Finding Yourself

I recently read a post by the inimitable Alternative Chat, whose philosophy on the game is one I think everyone would do well to take in and think about at a time like this, when we’re not even a year into an expansion but already looking at its end. To sum up a little, Alternative asks a few questions:

Do you enjoy playing the game? Do you have solutions for the problems you see? Do you believe Blizzard can fix the problems?

If the answer to any of these is no, then what reasons do you still have to play?

It’s an interesting thing to consider, especially when weighing up whether or not it’s time to cut that sub for a bit, or indeed for good. I myself left for a three-month period at the tail end of 5.4; I, like many others, returned in the WoD hype, having heard nothing but good reviews of the levelling content.

And then endgame hit. So, going into the next expansion (especially if the price remains at its elevated level) I’m not sure I’ll be as quick off the mark. But this relies on the assumption that I’m going to quit, which… I don’t know. I never know. It took months of internal wrangling last time, because the fact of the matter is I, like so many others, am emotionally attached to this damn game. I have invested… a lot. No one wants to see their investment go down the pan, but… Maybe if that’s the case, we should stop seeing it that way.

Back in the heyday of Burning Crusade and Wrath, and even Cataclysm, I had far less anguish about taking breaks. If I felt burnout, or content was lacking, I stopped, I played other games, I returned when I felt the desire to play WoW again. I should probably take this attitude now; if I dislike the content, there’s nothing stopping me from returning if I want to.

The backlash to this is also understandable – how am I supposed to influence a game, critique it and try and ensure it’s what I want to be, if I’m not paying and playing? If Blizzard makes its future decisions based on what is most popular, and the things I like are not being represented because I am not there… Is it going to just get worse?

The ultimate answer to this is we just don’t know.

Burnout is inevitable, I think, whether or not you are casual or hardcore, and what you tell everyone else you are – my worry in recent expansions is that burnout appears to be coming to me faster each time; I don’t know if this exponential acceleration of burnout is due to a change in how I play or how I approach the game, whether the content is inherently more grindy or less fun, or indeed whether it’s just me getting old, though I hope not.

I play this game for story, for the occasional roleplaying experience, for the landscapes and the cinematics and the characters. WoD’s endgame has precious little via any avenue given my self-professed casual status – beyond the 16 garrison campaign mini-chains and the legendary quest, there is little to find.

So, beyond finishing the legendary chain, Hellfire Citadel LFR, and the 6.2 garrison campaigns, my future is unknown. I’m not sure if I’ll stay, but I’m not the only one dependent on my account – unless the powers that be (my relatives) decide they don’t want to continue trying to get past level 20, my sub will probably stay on.

Unfortunately, we are not Blizzard. We cannot say with any certainty whether sub numbers are carefully tracked, whether player activity is tracked, what activities are most popular – all we know is that shareholders are told subscriber numbers at a certain milestone, four times a year.

The only thing that will determine whether Blizzard cares for us beyond money is the future; I have long since abandoned hope, and indeed my playing WoD surprised myself. I was disappointed.

But it’s good to take some time, analyse what you want out of the game, whether you’re getting it, and why you’re still playing.

Like all good things, WoW is best taken in moderation. It’s good to make sure you’re getting satisfaction from other parts of life. Have a good summer, folks.

A Letter to Overseer Eirvainess

“Overseer Eirvainess,

I trust that this letter will make its way to you swiftly. I have despatched it to Cymre Brightblade, as she is the last known contact we knew you would be meeting. I hope that your journey to her has been danger-free and that you are all well – Ms Brightblade has kept us in Talador thus far informed of the fact that you survive.

Archon Kal’es has done rigorous testing since the opening of a permanent portal in the eastern island of Ashran, and the Research Dept is now confident in the communicators’ ability to work in Draenor. We have relocated to Talador and have brought adequate supplies, though it is recommended that the Convocation move to Ashran to resupply when there is time.

Archon Shari’fal, in conjunction with Lady Liadrin, also requests the Convocation’s presence at the earliest convenience following the conclusion of your affairs within Gorgrond, as reports indicate that two attacks on Talador are imminent. Continued access for both ourselves and our allies to Talador is imperative, as it is a resource-rich forest that provides trading routes to the rest of the continent, and it is the major centre of draenei civilisation.

In the north, on the coast by Shattrath City, Blackrock orcs have encroached on the forest, and you should be wary during travel. A reported fleet of Iron Horde battleships are under construction in Gorgrond, and the last rangari report indicates that this fleet will leave to attack Shattrath directly in weeks, if not days. Shattrath City is almost twice the size of the one we are accustomed to in Outland, and it has no adequate defences prepared for an attack of this scale. Lady Liadrin has also requested aid from the Frostwolves.

In the south, demonic presence is building in the hills near Nagrand, and Auchindoun’s shielding crystals have disappeared. The rangari suspect that there are Legion agents hiding within the city, and draenei society is currently in turmoil following the death of Velen, and of his ruling council only three of five members remain. Archon Shari’fal has gained the trust of several high-ranking members of the Auchenai priesthood, and has informed us that the draenei response is not ready for an attack it fears at the hands of the Shadow Council: currently, the only defences Auchindoun possesses are the ata’mal cloaking crystals, and we have yet to confirm if they have been compromised. It is critical that the Shadow Council is not allowed to wrest control of Auchindoun in this timeline, as it contains millions of draenei souls which would give the Shadow Council warlocks enough power to trigger a full-scale Legion invasion.

In both cases, the Convocation’s usefulness as a reconnaissance and forward infantry division would prove invaluable to help build the defences of both cities, and provided we succeed, our aid would ensure continued positive relations between the Horde and the Draenei.

Hoping that all is well, Arcanist Dawndancer.”

An Essay on Peace with Dalaran

In light of the Purge of Dalaran, what should Quel’thalas’ course be in regards to relations with the Kirin Tor?

“Given the de-escalation in Alliance-Horde relations since Garrosh Hellscream’s defeat, I think it is a natural course of relations that Quel’thalas must similarly lessen its personal hostilities with the City-state of Dalaran.

While I recognise that deep personal embitterment has occurred due to the brutal removal of Horde members from Dalaran and the deaths and imprisonment of Sunreaver members, as well as the alleged involvement of Sunreaver members in the Divine Bell Incident, the state of burgeoning peace between Alliance and Horde under the efforts of Warchief Vol’jin will be put at risk if significant military action occurs between Dalaran and Silvermoon.

Given Silvermoon’s recent re-establishment and the persistence of internal issues such as the Wretched, the barren status of the Dead Scar and Ghostlands and the management of the Sunwell, there is no way to say definitively that Quel’thalas would be victorious in a full-scale battle with Dalaran, particularly given the city’s mobility and the possession of centuries’ worth of Blue Dragon artefacts that it may now possess given Archmage Proudmoore’s ties with the Blue Aspect Kalecgos.

While I agree that our people have been mistreated and humiliated on repeated occasions by the Magus-Senate, and in particular by specific members of the Council of Six, any further retaliation on behalf of the Blood Elves poses a significant risk to the future of our nation, as well as relations with the Alliance and Horde. Additionally, it would be likely to create a vicious cycle which would ultimately not rectify any of our grievances with Dalaran, as we cannot count on the Horde or Alliance to fight a proxy war on our behalf due to the intentions of Warchief Vol’jin and King Wrynn to restore a state of ceasefire. In fact, such destabilising efforts would likely lead to estrangement from the Horde, creating a worse internal situation due to a decline in trade.

Instead, I propose that long-term negotiations between the leadership of both nations must be key to restoring peace. While it is clear that Archmage Proudmoore is a far more reactionary leader than her predecessors Rhonin and Antonidas, her interests in peace were notable prior to the appointment of Garrosh Hellscream, including two Horde-Alliance peace summits which significantly reduced hostilities prior to the outbreak of the Northrend War. Given such efforts, I am hopeful that with external pressure from Alliance and Horde leadership, we can accomplish initial negotiations.

In terms of issues to be addressed, there must be compensation, both for the violation of Dalaranese neutrality by alleged Sunreaver agents – to do so, the agents responsible must be located and trialled – and the violation of the rights of Sunreaver and non-aligned blood elf citizens who suffered during their expulsion from Dalaran, as well as their immediate release provided they are guilty of no crimes. In addition, the Kirin Tor must recognise the innocence of the majority of Horde forces within Dalaran of the events concerning the destruction of Theramore and the Divine Bell incident.

While I realise that there are considerable feelings on both sides of this conflict, I am confident that both sides can eventually find common ground, given the knowledge that destruction has not brought resolution to our past ails and thus cannot be expected to solve our current ones. With luck, we may find peace within a few years, and if there is a longer-lasting peace, perhaps we can begin to heal older divisions between the mages of Dalaran and those of Quel’thalas.”

Changing Perspectives

Change is death and death is change. Death of the old, and death of the new, and change is order and death is order and death is perpetuity.

I surface from the pool, gulping in the air.

So many dead, and I’m still here, and I almost forgot what to fight for, and so. Many. Dead.

Auchindoun is quiet in the cool morning air. The spirits are here, somewhere. I could go and apologise. Would they ever forgive me? Would I ever find them? So many dead.

The spirits would stand and watch; eternal, yet ephemeral. The Legion knows not their stories. The demons revel in their pain, rewatching their deaths over and over like in some shitty goblin play.

Above, the call of a bird breaks open. It swoops down, a Kaliri, long gold feathers and long brown tail, picks up a mouse, disappears.

Still it all goes on. Still I am alive. Still we fight.

Home has never felt more far away.

I failed. I failed the draenei and yet tens of thousands more live now than ever will on Azeroth and Outland. We won and we lost and I don’t know how to feel.

The trees stretch out overhead, the bright colours of eternal autumn. They are like those of Eversong, yet more. Every twisting olemba here is natural, a wonder; every tree in Eversong a magical creation, a throwback to a land lost ten-thousand years prior.

Do I miss home? Do I miss the safety? The people? Am I doing a good job here?

The legends say that Velen sees every world in the cosmos the Legion touches – that he considers it his mission to ensure every ruined planet is remembered.

And still we fight. Taleberaite kills a century of demons, Khairan another; there are more now than there were before.

I can see the faces of the draenei spirits in the water; briefly, they shimmer, and are gone, passing through to the inner ring. The spirits are constantly nearby, but never present.

And still we fight. Some fall, and some keep going. And the Pandaren said to remain balanced and taught me their lessons and still they died. Had the Horde been formed, they likely would have died anyway. Should we shed tears for lives that were lost long ago?

If Auchindoun falls, they say the Legion will win, though Auchindoun fell once and the Legion eventually lost, at the cost of a planet.

The forest shifts, quietly.

When we kill more than the orcs kill, who is to blame? Did we do the best we could? Will we be allowed a second chance?

Wasn’t this already our second chance?

I am on the shore, now; my legs cross and I look at the sky. The moons of Draenor show no change; the world may be destroyed but the sky is eternal.

The monks said to be a leaf in the wind; the leaf is blown far and wide, left and right; it is turned and thrown upside down; it may land in a place far different from where its home once was.

Cell

The wound went deep. To my pride, I suppose. Elves have a thing with pride. Even when you think you’ve gotten rid of it, it persists. I try my hardest. I’m certainly no Anrithen. But can I take pride in that?

The light coming in the cell isn’t natural. It’s too consistent to be sunlight, although I have no idea what direction my cell points in. A way of keeping you awake, perhaps. I’m coping well enough. The lack of mana’s starting to bite – indeed, it had been starting to bite when we reached Wor’var. Now it was more like having a foot gnawed off.

I stay in meditation most hours, trying to regulate my flow. The cell’s too suppressive to take anything from the lighting, or indeed to try chip away at the incantations keeping the cell suppressive. It’s like a miniaturised 7/7 party.

The blasted ring’s gone as well. If I’d had the forethought I would have hidden it somewhere decent – swallowed it, perhaps. Dragon technology will at least stump Highmaul for long enough to keep me alive.

The question is what happens when and if they figure out the ring. I’m no use as a gladiator, at any rate. I could end up in Maltinius’ posse – he’s certainly never had any elves before – but he seems to prefer the draenei.

I’m contemplating weaning myself off the magic at this rate. Goodness knows I’ve no idea when a rescue will come about, since Aleck stormed off. Khairan is… somewhere. That’s about it for potential rescuers.

Everyone is quiet. I don’t know if they’ve lost hope. I came to terms with death a fair while ago. I wouldn’t like to end up dead here, but I’m not going to be idealistic about it. Occasionally there’s screaming. I just try to meditate through it. The more mana I have… Well, I don’t really know what I’m going to do with it.

Aftermath

“Bring her forth.”

The two attendants laid the body at Keliera’s feet, the muscular frame draped in a thin layer of cloth. The plate still looked battered in places, but Taleberaite had worked it into a bright enough shine that any damage was eclipsed. The attendants had worked neatly, and what was exposed of the girl’s pale face looked peaceful, the shrapnel injuries to her skull obscured by well-groomed hair.

She sighed. “I suppose we were lucky to escape the casualties of others. Still, to lose someone in our ranks only a few months… It bodes poorly. Place her in the back. I’ll secure her before we set sail.”

Muttering a final prayer to the Sunborne, the two attendants bowed and left, heading outside. Keliera was left alone with her thoughts and the young girl, covered by the sheet.

The last few weeks still could wake one up at night. The memories of the cannon-fire, the siege weaponry and the shrapnel – all the horrors of Garrosh’s last siege, doubled in power and tripled in size. In a way, the peace of death for Tomaa would be a relief from that.

Keliera said a prayer for the girl before leaving the room, heading up onto the top deck of the Sunchaser. Peons bustled around the makeshift harbour established at Surwich, some tending to the ship. Gulls whirled overhead, their whistles echoing in the early morning quiet. The sounds of the siege had floated away since the portal had been secured.

Soon, they would head back to Silvermoon, to lick their wounds and mull over what to do next. The Iron Horde meant change was coming. They would have to be ready.

 

Change on the Wind

“This world is changing.

I have been to Northrend and Pandaria, Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. For years, we have had war. And now it has changed.

We have been stuck in Draenor, fighting a war that ended decades ago, trying to change the past. But the future is different already.

I have been to Orgrimmar and heard goblins talk about trade deals with Ironforge and Gnomeregan. I have listened to druids talk about making Gilneas fit for human habitation again. I have seen society rebuilt in Pandaria, Alliance and Horde walk the same streets.

Things have changed. The peace we haven’t known for decades is here, right here, surrounding us, building a life without us to live it. There are commoners in Silvermoon talking – not venting propaganda, but actually talking – about how there might be peace with Dalaran and how the prisoners of the Violet Hold might be freed this year.

I have watched as the logging camps of the orcs moved from Ashenvale to Azshara and as the tauren moved in to teach the orcs agriculture. I have watched the last holdings of the Scourge torn down and replaced with farms and villages across the Eastern Kingdoms. The world has changed and we are no longer in it.

Even on Draenor, you don’t see it. But Vol’mar and Lion’s Watch hold the peace better than Thrallmar and Honor Hold ever did. There is no skirmish, only a focus on the true enemy. The draenei and the orcs are learning to live together. They fight side-by-side in Tanaan and Shattrath and Gorgrond. We have helped the races of a world stand together, and we have inspired the same back home.

I have seen shipments of Horde goods pass through Booty Bay en-route to Stormwind and I have heard rumours of High Elves being let back in to inhabit Western Silvermoon. I have heard of draenei towns being built across Kalimdor and the Exodar travelling the world to offer the Prophet’s wisdom. I have heard of Pandaren travellers accompanying orcs and dwarves to spread the word of Brewfest.

The world we live in changed. It changed without us. Even the Reliquary considers us an extremist faction, collecting artefacts to prop up a nation that doesn’t need them. The sin’dorei live now, in peace; they trade with the Horde, and the Horde supports them – a parasitic relationship has become symbiotic.

I want to be part of this world. I want to build peace and meet people and have friends in the Alliance; I want to close the door on the wars of the last four decades. I will be trapped in the past no longer.”