Masks

•August 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

((This is a blog entry that dates back to about a month ago under a different name titled “My Name Is…”.  I’m pretty sure back then, that I had other intentions for this blog post.  But upon revisiting it, I was met with a blank page.  And before I realized it, one of my characters jumped at the chance at an internal monologue.  So here you go: the sneak thief troublemaker Amara rambling about names and identities.))

Maybe you’ve heard of me.  Maybe you ain’t.  Chances are that you did wit’out even realizin’ it.

Names.  Identities.  Them’s curious things, y’know?  ‘specially fer people like me.  See, some people can jes’ shed names an’ identities like a snake sheds its own skin.  We’re an adaptable lot, changin’ our colors t’suit our surroundin’s an’ situations.  We’re th’ type t’ carry masks on our person an’ change th’ face when we need to.

P’haps we’ve met on th’ docks of th’ goblin ports.  Booty Bay?  Ratchet ring any bells?  P’haps within city walls.  I sold goblin merchandise once y’know to th’ kind people o’ Stormwind.  Maybe you bought somethin’ from me.  Or maybe you were a client fer a jeweler who made a livin’ in Ironforge.  They sure do know good food an’ drink, those dwarves.  Better than those stuffy elves, tha’s fer sure.  Th’ wealthy nobles might’ve seen me, but probably in ways they didn’t even think ’bout.

People changin’ their names, their lives, like they were changin’ their clothes.  Maybe it’s a strange concept t’ye, but then again, I think people who can stick wit’ one name their whole life are nuts.  Doesn’t th’ idea of havin’ a brand new start seem appealin’?  ‘specially when you’ve gone an’ done somethin’ really bad?  Y’know… the type of screw-ups where people want ye dead over ‘em?  I’m sure everyone’s had tha’ sort o’ situation happen to ‘em b’fore; Azeroth’s tha’ sorta place.  There’s tha’ whole sayin’ ’bout livin’ wit’ yer mistakes, but ‘s bit hard to do tha’ when yer likely gonna wind up dead because of ‘em.

An’ sometimes, it ain’t so much about screw-ups, as it’s a part of a job.  ‘Course, maybe you’ve never heard of th’ types.  If y’did, you were either in on it, or they weren’t good at hidin’ t’start.  Sure y’can make up a whole bunch o’ bull ’bout yerself, but it makes it all th’ more believable when y’craft a character in yer head fit fer th’ job.  Sure I could say I wen’ an’ studied magic in Dalaran, but anyone who looked at me would tell I was lyin’ through m’teeth.  No Amara Rosette ever passed through their towers, or whatever it is they study in.

On th’ other hand, were I create a name an’ a character t’fit, an’ maybe, jus’ maybe they wouldn’t be able t’tell truth from fiction.  Take a name from a dead noble family, an’ sudden they may not be as dead as people think.  I mean, who can check t’be sure when everyone else is dead, right?  From there, it’s all about tailorin’ th’ character.

An’ some people fall into tha’ third lot.  Some think it’s fun.  They like wearin’ masks an’ foolin’ people.  It’s fun an’ all, but Light it’s tirin’.  I dunno how some people can keep at it.  Maybe they like feelin’ clever.  Light knows.

Is it a bad habit?  Depends on who yer askin’.  I think havin’ a form o’ change tha’ you’ve got some form o’ control of is needed in life.  In tha’ sense, it makes you feel powerful in a way—like y’can change somethin’ in this messed up, crazy time we live in.  In a world o’ constant war to all sides, an’ where jes’ ’bout everthing tha’s breathin’ wants ye dead, sometimes puttin’ on tha’ mask can make it all go away.  At least fer a little while.

Final Thoughts on RealID

•July 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s old news by now to many, but it’s welcoming to see that Blizzard decided to listen to their player-base, and not go forward with their plans for Real-ID on the forums.  In the aftermath of it all, I’ve had time to reflect back on the last couple days—what this game means to its players, and how far issues  need to be taken before some of us are willing to stand up for what we think is right.

Speaking Up

If you asked me if I regretted canceling my subscription, I would say no.  I know that if I didn’t, then I would’ve felt that my voice wouldn’t be heard.  To the bigwigs like Bobby Kotick, money is the only language they can understand.  I’m sure the 2000+ page thread on the forums certainly helped, but in the end it came down to the amount of players that were unsubscribing, and those canceling their pre-orders for various Blizzard products (SC2 comes to mind)  These were people that didn’t want to leave, but felt that if they were to stay on, they would only be supporting a move that would endanger themselves, as well as those around them.

To me, it comes as a bit of a relief that Blizzard still listens to its players.  Some people have said that they knew Blizzard would cave-in to the masses, but when you read that they have a long term goal with this Real-ID thing, sometimes you never know.  Perhaps I should’ve  known, but who am I to take chances with my rights to privacy?

Trusting Blizzard

Amongst the aftermath, people were either breathing a sigh of relief, or they were doing that AND resubscribing.  Some have kept their accounts closed, remaining unconvinced about the future.  The deal with Facebook was done back in May—when they first started talking about Real-ID.  Whose to say that they wouldn’t try something like this again in the future elsewhere?   The fact that they’ve yet to change their private policy on the issue of Real-ID on the forums may seem a bit worrisome.

Now, I’m hardly one to push the paranoia button, but I have to agree with those that say “this isn’t over yet.”  Blizzard’s reputation has been tarnished.  I take their word on good faith, but I remain cautiously optimistic about the whole thing unless they end up doing a major revamp of Real-ID (Blizzard-ID sounds so much better IMHO).  I do want to say that I don’t think Blizzard was entirely responsible for orchestrating this—it isn’t like them for one.  When your company has a track record of keeping an ear to the voice of the customers for about fifteen years, you have a feeling when something just feels… wrong.  And that’s what this whole thing felt; like a puppet on strings.

Are We Too Late?

I’ve begun to notice as I make my rounds around the blog-o-sphere, that some people feel the community has woken up a bit too late.  That if this many people had spoken out about when Real-ID was introduced in-game, then things probably would’ve turned out very differently.  Given that the deal was done in May—before Real-ID was launched—I would say that this is something that just might be out of our hands.  This is something only the shareholders could’ve really decided on.  Sadly, most people see social media networks like Facebook as the future, and many are willing to jump on that bandwagon to get a piece of that billion dollar market, even if their products weren’t meant for that type of audience.

Real-ID is here, and it’s staying.  However, I don’t think it’s too late to change it.  I think a lot of people will agree that it’s a fantastic idea filled with a number of features players have been asking for years.  (Cross-faction communication?  RPers have been wanting that for a long time.  Cross-server communication?  As someone who has friends spread across a number of servers, this was a HUGE draw for me, and it makes me very sad that I don’t make use of it.)  Many players that refuse to use it are only asking for a few choice features—adding an invisible status—making some features optional—friend of friend—or to make a change to make it safer—using a user-generated alias as your friend name to be displayed and used for invites.

The customer base wants Blizzard to succeed.  To create such a stunning product that they’ll continue to play it for years and years, and that’s a major part of why the Blizzard formula works so well.  But, that only works if we keep speaking up and letting them know.

So keep speaking out.  Keep proposing changes on existing features such as Real-ID.  One day we may yet see the day where Real-ID is no longer a heated topic of controversy, but just another enjoyable feature that keeps us playing their games.

The Ever-Expanding RealID Fiasco

•July 6, 2010 • 1 Comment

A few weeks ago, I had begun writing an article in response to the release of patch 3.3.5—more to the point, it targeted Blizzard’s new project—RealID.  Suffice to say, I was amongst those that really, really liked the idea, but felt it was critically flawed in both design, and security aspects.  My primary issue was with needing to share my login username email in order to get this to work, but there were other legitimate concerns including the Friend of Friend lists and having your real name listed there, even if you may not know your friend’s friends.  Also like many people, I felt that RealID was a system that could’ve been so much more, but Blizzard botched it big time by appealing to a niche of players.  However, this has already been beaten to death with a dead horse, hence why that post never saw the light of day.  Adding to that is those that didn’t want to use it had the option to simply opt-out, and we could go on ahead with our lives.

That is, until now.

Today, Blizzard announced that they’re planning to integrate RealID with their official forums.  It’ll start to go live with the release of Starcraft2, and it’ll eventually find its way to the WoW forums not too long before Cataclysm hits.

When I woke up and read this, I actually wondered if I went back in time, and it was actually April 1st.

I can’t even begin to imagine what sort of repercussions Blizzard will start to feel in the aftermath of this announcement.  The official thread on the General Forums has gone 330 pages and there’s absolutely no signs of it stopping.  The people who seemed to be fine with the idea of RealID when it was first launched in-game are saying that now Blizzard is starting to overstep their boundaries.  Very few people seem to be in support of it, and really?  It’s not hard to see why.

I can see what Blizzard is trying to do; foster an environment for constructive discussion.  They want to clean up the mess, the bile and the spew that people associate the forums with.  But, there must be other ways to do this, because this new system puts those that want to contribute to a community, but want to keep their real life and gamer persona separate from one another, between a rock and a hard place.

Many people—including myself—have already highlighted what real life repercussions could come out with having your real name out there associated on a gaming forum in that thread.  One of the major ones that hit pretty close to home for me are career and job concerns.  Some people want—or need—to keep their professional and leisure identities separate.  What about those people?  As someone who knows first-hand just how tough the job market is right now, it’s a real concern when knowing what could make or break a job offer would be as simple as putting your name into a Google search and getting search results that link to your activity on a gaming forum.  Time and time again, we are told that we need to maintain a professional image, and yet how can we do that when Blizzard starts to throw your WoW habits into the mix?  Worse still, is WoW continues to carry a negative stigma of being an addicting game.  It’s true, but it doesn’t mean that people can learn how to play in moderation.  However, hiring managers may look at it, and already they may have a negative image about you even before you step into the office for a job interview.

There was a forum post in the giant US thread that detailed how his activities were strictly monitored; how he always needed a doctor’s note when he called in sick, how he had to detail exactly what he did when he worked from home.  Even when he went on vacation, he had to provide proof through plane tickets that he was really flying off somewhere.  All because he played WoW.  The funny thing?  His co-workers—who weren’t WoW players—weren’t treated like that.

The other giant issue is about harassment and stalking.  I’m not afraid to admit that I am a woman who plays WoW; hell, I don’t mind jumping onto the server Vent to talk with people.  But, I feel that I have a right to control how much information I give out to people, and making RealID mandatory on the forums takes away that freedom.  Some people aren’t comfortable with people knowing their name at all due to gender, ethnicity, etc.  Blizzard thinks revealing real names will stop trolling?  I hate to break it to them, but some people are perfectly fine with trolling—even if their name is visible for the world to see.  It’ll have to take some harsh, immediate punishment (ban from the forums and in-game perhaps?) to set people straight.

And, do we even need to get into the not-so-stable-people that might want to take things a little too far?  Seriously, if you’re a working adult with a job, a credit line a home, it’s not hard to for people to find out who you are, where you live, and all sorts of personal information that you wouldn’t want to tell your online friends about.  Sooner or later, someone will get hurt.

Yes, we have a choice to use RealID.  We can either opt in by continuing to post, or you’re concerned about your privacy and security, you can choose not to be a part of the forum community.  But, Blizzard pretty much defeats the point of trying to foster an environment for communication when no one’s talking, don’t you think?

EDIT: There was another post about 30 pages in from a blue in regards to a bit of info they forgot to mention in the beginning (and in turn, probably a lot of people missed—including myself)

One important point which I don’t believe has been relayed yet is that the switch to showing RealID on the forums will only happen with the new forum systems we’re launching for StarCraft II shortly before its release, and a new forum system for World of Warcraft launching shortly before the release of Cataclysm.

All posts here on the current World of Warcraft forums, or any of our classic Battle.net forums, will remain as-is. They won’t (and can’t) automatically switch to showing a real first and last name.

It’s an interesting bit of information that suggests that it’ll be optional.  But, since seeing that Blizzard has a “vision” with RealID and where it’s going, who knows how long it’ll be before it becomes mandatory when using the official forums.  This is what scares a lot of people, and I can’t blame them.

And for those that participate in your realm community, I throw out this question: what will your realm community do?  Will they adapt?  Or will they be creating a new forums to avoid this whole mess?

SON OF EDIT: Also, I implore people that if you feel strongly against this, please register a complaint with the ESRB through here.  Only we can make a difference.

GRANDSON OF EDIT: While we’re on the subject of RealID, there’s an article on WoW Insider that shows that there’s a critical flaw with the system that allows addons to show your real life name to others—even if you haven’t made any RealID friends.  The hits just keep on coming.

GREAT GRANDSON OF EDIT: A lot has gone on since the last revision.  For one, the US realm forums have gone over the 1000 page mark—and it looks like it has yet to slow down.  On the other side of the Atlantic, the Europeans are expressing their frustration over the RealID system as well.  I’m not going to touch the CM who decided to reveal his name to the forums out of a gesture of good-will—it’s pretty well known by now, not to mention it’s a tad bit ugly as it’s an example of someone getting “4chaned” as it were.

Another blue post has recently popped up on the EU English forums:

We have been planning this change for a very long time. During this time, we have thought ahead about the scope and impact of this change and predicted that many people would no longer wish to post in the forums after this change goes live. We are fine with that, because we want to change these forums dramatically in a positive and more constructive direction.

It’s been very obvious over the last few years that the forums are an exceptionally valuable source of information both for players and for us to gather feedback. There are many threads on this forum now, and over the last few years, that people have been constructively discussing many aspects of the game. They’ve received new wisdom and have then been able to go back to the game and enjoy it further with the new knowledge acquired through the forums.

These threads, however, can often be lost amongst a great deal of other threads that are basically filled with trolling, name calling, flaming, off-topic conversations and that’s just a small amount of some of the content that has been found in these forums over the years. We don’t want that anymore, and we believe the Real ID change will bring about a lot of the improvement that we are hoping for.

There’s a lot of scare-mongering going on about the change, but there seems a need to make something very clear. The forums have always been an optional extra — something you can choose to participate in if you wish to. With our Real ID changes for the forums, this is still the case. The only difference will be, if you do choose to participate in the forums, then you will do so by using your real name. But only after you’ve been warned and accepted this in advance.

Take what you will out of it, but the way I see it?  The only way for players to express their discontent is to put their money where their mouth is.  And as much as it pains to say it with plans to help revitalize the server community, I now stand amongst them.  My account is canceled and now inactive and will remain so until I see some major changes to this system, as well as a sign of good faith that Activision-Blizzard is once again a company I can put my trust into.

The upside to all of this?  In all my years of playing WoW and being a part of the community, I have never seen the community so united together for a single cause.  For the first time, players from all walks of life and play styles stand together. It almost brings a tear to this veteran’s eye.

FINAL EDIT:

…Posting on the forums with your real name will be optional — yes, in the sense that the options are simply post and show your real name, or do not post and you keep it confidential. If people are happy to post and do not feel intimidated by this, then great — hopefully they will also post constructively (though it’s fair to say, this isn’t a given). It might be scary to consider posting with your real name, in which case it might be advisable simply not to post in these forums. There’s a whole load of other forums across the internet where you’ll be able to post in a more anonymous way, and maybe you will make a useful and constructive contribution there instead.

-Wryxian (EU English Forums)

I’ve got nothing else to add here.

The State of Affairs

•July 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Things have gone a mite bit quiet again over the past few weeks, and some may be wondering about the current state of affairs by asking themselves: Is this blog dead again?

Well, I do have a bit of good news. For in fact, we are not dead yet! Yes, hard to believe, but things are alive and kicking. Further good news is that there will be more updates in a few weeks, and all the changes I’ve been talking about will finally happen.

So, what’s the catch? It’s all in the fine print; in a few weeks. Things will be quiet a little bit longer since I am once again in the middle of moving (and currently, I don’t even have a computer. This entry is being typed out in an iTouch.  It works like a charm, but it’s much easier to type with more than one finger and to not have your mobile device tell you it’s about to die every five minutes.  I also can’t bold, italicize, put in links or do any fancy format editing.  It makes for a very sad time.)

However! A lot has been happening, as the NDA finally got lifted from Cata, so now information is pratically flooding the Intertubes of the web. As for myself? I’m a bit glad this is happening now since I have limited web access. I fear my poor brain would sooner explode trying to take in everything, before I would be able to properly understand and digest it.

That being said, for those that roam the Sentinels server and/or are interested in learning what can be learned about the upcoming expansion, I reccomend stopping by the local realm forums.  A pretty sizable group from the realm had been participating in the alpha testing of Cataclysm, and are now opening up to the community and answering questions that folks may have.  (Within reason, of course.  They can’t spill all the beans.)

Another thing that’s been recently introduced to the Sentinels community; with the success of the Wyrmrest Tavern, the Dragonsworn Council has annouced the opening of the Wyrmrest channel. Now folks don’t have to wait until Saturday evening to enjoy their Hot Dragon Wings! The channel allows for people to RP, even if they might be farming, PvPing, or instancing.

More details can be found here (as well as some general guidelines on etiquette)

And finally—for those that enjoy listening to podcasts, or need an hour or two to kill—if you haven’t checked out The Obscuracast, then I suggest you stop what you’re doing and get a couple episodes to listen to. The Obscuracast is ran by the author of the Mana Obscura—Gazimoff—and his friend—Stu—and they just have a real good time talking about the latest news in the Warcraft-verse, as well as anything else that may interest them.  Near the end of their shows, they have a feedback segment known as the Obscurity (“THIS WEEK’S OBSCURITY”), where they present a topic and invite their listeners to send in their thoughts about it, and there have been some pretty good thought-provoking topics (“Where do you draw the line between creative use of game mechanics, and flat out cheating?” or “videogames as a storytelling medium”.)

They’re about seven episodes in as of typing this, so it’s a pretty new series. However, I think they’re extremely entertaining to listen to (Stu does a pretty amazing Deathwing voice IMO), and if you don’t mind/like British accents—like I do—you really can’t go wrong. You can either look them up on iTunes, or visit the Mana Obscura to get caught up.

The beauty of things on the Internet is that things published on it can never really die, and it’s easy to pick up where you left off.  Things are definitely things in the works as the clockwork continues to spin.  It’ll only be a matter of time before these changes see sunlight.

A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name

•May 21, 2010 • 2 Comments

As of late, I’ve been feeling restless with my server environment.  Despite being on the one of most popular servers for RPing—and believe me, the RP is practically bursting from the seams by how much that goes on—I still don’t feel at home.  Just as a point of reference, I’ve been around there for the last six months—hardly a newcomer to the scene who has yet to root themselves in.

Now, I’m not writing this to rant about the x amount of things that I don’t like about it, but I want to bring up a point—personal mileage will always vary.  For some, people will enjoy—and even thrive in large RP communities.  It means there’ll be more people to befriend, more events that are being put out by the community, and more chances to RP and get involved.

Sad to say, I’ve become somewhat jaded over the years (to those of you that can keep giving your time and creative energy to a wide audience, I commend you on your tenacity and your stamina).  In a way, it’s made me a bit more conservative… a bit more introverted.  For some people like me, we see too many faults with large RP communities.  The bad get mixed in with the good, and suddenly everything feels mediocre.  We get nit-picky, because by then we strive for quality over quantity.

So, how can we find our peace?  How can we sate our RP thirst?

It’s ignorant how people can easily dismiss servers with smaller RP communities—saying that they’re “on life support” or ”x server’s RP is nonexistent”—when in fact, they are like the fertile soil in which a close-knit community can form.  Some may see close-knit communities as insular and cliquish—and while this can be the case sometimes, it doesn’t mean all of them are.  In fact, I feel that smaller communities will more likely to make newcomers feel welcome—provided they aren’t jerks—because fresh blood means additional creativity to the server pool.  They have that much more to gain compared to a large server whose talent pool is already filled with players.

Personally, I feel smaller RP server have a bit of an advantage over the larger ones, and I don’t mean because they have quality RP—I feel the ratio of good to bad RP on a server is generally the same across the board.  But, a smaller community means fewer members.  In this case, it isn’t a bad thing—and in fact, I feel it would make it easier for them to come together and make changes to their server climate for the better, then say… a large community whose members have such varying opinions that the community as a whole will be unable to come to a consensus and nothing will change.  And this doesn’t factor in those that remain wholly ignorant of these discussions because they don’t frequent their realm forums, off-site server forums, or what have you.

Perhaps I still have an idealistic heart in that regard.  But, I miss that intimacy… that feeling of closeness with a server community.  Perhaps that’s why I’m starting to feel longing for my old server.  It’s like as if I’m living in the big city now.  The hustle and bustle is all very nice, but there’s a part of me that longs to return to that faraway country-side village where everyone knows your name.

Rising From the Lull

•May 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Poke at a sleeping beast long enough, and sooner or later, it’s bound to wake up again.  But, I guarantee I won’t be flashing my sharp, pointy teeth and chasing away visitors as I go along with this revival.

Silliness aside, things will be changing a bit around here!   Compass Studies will be moving off of WordPress site in a few days.  I’ve been thinking it’s long overdue to start making use of some web space that I have sitting about.

Secondly, a slight change in focus.  I realize it’s a bit limiting when my blog is purely focused on the roleplaying aspects of WoW.  Especially when I find myself engaging in more than just that.  Topics will become a bit more open with the game in general, though that doesn’t mean that the RP posts will be lost.  Considering that I’ll be making a comeback to the Sentinels Alliance RP community over the next few months, as well as with all the information about Cataclysm that’ll be coming out soon (especially with Blizzcon not that far off), there’ll be plenty to talk about.

We’re not dead.  We’ve just been resting.  And now it’s time to wake up.

Dealing with Death

•April 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

" 'Tis only a fle—well, maybe not..."

Death.

Not too many people touch on this subject in RP settings, and for good reason.  Not many people would consider killing off their beloved character.  There’s always something ahead on the horizon—always something to do.  If anything, at least there’ll be a new enemy that’ll threaten the life of all living things on Azeroth, and death is a surefire way to throw all those glorious plans of stopping the next big baddie out the window.  Most people would consider placing their character into retirement before killing them.

But sometimes—even after thinking about it and weighing the alternatives—the idea comes back, and we’re okay with it.   It’s not so much that we don’t care about our characters—usually, it’s quite the opposite.  But, I strongly believe that characters are the driving vehicle for good storytelling.  And that a story isn’t made for them, but they create a story through their actions.  Even motifs such as death have their place in stories, if deemed appropriate.

So, your mind might be set with this, but where do you start?  Putting down your own character can be a tricky business.  Remember that RP is a social activity—and in turn, other people will be affected by your decision.  But, there are ways to go about it without activating the drama-llama bomb.

Continue reading: Dealing with Death

 
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