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Archive for December, 2010

Try it, you might like it

Today’s question here on Achtung Panzercow comes from…well, me.  More exactly, it’s something I’ve wondered about for years now, and some things I’ve seen since restarting the leveling grind for my characters on Feathermoon have brought it back to the front of my mind.  The question is this:

Why would you roll on a roleplaying server if you have no intention at all of roleplaying?

I don’t mean for this question to be as accusatory or “get off my server” as it sounds at first listen.  It is a genuine, sincere question that I have yet to be able to figure out an answer to.  Let me give you a little background.

When I first rolled on Feathermoon back in March of 2005, roleplay was everywhere. It was the default mode of action, in fact.  Yes, Barrens chat was still Barrens chat sometimes, but there were also people who actually talked on /1 in character. Even in the Barrens!  If you ran across someone out and about, you had about a 50/50 chance of them actively being in character and being willing to RP with you.  The Feathermoon realm forum on the WoW website was slap full of in-character stories and interactions.  In response to the first people seen laughing at roleplayers, in fact, much of the Feathermoon RP community mobilized a large cross-faction “RP pride march” down across Stranglethorn Vale, with over 100 characters participating.  It was meant to be a show to the RP griefers…something that said “this is our server and our rules, you are not welcome here if you continue to disrupt us.”  It was an expectation that if you were playing on Feathermoon, you were a roleplayer, and if you weren’t, you respected those who did, were not disruptive, and would try it yourself at some point.  If you rolled a character with a stupid non-RP name like “Chuknorriz” or “Baconbitz” or “Hurrpdurrp,” you’d get reported.

Over the years, for whatever reason, Feathermoon–and almost every other RP server in World of Warcraft–has slowly evolved from a place where in-character is the default mode of interaction, to a place where roleplay exists in here-and-there pockets surrounded by a vast ocean of players who are, at best, indifferent to RP and at worst actively trying to thwart it.  Roleplay takes a back seat to raiding.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love to raid too.  But you can raid successfully and be a roleplayer, we prove that on Feathermoon all the time.)  The realm forums descend into raid advertisements and non-RP out-of-character drama threads.  Trade chat is no better than trade chat on any other PvE or PvP server.  Most likely, speaking to a random someone in /say in-character gets either a blank stare or “lol wut.”  And I’ve lost count of the number of times that in-character gatherings such as guild meetings or weddings or funerals or whatever have been griefed by idiots.  You know, the kind of people who run around and dance naked on tables, or spam things to cause noise or graphics disruption, or spam /say or /yell with nonsense, or just run around saying “lol u rp nurdz suk.”  And these aren’t usually level 1 “hey, my server’s down, I’ll go fuck with the RPers on Feathermoon” alts.  They’re high level characters, with good gear…clearly a significant time investment.

Why? Why would people come to a server and not participate in that server’s ruleset?  If I decided to level a character to 85 on a PvP server, I’d PvP.  I wouldn’t whine about it when I got ganked, I’d learn and I’d get better and I’d participate in what the server is “about,” which is PvP in addition to everything else.  So why would someone roll on, and spend significant time on, an RP server if they aren’t even curious about roleplay?

Please note that I’m not talking about the “RP-curious” or inexperienced roleplayer here.  If you’ve never done it before and want to just watch and learn more about it, that’s fine.  I don’t know any roleplayers on Feathermoon, for example, who have an issue with non-roleplayers being on the server…as long as they’re not disruptive to roleplay.  I would take it a half-step further…my opinion is that if you are on an RP server, even if you don’t roleplay actively, you should be willing to try it. Why not?  You created the toon on a server that clearly had “(RP)” behind the name.  That’s the only thing that sets RP servers apart from the dozens and dozens of other PvE servers.  Try it, you might like it!  There are many excellent resources for beginning roleplayers…the two standbys that I always recommend are my fellow Feathermoonies over at WTT:RP, and the lovely and talented Anna at Too Many Annas.

I’m not going to get into what I think the reasons are why our RP servers have slowly degenerated over the years (I have a few opinions, but I’m saving them for later).  I’m just looking for insight into why non-roleplayers–more precisely, people who have no interest in roleplaying and/or those that think RPers are “weird”–would come to a roleplay server and make a home there.  Please, edumacate me, Gentle Readers.  I are but a humble Panzercow who has taken one too many hits to the head.


Tis the season…to be jerks

Well, here it is.  Christmas.  The day where lots of us celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Or where we come together with our families for togetherness, football, and excessive alcohol consumption.  Or even where you don’t believe in either of the above, but appreciate a couple of days off from work.  It’s supposed to be a time of fellowship and good cheer, right?  Fa la la la and all that.

Unfortunately, Dear Readers, I bring you a tale that proves that assholishness is a 24/7/365.25 kind of thing.  It comes, not surprisingly, from the WoW random dungeon finder.  And it involves not me, your humble Panzercow, but my wife, your slightly less humble (with good reason) Aggro Kitty.

A bit of background on my wife.  She’s been playing WoW almost as long as I have, a bit over five years.  In that time, her main has always been Rashona the Tauren druid.  And Rashona has always been feral.  She was feral before feral was cool.  She was feral when being feral meant “lol, shut up and heal me.”  She has catted and beared her way through vanilla and three expansions now.  She knows her feralness.  (Ferality?  Feralosity?)  She raids with The Anvil 25-man, as feral kitteh DPS, and I daresay, she’s pretty damn good at it.  In a class with one of the two nastiest rotations for DPS in Wrath of the Lich King, she was a consistent performer in our raid.  She may not be a theorycrafter and number-cruncher at an Elitist Jerks level, but she’s a solid, competent, skilled feral cat durid, and is very, very storng 4 fite.  (She also has seven level 80s to my six, because she actually likes leveling.  Yeah, I don’t get it either.)

So like me, she’s been running normals here lately to get her gear up to the magic number of 329…which is the average item level, as calculated by the client, that lets you use the LFD tool to queue for heroics.  Yesterday, she hit it.  So last night, while I was flying around Twilight Highlands strip-mining it of its valuable natural resources, she entered the interminable DPS queue for her first heroic.  And 30 minutes later, she got it.  She landed in an in-progress heroic Blackrock Caverns with four others, all from the Mug’thol (US) server.  Their names were Butternuts (hunter), Soad (mage), Cartol (paladin tank), and…wait for it…Dudeihealu (holy paladin).

Now my wife, being the polite Georgia girl that she is, said hello, and then asked something like “btw, this is my first heroic…is there anything special you need me to do?”  This was the result:

Well.  Sort of defeats the purpose of the random dungeon finder being, uh, random, doesn’t it?  “Yeah, listen, we don’t know anything about you other than you can type in complete sentences with punctuation, which scares the hell out of us.  But you look too scrubby in our considered opinion, so could you please eat a deserter debuff after waiting 30 minutes in the queue to get in, so we could get some deeps that lives up to our arbitrary standards of l33t, plox?  Thanks ever so much.”  (Please note that she has done BRC on normal at least four times on two different characters, so she knows the basic layout and mechanics of the place.)

Now my wife is no wilting flower.  She’s a steel magnolia.  So she stood her ground.  That resulted in:

“Man up get over here and prove your feathers.”  Fair enough.  A little difficult when you’re feral, but, hey, “w/e i don’t c around it.”

At this point, I imagine she was torn between standing her ground to “prove her feathers,” and running screaming away from the stupid.  (Even though I was sitting just a few feet to her right, I heard nothing about this.  I was too busy drooling over elementium nodes.)

So they pulled Corla, Herald of Twilight, aka Netherspite with Boobs.  And for whatever reason, they wiped on her.  And that caused this one final example of Christmas good cheer:

At this point, even my wife had had enough and left our four heroes from Mug’thol to pick up the pieces.  Then she told me about what happened.  And as you can probably guess by the fact that I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, I was furious. My Southern chivalry kicked in, I guess, even though Rashona is perfectly capable of defending herself.  Stuff like this sits at the conjunction of three things that make me rage:  insults against my family or friends, unwarranted gear elitism, and general assholier-than-thou behavior.

So listen here, you Mug’tholian Four Horsemen of the Dumbassaclypse.  The LFD tool is random, you jackholes.  You don’t get to pick and choose “340+ ilevel, PST armory link and notarized letter.”  You take what you get and you work with it…a fact those of us with actual functioning brain cells are far too aware of when we end up stuck with droolers like you.  You couldn’t find one other magically l33t DPS on your server to avoid having to PUG a fifth?  Clearly you guys had already run off at least one DPS since Rashona fell into a BRC where you’d already killed the first boss.  Nope.  Y’all get a DPS out of the queue who is technically capable of entering the instance, with ilevel 329, and decide that’s not good enough.  I guess you guys didn’t think you were good enough to cover for her, huh?  Wanting to get carried, maybe?

Oh, and Cartol.  The tank.  The one who kept repeating “leave rashona” over and over again like some sort of yoga mantra for the socially deficient.  You get special attention, son.  If I were churlish, I could mention that you didn’t even qualify for your own group’s internal ilevel 340+ restriction because you’re just at ilevel 334.  Or I could mention that you don’t have a single gem or enchant anywhere on your gear as I write this, even on stuff that the activity feed says you’ve had for days.  Or I could mention that you’re showing six empty glyph slots.  Karma is a bitch, homeboy, and so is the Armory.  I would actually understand your pretensions to l33th00d if you’d actually take the time to fix your own shit up before jumping on somebody just six item level points under you, with more glyphs, more enchants, and more gems.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this tale of stupidity.  After taking a few minutes to calm down, Rashona got into a group of friends running heroic Lost City of Tol’vir (thank you, Destril, for making room for her–you did not need to do that and it was very sweet of you to do so <3 ) and had quite a good time.  As for what happened to the other four…who cares?

Then the Ghosts of Dickheads Future disappear in a rattle of chains and a wail of “6.6k gs wtf,” snow starts to fall, a gnome limps into the frame and shouts “God bless us, every one!”, and we all go have a happy Christmas holiday.

Rant completed.  I have to start wrapping presents, go to Christmas Eve service tonight, and get ready to make a 125-mile drive tomorrow morning for Christmas with the in-laws’ family.  So from here in the Dumpster of Love, deep in the maybe-snowy urban wilds of North Carolina…from the Panzercow family, Linedan, Rashona, and Nublet, may you all have a merry and blessed Christmas.  May your drops always be purple and your groups be durp-free.  Love ya, guys.


In space, no one can hear you sigh

You would think, given that Cataclysm has been out for almost two weeks now, that my first post-Cata blog post would be about it.  About how Linedan is level 85 and Cataclysm Loremaster after just nine days without really trying; about how good the new zones are (and they are very good indeed); about how good the new instances are (ditto); about his grinding out gear to get ready to do heroics, to get ready to raid by The Anvil’s self-imposed January 13, 2011 start date.

You would be wrong.  My first post since the Sundering, in fact, isn’t even about World of Warcraft at all.  It’s about a completely different game…a completely different universe, actually.  In more ways than one.

I’ve always loved games set in space.  One of the very first games I ever got for my first IBM-compatible PC was the immortal Bell and Braben classic Elite.  Like a lot of other people, I played through the entire Wing Commander series, all five games, from the days when Blair and Maniac were just VGA pixels until they turned into Luke Skywalker and Biff from Back to the Future. In fact, it was a space game that brought me to WoW originally.  In early 2005, I was playing an obscure space MMOG called Jumpgate when people in the squadron I flew with started playing this other game on the side…an RPG called World of Warcraft.  The rest is history.

So it should come, therefore, as no surprise that I play EVE Online.  I don’t play it to the same level that I play WoW; it’s a much more sporadic pastime, where I play for a while, then slack off, come back and play some more, burn out, lather, rinse, repeat.  It isn’t a joystick-based “flyer” like the old Wing Commander and Privateer games that I loved so much; navigation is automated and click-based, you don’t directly fly your ship except by selecting various celestial objects, or double-clicking in a direction in space to move that way.  But I still like it.

EVE is, really, the ultimate sandbox game.  The developers, CCP of Iceland, have a very hands-off approach to what goes on in the 23,000 star systems of New Eden.  Things that would get you banned for griefing in virtually any other game–stealing from other players, raiding their corporation (guild) hangars (banks), tricking newbies to shoot at you so you can gank them without repercussion, scamming on contracts–aren’t just allowed in EVE, they’re raised to an art form.  The legendary year-long corporate espionage and ultimate betrayal of Ubiqua Seraph by the Guiding Hand Social Club is the most famous (and reading about it is how I heard about, and first signed up for, EVE).  The economy is 95%+ player-driven, almost every item you’d ever use is not created out of thin air by server gnomes, but manufactured by players, from raw materials mined by players, and sold by players.

It’s a game where huge swaths of space–I think about three-quarters of it–are wide-open for PvP with no interference from New Eden’s NPC “cops”, called CONCORD.  In so-called “nullsec” space, with its security rating of 0.0 (on a scale to 1.0), alliances of corporations can lay claim to the space and its resources to build their empires and fill their coffers.  In claimed but lower-security space, pirates lurk to jump any poor sod that stumbles through their system.  Even in the most secure and patrolled systems, you can be attacked at any time if the attacker is willing to sacrifice their ship to CONCORD to do it.  EVE, in short, is a world where there’s not much safety.  Your fellow players are bigger threats than any NPC pirate.  The playerbase is sizeable (around 300,000 worldwide), generally very passionate, knowledgeable, maybe a bit arrogant, and not inclined to cut anyone any slack.  In New Eden, the milk of human kindness is laced with generous doses of Everclear and arsenic.

Into this wretched hive of scum, villainy, and warp drives, a certain roleplaying carebear Panzercow wandered about four years ago.  Like most EVE newbies, the thing I struggled with the most is the sheer scope and open-endedness of the game.  You can do almost anything if you’re willing to put the time into it.  Taking missions (think quests) for NPC corporation agents.  Exploring space wormholes.  Learning to play the market by trading.  Getting into PvP.  Piracy.  It’s all there, it’s all viable.  The only limiting factor is the time it takes to train skills…skills are what allow you to use different ships and objects in EVE, and they are trained in real-time, whether you’re logged on or not.  Simple skills take a few minutes to train.  Complex skills can take weeks or even months to max out.  And there are hundreds of different skills.

I decided that I would pursue a carebearish path of becoming a miner.  And so I created Jonathan Harmon, Gallente miner, and set out to make my fortune in New Eden.

I found out very quickly that EVE Online kind of sucks when you’re alone.  Oh, it’s perfectly capable of being soloed in many areas, but compared to being in a player corporation, your progression will be slow and limited.  I struggled along for months in an NPC corporation (the effective equivalent of being unguilded…in EVE, you’re always in some kind of corp) until I joined a corporation called Oberon Incorporated.  Oberon was full of good people, but they were vastly richer and more experienced than I was.  I was the level 14 guy struggling through the Barrens and the rest of them were raiding Icecrown.

Then the corp joined one of the big power alliances in EVE, Morsus Mihi, and moved to nullsec space.  Nullsec is a place where you can never let down your guard.  Even flying from one system to another in territory that your alliance allegedly controls is a dangerous act.  The NPC mobs are bigger and nastier, too.  It’s a place where being a carebear is a disadvantage…as I was told repeatedly when Morsus Mihi fleet commanders would rudely reject my attempts to join their huge war fleets in my humble tech-1 cruiser or battlecruiser.  I wanted to learn more about EVE PvP, but I wasn’t given the opportunity.  I couldn’t drag my mining ships out except under heavy escort and most of the rest of the corp were off doing things that I couldn’t participate in, so no escort.  Then I had to drop the account for a few months due to money pressures, and when I came back, I found I had been booted from the corp for inactivity…and was ganked by a MM alliance pilot when I tried to move from one station to another, because I wasn’t in the alliance any more.

So I quietly let the esteemed Mr. Harmon fade away, and eventually deleted the character.  I was determined to make another go of it, avoiding the mistakes I’d made before.  And so, Ellison French, Gallente miner part 2, was born, and set out to make his fortune in New Eden.

Flying solo wasn’t any more fun the second time than the first.  After a few months of grinding and running missions and boring solo mining, I joined another corp.  That one lasted a couple of months before another, more experienced in PvP, corporation declared war on us–meaning they could shoot us anywhere, anytime, without interference from CONCORD.  We ended up mostly hiding in stations.  When our enemies destroyed our corporation’s player-owned station, the corp fell apart.

A bit later, I joined up with a small mining and industrial corporation called Farsight Systems.  This seemed a better fit for me than the big, nullsec-oriented Oberon had been.  And for a while, I wandered on my casual way, logging on when I could to quietly mine or run missions, or sometimes just logging on to set my skill training up and then logging back off again.  A lot of the corp was on Australian/New Zealand time, completely opposite from me; those who were on US time tended to be scattered around doing different things.  I admit, I didn’t really avail myself of the opportunity of asking people to do things with me.  I’m pretty quiet in that regard, doesn’t matter what game we’re talking about.  Plus, I didn’t have a real coherent plan of what I wanted Ellison to be going forward, and trying to make the money to buy the mining barge I wanted for him was a long, tiring grind.  Economic numbers in EVE sound like something right out of Weimar Germany; billions of ISK (currency) are thrown around like they’re nothing.  And there I was, trying to save up 175 million to buy a ship and taking months to do it.  I never have figured out why I’m so bad at making money in that game.

The guys in Farsight were great, but eventually, I just got bored with it.  So I stepped away, again, for a while, and quietly deleted Ellison French.

Last month, in the run-up to Cataclysm, I decided to pick EVE back up again in the pre-expansion WoW lull.  This time, I vowed, I would break the mold.  I created another Jonathan Harmon, but this time, he was Caldari, not Gallente, and he would be more of a mission runner with an eye toward deep space exploration, not a miner.  I was excited.  I had new ships to learn, a new way of fighting to learn, and this time I had a corporation goal right off the bat…to get into EVE University.  EVE University (usually called “Uni”) is a corp that’s specifically designed as a place where newer pilots are trained to survive the rigors of life in New Eden.  Was I a “newer” pilot?  Eh, not really, since my account had been around since March 2007 and I had two previous characters.  But trust me, when it comes to EVE, I’m a noob.  Whole vast areas of the game–how to make money trading, how to PvP, how to do higher-end missions–are black holes to me.  This time, I vowed, I would learn, and I would do it right.

EVE University has an application process that is rather in-depth.  There are multi-page web questionnaires to fill out and steps to go through and a long, long wait for a personal interview by a recruiting officer.  I was honest about my previous characters and their history and deletion in my application, because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?

It took me 19 days to finally get an interview.  And when I did…it wasn’t what I expected.  I figured it would be a casual “what do you want to get out of the Uni” type thing.  Instead, well, let’s just say I’ve had job interviews in real life that were less intense…and less awkward.  The recruiter seemed to fixate on the fact that I had joined Oberon three years prior with a fairly low number of skill points (a few million) in apparent contradiction of corp policies, I told him I didn’t remember there being a skill point limit and I had no trouble joining.  He asked me “who vouched for you when you joined Oberon?”  Honestly, it was three years ago, I didn’t remember, and told him as much.  There was a brief pause, and then he came back with “actually, Oberon has always had a skill point restriction, it used to be 40 million and they’ve always required someone to vouch for a pilot joining under that limit, would you care to revise your answer?”

“Would you care to revise your answer” is not something I expect to hear in an interview to join a game guild, really.

I was told that I would have to be referred to a senior recruiter, and when I met one later in the day, I got the news I’d kind of been expecting after that first interview.  My application to join EVE University was rejected, on the grounds that I was too experienced and that their slots need to be reserved for true newbies.  It’s a legitimate argument, given their charter, and I don’t hold any hard feelings toward them…they really are a bright spot in a game that notoriously sees new players as fodder instead of assets.  But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t rankle me a bit.  No, I had no way of proving what I said, and it did contradict what the recruiter apparently found out, and suspicion is as pervasive as oxygen in that game.  I can’t blame them.  But it still stings a bit to all but be accused of lying.

(And to the senior RO I spoke with, who said he’d actually read this blog at some point?  If you come back and read this, thanks, seriously.  Best rejection I’ve ever gotten.  I understand your point and I’m not upset.  There really are no hard feelings.  I’m over the butthurt.)

So there I am.  Jonathan Harmon Mk II sits in a station in the Libold system, his small collection of starships with him, unsure of his future.  At this point I’m giving thought to just cutting my losses, cancelling the account, and uninstalling the game, because I don’t think I want to slowly solo my way through a few months again, losing interest.  I have to focus my time on WoW anyway.  Or I may just park Jon for a bit, logging in to train some long-duration skills, while I think about what I want to do next.

Maybe New Eden really is no place for a roleplaying carebear.  Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong due to my lack of assertiveness.  I think more the latter than the former, but we’ll have to see.


Get this heavy cow off me

Well, I think that’s what it looks like the dragon is saying, anyway.

That is a Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher, and yes, that’s the Panzercow on the back of it.  The 10-man raid that I tank for made one last run into Icecrown Citadel on Saturday afternoon to clear the final obstacle we needed to get 10-player Glory of the Icecrown Raider…heroic Sindragosa.

I know there are those who are strict 10-man raiders who say that having 25-man gear, as most of our raid did, “trivializes” the 10-man content.  I can see that; we can pretty much roflstomp most of ICC on normal, even normal Arthas didn’t give us too much trouble.  And the more straightforward heroic-mode fights pushed us a little bit, but still, we were making solid progress toward our raidleader’s goal of getting drakes before Cataclysm dropped.  We even, amazingly, downed heroic Putricide after just five attempts.  Some of the acheesements gave us trouble (Been Waiting a Long Time For This was particularly annoying) but not too much…we even got Sindy’s acheesement, All You Can Eat, by just zerging her down from 35% instead of actually attempting to do the normal tank-switch method.

Heroic Sindy, however, was a different matter entirely.  It’s a brutally unforgiving fight, the already-intolerant mechanics turned up to 11 by frostbombs that can one-shot even the tanks, debuffs that cause casters to asplode, and frost breath that hits like a very icy truck once the Mystic Buffet is opened for dinner.  We threw ourselves at Sindy hard week before last, without success.  So if we were going to get her before Cataclysm released and everybody quit caring about “old” content, we had three hours on a Saturday to do it.

For two hours and fifty-six minutes, things didn’t look good for our heroes.  We wiped, and wiped, and wiped.  The best we’d done was get her to 18%.  Phase 2, at 35%, was just not working.  We couldn’t time the tank transitions right, or I’d forget a cooldown and get ganked by her frost breath, or a badly-timed Blistering Cold would slaughter half the raid, or she’d drop a bomb right on top of us during an air phase…it was always something.  None of the attempts had that smooth, well-oiled feel to them that you need to beat a fight like heroic Sindragosa.  I was frustrated and absolutely furious with myself.  I hadn’t played in several days leading up to the raid and it showed.  I made a lot of avoidable dumbass mistakes.  I don’t think I actually cost us a kill at that point, but it sure wasn’t helping.

So then, there we were.  4:57 pm Eastern with a stop time of 5:00.  The last attempt, on the last boss, on the last day, of the last raid before the expansion.  One shot.  All or nothing.  It looked like fourth-and-11 on our own 41 with one second on the clock…time to load up three receivers to the left and let fly a Hail Mary downfield.

And we did it.

That fight, that three hours of stress and wipes, was, in a way, this entire raiding expansion for me in miniature.  Starting off flailing and failing, making mistakes, then hanging in there and keeping on digging, grinding it out, persevering, and at the end, at the last possible moment, somehow it just all comes together.

I’ve always said that the two accomplishments I’m proudest of on Linedan in Wrath of the Lich King are his Loremaster title first and his one Arthas 25-man kill second.  That hasn’t changed.  This achievement, however–Glory of the Icecrown Raider–is a very, very close third.  It took us several months, but our little 10-man raid that ran for just three hours, just one afternoon a week, ended up the expansion as 11/12 heroic ICC.  That is an achievement to be very proud of indeed.  And this one comes with a big, bony, loud-flapping tangible reminder that I’ll see as I enter the brave new world of Cataclysm.

So to Ghaar, Grizz, Tahlian, Dorritow, Nikara, and all the rest–and to our regulars who never were able to get their drakes, Ghorr, Alanth, and Seijitsu–thank you.  It was a privilege to get hit in the face for you guys.  See you on the other side.


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