Archive for February, 2011

Of Mantles And Mursaat

A couple of weeks ago I put together an audio segment for Relics of Orr.  Dispatches from the Priory is meant to be a place for me to tell small lore stories while acting in character.

In the first episode I covered the history of the charr in general, and the history of the Khan-Ur in specific.  For some reason I imagine my charr character speaking in a russian accent.  I don’t think I was entirely successful, but so far I’ve only heard complimentary feedback about the segment.

This week’s Dispatches from the Priory I wanted to cover something in human history.  I chose the story of the White Mantle, and the ascention of Queen Salma to her rightful throne.

To tell this story I enlisted the aid of a farmer’s daughter in Shaemoor.  She and her little brother, Liam, are taking their father’s melons to market and she’s doing what big sisters do best: Scaring the whey out of her little brother with grisly tales of White Mantle atrocities.

In the middle of writing my script, however, I found myself stuck.  The persona I had created existed at or just before the events that will be unfolding in Guild Wars 2.  I didn’t know if the White Mantle still existed, if there were reformed sects that held a respected place in Krytan society, or even if a farmer’s daughter, no matter her education, would even know about them.

So I went and asked ArenaNet.  Regina Buenaobra kindly gave me permission to publish the answers to the questions that I asked, and I relay them to you here.

My questions:

– Do the White Mantle still exist?
– Do they exist in such a way that a farmer’s daughter would know about them?
— Would she hear rumors?
— What if she was getting a good education in Divinity’s Reach?
– Is Shaemoor actually close enough to Divinity’s Reach that farmers would take their produce there for market? If not, what is the closest farming community?
– How does human history remember the White Mantle?

ArenaNet’s response:

I had a chat with our lore specialists, Jeff and Ree, and this is what they had to say:

The White Mantle are considered a part of Kryta’s past. They are sometimes used as boogey-men to scare small children, but they are not considered part of Kryta’s present or future.

To address your specific questions:

The White Mantle, as was noted above, is not a part of Kryta in Guild Wars 2, so a farmer’s daughter would not know about them or hear rumors about them in present day Kryta, even if she was getting a good education in Divinity’s Reach. If she was educated, she would know history about the White Mantle, and about when the White Mantle was in charge of Kryta, before Queen Salma. Human history remembers the White Mantle as a treasonous bunch of fanatics that held Kryta hostage to their dark cultist faith. Queen Salma and a group of human heroes liberated Kryta and brought it back to the worship of the Six Gods. Yay, Salma, for destroying this evil cult forever!

Shaemoore is totally a place where they would sell their produce, if they didn’t want to take it to the city itself.

These questions (and their answers) aren’t earth-shattering things, but I hope any lore buffs like myself that lurk among my audience will enjoy this small peek into the more mundane aspects of Krytan life.

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Like Poking At A Sore Tooth

So my husband bought Cataclysm and resubscribed.  He succumbed to peer pressure.  By all accounts, when word spread that he was coming back to WoW there were over 100 people included on the mailing list.  Apparently he was so fun to game with that a mailing list was created to announce his return.  You can imagine my surprise.

The thing with us is, we don’t game together.  This is by design.  We’ve tried and we invariably end the evening on opposite ends of the house sulking and angry.  Maybe it’s a product of differing playstyles, or maybe it’s a personality conflict.  I suspect it’s both.  When we were both playing WoW we both played as tanks (in separate guilds), he as a warrior and me as a druid.  Tanks in WoW are expected to posses a certain amount of leadership.  Draw whatever conclusions you wish.

So he now has Cataclysm.

At this point I must admit to a certain amount of jealousy.  Jealousy over his computer (the fact that it works and isn’t over 8 years old) and jealousy that he has something fun and exciting to do while I wait for Guild Wars 2.  There’s a million other reasons and counter-arguments that chase each other around my mind but it all boils down to that little kernel of unhappiness.

So out of compassion (for he’s not a bad man, and I love him dearly), he encouraged me to check out Cataclysm on his account.  He even made room on his already over-full roster so that I could have two characters on the server he frequents.

I made a goblin hunter, and then I made a worgen rogue.  I spent the next few hours playing the worgen.  I worked my way through the beginning story, found myself confused and lost only once when I had trouble finding a cellar door (wth happened to Wowhead?), and then erupted into the world at large (I think).  The phasing technology that was premiered in Wrath of the Lich King was kinda neat there, and it was cool to be able to turn around and see part of Gilneas descending into the sea, but I’ll be damned if I could tell if I was in The World or some crazy half-persistent limbo.  I don’t like being in limbo.

I wanted to play until I reached a major city (every race has one) but eventually I became frustrated and gave up.  I don’t know if it was a result of the download (nice job on being able to play and download, but Guild Wars beat you to it by 5 years) or something that’s intended, but my map won’t fill in.  This sounds like something inconsequential, but it Bugs The Hell Out Of Me.

So I happily walked away from the worgen (who is now sporting a top-hat and looking sillier after every new armor piece) and did something else for the rest of my Saturday.

Sunday evening my husband encouraged me to give it another go and I fired up my goblin hunter.  I didn’t play the goblin for as long (long enough to find myself shipwrecked), but I found the goblins, simply, /fun/.  In a game that has been compared to a drunken frat party, goblins are the tightly spinning dynamo of ludicrous at the heart of everything that makes you want to /facepalm.

But in a good way.

My feelings towards WoW are obviously mixed.  I think it’s over-priced and definitely over-lauded, but I also spent a solid year as a hardcore raider.  During that time I met some wonderful people with whom I still talk on occasion.  I learned what it is to lead, and I learned my own limits.  Such lessons are invaluable and will follow and aid me even into Real Life.  I started a gaming blog and through that, have met even more new and wonderful people.  In truth, if it wasn’t for WoW I would not have eventually switched my focus to Guild Wars.  I would not have joined Ryan on the Relics of Orr.  There are hundreds of “would not have”s, so I’ll cut the list there.

Like any profound learning experience (I’m not unaware of the irony and geekiness of calling any experience obtained in virtual space a ‘profound learning experience’, but nevertheless it was), the lessons are invaluable, and should be treasured, but I begrudge the pain of having to learn them.  There’s a pull there for me that I don’t want to succumb to.  Raiding hard-core and on a schedule (as any hard-core raiding must be done) put stress on my personal life.  My husband and I both have been on either end as well.

Gaming for us must be casual, it must be spontaneous.  I was worried that giving Cataclysm a try would draw me back and lash me down.  Thankfully, that has not been the case.

After playing 12 levels of worgen, and 6 levels of goblin I’ve come to realize (in my heart of hearts, for I already knew this in my head) that it wasn’t the gameplay that kept me tied to WoW, it was the people.  In the vacuum that I was, playing a new race, in a new area, in a game that has become so different from the one I used to play, I found my interest wavering.  While the game is different enough to be interesting for a time, it’s still terribly the same.  Almost all quests are fetch and carry, kill x of these, go here, do that.

There are some notable exceptions.  As a worgen I had to defend a wounded man from incoming unsavories, as a goblin I got to run down looters with my car and provide entertainment for a company party.  But those glimmering moments weren’t enough to keep me interested through the pages of quest text.  I wanted to know the story, but I do my reading on the couch or in bed, not sitting upright in my husband’s uncomfortable computer chair.

My tolerance for quest text is all but exhausted.  My patience for being led by the hand from point A to point B has come to an end.  I find more enjoyment from the simple act of planning a public rail system in Minecraft than I do from slogging through the Same Old Quests in WoW.  And they really are the same.  By reading the quest text (I do every now and again) I see they have more relevance, but the actions are the same.

There’s nothing there to keep me.  My husband’s online friends are not mine.  My old account has been through no less than three hacks since I deactivated it.  My druid is a night elf now through no action on my part, and it’s altogether too much trouble to try to sort out and pick up the pieces.  That might all sound like specious excuses until I load up my worgen or goblin, play for a little bit, and remember that yeah, it’s not really worth it.

Strangely Familiar

Is she a push-button woman, or a machine in search of a soul?

Behold my Robo-Bug.

She is X-53, daughter of X-52, who is in turn, The Son Of X-51.

My husband spent all weekend attempting to download the RIFT beta without success.  Our connection is slow and intermittent.  The download client doesn’t save progress as you go.  I’m sure you can do the math.

So instead he downloaded Champions Online.  The next morning he woke me up and told me about the game.

Him: I told myself I wouldn’t make a hero in spandex.
Me: Oh?
Him: I made a character in spandex.
I laughed
Him: And then I saw a monkey throwing fireballs. (Said with a certain fiendish glee in his eye. He’s got a thing for monkeys (and squirrels) and he was obviously excited, even talking about buying a subscription.)

So, of course, I had to go see what all the hubbub was about.  He instructed me to try out the character creator while he was gone (I had kicked him out of the house to go find some dinner for us).  Instead I made my own account so that I could actually play the game.

He walked to the store and I was only halfway through character creation when he got back!

I didn’t have anything particularly in mind when I started.  I went with the Blademaster archetype (I wanted something psychic, but I didn’t like the idea of being support… AGAIN).  After that it was just me futzing around with generic hero spandex…. until I found the parts.

I think it was the wings that threw me over the top.  I found the angel ones first and thought “Hey those are cool, but way larger than I want to deal with right now”. Then I found the dragonflies.  I love dragonflies.  I had picked the android head with other appropriately robot-ish features (don’t judge me for my pigtails, yo!) but once I found the dragonfly wings I knew I had to construct some kind of bio-mechanical insect.

Robo-Bug, my husband called her, and quirked an eyebrow at the size I chose to make her knockers.  I told him to shut up and that it was completely appropriate in this kind of environment.

So Robo-Bug was born and she was thrown immediately onto a battlefield.  I ran through some kill-10-X quests, learned how to block (It’s a skill button you hold down…) and then just before being released into the wild found myself in a group activity during which I didn’t actually have to group directly with other players….

Hmmmm, this feels veeeeeery familiar.

When I wasn’t busy being distracted (in a good way) by the bright and happy UI and very comic-book evoking chat bubbles that popped up, I was gripped by a very real sense of jamais vu.  I knew this game.  The NPCs were running in terror, I could hear their screams.  I lifted some rubble off of a failed super-villain after finding my way to his mangled body by following the sound of his voice. (no lie!)  I had to watch that enemy I was fighting for him to power up an attack, at which point I held down my block button… I could block /and/ move.  Later I acquired a skill that would catapult me across the intervening space (even while flying!) to land a blow with my sword and close to melee distance.

Oh yes, I’ve most definitely heard about this before.

It wasn’t all sun and daisies though.  The tutorial area presents a lot of information in a short time and I still haven’t found my character screen (do I even have one?).  One look at crafting made me want to paint the sidewalk with my colorful splatted self, and there were Boring Quests everywhere.

Champions Online feels like a clumsily-executed superhero version of Guild Wars 2.  I’m not sure how long I’ll keep playing, but tonight I’m definitely going to make another character and pretend it’s a charr.

 

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can join the Iron Legion!

For now I’m having fun, and for the price (nothing unless I insist on more robo-parts, which might happen), it makes a fantastic stop-gap for someone who would really rather be playing Guild Wars 2 instead of Guild Wars: Awesome.

Bloggers Have Cooties

One word from three: NDA

Non Disclosure Agreement

I’m a blogger, and a sometimes cohost on Relics of Orr.  On the show we’ve speculated about the possibilities of a Guild Wars 2 beta.  We’ve talked about how Alpha is the new Beta and the once revered term, spoken breathlessly in dark hallways “Baaaaay-taaaaa…” is now just another cheap marketing tool.

The “new beta” leaves me feeling sad and hollow.  I participated in the Guild Wars beta events, not knowing that they were probably mostly for marketing.  I didn’t make it very far out of pre-searing because I spent almost all my time poking around for problems.

Once I fell through the world, reported it, and then spent the rest of that night (We didn’t sleep during those beta events yo!) scraping pre-searing.  I also found out that Gwen could get you trapped on the steps of those houses.  Along with reporting a slew of graphical errors, I only did a little actual playing of the game.  (The houses in pre-searing used to be floating 10-15 feet above the ground, did you know that? I like to think it was my report that got their foundations back on the ground.)

That heady time is over, however.  Betas being delivered to fans are now simply previews, polished and largely bug-free.  We only have ourselves to blame.  It’s become more about the prestige of getting that first look than about the bug-finding.  Precious few people are willing to scrape the walls of a world looking for places they could fall through. (I even did this in Ocarina of Time, want to know what the inside of Hyrule castle looks like?)  Nope, when people talk about their beta experience it’s with a little bit of smugness, that ever-so-slight “I’m more special than you because I got in early.”  Or it’s even a superior feeling because the beta-goer helped make the game better.  That second one I’m most definitely guilty of.

But the betas the betas.  Alpha is the new beta, and I want in, and I won’t be getting in, and neither will my compatriots.  This isn’t meant to be a whine about the state of the industry, and I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of puling child throwing a tantrum because the boys won’t let me into their treehouse because I’m a girl and have cooties.

In a sense though, community voices like myself and others do have cooties.  We have our arms plunged so deep into the dough that we can’t help but get flour on everything.  Let us into a selective event and we’d become a liability.  Slap an NDA on us and we’d be forced to either shut down or run every other word we want to utter through marketing first.

We are simultaneously the most valuable and most dangerous connections in the community.  If a company wants to make something known we are gold that can be traded in for hype.  Let us inside, however, and we could easily become an infection.  It’s a risk any shrewd company isn’t willing to take.

It’s not a bad thing.  It just means that we need to be patient and understanding.

Personally I’m going to grab some /popcorn and enjoy the show that ArenaNet is treating us to this week in regards to the human race.  It’s almost like a party!

Not A Guardian… Yet!

Wake me when it’s Guild Wars 2 time, I’m going back to bed.

An odd thing has begun happening amongst myself and the friends I play with most often in Guild Wars.  We’re already playing Guild Wars 2, in our minds.  The amount of anticipation and excitement has been percolating for so long that, unconsciously, we’re shoe-horning our Guild Wars playing experience into the Guild Wars 2 mold.

Our two monks are revolting against support.  I play an echoed Ray of Judgement smite build and Odin is running Signet of Spirits.  When we can’t pawn off heal/prot duty on a hero (like the other night when we were farming for Canthan New Year) we pack resurrection scrolls, a self-heal apiece, and Csquirrelrun, our token ‘healer’ fills up spaces in his healing build with smiting.

I’m a bit safer when I’m shooting lasers from the sky, but when I’m protting I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not a guardian yet.  The reason for this is in the way I play protection.  The vast majority of my skills are area-of-effect.  Since Guild Wars doesn’t have the awesome ground-targeting that Guild Wars 2 will, in order for my spells to benefit our casters and our melee I often have to place myself in the middle of the action.

I’ll tell you what, tattoos don’t do a very good job of stopping a blade.

So there I am, laying on the ground, mournfully wishing that: “If I must play bitch duty/ support, why can’t I have heavy armor?  If I must mother my group and save them from themselves, why can’t I have the luxury of being able to see the battle instead of constantly monitoring health bars and a minimap?”

Is it Guild Wars 2 yet?

Guild Wars is fun, but I’ll be damned if Guild Wars 2 doesn’t look like a game I really, really wish I were playing instead.