Far Side of the World

No this isn’t about Pandaria, just a heads up, though there is a reference to this in WoW. 

On this fine Saturday morning, a day far too hot to go outside, one of my favorite movies has started:
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). The film is directed by Peter Weir and stars Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings) and Max Pirkis (Rome) among others.

© 2003 20th Century Fox, Miramax Films and Universal Studios

Yes, I love historical films but I know absolutely nothing about sailing and less about British history during the early 1800s. But the main character, Jack Aubrey is this rough navel officer who has this curious artistic soul.
He enjoys playing the violin yet he’s far from being a dandy which is what you usually see in characters of this sort, he is a very complex character who is completely dedicated to his job in the British Navy and all that entails.

The movie is actually based on multiple books by writer Patrick O’Brien and watching the movie led me to start the whole series, 21 books in all with the last one never completed due to O’Brian’s death in 2000. The movie is just a toe-dip into an incredibly rich world!

I have to say that I didn’t read the books but listened to them since I had an ongoing subscription to Audible. One of the things that I thought uncanny is that this modern writer has truly captured the essence of that time. I have read Jane Austen‘s books written during in same period that the series is set and the speech is the same. It’s amazing that he pulls it off book after book.

And I also have to admit that I understood little of the technical aspects of tall ship sailing but the love of the characters “Lucky” Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin prompted me to research the technical things: parts of a ship and what they do, winds, shipping lanes, period foods (what is lobscouse, spotted dick or dog, and treacle-dowdy?)

It’s a world where everyone is called Mister no matter the rank, storytelling is held in high esteem by the men since few could read, yet throughout most of the series they are at war with France and the USA so the often brutal life onboard is in no ways withheld.
Because of the war, there is plenty of political intrigue that lies behind much of what is going on in the story. You can really get sucked into the story and when finishing one book, I had to start the next immediately.

Blizzard has referenced the books in Cataclysm, you can find Admiral Aubrey at Northwatch Hold in Southern Barrens. I’m so glad they promoted him!

Along with his captain’s steward Killick not too far away.

If I’ve tempted you, a list of the books in order are:

Master and Commander (1970)
Post Captain (1972)
HMS Surprise (1973)
The Mauritius Command (1977)
Desolation Island (1978)
The Fortune of War (1979)
The Surgeon’s Mate (1980)
The Ionian Mission (1981)
Treason’s Harbour (1983)
The Far Side of the World (1984)
The Reverse of the Medal (1986)
The Letter of Marque (1988)
The Thirteen Gun Salute (1989)
The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)
Clarissa Oakes (1992) – (The Truelove in the USA)
The Wine-Dark Sea (1993)
The Commodore (1995)
The Yellow Admiral (1996)
The Hundred Days (1998)
Blue at the Mizzen (1999)
The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey (2004) – (21 in the USA)

There are also many companion books and websites. One book that I picked up is Harbors and High Seas by Dean King which has info about tides and trade winds and currents as well as maps.

A few websites are:
The Patrick O’Brian Compendium
Lobscouse and Spotted Dog

It’s been a few years now since I finished the last book but I’ve been missing them so I think it’s about time to hit the high seas once more!

Replica of Jack Aubrey’s ship HMS Surprise

The One Where I Became A Panda

Last night I finished the Pandaren starting zone and I have to say that I was disappointed to have to go to Stormwind. I really didn’t want to leave, it’s so wonderful!

I really am impressed with the artwork, I would find myself at times wanting to do nothing more than soak up the surroundings. The world is both brilliant and sedate if both can exist in the same sentence, a true ying/yang experience. Nothing I can say does justice to the world they have created. You just have to see it.

The quests are fun with the usual Blizzard sense of humor and a lot of cool mechanics. Lots of them made me laugh in delight but I did get lost in some of the story so I want to do it all over again.

The fact that I do want to experience the zone again so soon says a lot in itself. When I was in the beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I became so sick of doing those same quests that lots of evenings I just couldn’t bring myself to log in even to do the new content. For the sake of full disclosure, I’ve not been logging into the live WoW servers much lately since I stopped raiding. But that’s probably another post that I don’t want to go into here.

But they have done so much to enable you to buy-in to the idea of being in another land. The detail in true Blizzard form is astounding and this is just the beta! Once everything is released, I’m looking forward to taking lots of screenshots of the finished product!

Speaking of beta, there were two things I ran across that really made me laugh. See if you notice them…

    

One thing that was disappointing to me is how quickly things progress from the point where you have met the Horde and Alliance, it almost feels a bit rushed. Or maybe I just know the end is coming and I don’t want it to.

I was chatting with a friend and he brought up the fact that there is no mention of WHY we have to make a choice of Horde or Alliance within the context of the Pandaren world. Everything is framed in a sense that the elders may know about who they are but is it assumed that the new Pandarens do?

But it seems a great time to introduce who these Horde and Alliance people are from the Pandaren point of view. It seems strange for this ancient race to ship their young warriors off to these new lands without much of an explanation of who these strangers are… “they need help, we’ll go help them”.

I do play alliance on my toons so when I chose Alliance, it kinda felt out of character for the three Pandarens to show up at Stormwind’s gate, go see the King and get this lecture after having saved his people and having had their homeland threatened. It feels as if Varian Wrynn is doing them some sort of a favor by allowing them into the Alliance. I do hope they will flesh out this last part a bit more.

My Pandaren master admonished me to have patience and so I shall. In the meantime, I still have to say Great Job Blizzard!

Back to the Future: Looking at the expansion “leak” again

I’m sure most of you by now have seen the supposed leaked list of expansion zones. I wasn’t sure when it surfaced but after some googling, I found a set of posts on a ZAM Network starting in 2007 all the way through 2011.  The guy who posted stated that he’d been sent the info in 2003 or 2004 from a buddy in the Friends And Family Beta.  Later in the thread (August 2009) he admits to faking the list and writing it himself in Fall 2007.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at it again as it’s been a while since the thing made it’s way into the open. How close is his 2007 post to what we are seeing in 2012?

When he wrote the list, Burning Crusade was already released. So this is spot on and he could have changed some names to make it look more official than it was.

Draenor SetBurning Crusade, announced 2005, released Jan 2007
Azuremyst Isle – 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle – 10 to 20  (Bloodmyst Isle)
Eversong Forest – 1 to 10  (Eversong Woods)
Quel’thalas – 10 to 20  (Ghostlands)
Hellfire Peninsula – 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh – 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest – 61 to 65
The Deadlands – 63 to 67   (Auchindoun area that was incorporated into Terrokkar?)
Nagrand – 64 to 68
Blade’s Edge Mountains – 66 to 70
Netherstorm – 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley – 69 to 70

Northrend SetWrath of the Lich King announced 2007, released Nov 2008   Remember, the list was written in Sept 2007. This list is exactly what was released except for the level ranges being a bit different.
Borean Tundra – 67 to 70
Howling Fjord – 67 to 70
Dragonblight – 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills – 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest – 72 to 75
Zul’drak – 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin – 75 to 79
Storm Peaks – 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier – 78 to 80   (Icecrown)

Now things start to get a bit broken up, however it’s still interesting to see how many of his proposed zones did make it to Cataclysm.

Maelstrom Set Cataclysm, announced 2009, released Dec 2010
Gilneas – 77 to 80    (Worgen starting area, I really wish they’d turned this into an inhabited zone, the design is so cool. Shame that nothing is there unless you pvp)
Grim Batol – 78 to 81   (L85 dungeon in Cataclysm, zone is Twilight Highlands. Do note that in Vanilla, Grim Batol was part of a subzone of Wetlands which was guarded by elite red dragonflight)
Kul Tiras – 79 to 82    (Home of the Proudmoore family, not released but some think it may be released with Mists of Pandaria after the sacking of Theramore)
Kezan – 81 to 86   (Goblin secondary zone in Cataclysm)
Tel Abim – 83 to 85     (unreleased)
Zandalar – 84 to 87  (unreleased, may be part of Mist of Pandaria, it is on Blizzcon 2011 zone map for Pandaria per Wowpedia)
Plunder Isle – 86 to 88   (Home of the Bloodsaid Buccaneers, not released. Some speculation that it might be Hiji due to similar shape and area per Wowpedia. Also it could be released at the same time as KulTiras if they do release that zone. Could even be another pvp area)
The Broken Isles – 87 to 90   (unreleased)
The Maelstrom – 89 to 90   (Not released as a zone but a sub area with Thrall for the sake of storytelling)

Missing from this set are the zones of Uldum, Tol Barad, (which is part of the Kul Tiras islands), Mount Hyjal, Lost Isles, and Vashj’ir. It’s interesting that he didn’t have Mount Hyjal down on his list, it’s such a big part of the lore.

The next two sets are and could be a mix of what we now know is the Mists of Pandaria and the next unannounced expansion along with what was mentioned above.  We know that the Elemental Planes were introduced in the Cataclysm when Deathwing rose from Deepholm.  Also part of the Plane Set are the areas that look to be the much anticipated (at least by me) Emerald Dream story arc.  Blizzard has said that they have plans for the Dream when they can fit it in. Some have speculated that it could be patched into Mists of Pandaria since it sort of fits into the vibe.  According to a Wowinsider post, it HAS been in development.

Plane Set
Pandaria – 1 to 10   (The Wandering Isle)
Hiji – 10 to 20  (unreleased)

Wolfenhold – 1 to 10   (in his mind, Worgen start zone?)
Xorothian Plains – 10 to 20  (See Xoroth)

The Green Lands – 88 to 91   (unreleased)
The Dying Paradise – 91 to 94   (unreleased)
The Emerald Nightmare – 94 to 97   (unreleased)
The Eye of Ysera – 97 to 100  (unreleased, Green Dragonflight’s main base within the Dream)

Deephome – 88 to 91   (Cataclysm 82-83 zone)
Skywall – 91 to 94    (Became Cataclysm L85 raid)
The Abyssal Maw – 94 to 97   (Not released as a raid, yet)
The Firelands – 97 to 100   (Became Cataclysm L85 raid, patch 4.2)

Legion SetEradar and the beginning/end of the Burning Legion?
K’aresh – 96 to 99  (Home of the Ethereals, interesting that they have been reintroduced)
Argus Meadowlands – 97 to 100  (Argus is the homeworld of the Eradar/Draenei)
Mac’Aree – 99 to 100   (Main city on Argus)
Maw of Oblivion – 100+  (This is actually part of the quest to get the Rogue epic daggers)
The Burning Citadel – 100+++

So, overall, he has had a lot of things right, but further down the list, things still show up but are not quite as he predicted. Still, this is a really good match to what we have seen so far considering it was made up five years ago.

I’ve been thinking (and hoping) that the next two expansions will deal with the light/darkness, dream/nightmare stories since these have not yet been expounded upon. There have been some interesting tinfoil hat articles regarding this by Anne Stickney at Wowinsider, see Know Your Lore.  I’m really hoping that the Dream will be next, anything to do with dragon/titan lore is especially interesting to me for some reason.

Also, I find it intriguing that the new enemy, according to Chris Metzen during Blizzcon 2011, will be War.  And that perhaps the Horde and Alliance of Azeroth have been drawn to Pandaria to learn lessons. Lessons that will prepare them for these future conflicts between internal light and darkness, dream and nightmare?

To quote Illidan Stormrage in the Dark Temple, “You Are Not Prepared”

The WoW is in The Details

I created a blog for general stuff over at Tumblr and wrote a post to explain to my friends and family one of the reasons that WoW appeals to me. Then it occurred to me that since I’m playing again, I should copy it to here.

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I mentioned in my first post that I play World of Warcraft, WoW for short. Well, I didn’t mention that I’ve been playing pretty much nonstop for over seven years. Yes, I said SEVEN.

WoW was released by Blizzard Entertainment in the fall of 2004 and I’ve been playing almost every day since then. Why do I play?

Well, there are many reasons but the one I wanted to talk about today is their unwavering attention to detail. The game has multiple continents with many races and each zone has it’s own feeling of place. When they create new expansions and new zones, they create items to fill up the new areas so that you feel as if it’s truly lived in and real.

One of the new zones is Uldum which is modeled after the Nile basin, here are a few pictures from that zone….

I love how the steam rises out of the pot of tea or coffee sitting on the table of a bedouin-type tent. It’s as if the occupants stepped away for just a moment.

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Notice the cobra handles on this brazier and the fire burning within. And see the little motifs on the side? So much work went into this.

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Here is a lantern, notice the flickering flame and the scarabs on the side. Also the bird motif on the statuary and the palms.

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The peoples in this zone, like the early Egyptians, are farmers. Here is a screenshot of a waterwheel that is moving the water to the fields above. Again, this has no in-game purpose except to provide a sense of place. The windmill on top and the internal mechanism is rotating as if it were raising water up. In the background are the crops.

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There is another zone called Twilight Highlands where one the races are dwarves who use gryphons as their form of transportation. Note the heads of the gryphon (half eagle/half lion) on each side. Also note that these lanterns are made of metal, the dwarves in the game are blacksmiths. Again, the fire within twinkles similar to the real thing. The lamps in the prior zone looked to be stone.

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And finally, here is a screenshot of the Night Elf main city Darnassus. What struck me is the sun coming through the trees. It has the same effect as when you look at the sun through a camera. As you move in the game, it changes.

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The Night Elf race architecture has a very Japanese feel to it, very serene with a sense of feng-shui.

I’ve written this post mostly for my friends and relatives who have not played the game so they can get a sense of it’s appeal.

If you play then I hope you’ve noticed a few things you’ve not seen before! Ciao!

The Pilgrimage… and remembering

Soooo, one week from tonight and I’ll be where I’ve wanted to be for six years now… Blizzcon! 

I keep looking over my shoulder for someone to say, “um, excuse me, you’ve made a mistake, it’s actually in San Diego and you’re flying to the wrong place!”  I can’t wait to see the panels in person, watch the contests and meet people who love WoW as much as I do!

Feeling quite nostalgic, I was talking with a friend recently, we were discussing our reactions to WoW when it was released. We both had that “I have to play” syndrome where our server would go down (you remember those first few months) and we’d jump on another server, any server, to create a character in order to keep playing. There was so much to discover and learn!!  I probably had dozens of toons below ten on different servers back then.

And it wasn’t that I’d never played an MMO before, I started in EQ back in 2001. I played that for about a year until one of their expansions rendered my fairly new video card obsolete.

So I moved to DAOC which I dearly loved. Once I found the right server, I had such a fun time in that game. There are still times when I miss that community and I’m still friends with several folks that I met there. We had an absolutely wonderful bunch of people playing, everyone knew each other on the server and raid invites were open to everyone. There were no  instances back then.

I also dabbled in Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes, & D&D Online so my enchantment with WoW wasn’t because I was discovering MMOs.  It was the game itself rather than the MMO experience.

I started WoW during the second stress test and through the open beta and I still remember clicking on Katherinne’s enter button at the character screen and the cut scene soaring around until it brought me to my starting spot.  What I remember more was the realization that the cut scene wasn’t just an animation, I had actually been flying over other  toons that were playing below me.  Whoa!  I’d not seen that before!!

There were so many nice things that WoW brought to the table that had not been done in previous MMOs but one that really made a huge difference was the ability to mail to your alts – in EQ, you had to find someone who’d hold your stuff and then log off and hope they’d be there when you got back.  Or some brave souls would drop their stuff in a remote house and then log back in hoping someone had not taken it.  In DAOC, you had to purchase a house and/or guild house in order to store your stuff and that didn’t happen for a while in the game. So this ability was HUGE in 2004.

My friend went to the first Blizzcon and received Murky, I was so jealous (and still am). I LOVE that little guy’s song and dance!

But then I always did love Michigan J. Frog!

Yep, he got Murky but…  he didn’t get to see the Foo Fighters!   If you’re going, I’ll see ya there!

Nice Changes and Surprises

I’ve joined a new guild, Afraid of Elementals  to raid Firelands and am very excited. I raided with them on Thursday and we all had our first Beth’tilac and Lord Rhyolith kill which was a really nice way to start. They seem to have a nice mix of fun and concentration which is very refreshing. I am very much looking forward to raiding with them.

Then last night I was checking spam mail before deleting it and I had a Star Wars: The Old Republic beta invite, big surprise there!. Checked it out with a friend who is into these things (visit Ask A Jedi to see his excellent site) to make sure it was legit and am currently downloading right now. It’s almost done, it’s taken six hours so far so we’ll see how it goes.

The funny thing about this is that I have a post partly written to talk about TOR and what I’ve observed so far and why I’m not excited about buying it so now I won’t be able finish that. But I can talk about it before I start, I suppose. I’m sure a lot of people have already voiced concern about many of them but this is just my take given somewhat hurriedly before I log into the game and become silenced.

NPC Combat Interaction: This is probably the biggest thing so far that’s irritated me when watching the play by play movies. It seems that there is little in the way of NPC AI, you shoot at a mob and it just stands there upright and doesn’t have any evasive maneuvers. I hope that has changed or will be  before release.

Drab Colors and Enviroments: One of the biggest reasons that I love WoW is that it is a world that I enjoy being in. I remember not really caring for the cartoonishness of it when I first saw it (before playing) but once I logged in, I was hooked.  So far, it seems the TOR characters are kinda blah and most of the environments that I’ve seen have been ok.

Quest Interactions: I’m thinking that it’s going to take a while to get through the NPC Quest interactions with their voiced narratives. I think it will be cool for a while but if you log on and you only have a few hours, how far will you be able to progress. So far, when I’ve watched the movies, I’ve become bored with all that dialogue after a while.  Also, a lot of the things that I’ve heard the NPC’s say is really hokey and sometimes almost patronizing. I don’t want them saying stuff so I  feel like a hero, I want to do stuff and be one!

Unrealistic Aspects: I have been an avid, no really pretty rabid Star Wars fan since seeing it in 1977. I was an adult (sorta) when i saw it.

This is how I have always looked at Star Wars and WoW: WoW is total fantasy, the cartoon, you ride dragons, you have magic, etc.  But Star Wars is fantasy set in a realistic type setting. Yes, the animals and species aren’t real but the rest was set in spaces that were real since it was live action.  So there are particular things about the game that bother me.  Maybe I’m just being picky.

The first thing is related to my second concern and is the NPC interactions. Some of the things I’ve heard officers say doesn’t sound like a response that a trained soldier would make. This is very irritating.

A second is some abilities I’ve seen. The consular’s maneuver of picking up a random object out of the ground reminds me of City of Heroes. I would much rather see them pick up something that is there and throw it rather than pull a huge object from the ground. Really!

Popular Culture References or lack thereof: This is more a curiosity, WoW has been so great with these and they are funny and refreshing to run across, I’m wondering how TOR will fit them into the Star Wars universe and can it be done well.

Well, it’s almost done installing so need to go, thanks again for reading.