Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Cool Things I Found While Writing Grant Proposal

Journal - Games and Culture
First Month Free - all your favs are here: Gee, Yee, Steinkeuhler,

Guild power - Terrorist Guild Holds WoW Server Hostage
get this, it's from an IBM blog!

Snapple Bottle Hack: Use as Urinal - great blog

Guilds: What's in it for me?

Is World of Warcraft the New Golf?

news tidbit dated 12/19/05:
As the competition scrambles to catch up, Blizzard continues to pull ahead of the pack; World of Warcraft's worldwide expansion has lead to now more than five million customers joining the online adventure. And that doesn't include free subscriptions, expired subscriptions, etc. - these are active, used accounts.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Just News and Info

Got my alt stuck between a rock and a hard place while running back to my corpse. Brudie suggested the Help button (?) on the toolbar. There I found the option to click on: STUCK. This offered a hearth solution, but I'm dead and as we all know, the dead cannot hearth. In fact, they can't do much.

So, there is, at the STUCK window, the option to send an in-game message to a supposedy in-game game master who can help. Well, it's been close to an hour and no one has come for me. I feel so ... alone.

Also of note:

    Twinkleheal DING'd to 39.
    Eddiva and Perrenelle are closing in on the upside of 20.
    Redbaine is MIA and dropping like a rock from our consciousness.
    My husband decided if he couldn't beat 'em, he'd join 'em and is now a lvl 7 elf named Clivenar. Feel free to harrass him.

...and...I am now playing on my MacBook Pro, and let me tell you the graphics are mindblowing...and the lag nonexistent.

Monday, February 20, 2006

the night elf emerges

The social night elf..

First of all, I want to warn everyone, I have never been a gamer. With this being said, I feel that my voice is important in this blog because of that very fact. My frame of reference is very limited, but open to new ideas and horizons. I started out level 1 as a timid, confused night elf. I am now a level 26 night elf, not as confused, still wandering a little aimlessly but enjoying it more. I have determined I play more for the social aspect than anything else. YES, I like leveling and YES I like questing, but most importantly, I prefer to do that with people than without. If I log in and see no one is playing, I usually will log directly back out and email people to see when we can all play.


A few weeks ago there was a Friday night meet to run naked from the gnome starting point to another location.. no weapons, no clothes and VERY short characters. I would venture to say there were about 15-20 people that joined in on the fun, and it was! We created a RAID channel and GUILD called . We all started out together, and were running along happily when we slowly were killed off. We had one hour to complete the mission and I was far from the winner, but had a great time with the guild chatting and cracking jokes. A great way to meet others and interact with new people from a different server (Ice Crown).

More.. very soon

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reflections on reading quests, and community support

Some musings on a recent review of some of the postings on all the Darkshore quests by an informal WoW support community, Allakhazam, (see http://wow.allakhazam.com/db/qlookup.html?zone=38). This is definitely a community that understands social capital: they have posting ratings and karma counts for members.

There is a long-chained series of quests that is originally initiated in Darkshore called “The Tower of Athalaxx” (9 quests in all). I was following the posts about one of the quests initiated by a quest giver in Ashenvale (Delgren the Purifier). The quest itself explicitly gives the quest location, which is also in Ashenvale. But in taking a look at the discussion and Q&A about the quest, at
http://wow.allakhazam.com/db/quest.html?wquest=970, I’m struck by several things.

First of all, many of the players spent several hours struggling with the quest because they did not read the quest description, although it is a very short:

“Balthule's letter is dire. This Cult of the Dark Strand is a thorn in my side that must be removed. I have been dealing with some of the Dark Strand scum northeast of here at Ordil'Aran. One of their number possesses a soul gem that I believe holds the secret to the cult's power.Bring it to me, and I will be able to decipher the secrets held within.”

Secondly, posters in the forum clarified that point clearly several times, yet further down you can see people still posting about their difficulties in carrying out the quest in Darkshore.

I'm wondering if this is an indicator of what Linda's been calling a digital divide based on use of "complex mediational tools and artifacts" instead of a word based culture.

Finally, I’ve noticed that there is almost always one or more detailed, helpful posts telling players how to work the quest. I'd be very curious to know something about where these folks are on the mediational continuum. Here’s an example of one authored by a player, Tirel.

“I got pretty frustrated with this one, like everybody else I kept killing things (trying not to get killed myself) and got a lot of silk and whool-cloth but no gem. Thankfully I checked back here and read that other people had had the same problem, so I stayed and four kills later finally got the drop. Here's a tip for "under-aged" Druids going into this: Don't try taking on the perimeter mobs, since they all are warlocks with minions, so you will always at least fight tow of them if you're lucky enough to not get any add-ons from the surrounding guards. If you stay in caster form and keep nuking the warlock, the minion will shred you, if you go into bear-form, you can shred the minion, but will continue taking damage from the caster and by the time you're done with the minion , you'll be too low on life to nuke the caster from afar so you have to run up and have a big probability of aggroing another pair (at which point you usually see the little sign "Game Over! Insert Coin!"). However, if you approach from the side, along the hills (on your right-hand side if you're coming from the retreat or on your left if you're coming from Darkshore) and you watch the warlocks patrolling carefully, you can sneak through to the center section (staying somewhat up in the hills and hiding behind trees and bolders). In this center-piece there are mainly "Defenders" and "Excavaters" and you can pull them one by one fo yu're careful. Neither has ranged weapons, so they will run to where you are and out of sight of everyone else, where you can safely kill them, heal yourself and keep repeating until the frelling gem drops. The very worst that happened to me was that two came a the same time, but that is doable. Excellent use of cat and prowling if you already have the form, but it's also possible to sneak there or you can simply wait until a hunter has cleared out some of the warlocks (2 vs 2 is so much fairer ;)) and get in that way. The safest, at any rate, is to do this one in a party, though :) Love and Peace and Best of Luck! Tiriel

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A moment to reflect on growth

Ok, first, ding, Lvl 35. Finally. I can now fly to Feathermoon village and up my alchemy potential to 300.

But getting to 35 was a much bigger deal than I expected, because I also saw growth in myself as a player, not just in my avatar.

As a night elf, the progression of growth is to go from Teldrassil, the newby land, to Darkshore, where you spend lvls 12-24 running around Auberdine, and then from there, you've got a lot of options. One of the quests you get in Darkshore, though, is the Tower of Althalaxx, and it's a tough nut to crack. I got it initially about lvl18 (though I don't remember specifically). A chain of quests, it starts in Darkshore, but then you end up running down into Ashenvale to complete aspects of it, and then finally you come back to the tower east of Auberdine to complete it. The final quest is lvl 31, and it involves going into a multi-layer tower, fighting casters and Void Walkers all the way up, until you reach the Boss at the top.

Frankly, I'd despaired of completing the task - when I first got the quest, I didn't really understand the concept of chain quests, and didn't really see the design discussion behind creating a chain that you couldn't complete alone until you'd sufficiently progressed.

In any case, after a while of futile attempts at the quest, I just left it alone. It stayed in my quest log, but I started questing more widely, in the Wetlands, and in STV. I looked at Althalaxx from time to time as I advanced, but continued to be daunted by the quest, even as I went past the levels it classified the quest at. "Yeah, right it's a lvl 28 .... I've been burned by you before..."

So I wasn't really thinking about it until Friday, when Scott, my netadmin, who's playing Cainne, said that he and his son (Bountyhunter) were on Althalaxx, and it was kicking their lvl 22 asses. I asked where they were in the quest, and when it became clear that they were in the early stages of the quest, stages that I had completed and could shepherd them through, I offered to give them a hand. I figured that I'd get them to where I was, and then through the power of numbers, we'd knock off the highest level quests. I'd be the high level character, perhaps, but their assistance would put me over the hump.

So that's what we did. We got together yesterday afternoon, and we ran them through the parts of the chain that I'd already done. They did an admirable job - I healed and did some DPS, and they hit as hard as they could, and we did all of the chain, right up to the point where the one NPC told us to go talk to the other NPC outside of the tower, to get the instructions necessary to kill the boss. At that point, I had to go to Kat's basketball game, so I logged, and said I'd catch up with them to run the final boss at a later time. While watching the game, though, I wondered whether I had the ability to run the tower solo - it's a level 31 non-elite quest, after all, and I was 34 - so after we got back, I logged in just to see.

And I killed it. I looked like a hyperskilled, clothy, squishy scythe going through wheat. I was pulling Voidwalkers away from their masters like a rogue, I never had more than two mobs on me at any one time, I was dropping Shadow Word: Pain on one mob to do DPS while I worked on another - I looked like a killing machine. The only hitch I encountered was at the top of the tower, where there's the boss, and three pairs of caster/VW combos. I'd been pulling a combo down the stairs one by one to kill them, and that had worked great but took time. By the time I polished off the third pair, the first one respawned, and at that point, I realized it was time for just a zerg rush - so I quaffed a mana potion, buffed, and then ran at the boss, laid him out, then turned back on the respawned combo and iced them. Looted the corpses, and headed out. And got a whopping 2500 XP for knocking off the bad guy of my dreams. LOL.

I learned several things from the experience. First, intrinsic to the game's design is a tool that facilitates reflective thinking about personal development, if we choose to see it that way - the quest log. What looks like just a functional tool can in fact allow us to see our own personal progress, because we can leave learning challenges on some sort of tracking device until we've become ready for it. I'm sure talented teachers have incorporated some similar structure into their teaching in other ways - a practice journal for beginning pianists, perhaps - but the concreteness of seeing the quest there, over and over, until I finished it, raised the value of the accomplishment.

Second, I thought a bit about Blizzard's designers, and why they would put a chain of quests that ended at 31 in a region devoted to lvl 13s. I can only come up with four variations. One, they're sadists. Two, they're trying to encourage the development of groups as players prepare to exit the area. Three, they don't understand the consequences, the affordances, that their level choices give to the game play. Or Four, they consciously were trying to create a milestone for characters to point at - I finished Althalaxx. I'd love to be able to ask.

The last thing I learned was really more of a question. I've still got a commitment out there to run Cainne and Bountyhunter through the tower, but now I don't know whether that's the best idea. I'll do it because of friendship, and that's how we roll, but I wonder if they'll have nearly the same sense of accomplishment as I do at this moment. It's not cheating to be scaffolded, but from the teacher's perspective, there's a calculation to be made about letting someone fail for a while before demonstrating the solution - and I hadn't considered that before. As I said, I'll run them through the tower, and we'll celebrate at the end, but I'll also look forward to seeing and hearing from them when they report conquering a different task, their own Tower of Althalaxx.


So Cainne and Bountyhunter joined me and we went back to the tower last night, and I learned yet more.

Because it was harder. Much harder. And it was all due to managing aggro radii - with party members of lvl 23 traveling with me, the lvl 28 mobs went nuts. Pulling just one pair at a time was a real challenge, and we wiped once before I figured out what was going on. After that, we backed off a little - they hung back further, and we were able to get it done. Yet another interesting byproduct of game rules!