This year there are even more rewards than usual. Log on and pick up your breadcrumb quests, then head to the Caverns of Time and join in the amusement and general chaos that is a world event in World of Warcraft.
I got bonus loot while doing the Memories of Azeroth raid that is part of the celebration. A mount that I had been trying to get to drop off of Ragnaros for several years now in the Firelands raid was in the loot I got off of defeating Ragnaros in Memories of Azeroth. I can now cross the Pureblood Firehawk off of my want list, making Memories of Azeroth doubly worth my time. The only way the experience could have been better is if Invincible’s Reins had dropped off of the Icecrown instance. No one got that one in our group, making Arthas’s stallion still one of the rarest mounts in World of Warcraft.
Part of this event is looking back on these fights and feeling that nostalgia if you were there, or seeing the building blocks of WoW if you weren’t. It’s a chance for an old vet like me to pull up a chair on my porch, sit down next to a youngblood, and regale them with tales of honor and horror. “I remember when Lady Vashj’s Tainted Elemental phase wiped my entire raid over and over for hours. The flasks and food wasted are the stuff of legends.” Memories of Azeroth feels like it was targeted at me.
The inspiration for this post sprang out of the destruction of my World of Warcraft raiding guild a few days previously. A group of friends that I’ve spent six hours a week, minimum, talking to and working closely with to solve problems in a game that we jointly enjoy. A game we couldn’t enjoy if we didn’t have each other to rely on day-in and day-out. It took twenty people to raid successfully in World of Warcraft when I started playing the end-game content during Wrath of the Lich King. Working closely with twenty people to master the mechanics of a battle for weeks on end draws you closer than most casual friendships.
What happens when these groups of closely-knit battle-hardened companions suddenly decide that they can’t play with each other anymore? I don’t know what else to call that situation other than divorce. A bit extreme you say? It’s not that traumatic? Spend ten years reliably sitting down with the same twenty people and experiencing the adrenaline surge of beating a difficult boss fight through precise coordination, and then get back to me after you tell the other nineteen people to kiss your ass. Let me know how that goes.
Divorce. I’ve been to this dance quite a few times. I’ve never been an invited guest, always the chosen onlooker. When intimacies turn to hostilities, the invited guests always look to the involuntary participants to pick sides. As Bartleby said yesterday I prefer not to.
I’ve never been the invited guest to a divorce because that was one of the ground rules I set for myself a long time ago, when I witnessed the first divorce. The divorce of my adopted father and my biological mother. This was the first time I was encouraged to pick sides as an involuntary participant, just a child of fourteen. I had nowhere else to go, so was forced to witness the folly of adults that should have known better than to let things fall apart as far as they did.
It’s easy. No really, it is easy, not the easy thing that really is hard (any kind of group effort in an MMO)Talk to your intimate relations. Don’t keep secrets unless they are secrets the others have already told you they want kept. Don’t betray agreed-to standards of behavior without talking out the changes first. Don’t close off channels of discussion unless you are prepared to never speak to these people again except in the presence of a lawyer.
But it never fails. Someone thinks they can get by without communicating something. Then that something turns to a thing that can’t be spoken of. Turns into a barrier between two people. Turns into a weight around the neck of the relationship. Turns into a wall preventing communication. Then the secret is found out and the accusations of betrayal begin.
These are adults, but they sure don’t act like adults. Adults that understand even the uncomfortable subjects have to be discussed, and discussed endlessly. This is the nature of being humans, like it or not. Talk. Endless talk. Talk that makes you want to cut off your own tongue or gouge out your ears. If you stop talking, you will eventually cease to be intimate with the other in question. That is the point where they become other.
Other rather than same. The outgroup. The other.
Doesn’t matter. It wasn’t done against me, because I fucking talked it out first. I understand ownership and value and don’t take it for granted. I resent being asked to lend weight to one side or the other of a separation when I have no clear understanding of the fault that led to the separation. I will not willingly pick sides when both sides seem to be at fault and there is no clear reason for the separation in the first place aside from childish insistence on having your own way in a relationship.
The closest I have come to divorce is quitting a job, being fired from a job. There are employers that I can’t speak to again because of what transpired between myself and them. Always it was something kept from me that required that separation, not something I failed to tell them. I am what I present myself to be, take it or leave it, warts and all.
I remained Dad’s friend after the divorce despite his actions. Despite the facts of his behavior that I had to drag kicking and screaming out of the woman who expected me to follow her without reason. She was a little bit crazy like that, my mom. A conflict avoided was a win in her book. As if she could avoid the permanent void created in her children’s hearts by simply not talking about the cause of the divorce. It’s not that I had a choice in the matter, dad didn’t want us children, he just wanted things to remain the same in the daylight as they were in the dark. The philandering. The silence. I eventually forgave him, because, what else can you do with family? You will have to see them again. That is a given.
I won’t willingly speak with the employers that betrayed my trust. They earned my enmity by keeping essential facts from me. One day those betrayals may cost them dearly, if that day of judgement comes. Most of them are probably dead already, personally safe from further judgments against them. They are the lucky ones.
Lucky like the stepfather, the Polk in mom’s name, who publicly betrayed everything the word father means. Safe from judgment by being dead by some other hands than mine. Saving me the trouble of having his blood on my hands. I should have thanked him for that, but I never spoke to him after the betrayal of that day. The opportunity to strike or to speak never presented itself. Mercy, after a fashion. Probably a mercy crafted by mom’s hands. She never liked conflict, evaded it at every opportunity. Her unwillingness to engage probably being the the first miscommunication in a long series of misunderstandings. But she’s dead now too. Beyond the reach of judgement.
So here I am asked to take sides in another messy divorce. A smaller, less life-altering conflict than the ones I’ve been in before. If I never log on to World of Warcraft again, a game that for me is like softball or bowling was to my father, it is the social connection that keeps me active among my group of friends. If I never play the game again I won’t have to talk to any of the participants of this messy break-up again.
On the upside, unlike family, I’ll never have to look at any of them again or have to listen to any of their excuses for their inexcusable behavior. So not quite as demeaning as the dissolution of a marriage is to the children of that marriage. The children of our in-game collaboration are the characters that we’ve worked so hard to level, over and over again, just to have the most powerful characters we could construct to bring to the next battle. Those children you can delete and no one will accuse you of murder when you do.
It might be a form of self-mutilation, if self-mutilation can be performed mentally. Investing all that time only to discard it by typing six characters and hitting enter? It ranks up there with self-mutilation in my mind. But it isn’t illegal to delete that part of yourself. That piece of your history. If only all mistakes could be erased that easily.
If I quit playing World of Warcraft I’ll lose those friends. I’ll lose those parts of myself and the parts of themselves that I’ve grown to love as part of the game we play together. I’ll make new friends. I’ll find other games to play, other ways to connect to the outside world. The other games and other friends won’t have fifteen years of history for me to bank on. I’ll have to start over.
So I probably won’t quit World of Warcraft. I probably will log on and play the game. I like the game, even after all this time. Probably because of all this time, not because the game has been mindlessly enjoyable. It wasn’t and it isn’t. It presented challenges, but it offered social connections, connections that are simply not present in most other games. Social connection is why I am still playing the game, and now that very social connection threatens to destroy any remaining pleasure I find in it. I’m tempted to delete all my toons and start over fresh. A fresh start, like I’ve never played the game before. Maybe this week is the week to download and log on to World of Warcraft – Classic. Play a game that I’ve never played before, but sure does seem like what I’ve been playing for the last fifteen years.
At the very least, I will have to log onto the voice chat service and have those discussions that have to be had before either calling it quits or picking a side. I still would prefer not to, but the post-mortem must be performed if I am to have any closure for this latest divorce. I’m beginning to wonder if closure is overrated.
The family asked “why did you go there?” after I wrote this. My guildmates in a game I’ve played for almost as long as my children have been alive, 15 years now, wanted to know why I wouldn’t willingly just pick a side in the diaspora of the guild. This is the explanation for why I try not to pick sides. I’ve been used as a weapon before and I won’t willingly go there again. My insistence on knowing the gory details of a conflict has cost me dearly, many times. I’ll still ask those questions, every time. It is who I am. Take it or leave it. Warts and all.
It is worth noting that both the leader of my former guild as well as members of the diaspora tried to tell me just how wrong the other side was. The guildmaster made it his duty to try to keep me from joining the diaspora by telling me just how bad the people I love and cherish like family really are. It should come as no surprise to anyone that all my Alliance toons are now back in my own guild (Frosty Wyrm Riders) for the time being. I need a bit of a break after that orchestrated trauma to my psyche.
On this week’s On the Media, how painful news might be making America numb. And, why sometimes it’s okay to tune out.
I prefer not to is the sum total of my inclinations for today. My Allianceraiding guild in World of Warcraft has broken up, and now I’m expected to choose sides in a fight I tried to convince people not to have in the first place. So now even my distractions are forcing decisions on me that I never wanted to make in the first place.
World of Warcraft studio Blizzard has apparently announced that WoW is going to reduce its level cap – a so-called ‘level squish’ – at some point in the future, and it has done so via a customer survey asking if you knew about that.
Wow. An idea that I’ve been pushing for awhile now, and I didn’t even have to write them about doing it. I really don’t know why they ever increased character levels beyond 100 in the first place. It just doesn’t make any sense. I’m not even sure why leveling is still part of the game, at this point. It just serves as a gateway that players have to get through before being able to be free to do what they want in the game.
Blizzard has conducted a stat squish already. The player base got over that. They take away in-game flight routinely with every release of new content. The player base puts up with that. I can’t see why reducing levels to 100 from the current 120 makes any difference at all, or should make a difference to anyone playing the game. Max level is max level, no matter what number is attached to it. You can’t get more max than max.
I’ve been of the opinion that levels should be reduced and capped at 100 for quite some time now. If Blizzard insists on leveling-gating new content, they should just reset the level of existing maxxed toons to 99 and be done with it. As I outlined above, I don’t understand why this warrants a lot of wishy washy, hand wringing bullshit. Just do the thing and be done with it. The players will probably not even notice. I’m convinced they won’t notice much of anything unless you went back to making them walk everywhere in game. That suggestion seems to piss most players off the way I get pissed off about not being able to fly in game.
I had some real hope once that this game would eventually see the light of day. Sadly it’s been four years now since its announcement, and there hasn’t been any news of the games continued existence as a work in progress since 2016. Rumor has it that the licensing has run out on the project and the game will likely never be released because FOX is possibly looking to restart the Firefly universe with a new version of the series in 2020. I guess that is a faint hope to hold onto.
h/t to thezombiechimp.com for the info and the links. There are a lot more images of ingame content at that link.
That’s what they always say. Medical professionals. They’re always keen to reassure their patients that all will be well. They don’t want the patient to freak out and do anything crazy like killing themselves or canceling the procedure out of fear of the procedure. That is so not me; and I am way, way beyond the ability for comforting words to assuage any fears or disquiet.
Nope, I’m already certain that the end has come. I’m gonna die on the table. That’s the worst possible outcome. The next most likely outcome is that I’m going to wake up with a zipper chest like so many of my relatives have. Of course, I don’t tell anyone else that, not even the Wife. At least I don’t say that in those specific words. The Wife knows my mental acrobatics. She helpfully exclaims to the cardiologists nursing staff,
See what I have to put up with?
I know my own genetic history. I know what is in store for me because it is what happened to my direct genetic ancestors. My maternal grandfather had a heart attack when he was about my age. They cracked his chest open and sewed six bypass arteries into his heart in order to keep him alive. The procedure was successful. He lived for another thirty years before his gut killed him. When I started getting that weird sensation in my chest, I knew what that feeling meant, I just couldn’t jump to conclusions about what it was. No, I had to go through the experts and ge their opinions. I could have been wrong, but I wasn’t wrong. This time.
The feeling? It was like two solid objects rubbing against each other in the area around my heart. I’d never felt anything quite like it before in my life. After the sensation repeated itself several times during exercise, I decided I probably should take it seriously. So I did. I cancelled the physical therapy appointment I had the next day and booked an appointment with my cardiologist for as soon as he could see me.
He’s the one who offered the platitude it’ll be fine after saying the word angiogram and then watching me pale. What he didn’t know was that I have had nightmares about things crawling through my veins for most of my life. it’s part of my fear of needles and why I nearly faint every time someone sticks me with something. An angiogram is exactly that fear come to life.
I cringed every time an older relative would go in for one of the procedures. The Wife’s foster father had one done back in the dark ages, back in the 1980’s when an angiogram was still experimental. His was the first one I had ever heard of being done. They went in through his groin. They went in through that artery in the thigh that if cut you can bleed out in a matter of seconds. Not minutes, seconds. That artery. The femoral artery.
The catheter that they introduce into the blood system through the artery allows them to run a camera up through your arteries to study blockage from inside your body, and they can use it to introduce dye into your blood system, near the heart, so that they can use x ray imaging to study blockages. Which is what they wanted me to agree to. We’re going to slice open an artery and run tubes through your bloodstream. But don’t worry, we do this all the time.
They don’t know that worry is what I do eighteen hours a day, every day. If I’m not worrying about something, then I’m probably not actively thinking at the moment. I even worry when I dream. This is why driving a car every day of a working life is a special kind of torture for me. Anything more than a half-hour of driving, and I’m already worrying a hole in my stomach. I gave myself an ulcer inside of six months when I briefly flirted with driving for a living, bringing to an early end any kind of career driving trucks or test cars.
Over the course of the next week, while waiting for the procedure to happen, I say my goodbyes to everyone and make sure my karmic debt is paid off. I don’t want to be surprised in a potential next life by being reborn as a cockroach or anything. Just covering my bets. When the day finally arrives I’m under so much stress that if you scared me I would probably have a heart attack on the spot. That’s me trying not to worry.
Luckily I wasn’t going to be awake for the procedure. I made sure of that before agreeing to it. No, I do not want to be awake. I want the good drugs. The kind of drugs that keep you from remembering anything. I definitely do not want to be reliving the memory of crap crawling through my veins when I go to sleep for the rest of my life, if there is a rest of my life. Knock me out, or as close to out as I can get and still be responsive to commands or questions.
The doctor showed up early. He checked my wrist to see if it was large enough to get into easily. He was planning on accessing the radial artery rather than the femoral artery. I was initially thrilled at the notion that I wouldn’t have blood shooting out of the artery next to my junk the first time I went to the bathroom after the procedure. Then he left the room to allow the prep nurse to get to work. They prepared both the femoral artery area in the groin (so much hair!) and the right wrist as possible surgery locations. Had I known they would need to shave my groin anyway, I could have used the trimmers on it beforehand. Manscaping is a foreign concept to me. If hair grows somewhere on my body (on your body, even) it probably grows there for a reason. I see little need to trim hair that no one sees but me and the Wife. If she doesn’t like the hair, it usually gets snatched out by the roots anyway.
Talking to the surgery nurses is the last thing I remember before the procedure. I remember that both arms were strapped down (we don’t want you moving. Yes, I understand) The surgical shields were put in place. They were cold, but in place. The nurse said they do these kinds of procedures eight times a day on a normal day. They wouldn’t be doing eight of them on that day because the cardiologist I had been referred to had already dealt with two emergency procedures before he got to me in the mid-afternoon, and I had been scheduled as the first cardiogram of the morning when I walked in that day. He’s a busy guy. He earns his pay, without a doubt. He definitely earned it working on me that day.
The good drugs started when the doctor entered the surgery and verified everything I’d agreed to for about the fourth or fifth time (the thoroughness of modern medical procedure is reassuring if slightly tedious) and I don’t remember much after that. I remember the imaging system suspended over my chest like the upper hammer in a forging hammer press. I remember voices, but not words. I do vaguely remember something rounding the corner in my shoulder at one point, but I definitely do not remember the amount of work they had to do once they had done the initial scan.
…because it was as bad as I imagined it was. I didn’t die, so the worst outcome was averted. They didn’t have to crack my chest, something that would have been required had I been undergoing the procedure even ten years ago. Second worst outcome avoided by simply being born in the place and time that I was. No open heart surgery. Just three stents. Three stents, in three different arteries, and then the second set of tests to make sure that blood flow was restored to the blood starved areas of my heart.
What would have been weeks of bed rest and a lengthy hospital stay reduced to overnight observation and three months of cardiac rehabilitation. I’m a big fan of science-based modern medicine. It has once again kept me alive to see another day. From that perspective, what is there not to like about it?
I start remembering things after I’ve been in the recovery room for a bit. I remember the Wife’s usual amusement at my slowly dwindling confusion. I remember the cardiologist (now my favorite person in the world) visiting to let me know what they found while crawling through my arteries. He also let me know that I needed to stay for observation for at least a day to make sure that there were no complications. I also remember sitting in the recovery room until they had a hospital room ready for me, sitting there waiting until the cleaning staff was impatiently waiting for me to leave so they could clean up and shut down the surgery wing for the day. At least I had Looney Tunes to keep me company.
The pressure bandage was removed from my wrist at some point during the wait, and then there was a brief panic while I bled through quite a bit of gauze before the nurses got the bleeding to stop. Nurses pressing on the fresh surgery site to stop the bleeding, that was the most intense pain I endured that day. A mercifully brief pain considering the amount of pain that open heart surgery entails. Pain for months on end.
I could bitch about the inability to get my betahistine cleared through the hospital administration while I was laid up at the hospital for the night, but that seems pretty trivial in the scheme of things. We’ll just pretend I didn’t take the betahistine anyway because that would be against the rules. Did you know you aren’t allowed to bring your own drugs into the hospital? It was news to me. If you have drugs that aren’t available in the US unless they are compounded, you probably should get your drugs approved by the hospital you might be staying in before you find yourself stuck there with no treatment for your weird diseases. It will save you the frustration. In my case, it would have kept me from requesting a Xanax from the staff in order to keep the vertigo at bay. They didn’t want to give it to me, but I convinced them they didn’t want to see a full blown drop attack in the middle of the night. Really, I’m not complaining, I’m just a problem patient. Ask the Wife.
The only real surprise I experienced post-recovery was that I didn’t expect to be one-handed for such an extended period of time. Had I realized that the bruising would hang around for as long as it did, I would have told them to go in through the groin. I would have missed a wedding anyway, as it turned out (thunderstorms will do that) But I could have done everything else I normally do while laid up in bed for forty-eight hours. Not having two hands meant I missed raiding in World of Warcraft for two weeks. But the worst part was not writing. Not writing much of anything for nearly three weeks. Slow torture for anyone who loves to write. As I said previously, I watched a lot of television.
This brings us to today in this little story. Today, where I’m stuck in the near-endless repetition of cardiac rehab three times a week. Exercising while wearing a heart monitor with nurses always hovering nearby. Me and a whole lot of people twenty years my senior sweating as a group and wishing we could be somewhere else. I’m beginning to understand what it means to be handed the short end of the genetic stick now. What it means to have a cholesterol problem that can’t be treated with a Statin because of dangerous side effects. I hope to survive my genetic handicaps long enough to see a crispr application that will fix what is ailing me, whatever that is.
I’ve watched one football game since I stopped sharing an apartment with a football fan. The last roommate I had before getting married was a Dallas Cowboys fan. He loved those Cowboys. Since the TV was his, and it was in the living room, we watched the Cowboys play every week, and I would be the devil’s advocate every week. “Who are the Cowboys playing this week? Yeah, I love those guys.” It led to some good natured rivalry, especially since I really didn’t give two shits about the game in the first place.
When I was living at home with my parents, back in the stone age of the 70’s, my dad would never miss a game that was being broadcast. Football. Basketball. Baseball. Hockey. If it was a sport and it was being broadcast, my dad was watching it. He lamented that I was too small for football myself because he wanted me to play like he played in high school. He did get me to try out for basketball. I didn’t make the cut, which was no surprise to me or Mitch, my wingman in that foray into sports. I wrestled for a few season. A had a perfect record. I was pinned every time I got on the mat. I even played baseball for a few seasons. I have my jersey around here somewhere to prove it because mom saved it. I was terrified of being hit by the baseball every time they’d send me out onto the field.
…And with good reason. I have the worst hand-eye coordination, come to find out. Dad played softball every summer until his health degraded to the point he couldn’t play, and his participation in that game lead me to try playing softball myself on one of my employer’s teams. For one season. During warmup one afternoon I was holding the mitt too low and the ball tipped the top of the mitt and plastered me right on the lip. I can feel the tingle where the lip split on the inside of my mouth to this very day. Between that and the gravel raspberry I got all up and down my left leg sliding into base one time, I decided that sports really just weren’t my thing. I’d be better off sticking to video games. The finger and wrist sprains are more easily dealt with.
We watch so few sports in this house that we joke that the TV is broken, sports-wise. We tell guests “Nope. It won’t tune sports. No idea what’s wrong with it.” The one time we had a guest insist on watching her game we banished the fans into another room so that they wouldn’t interrupt our movie watching. I will admit to occasionally keeping half an eye on baseball scores. I like baseball, even if I can’t play it. Baseball is the real American game, not football. American football is rugby played with helmets and pads.
But the Wife always liked the Seattle Seahawks. She didn’t know anything about football, the game, but she had studied statistics for some fantasy football league that she was part of one year, and Seattle had the best all-around players at the time. She won a lot of matchups that year because the individual players all did really well, so she never forgot them. Years later when the Seahawks made it to the Superbowl for the very first time and she decided she had to watch that game because her boys were in it. Consequently I spent the next two hours explaining what a fourth down was. What the ten yard line meant. I mean, I knew all the mechanics of game play because dad had drilled all this crap into my head, so I can watch and follow a game even though I consider the games just slightly more interesting than watching paint dry.
There is one thing that I do care about. Injustice. Bad calls by referees. Players cheating and getting away with it. Teams that don’t deserve to lose, but end up losing anyway. That is what happened to the Seahawks in the one game we had ever bothered to watch together in thirty years of marriage. The Seahawks lost because of a bad call. The Wife was pissed, I was pissed, and we’ve never turned on a football game since. It was Super bowl Sunday yesterday, and I did notice that cheatin’ Tom Brady won again this year. That makes this just another game I’m glad I didn’t watch.
The War of the Thorns is in its second week, and the gamer portion of the internet is having a drama meltdown because of it. If you’ve played World of Warcraft (and if you haven’t, you’re probably already dead, so stop reading this) then you know that every two or three years Blizzard, the creators of the Warcraft gaming franchise, release a world-changing patch called an expansion that the company hopes will reinvigorate its flagship game, World of Warcraft. Long time readers of this blog will know my back story for this game because, for several years, I couldn’t stop talking about it.
For those dead people (undead?) still reading, I will mention, briefly, a little lore and history. Warcraft is a series of Real Time Strategy (RTS) games. All versions of Warcraft prior to World of Warcraft were RTS games, a completely different animal from a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game like World of Warcraft. Maps in an RTS are built for complex battles fought on the ground using large armies. Maps in an MMO are used in world-building, an essential ingredient for any kind of real-world feel in online gaming. In Warcraft there were essentially two teams, Orcs and Humans. As the game evolved over Warcrafts One, Two and Three (and their associated expansions) the Orc and Human teams were fleshed out with races that could assist the Orcs or the Humans (or both at the same time) This introduced Dwarves and Elves for the humans and Trolls and Ogres for the Orcs. Gnomes and Goblins were addons that either appeared as part of Dwarvish construction for Gnomes, or Goblin mercenaries who could be hired from specialized structures in the later Warcraft III maps. With Warcraft III the two teams were expanded to four teams. Night Elves appeared for the first time in the woods of Kalimdor, a new continent that was reached by using ships to cross oceans that were created for Warcraft II. The Undead faction was also introduced in Warcraft III with the corruption of the Human prince Arthas, inheritor of the throne of Lordaeron, Lordaeron being the Human faction dominating the game Warcraft II.
The important thing to take from the above is that, Night Elves lived in the woods of Kalimdor, the second continent of Azeroth, created for the RTS game Warcraft II. Humans lived on the first continent, the Eastern Kingdoms, and there were several cities for Humans and Dwarves mentioned there or located there throughout the first two games. The Elves that were part of the Human faction prior to Warcraft III also had cities in the Eastern Kingdoms, unlike the Night Elves. Orcs were from another world that was briefly explored in expansions for both Warcraft One and Two, as were Ogres. Trolls had no origin prior to World of Warcraft, they were simply part of the map obstacles for teams, and part of the support group for the Orcs, a smattering of races which came to be known as the Horde.
This is the first bit of World of Warcraft lore that I have mentioned and I am three paragraphs into a simple description of the lore of the game. Bear with me. The faction I mentioned was the Horde, a faction which also incorporated what was a second faction or army in Warcraft III, the Undead. The human team had the name of the Alliance in Warcraft, an alliance between humans, dwarves and elves. The Alliance also absorbed the forth Warcraft III faction or army, the Night Elves. This brings us to the creation of World of Warcraft as a game and a map.
When Blizzard took on the task of creating a real world map for Azeroth, the world that most of World of Warcraft takes place on, they had to create origin points for all the races to start from, so that low-level players could have time to learn the mechanics of gameplay before being dumped out in the hostile world of Player vs. Player (PVP) competition. This is where most of the places that are near and dear to any hardcore players heart were created. Stormwind, destroyed in Warcraft I, lived again as the home for Humans. Ironforge, the mythical home of the Dwarves was finally given form, as was Gnomeregan for the Gnomes and Thunder Bluff for the Tauren, another supporting race for the Horde that was also introduced in Warcraft III. Finally, Teldrassil was introduced as a home for the Night Elves. The Night Elves, who called no place home other than the woods that they loved and died for, and the real reason I took everyone down this long, winding path in the first place.
To further embroider the story I’m telling here, a bit of an aside about Gnomes and Gnomeregan. Gnomeregan is a sore point for anyone who plays Gnomes. Gnomeregan is a five-man dungeon, not a home. At least Gnomes have a home to be excluded from, a fact important enough to warrant a dungeon instance. Trolls had no home at first, simply being pointed North to Orgrimmar, the same directive that low-level Orcs experienced in game. They were pointed North to a city in which they occupied a slum adjacent to the Orcs, but were not really as well respected as Orcs. Trolls later claimed their home back from Zalazane, but that isn’t the point of this winding trip down memory lane.
The point here is that Teldrassil, the home for the Night Elves, was never part of Warcraft until World of Warcraft, and even then it was a seriously flawed creation of Fandral Staghelm and the druids that he lead at the beginning of World of Warcraft. Fandral Staghelm, who harnessed dark magic to make the tree what it is today, before he became a raid boss in the Firelands raid of Cataclysm. A servant of the Firelord Ragnaros. Teldrassil stood as a testament to his control over the druids in particular, and the Night Elves in general, until this week.
The Daughter has been telling me for months now they burn Teldrassil. I didn’t believe it until I saw it, but the animated short released yesterday duplicates the final sequence in Tuesday, June 31st’s expansion patch for the War of the Thorns currently underway as an introduction to the new expansion due out August 14th, Battle for Azeroth.
So, yeah. They burn Teldrassil. I’m not exactly appalled or outraged by this sequence of events. As others who are even more lore-wise than me have pointed out, this is not even the first time that a major city has been destroyed in World of Warcraft or that this strategy of roping in the player base by shaking up the maps and relationships we’ve come to accept as a given was used. These tactics are not groundbreaking and they may or may not be effective at driving more players to play the game the way Blizzard envisions.
The book that corresponds with the release of this expansion, Before the Storm, was penned by one of the better authors for Warcraft lore, Christie Golden. I would prefer to have read the book before the expansion comes out, but like all things financial for me these days, some things have to wait for the bills to be paid so that the lights will stay on here. Hopefully I’ll get a copy for my birthday in two weeks. So I haven’t read the book. Most players have not read it and probably should read it before being too outspoken about transpiring events. As a druid player (not to mention Paladin and every other class for both factions) the ability to opt out of participation in the slaughter at Teldrassil would have been nice. Druids would not agree to attack their Shan’do. There were, however, Druids working for Sylvanas in Darkshore. Just slightly South of Lor’danel where the final battle takes place, there are druids of the claw attacking in a circular formation. So Druids were present in the battle, despite rumors to the contrary.
I wonder what game these players shocked by Sylvanas’ actions have been playing? They certainly haven’t leveled toons through the early game areas for the Undead in the current version of World of Warcraft, a storyline that has been in place since after Cataclysm reworked the area following the Wrath of the Lich King expansion and the killing of Varimathras. Anyone who thinks that Sylvanas doesn’t want to be the next Lich King doesn’t understand the undead, hasn’t played undead characters, hasn’t been paying attention to the characterizations in game. Her disavowal of knowledge of Varimathras’ plague plans at the Wrathgate was just her engaging in covering her own ass. She set about making more plague and using it in South Shore in the very next expansion. She has been experimenting with the Val’kyr, using them to resurrect fresh undead. It’s right there in the Undead storyline right now, go play it.
However, frontal assault is totally out of character for Sylvanas and her Rogues. She is a master strategizer, well-versed in the underhanded ways of the Rogue class (Rogues that should be using bows the way she does but currently cannot) This one size fits all storytelling is at the heart of my dissatisfaction with Broken Isles, the last expansion of World of Warcraft. The Broken Isles had Rogues leading armies as heroes, not to mention Mages willing to follow Warlocks into battle as if Warlocks hadn’t been demonstrated to suck the souls out of their friends when the expediency of the moment calls for it. Most of the stories since Wrath and Cataclysm have been underthought and not fleshed out very well (what the hell happened to Wrathion?) I was hoping that Christie Golden being brought on to help with plotting and storytelling would make for better stories being told in relation to the MMO as we move forward in time. Maybe she just hasn’t had time to make the kinds of deep changes that really are warranted in the game experience. I guess we will find out eventually.
In any case, good riddance to Fandral’s creation, Teldrassil. None of my druids had any abiding love for the place and Tarashal only regrets not being able to save more than a hundred out of the nearly 1000 people supposedly taking refuge there. It reminded him quite poignantly of sorting through the bodies at Auberdine after Cataclysm started. Not surprisingly, I’m sure. He looks forward to making his new home on top of the mountain next to Nordrassil. Tharthurm asked the Paladin standing next to him when the cutscene ended What does a Paladin have to do with this? What does a Druid? before flying off and getting drunk at a tavern (yes I am an incorrigible roleplayer) Hope does spring eternal, Sylvanas. You cannot kill hope unless you destroy all life. Keep walking the path of the Lich King. I know you as only one of your own (Eugennah, Creavishop) can.
All of the Battle for Azeroth videos and stills can be found at this link. After the first two Warbringers shorts (I’ve shown the one for Jaina to so many people that the Daughter storms off in anger when I show it again) Blizzard released this short.
Varok Saurfang is the tragic figurehead for the honor of the Horde across all of Warcraft, even if we didn’t know his name until World of Warcraft. Just watching that cinematic can bring tears to my eyes. It would seem like a hollow gesture following the burning of Teldrassil, but he was prepared to throw himself on Alliance spears in order to avoid fighting for a Horde that had no honor, and Sylvanas Windrunner has no honor. She has not had room in herself for honor since losing her mortal shell to Arthas’ necromancy. After the foretold defeat of Horde forces at Lordaeron Keep, Saurfang is taken prisoner and hauled back to Stormwind to await King Anduin’s pleasure.
This sets up the next portion of the story of Battle for Azeroth, at least from the Horde side. Now my Tauren druid can take part in the game again. Of course, my undead toons are livid at Saurfang’s and Baine’s betrayal, but the undead were never really part of the Horde in the first place.
Patch 8.2 is now in beta.
I’m glad someone took the time to piece together all the cutscenes for Vol’jin’s interactions with the players in Battle for Azeroth. It saves me the trouble of doing it, and Vol’jin appears to be the missing link in determining what Sylvanas is really up to and who wanted her to be warchief of the Horde. Spoilers! are in the video. Just FYI.
Well, the first chapter of Battle for Azeroth has come to an end. It came to an end rather spectacularly, with this cinematic.
Blizzard put together what can only be called a short film, 30 minutes of cinematics edited together as a tribute to Varok Saurfang. Since I had already linked all the other cinematics previously, I didn’t see the point in embedding that video here. Still, it is worth noting as a worthy effort on blizzard’s part. This will probably be the last update to this post since this is the end of the first chapter of this expansion. The battle goes on, but with different actors on the stage, and we have yet to see the ultimate plans of Sylvanas Windrunner. You get a hint of what they are if you play a Horde toon, ally yourself with Sylvanas, and finish the war campaign.
I’m not going to tell you what that is here. You’ll have to look elsewhere for those spoilers. I’m still playing so that means that this version of the game isn’t as boring to play as Warlords of Draenor was for me. Still, WoWClassic is looking mighty tempting as the wait for the next raid to drop looms in front of me. I’ve leveled all the toons I plan on leveling at this point. It’s just a matter of fleshing out their gear now; which is a tedious, never-ending process in any MMO that has ever existed. So I may duck that job and go play something else in the meantime.
I’ve been playing Wolfenstein: The New Order off and on now for about six months. The Wife gifted me with Wolfenstein: The New Colossus for Christmas last year, and I refused to play a sequel without playing the first game first. You have to experience first things first. Old Blood is the second game. This confirms my theory on thirds. First third is good. Second third can be better. Last third? Hardly worth the trouble. I’m tracking down Old Blood so I can play it next. [Editor’s note: Have it now] The relationships which seem long established in the game’s story are there because Wolfenstein was perhaps the first stealth video games, and Id preserved much of what it saw as essential from previous iterations of Wolfenstein when it created The New Order, including an easter egg tribute to their first game Wolfenstein 3D.
I took the right approach on insisting I play New Order before playing New Colossus, because I probably would never have given this series of games a chance if I had played Wolfenstein: The New Colossus first. I couldn’t finish that game when I finally got to it. Hell, I barely made it out of the submarine, where the game begins, I was laughing so hard. Laughing at the unreality of maneuvering a wheelchair through bulkheads with openings that could not possibly be rolled through in a wheelchair, while firing a automatic weapon two-handed and not being propelled backwards down the companionway from the recoil. They program in sight drift when firing a weapon, but they don’t do the half-dozen other things that are even more essential for believability.
Games are not reality, after all. Reality is so unreal that many of the things we experience would never work in a fictional universe. No one would believe that what was happening could happen. I mean, the party that could not accept a President getting a blowjob in the Oval Office willingly puts a lying, cheating scumbag into the office of the President? That could never happen. So the simple fact that a thirty-six inch wide object cannot fit through a thirty-two inch wide door is clearly not going to be believed. However, we are talking first person shooters (FPS) here. A first-person shooter from the originators of the FPS, id. Except that id didn’t allow its name to be placed on the sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order, a smart move on their part.
In the age of Trump, it is easy to believe that the Nazis won the Second World War. In the age of Trump, it is easy to believe that a secret Jewish organization called Da’at Yichud created all the weapons that the Nazis stole. Stolen technology that allowed them to win the war by developing an atomic bomb first. Not hard to believe, at all.
No, the hard part to believe about this game is how this one man could possibly make a difference in this obscene world that he finds himself in. This cold, hard fact is why Wolfenstein: The New Order is the game to be playing in the age of Trump. Because he does triumph, in the end, and his is not the only triumphal moment.
This game is a tour-de-force for id. It reminds me of all the hours I spent playing Doom all those years ago, when the internet was the future and the future was full of hope. They released an updated version of Doom last year. I’ll probably have to play that game next.
I’ve been walking around in a fog all day, as I said at the beginning. Walking in a fog with the oft-scribbled statement of those unfortunates who have had their long-term memory sealed off from their short term memory looping through my mind. I’ve just woken up for the first time! Caught in a bootloop, like a bad operating system install. The cutscene in the Kreisau hideout has been haunting me.
Not just any time you sleep in the hideout. You have to be playing the Fergus timeline. In the Fergus timeline one of the changes is the character of Tekla. A mathematician, she is obsessed with calculating the probabilities of success in the Kreisau’s fight against the Nazis. One of the instances when you tell Blaskovitz to go to sleep to get his health upgraded (Fergus’ perk) has an additional cutscene. Blasko goes to sleep, only to be startled abruptly awake to find Tekla sipping coffee beside his bed, watching as he and Anya sleep. The dialog for this scene keeps drifting through my mind, following I’ve just woken up for the first time! hard on it’s heels. I tried to find the scene in the game for hours today. I knew it was there, but I just could not find it. I played through all the chapters in the Kreisau hideout looking for it. Luckily someone else spliced all the Tekla scenes together,
Where do you go when you lose consciousness? You have a brain, a brain is a biological computational device running on electrochemical process. Your consciousness is an emergent property of said process. In other words: you are an electrochemical process. Fundamentally you have experience of continuous existence. You are you, at this point in time. You have sensation of riding along this continuum of being you, into the future. On occasion brain can be subjected to trauma, temporarily discontinuing electrochemical process. Such as a boxer being knocked out. As this occurs the brain is no longer running. It’s electrochemical generating process. Hence consciousness is lost. You lose consciousness. At this point in time, your consciousness, all that is you… your continuum of being you has caused to exist in the physical world, Now, moments later, the electrochemical process may start up again… allowing consciousness to emerge out of the information stored in the brain. But I wonder. Where are you in the meantime? Must we not assume that at the point when consciousness is lost, the person dies? If a new consciousness appears or not in the same brain is entirely inconsequential to the dead consciousness. The new consciousness is simply a new person. Because it emerges from the same brain it has access to all the memories and cognitive structures… as the dead consciousness, so it thinks it is the same person But in actuality it is just an impostor. Inheriting the body and brain from the previous, now dead, inhabitant.
Pretty deep stuff for an FPS video game, isn’t it? But that is the quality of the production all through Wolfenstein: The New Order. It feels like reality, the camera bobbing ever so slightly as you watch the cutscenes, as if you are an observer over the shoulder of someone else, breathing carefully so as not to attract attention to yourself. Hoping against hope that these impossible people will achieve an impossible thing and destroy the Nazi machine even in its hour of triumph.
But I could not find the scene in the game again. I could not find it, like a memory that fades into the mist when you look for it. Did I wake up today a different person? Will I wake up tomorrow a different person? Who is asking this question? Play Wolfenstein: The New Order. Kill all the Nazis. Win the war. Or maybe we should believe we can win the battle against the fakir who currently inhabits the office of the President? If you think we can’t win, play this game. Maybe it will change your mind.