Category Archives: Off Topic

Moving on… to The Old Republic.

So, that new project I talked about?

CrewSkills, my all-new gaming blog.

CrewSkills is a Star Wars: The Old Republic blog; it’ll have a primary focus on crafting, trade skills, and the crew skills system in general. You can also expect to find other stuff there of the kind I used to post here; general gameplay discussion, guides to in-game content, conversation about whatever class I wind up playing, and all that other good stuff. If you liked Banana Shoulders, and you’re planning on playing SW:TOR, you’ll like CrewSkills too.

…I hope! ;) Feedback is always welcome, of course, and I’d especially love to hear from anybody who’s planning on trying out SW:TOR when it launches in December. I’m really excited about CrewSkills (the blog – and the game system, too) and I’m looking forward to diving in from scratch. I’ve well and truly got the blogging buzz again.

I'm… rubbish?

So, in what I can only assume is an attempt to grievously insult me, Mr. The Stoppable Force has awarded me the “Honest Scrap” award. Scrap meaning ‘junk’ or ‘rubbish’, of course. Mind you, Stop claims that

“This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant.”

…well, okay then. If you’re sure you’re not trying to insult me…

In any case, there are strings attached – aren’t there always?

  1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.
  2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.
  3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!

Unlike Larisa, I rarely talk about me-the-player (as opposed to me-the-paladin), so let’s do that.

1. I used to write roleplaying game books. I co-wrote about a dozen books, for Shadowrun and Demon: the Fallen (by FASA/FanPro and White Wolf respectively). I produced some work I’m really proud of, but eventually burnt out – and, unfortunately, flaked out on some obligations in the process, which I still regret.

2. Ten and a half years ago, I was hit by a car – while a pedestrian – and nearly died. The episode has left me with quite a few lingering health problems, but all in all I count myself lucky – as the cliché goes, every day is a blessing.

3. I have terrible spatial perceptions. I’m not bad at reading maps, because I’ve trained myself to do it, but I’m still doing the mental equivalent of turning the map around to match the direction we’re going. It makes for real comedy in complicated instances (after raiding in Molten Core for a year I could still get lost, and let’s not even talk about Karazhan). I’ve lived in the same part of town for 13 years and I still have no real mental picture of where one suburb is in relation to another.

4. I’m an only child, and very happy to be so. I have a great relationship with my parents, and I’ve never really missed having brothers or sisters. Plus I get way more presents at Christmas this way!

5. I’m a gadgetaholic. I had a PDA back before they were useful! I’m a technology junky in general; I’ve frequently had a six-computer network, which seems a bit excessive for a one-person household. My study has a row of power sockets under the window, above the desk – fourteen double sockets. My electrician thought I was insane. (Only two of them are currently unused.)

6. I am, in many ways, the stereotypical geek. I love sci-fi and fantasy, as genres; I’ve been a gamer (RPGs, I mean) for half my life; I read voraciously; I have almost all of the Star Trek serieses on DVD; I know the history of the Star Wars universe; I read comics. I even wear glasses!

7. My undergraduate degree was a B.Sc, in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. My original ambition was academia; it wasn’t long after I’d finished the degree that I realised I’d be a terrible academic – I’m way too much of a dilettante, not focused on specifics. I don’t regret doing the degree, though; it was great training in analytical thinking.

8. I hate gender stereotyping, and media suggestions that men and women are supposed to lie to or misunderstand each other (i.e. most sitcoms and comedy movies). My closest friends are all guys, and I resent the implication that our friendships are unnatural or doomed to failure.

9. I don’t evangelise or bug people about it, but I use a Mac for my day-to-day computing needs, and I love it. I started using a Mac about six years ago, when I bought a 12″ PowerBook laptop, and then found myself using it for everything instead of my big shiny desktop PC. I figured that was a sign, and my next desktop upgrade was to an iMac. I’m now using a Mac Pro tower, and I love it. (I’ve also got two Mac Minis as media centre computers, an iMac as my backup machine, and a four-year-old PowerBook in desperate need of a reformat and reinstall.)

10. I love design, and aesthetics. My mother calls me her Colour Nazi (brought on by one too many cases of “no, that blouse does not go with that skirt”). In another life, I would have been happy as an interior designer.

So! that’s me. Now, to tag a few participants!

  • Ila, from Binary Colors, because she is not just awesome but fuckawesome.
  • Anna, from Too Many Annas, because you can never actually have too many Annas.
  • Mister Shag, of Need More Rage. He’s welcome to delegate one of his team to collect the award, of course. I know he’s a busy man.
  • Josh, of Eye For An Eye, my favouritest retadin blog.
  • Rhidach of Righteous Defense, a recent and much-enjoyed addition to my RSS reader.
  • Mania, of Mania’s Arcania, who is also responsible for two awesome sites I use and love – Petopia and Warcraft Mounts.
  • Rohan, of Blessing of Kings – he’s probably much too sober and serious to participate, but I can hope!

Recruitment: Looking For A Few Good Men

…and women, and – if strictly necessary – gnomes.

My guild, Southern Wardens of US-Proudmoore, is currently recruiting raiders for 25-man content. We’ve cleared Naxxramas, we’ve done Sartharion +1 Drake, and we’ve got Malygos on the ropes at the moment.

We’re currently looking for DPS players – more ranged DPS than melee, and we’re particularly interested in boomkin/mages/shadow priests, but we’re happy to consider all applications.

About Us

We’re an Australian guild and we raid during Australian times, although we welcome people from other time zones if your schedule permits it. We started our 25-man raiding in mid-January; we’re currently building our raiding force to finish off Malygos, work on Achievement progression, and prepare for the launch of Ulduar.

We’re not hardcore, but we are progression oriented, and we have traditionally been placed in the top 15-25% of raiding guilds on Proudmoore. We make an effort to be as flexible as possible for individual players, and we ask players to be flexible for us in return.

About the Server

Proudmoore is a US PvE server with a very high Australian/Oceanic population, meaning that our peak playtimes are spread throughout the day. It’s one of the original launch servers, operates on PST, and is in the Bloodlust battlegroup. As an old server, it has a solid population base, a very active raiding community and a mature server economy. If you transfer in from outside, and find that we’re not to your liking, there are a number of other active Australian raiding guilds so you won’t be stuck in a dead end.

If You’re Interested

Check out the full recruitment post here on our guild blog, and drop me a line here, or via email at siha [at] southernwardens dot com, or in-game.

Meme: Sixth of the Sixth

I was tagged by Bellwether and Spicytuna for this – help, peer pressure! The challenge was originally issued by Maiara of Voodoo Ventures: open up your screenshots folder and post the sixth screenshot in the sixth folder.

So, here it is! Click to see a bigger image.

Preparing for a raid in SWG...

OH WAIT. Did I forget to mention that my MMO Screenshots folder is a higgledy-piggledy jungle of shots from Star Wars Galaxies, Everquest II, Lord of the Rings Online and four years of WoW? …Yeah.

So, this is from July 2004. It’s my guild in its earliest iteration, preparing for a raid in Star Wars Galaxies – I’m the one in white armor on the right, as you can tell from the nametags if you squint. There are people in that raid I still raid with today, many games later. Long live the Wardens.

(And man, it may have been flawed and buggy, but I still miss SWG like you wouldn’t believe.)

But! Blast from the past aside, I tried to filter out all the non-WoW stuff, and I came up with this:

The sixth shot...

This is from the camera flyby in the Blood Elf racial intro. When The Burning Crusade launched, I found the Blood Elf starting zone so gorgeous that I rolled blood elf after blood elf, just to watch the character introduction. I’ve played my way through that starter zone five times now. (And I’ve still never managed to get a Horde character to level 30. If the rest of the Horde world looked that good, I might.)

I tag… Josh of Eye For An Eye, Elleiras of Fel Fire (let’s hope she reads this!), Seri and Jov of World of Snarkcraft, Phyllixia of Hunters Rhok, and Gryphonheart of The Lion Guard. Oh, and Queklain aka Mr. Stoppable Force. Let’s see what you all have lurking in your screenshot folders!

And, since I was poking around in my screenshots folder anyway, have a bonus wallpaper!

Sunstrider Isle

Click to view the large version, right-click to download the linked file. It’s a 1680×1050 widescreen jpeg, 560 KB.

This is my single favourite screenshot and view of my entire WoW history. It’s just glorious.

Why the Lowest Common Denominator Works: No WoW-Killer In Sight

This is something I’ve been pondering for months: why WoW is going to be so hard to knock off its pedestal as the premier MMORPG. There are a number of factors involved, but there’s one I haven’t seen anyone else mention, so here we go:

0. Blizzard Are Just Good

Diablo was still in the top 20 selling PC games of 2008, a decade after release.

1. Status Quo

WoW isn’t just the market leader at the moment, it’s the shark in the wading pool; in April 2008 it had 62.2% of the market. 11.5 million subscribers is a huge number for any new game to beat.

2. Experience

Existing games have found their user base by now, and subscriber numbers aren’t likely to grow radically unless something really surprising happens. The next game to ‘win’ the market is likely to be a new game, and WoW has a four-year head start. Blizzard has a very experienced team; they’ve been at this for four years now.

Similarly experienced publishers don’t have any competing products:

  • NCSoft (Lineage, CoX, Guild Wars) flopped with Tabula Rasa;
  • Sony Online Entertainment (EQ, EQ2, SWG) have displayed a long history of misreading what customers want, culminating in the way they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with Star Wars Galaxies and Vanguard;
  • Turbine (AC, AC2, DDO, LotRO) have a mixed recent history; D&D Online failed dismally (and really, how do you mess up that license?!), while LotRO was somewhat successful – but far from innovative;
  • Funcom (Anarchy Online, AoC) have yet to release an MMO that hasn’t been dogged by near-fatal flaws;
  • Mythic (DAoC, WAR) arguably flopped with WAR; it sold 1.2 million copies, but retained only 25% of those players less than three months after release;

(Of course, that’s far from an exhaustive list.)

And, in an almost unbeatable position, WoW itself offers four years’ worth of content – eighty levels of quests, zones and dungeons, plus major chunks of raiding content at 60, 70 and 80. That’s far more than any new game can reasonably expect to offer, but it certainly affects the perceptions of the player base – lack of content has been a common complaint regarding recent releases.

3. The Mac Factor

Unlike most other MMORPGs, WoW runs natively on Macs, which is a significant advantage. Analysts say Apple has anywhere from a 10% share to 21% share of the consumer market, which is a big captive audience with little competition.

4. Community

Leafshine discussed this back in September, and BBB posted about it recently: the massive communities surrounding WoW give it a huge competitive advantage. (No need for me to restate their points; they’re both great posts.)

5. Low Barrier to Entry = Critical Mass
This is the factor that hasn’t really been talked about yet, although it’s related to the previous two points.

WoW is easy to run. It doesn’t have the latest, greatest graphics – especially not in the beginner zones, for new players. It doesn’t require the latest, greatest computer to run it. Anyone who’s interested can pick it up and try it out, and provided your computer was bought, oh, probably some time in the last half-dozen years, you can play WoW — which stands in stark contrast to recent releases like WAR or AoC.

On a PC, WoW requires a minimum of a 1.3 GHz CPU, half a gig of RAM, and a tiny 32MB video card. There aren’t many awesome games you can play when you’ve got a computer that’s five years behind the tech curve — but WoW is one of them.

This means that WoW has been, and is, very accessible to non-gamers. It’s perfectly playable for people with home computers they just used for email and browsing the web; it’s usable for people with laptops they bought for school. This has made it very easy for gamer types to bring their spouses, siblings and friends into the WoW-playing fold – “look, you don’t need a computer as good as mine, just install this trial copy on your laptop and let’s have fun running around Dun Morogh killing troggs!”

I doubt I’m telling you anything you don’t know. I bet that just about anyone reading this can name several people they know who’d never have considered themselves a gamer or bothered with anything beyond Bejewelled or Solitaire until someone got them hooked on WoW.

Not only does this create gamers by expanding the potential market for the game, but it creates critical mass within the game. If you’re looking for an MMO you can easily play with your spouse – who’s never been into computer games, but is willing to humor you – then WoW is the obvious choice. If you’re going to play a game with your preteen son or daughter, WoW will probably run on their computer where Warhammer wouldn’t. (There’s some interesting data on couples and family who play together at the Daedalus Project.)

And this effect, I feel, snowballs. The more people you know playing WoW, the more likely you are to pick it up yourself, and then you become part of the critical mass convincing the next person to pick it up.

This effect would be true of any MMO, of course – but only WoW is accessible enough, hardware-wise, to truly capitalize on it.