Evasion into a Greater Invasion: An Argus Story

My horse and I sped through a mob-infested area of Krokuun on our way to take down Tar Spitter for an Argus world quest. Mobs began chasing us. More and more joined the chase. I thought we could outrun them. But quickly they overwhelmed us and threw me off my horse.

Krokuun3 9-10-17 (3)

Ahead I saw a large, pulsating, bright green portal. I ran to it, hoping to evade the mobs. I clicked and was instantly inside. Safe. I figured I’d wait long enough for the mobs outside to return to wherever they came from, then I’d resume my quest. Sometimes plans change quickly. 

A little further inside the portal, which turned out to be a Greater Invasion Point, two other players were standing, a warrior and a priest. Invasion point portal (2)About the time I spotted them, they spotted me and invited me to join them. We chatted, just the three of us. None of us had ever engaged in a greater invasion. We had no idea what we were in for. 

The warrior said, “Let’s go for it!”and rushed off to the closest group of adds. “Bad idea,” I thought because the invasion I’d done with a hunter the day before was tough enough, and it wasn’t called “greater.” But the priest and I ran to help. 

With some effort, but not too much, we cleared the way to the boss, Mistress Alluradel. Since the adds seemed relatively easy, we moved on to her without a beat. And ghosts we quickly became, waiting for the angel to resurrect us. 

Ghosts talking: The priest said, “A guild member told me we need a raid group of at least 10” (now she tells us!). Krokuun 9-10-17I said, on noticing the small green orb next to the instance, “Perhaps we should join a group.” The warrior remained silent. By then, we’d rezzed and queued to join a pre-existing group of 6.

Then there were 9. Slowly, one by one, other players joined up. The group leader insisted on waiting for 20 (smart guy!) despite calls from several players to get on with it. Some players left, others joined. When we attacked Alluradel, we had 24. 

It was a long fight but went well. I think only one player died – and it wasn’t me 🙂. I was happy to complete my first greater invasion and, sweeter yet, I received a 940 chest piece on my bonus roll. 

Vindicator 9-10-17 

Photo Info (from top to bottom): Azeroth in Krokuun sky; Invasion Point portal; Krokuun vista; the Vindicaar over Krokuun

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So Long, Suramar, I’m Off to Argus

You can tell from my previous two posts that I’m fond of the Suramar zone, especially its coastal city. For the past nine months or so, I’ve spent a lot of time there. And while this is not a final farewell, I’ll be there less often now that World of Warcraft has released its final patch to the Legion expansion. As a good-bye, I offer one of my earliest snaps of Suramar City, taken from the Grand Promenade on the inland outskirts of the city.

SurCity from bridge 1-1-17 (2)

Two days ago, along with other members of the Armies of the Legionfall, I shipped off to the planet Argus to fight the Burning Legion, a contingent of which still occupies Suramar City. Argus, shown below, is the Legion’s stronghold. So far I’ve seen nothing I’d want to photograph in its shattered, burnt-over, demon-infested landscape. Then again, I’ve been surrounded by too much danger to stop to look for the strange beauty sometimes found in the macabre; moreover, I’ve barely begun to explore this fearsome place.

Jantzu Argus in Napa 8-13-17 (2)

I took this snap about two weeks ago, shortly after Argus first appeared above Azeroth. I was in the High Mountain zone on a leisurely flight to the Broken Shore. There’s no flying on Argus, but there are portals for traveling between locations somewhat distant from each other.  

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WoW Snaps: Suramar City 2

Gilded Market 8-27-17

This is the Gilded Market in Suramar City. I don’t know what they sell here but do know that it’s quite dangerous to go there alone. Like all the city’s buildings and landscaping, it’s a gorgeous place. You’ll notice gondolas parked alongside the walkway here on Astravar Harbor. Much of the city is, in fact, reminiscent of Venice, Italy; both are coastal cities adorned with grand structures rising above impressive networks of canals. 

For me, the canals and harbors are escape routes. When I’m beset by more demons and their collaborators than I can take on, I sprint to the nearest body of water, jump in, and swim for my life. Apparently I’m a better swimmer than they are because I can’t remember a time when I didn’t lose them. At that point I can reapply my disguise and continue on the mission that brought me into the city in the first place. 

You also probably noticed the lightning bolt above the market, which today reminds me of the catastrophic flooding and damage occurring in and around Houston and other parts of southwest Texas as Hurricane Harvey lingers in the area. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people affected by this historically devastating storm.  

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WoW Snaps: Suramar City 1

I’m enjoying World of Warcraft’s Legion expansion a lot, even now after a year of frequent play. It’s kept me so engaged that until recently I’ve rarely paused to take screenshots (let alone post in this blog). Recently, however, I’ve paused more often and plan to share some of my snaps with you, one or two at a time along with a few comments. Here I begin with a snap I took during one of my first forays into Suramar City.

Suramar City 1-1-17

 I find that Suramar City is very photogenic in a dark, shades-of-purple way. It’s a beautiful and dangerous place occupied by the demonic forces known as the Legion. Despite the overwhelming evil that permeates the city, it remains enchanting. And now with the gathering of more and more Nightborne resistance fighters, there’s hope that the city will one day return to its former radiance. I work for the Resistance.

 

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Three Fun Reads by and about Gamers: Recommended

Today on another blog I published a post called “Three Fun Reads by and about Gamers.” In it I review Max Wirestone’s The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). Perhaps you’d be interested in taking a look.

I call the new blog “not quite ignored” with the subtitle “reflections on the lighter, quirkier, or sometimes more thought-provoking side of news.” Any writing I do specifically about digital games, virtual worlds, and game-based learning (as occasional as that may be) will remain on this site; however, I suspect that now and then, like here, topics will be suitable for either blog. 

Xipe goblinbeachcabana on SouthSeaIsle 10-1-15

Goblin reading nook on a South Sea isle (World of Warcraft)

 

 

 

 

 

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Four Evocative Landscapes in World of Warcraft’s Draenor

So I began looking for beauty in Draenor and found it all around me, even in the highly hostile Tanaan Jungle.

Of course, what I find beautiful in Draenor landscapes may not appeal to other people; after all, there is some truth in the old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Yet I tend to agree with David E. Cooper who argues that what we find beautiful in landscapes is also what we find beautiful in people’s characters. In his words, “an aesthetically admired landscape is experienced as having virtues – or, more precisely, as having features which, when possessed by human beings, are virtues.”

I decided to test Cooper’s claim by analyzing, in a personally associative way, four of my favorite screenshots of Draenor landscapes. I began by asking myself these questions: What fond memories do these images evoke? What beautiful human qualities do these landscapes suggest? 

1. Gorgrond Palms and the Pale Lady

Gorgrond 121514Draenor has two moons. Its largest, the Pale Lady, watches over this palm grove. I’ve been fascinated by the Earth’s moon since I was a child growing up in semi-tropical Florida. Often my grandfather left a wooden ladder propped against the roof. On especially warm nights when the moon was especially bright I would climb the ladder, lie on the cool tin, and lose myself gazing at the moon. Universally the moon is a feminine symbol, a protective and abiding figure throughout the cycles of life. The palm in the foreground appears to be reaching toward or bowing to the afternoon sun, typically a masculine symbol like a king or god. For me there’s a yin-yang quality to the scene as a whole, suggesting – balance, completeness, and contentment.

2. Winding Path in the Spires of Arak

spires of arak 2-15-15

On this hazily sunny afternoon, a path beckons adventurers through jagged foothills toward distant peaks. The sprinkling of trees, as well as torches, temper an otherwise inhospitable landscape. Yet the path is worn, suggesting that it goes some place worth going to; perhaps it’s a trade route or connects neighboring villages. For contemplative sorts, the path is one of many in the journey of life and the seemingly insurmountable peaks challenges along the way. A visit to the Badlands National Park, with its awesome spires and sharply creviced buttes, is the closest I’ve come to hiking in such a place. This Draenor landscape could be taken as a call to persevere while keeping one’s sense of adventure and remaining curious about what lies ahead.  

3. Smoky Mist in the Tanaan Jungle

Farlight Terrace, Tanaan 7-29-15

Early one morning while sipping coffee on a third-story balcony, I was absent-mindedly gazing into a forest when a mist-enshrouded maple captured my attention. In that instant I felt as if I’d been transported to a place of perfect peace – one of the few truly mystical experiences I’ve ever had. When I first saw the Tanaan Jungle from the heights of the backside of the Farlight Terrace, I was reminded of that morning. Landscapes sometimes prompt memories of other times and places. But more to the point of including this image is the delicious magical feeling or sense of mystery that misty mornings can evoke.

4. Sunset on the Gorgrond Coast of the Barrier Sea

Barrier Sea Gorgrond 3-29-15

My husband and I enjoy camping at Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin’s Door County. Our favorite campsite is on top of a bluff only a short walk to a sunset viewing spot. Nearby is the village of Fish Creek where people gather at Sunset Beach Park or on docks to see the sun set over Green Bay. It’s almost a summer ritual. Why? The beauty of the colors, especially over water, calls us. That’s what called me to capture this shot. But I think it’s more than the ever-changing arrays of contrasting colors. If sunsets lasted all day long, they wouldn’t be special. Part of their awesomeness is their ephemerality. While watching a sunset, I often realize how short life and its pleasure are. Indeed, at any time, we live only in the moment. Be in it. Cherish it.

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War Begins Within (or Pandaria Nostalgia)

A conversation with guildmates turned nostalgic a few months ago. We were stalking rare monsters in the Zorammarsh, a gloomy swamp in Draenor’s Tanaan Jungle. The planet Draenor is the setting of World of Warcraft’s most recent expansion and is, for the most part, dark – both graphically and thematically. Relentless hostility  and demonic corruption (called fel) are the rule once you leave your homebase, especially in the Tanaan Jungle where intense fighting against the nefarious Iron Horde is taking place. So there we were in a dismal swamp surrounded by fel-blooded creatures – giant snakes, bats, and raptors – missing  Pandaria.

Zorammarsh in the Tanaan Jungle (Draenor)

Zorammarsh in the Tanaan Jungle (Draenor)

Pandaria, introduced in the previous expansion, is an island continent on the planet Azeroth. Although Pandaria has its dark zones (e.g. Dread Wastes), it’s lighter than Draenor, both graphically and psychologically. Factional war remains part of the mix, but the primary war is against negative emotions like fear, anger, despair, violence, and hatred – emotions the two major Warcraft factions, Horde and Alliance, unleashed upon the idyllic landscape and peace-loving, often wise Pandaren (pandas). Here the factions curb their mutual hostilities in order to defeat  their mutual enemies – which are actually physical manifestations of their own emotions.

Dawn's Blossom in the Jade Forest (Pandaria)

Dawn’s Blossom in the Jade Forest (Pandaria)

Game graphics need, of course, to set a tone and match a narrative theme, and a theme needs to match questing and raiding goals. Both Draenor and Pandaria do this well, despite their thematic differences. While Pandaria’s overarching theme is “war begins within,” Draenor shows us in Tanaan (the current endgame zone) that indeed, to quote William Tecumseh Sherman,“War is hell.” I find the thematic flow from Pandaria to Draenor satisfying. Yet, like a number of my guildmates, I too experience Pandaland nostalgia from time to time. Why?

We were excited about moving on when “Warlords of Draenor” launched and kept quite busy leveling up, building our garrisons, running dungeons, and so on. Then we arrived in Tanaan with its endless apexis runs and pervasive darkness, literally and metaphorically. It could be that after awhile these became just too much. You see, the conversation that turned nostalgic in the dismal swamp has reoccurred a number of times since in different Draenor settings and contexts. But I think there’s a deeper reason too.

Hellfire Citadel in the Tanaan Jungle (Draenor)

Hellfire Citadel in the Tanaan Jungle (Draenor)

For the most part, my guildmates are educators and look for games to offer more than great graphics. We like to use our “little gray cells,” as Hercule Poirot likes to say. Raiding, whether in Pandaria or Draenor, engages us in strategic planning. For many of us, however, themes that drive the story and spin-off interesting subplots matter too. I suggest that Draenor is not as captivating as Pandaria because, in large part, its endgame theme “war is hell,” with few narrative twists and turns and little that provokes thought, has grown as tiresome as grinding in a dark, demon-infused war zone.

In comparison, Pandaria’s theme “war begins within” offers the opportunity to reflect on a perennial and complex issue: the causes of war. On the individual level, war can be viewed as a large-scale, disastrous projection of our own emotions and insecurities: for example, our fear of the Other; our bottled up anger; our greed for power; our desire to control; and our unwillingness to reason with others, to hear the other side, to feel compassion, to compromise, to cooperate, and to see the larger picture. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Temple of the White Tiger  in Kun-Lai Summit (Pandaria)

Temple of the White Tiger in Kun-Lai Summit (Pandaria)

I’m not saying there’s never a time to go to war. Gandhi, for example, tried in letters to reason with Hitler, to no avail. And in our own time, reasoning with ISIS seems futile. But such examples do not detract from the truth embedded in the Pandaria theme. Defeating (or at least beating back) our personal demons makes us happier, better people. And I believe that happy, healthy, compassionate people who have meaningful work are less likely to start a war.

Hmm. It could be that what I see as a lack of depth to the Draenor theme has something to do with why I have not written about Draenor until now. Perhaps, given that modest revelation, I’ll try to find something inspiring in Draenor about which to write.

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