Written by | Posted November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm Deconstruction

Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.

The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.

Yva Darrows was their first target.

Tirith and Aely were their second and third.

They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …

Turning Points – Annata
comment 1 Written by on November 4, 2011 – 8:11 am

When Cataclysm started I really had no idea what to do with Annata and how to get her restarted. The Defias are a different game than before, and Ravenholdt is still a really cool idea that hasn’t been much developed.

I figured I’d level her as much as I could through the new zones and see what happened. She was level 35ish, so I went through Eastern Kingdoms: Hinterlands, Badlands, Searing Gorge, Burning Steppes, Swamp of Sorrows, Blasted Lands. That actually took her almost to level 62, between heirlooms and guild XP bonuses, and it was actually a lot of fun.

While I’m not a huge fan of the heavily scripted zone designs, for Annata, it gave her an interest in something new that was going on. In her case?

Cultists.

Her original reason for being in Stormwind may have been the Defias, but she’s really developed an interest in (and hatred for) the Twilight’s Cultists that have wrought so much damage on the world. She hasn’t yet actually run into Nefarian (other than in the Badlands quests), but I have a feeling that between him, the cultists, and the demons in Outland/Shadowmoon Valley, I won’t have to do much searching to find her motivation for running amok in the world.

The only thing that’s weird about leveling right now, though, is the Old World is not as old as it was. Since the original zones got revamped, Azeroth is now current world – and Outland is a HUGE chunk back in time. It’s a little jarring, even if I’ve come to be rather fond of parts of Outland, especially for character development. Essentially going back in time (which Northrend is too, but Outland seems much more like “old business”) is harder for me to swallow, from a character standpoint, than dealing with “old world” zones – at least then it was like playing through to “get to” today, instead of starting at today and then ping-ponging around until you got to 85.

Fortunately, Outland is faster and a lot easier to do now, with the changes in leveling speed, and the ability to fly right at 60 (which is pretty nice, even though I would love to tell you about walking uphill both ways in Blade’s Edge without a mount before). Annata is level 63 and working with Honor Hold and will probably skip most of Zangarmarsh to work in Terrokkar, Blade’s Edge, and Shadowmoon Valley – a completely different path than I took with Annylais, whose interest in Druidry kept her closely aligned with Zangarmarsh and Nagrand.

Northrend, however, I expect will be odd. There’s SO much nostalgia there (and another blog post somewhere about Wrath lore being kind of the high point of WoW RP for me… so far).

Aely’s real connection is with the Riders again, and to our own guild-driven stories (which is certainly fun), but it’s been a pretty large adjustment from the massive interaction she had with The Argent Crusade in Wrath. I’m really hoping to get Annata connected to the Riders as well, since I think she’d fit in with them – and it’ll be fun to have a more physically interactive character at the Pig and Whistle. Rogueing is a LOT of fun, and Annata is actually good at the stabby bits (unlike Angoleth, who is a little gimpy, and Aely, who has always been primarily a healer). Also stealth/sap is still hax.

All in all, the leveling process has made me think that Cataclysm is a lot more “story friendly” for newer characters.

Older characters, especially those like Aely with little connection to the elements, have been a lot harder for me to “find the link” for than the newer, younger characters – like Annata, Annylais, and Ancelyn (my Dwarf warlock)… and Cuanyin (my little Sunwalker Tauren… who really needs a proper introduction around here). As a sufferer of severe alt-itis, this isn’t a huge deal, but it’s been hard to balance story wise with my established characters.

Annata is around to stay though, and hopefully will be more involved with the general mayhem now that she’s a little higher level and a lot more solid of a character!

Sound Memories
comment 3 Written by on November 3, 2011 – 12:50 pm

I’ve talked a little bit, a long freaking time ago, about how I play the game with the in-game sound and music turned on. I still do that – still can’t raid without sound effects and still have the attention span of a gnat on crack, and therefore can’t raid with other music in the background. *

I was noticing though how much I really like the variety of new music that’s been made available in Cataclysm. While I thought I’d really miss the old music (and sometimes I do), I’ve found that most of it is still in game, and I can still happily waft into nostalgia remembering old RP while I wait for LFG to pop. The new instance music is really nice as well – in fact, this post was prompted by how fitting the music is in the Vortex Pinnacle.

I’ve always really liked the soundtracks for Blizzard’s games, and enjoyed the musical references they’ve made. The music in Sunwell had a hat tip to the Dies Irae chant, and much of Northrend had ties to folk music and instruments. The music of the Trolls, Goblins, and Gnomes has always had a strong thematic content as well. In fact, Blizzard does a good job, in general, of matching instruments/musical character to delineate cultures, bosses, and creepy zones in game.

Let’s take, for example, Ragnaros.

He’s Big. He’s Bad. He’s On Fire. And once upon a time*, he was THE Big Bad at the end of the first 40 man raid instance in World of Warcraft. He’s now back and still bad and causing trouble in the Firelands again.

This was Ragnaros’ music.

I’d argue that part of what made Ragnaros’ room so successfully epic and intimidating was his soundtrack.

First, it’s in a minor key. Minor keys are (at least to modern, Western ears) for “sad” and “angry” feelings. It’s also in an unbalanced time signature – count on your fingers to the beat, and you’ll find the music is grouped into 6 beats and then 7 beats, 6, 7, 6, 7, 6, 7. Most “western” music is in even groups of 4 beats. Anything with 7 feels “unsteady”. This music is meant to make you feel off balance and nervous.

That plus the use of well-known musical conventions (frenzied strings, rhythmic percussion, lots of french horn), your mind “gets” what’s going on around you on a level beyond just seeing it. If instead of Epic Boss Fight Music, Ragnaros’ soundtrack sounded like the Temple of the Moon… it just wouldn’t work. It would even be laughable.

Fortunately, it’s not just Ragnaros.

The sparse, almost non melodic piano in Dragonblight is eerily reminiscent of snowfall. Norse folk instruments are used with great success to give a familiar, but still somewhat strange flavor to the Vrykul areas (and the turtle boats!), and Grizzly Hills is supposed to sound folk-like and “familiar”. The Zandalar Trolls have their own brand of percussive music that’s similar to the music in Zul’Aman… but with a slightly different flavor. The music from Vortex Pinnacle is airy and light, with soft whooshing strings. The soundtrack of Honor Hold and other places in Hellfire Peninsula takes a big key from Aaron Copland, using sparse brass instruments to convey the openness and emptiness of space. XT-002′s music is sufficiently mechanical, childlike, and frenetic to match the giant calisthenics-doing boss, Yogg Saron’s music is truly epic, and the entire soundtrack to Icecrown Citadel matches perfectly with its inhabitants (right down to using a boy’s choir to show the sweetness and temptations of power). The music in Vashj’ir is especially watery as well.

All of that boils down to creating another layer of emotional response to the game, expanding on the colors, environment, and critters wandering around. Kinda like how, in a horror film, you can always tell when the Bad Stuff is about to happen – either the music gets really ominous or it stops altogether.

Those sounds and emotional responses are, for me, part of RP. Walking into the Pig and Whistle and I automatically go into RP mode, just based on the music – music I’ve heard a thousand times as Aely’s spent her evenings there with the Riders (and as Angoleth is slowly starting to do more often as well). A lot of my first impressions of zones are made on the music, and when I think about old RP events, they’re often connected to the music in game as well as to what actually happened.

That said, I definitely understand having RP soundtracks of non-game music as well, especially if you need to have a really creepy event in a happy, folk music playing tavern (or Grizzy Hills).

Just don’t automatically discount the game soundtrack – there’s a lot of good stuff in there, at least in WoW.

(I make no promises in other games, but given how much I love the Diablo II music, I am definitely looking forward to Diablo III…)

*Except when it’s all of vent singing Journey. That’s different. (JUST A SMALL TOWN GIIIIIIRL)
**Ok, So Blackrock was merely a setback…
***Rumors of my death may have been greatly exaggerated, but I make no promises as to regular content here. Just… had an itch to post, so I scratched. I figure I can blame NaNo.

Integrating Character and (role)Playability
comment Comments Off Written by on July 27, 2011 – 6:50 pm

(For the record, I’m writing this in the Saucy hangout on Google Plus. We’re all writing together and it’s pretty awesome.)

So I’ve been playing Annorah (level 85 and running Trollish heroics now) quite a lot more than Aely. Which isn’t a slight against Aely at all, but more that elemental shamaning is awesome. It’s like ShamBLAST. Lava all over. Teuthida would be proud of all the blasting!

(I am considering speccing Aely into Holy again, and trying my hand at healing, for the record. I just… haven’t exactly had the gumption to relearn it all yet. But that’s another post entirely)

Unfortunately Annorah is… difficult… to RP. Back in the early days I wrote a (rather bad) piece of fic from her perspective – the only one I’ve written with her as a main character other than her part in the Bittertongue/Maggie plot last year. Since then, she’s been the epitome of difficult to RP. She’s a farseer, so I have to struggle with how she sees the future, and what kind of future that is that she sees (usually I go with a Galadriel type oracle – “things that are, things that were, and some things that have not yet come to pass”). Also, every time I’ve tried to RP with her, she’s a totally different personality.

Sometimes she’s grumpy or sarcastic, sometimes short tempered, sometimes witty, occasionally drunk. She’s smug on occasion, and other times so painfully shy as to sit and hardly speak for an entire evening. A few people (Gharr and Marty, I think) have mentioned that her personality shifts aren’t exactly out of character for anyone with any ties to the Elemental plane in Azeroth right now, but that doesn’t make it any easier to RP. Especially when I don’t really know which Annorah is going to show up. (Multiple Personality Shaman, FTW?)

And that makes her difficult to interact with. Unpredictable characters are difficult both as the roleplayer and within the roleplay community. There’s something to be said for a character like Aely, who will always be Aely, in the face of pretty much any situation. Even Tarquin, who is always dangerous, and Bricu, who is usually a Bastard, have their levels of continuity. Being predictably unpredictable makes people in real life hard to deal with, and no less so in game.

I also wonder if I just don’t GET the character yet. Multiple folks have told me that Draenei are just hard to play, and what about “reskinning” her as a Dwarf? But she’s NOT a Dwarf. That much I know. She’s got a history, and she’s a strong willed sort of Draenei shaman, with a bit of a vindictive streak and a serious crush on Nobundo. And mood swings, apparently.

Perhaps she’ll be more revealing during the upcoming raid events (I’ll hopefully be rejoining a TRI-esque 10 man on Monday nights) when we really get to start attacking the big bads of this expansion.

I know how much a raid instance and interaction with the forces that change the world can change a character. Arthas and the Scourge DEFINED Aely for most of Wrath, and she’s still finding her feet in the new world, but that kind of confusion is AS a character, not ABOUT her character, if that makes any sense?]

Anyway, I’ll let you know how it shapes up. Maybe just forcing her into RP situations will help, but my willingness to do un-fun RP is… uh… limited. I’d rather not have my “raiding” character and my “roleplay” characters split up, as I’ve always done both, so hopefully things will sort out as I do more shamaning.

If nothing else, I can still cast frostshock? Totems totems totems?

Anyone?

So Zul’Gurub is back
comment 9 Written by on July 1, 2011 – 11:36 am

And I know that’s totally old news and wow Anna get out from under your rock, but really, my biggest curiosity about Z’G?

Do the Splody Bat Men still exist?!

I ask because I’m quite trepidatious to set foot in there. I know Zul’Aman is relatively similar – which isn’t surprising, considering when it came out. And I WILL get a Z’A bear mount for Annorah someday. But Z’G was my first raid instance, and the one I spent (by far) the most time in. So much time that I never went back after Burning Crusade hit. Now that it’s back in game, I’m really kind of curious whether I should go or not, once Annorah hits 85 (hoping for 84 today) and gets some gear.

I mean, I know it’s crazysauce, but sometimes I wonder if I should leave the hilarious memories where they were, you know? Drunken spider pulls, for instance. And Splody Bat Men.

Dunno.

Deconstruction

November 19, 2013 – 4:46 pm

Bad things are happening in Stormwind – and beyond.

The Hand of Lothar, they call themselves.

Yva Darrows was their first target.

Tirith and Aely were their second and third.

They have since… expanded their reach and escalated their methods …

Patrol

November 13, 2013 – 9:59 am

The cathedral bells stop ringing overnight, except for chiming the hours. Three bell strikes, and Angoleth padded softly around another corner of the Cathedral District, staying carefully in the shadows. Trained ears picked up Mogget’s soft breathing – nearly inaudible …

Riders in Lordaeron – Memory

November 7, 2013 – 1:33 pm

(Written by Jolly, Tarquin, and Annalea)

The highlands of Lordaeron were not for the faint of heart; be it the putrescence of the Scourge’s long-lingering remnant, or the rock-strewn hills and valleys that made farmers out of only the most …

Riders of Lordaeron – Logistics

September 13, 2013 – 7:11 pm

(With Tarquin and Annalea)

Once more, four people made their way through the thickets and hills of Lordaeron, this time in the crisp chill of late morning, seeking after the Rider. Aelflaed had snatched what sleep she could while Chryste …

Riders of Lordaeron – Problematic

September 11, 2013 – 9:47 am

(With Tarquin)

She hadn’t wanted to leave Jolly – not so soon after finding him again – but once away, it took about five minutes for Aely to figure out she had a problem.

That problem had just announced that …

Riders of Lordaeron: Arrangements

September 9, 2013 – 10:05 am

It was an uneasy goodbye for him, but it was agreed by both he and Aely that a stroll back to Hearthglen would not be very easy to explain, nor would the explanation needed for the three Argent soldiers once …

Riders of Lordaeron

September 7, 2013 – 9:02 am

“Light sent me ye when I needed ye afore – an’ now again when I need ye. I canna ask fir more than tha’.” She sighed and slung the shield back across her shoulders. “It’s… Light. Been awhile hasna it? …

Dark Rider of Lordaeron (Part 4)

September 6, 2013 – 2:02 pm

She blinked, but did not drop either of her shields. “Aye, though I’ve been Caltrains fir th’ last near three years. Canna say I’ve any memory ay ye.”

“Yeh’ve far moar’n yeh realize,” he replied evenly, his grip tightening on …

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