Everybody’s got that cranky old uncle that they rarely get along with, but if anyone says one cross word about, you’d defend to the last. In my WoW-blogging world, WoW Insider is that cranky old uncle.
Earlier this week we heard rumors that Joystiq, parent of both Massively and WoW Insider, was going to be shut down, along with its companion gaming sites. A lot of people wrote about this, but in my heart, I hoped they were jumping the gun.
Today that hope was dashed. Tuesday, February 31 will be the day that the music dies for Joystiq and its kin, and WoW Insider logs out for good.
Now, when I say I didn’t get along with WoW Insider, that’s a sort of overstatement. I did tend to ridicule them for their over-reliance of fifty-dollar words, for apparent word inflation to up word counts, for seeming to be so intent on sounding impressive that they forgot to BE impressive in their writing. For meekness, for not getting in the middle of anything controversial2. For being as bland as store-bought biscuits and gravy-from-a-pouch. For playing it so safe as to make one wonder if they were getting kickbacks from Blizz.
I subtweeted the SHIT outta that, and I regret nothing.
And for all that bluster, I read that blog Every. Titans. Damned. Day. EVERY day. Because bland and overtaped though they might have been, they WERE a bunch of people trying to get it right. A room full of kindred spirits. And it was one place that you could go to reliably to find useful information about WoW.
I would have liked it if the fare were a little spicier. If they would have maybe tossed away a few of those thesauruses that they found outside the used book store. If they mixed it up a bit, stuck out that lower jaw and dared Blizz to knock that chip off their shoulder. But they chose a middle road and I can’t really begrudge them. It was a choice. It was a safe choice3. And one of us was getting paid to do it, and one of us wasn’t, so there’s some context into which my opinions can be placed.
Fact is, they provided something helpful – an omnibus, central clearing house of WoW stuff, and there is NO ONE in a position to take up that banner once it has fallen.4
Being critical is not the same as hating. I was critical of this site because I cared, and saw so much more potential there than they were able to deliver. I wouldn’t be tweeting those snarky little subtweets if I hadn’t been reading the site. And I would not waste my time reading the site if I didn’t care about what they were doing.
Cranky old Uncle Edwin was a gigantic pain in the ass, but he was OUR gigantic pain in the ass and we all miss him to this day. So it shall be with WoW Insider, in a slightly different way. I’m going to miss them. A lot.
There is, at this point, a tremendous vacuum in the WoW blogosphere. Someone could step in and make something out of it if they could get funding. I hope it happens. Maybe with members of this very crew.
I have one last thing to say, and it is the title of this Penny Arcade tribute.
So say we all.
Incidentally, the anniversary of the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia. [↩]
And, in fact, for backing out of teh dramaz when they killed off Guildwatch all those years ago. [↩]
I’m not going to say this again1, so pay attention – I’m totally not harshing on any particular people. I have an alternative viewpoint, and I want to share it.
Blogging often introduces us to new people that we really connect with. A lot of times these connections sink in, wrapping you in a cozy blanket of fellowship. I can’t count how many people have wandered into my orbit, or I into theirs, and we found commonality between us.
Belghast would contend that this is not a “community” per se , but something else that just seems like it. These people whith whom I’ve met, formed connections with both on the blog and outside of it, who’s guilds I’ve joined and with whom I’ve slayed internet dragons – this is not, strictly speaking, in his mind, a community.
Now, to be fair, he’s focusing outside of the WoW “community” (I’ll call it that for the sake of argument). And yet things he points out about the larger “MMO community” ring true for the WoW blogging community as well.
One of his first examples focuses on how so many people on Twitter have stopped following him over the years. I have to wonder why they don’t. I also have to wonder why he didn’t follow up on that, if twitter follows are something of importance2. My point, the unfollows themselves are meaningless without context.
See, the thing that was missing in this case was effort. And no, before anyone thinks it, I’m not dissing Belghast for being lazy3. What I’m saying is that twitter follows are a two-way thing. The person that unfollowed did so for a reason. The person that was unfollowed was unfollowed for a reason. Until those reasons are actually KNOWN, everything else is just empty speculation.
However, Twitter isn’t the best of examples, nor is Facebook or even LiveJournal. What they have in common is a built-in framework that forms a false sense of “community”. You have “followed” ergo you are part of that “community”. The implication here – and an incorrect lesson that many may learn to their misfortune – is that communities are “built” in software and have a tangible “framework” that you can monitor the “health” of. A guild, your follow lists on FB, Twitter, LJ, etc. Your mailing lists. Your PHP-BB site. All of these are constructs that can call themselves “community” by dint of having a “box” within which the “community” is found.
But “community” in the “real world” is a lot harder.
When you move into a new house, you don’t automatically become friends with the people next door and across the street. You can’t go borrow a fiver from Bob next door on your first day. He won’t let you watch his kids while he and Mrs Bob go out for dinner. No, you have to earn each others’ trust and friendship. Your “community” is only geographical on the first look – after that, it’s a web of trust and caring, battles won and lost together, crises managed and averted, and so forth.
And that’s the proper analogy for blogging communities. We don’t just “fall together” into a box marked “WoW Blogger community”. That’s just our “geographical location” in greater Blogostan and says nothing about the web of trust (or distrust) that we have constructed.
And, unlike Twitter, you have no means to find out who’s “following” you (other than that “follow” thing in Blogger, and that’s hardly universal). So, people that you used to “follow” stop blogging, and unless you make the effort to follow up4, you’ll never know why.
The question becomes, if a person stops blogging, is that person no longer part of your “community”?
The real world analogy is if your neighbor Bob’s kid grows up and he no longer shows up at the Little League games you umpire for, is Bob no longer part of your community? Well, he lives next door, surely not! But if your only interaction with Bob is at those ball games, you may feel estranged.
Now, in the real world, first links (Little League) forge longer chains. Chances are, if you and Bob connected at the games, you’re probably interacting in other areas as well. As persons, you both put effort into forging a friendship. You do so with many people, and the commonality of it is what forms a very real and lasting community.
And that’s the bottom line of the WoW, or even game blog community. It isn’t that we all play a game and blog about it. That is insufficient to form any real community. But a number of people care enough to reach out and interact and get to know each other. Those people then interact in other areas as well, and form real friendships. In fact, I can say that I consider many former WoW bloggers to be friends. I still consider them to be part of the “community” even if the first link in that chain’s now broken. Other links have taken up the slack.
A blogroll is not a community.
A group of blogs is not a community.
Nor is Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, or Google Groups.
Even Blog Azeroth is not, strictly speaking, a community on its own.
People are what make a community. Nothing else. The people within those frameworks make it work.
If you’re part of a “community” that started or still orbits around a commonality of blogging, so be it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I like to think communities are an organic thing. You can’t really force them via artificial social networking frameworks. Retweeting your latest blog entry doesn’t enhance anything regarding “community” – that’s just advertising, and that doesn’t help form “communities” either. But it can bring eyes to your site, and that can get the ball rolling.
That’s only the start, of course. Community isn’t a fire-and-forget thing. Your job isn’t done when you hit “publish”. If you have no further interactions, you won’t have a “community”, either.
Belghast may not feel part of a community at this point. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s not automatic, and it can’t be forced. Sometimes even hard work won’t help.
But it won’t happen if you don’t keep trying, either. So keep at it.
5.4.0 is the final content patch for Mists. What we’re looking at is pretty much as far as this goes for this expansion – it’s the ICC of Pandaria. Which more or less leaves us to our own devices until the next expansion, which has not been announced at this time. Yes, there is a 5.4.1, for which you have already received a patch (though it doesn’t do much yet). That’s a far cry from more real content though.
Ergo if there are any "content" patches beyond 5.4.0, we can probably expect more time-killing activities ala land-of-the-endless-dailies or Timeless Isle (this is more opinion than fact).
We also have this roadmap, posted in 2007 and allegedly from 2003 which has proven to be extremely accurate in general terms. You can see all the pieces here, though sometimes they arrive in different order than originally planned. For example, Pandaria was originally going to be a part of a far larger expansion, from the looks of it, which would have included bits of the Cata expansion as well. I guess what I’m saying here is that looking here for direction is not entirely out of line, based on past experience, but it requires a heavy amount of interpretation.
If one goes by that roadmap, we have one major piece not yet addressed – The Burning Legion.
Now we Speculate
What follows is a series of thoughts based on what we have seen out in the wider internets. I’m not claiming to know what’s going to happen, but I do reserve the right to crow just a little for each item I get right. :)
There will be an expansion announced
That’s probably obvious to most, but it should be noted that Blizz has not stated that there will be. Reasonably, the announcement will take place on the first day. What we see is "World of Warcraft: What’s Next" and World of Warcraft: The Adventure Continues" when we look at the Blizzcon schedule.
What we do NOT see is availability of the expansion for playtesting, as we had with MoP. I do NOT recall if that was actually part of the schedule last time. It would be helpful to be able to remember.
Given all the above, however, one thing we do know is that we’re done with MoP. If they don’t announce here, it’ll be at some smaller trade show later on, and I don’t think they’re going to do that to their flagship product.
Ergo, now is the time.
The expansion will involve the Burning Legion.
We don’t have a lot to go on here except for that fabled road map. Considering its accuracy, I’m inclined to look to it for inspiration.
There is also the fact that many, many of the in-game and out-of-game lore pieces have been very strongly focused on the Legion and things around it. The adventures of Anduin, for example, as well as Wrathion. We KNOW the Legion is going to be a huge part of WoW at some point, it’s a confrontation that is being teased in lore and legend and prophesy. Between them and the Old Gods, we’re looking at 80% of what threatens Azeroth. Maybe more.
The expansion will be called "Warlords of Draenor"
I admit this may be premature, in that the trademark was applied for outside the US and only a week before the Con. However, it does fit in with the story arc we’ve been uncovering.
An alternate, The Dark Below, does have some bearing on the Old Gods thread, but if I remember correctly, that was discredited not long after it appeared in trademark sites.
One should also remember that the same trademark sites have been used for the Warlords title, and take both with a grain of salt.
The expansion will involve a new, "lost" continent of Draenor.
One should remember that Outland was not Draenor, but simply a part of it, one continent on a larger world. Given Blizz’s penchant for pulling entire lost continents out of their electronic butts, doing so on a world about which we know SO LITTLE makes a certain amount of sense.
Also, discovery of this continent leads us to …
Alleria and Turalyon will return
Theory: they found their way onto the lost continent and were either detained or could not find the way back. After many years of research and hard work, they’ve opened a portal that leads back to the dormant one in Zangarmarsh. Or maybe Blizz invents some new sort of Twisted Nether transport vehicle similar to a cross between an airship and a sailboat (The AD&D Astral plane was full of such vehicles, and they were super cool). After many years and with the assistance of a stranded colony of Ethereals, they have returned in style.
It should be noted that these two have been teased for at least two expansions in the "hints and tips" pane of the loading screen – which is one reason I leave that feature turned on.
The Ethereals are a new player race
I’m not sure if they’ll be a new player race similar to the Pandas or not (bi-factional) or if they’ll belong to one faction and some other race fill in for the other. If the latter, I have no idea who it would be.
It’s all weaksauce regardless. I am basing this on the merest whiff of a hint dropped here and there.
But if they are a new player race, I bet the starting zone is associated with where Alleria and Turalyon were stranded.
Outland will not get a revamp
There was a lot of joyful / hysterical speculation in Twitter especially that Outland would at last get its remodel and quest streamlining. I doubt this myself because (a) the Cata remodel of Azeroth was not a cracking success and (b) they hate going back to old stuff.
There was the Twitter sub-thread that Outland would be revamped and be NEW content for the new expansion. I doubt this because then they’d have to fill in the 60-70 leveling gap from bits of Azeroth and/or Northrend, and I doubt they want to do something so complicated. HOWEVER, I do consider this to be more likely than revamping it "just because".
The less obvious clues are back in that roadmap. It’s fairly clear from looking at it that bits of Wrath, Cata, and MoP were meant to come together as one large expansion. For example, Worgen were possibly supposed to be part of the same expansion as Pandarens. And, thus, the remaining pieces do seem to come together as a whole expansion, rather than a mini-expansion such as what we’ve been getting.
There are no indications of any new class
That’s not entirely true. Consider the Pandaren. Outside of the roadmap doc, the only reference to Pandaren in game terms was as a practical joke or two. Blizz insisted that there could be no possible way that they’d ever make it into the game as a serious race.
More likely, though, I think we might see another attempt at a Hero Class, this time with less problems than the DK rollout. Possible candidates: that have been hinted at here and there: Archdruid (from Druid, possibly from Stormrage himself), Archmage (from Mage, possibly from Jaina), Necromancer (Warlock, possibly related to the Green Fire quest line), Ranger (from Hunter, possibly via Alleria), and Vindicator (from Paladin, possibly related to Turalyon)
Since this is such an empty bucket, anything that fills it will be no particular surprise.
Release will be in the Holiday timeframe, 2014
I know, someone once asked me, "surely you can’t expect people to wait 14 months for an expansion?" This’ll be closer to 12, which is a reasonable cycle but one that is largely devoid of content, nonetheless.
Expect beta testing to be over the summer, with the final polish going on around August.
Will they announce that this is the schedule. Well, they never have before, so I’m doubtful.
Seriously, we need the Dance Studio for this one. Obviously.
Probably. I could hope to see things like ink-derived armor dye, but there is no indication. We’ll probably see at least one more trade skill streamlined as Blacksmithing has. But most people will focus on the Big Picture, and who can blame them?
Bottom line is, I have a suspicion about where things will go, but no hard facts to back it up. Clues are not facts.
I do, however, think this particular story line would be very, very cool.
I’ll be watching this as much as anyone else. Excite!
I want to focus on that so-called "normal person" for a moment.
What is it about The Internets and a venue that creates this "fuckwad" shell around that person?
If you answered "nothing", you win the prize.
One is never truly anonymous on the internets. One is merely hoping not to be discovered.
In other words, that "normal" person is in fact a total fuckwad, and he just found the means to express himself in a manner that he felt he could get away with.
None of us is truly anonymous. We can change our names, address, even our appearance, but we are still who we are. If we act up on the internets, well, that’s us. Pure and simple.
You are everything you do, and that includes the time you were a total douchebag to the loser in the starting zone on the Azuremyst realm.
You may be the greatest raider of all time. You may lead your guild in an exemplary manner and your guildies may gather once a month to sing songs of praise about you. You may write blog posts that make Glenn Greenwald weep with envy.
But that time you were a dick to a baby space goat … that’s with you for life.
Nobody else may know, but you will.
And it’s not your virtual presentation that gets sullied with this. No, it’s the real, elemental, essential you that has to carry this around.
The same applies to those griefers out there.
They go day to day being "normal" people, but at night when they think nobody knows them, they’re being total assholes. And that, too, is "normal" for them.
This talk of the duality of the online and offline personality sometimes gets carried away. At the end of the day, the online personality is actually the offline person, wearing a pixel suit. I’m not a max-level dwarven hunter. I’m a middle-aged out of work software tester that also plays several other characters, some of them female, on the same game system. None of them is me, and yet all of them are within me, come from me, and are expressions of the essential me.
This isn’t a matter of people "becoming" dickwads. This is a matter of people letting their inner dickwad – the part of them that they were too timid or sensible to let real-life people see – out to play, to be a sadistic, brutish bully. To be a rat bastard. To be an illiterate schmuck.
We don’t act this way in real life because we will be held accountable. Ideas of an improved accountability system should be explored and implemented if we want to see this game improved as a social entity.
[KNOCK AT DOOR]
/Bob opens door.
Man at door: "Are you PunchyBooBoo?"
Bob: "Um …"
MaD: "PunchyBooBoo the warrior?"
BoB: "Um, well, …"
MaD: "PuchyBooBoo the Orc warrior on Medivh realm?"
BoB: "Yes, that’s m –"
/Man at Door punches Bob in the face
MaD: "THAT’S FOR MAKING MY LITTLE SISTER CRY, YOU SADISTIC BASTARD."
[A FEW HOURS LATER]
[KNOCK AT DOOR]
/Bob opens door
Another Man at door: Are you PunchyBooBoo the Orc Warrior?
Bob: MOM, IT’S FOR YOU!
Wouldn’t that be grand.
Any time you think you can get away with something awful is a test of your character. Maybe it’s a twenty dollar bill that dropped from a man’s coat as he rushed past you … you can keep it, he’ll never know. You found an exploit in the game that lets you use engineer’s grenades as construction devices. Somebody accidentally lists a 10,000 gp staff for 10 gp. You find a lone flagged low-level Hordie in your territory.
This is your time to shine; do the right thing, and all you’ll probably get from it is a sense of accomplishment. But karmic debt has been repaid, if you believe in such things.
Everything we do in the "real" world and all the "virtual" worlds are just expressions of our true selves. There is no true anonymity. Just opportunities to temporarily avoid the effects of your actions. Eventually, you must pay the toll.
You could kind of see it coming; entries there were light at best. There was no MoP Hunter Guides for many months after the expansion went live. It was getting a bit dusty and tatty around the edges.
But there was a robust and active culture of fellow hunters there that just couldn’t be beat.
He and I didn’t always agree on things. But, you can’t really engage as a writer without, as he says, having an opinion. He’s no BRK, and thus sometimes his opinions were delivered with a bit less subtlety and a lot more noise. Then again, nobody ever WILL be BRK, just as there will never be another Frostheim.
I’m not sure where our next premier site of Hunter Goodness will be. What I do know is that the Hunter class is just too awesome not to have one before too long.
I’ll see you there when that happens, and we might even bump into ol’ Frosty.
A few months ago, Google announced that it was discontinuing Google Reader. A mad scramble has ensued to find replacement readers. This post is not about that.
This post is about a hidden asset that Google Reader provided, namely web clips. What this was was a way to organize your RSS feeds in Reader, then create links to those folders that would allow you to display a reading list on your blog consisting of the feeds in those folders. Viola! Instant blogrolls! There was peace in the valley and joy amongst the peasants.
Even now, less than a week before Reader bows out, this still works, but time is running out. I have no idea what will happen to these links when Reader goes dark, but it can’t be good for your blog.
Now is the time to get busy moving your blogroll from this nicely automated format to something else. I personally redid the site using WorPress’s own internal link database. It was clunky as hell but at least I got it loaded. Bonus: the site loads a lot faster now! It seems Google was a bit slow on inter-site responses (huge surprise there).
So check out your blog, if you blog, and make sure you’re not relying on Google’s soon to be broken machinery for your blogroll.
One evening while I was tooling around Uldum looking for interesting ores minerals1, Zwingli, who has a few toons in our guild, asked if I’d been "Navispammed." Assuming it was a Facebook thing, I replied that I had not. Next thing I know, he’s tweeting some gal about this; I looked her up on Twitter and found she was a WoW blogger.
So eventually we arrived at the understanding that there would be visitations, posing, picture-taking, and conversation. None of these are things I object to in any way, so eventually, after a bit of faffing about, we managed to cross paths via RealID and produce the obligatory navispammy blog post, which you can read about on her blog.
As I’ve mentioned in many places before, I find the various Hunter outfits to be just about as ugly as anything I can imagine. I long for the simple forest leathers of the woodsman. But, while working on Loremaster, I came across a set of spaulders that I found to be tolerable and admirable in their simplicity. Since then I’ve managed to find out where the corresponding other bits come from – all from Kalimdor quests – so I’ll be gathering them up as I continue to work on Loremaster.
Navi, of course, caught me in the process of morphing, so a bunch of DW besties with those out-of-place shoulders would tend to get one’s attention. So, Navi, that’s the story – my "mog" goal here is less to look like anything in particular, and more like just the plain old boomstick-waver that I am. :)
Navi has a much better memory for rares than I do. She couldn’t remember the name of my pet, but she remembered the name of the rare that has that model – Hawkbane. The beasty’s actual name is Random, named after the character2 in Roger Zelazny’sepic series.
Navi, it is always a great pleasure to meet someone that is pleased to meet me. :) Come back any time you like!
The Topic: "Have you ever named a pet after a WoW NPC?" Oddly, this topic also came up last night while running randoms with some friends. I could swear I had posted about it here, but apparently it was only Twitter. Let’s fix that.
The answer, as you probably guessed, is "yes." This past January, we rescued a tiny Tonkinese kitten from our apartment’s parking lot. She was slow. She was listless. Her little belly was swollen. We took her in, and within a couple of days the was scaling anything scalable to be with her new peoples. She was fierce. None of the other cats were safe from her epic pounces. And she’d steal my pillow from me as I slept.
We named her Jaina (that’s her to the left).
A couple of weeks later, we took her to the doc, and the prognosis was grim. FIP is not a treatable disease. Fortunately, it’s only usually communicable to very young and very old kitties, so our other four cats were probably not at risk. We were told, it was a matter or weeks. We took her home, and decided that her last weeks on Earth would be good ones, until she showed signs of slowing down we’d love her.
So, here we are in August. She’s grown into a lovely young lady; still as spritely and fierce as ever. She has a favorite toy, which she will drop at your feet and then pat you on the elbow as if to say, "Please play with me." She’s possibly the smartest cat I’ve ever seen. She pretty much runs things around here as far as the other cats are concerned.
We’re keenly hoping that prognosis was wrong; FIP is a hard thing to diagnose, and the symptoms that she had may have been due to malnourishment than anything else.
So, yes, WoW Insider, we have, but since I had to show her off a little, I answered here.