Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Prot Warrior Thoughts on Wotlk Pre-Patch

While I don't feel done with TBC yet and could've easily spent another year running around in Outlands, I feel a lot better prepared to move on this time around than I did last time. My main has turned out to be my prot warrior and as such I probably looked forward to the pre -patch with more delight than most.

Let me give you a quick rundown of warrior tanking in TBC in case you haven't tried it yourself. It's essentially crisis management. Don't ever think you've got things under control because you must likely haven't. Why Blizzard every thought it would be a good idea to endow most dps with decent to smashing aoe damage while give warrior tanks exactly zero tools for aoe threat is beyond me. My guess is that they counted on cooperation in the group, a beautiful collaboration and communication forced between dps and tank to make sure no one dies, and everyone stays happy. And to be fair, in most pugs and definitely in guild runs this usually works really well. I make it sound like warrior tanking was an impossible task, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It was just that tiny bit short of what was actually required, and it was easy to get frustrated. It was definitely not for everyone.

Then comes the pre-patch. I knew things were going to change, though I hadn't bothered to check up exactly what. New talents, of which I remembered some, like Shockwave. I remembered tanking in Wotlk being a delight, and aoe threat being a non-issue. Just how much of a non-issue quickly became apparent as soon as I had logged on, re-specced my warrior and gave it a run through an instance. It was crazy. It was bonkers. I was laughing out loud. I almost had tears at the corner of my eyes from being flabbergasted. I mean I knew it was going to improve but what the heck had Blizzard done?

I was now madly overpowered for the content in TBC, that was to be expected. But being a contender for the lead and often even the actual highest damage dealer in an instance, as a protection warrior? It was almost like Blizzard had looked at everything that was a struggle with prot warrior in TBC and decided to dial it down to "stupidly overpowered". 

Rage starvation? A complete one-eighty. Where before I had to plan my Bloodrage cooldown and manage my rage to make sure I always had a bit left over at the end of a pack, I now barely even had to glance at my rage bar. It was always full, my skills were only limited by their GCDs and CDs. I don't even use Bloodrage anymore...

No aoe threat? How about all the aoe threat? How about Thunder Clap does damage to everything? Even if they're 5, 10, 100 mobs. Sure you might think, that is how every aoe has worked, never being limited to a certain number of mobs. That is true, but I am also not limited by resources like mana and can clap away to infinity and beyond. It's a good thing it has a cooldown at least...

Ok, so I still don't have a ranged threat until I get Heroic Throw at level 80, but at least now I can charge in defensive stance and have got tools like Spell Reflect and Intervene. 

Even as a good tank (as I consider myself) I could count on losing aggro to some dps who wasn't following kill order who got some lucky crit streak. Now it's like I cannot lose aggro even if I completely let go of the keyboard and mouse and go make myself a cup of tea.

I just charge through instances with dps huffing behind me trying to keep up. It's fun, it's exhilarating, and it's going to get boring quite soon. It's just... too easy. I like tanking because it requires a lot of thought (if I want to chill while playing, I go heal in instances instead). I enjoy planning my pulls, planning my rotation and adapting it to the situation. Things are always the most fun when they go wrong and you just barely to make it because you used everything in your arsenal, and it worked. 

Fortunately, I know to enjoy it while it lasts, things are going to change once we actually get out to Northrend in a few weeks. I am definitely looking forward to that and in the meantime, I am going to blast through some more instances as the killing machine I am.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Netflix Resident Evil (2022) - Review (mild spoilers)

I am going to say straight off the bat that I am probably doing you a disservice by saying that I didn't end up hating this show. After having read the initial impressions I went in with extremely low expectations, and now that I've seen it I am a bit worried that it might be a prerequisite for not getting massively disappointed. Ok, off to a confused start? Good, that's as it should be when it comes to Resident Evil.

I am a pretty big Resident Evil fan. It started with the Remake actually, which got me to love the original. It lost me around RE4, I am quite old-school in how I want my zombies and my action. I loved the first Resident Evil movie with Milla Jovovich, the later once less but they're at least close enough to be somewhat entertaining. I liked the animated movies Degeneration, Damnation and Vendetta (haven't seen Infinite Darkness yet) and thought that the Netflix TV-series could at least have the potential to add something to the world of RE.

And she's cool.

It seems most people didn't like it
. It has got a pretty abysmal 3.9 on IMDB when writing this. I haven't dug too much around to see why that is. But it seems easily summed up in words like "disappointing" and "annoying".

I like to start with the bad, that way I can end with the good (where there is some). My biggest issue with RE Netflix is that it really ends up being two shows, and they don't mash particularly well. On the one side you have a (bad) teen-angst-drama. The show centers around sisters Jade and Billie who move to New Raccoon City and a lot of the show is about how they deal with feeling like outsiders. The other side of the show is about how their father (Wesker) might be insane and why the company he works for is so mysterious. It's easy to see the problems this show faces, because it can't decide which of these two story-lines to focus on. One of them is boring as nails, I'll give you one guess which one that is. The other one is a pretty decent take on the RE universe that I had fun watching.

I almost get the feeling that there was a team of actual RE fans trying to make a good show and execs came in and ruined it by trying to fit it into some hip demographic. Unfortunately I think the part of the hardcore RE fans that are also teenage girls who think no one understands them is very small. Why were they worried about making it just about RE? 

The choice in music is among the worst I have ever come across in television. If a scene is about Jade trying to figure out how she should support her sister Billie, a song comes on with someone singing something along the lines of "ohh, if I only knew what she was thinking of. Maybe I can help heeeeer?". If Billie is getting angry with her sister for showing boys more attention than her a song comes on singing "why can't she see meeeeee? If only I could make her understaaaaand". I am only slightly exaggerating. They must've literally done a word search on the dialogue to try to get song that fit, because they are excruciatingly on the nose. And why are these scenes that exist in a show about RE?

The whole thing about Jade and Billie is not just beyond boring, it's also pretty much useless even as a plot device. If they were completely cut out of the story it would've barely made a difference, other than make this show a hell of a lot better. I almost feel sorry for the two actors playing young Jade and Billie, because it is not their fault that they've been put in a show where no one wants them.

There is not enough of this.

The show also follows two timelines.
One of the mentioned young Jade and Billie as nervous teenagers and one as Jade as an adult where the world is already overrun by zombies. One can see it as one timeline taking place in the first Jovovich movie and the other in the last Jovovich movie. There are some plot twists, most of which are not particularly twisty, one which is halfway through the show and is absolutely amazingly twisty and actually had me sit up in my chair going "this is the RE I love!".

Lance Reddick, who plays Wesker, is probably the best thing about this show. Paula Núñez who plays Evelyn Marcus, the shows iteration of the crazy owner of Umbrella is also pretty spot on. If the show was only about these two it would've nailed a lot of RE (and zombie) tropes that we know and love; gigantic zombie animals, check. Someone getting murdered by a zombified family member, check. A lunatic trying to save the world by watching it burn, check. People making really poor decisions, check. Science doing things science can't do, check.

I really did have fun with this part. I suffered through the teen-angst for this part. Someone did a cut of Obi-wan that cut out all the stupid scenes. Something similar could possibly be done with this show, and it would be half as long. The show ends abruptly, at first I didn't realize I had finished it and was looking for the next episode. But there is a lot of good material here, some interesting and fun RE ideas. Maybe the most disappointing part is that they had to be forced to wallow around in a show that is nothing about RE. 


Tamara Smart, who plays young Jade, looks and acts so much like Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) from Nightmare on Elm Street. Look at them and tell me I am wrong.

There are quite a few references to the game series scattered throughout the show. Some are obvious, some are less so. It's fun to try and spot them.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Pizza Power Game (1987-1990)

Flea markets are such a great place to find unusual things. Old board games are no exception. A while back I came across this gem, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Pizza Power Game, and since I am a fan of TMNT (who isn't after all?) and also a big board game lover I had to buy it. I don't recall exactly what I paid, but it was around 20-40 Swedish Kronor, so around 3 euro.

The box art changes a lot between versions, in mine they're all happy.

As you can see it combines two of my favorite things, TMNT and board games. Is it any fun though? When I first tried it with my SO and two kids I didn't think it was all that. But the others liked it so we played it a bunch more and it kinda grew on me.

I guess the Sai and Nunchaku weren't cool enough.

My version is a Swedish release of the game, completely translated. It was released in 1990 whereas the original was released already in 1987 so at the same time as the TV series was first released. When I read up on the game online it seems that some of the rules from the American version have been changed, and for the better if you ask me.

Kudos for including April and Splinter

In my version you start with three "Good Guys" (and you should know who they are) and have to walk around the board fighting the "Bad Guys". When you end up on a space that says "Kamp" aka "Fight" you get to choose one of the cards on the board and then the fighting is basically Top Trumps. That means you choose one of the stats on your card and hope they are higher than the equivalent stat on the enemy card. Simple. You need to collect three "Bad Guys" with the same "clue", i.e the symbol in the corner in order to be able to enter the Technodrome. Once inside the Technodrome you get to look for the Mutagen, and when you find it you win the game.

Raphael looks like he has a doppelganger, I think they had trouble with the colour orange.

In the English version the combat seems to include some sort of dice roll, which is not included nor mentioned in the Swedish version. While I think that change is for the better, the Swedish version also includes some other really peculiar and unfortunate changes however, proving that whoever localized it clearly does not know anything about TMNT. I am not talking about the change to Hero instead of Ninja, I think the Swedes just copied the UK for that...

"You loose a Good Guy" when getting a pizza slice? No way! Unless maybe they're busy eating...?

But the Pizza Spinner, which allows you to move anywhere on the board if you get a pizza slice, or lose a Good Guy if you don't, actually does the opposite in the Swedish version. Not only does that mean you have 75% chance to get a bad outcome, it also means the pizza slice is the bad outcome. Anyone who knows their TMNT knows that doesn't make any sense. When we play the game we play it the way it is supposed to be, and not according to what it says on the Spinner. 

Canis and Cayman are exclusive to the European Version. Kerato and Tusker too maybe?

There are some oddities going on in the game overall too, like what is up with some of the names of the Bad Guys? Rocksteady is called Kerato and Bebop is called Tusker? You might think that these are some Swedish versions of the names, like Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) and Läderlappen (Batman), but no. Swedish TMNT has all the original names intact. A quick search on the internet shows that versions in other languages also uses these names, and I have no idea why. Also the turtles are all wielding the wrong weapons, but now I am getting picky.

It looks busy, like every good board game should.

Oddities aside though, this game is quite fun and definitely one of my flea market gems.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Technicolor Time Machine by Harry Harrison - Book Review

Do you like stories about time travel? Who doesn't, am I right? Without sounding superfluous, I would like to say it's one of those genres of literature that must be simultaneously the easiest and the toughest to write about. On the one hand time travel could be anything you want it to be, since we have no reality to compare it to. On the other hand it's so easy to write yourself into mind-bending paradoxes that make the reader just think you're being silly now. If you're trying to do it seriously it must be an impossibility to keep every timeline clean from scrutiny. I am sure even the most serious creator gives up at some point and realizes that some things are just not going to be explainable.

If you want to read something very educating and interesting about "real" time travel, as we understand it today, I can really recommend Kip Thorne's "Black Holes and Time Warps". Kip Thorne was also scientific consultant on the movie Interstellar, which shows how some of the theoretical ideas from the book could work.

A cover that captures the essence.

I really think I don't come across time travel often enough in literature, please point me to some good works if you know of any. Maybe that is why I enjoy sci-fi on TV where this seems to be explored at a regular basis, my go-to Star Trek has delivered on so many I'd be hard pressed to even say my favorites (but it is probably telling that both The Voyage Home and First Contact rank among my favorite Star Trek movies).

H.G Well The Time Machine is interesting from a history of literature (or history of sci-fi) point of view, but it's not very entertaining to read. Because good time travel stories seem few and far between in literature, I was very happy to come across Harry Harrison's "The Technicolor Time Machine" from 1967. It's one of those deliciously funny stories that takes the time travel story and runs with it to its furthest reaches.

- Ottar has signed the contract. I was very surprised to find an Icelandish notarius publicus here...
- You can find anything in Hollywood.

The concept of the book is as funny as it is silly. Time is money. So if you're a movie company and have no money but a time machine, couldn't you save a lot of money by simply time traveling? Let's just say, it's not going to be that easy. 

The main character, director Barney Hendrickson, works for a movie company that is just about to go bust. It has about as much money needed to make one last movie, but no time to make it before the banks come and take it all away. Because of reasons, Barney happens to know a professor who has invented a working time machine. Barney decides to use it to jump back to the time of the Vikings (around year 1000) to shoot a movie about the Vikings "discovering" the Americas, which they called Vinland. The idea is based on the very real theory that Vikings briefly settled on the Canadian coast, way before Columbus ever set foot there.

- There is a hostile guard. You need to sneak up there and kill him just like if this was for real.
- But why?
- Why? What kind of question is that, Ottar...?

The time traveling works fine, but it turns out that the practicalities of shooting a movie aren't removed because you suddenly have all the time in the world. Barney has to make the most out of the fact that the time machine can allow you to spend any amount of time in history and still only use one second of time in the "now". In the "present" Barney only has a weekend to finish the whole movie so he constantly needs to make sure no one spends any time there. He sends off the script writer to Trilobite-time to finish the script. He has to send off the lead actor to a different time because of an injury. They forget one of the actors in-between jumps (one second in present time, a year in Viking-time) which has life-altering implications for her. They leave the old-norse language historian in Viking time for months so that he can teach the lead Viking actor to speak English. 

That's not even to mention the ordeals of getting the native time-inhabitants to cooperate with a project they don't understand on any level. Nor the fact that they have to deal with hostile forces that literally want to kill them. Barney takes it all in stride and makes the most out of it. When he fails to get the native Indians to "act" in the movie he decides to use the very real attack on the settlement in the movie instead.

- I didn't want to bother you while you were eating, she said.
- Why not? After what I just ate my digestion will never be the same. Do you know what a Trilobite is?

The end result is nothing but a romp, in the best of ways. It gets to the right kind of confusing and hilarious, like a slice of something out of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It always feels like a miracle that Barney can keep track of where everyone is on the timeline and most importantly how much pay they are due (an ever constant argument with the company owner, who keeps arguing that only mere hours have passed in the present and everyone should get paid accordingly). 

The Swedish version called "Barney the Time Traveler Saga". I don't think the cover artist has read the book.

Because it is a book about time travel it wouldn't be a proper ending without a twist, one that I foresaw pretty early on but which was nonetheless clever and thought-provoking.

The Technicolor Time Machine is the kind of book that is created when someone has an interesting idea over a cup of coffee somewhere and they go "what would happen if...". Harrison brings it all together marvelously. It has some flaws, there are some not so well aged, "to be expected of the time"- caricatures (anyone who isn't a white male is horribly stereotype, I tried to read it as a parody), and my Swedish copy (from 1982) is a pretty bad translation. But it doesn't remove from the fact that the overall concept and execution works to entertain. 

This was my first book by Harry Harrison and I am eager to find more. I am actually surprised this hasn't been turned into an actual movie, because the book reads like one, and I think it would be brilliant in the right hands.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Zinn Plays - Cultures (PC)

One of my favorite games ever is Settlers 2, or Die Siedler as the original German version is called and which my optimistic German grandma gifted my then 8 year old something little brother back in the late 90's. I can see her reasoning, Settlers 2 is seemingly a game about building rather than killing and destroying, during a time when DOOM and all their clones were flooding the market this must've seemed like a boon to all the wanna-do-good grandparents around, and overall grandma was correct. Although there is the possibility to kill enemies in Settlers 2, the majority of the game is spent building, crafting and balancing resources. 

My 8 year old brother had zero interest in that concept however, but I did. At first I played entirely without enemies, probably unknowingly exactly the way my grandma would've wanted, and it turned out to be a great way to learn the basics of the game without the stress of being killed. When something stopped working I could slowly figure out why.

Knowing how much fun I'd had with Settlers 2 throughout the years made me curious to check out Cultures, originally released in 2000. Starting it up I was immediately greeted with the possibility to play a tutorial, but I decided to opt out figuring that a well designed game would make me understand while playing, the same way I had with Settlers 2 all those years back.

My first impression was at once that it reminded me a lot of Settlers 2, which meant Cultures was off to a good start. And interestingly enough Cultures was also designed by a German developer, Funatics, just like Settlers 2, Blue Byte. In fact, the people who started Funatics were ex-Blue Byte personnel. There was even an expansion to Settlers 2 produced by Funatics called "Settlers 2 - Rise of Cultures" released in 2008. It doesn't feel like a long-shot to claim that the Settlers-series worked as a heavy influencer to the Cultures-series. Maybe someone had ideas that weren't realized in the Settlers series and decided to explore them themselves?

Because there are some notable differences between the series. While the Settlers series (at least the ones I have played) focuses on the gathering of resources for the building of structures, Cultures leans a lot more heavily on population management. In Settlers 2 any and all humans needed for a job just spawn out of nowhere like an endless resource. In Cultures, your people are a resource to be managed as well and the most crucial one by far.

In Cultures your men need to be born, told where to live, told which job to do, learn it well over time (or go to school and learn it well a bit faster), get a wife, have children with her and the new child continues the loop. The women on the other hand need to be born, marry, have children and cook for their family. You can imagine the big sigh I let out when I realized this. I decided to not let it ruin my fun however.

Every person (and they all have their own names) in your little settlement needs food but not all people create food, meaning there is an important tactical choice every time you choose to give someone a more secondary useful job like shoemaker rather than a huntsman. Will the rest of the population be able to sustain this shoemaker? Maybe they will all walk a bit faster because of their new and improves shoes which will increase food-production over time (I am actually not entire sure what shoes do to improve the population). Where should my new Huntsman work and will the women be able to reach his tent fast enough to be able to cook for their families? It is just the right amount of annoying when you see an alert that someone is going around hungry, when you know one of your Fishermen Huts is filled with fish. 

Everything moving along nicely.

Because so much focus has been put on the population management in Cultures, some other things have been made considerably easier. For instance, unlike in Settlers 2, most resources in Cultures seem to last either forever or at least way longer. Hunters don't seem to be able to run out of wildlife to kill nor can the fishermen overfish their waters. Once you've assigned someone to their job they seem to be able to go at it forever, giving you all the time you need to manage your people, right?

The controls are easy to grasp, especially if you have previous knowledge of this genre, and it didn't take me too long to figure out roughly how I needed to move along to keep everyone happy. Knowing and doing are two different things however, and I find myself tweaking my micro-managing in just the same fun ways I did with Settlers 2. Every now and then the game throws a wrench in my works, like someone not being able to pathfind their way back to their home (working as intended) or me realizing that in my eagerness to create men that work the fields I've not birthed enough women that do the hidden work, slowly making my civilization crash before my eyes (almost an apt political statement from the creators).

Just like Settlers 2 this proves to be an incredibly more-ish concept. It is very satisfying to try to figure out the balance between your resources and making sure not to tip the scale the wrong way. It is fun to realize that by trying to solve a problem by adding a new worker I just actually added to my problems. When I look down on my little settlement and see everyone working like little cogs in a machinery, I'm almost afraid to add any little thing to it, lest it sets off a cascade of issues. Problem-solving these kind of issues has always been one of the things that have attracted me to the genre.

Because Cultures is about the lives of people it is slow work though. I haven't checked if this game has a "speed-up"-button like Settlers 2 (I some times played entire sittings with speed-up activated), but in either case you've got to be prepared for a whole lot of leaning back in your chair and read a good book while waiting for things to happen. One of the most common occurring themes in reviews for this game was how slow it was, and I can definitely agree with that. But not in a bad way and never to the point where it gets boring. A lot of these city-building games, and maybe it was something about the times they were made as well, are designed in the way where you set up an amount of orders, wait for it to happen and then reap/repair accordingly. Set up your next amount of orders, rinse and repeat over and over. 

Even if waiting for someone to grow up so that you finally can get that really needed Merchant can sound like the dullest concept for a game, and despite what I just claimed above, in reality you're rarely absolutely out of things to do. If nothing else there is still a lot of thinking to do, about things you are going to have to do, about things that look like they might not work for much longer and are going to need fixing etc.

That is the charm with these kind of games and as much as Settlers 2 made me love it for it, Cultures is doing a great job in capturing the same essence with a similar but quite different take on it. Part of the appeal here is the meditative state they put me in and things just kind of trudging along and the world around you disappears. It's not stressful, and extremely rewarding when you get things right.

My 8 year old brother had no interest in Settlers 2, but my 8 year old at home showed great interest in Cultures. After having tried it for a while on his own though he seemed to think things didn't go so well and we decided it would be the most fun to play together. And any game that can get a modern kid away from Minecraft is at least doing something right.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Zinn Plays - Might & Magic Book One: Secret of the Inner Sanctum (MS-DOS)

The only thing more depressing than my huge backlog of books I want to read (I've got literal piles of books around my apartment) is my huge backlog of games I want to play (fortunately mostly digital copies). I've already come to terms with the fact that I can't reasonably get through the hundreds of games in my catalogue during my lifetime, unless I focus on nothing but gaming when I retire. Not an altogether horrible prospect in all fairness.

Whenever I feel ready to give a new game a go I usually try to select it by some random means, so that I will be surprised and unbiased to my choice. This time the RNG-powers landed me on Might & Magic Book One: Secret of the Inner Sanctum (or MM1 as I will call it henceforth, don't get it confused with MegaMan).

MM1 was released for computer-devices back in 1986, making it just about as old as I am. It's definitely not the kind of game I grew up playing or have had much experience with at any point in my life. I've played a couple of retro computer games though (late 80's through the 90's) and my general assessment is that they haven't aged too well, especially in the accessibility-department. Unlike video games from the same time, computer games seem marred in confusing and obscure control schemes, some so outdated as to make games almost unplayable. By control schemes I don't just mean the literal means of controlling your character/s, but all aspects of the game in which you try to control it - menus, navigating, combat etc. 

Let's just say it was with some trepidation I started up MM1. 

You're instantly greeted with that seems to be the only little bit of music the game is going to offer, it's sweet and short. The constant sweep-effect of the start screen is confusing and a bit nauseating, but fortunately doesn't last longer than you allow it to.

I've got to say I love the way the game asks me if I am ready. Games don't do this anymore, why?

The game allows you to create your own characters from the start, and originally I had no idea that there was any option to this. I randomly roll a few and the game suggests classes based on the stats I get. I know that in these older D&D based games some classes can be basically useless, some get really strong eventually and some are essential to have. But I have no idea if MM1 is going to be one of those games, nor which classes I need to bring, nor really what any of the classes do (though some are fairly self-explanatory, like the Cleric). It takes me a little while to figure out how to launch my party from the Inn at the starting city of Sorpigal, but then off we go.

Everything in MM1 looks like a labyrinth and I realize very soon that without some sort of map I am going to be hopelessly lost. The GoG version I am running has maps as a downloadable extra, but for some reason they don't work for me. Fortunately I live in the time of the friendly internet and finding a map of Sorpigal doesn't take long. Running around the corridors I come across enemies and battle ensues.

The combat system of MM1 turns out to be quite straightforward and I am grateful. You press different commands not unlike something from a Final Fantasy game, minus the animations since combat in MM1 is purely text based. At this point however I have no idea how to cast spells with my casters making them essentially useless. It doesn't help that my self-crafted characters are naked and wielding nothing but their hairy hands to fight with. Needless to say I don't last long even against the weakest enemies.

The sprites are well annoying.

After a few failed runs I try to figure out what I can do to survive. To regain health you can either cast healing spells or you can choose to rest. You can rest wherever, but it requires food and if you rest in an unsafe area you can be attacked by enemies while sleeping. Buying more food costs money, of course. I don't seem to have any money and the few mobs I have managed to kill don't seem to reward any. How can I continue? 

Restarting from the Inn yet again I notice that I can choose premade characters over my own one. Thinking that they hardly can suck more than the ones I have already tried, I start out with the "OG"-team of MM1; Crag, Sir Galand, Zenon, Swifty, Serena and Wizz. It's a nice mix of classes and I also notice that for some unfair reason this bunch gets to start with a pretty nice sum of money, with which I immediately set off to buy myself some gear.

It all makes perfect sense.

Now I also go and do something I should've done from the start - I read the manual. The main reason is to learn how to cast spells, which I still haven't been able to figure out. While the casters have the command "cast" to do, then I get prompted for "level" and "what number". I don't know? At first I interpret "what number" as meaning "how many". I keep typing "one" because I only want to cast one of whatever it is I am casting. That is not how casting works at all, it turns out. Clerics and Sorcerers have levels of spells, depending on character level. At first you only know level 1 spells, of which there are 8 and range from putting people to sleep, throwing fire arrows at them or blessing accuracy on your party. Once you know it it's very simple to grasp and easy to use.

Now that I have characters with gear and kind of know how to use all my skills, nothing should be able to stand in my way. I make my way into Sorpigal once again.

If these walls could talk...

Sorpigal is a pretty hellish city. You can force yourself through locked doors, which is really nice. Less nice are the horrible traps that always spring in your face and there is somehow always some sort of enemy hiding behind the doors. I understand why they keep them locked now. 

Even worse are the pitch black areas, where all you can see on your screen are the words "darkness" or "solid!" if you happen to be bashing your head into a wall. I figure that I should be able to solve it with a torch or two so I run back to the shop to buy some. Fortunately they are very cheap. Unfortunately they are absolutely useless. Using a torch lights up one frame, and the next step you take everything goes dark again. Same thing if you use your spells to illuminate the area. Going into dark areas are currently not really a viable option to me and I wonder if there is some button I need to activate somewhere to turn on the lights?

Feeling like I had hit a dead end in Sorpigal I try to go out into the woods. Without a map. I get lost faster than anyone can say "blathering blatherskite" and even though I hold out well against the snakes and orcs of the forest I finally succumb right at the doorstep of Sorpigal which I had just rediscovered...

That's the world of MM1, unforgiving. But also oddly more-ish. Moving around, doing combat and gaining experience is so easy that I always feel that if I only take it a bit more carefully I could definitely make it around the next corner. You run out, fight some enemies, run back, restock and recuperate. Rinse and repeat. 

If there is some deep narrative hidden somewhere in this game I have yet to come across it. Other than shop-keepers I have spoken to no one and the most mysterious thing I've found were curiously inscribed statues with messages so obscure as to be pointless to me at this point in the game. But I don't mind. I am perfectly happy with just seeing if I can make it around the next corner.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Mystery of the Pokémon Cards

I am something of a flea-market and second hand store addict. While I haven't really done any huge bargains or found any long lost artworks I almost always find something fun or interesting. Like the Turtles board game or a bunch of the Mighty Max playsets. 

A while back I found a nice looking Pokémon folder and since I was actually on the lookout for one and it only cost 40 kronor (ca 4 euro) I decided to buy it. After a quick glance in it I noticed that it was actually full of Pokémon cards, which was a nice addition and especially for that price. A closer look and I realized that every single card was a rare foil card - all of them were EX. Roughly 100 of them in fact. 

My kid has added a note, making sure no one tampers with them.

I was flabbergasted. I wasn't sure what to do. Return to the lady who had sold it and explain to her that she must've surely sold the very hard and expensive labor of her child by mistake? 

By the time I had realized the extent of the rare cards in the folder I was already back home and curiosity and laziness made me decide to keep it. (Maybe also greediness? While I knew I was unlikely to sell them, I rarely sell stuff, it's always fun and cool to own something that's somewhat valuable).

I showed them to my family and we were all excited together. We started to really pick through the cards and give them a thorough look. They looked so pretty, so shiny... and also after a while I thought they looked somewhat... odd. 

For instance, I noticed that when compared to other foil cards in my collection they looked considerably darker and harder to read. There was something off about the foil quality of these particular cards. Even though it was very good, it was definitely different. Once I started to get suspicious I quickly noticed a few other discrepancies when comparing them to cards I knew for a fact had come out of a booster pack. All the shiny cards in the folder had a little bump along the edge of the rim, like it had been attached to a bigger piece of card at some point rather than cut out smoothly like original Pokémon cards seem to be crafted (little bump too tiny to be pictured with my phone camera). Also the folder-cards were noticeably stiffer, even when compared to other full-foil cards.

Can you spot the fake?

Further scrutiny revealed clear differences between the back of a real card and one of the folder cards. The folder cards were somewhat darker and with less contrast between the colours.

How about now? Hint: The right one.

Not long after I had come home with the folder it was decided, every card in it was fake. And what fakes they were! I have come across Pokémon fakes before, and every time it has been extremely obvious that they had been tampered with. And it was fairly obvious with these cards as well, especially once you took them out into the light and held them in your hands. But even then, the pictures with their shiny foil must've been hard to make I imagine and the cards surely neither easy nor cheap to produce?

In a way I was happy they were fake. I didn't feel like I had tricked some nice lady at a flea-market. None of us liked them any less and I could let my kids play with them without being worried they'd rip 10 euros worth of card in half. Since we only play each other we can decide whether we should allow them in a deck or not which still means we got 100 really nice and cool new cards to play with.

And it still stands as one of the most interesting finds I have made at a flea market, because I still wonder how someone went about making these.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Toxic Behaviour, Retail vs Classic

Apparently toxic behaviour is enough of a problem in retail to warrant the inclusion of a "social contract"? Just another reason to stay away from it, but it's really too bad.

I can't remember if toxic behaviour was a big problem back in old WoW, maybe my rose-tinted goggles are blinding me from all the douche-bags I came across. I definitely had to deal with a few, and even the occasional ninja. And I was definitely the object of some really annoying ganking-sprees. But not so much that it ever ruined my fun of the game (ok, the ganking PvP was actually really annoying. So much so that I vowed to never play on a PvP server again).

I really have not come across any angry players in Classic though. Everyone is so lovey-dovey it's almost a bit eerie. It might be partially because of the above-mentioned reason of me not being on a PvP server anymore, that definitely eliminates a lot of possibilities for people to wind me up. Also, maybe, Classic has managed to attract a bunch of more mature players. Not that I could point at what exactly makes a player mature, I know it's nothing as simple as age, necessarily. 

Yet there is something. The people I talk to don't get angry when we wipe even to the most stupid things. I wiped an entire pugged raid on Malacrass in Zul'aman by simply running into the boss when no one was ready. How is it even possible? I can't explain. But we all horribly died and not a single mean word, however well deserved it would've been, was said. Kudos to those people (they all probably secretly blocked me)!

It would be so interesting to make a study on why toxic behaviour is a massive issue in some games and not in others, and especially when you've got two games that are essentially the same (retail and Classic)! Understanding group psychology like this is a major reason to why I went into studying psychology in the first place.

The people I pug with now will tell me what music they're listening to, or talk about their favorite foods. They'll excuse each other if someone needs to deal with a kid or a pet or has a bad computer. They'll talk about the good old times or tell me this is their first time playing WoW. They'll group up to make sure everyone gets the quest mob. They'll help you with a quest in the middle of nowhere because they were in the neighborhood. I've received so much good from random people in WoW I have a massive payload of pay-it-forward to deal with. I can't even imagine what retail must be like, but I picture some sort of social wasteland of angry radscorpions, ready to turn on you and sting you even if you offer them a lift over a stream.

"I can't help it, it's in my nature".

I think a social contract can be a good thing though. It really doesn't change anything about the game, it just tells people the obvious, but also gives Blizzard something to point at when things aren't going the way they want. We do this some times at my work actually (I work with people with intellectual disabilities). We'll discuss what kind of work space do we want this to be, agree on something together and when something happens we can say "hey there, you were part of deciding on how we treat each other, remember?".

It won't reach the people it needs to reach. If someone needs a social contract to act nice to randomz on the internet, I think a social contract is never going to be enough. But like I said it will give Blizzard something to point at and say "you've agreed not to behave this way when you decided to play this game". And maybe, hopefully, that will be enough.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Malacrass Zul'Aman - Resto Shaman PoV

Another video of my resto shaman killing a boss. I jumped straight to Malacrass because I find he is probably the most interesting boss to heal in Zul'Aman. He really does make me miss my aoe healing priest even more though. Spamming chain heal is not my idea of a great time. I am glad I had a resto druid co-healing this with me, it's a good match-up (I am very impressed with the holydin I've done this fight with as well, since this must be the worst fight to heal).

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Akil'zon Zul'Aman - Resto Shaman PoV

Just a video of me killing Akil'zon in Zul'aman with one of my guilds. I actually don't even like resto shaman healing that much but here I am, for some reason... In TBC resto shaman is still pretty boring. While I have some interesting things to do with my totems, I only have three healing skills and it gets repetitive very quickly. Maybe I should respec to enhancement, which I really like, and get a move on my healing priest instead. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Some News About WotLK Classic

I've been reading that there won't be any Dungeon Finder in Wrath of the Lich King Classic. I am guessing Blizzard made this decision because they think most people want it that way, but as usual a vocal minority has made it clear that they don't agree. Or maybe they're not a minority? I am just assuming a behemoth like Blizzard would know what they're doing before they announce a huge thing like that. After all the Dungeon Finder was a thing of the real Wotlk, but apparently Blizzard think this might've been one thing that took the game series a step in the wrong direction (whatever direction that is).

I queued to get the Collector's Edition.

Here are my 2 cents though - I disagree with Blizzards assessment that the Dungeon Finder would ruin the game. I don't however entirely mind that they won't implement it. In that way I also disagree that not adding it would ruin the game. I guess you could say that I am, boringly enough, quite meh about the whole thing.

I've been playing for several years now without the Dungeon Finder, just using LFG-channel and it works perfectly fine. Do I always find a group for where I want to go? No I don't. Does it some times take quite long to gather people? Yeah, it happens. But some thing that I recall being a huge issue in Vanilla specifically (and TBC considerably less thanks to summon stones) is people leaving an instance mid-run and everyone having to waste loads of time to find another person (or just having to wait for everyone to get to the instance). Off the top of my head I can't recall that happening to me even once. Maybe once. But either way not often enough to be even remotely considered a problem that needs fixing. 

In fact, the Dungeon Finder has one major flaw and this is where I think the main issue lies regarding whether you're pro-Dungeon Finder or anti-Dungeon Finder. To me who plays something like five character simultaneously, it's not an issue to log onto character lvl 12 and do questing while I gather a group for character lvl 70 heroic run. In fact I did just that this evening before writing this post and it worked a charm. Rather than just getting annoyed at wasting my time hanging around in Shattrath waiting for my group to happen, I actually got something done. And this is also where the flaw of the Dungeon Finder comes in. With the Dungeon Finder I am actually forced to be on that specific character to get an instance, and must wait rather than do something more productive with my time (I am not one of those people who enjoys farming mats). Maybe not a big issue on a tank or healer character, but I recall 30-45 min queues not being uncommon for a dps character.

For the way I personally prefer to play the game I think the Dungeon Finder might actually be more of a hindrance than a boon. But for all those people sinking every second of their time into their main, I can understand how they want something that would shorten the wait.

TLDR: I don't care either way and I'm definitely not upset they're not going to implement it.

The other news is that dedicated TBC servers will disappear with the launch of Wotlk Classic, just like in the original launch of Wotlk. 

I'll be honest, when I first read about this I was a bit sad. Even though Wotlk is probably my favorite expansion, TBC is second in line and I absolutely love it. Like I've already established, I don't feel anywhere near done with it yet and this announcement just made me feel even more stressed for achieving whatever it is I imagine I need to achieve. I am also notoriously sentimental and want to save every happy memory forever.

But who am I kidding? I haven't gone back to Classic Wow for even a second since TBC was launched, even though I intended to. I actually went to do it but then it required a complete download of the game and I couldn't be bothered... When Wotlk launches I won't have time for any shenanigans I think I need to finish off in TBC, of which there really aren't many. And like the post (in the link) rightfully points out, it's not actually like Outlands goes away with the launch of Wotlk. I can still go there and do... whatever.

I don't actually recall whether Outlands was an area one had to visit to level between 60-70 before being ready for Northrend in Wotlk? If that's the case I'm not even leaving it behind, just like Azeroth, but will get to re-visit it over and over.

I think Blizzard is making the right call here with pushing everyone forward to Northrend to get that launch off to a good start. Maybe that was less of an issue with TBC? Either way, Outlands will still be there and I see more of a point in preserving an OG version of Vanilla WoW than Classic TBC.

TLDR; I am ok with it. Knowing myself I won't give Outlands a second of my thought once Wotlk is released.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

So WotLK Classic Has Been Announced

To no ones surprise (just read the comments on a previous post), Wotlk has been announced. I am happy, of course. Hype in fact!

But I can't help but feel, yet again, that Blizzard is rushing me. I took things so slow I enjoyed things so much in Classic that I had barely made it to max level when TBC Classic was announced. I really had to scramble to get myself ready for Outlands and basically missed out on all the endgame content in Classic, again! I didn't get to experience it the first time around and not this time either. 

Did some Dire Maul though.

To be fair I feel like the endgame content of Classic is slightly more difficult to get into as a super-casual as I am, even when considering Pugging seemed to be way more prevalent and successful than it used to be back in the day. But raids in Classic are massive undertakings that took hours on hours, whereas the introduction of 10-man raids yet again proved to be my ticket into that aspect of WoW.

I've got two fairly well geared level 70 now (and possibly more by the time Wotlk actually hits), so in that sense I am way more prepared for Wotlk than I was for Outlands. I can actually run off to the Howling Fjord straight away this time, which I also intend on doing. While tanking is ok in TBC (it was pretty bad in Classic) I recall it as being an absolute joy in Wrath and I am really looking forward to getting into that again.

But even though I am better off and better prepared this time around I still don't feel like I am anywhere near done with TBC Classic yet. I know there are still going to be several months before the actual release so I can't say for sure that I am not going to feel ready for it when it actually comes, but right now I don't. There are entire areas in TBC I've barely set foot in yet. I have done exactly zero quests in Shadowmoon Valley or Netherstorm. I've barely done any quests in Nagrand or Blade's Edge Mountains. I find that after Hellfire Peninsula and Zangarmarsh + instances you're practically 70, so I need to actively choose to go to different areas to quest to experience them (I am at the moment taking a mage through Terokkar).

And some Zul'Aman

Even though I have done every instance and almost every raid (not TK yet) I haven't done them much. Karazhan that I've probably done the most out of the raids, I've done maybe ten times in total. But of course, I myself have spoken about taking breaks from WoW and Blizzard clearly don't want to give me, or anyone else, any chance of doing that. As soon as we feel like we can take a breather, and not because I am bored with it but rather the opposite, they need to throw (old) new goodies in our faces. I can understand their reasoning and I don't doubt that there is some expensive marketing research and analysis behind it that has calculated the exact time next expansion need to come to maximize profits.

I'm just worried they're going to achieve the opposite, a complete burn-out.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Field Report #30 - I Am That Noob Now

Back in the day when I played WoW, after a year or so of finding my footing, I started to play fairly seriously. Especially when I started to get into raiding in TBC, I was one of those people who pored over logs, read every detail in patch notes and analyzed it all to bits. I wrote posts on how to play classes I didn't even main, because I even put time into analyzing their rotations (can't say whether my guides were good or not though). While I hope I never looked down on the players who spent their time doing other things, I do know occasionally thinking "why wouldn't you want to bring your A-game to every group?".

Now I find myself constantly being that person. I don't know tacs for raids (other than what I barely remember from having done them 10+ years ago). I don't know what I need attunement for nor do I keep track of my rep on any of my characters (it doesn't help that I level everything simultaneously). Just the other week I joined a raid for Mount Hyjal only to find out I can't enter. I was mortified... My guild asked me if I wanted to join for their raids and I was almost embarrassed to say I hadn't signed for anything yet because I have no idea how Discord works. Fortunately they were kind enough to work me through it slowly and it's not that hard after all.

I have no idea what my BiS gear is and I only just downloaded an Addon that allows me to see what loot I could get from bosses (AtlasLoot) so that I can join in on that Reserve Loot thingy in Pugs. When the new patch was released and we suddenly only needed Honored to get into Heroics I had no idea until someone told me. Joining a Pug for Zul'Aman this week I quickly read some notes on raid tacs while I was making my way there so I wouldn't ruin the evening for everyone else (I think I did ok). I used to know these things way ahead and plan ahead, knowing exactly where I was going, what I was doing and what I needed. I used to be the person who explained these details to other people. Maybe it is karma then that I am receiving the same from others now.

Because now I log in and I don't have a clue. I feel like I have to ask about everything. I feel like I am constantly left behind, gear-wise. Everyone is going to fancy raids and have all the fancy gear with the fancy DPS. I am never the best in my groups.

This might sound horrible but it's actually all just pretty amusing. It's how I started out in WoW and somehow I've come full circle. I've seen what it is like on the hardcore side of things, doing the server first runs and discussing every fight with your fellow guildies. While I loved that part of WoW as well, I don't miss it. I enjoy this side of WoW just as much, for completely different reasons. I log in and I don't have a mission. I have nowhere I need to be and nothing special I need to do. It's whatever I have time for or brain power left in my head to do that evening. I don't have a purpose other than what I fancy for the evening and it's exactly the way I want it to be. 

Fortunately I feel like people have patience for my lack of knowledge, and hopefully my cheery demeanor can make up for some lacking gear. I still try to do my best of course. And best of all, I finally got to answer my question - now I know exactly why some people don't bring their A-game. 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Field Report #29 - I Apparently Never Made It Back

It's quite telling that for 9 months after I write about getting to Outlands in TBC Classic I don't post a single thing on my blog. WoW used to be an enormous source of inspiration for my writing for the longest time, back in the day. Now... it just drains my brain. 

I still play it now, and I've started to do some modest raiding with the guilds I am in. I still think it is so much fun, but I also feel that it takes up more time than I want to give it. Just like when I used to play it, I really wish I could play WoW and play other games. Back then I had the time for that, what with putting 8 hour sessions of gaming in on a day where I had nothing else planned, but for some reason I didn't. Now, with two little kids (and no one around us who can baby sit), there is just no way that is going to happen. I get my 2-3 hours in the evening and I need to maximize them. Something just has to go and for some reason writing has been one of those things even though I love writing. And often other things too. 

I recently played a few hours of Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, because me and the SO had really planned to do something together and finally got some hours on our own (we managed to get our kids on a play-date for an afternoon). I had a blast, that game was really fun! I made a big mistake early on though and missed out on the shotgun, and apparently there is no going back for it once you've missed it. So I decided to restart the game the next time I play it, and I'll get back to where I was easy enough. Only I know the next time I play it is going to be months from now, probably. Because at the end of the day when the kids are finally asleep my brain just shuts off and it can't make the decisions I want it to make. Play that other game, do that other thing. 

It's not that I play WoW even though I don't feel like it or that I am not having fun in the game. The problem with WoW has probably always been that it's just too much fun and too easy to get in to. There is always something to do, some character to advance or fix something on. The level of satisfying feeling of accomplishment is sky-high in that game. Addictive? Yeah I can see why people think that. 

Alone in the Dark for PS1 took a lot of ideas from RE.

I've been thinking about cancelling my on-going subscription and just take a month here and there instead. A month where I play mostly WoW, and a few months in-between where I play something from my backlog of a quadrillion games that will probably never see the light of day. But I don't want to be part of the reason Blizzard eventually pulls the plug on TBC Classic, or maybe part of the statistic that doesn't make Wrath of the Lich King Classic come to life. I am hype about a possible Wotlk Classic!

I am scared I will lose this all again. Why can't WoW just be there for me forever when I need it, so that I don't feel compelled to play it while I can because I am constantly worried it won't be some day. Again.

Luxurious problems to have in the world we live in, I know. And that thought gives me the clarity I need to not worry so much about it after all.