Tag Archives: The WoW Ironman Challenge

Sometimes You Meet a Player in WoW, who is a Complete Enigma

Screenshot by Jayrei (via Wowhead.com)

Horde druid travel form, stag version. Screenshot by Jayrei (via Wowhead.com)

Sometimes you meet a player in WoW, who is a complete enigma – I met one such player a few days ago.

Here’s the story of the stag-druid.

Noelani and I were questing in Krasarang Wilds in this area where you have to release Alliance slaves, kill a number of enemies and pick up relics on the ground – a classic combination of quest types.

A druid appears in stag form, he is standing slightly behind us watching while we kill several mogu. We wonder if he is waiting for us to clear the area so he can release the Horde slaves. A little cheeky really, so we sit down and pretend to eat.

The stag-druid then wiggles around on the spot – also known as key-turning. After a minute of idling, he finally decides to attack an enemy and thus he proceeds to walk right up to it and spam wrath – in his natural tauren form.

Odd.

We also see him auto-attacking in bear form and melee hitting with his staff. Stag-druid practically has no modus operandi and seems to prefer standing around in stag form in between combat. After he has killed a few mobs slooowly in these multitude of ways, he gets attacked while again observing us as a stag. He wiggles and wiggles, but ends up dying. We then help him kill a couple of mogu a few times, but he never appears to be looting anything nor actually progressing on his quests.

It becomes clear this person is not waiting specifically for us to clear the area, in fact we have no clue what he is doing. We find him later in Valley of the Four Winds brutally beating a fox to death with the staff again. I know it was a Nesingwary quest, but still.

Valley of Four Winds by Ner1 (via Wowhead.com)

Valley of the Four Winds by Ner1 (via Wowhead.com)

Maybe stag-druid had gained some confidence at this point, because we then see him fighting four mushan beasts at the same time. Stag-druid struggles and of course one of those stealthy foxes comes out and attacks him. Maybe it was karmic, maybe it was just bad luck or maybe stag-druid has always been a tree-hugger and not a killer beast!

Clearly overwhelmed, he backs closer and closer to the edge of the lake nearby and falls down the hill and dies on the bank on top of a turtle. We don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Again stag-druid appears to be a mystery – he was popping cooldowns so he couldn’t be completely clueless. He also used bear form, which is the logical thing to do in this situation, but he would also go out of it to cast wrath and stick fight…

Noelani logs a Horde character and travels to his location, entering a scene where stag-druid is actually about to die again. Noelani tries to strike up a conversation with the intention of offering assistance, but stag-druid stops replying after thanking Noelani for saving him.

We take a look at his armory. It shows him as being mono specced resto and geared accordingly (no respecs), but having only done 15 dungeon ever (never raided). He likes pet battles and has maxed professions. He has waved eight times, hugged twice, but never cheered or laughed – aw! The armory also reveals he has his own guild with 35 members, eight of which are his own, including two level 90 dual-specced characters, which look straight-forward and conventional, though not impeccable.

It’s strange seeing how the armory can be used as a tool for drawing out a whole player-profile. Thinking about this, I’ve often felt like the armory was able to tell people a lot of things about me, that I actually didn’t think were any of their business. Anyways…

It was in the middle of the night on a Saturday, so it could be anyone. I like to imagine this extremely committed, yet young and inexperienced player. Someone who doesn’t have their own account, but they know their relative’s password and they snuck out of bed after everyone was asleep, turned on the computer and beat a fox to death with a stick!

In a way, I admire it. Even though playing is so hard, every mob is a challenge, dying over and over, the guy kept going – like an ironman!

Equal Amounts of Stubbornness and Desperation

Since Elford had reached exalted status with Stormwind and had become a free man, he decided to go back to his old profession – business. Last time he had been to Booty Bay, he could tell his void had been filled, everyone only had errands for him, no one offered him back into the inner circles. The business was tough, everyone wanted to rise above the rest and Elford had lost his old position as an executive, so he had to be clever about building up a new network of partners. However, this was not as easy as he thought it would be.

What happened next was purely driven by equal amounts of stubbornness and desperation. He needed to get back on track!

Duskwood was close nearby so he traveled there to try and make connections to potential business partners.

Even though Elford thought gnomes would help gnomes, they couldn’t offer him anything.

Trying to network with humans was often overly bureaucratic and it was difficult getting further than the front desk.

Even his old friend Carl Goodup, who was working at the Darkmoon Faire as a balloon salesman, only had old grudges from when Elford had invested in a few highrise buildings right around Carl’s small house.

There was no way Carl would forgive that old blunder.

He even went to Goldshire to see if anyone sane was in town.

Even thought his personal story made for excellent entertainment, these people spent more time drinking and fooling around than talking serious business.

He then figured he could travel across the Great Sea to Gadgetzan. This was initially a good idea, but even though Stormwind might have forgiven his hiccup of trading with Bilgewater, Gadgetzan hadn’t.

Here he was the laughing stock, an example of everything you shouldn’t do, and yet Elford knew none of these people had high ethics about cross faction trading, to them it was all a matter of not getting caught.

He did everything he could to help out in Tanaris, but maybe what he really needed to was to wait for some other goon to mess up and become the new comedy gag of the month.

And so he knew what his next move would be…

- From the beginning: Elford the (former) Executive and the Ironman Challenge

The WoW Ironman Challenge – Level 40 Status

I know the surge of the Ironman Challenge has not been new and exciting for a long time, yet I am still happily playing my ironman character Elford. He’s a side project really, sometimes I get bored of him, sometimes I log in and thoroughly enjoy playing him, sometimes I just don’t have much time to play WoW, so he doesn’t move forward very fast.

On Difficulty

Elford has reached level 40, however the secret is that it happened months ago and that I am far behind portraying his story.

He is currently lvl 49, but I am holding off with lvl 50 until I have caught up here.

When reading the status post at lvl 30, I sound like I am not intending to level him much further and that I don’t see him going into Outland.

But these 10 levels changed a lot. While getting out of Stranglethorn and into the thirties, the difficulty somehow went down into comfortable – not easy, but comfortably difficult. I still go to zones 6-8 levels below Elford’s level, mobs are green, so that is fine. The only issues I may have is evaluating how hard a quest-boss or rare elite will be. They vary a lot in strength, but I have not had issues to the degree of Chief Gaulus (in STV) and Grand Magus Doane (in Redridge) again.

When Elford ran into Hagg Taurenbane, a rare in Southern Barrens, I had to try my luck. It’s the thing with rares, you just have to try. Both Taurenbane and Elford were the same level, but his hp was 3 times higher – facts that made me expect certain death.

To my surprise, I managed to get him! I was so proud and so was Elford.

Of course if you read on Wowhead, you’ll learn that lots of people solo him at 23.

Elford has since killed several rare elites, so difficulty is now scaling better, he will surely go to Outland, although I suspect he might have to be lvl 65 or so to tackle it.

On Sub-Goals

Because I didn’t see Elford going far, I had made the sub-goal of reaching exalted with Stormwind, which was also tied into Elford’s storyline.

Finding a good sub-goal that has a shorter horizon than lvl 85 worked well to keep my motivation going, especially when fx lvl 40 is no longer a milestone the way it used to be. Now you don’t get any fancy new spells, you don’t get riding at that level anymore (’cause you got that at 20 instead), nothing happens! Level 50 does promise me the spell Mirrior Image, which both Elford (and especially I) will be looking forward to. But that’s why reaching exalted with Stormwind was really nice timing.

However, it also posed a challenge in the narrative. Why would Elford keep leveling as a mage, now that the initial reason no longer exists? He will need to have along thought about what he wants for the future and where his life is heading. Finding a new sub-goal would also be a good idea.

- Next episode: Equal Amounts of Stubbornness and Desperation
– From the beginning: Elford the (former) Executive and the Ironman Challenge

“Somebody Likes Me”

Moving on to Dustwallow March, Elford wasn’t sure he could handle yet another area like Duskwood, that most of all felt like starring in a horror movie, but for Stormwind to recognize Elford’s hard work, he needed to be where the right people were watching.

Even the Mudsprocket residents were watching …or was Elford being checked out?

Apparently checking up on crazy local hermits was something Theramore cared about, in fact Elford often found himself doing simple tasks that didn’t seem that important to the overall cause.

But soon, that didn’t matter.

He was talking to Morgan Stern, the local chef at the Theramore Inn, about helping out with his bug-ingredients, but Stern also mentioned, besides the not so heroic errands he wanted Elford to do, that he had heard that people were impressed with him.

…that somebody liked him.

Reports of Elford’s work had reached the Stormwind headquarters.

When Lisbeth Schneider had pulled him to court for selling her unique Stylish Black Shirts to the Horde, he was amongst other things sentenced to community service, and now he had done his time. He had restored his lost reputation with Stormwind, he was now exalted and a free man.

This also meant a few opportunities opened up to him, and he traveled back to Stormwind with the next boat that undocked Theramore.

In Stormwind he was now allowed to buy the mount of a gentleman – a horse. Without much inspection, he bought a brown one. He didn’t know much about horses but the breeder spoke well of this one. It was to be the symbol of his latest achievement and Elford thought he had made a fine purchase.

He added his new companion to his collection of portrait picture frames, this horse was definitely worth bragging about.

-

- Next episode: The WoW Ironman Challenge – Level 40 Status
- From the beginning: Elford the (former) Executive and the Ironman Challenge

Did They Knit and Paint Watercolors too?

Stranglethorn had been hard on Elford, and aiding Southern Barrens was not much different. He had tasted the fires of Deathwing and Sleeping conditions compared to Fort Livingston were only slightly better.

How could these people call themselves Innkeepers? He promised himself that he would leave this area as soon as possible.

Not far from Northwatch Hold Elford spotted a mangled body on the ground. The tabard made it clear the man came from Northwatch.

Nope, he had no loot.

Instead Elford found a cargo manifest describing sundries needed on the front.

Normally he wouldn’t go out of his way to investigate such an incident unless he would gain something himself, but this was an obvious opportunity to get more of his lost reputation with Stormwind back, if he could prove extra helpful to the forces stationed in Southern Barrens.

Bloody trails lead through what looked to be a primitive gate. Judging from the impaled skulls and voodoo wind chyme, this looked like a troll dwelling.

He decided to follow the blood trails, hoping to find a lead to where the supplies had gone, but the further he went forward, the weirder it got.

Not far within the den, a bloody decapitated tauren head was dangling.

Another mobile? What was this?

Elford had heard about some trolls tribes practicing cannibalism and voodoo. Was this going to be his first fight against black magic?

He went further in and all he could see were raptors – terrortooth raptors with feathers and beads on them.

No trolls around, not even inside the small shallow huts.

Elford had never seen anything like this before. How developed was the terrortooth raptor culture?  Did they knit and paint watercolors too?

Or did trolls have something to do with this?

Elford remembered a rumor he had heard once about how troll rogues would tie feathers and beads on raptors to prove how sneaky they were.

It was the best explanation Elford knew of, and maybe these mass graves around the raptor den were the result of all the troll rogues, who failed their rites of passage.

Elford hurried to bring the supplies back and his efforts were recorded. He didn’t mention any details about the puzzling location he had just visited, other than a bit of bragging about having killed all the raptors in sight with ease. And it was true, Elford had become a lot stronger in his magic abilities since his time in Duskwood and Westfall.

Maybe he could become a great mage some day.

Next episode: “Somebody Likes Me”
From the beginning: Elford the (former) Executive and the Ironman Challenge

Ironyca has Never Stood in the Fire, But Someone Else has!

I’ve been deceiving you all…

Ironyca has never stood in the fire.

But someone else (un?)fortunately has!

Unsuspectingly, Elford witnessed the sky turning fiery red while doing the dutiful deeds of the Alliance in Southern Barrens.

Swiftly his little bottom was swept from underneath him and he died in the flames of Deathwing.

Elford could now officially say that Deathwing had claimed a life of his.

He was getting good at this “dying”. Both in the sense it happened to him rather often, but he was also becoming more fearless, didn’t let the spirit realm whispering drive him mad, took the penalty like an ironman, although some would argue he wasn’t as hardcore as he’d like to think.

After having rushed back to his mortal remains, he realized that the Northwatch Recons were about to be surrounded by flames too.

He tried to warn them.

Maybe it was because he was a spirit, maybe it was because he was only as tall as grass – but the soldiers died one after another.

Elford had yet not realized how this would be of his actual benefit until he resurrected.

Piled in a mass grave, the scorched soldiers lay sparkling with their pockets full of coins. Elford had learned by now that the dead were fair game for looting. But what about his own faction, the very people whom a minute ago had worked to protect him?

Under the watchful gaze of a tauren Desolation Grunt, Elford picked a guilty handful of Recon earnings. At least the tauren didn’t get his hands on the money, nor did anyone else though, Elford kept it all.

Puffed and satisfied he traveled back to the Lion’s Pride Inn in Goldshire. Wefhellt, the mage trainer, had reminded him to come visit once in a while, both to maintain his mage training, but also to deliver saucy rumours.

This evening, however, Wefhellt was not as excited to see him as usual. Elford sensed it was best to leave the room and seek accommodation elsewhere.

- Next episode: Did They Knit and Paint Watercolors too?
- From the beginning: Elford the (former) Executive and the Ironman Challenge

Player Types, E-sports and Theorycrafting – Some Topics from the Games Conference

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In my last post I wrote about the trip to the DiGRA conference (Digital Games Research Association) in the Netherlands through the use of a gallery. Now I’ll bring up some of the discussions that emerged around the various presentations. If you’re interested in some of the things game academia (the European scene anyways) is talking about currently, you might find this post worthwhile.

One thing that astonished me when I sat down to watch some of the presentations on WoW, was that most of what they said, was common knowledge to me. This is not to say that I’m so clever, but more to say that any WoW player would have been nodding along to what the researchers were saying. It also makes me wonder how much of games research is based on confirming and validating the knowledge that the game community already has.

This presentation was a good example of this:

The WoW based presentation by Kristine Ask was focusing on how different play practices have developed under the same game design. She had taken the terms already found within the community, such as “casual”, “soft-core” and “hardcore” (I’m sure these to a WoW player don’t need explanation).

She used the concept of domestication in the sense that it “highlights the cognitive, symbolic and practical dimensions“. So, how I understand it, it’s about how players handle the game and how they ‘tame’ or appropriate it.

Casual

Softcore

hardcore

Symbolic

Social Interaction Challenging Leisure Competition

Practical

Friends and Alliances Beaurocratic Organized for world firsts

Cognitive

Fellow Players Targeted Experts

This distinction makes me wonder about how game design is already targeting different play styles by making these wild swipes of totalitarian nerfs to the current tier of raiding, so that casuals and softcores can have fun after the hardcore players have already exhausted it for the sake of competition. Maybe WoW’s answer to the different domestications of WoW has been to tailor their content accordingly. The distinction between normal and heroic dungeon/raiding content, then, is less about progession and recycling as it is about letting different play styles with different values access the same content.

The question remains, is it even possible to cater to both hardcores, softcores and casuals equally? As it is right now, it seems the casuals and softcores are getting the large end of the deal at the price of the hardcores’ interests.

My teachers treat WoW as a little yesterday in terms of what games they deem interesting subjects for research, there’s a lot of research done on WoW already, but I was still pleased to see and hear WoW mentioned several times, even in relation to e-sports.

This panel on practicing masculinities largely dealt with masculinity as the title also reveals, but mainly through e-sports including WoW arena.

The researchers talked about WoW Arena as an e-sport being very peripheral and not considered “sporty” enough. Especially constant patching and class imbalances are problems with regards to WoW Arena’s position within e-sports. Thus, WoW Arena players were actively engaged in creating a sense of their own place, an alternative to the “sportified model” of how the Major League Gaming (MLG) frames e-sports.

Notice how the MLG logo reflects the sporty aspect of e-sports by appropriating the MLB logo.

The presenters also spoke about two main discourses within e-sports emphasizing different attributes and values in play: “the geek” and “the jock”

Geek

Jock

e-sports

”real sports”

MMO, RTS

FPS

Computers

Consoles

Technology

Having a fast computer

Embodiment

Fast reaction skills

The geek talks about his gameplay as feeding on highly refined skills, intensive knowledge, mastery and commitment. The geek can take the opportunity to opt out of physical sports, but retain the competition through playing computer games and still perform masculinity this way.

So while the geek thinks about skill as being clever, the jock is a “cyber-athlete” who tends to de-emphasize the technology and puts the body forward as the main tool. For instance they would say that Halo had more in common with fx paintball.

Since the panel was about how masculinity was practiced in these gaming communities, they also spoke about what was usually considered acceptable female participation, that is “Halo hoes”, booth babes and cheerleaders.

These two presentations on identity were also really interesting, and both used WoW (one more than the other) as material for analysis. Surprisingly the discussion quickly turned and started being about gender-bending (playing a character of the opposite sex), a term Nick Taylor (one of the researchers presenting) critizised, saying “sex-swapping” was more suitable. I actually agree even though I’ve called it gender-bending myself, I just mainly adopted the phrasing from the sources I used at the time.

Gender is more about our constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes, while sex is biological. So when you play a character of the opposite sex, you may not act feminine just because the character is female.

A claim was therefore made that sex-swapping for males playing a female character was not transgressive. It’s interesting cause I wonder how far the gaming community has moved on this topic. Sometimes I still see the question arise “why do some guys play a female toon?” as if it’s still this strange phenomenon. However, it’s such a common practice now and male players are already the majority, so this choice of play is not really a big deal, everyone assumes everyone is (a white heterosexual) male in fx WoW anyways. I’ve been called a “he” many times, often I’ve wondered if there even was a point in correcting it. What Nick Taylor did deem transgressive was instead females engaging in sex-swapping – playing male characters.

Nick Taylor also expressed critique about the interpretation of sex-swappers when they say they just want to “look at a sexy behind”. This phrasing is not hard to find on the internet, you’ll find it on the WoW forums in a second. I also suspect that it stems from male players wanting to distance themselves from any string of something not fiercely heteronormative, “it’s not like they’re GAY, GOSH! No no, that’s impossible when they play this female toon because her ass is sexy”. So the “nice butt” argument, I suspect, is more about impression management than these guys actually drooling over their female avatars.

During the discussions the problem of the “raging homophobia” to use one researcher’s own words, was also brought up.


These presentations about theorycrafting had many examples from the WoW theorycrafters and dealt with Elitist Jerks amongst others.

The presentations focused on knowledge production and how the players worked to gain control instead of being controlled by the game. A question was posed by a member of the audience about any counter actions to theorycrafting and I instantly thought of the Ironman Challenge.

In short, the Ironman Challenge is a style of leveling that puts severe restraints on the character. An Iron(wo)man character cannot wear items of green quality and up, nor can they take on a spec, to see the full list of rules, check The Land of Odd and Psynister’s Notebook, who are both authors of this idea. The first character we know of, that has completed this challenge, reaching lvl 85, is the warlock Ironsally, whose journey you can read about on the blog Tome of the Ancient.

I can only speak for myself when I say that leveling my own Ironman Character Elford the (former) Executive, is without a doubt a withdrawal from the extensive theorycrafting that I feel is dominating WoW, even outside of the raiding scene. I’m not a theorycrafter myself and often find the constant demand to stay updated and ALWAYS play with the most optimized setup exhausting.

By playing an ironman character, I feel like I am safely opting out of this race and can play as I want. All the stuff around a character, gemming, spec, enchants, heirlooms etc, is now a blank. There is only the way I play, how I push this character with all it’s restrictions as far as I can, and I find this liberating. This character is flawed, it sucks I know this, but that’s the point. So for me, playing Elford is very much a counter response to the surveillance players exercise on each other.

There were many other presentations but I chose to highlight these as their work drew on WoW as a case study. These were also the ones that really inspired me and had me think about myself as a WoW-player and the community.

As a final note, while the panel on Minecraft was going on, one of the kids was asked if you could win in Minecraft, and the answer was that maybe you could, if you mined the entire world. Kids can be so funny, I’ve got a long way to go to win Minecraft then!