Mar 31, 2008

Titans and Demiurges 03 - Burning Crusade: The Movie

I almost scrapped today's topic at the last minute. Almost. Why? Because what I'm about to link you isn't new. It's been linked before, and in fact, has gotten a whole lot of link love* since its publication on Feb. 1st, 2008.

Upon careful consideration, though.... I don't believe that any of the blogs that I've seen, the recommendations, or even the random forum posts really have reached the beating heart of what makes this video great. It deserves a second - and even a third - look. Sit down with a cup of something nice to drink and no distractions and really just absorb all 31 minutes and 15 seconds of this artistic look at the raid content of The Burning Crusade.

Burning Crusade: The Movie
By Jack of Easy Productions (FR)

Now, if you're still wondering why I'm linking this movie, then I think you need to go watch it again. This is not just a PvE movie. It's not just another Guild X killed Vashj Youtube knockoff. Unlike so many of its "peers", this look at in-game content aspires to an intense level of artistry - aspires and succeeds! It's electrifying, dramatic, beautiful, and inspiring. If you've never seen these 25-man instances, it makes you want to go forth and conquer. If you're fighting your way through progression, it reminds you just why that 12-wipe night was worth it. If you've already fought these battles and seen these bosses, then this video shows you everything you were too busy staring at your actionbars and threat meters to notice.

How did Jack do it? The technicalities of programs and filters / effects could probably fill a month's worth of blogging**, but let's take a look at the artistic principles that he has used to turn months worth of game play into a half hour of visual appeal.
  1. Cinematography - The cameras are seldom still on an action movie set. Sweeping, panning, zooming and fading the viewer's eye forces them into the action, making them feel like a part of what's happening on-screen. Jack has used this to great affect to heighten the emotion and the sense of excitement. You don't just stare at Vashj from across the room. You rush in at her, watching her hideous fangs and taloned hands get ever closer to your skin. You watch in horror as Illidan leaps into the air and comes crashing down toward you.
  2. Color Adjustment - There is a very complex interplay between our brain, our emotions, and our eyes when it comes to colors. They have a meaning to us that seems to go far beyond what the words 'red', 'blue', and 'yellow' could possibly contain. That's why visual artists of any type work hard to understand and use the deeper meanings of color, and Jack is certainly no exception. Just look what he does at about 10:15 with the Voidreaver battle; we watch the Voidreaver go from a bright and vibrant enemy to a dull, grey, and lifeless hunk of metal in a handful of pieces on the floor. The subtle use of desaturation helps to lend a certain sense of loss to his death.
  3. Score Composition - As brilliant as the visuals are in this film, it would be a gross oversight to fail to mention the soundtrack (except, maybe, for the unfortunate Linkin' Park at 17:50). Seamlessly mixed, Jack has chosen a handful of powerful compositions and matched them to the action, letting their resounding drums and energetic strings add to the tide of the video, drawing you up to crescendos at the instant of a boss's death again and again. It's hard to define the art of music beyond to say that the notes should do the same thing to your heart that the action does. I think, in that, Jack has found unequivocal success.
  4. Dialogue - It almost feels funny to talk about dialogue in a video like this, but it most definitely is there. Moreover, it's meaningful in multiple ways - not only to the 'story' of progression that Jack is telling, the smaller understory of the determined Paladin and his nightelven guide; but also to the game, the source of his carefully-chosen words and effects. Unlike so many of his peers in the machinima realm, Jack didn't try to create his own homebrewed sounds, but instead he borrowed from Blizzard's expert studio. In so doing, he not only ensured that his dialogue was rich and recorded with impeccable quality but also that his video tapped into a larger sense of being in the game. Even if you don't recognize the voices, you recognize the sound of World of Warcraft dialogue, and it brings all kinds of in-game memories up to mix with the content you are seeing for (possibly) the first time. Did you recognize any of the soundbytes from your own game experiences***? How did that jolt of recognition make you feel?
Alright, that's enough from me. I hope you understand, now, why I felt that this video needed a re-examination despite its travels around the blogosphere and the larger interweb tubes. It's not just about the PvE. It's not just about the game. It's not just about 25 friends gathering up and shooting some vids while they go after their phat porples. It's about artistry and the manipulation of the human mind for the sake of evoking emotion. And I give Jack from the Empire full marks for knowing his tools and using them to the best of their advantage.

Thank you, Jack!

* 121485 views as of today. @_@
** Blogging by someone NOT me, as I don't know how to do these miraculous and wonderful things to in-game imagery. Imagine the havoc I could wreak if I did?! We're talking about the Screenshot fool being given an MPG Nuke to play with, here.
*** Gruul the Dragonslayer's gravely voice at 24:10, perhaps?

Mar 27, 2008

Sacrum Particulae - 11 Easy Outlands Recipes That You Need - Part 2

Don't Breathe the Fumes!
When I think about content in World of Warcraft, I always put 5-man 'group play' on a higher tier than solo play. 'Higher' meaning 'harder', more difficult to initiate, coordinate, and execute. There are people for whom this is not necessarily the case, and I am honestly happy for you who can pop online and into an instance in five minutes. For me, getting a group - whether PuG or guild! - has always been an overall frustrating, time-consuming, and difficult process, the reasons for which are fodder for another day's discussion.

Suffice to say, when I think of the second half of the list that we began on Monday, it sticks in my mind as the hard half because the process of even getting to the mobs we need to kill (or the reputation we need to garner) is longer and less-straightforward. They are hidden behind swirling instance portals and an elusive smoke-screen of coordination that is commonly known as 'group balance.' PuG and guild channels can sometimes banish the smoke... and can sometimes fail to make a dent. It's the patience-requiring reality of 5-man game content.

Bah. Where's that gnomish contraption that spawns Tier5 warriors, again??

Thus, we're about to foray into a want-list that we all still share. I haven't gotten any of these recipes, myself. In fact, I haven't managed even one farming run since I first noted this list, last week. (Granted, at least part of that is because of the massive distraction that is the Shattered Sun Offensive and patch 2.4. It takes nothing less than brand-new environs, tasty lore-bits, blue-haired dragon-men, and beautiful cooperation between two previously-opposing factions* to temporarily drag me away from my devotion to all things alchemical. Even were that insufficient to distract me, every 70 I know spends all their non-raid time in Quel'Danas.) That isn't to say that I don't know the instances; just that I don't have direct experience with how little or much is required to get the drops we need, want, and simply demand for our alchemy screens. We're going to have to discover that particular sweet pain, together.

Personally, I can't wait!

Part 2 - Group Alchemy:

I've already alluded to the instancing requirement for these five recipes, but I should probably be more clear about what I mean. You will be running various dungeons for one of two reasons: either you need to kill instance mob X until you get your recipe to drop or you need to earn Y more faction reputation to hit rep level Z, where you will be able to purchase your recipe from the appropriate Quartermaster. Let's look at where you're going and why:
  1. The Recipe: Recipe: Major Frost Protection Potion - farmed from Nexus-Prince Shaffar in the Mana-Tombs (Normal or Heroic).

    Nexus-Prince Shaffar
    The Mobs: Mana-Tombs is the northmost of the Auchindoun instances, a place infested by the remnants of the catastrophic magic that destroyed the ancient Draenic city. It's also infested by ethereals seeking to harvest this rampant energy for fun and profit. In Normal mode, it is a level 64-66 instance that culminates in an encounter with our alchemy-friend, Nexus-Prince Shaffar, a rather arrogant fellow who doesn't seem to want to let you and your group clear the place out so the Consortium can steal his profit margin. Imagine that.

    You can run this instance on either Normal or Heroic mode for a chance to get your recipe drop, however it is worth noting that a Heroic run nets you a much higher drop rate. Heroic Nexus-Prince Shaffar weighs in at a 15-25% chance to drop our recipe while Normal Nexus-Prince Shaffar offers only 3-14%. You don't need an ethereal's keen nose for business to sniff out the surer deal, but you will definitely need a more powerful group.

    Fringe Benefits: Forgetting, for the moment, that instance runs in general offer all kinds of opportunities for gear upgrades, Mana-Tombs has a few benefits that will help you get your party together. First, drag your Enchanting and Blacksmithing friends along for their chances to get Formula: Enchant Boots - Fortitude from the Ethereal Priests and Plans: Swiftsteel Gloves from the Nexus Stalkers. Their recipes drop in both Normal and Heroic modes, so they have no excuse not to contribute to the farming effort. Second, kills in the Mana-Tombs are great ways to get Consortium reputation. Normal Mana-Tombs kills give rep up to Honored, and Heroic Mana-Tombs kills give rep up to Exalted. Their Quartermaster has all kinds of great goodies for your guild's tradeskillers - especially the Jewelcrafters, and each month they give out free gems, the quality of which increases with rep level. Even though they don't have any alchemy recipes to offer, you can always find uses for that monthly Bulging Sack of Gems.

  2. The Recipe: Recipe: Major Fire Protection Potion - farmed from Nethermancer Sepethrea and Sunseeker Astromages (Normal or Heroic) in The Mechanar.

    Nethermancer Sepethrea
    The Mobs: The Mechanar is the southernmost and first wing of the Tempest Keep, an old Draenic temple that has been pre-empted by the most scientifically-inclined of Kael'thas' Sindorei followers. There are precisely 10 Sunseeker Astromages in The Mechanaar and precisely 1 Nethermancer Sepethrea, so with a drop rate that is 3-14% on both of them in Normal Mode and 25-50% on Nethermance Sepethrea in Heroic mode, it looks like a bit of a challenging recipe to grab. Whether Normal or Heroic, it is a level 70 dungeon.

    Fringe Benefits: Your friendly neighborhood Tailors are great people to convince to come on this particular set of farming runs, as the Mechanar is also known to drop Pattern: Arcanoweave Boots and Pattern: Arcanoweave Robe for their sewing pleasure. Kills here are also very valuable for their Sha'tar reputation, which is one of the 'big 3' factions with which every toon should make nice, no matter race, creed, color, tradeskill or sexual orientation. Mechanar kills will garner your reputation with them all the way through Exalted, so don't be shy about bribing your friends to come along. It's for their own good as well as yours.

  3. The Recipe: Recipe: Ironshield Potion - farmed from Captain Skarloc (Normal and Heroic) in Old Hillsbrad Foothills.

    Captain Skarloc
    The Mobs: The timing on this particular instance is great, as it was a tough little cookie to crack on Heroic mode before patch 2.4 gave it a smack with the good old nerf bat. Now, you have two feasible options: look for a 3-14% drop rate in the level 66-68 Normal version of the instance or upgrade to the 25-50% drop rate in the level 70 Heroic version. In fact, it was also a tough little cookie to reach before 2.4, but with the introduction of a new teleport** to get you from the wilds of Outlands to the well-hidden Caverns of Time in Tanaris, the path to alchemical glory is a lot more friendly than it was last week. Either way, you're going to want to go say kind things to the Keepers of Time to get yourself started on this particular timeline-saving farming endeavor.

    Fringe Benefits: Durnholde is the instance to which you should be dragging your Leatherworking and Jewelcrafting friends, as they both stand to gain a nice craftable piece out of it. Because all Leatherworkers are pimps at heart, they will definitely want to get their Pattern: Stylin' Adventure Hat from the Durnholde Riflemen, which will complement their velvet suit and bling-bling quite nicely. Oh, and speaking of bling, the Design: Circle of Arcane Might is no cubic zirconia, itself. The Epoch Hunter drops it, so we can only assume he's a closet blinger, himself.

    Beyond those, we've got our usual phat lewtz and friendly faces - this time of the draconic variety. Durnholde (and all the Caverns of Time instances) gives reputation with the Keepers of Time all the way from Neutral to Exalted. Those confusing, non-linear time dragons have something for everyone, though the Engineers, Tailors, and Blacksmiths may feel left out of the recipe fun. Sorry, guys. Grab some great gear, instead, okay?

  4. The Recipe: Recipe: Major Nature Protection Potion - purchased from Fedryen Swiftspear, Cenarion Expedition Quartermaster in Zangarmarsh. Exalted rep level.

    Fedryen Swiftspear
    The Reputation: Cenarion Expedition rep comes primarily from instance runs and quests, bolstered here and there by some rep turn-in items ... that you get from the instances, anyway. Any of the Coilfang Reservoir dungeons will get you CE rep, however Normal mode on Slavepens and the Underbog will only get you as far as Honored. To reach Revered or Exalted, you will need to run the Steamvault or any of the three on Heroic mode.

    Fringe Benefits: The CE has no less than five Alchemy recipes to give to the people who work hard to become their bestest best new buds in the whole wide world. They also offer six Blacksmithing plans, an Engineering schematic, two Jewelcrafting designs, five Leatherworking patterns, two Enchanting patterns, a Tailoring recipe, and the best darn Bear-tanking weapon a babybear could ever want***. Look, if they aren't already Exalted with CE, they have no excuse not to come. Drag their butts along and get them some great phat lewtz, to go with your shiny, new potion.

  5. The Recipe: Recipe: Elixir of Major Shadow Power - purchased from Nakodu, Lower City Quartermaster in Shattrath City. Revered rep level.

    The Reputation: Lower City reputation comes from a lower-level item turnin, quests, and - sensing a theme, here? - instance runs. Specifically, you will need kills from the other Auchindoun instances, Auchenai Crypts, Sethekk Halls, and the Shadow Labyrinth. Heroic runs will give you reputation up to Exalted, however if Normal instancing is more your speed, you will be limited to the Shadow Labs after you hit Honored. Learn2Heroic?

    Fringe Benefits: Like their CE cousins, the Lower City loot-handlers seem to love just about everyone. By the time one reaches Exalted, they are offering two Alchemy potions, four Jewelcrafting designs, a great Leatherworking pattern, two Enchanting formulae, a Tailoring pattern and a lot of great gear. That's not even mentioning the gear and rewards that can drop from the required instances on the way to Exalted.
There you have it.
Eleven great recipes and five new potential cauldrons, all yours for the taking. Now you know where to look, so even if you don't want to farm repeatedly for these recipes, you'll be aware of which opportunities might benefit your tradeskill. Shadow Labs for the 29th time might be just a bit more palatable if you know you stand to gain something very useful from it.

So, who has gotten the lucky drops? What other great recipes / rewards have you found out there? Does anyone else squee like an imploding cheerleader every time that pretty little scroll icon shows up in their loot window?? ^_^

* I always found it very sad that I couldn't be friends with both the Aldor and the Scryer, so their mutual effort as the Shattered Sun Offensive makes my carebear-fangirl-meter swing way over to Happy. :)
** Available at Revered with the Keepers of Time and accomplished by talking to an NPC in Shattrath City...
*** And, oh boy, does he want it! GIMMEGIMMEGIMME!

Mar 25, 2008

Sacrum Particulae - 11 Easy Outlands* Recipes That You Need - Part 1

There are a few different types of players in World of Warcraft. Okay, maybe even more than 'a few'. You've got your AFKers, your Twinks, your PvE divas, your Farmin' Fools, your DPS-peeners, your Lootwh--... -lovers, your Carebears, your Roleplayers and a whole host of others.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!
Listing them (and defining the stereotypes) has been done by bigger and better bloggers than I. To great, amusing affect, I might add.

Today, however, is devoted to one of my favorite sub-classes of the Warcraftian race. Far from amassing wealth and garnering the uber uber l33t reputation that so many crave, these are the brave men and women who farm, farm, farm some more, and then still end up poor at the end of the day. In fact, they'll usually come out with less gold than they went in, and it's all for the sake of some elusive green, blue, purple or crazy consumable that you've never even heard of! Yes, I'm talking about the devoted Tradeskiller, that person who only comes to Heroic UB with you because she really, really needs another Primal Nether.

Specifically, we're here for the education and edification of those crafty courtesans of the chemical concoctions, those magnificent mixers of myriad mounds of marrows - Alchemists! Listen up, my fellow finders of non-ferrous fronds, because I'm about to tell you all about eleven great, rare(ish) Outlands recipes that you never knew you could have.

Do you have your gloves on and your safety goggles in place? Okay, then. Let's hit the scrolls.

Part 1 - Solo-Source:

The first half of this list are the recipes that can be farmed by killing non-Elite mobs in non-instanced Outlands environs. They're (relatively) fast, easy, and often come with some great farming side-benefits. Though you'll see some crazy low drop rates on sites like Thottbot and WoWHead, remember that these recipes only show up for an Alchemist that doesn't already know the potion. Realistically, you can expect to see something more like a ~5% drop rate on all of these solo-source recipes.

  1. The Recipe: Recipe: Major Arcane Protection Potion - farmed from Vir'aani Arcanists at Oshu'gun in Nagrand.

    Vir'aani Arcanist
    The Mobs: The first of the 6 Major Resistance Potions, this recipe is a relatively easy farm from the etherial casters that hang out all around the wreckage of Oshu'gun. These level 66-67 mobs specialize in Arcane magic, shooting you with Arcane Bolts and occasionally doing an annoying Blink to end up about 15 yards behind you. They have a maximum of 5000 hit points, so they go down very quickly against a level 70 toon.

    Fringe Benefits: The Arcanists and their local compatriots, the Vir'aani Raiders, drop some good cash and a metric butt-ton** of Netherweave Cloth. At 10-11 silver and 1-3 Nethercloth per kill, just one circuit around a boulder will net you about 2-3g. Now, add in a grey vendor item every 10 kills or so and a green every 15-20 kills, and you're making good money. But there's more. Vir'aani mobs have a chance to drop the Oshu'gun Crystal Powder Samples that the Halaani love with an unhealthy fervor, and all around the kill area are crystal spawns that you can loot for Oshu'gun Crystal Fragments. These are reputation items that you can turn in for Consortium rep from Neutral to Friendly.

  2. The Recipe: Recipe: Major Holy Protection Potion - farmed from Abyssal Flamebringers at Forge Camp: Anger in Blade's Edge Mountains.

    Abyssal Flamebringer
    The Mobs: The Major Holy Protection Potion is, ironically, farmed from demonic elementals in the southern Forge Camp on the Ogri'la Plateau. Now, first thing's first - in order to even reach this spawn location, you will need to either have a flying mount or get the rare, kind pansy goth emo mage to summon you there. I'm not sure that I recommend the trip through hell, personally.

    The Abyssal Flamebringers are scattered throughout the Forge Camp, interspersed with Vile Fire-souls. In what is probably not a stunning revelation, I'm going to tell you that they do a healthy dose of fire-element damage, first from a fire aura that tics for about 150 damage on a toon with negligible fire resistance and then from a ~3-second cast 'meteor' spell that will come crashing down on your head for about 800 damage. They do swing their meaty fists, too, but the melee damage is not going to break many people's heads (~2-300 against a cloth wearer).

    Most notably, however, these guys are completely immune to fire damage. If you're planning to bring a fire mage, like Livaeya, then you need to stop that right now. Masochist.

    Fringe Benefits: You won't get much in the way of non-recipe jollies from the Abyssal Flamebringers, but they do drop Apexis Shards. Ignore the place where WoWHead and its ilk mention Motes of Shadow. That is not true, any more, much to my eternal sorrow. However, if Motes are your goal, then you should definitely put some smack down on the other mobs that will be running around your Abyssals, the Vile Fire-souls. They drop Motes of Fire like a nub 2-Holy-Priest Arena team drops ratings. (That's a lot, okay?)

    Warning: This region can get pretty heavily farmed by daily questers killing all the demons in the area, so avoid it during high-traffic hours.

  3. The Recipe: Recipe: Major Shadow Protection Potion - farmed from Shadow Council Warlocks at Legion Hold in Shadowmoon Valley.

    Shadow Council Warlock
    The Mobs: Oh, man. These mobs are a riot! The Shadow Council Warlocks ring three strange obelisks just behind the ramparts of Legion Hold (plus two patrollers, but who cares about them?!). There are about four per giant-phallic-symbol, and let me tell you... it's more than enough. These guys spawn like rabbits on crack with intravenous Viagra - I kid you not. Four to five toons can be farming these twelve little mobs, and not a single one will run out of fodder for his blades / spells. In fact, at times, you can barely grab your loot before you're being attacked by two new spawns. Now, add in the level 68-69 Elite that circles the area, and you're in for one wild farming ride.

    Fringe Benefits: Wild, but lucrative. Not only do the Warlocks drop about 11 silver and 1-3 Netherweave Cloth per kill, but they also have a great drop rate for Aldor reputation items. You can come out of a 45-minute farming session with around 50 Marks of Sargeras and 3-7 Fel Armaments. They're great rep if you need them, and great cash if you don't. Win-win makes me happy!

    Oh, but wait... these mobs don't drop just one measly recipe that you want, my fine fellow Alchemist...

  4. The Recipe: Recipe: Fel Strength Elixir - farmed from Shadow Council Warlocks at Legion Hold in Shadowmoon Valley. Yes, again. I love efficiency, so go look at the list item above and do it all again and again until you get not one, but two great potion recipes.

  5. The Recipe: Recipe: Fel Regeneration Potion - farmed from Deathforge Imps, Guardians, Tinkerers and Smiths at the Deathforge in Shadowmoon Valley.

    Deathforge Guardian
    The Mobs: Well, with four mob types, you've got the luxury of picking and choosing who you kill. The guardians are your run-of-the-mill angry, orcish melee mobs. They seem to be allergic to huge, honking balls of fire, as Liv's spells flattened them very easily. Imps are fire-based casters with nice, low hit points. One Mind Blast crit sends the little buggers to demon'la or... whatever. The Tinkerers are Broken and the Smiths are those messed-up mechano-undead-demon guys that like to wander around with drills instead of hands. They tend to travel together in packs of three, so take that with whatever caution it deserves. Also, although I never tried it myself, I hear tell that the Tinkers are immune to Fear, if that's your particular flavor of crowd control.

    Fringe Benefits: These guys pretty much have all the glory of the Shadow Council Warlocks. They all drop around 10-12 silver, 1-3 Netherweave Cloth, and some of the Aldor rep items that we so love. They have identical percentage chances for these loots, apparently, so expect the same peripheral take that you got from the guys in Legion Hold. Finally, if you happen to have a friend who is a Blacksmith, bring them along for their own tradeskill loving, as the Deathforge Guardians have a good chance to drop the Plans: Khorium Pants.

  6. The Recipe: Recipe: Fel Mana Potion - farmed from Eclipsion Spellbinders, Bloodwarders, Blood Knights, and Soldiers at Eclipsion Point in Shadowmoon Valley.

    Eclipsion Bloodwarder
    The Mobs: In typical Bloodelf fashion, these guys are soul-sucking anti-paladins, alarmingly not-quite-wussy casters, and melee with an annoying tendency to eat your mana. They are all level 68-70 and not terribly tough, but with a lot of wanderers and some mounted units, they can be a little bit of a pain. The spell damage they can deal is mainly arcane, but as long as they aren't bugged out, they shouldn't pose a serious danger to a level 70 toon.

    Fringe Benefits: Well, if the Aldor rep items weren't your preferred flavor, then I think you'll like these guys and gals a lot more. The Eclipsion mobs drop Sunfury Signets and Arcane Tomes for Scryer reputation in addition to the usual 1-3 Netherweave Cloth and about 14-16 silver. If you're a skinner, you can also take a violent paw to the Eclipsion Dragonhawks that dot the area. They drop a great rarespawn leatherworking item, Wind Scales, that you can send to your favorite druid or just sell on the Auction House for 60g (or more) per stack.
Crazy, right? Great stuff? I know my heart gets all aflutter every time one of these drops. Yes, I am that much of a Tradeskilling geek; and, yes, Rhoelyn is going to get each and every one of these. In fact, I farmed up most of them in a few hours, last week. The only one she doesn't have, yet, is the Fel Mana Potion, and that's because I just found it when doing the research for this article. It's really, truly not painful. If you're not a killing class, then lure a friend over with some of the fringe benefits and get them to lend their DPS to your cause. There's more than enough to go around at any of these locations.

By the way, do you know why you want most of these potions, my dear Alchemist? Beyond their innate awesomesauce, five of the six Major Arcane Resistance Potions have a good chance to teach you the related Cauldrons. Can you resist a two-for-one deal like this?

That's the first half of the list. Next time, I'll show you the recipes that you can get with a group and an instance run. Sure, it's not as easy to get going, but the fringe benefits certainly go up in magnitude. Until then!

* Sorry, but that means you'll need to have The Burning Crusade expansion pack for this to be useful to you.
** That's a European unit of measure. Don't worry if you haven't heard of it before. *deadpan* o_o

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

I apologize, but today's (Monday's) post will be up tomorrow (Tuesday). It just took too long to put together, and... well, I really had to go on that Heroic UB run before I wrote it. Rhese didn't give me a choice. He really wants his Earthwarden, and you know that joke about where bears sleep? Well, it goes for when bears instance run, too. Any time they want to!

I have been working for hours, though, so I promise that the post will be well worth the extra time. Please bear with me, and check back soon. :)

Your humble host,

Mar 20, 2008

Titans and Demiurges 02 - Orc Rider

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a sculpture worth?

Statue Montage

Based on one of the earliest, most famous pieces of World of Warcraft art, "The Fury of Blackrock Spire" by Wang Wei, this statue is a rare and unique example of Blizzard inspiring itself - new blood taking on old concepts. It's a scale replica of the 20-foot bronze monster that they are creating for their new Blizzard campus in Irvine, California. Stunningly detailed, artificially-tinted to simulate the aging of bronze, and viscerally evocative, it's a stunning example of 2D art making an impressive transition into the 3D world. Far from a copy of the original work, it's a reinterpretation, one that I think mimics the game's evolution and enrichment over the past 4 years. Just as we've gone from the straightforward experience of 'Vanilla WoW' to the rich, multifaceted world of the Burning Crusade (complete with battlegrounds, arenas, instances of varying sizes and difficulty levelings, and reputation paths and rewards with more factions than you can shake a stick at) the Wolf Rider has graduated from his static, straightforward roots to a hauntingly intense, far-more-vital presence.

Where can you get yours? I'm afraid that's the rub. These statues can't be found in stores, and if you see one on Ebay, that means someone has probably gotten fired*. Blizzard gave one of these beauties to each to their employees as a Christmas gift for 2007. Manufactured in New Zealand, they only recently made it into the happy hands of employees that have been looking forward to them since they were announced back in December. It's part of a certain generosity that has impressed me about Blizzard Entertainment since my first experiences with them. Even back before they were making money like bees make honey, they made sure to save a bit of the budget for cool swag and fun opportunities for their people. Far from just an office to seat your butt in for the day, this company champions creativity and takes pains to create a work environment that fosters inspiration.

And hey... I didn't share this as some sort of promotion drive for Blizzard's hiring team. I honestly respect the effort they put into projects like this one, and I am never anything but impressed with the quality of what they can do.

* ... or is about to. @_@

Mar 17, 2008

Stat-Balance the Human: Snacking Well-Fed

Before I get into today's post, there is one thing that I want to make competely clear. I am not a nutritionist. I haven't been trained in the metabolic process or the roles of the various vitamins and minerals in your body's vital systems. What I have done is read, experience, live and learn for the past *cough* many years about what is recommended, what was recommended, why things changed, how judgements were made, and who says what about nutrition. Let's face it - there have been a lot of voices in the choir about all things dietary over the last decade or two, and I've found that it's toughest to choose who to believe and who to ignore. Thus, I've kind of mixed and matched and formed my own opinions on the larger 'plans for eating right'.

So these are my thoughts and my suggestions based on experience, common sense, and research. In that order. My hope in presenting them is that you'll read, consider, and then maybe go do your own research into what makes sense to you. See if you can agree with me.

The Well-Fed Concept:

'Eating well' is the name of the game - not just eating, not just 'too much' or 'too little', but truly eating what your body needs and can use and avoiding the things that it is not designed to handle well. That's what I call 'eating well', and it should be a lot easier than it is!

... but really, it's so difficult. In the interests of economics, portability, and an eat-on-the-run modern mentality, the food that is easiest and cheapest to obtain often falls completely outside the realm of what is desirable to your body. Oh, sure. It's all 'eating', and it can make your stomach and your taste buds happy (mmm... pizza ... :D), but what is it putting into your system that you don't want? That you can't process? That affects your mood or your blood chemistry?

By now, I think everyone has seen or read some sort of documentation on the horrors of a fast-food diet and just what goes into fast food. I'm not going to beat that dead horse. I'm not going to tell you to boycott Burger King or avoid McDonalds like the plague. I'm not even going to tell you that burgers are the devil and french fries are little railroad ties on the train track to an early grave. We're not in the business of overdramatizing, here. I just want to encourage you to eat as smartly as you can and know what you're eating. You deserve to be healthy, and I think that with a few suggestions and some facts under your belt, you can take a simple, important step toward being just that.

What is that step?

Eat 'au naturale'.

If I had to sum up what's wrong with 9/10ths of the convenience food that we all (Americans or not!) eat, I would do it like this: It's fake.

Flashy, chemical preservatives. Color-enhancing additives. Oodles of strange sodium constructs to cover the other odd flavors. Processed flours. Processed sugars. Artificial flavors, textures, and scents. These types of things inundate the food we consume from restaurants and from groceries. Take a look at the back of your next pack of crisps and Google every ingredient you don't recognize. Are you sure you want that stuff in your body?

I know I don't. That's why I try to pick up simple, natural foods and avoid all the crazy chemicals. If I can't pronounce its name, I'm pretty sure my stomach won't know what to do with it. Sure, it's not a hard and fast rule, but you'd be surprised by how many of those bifurcated whoseewhatsis chemicals have nothing whatsoever to do with me or you getting sustenance from what we eat.

Snacking Well-Fed:

"Okay, Rhoe. That's great," you say, "but this is a gaming blog. You're supposed to talk about World of Warcraft and fun stuff like that."

True. I want you, as a player sitting in a chair behind a large, bright screen, to be healthy. And I know as well as you do just what influences World of Warcraft and its ilk can put on your life. Food often comes below raiding. Below farming mats for consumables. Below dinging 53. Below tanking that UBRS run. You're hungry, but you have two minutes until the next big thing hits in-game, so you need to grab something super-quick.

That's not necessarily bad. Some experts recommend eating 5 "small meals" a day instead of our standard three. I think that makes a lot of sense from a metabolic standpoint, but the fact is that it's still enough under debate that you should work out what's best for you. Me, I feel better if I eat about four 'snacks' a day and then one reasonably-sized meal (dinner for family time, really). Because of that, I'm always hopping up from the game to go grab a bite of something.

I want to share some ideas for that super-quick snack that are my favorites. I like natural, flavorful, but simple. Take these ideas and the guideline of 'no artificials' and play with them. Find your own snacks with ingredients you can recognize, and tastes you will appreciate on a daily basis. Healthy does not equal yucky. That's a myth of epic proportions, and I hope my snacks will prove that to you:

  • Baby Carrots
    Baby Carrots - I eat mine plain, because I love fresh carrots. A handful of 5 or 6 of these little babies will always quench that little hunger bug. If you like a little extra flavor with yours, I recommend a really simple dip made from plain yogurt and a ranch dressing mix (such as Hidden Valley Ranch's powdered Ranch mix). Take ten minutes to mix it up, and you can store it in the fridge for a week. Best of all, you can grab, dip, and munch between pulls and still have both hands free for pwnage when the next mob is pulled.

  • Celery and Peanut Butter - Well, of course you can eat just celery, but even
    Celery and Peanut Butter
    I find celery sticks alone to be... rather boring. And we're talking about the person who can eat plain rice very happily. Thus, I recommend eating celery sticks with a little dollop of peanut butter. Not only is it tasty, but a good, organic peanut butter has great nut proteins and a large percentage of unsaturated fats as well as vitamin E, niacin, phosphorus and magnesium. In moderation, it's a beautiful supplement to celery, which has very little flavor of its own. As an added bonus, there are some common snack-pack products out there that give you a handful of celery sticks with a little dip-pouch of peanut butter. Read the label and see if you can live with the inevitable preservatives in these, but remember that even baby steps are still steps towards nutritional eating.

  • Fruit and Dairy - Personally, I use Dannon All-Natural Vanilla yogurt as a dip for my fruit when I don't want to eat it plain (which, honestly, I usually do), but you can also use plain yogurt for a less-sweet alternative or even cottage cheese. These are great little snacks because you can get a huge variety of tastes by varying the kind of fruit you pair with your dairy product du jour. Want a bit of crunch? Add some granola to make it even better!

    Baby Carrots
    Best of all, you don't need to keep fresh fruit on hand. I've recently fallen in love with Dole's Plastic Fruit Jars for the ability to eat however much I want, then screw the lid on and save the rest for next time. There's no need to feel like I need to eat an entire can or wonder if that old can with the foil over the top is going to reach up with moldy fingers and bite me when I open it. Even better, the ingredient list on one of these babies is short, sweet, and completely recognizable. Neither Dannon nor Dole sullies the mix with additives or preservatives.

  • Veggie Chips
    Veggie Chips
    - Veggie chips are a great alternative to the usual potato chip. There are sort of two 'types' of veggie chips, though, and you will want to know the difference. The original and authentic veggie chips were lightly salted, flash-fried vegetables that are most often available in the bulk aisle at your local grocery or health food store. As such, they have some fat and sodium content, but it's a small amount when compared to potato chips. Also, they retain a lot of the vitamins and minerals and the unique flavors of the vegetables.

    Also in the 'veggie chips' category are flour based, vegetable-flavored chips that have more of the consistency of potato chips. They are still lower in fat and sodium content than products like Doritos and Lays, but they lack a lot of the natural vitamins and minerals from true veggie chips. They're less authentic, but still a good alternative. What you can find depends on your grocery and your region and sometimes the phases of the moon, so you need to take every product to the firing range and check its ingredients and nutritional information before you judge it fit for consumption. Because my local grocery doesn't carry true, fried veggie chips, I like to get the Jensen's Orchard variety. Just remember, every kind of veggie chip is a little bit different, so if you don't like the first ones you try, that doesn't mean you won't like the second.

  • Rice Cakes
    Rice Cakes - You're groaning; I know. I'm here to tell you that rice cakes don't deserve their reputation, any more. Sure, if you get 'plain' rice cakes, they are a little bland, a little dry, and a lot of BLAH. Not many people get plain rice cakes for a good reason, but Quaker and other manufacturers make some great, flavorful variants that are completely worth checking out. Flavors like Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate Crunch make great banes for a sudden sweet tooth, while Cheddar Cheese and Buttered Pop Corn have that nice, salty tang that makes you crave potato chips. Even the men in my life are willing to admit that the Quaker Rice Snacks I get are worthy of the name food. I'm betting you'll be surprised, too.

It's just a start, but here we have five different snacks that are really just themes for you to explore. Think natural. Think fresh. Think about the foods that your human body was made to consume instead of the crazy stuff we've adopted in this modern day. Next time you're in the grocery, hit the produce section first and skip the soda aisle. Look for snack packs or pre-cut fruit containers. Check out your options in the canned fruit and veggies aisle. Snag some yogurts and other dairy products to use in moderation as your dips and sauces. You can absolutely bring healthy snacks back with you that won't interfere with your play time but will satisfy your cravings.

So, these are my solutions. What are yours?

Mar 12, 2008

Where in the World? - Old-world Answers

Well, it's been seven days. Did you know where my screenshots were? As you were considering them or researching them, did you learn anything new about Azeroth? Was anything intersting enough that you ran around to find its source for yourself? Did the suspense have you biting your nails for today's revelations???

I hope not. It's bad for your cuticles. Tsk.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. There were some very slick answers, and a few of you got most of the tricksie locations. However, one screenshot in here saved my bacon (read: prevented anyone from getting them all right). Number 16 was the big stumper.

But 'nuff said. Let's see the answers to the Old-World Details contest:

#1 Un'goro Crater - Terror Run


#2 Searing Gorge - The Doors to Blackrock Mountain*


#3 Uldaman - The Ancient Halls


#4 Felwood - Irontree Woods


#5 Swamp of Sorrows - Near Splinterspear Junction


#6 Scarlet Monastery Armory - Herod's Chamber


#7 Un'goro Crater - Crystal Cave


#8 Blackwing Lair - Nefarian's Lair


#9 Desolace - Ranazjar Isle


#10 Darkshore - Shatterspear Village


#11 Duskwood - The Twilight Grove


#12 Feralas - Dire Maul - Eldre'Thalas Courtyard


#13 Desolace - Mannoroc Coven


#14 .... Silithid Hive... somewhere**


#15 Blasted Lands - Altar of Storms


#16 The Temple of Ahn'Qiraj (AQ40) - Battleguard Satura's Chamber


Thanks to everyone who emailed me to play. I hope that these glimpses of Azeroth have helped remind you about the rich world in which your toon makes his or her home. It's worth a few extra minutes to stop and look around, even in those places that you've run through a thousand times before. You never know when a cute little doodad or an interesting angle will pop up to inspire and motivate you!

The Death Glow is active, which is why they are a funny greytone instead of their usual murderous red / orange.
Despite an hour of running around to every Silithid hive in the world, I couldn't quite track this one down for certain. I believe that it is most likely from the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, but I give full credit for anyone who sees it and thinks 'Silithid somethingorother'. :)