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Breakfast topic: Gaming with muggles

28.01.2011

Not exactly a Shared Topic, but WoWInsider recently brought up an interesting Breakfast Topic. How do you deal with people who don’t get our gaming hobby? There are quite a few comments on that one, and I’d like to take this post to share my own family experiences in that regard. Lots of the comments were about parents, somehow especially mothers, so here is my tale, and it’s a very positive one!

There is a trip down memory lane straight to nostalgia valley ahead, so feel free to skip this post in case that isn’t your thing. Also, pointless rambling.

 

My first contact with the world of computers was an ancient (then brand new) Schneider CPC that my dad brought home from the office. He used it mainly to write scientific papers, but naturally a few games found their way on floppy discs. (Years later, there’d be an expensive hard drive with, I think, two whole MB storage!) He even wrote simple games for me himself, mostly math games, or mastermind clones.

The first real gaming PC was an intel, again, brought home from the office for work reasons. And as long as he didn’t need the PC, I could play – games he brought home. He even joined in on occasion, mostly for the old MS flight simulators. My mother, though, didn’t understand computers (back then, mind you, now she’s really computer-savvy!). That didn’t keep her from sharing the experience, watching us play and generally accepting it as a ‘toy’ for me. Of course, that was when the internet was still a myth, so the WoW typical problem of “can’t you just pause the game?” never came up.

A few games though, both really got into: The old Hero’s Quest (re-named to Quest For Glory later) and Space Quest sagas by Sierra. We spent literally whole nights together in front of the computer, fighting goblins, solving puzzles and finishing the story. Also, that meant by the time English was introduced as a foreign language at school, I already spoke quite a bit. Well, read a bit of it. With much guessing. But boy, was it an incentive to really learn the language!

Treasured moment of the era: Visiting my grandparents (some 800 kilometres up north), returning home after a few weeks and finding… a hand drawn map of the whole game-world of Quest For Glory, painstakingly explored by my dad and mapped out with little graphics and notes by my mom. I used that for each and every re-play of the game until it, sadly, fell apart.

Internet gaming really came into my life almost a decade later with the advent of Counterstrike. In the meantime, though, friends would often visit, bringing their PCs with them and connecting first via serial cable and later via hub and switches. So again, the concept of “pixels on-screen can be people in a different room” came quite naturally. My dad’s office at the university was already fully connected, so no problem there.

Enter the internet age. Granted, it was a very, very difficult time to get a modem running. Or later the switch to ISDN. However by the time DSL came around, she welcomed it, because that would mean more than two concurrent lines available. Enter the Counterstrike Mania. Both my parents took the time to learn about the basic goals and gameplay, and as my best friend and neighbour was the one I spent most time online with, leading our clan, they soon also saw the team-play / sports-like aspects of it.

That was also the time where a few school killings happened in Germany, which were (of course, and please don’t get me started on that topic) linked to Counterstrike. Yes, my parents talked about that, but we all agreed that I was mentally stable and mature enough, and besides, by that time, it was also more of a competitive sport for me.

I think that this mindset, ‘it’s more of a sport, really’, clicked – after a few short explanations, both would wait for the current round to be finished when asking me to do something. And the reasoning ‘I’m in the middle of a league match’ even meant two uninterrupted hours, except for emergencies.

Big moment of the era: Going out for dinner, then a walk with the dog, having a great time. And then my mother says: “We should hurry, didn’t you have a league match in half an hour?”. And she was right and I’d have completely forgotten.

Funny moment: Getting a call from a co-leader, when I wasn’t home. My mom answered, so of course he told her his proper name. Later she would ask me, who this guy was. I shrugged and said “Redwolf from our clan”. Her reaction? “Oh, he could’ve just said that, that would’ve been less confusing.”

 

Which brings me to my parents and World of Warcraft. Again, the groundwork was laid back when I played Ultima Online. But I think they both ‘get’ it. My mom even reads this blog from time to time and asks if I’ve taken any more pictures of that world or what the game is like or if I already got the new expansion.

 

So, the point of this pointless and rambling post?

Mom, dad, you’re the best parents a boy growing up into the computer and internet age could have wished for.

Also, look, a picture! I just love the new Stormwind park area.

 

click for full size

 

 

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Kong – king of casual UI mods

26.01.2011

A while ago I came across a post on WoWInsider highlighting an add-on called ‘Kong‘. Back then, it didn’t seem worth the trouble of setting up. But since I’ve started doing to Stormwind cooking and fishing dailies, I also started thinking: “Do I really need all this useless UI elements when I’m sitting on a bench on the shore of Olivias Pond?”

The answer, of course, is “No, I don’t”. But then, Alt-Z’ing the UI hides some information I do want. Like, how many more fish do I need to catch? Alright, so the sounds of QuestGuru help with that, but still. Or a glimpse of the minimap would be nice – the least intrusive UI element there is.

So, I finally headed back to Kong and installed and configured it. Really, a video would be best to explain how it works, but instead, I made a few screenshots showing it in action.

Click to enlarge!

 

 

Travel mode - most of the UI is hidden

 

 

 

Mouseover the QuestGuru frames

 

 

 

Casting mode - Unit frames unhidden and action bars partially visible

 

 

 

Combat mode - all bars and frames visible

 

 

 

Back to travel mode - note that all popups open with 100% alpha

 

 

One thing to note is that you have to set it up completely yourself, but it’s very easy to do so. All you need is the frames you want to edit open on your screen – the rest is done with a few clicks.

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Back in the saddle

18.01.2011

What, I ask you, is always the greatest difference when switching from a high level alt to a low level one? The gear? The abilities? The gold? Access to reputation gear or crafting recipes?

Travel speed?

Yes, definitely that last one. It already hit me back when I started out on going from a character that had riding back to one travelling by foot. More recently, from 100% ground speed back to a paltry 60%. And now, from a level 70 flying Paladin back to a level 43 Hunter.

The interesting thing is, though, I miss flying. No wait, that’s not surprising. It’s that most of the time I don’t miss flying. Except when I want to get to an auction house. Or to a class trainer. Or go do the fishing dailies in Stormwind. See, I’m questing in Thousand Needles (a completely revamped zone that’s well worth a visit, by the way). Before that I was in Feralas. Have a look at the flight path connection to, oh, Darnassus. Okay, you say, you don’t have to go to Darnassus, the dailies are in Stormwind anyway. That ship sails off at Ruth’eran Village. See? That’s two minutes less travel time!

Of course, you could also go to Theramore, cross to Menethil Harbour, then Ironforge – and if you want the dailies, take the tram to Stormwind. Or Ratchet, Booty Bay, Stormwind. Common to all these travel plans is that the flight paths take extreme detours – getting from the Speedbarge to Theramore by taxi takes approximately five times longer than necessary, simply because you travel via Feralas.

So yes, I bloody do miss flying. When I just want to sell stuff at the auction house, get training or do dailies. Or dig up old stuff.

But during questing? Riding is so much more immersive. No more “get quest, take off, land at the precise spot, kill NPC, take off, land, turn in”. That kind of thing really was a bit of an immersion breaker. A time saver, yes, but it wasn’t so much fun any more. Now, riding, figuring out if I can sneak by those mobs or if I should fight them, trying to find my way to a hard to reach spot or resource node – that’s fun.

Granted, learning the flying skill is a huge milestone, even more so artisan flying and beyond. It’s a symbol for the career of the character. But even so, my ground mounts won’t rot forgotten in the stable.

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Dear Hogger

10.01.2011

This is a reply to this weeks Shared Topic, based on a true event.

Dear Hogger,

I write to you in order to express my utmost respect and admiration for what you have achieved. Your name strikes fear in the heart of every fresh adventurer. Battle-scarred veterans remember their epic battles with you and share their stories of failure around the nights campfire.

No one else has had that effect on all the heroes of Azeroth. Onyxia and Ragnaros came close. But even they pale in comparison when it comes to the sheer cruelty of smashing the hopes of brave young warriors and feeding their very flesh to the cauldrons of your tribe.

Hundreds, no, thousands, have tried to defeat you. Many did you send to the graveyard, and those who thought they had slain you – you proved them wrong. That what did not kill you made you stronger. I myself remember evading your fellow Gnolls when you were but a warrior among many. Your triumphs over fumbling humans let you become an idol of your race. They even gave you your very own hill from which to bellow taunts up towards the walls of Stormwind.

And now? I visited you in the Stockades last week. I just wanted an autograph. But you? You slaughtered my pet and then send me running, blood streaming from countless wounds, your laughter echoing behind me while you started gnawing on bear bones. That was way, way better than any autograph I could have dreamt of.

You are, without a doubt, the biggest, meanest son of a Gnoll in Stormwind. They call you King Hogger now.

That which does not kill you makes you stronger. I did not kill you. And when I wake up at night screaming from the nightmares you caused, I wonder what you will achieve next. No doubt, the reign of King Hogger has just begun.

Sincerely,

a Casual Admirer

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A casual 2010 in Azeroth

04.01.2011

Each year (apparently, as I can’t tell you much about previous years), WordPress.com sends out a report on how your blog did. Everybody around seems to be posting some sort of yearly recap, so I figured, why not, let’s try this.

 

Blog Health

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meterâ„¢ reads Wow.

 

Truth be told, I have no clue what they’re measuring. Consistent posting and visitors, presumably. From what my stats tell me, there indeed seem to be regulars, feedreaders and a surprising amount of linkage coming to this little blog, so while ‘Wow’ may be exaggerated, I’m pleasantly surprised.

 

I’d like to thank all of my readers at this point, as well as my favourite commenter, Saga – it’s been a pleasure so far and I’m hoping all of you will stick around a while longer.

More stats and a quick review of my year in Azeroth after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Save a ground mount!

31.12.2010

Cataclysm has a few by-names. I’m about to add another one: Death of the ground mount.

Actually, it was this post over at Art of Soloing WoW that added that title. And I find it kind of sad. After all, from level 20 to 60, our ground mounts got us everywhere we wanted. The wide flats of the old Barrens. The sheer endless trek up and down Stonetalon Mountains. The gauntlet that is the Redridge Highway. The scarred landscape of the Badlands and Searing Gorge. And of course, up to and through the Dark Portal.

Yes, I agree completely, flying is a lot more convenient. And faster. But I also feel a lot of missing out. The view is sometimes spectacular, but every zone seems to shrink, now that you don’t have to care about the safest or quickest route. You just fly up a bit and then straight towards the quest goal. Look down, think about the poor map designer who painstakingly laid out everything in such a way that someone on a horse would be able to get where he wants. The mobs finetuned so that the roads are relatively safe while the wilderness holds all the dangers.

Flying in cities is another thing. The view of the rooftops of Stormwind is spectacular. Okay, so my FPS drop to abysmal levels, but still. Flying from the mage tower to the auction house or the cathedral, the city seems to have lost the frantic spark of life that you got down on the streets.

So, as the new year approaches, I call out to everyone to celebrate one day of old school riding. Next Thursday (06.01.2011, also a holiday), no flying mounts if possible. Break out your old warlock Dreadsteeds, your rare drops, your hard-earned foreign racial mounts. Pass the word – on RP servers, make up something about dangerous crosswinds that make flying impossible for the day. For one day, let Azeroth tremble not with the fury of Deathwing, but the thunder of our hooves!

Also applicable to mount that don’t have hooves, just so our Gnomish and Elven friends don’t feel left out.

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The obligatory christmas message

24.12.2010

From the freshly snowed-in city of Ulm, I wish the world of Azeroth a merry christmas!

I realise only now how much a Goblin would look like a typical Santa-Elf. Lets all hope that the presents are a little less explosive than the usual stuff we get from the little greenskins.