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Warlords of Draenor: First Weekend

November 17th, 2014 by

I was bad this weekend: I didn’t check email at all until Sunday, early evening, and then had a total panic. Aside from that it was a wonderful weekend of pure slackage, a jump back into a world that I have loved for ten years, and quite a lot of frustration.

The frustration part had to do with the massive queues on Argent Dawn, my server of choice and the location of my main characters. I’d paid to move every single one there at great expense because I’ve always loved the community there. The server is highly populated, the focus of RP events for the EU, and generally a pretty nice place to call home. Come the expansion, however, and there were queues of 3k to 4k starting from midday until late…yep, three and four hour queues if you were lucky. Garrisons were also a bit shaky the first weekend and quite often you would get “stuck,” unable to actually play your character until things reset.

So, I scrapped my plans to level my warlock main. Also my Horde warlock. Also my newly boosted monk. Instead, my hunter Kitsune and I got re-acquainted back on Aggramar and I levelled her instead. Not entirely a bad thing, as new pets to tame was a huge draw. A few thoughts about the weekend:

  • Garrisons are awesome.
  • Garrisons should have been beta-tested a bit better, as they were buggy as hell.
  • Instances are fun again. No iLevel epeen and being forced to group with the GoGoGo guy. No snarky comments because you didn’t happen to know the instance inside and out the first time you run it. Just pure fun and exploration. I actually had to crowd control again…I can’t tell you how many years it’s been since I needed to do that. No grabbing everything in the entire dungeon and AOEing it down, just having fun. Awesome.
  • Armor is still fugly. I’ve always hated Warcraft’s armor design.
  • Seeing timelost versions of familiar areas was fantastic. There were a lot of very emotional scenes, and the voice acting (for the most part) was well done.
  • Everything was a bit too easy – all mobs could have been tuned up a bit. If an encounter says that it needs three people, you shouldn’t be able to solo it without your health ever dipping, that’s just not a challenge.
  • There were still a few really stupid bottlenecks. Remember in MoP, the scroll that everyone had to click on in the panda starting area? Why on earth would you not learn from that? Bad, bad, lazy Blizzard. Shame on you.
  • Gorgeous. Everything is gorgeous.
  • I still haven’t gotten used to human female’s faces. The expression “surprise buttsex” comes to mind. You know what I’m talking about.
  • I thought that it would irritate me to not be able to fly…but so far it’s not.
  • Did I mention how much I love garrisons? :)

Here are a few shots from the weekend:

 

wod1 wod2 wod3 wod4 wod5 wod6 wod7

Blue-Arsed Fly

November 11th, 2014 by

Autumn is always the busiest time for me, and this fall was hellishly busy. I love the work, of course, but the stress of having so many covers to do simultaneously is horrible. At the moment I’m booked into February and hope to be able to have a bit of downtime around the holidays in order to recharge the batteries and do some personal artwork. Perhaps even some writing. (Along with drinking holiday Baileys and eating pannetone.)

But this was supposed to be a gaming post. It’s liable to be a very short one because I haven’t had a massive amount of free time and being tired makes me feel cranky and unable to concentrate on anything…rather like an exhausted two-year-old, it’s neither a pretty sight nor pleasant to be around. :)

I finally cancelled my subscription to ArcheAge, and Phil and I sold our farms. Our lovely, lovely farms ideally situated on the coast, near the crafting stations. The things we’d worked so hard during headstart to get. I still love the game, but two things were wearing me down: one was the open-world pvp, which mainly means that you get ganked by zergs. It’s the ideal game for PKers, which are people who don’t have the guts or the skill to go off and kill enemy faction but instead prefer to hide and prey on members of their own faction who are just trying to move a tradepack from here to there. Bottom-feeder pvp.

The other, more important, thing that was bothering me about ArcheAge was the Trion/XLGames situation. XL seems reluctant to make any changes to their poorly-designed game in order to combat hackers and bots. It’s a beautiful, immersive game – they did an amazing job there. It’s also coded so that much of the game is client side. Even someone with zero technical skills can adapt a config file that ensures all packs are worth more money, for instance. Packet spoofing abounds, leading to hacks such as the land-grab hack which allows individuals to snap up any free land before a player can claim it without even needing to be online at the time. Bots teleport underground, create items to sell from no actual materials, and teleport to turn in trade packs.

Trion, who seem to have treated this game from day one as a massive cash grab, try to ignore the issues. GMs close thread after thread on the forums and customer service is next to non-existent. The final touch was when I went to cancel my subscription to the game…THE CANCEL BUTTON HAD BEEN REMOVED. It used to exist, but is nowhere to be seen now. There are very long threads on the forums confirming the same thing. I placed a ticket (which remains unanswered to this day), deleted my credit card information and mentally gave them two fingers as I logged out. My, how the formerly mighty (and well-respected) have fallen.

What have I been playing? I updated FFXIV for the free weekend, started a baby rogue and enjoyed it so much that I resubbed. I also have a sub to Warcraft, which I am currently not playing until Warlords of Draenor comes out. Really looking forward to that one. :) And Rift a bit, mainly for minions which are very addictive.

The holiday period, and having some free time, is going to be wonderful.

Not Dead Yet Post #4567

October 14th, 2014 by

I haven’t updated in…well, in forever. No time, no energy. Feeling unwell really sucks, as does sitting at your desk and being able to run your hands through your hair and pull out strands and hanks of it – such a horrible feeling. This Leo’s vanity is in shreds and tatters, I tell you! :)

For the moment I’ve placed a notice on the site that I’m not taking on any additional cover work for the rest of the year as I am fully booked. Having a full schedule is awesome for a freelancer, of course – but there have been some issues with all the work. One of those issues includes not actually getting paid, which is the first time that this has happened since I began working freelance. I suppose that you can only bank on people’s decency for so long before you run into a few bad apples, but nevertheless I’ll be working on some new guidelines for the coming year.

But enough with the negative stuff, put that crap away in a box and shut the lid. I’ve really been wanting to write lately, I’ve been feeling the deep itch to put all those stories jostling each other in my mind down on paper. I think that I could be an okay writer in time – or at least I think I could tell an interesting story. Hey, we all suck when starting out, right? We’re allowed. The point is getting better, to learn your craft and put those hours of mind sweat in and finally get some reasonable chops that you’re not ashamed for others to see. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Phil and I are still playing some ArcheAge, although the reality of playing in a mostly unmoderated sandbox is getting me down a bit. There are bots and hackers galore, which Trion seems unmotivated to control (if anyone still works at Trion, that is – I have a feeling that things are mostly running themselves). There are a lot of very unlovely types playing the game, more than I remembered existing in EVE. It’s a shame, as I think this game had more potential than any MMO that I’ve seen in years.

Winter is coming, well and truly. Not gorgeous postcard-lovely winter with fluffy snow, but that thin, mean English winter consisting of rain, grey skies and fingers and toes which just won’t warm up.

And speaking of cold fingers, I think it’s time for another cup of tea. :)

Going Home Again

August 28th, 2014 by

While I have been working through a massive pile of work to do (a twelve hour day yesterday, I kid thee not), Phil has been on holiday. All. Summer. Long. He works for a school, so he just had six full weeks of holiday.

I hate him, just a little bit. Hey, I kid, I kid…I think.

Anyway, along with working through a long “Honey Do” list, he’s been doing a lot of gaming and one of those games has been Warcraft. We have old friends who have been playing with him after being away from the game for a long time, and me when I can. It’s been wonderful.

Phil played Warcraft in beta over ten years ago; I didn’t play at launch, but probably began playing in 2005. I rolled a warlock (who I am still playing as a main today) and never looked back. This was the point where I truly became a real gamer. Oh, sure, I’d played before that, beginning with Quake and lan parties all the way to roleplay in Vampire the Masquerade, Mage, Changeling, etc. I was always a gamer, but Warcraft was the game in which I discovered a place to actually live in as a part of a band of adventurers, rather than a way to spend an evening. I watched the sun rise over the Barrens, hunted fabulous beasts to tame as my animal companions and stood shoulder-to-shoulder before Ragnaros and Nefarion.

As the years went by there were newer, shinier games to experience, but none that I’ve loved as much as I did Warcraft, and wherever I go I will always have that memory of sitting on a small hill in the Barrens, watching dawn slowly creep over the grass plains as a herd of gazelle bound past. It will always feel like home.

 

Vanilla Wow

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

August 21st, 2014 by

We’ve all seen the videos, laughed at some of them, loved some of them (Nathan Fillion and Tom Hiddleston, oh my!) and then gradually become irritated with seeing them posted and reposted. I hope that this has raised some money for the ALS Association as well as made people a bit more informed about what the disease actually does…but I don’t think people really understand what ALS is all about.

My mother died of ALS. To be completely accurate, she actually died from an infected gallbladder in hospital while doctors debated the best way to put someone under anaesthesia whose ability to breathe was already so compromised. But in the end, ALS was the real cause.

In the beginning it affected her throat, and her doctor at first theorised that she may have had a small stroke that affected the muscles in that area. As it progressed, she found herself unable to speak, swallow and at the end breathe. She had a keyboard that would speak for her but she hated using it. The woman who had been very bright, friendly and a force for good in her community, her family and her church, saw her world shrink to the confines of her house. If you are unable to communicate, if no one can understand the sounds that you make, it is both humiliating for the sick person and embarrassing for the people that she is trying to speak to.

Imagine being gradually locked into your body, a prisoner of unresponsive flesh. Still smart, still bright, still full of love and things that you want to say and do, but locked in.

I’ll tell you a personal story, a small one, to illustrate what an early stage of ALS is actually like: I was visiting from the UK and had gone with my mother to pick up lunch for everyone from Taco Bell – something that millions of people do every day without it becoming a personal ordeal. I was really struggling with understanding her speech, as my infrequent visits from abroad meant that I was much less used to translating what she was trying to say than the rest of the family.

I ordered what I needed to, and turned to my mother to ask what she wanted. As it was lunchtime, the restaurant was packed and people were waiting behind us. She said something, and I couldn’t understand her. She tried again and again, and as much as I desperately wanted to understand what she wanted, it wouldn’t come together in words. The person behind the counter waited politely, the people behind us waited politely, and my mother kept trying. Her eyes were bright with tears and her face was flushed, but she stood there and kept saying whatever she was trying to say. You have to understand that there are things which run deep in our family (aside from nasty tempers): pride, a stubborn streak a mile wide. and politeness. She was too stubborn to use her keyboard. I didn’t want to insult her by just ordering something for her, or asking her to point, so we remained stalemated in hell. (Yeah, yeah, Taco Hell, ha ha.) I have no idea how we finally escaped with our bags of food, but that little episode seemed to take forever.

And that is an experience from the early stages, before it really gets nasty.

So it’s all well and good to post videos of yourself or your friends having buckets of ice water thrown on them. Hopefully you’ll also throw a few bucks at the ALS Association. Just remember that it benefits real people, people who are being reduced to minds locked in failing clay. It’s an evil disease and it can strike anyone.

 

Mom

Go then, there are other worlds than these

August 12th, 2014 by

I woke this morning to the news that Robin Williams had taken his own life yesterday. I’m not a follower of celebrities, but this really rocked me. He was such a part of my life: Mork and Mindy was a part of my high school years, and then his brilliant, mad comedy was a large part of the decades afterwards for me. The clip below (unfortunately audio only) is an example of why he was so crazy-talented – the words “crazy” and “talented” used together intentionally. You couldn’t imagine living with someone like that, the white-hot fierceness of that manic personality would exhaust you and burn you out. Also, you just knew that there had to be a flip side to the manic persona, a darker side…or perhaps that is just hindsight.

I have seen so many links to suicide hotlines posted, so many exhortations to just talk to someone if you’re feeling down, and they’ve been irritating the hell out of me this morning. The intention is good, I’m sure, but how dismissive is it to say that you should just pick yourself up when you’re feeling down, that you should think about what your loss would do to your family and friends. Well, you know what? It’s not as easy as all that. Sometimes depression is something that arrives at your door unexpectedly, when life is good and nothing particularly difficult is happening to you. All of a sudden the world is black. It can feel as sharp as grief (even though no one has died), or like a deep exhaustion that makes every day an insurmountable mountain.

If you’ve lived with depression long enough you know how it works. You know that you’ll have good days again, that this will eventually pass. You also know that it will come back, again and again over the decades. I’ve suffered from depression since childhood. I have my scars which I refuse to hide (although I’ve developed a “you don’t want to go there” look when I know that someone is dying to ask about them). This is me, this is the thing that I’ve always had to deal with, and damn it I’ve managed it…but sometimes I get so damned exhausted. I can relate to someone who made the decision to not deal with it anymore. He didn’t love his family and friends any less…perhaps he just got tired.

Go then, mad prince…I have to believe that there are other worlds than these. It was your burden and your decision to go, so go then.

 

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