just doesn’t occur to the writers that there’s anything missing. Kerrigan, Sylvanas and Jaina are all powerful women. They lead factions or movements, wield power, stand toe-to-toe with male counterparts, yes – but as characters, they are ridiculous caricatures. And they don’t have to be. Blizzard does an awesome job creating stories in a medium that doesn’t lend itself to real character development. You’ll never confuse Thrall with Garrosh, Tirion Fordring with Darion Mograine – so could they take just a little of that ability, maybe talk to a woman or two, and create a woman who isn’t a victim?

Or am I just being overly critical?

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Friday the Starcraft 2 collector pack came. We hadn’t bought a collector’s edition Blizzard item before and I was impressed. Actually my first reaction was “so where’s the actual game?” It was one of the two dvd boxes (the other was a making of). And there was a soundtrack, a comic, a very very nice artbook, the usual tchotchke in the form of “Jim Raynor’s dog tags” – a usb stick. Actually I thought the gimmick came off well there.

The one thing it didn’t have was a hard copy “Mini-Thor” pet code, 90% of the reason we bought the collector’s edition in the first place. We decided it probably auto-applied to the Battle.net account you hooked the game up to, so Reversion very kindly connected it to my account.

Mini Thor is about the coolest mini pet ever. First off, he’s huge – he’s got to be the biggest mini pet I’ve seen. He flies. He hovers. He shoots things with his cannons, all the darn time. He’s totally awesome and Invariant loves him. She’s getting close to 75 pets and I need to make an effort there: Invar is my achievement and pet collector. It makes up to her for not being my main. She also got the Touring Rocket that I finally decided to give her. Same reason. Also because gnomes love rockets.

Friday was a level-skills-on-Argent-Dawn -SAN-alts night; whee fun.

Saturday I levelled my disc/shadow priest while Reversion killed zerg. I haven’t played Verdandi in a while and had forgotten how fun it is – actually this was my first major solo shadow questing session. I like it a lot. At 71, you just don’t die and don’t go oom in normal questing. Vampiric Embrace means you heal for a percent of your damage done. Throw a bubble at the start of the fight, toss your dots, Mind Flay, profit. Throw in a [Whatever that spell is] + Mind Blast combo to trigger replenishment before something dies, combine with the Spirit Tap proc, you’ve got mostly full mana for the next encounter. She wandered around Dragonblight for a level and a half, ending at a good ways into 72. Not sure where I’m going to take her next. She needs to get to 73 for Grizzly Hills, she’s done all of Howling Fjord and the fun bits of Dragonblight (I don’t like Star’s End and Wyrmrest much). Might go play with the tuskarrs for a while. Or back to Borean Tundra.

Saturday night after church I fired up Starcraft 2 myself. Interesting item: you only need to log in to Battle.net to load up your single player campaign. We were both able to play at the same time without any problems. I think you don’t get achievements if you’re not on battle.net though: I got a few, then Reversion logged on and I didn’t get any more.

The “Casual” mode of play is perfect for me. I know how to play RTS games, I’ve played some Starcraft and most of Warcraft 3, and I’m really good at turn based strategies like the Civilization games, but I tend to forget to do things in RTS games. Or I’ll have trouble concentrating in two places at once, and either my advance team gets slaughtered or nothing happens back at the base. But the easy mode in SC2 (thanks for calling it casual by the way, nice way not to diss us not so good players)

This isn’t a Starcraft blog so I’ll keep it short: I’m really liking the game. The story is fun, the writing feels good, and the game play is interesting. I played it late Saturday night and all Sunday after church. I’m not letting Reversion give me much advice although he did tell me, and I listened, to do all the memory crystal missions at once: it gives you a good leg up on tech and then later points that would have been tech go to cash. The most interesting time was when there was a decision mission: side with the humans or side with the protoss, and the mission itself was different. Reversion picked one way so I picked the other and everything was totally different – the objectives, the enemies, the strategy. Overall it didn’t have much effect on the game – either way you lose the services of a certain NPC – but it felt like a fun difference.

So I feel revitalized for now, both for WoW and in SC2. I think I might have a shot at getting this priest to 80 before Cataclysm; my pet achievement is in view; and I killed zerg for like, 15 hours this weekend. Whee!

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Wow Developers’ Twitter Chat, 4/16, about druids:

Restoration druids are actually getting a fair bit. For one, Tree of Life is getting a whole new model (think Ancients of War) and will also “morph” some of your spells to do crazy things while in the form, such as cause Regrowth to be instant, or Lifebloom to apply two applications at once. Tranquility will be raid-wide. We’re also touching nearly every Restoration druid spell to make sure each has a niche and feels good. In general, playing a Restoration druid should feel a lot different (better!) in Cataclysm than it does today.
(copied from here)

If the original class preview had said this, I bet there would have been a lot less QQ about tree form. This is telling me that even if we don’t look like trees most of the time, the essence of our tree-ness will still be important to resto druids. Don’t get me wrong I still want ToL a a permanent thing but this could actually be a cool cooldown. I was afraid of a healing boost or haste boost, but this is an actual mechanic change. Very eager to see it in action.

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WoW and Stereotypes

I’ve read a couple posts over the past few days that brought this to my mind:  Klepsacovic’s I Started Blogging To Meet Women and Would You Pay to Play With a Girl over at Pugnacious Priest, Pink Pigtail Inn’s Musing Over Boobs and a new one I discovered linked from that, Girls Don’t Exist on the Intertubes at a blog called Digital Incorrectness.

What’s sort of funny is how the assumptions being analyzed in these blogs are a bit contradictory. One blog is about guys paying for girls to play with them, another is countering the idea that girls suck at WoW. I assume the girls who are being paid must have some modicum of skill at the game, or it would just be frustrating, and I assume the guys who are paying for their company expect them to be at least competent. Maybe that’s a bad assumption.

Then the contrast between Klep’s post and Larissa’s, where Larissa muses that blogs are about a meeting of minds and therefor she doesn’t notice the sex of the blogger (as much) while Klep wonders if there’s a reason why there’s a disproportionate number of female bloggers.  Klep also brings up the stereotype of “women as healers” and I myself have noticed that all the Resto Druid bloggers I read are women. All of them. All the trees I currently know in game are women; the first one I remember, the one that made me say “Wow, druid healers are COOL” was a guy. A gay guy. (Stereotype affirming or breaking?)

But they’re all dancing around that same issue; men and women are different and those differences carry over into our playstyles. There’s a reason stereotypes exist; they are a distorted exaggeration of a truth. It might not be a truth that is universally applicable but somewhere some collection of observations supported the idea.

Stereotype 1: Women are bad at WoW.

Truth: not everyone who plays WoW is any good at it. People can be stupid and therefore play badly. People can have other reasons for playing besides being good (social reasons). This second group is less likely to give up when they know they are bad at the game because being good at the game is a secondary goal. My parents have played WoW; my dad liked it although he’s gone back to EverQuest, my mom followed him around with her priest, clicked the “heal” buttons when he said to, and picked flowers. She didn’t like the game but she played to spend time with my dad. I got into the game because a few months after we got married my husband wanted to get back to playing WoW and wanted me to come with him. I sucked at first, but I eventually liked the game and got better. If you’d seen my hunter the first month I played you would have classified me as one of those “Women who suck at WoW” players and you would have been right.

The solution is to find a way to convert this type of woman player into an active fan of the game. Once she is motivated she’ll become a better player. Blizzard does a better job of this than anyone else out there, hence their huge female market share. Trolls in trade or party chat calling these women out and saying “lol u suck girls cant play wow” will never improve things. This doesn’t inspire most women to get better. It’s more likely to get them to quit.

Stereotype 2:  Women who can play Wow, play healers

Hard to counter this. I have an arcane mage and a prot pally and I’m good with either one, but Analogue the resto druid is my main. She’s who I raid on, and I feel most in control of the situation with her.

Women tend to be more nurturing than men. Guys tend to be more protective/aggressive than girls. Women tend to work toward the success of the group; men strive for personal achievement. Both sexes are drawn to both goals, of course, but the dominant leanings tend to be as I’ve stated. Avoiding any discussion of whether this is good or bad, these tendencies would explain why there tend to be more female healers out there.

Everyone can think of counter examples; awesome female warlocks or warriors, terrific male resto shaman. But nobody is surprised when the tree starts talking in vent with a girl’s voice.

This is a good thing! Remember how I said about that for a player to be good at WoW, she needs to actually want to get better? Well, if she discovers that healing a party appeals to her, now she has motivation to improve! Healing isn’t easy, and the skills to do it well translate over into general Wow uber-ness. I am a much better mage since I’ve leveled up my druid. (And a better healer after I leveled my tank but that’s another matter)

So yes, I’m suggesting that we counter one stereotype with another. No, I’m not suggesting that you tell the fail hunter girl to go roll a priest. But be supportive of her if she wants to do it. Guys, if your girlfriend who tentatively follows you around in WoW expresses a desire to heal, don’t laugh at her because you know she’ll wipe you. Let her do it. If  you wipe, let her figure out why without yelling at her. You’ll have a lot more fun if you let her convert herself to a WoW fan than if you convince her to never play with you again.

One final note: the blogs I read I think are probably close to 70% female, because I read a lot of resto druid blogs and “Wow Social” blogs like Pugging Pally or Stories of Wow.

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Blessed are the altaholics, for they shall receive heirlooms

Lissana over at Restokin had a long blog post today about Specialists vs Generalists as a play style. Pretty obvious this blog falls more on the generalist side of the equation! Reversion and I have three level 80s each and three other characters that we are actively leveling (each). We both have healers, tanks, and dps classes and play any of those roles pretty well. We’ve got most professions covered between us (don’t have a max level blacksmith and the leatherworking char is only at about 430 skill).

On the other hand, if you ask us who our mains are there’s no question. Reversion and Analogue, the druids, see the most content, have the best gear, and are definitely our most played. They weren’t our original mains by a long stretch but during the course of WotLK we began to realize how much more content we could see with a dedicated tank/healer pair than with a couple random ranged dps. I think our experiments with other classes have made our mains better. Analogue has become a better healer as I’ve gotten better with tanking on Divergent.

As Lissanna mentions,  one reason for alts is to see content you didn’t see before, particularly opposite-faction content. We’re trying that now with our low-level Horde alts. It’s fun, and I’m running a few other experiments at the same time (like whether we can run these guys up and afford epic flying without needing cash from our mains, thanks to gather professions)

She’s right that WotLK has been paradise for generalists, and her conclusion

However, I’ve come to accept that being a generalist is a viable play-style in WoW as of WotLK being released, even for end-game purposes. I appreciate handing out new gear and heirlooms and all the fun toys that generalists get to play with.

I agree with. In fact, I think that Blizzard has actively been pushing the generalist playstyle for the same reason they’ve made raids so much more accessible this expansion. They want to maintain their subscription numbers so the game can continue. In Vanilla WoW, hardcore raiders had a reason to play every day for many hours, but that never represented more than a tiny fraction of the population. In WotLK, anyone who devotes  a few hours a week can eventually see most if not all of the endgame content, and that makes Blizzard happy because players who feel like they are progressing continue to subscribe.

But, the player who really likes questing and leveling and running low level dungeons is just as good a source of cash as the end-game raider. In fact,  from Blizzard’s point of view he’s a better cash source because it takes few developer-resources to keep him happy.  I suspect most players fall somewhere in between those two extremes. My personal experiences make me believe that most end game raiders have some alts that they like playing with, and a lot of less-raid-oriented players still join pugs or weekly raid quest groups. I think that’s probably Blizzard’s intent.

Blizzard must like alts, because they’ve given us 10 slots per server and 50 total slots to play with. A lot of other games? Not so much. EVE Online lets you have 3 (I think) but because of the training system you really only play one character per account. Star Trek Online released with only 2 character slots as the default (you can buy more). On the other hand, Lord of the Rings Online supports the generalist playstyle and from what I’ve heard, that’s part of why people go back and play around in that game. It’s a lot harder to get totally bored of a game when you can just log in to a different experience every night of the week.

The day when you could claim that the specialist was the true WoW elite is passed. Nowadays, it’s the tank who can’t say “oh yeah I hate healing this goup on my shaman” or the dps who doesn’t mention “I know what a pain that pat is to LOS when I’m tanking” who is the noob. Anyone can be pretty good at one class, especially with the epics falling like cherry blossoms, but it takes skill to be uber at everything.

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