[WoW] How to Unlock your Pet Menagerie the Quickest Way (for Noobs)

So, you are late to pet battles but would still like to activate that pet menagerie in your garrison? Then like me, you will require a little help!

I used to be a pet collector in WoW up until WotLK and only now that I am back for Draenor, did I start looking into the pet battle feature. I’ll be honest, I might have disregarded this entirely had it not been for that empty spot in my garrison, where 5 of my collected pets could be running around the menagerie. Well, it so happens that where there’s a will, there’s a way! I am in no rush to get to any endgame in WoW these days, so I might as well start working on that achievement. The following quick guide is based on my own research on how to  -

  1. get you started with pet battles in WoD
  2. get your first lvl 25 pet(s) quickly
  3. beat the pet menagerie quest “Pets versus Pests

I am on the second stage myself still and have managed to get several lvl23 pets now within over an hour (give or take, depending on your luck in Kharazan). For step three I have spent the evening reading up on wowhead in order to find pet options for players who don’t have any “fancy beat-all” pets like Pandaren Water Spirit or Chrominius. I’m sure you could look into those but I’m generally quest-lazy and would rather just work with what I have got or can capture!

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How to unlock your Pet Menagerie the Quick & Dirty Way

Step #1:
Talk to the first pet trainer in your capital city (for alliance that means Stormwind next to the Cata portals, for horde Orgrimmar) to get you started with pet battles in WoW. After this, the pet menagerie quest will appear in your garrison and you will also start seeing lots of green pet battle markers wherever you go. Choose mechanical pets for your first team because they tend to take less damage and are more beginner-friendly (some of them are dirty cheap on the AH).

The intro quests are fast after which the trainer will send you off to beat several other trainers in Elwynn and Westfall, as well as Redridge and Duskwood (as alliance). Around the Duskwood stage, your pet party should be roughly around lvl 5-6 which is enough to continue to step #2!

Step #2:
Continue using this excellent guide on how to obtain your three Arcane Eyes in Deadwind Pass and two Dragonbone Hatchlings in Dragonblight. The pets in Karazhan are found around the entrance as well as on all the upper balconies and terraces of the fort. They are not rare spawns but if more players are looking for the same thing, you might need to check back several times. Also, note the Hatchlings will come with two additional allies per fight(!) but you can still definitely do it, even if it means some of your Eyes will die and will require a rez after the fight.

A few tips: if you struggle beating the Hatchlings, aim for lvl 22 ones rather than lvl 23. Heal up after every fight (cooldown ability and stable master if you have no more bandages). Once you got a victory, start using your new pet right away!

After obtaining two Hatchlings, head straight to Pandaria for the Eternal Striders in VoEB. Continue to level up your lvl 20/21 Hatchlings (when you capture them, they lose two levels!) as well as the Arcane Eye and don’t trust the time frame in the guide – it will definitely take longer than 10mins to level 25 (maybe more like 2 hours)! Try not to let your pets die or they won’t get any EXP and keep in mind only the ones actually active in battle will gain experience. The stable master in VoEB is Jaul Hsu (I alternate between visiting him and using my own pet healing cooldown).

Step #3 (in progress):
After you got at least two pets to level 25, you can start boosting a third. There are several boost guides around the official forums but so far, I haven’t found one that doesn’t require you to already own very specific other battle pets as boosters or to be on certain parts of a questchain (if you have any other info, let me know!). This means I am likely to boost my next pets the normal way, by battling for EXP in Pandaria. Since I can battle almost all high-level pets at this point, this means I will try capture lvl20+ pets of the pet families I need instead of boosting any low-level pets.

The three encounters in “Pets versus Pests” require specific lvl 25 pet abilities to beat them. You can spend some time on that wowhead link like me to check if there’s any comment that includes pets you already have. For my own mundane setup, my picks against each boss will likely look as follows:

  • Carrotus: A frog and any water striders (capture some of those you are fighting as part of the first lvl25 pet).
  • Gorefu: 2 moths and any other pet.
  • Gnawface: 3 spiderlings of any kind

It appears that for some fights you’ll only require two appropriate pets and maybe any third to finish off. As for the rotations to make this a success (each pet has 6 abilities of which you can only choose 3), check the comments in the links I included.

I obviously haven’t tested this stage of the guide myself yet but it’s been verified by other players and should lead you to success in a few hours. Most importantly, it will let you skip all the other pet battling business and trainer questlines in order to unlock that lvl1 pet menagerie the quickest way! Good luck!

Bloggy Xmas Day 14: Transcontinental Kinship and the International Language of Music

Gaming and community is a very wide and open subject which is why I chose it for the #bloggyxmas event. Depending on whom you ask and where they come from, people have very different stories to tell but almost without fail, gaming folk will name the internet as the one big game changer, that amazing space of connecting across geographical boundaries and finding kindred spirits with more ease. A lot of geeks are lonely as far as their interests are concerned and living in a place that is all about stability and pragmatic productivity, I found myself in a fairly isolated spot too before the world wide web happened.

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Ever since getting involved in a blogging community, my ride has been almost entirely a positive and enriching one: I’ve been able to find and talk to people who love the same things I do and worry about the same things. I’ve written about difficult subjects like geek pecking orders and gaming stigma, only to find my sentiments echoed by others. And I’ve been educated by smart and brave female and male bloggers on social issues I was struggling with myself in the past.

Besides this inner journey, I’d like to believe I have grown as a writer and thinker thanks to all the critical feedback and countless comments I have received over the years. I started out as a rather self-conscious second language blogger in this international but English-speaking blogosphere and few years later, I find myself confident enough to write long articles in one sitting and invited as a vocal participant to podcast round-table discussions. I never dreamed of making youtube videos or podcasting when I started writing but so many fellow bloggers have shown me nothing but support when it came to finding my voice (with the “funny accent”!). For such unexpected kindness I will always be thankful.

The International Language of Music

For my personal Bloggy Xmas post, I want to talk about Battle Bards and how this global neighbourhood has opened up new avenues for a very niche interest of mine: videogame music. Gamers are used to be counted among niche geek culture and certainly, MMO players have always been regarded as niche by the gaming mainstream. World of Warcraft has had a positive impact on this image but the way things are going, traditional MMOs are disappearing next to a mass of next-generation online genres.

Battle Bards, the brainchild of the inimitable Syp from Biobreak, is an oddity among gaming podcasts, no doubt a niche inside the niche. For someone like myself who has collected videogame and movie soundtracks since the early nineties, sometimes with a tape recorder, our podcast is in equal parts an enthusiast’s dream and labor of love. I was already happy to know of a handful of MMO bloggers who shared my musical interests, writing about them every now and then. But it is off-the-charts amazing that such a thing as Battle Bards exists and that I am a part of it! I enjoy each of our shows and recordings in the full knowledge of how special an opportunity this is and the fact that we have a die-hard core of listeners is, well….hard to believe and very humbling. With 500 downloads on average per episode, Battle Bards may be a tiny podcast compared to many others but it’s waving its geek flag loud and proud. We’d be doing it just for the three of us but knowing there’s somebody out there who shares our passion, makes our time spent all the more rewarding.

Our listeners have made us laugh, think and consider the things we share on our show. We’re not just talking amongst ourselves but to an audience that is as international as we are and who will hear our voices on their way to work, while preparing dinner in the evening, killing time on yet another airplane ride like Rowan or when in the car with their family, like my friend Redbeard. Knowing Red and his three musically gifted kids tune in to Battle Bards regularly because they love videogame music as much as we do, makes me want to put all the more effort into our podcast. For Christmas in 2013, I got a Xmas card with the three of them on the cover playing their instruments; I still keep it on my desk like a token – a reminder of all the great things that have come from gaming, blogging and connecting with other people’s lives since publishing my first post in 2010.

This is community for me. It’s a micro-cosmos, a niche inside the niche. It’s the people we let into our lives, select individuals whose strength is not in numbers but in the way they touch our life and give us hope. We all need to know we are not alone.

Thanks to all of you who have been interacting with me these past few years in the blogosphere and via other social media, all the readers and commenters of MMO Gypsy and my fellow bloggers and friends! Thanks to everyone who has supported Battle Bards and TGEN this year – we know you are there!

The Year of Un-Deception: A 2014 Pre-Recap

As the articles on “2014 – the worst year for videogames” are piling up (gotta love sensationalist headlines), I am contemplating my personal year of gaming. I usually start preparing my best games of the year-post around this time, as well as a round-up of the greatest videogame soundtracks. I have no plans to deviate from this course at present and when it comes to the actual games at least, my 2014 really wasn’t half as bad as apparently some people’s. But more on that another time.

Of course it’s gamergate that has marked 2014 as a black year for gaming and on a more personal note, it has impacted on bloggers, podcasters and people I call friends from this here MMO blogosphere. This is something I eye with much concern because if there’s something that gaming needs more of, it’s the type of diverse and welcoming community that has been established within the micro-cosmos of my blogroll. I am down when my friends are down and especially when one of them is taking their leave. However on a very personal and direct level, I am still evaluating my own feelings in regards to how gamergate has affected me. And it’s almost chilling to admit that I don’t feel particularly anything over all the ugliness that has come to light since August 2014. It’s too familiar – so unlike this tiny blogging niche that I inhabit and which is special in so many ways.

Is this really the darkest year for gaming or is it not much rather the year where some rotten dams broke and a lot of taboos were finally (and in some places aggressively) challenged and put on the spot? Did parts of the gaming community get toxic all of a sudden or were they not much rather always a hostile place for anyone not bowing to the established, unspoken norm? What gamergate stands for is that greater societal issues which are very much alive in gaming too, have finally been given a prominent voice and are receiving mainstream attention (time they caught up). That is threatening and it’s only when a status quo is truly challenged when things get ugly. But this also means that things are finally in motion.

While speakers don’t realize it anymore in everyday language, the German word for “disappointed” has a rather intriguing, literal meaning: it’s to be “un-deceived”. If we feel disappointment, it is generally because we were let down on our expectations – our hopes, dreams, illusions maybe. In any case, there was a deception of some kind involved and quite often it’s a self-created one as much as the other way around. [source]

We keep reading about or preaching how change hurts but when we find ourselves in the middle, we can’t stand the heat. Societal change of any magnitude is tough and no eye will be left dry – no, not the advocate’s either. Yet, gamergate and all the disappointment and pain it has caused is preferable to illusions we may have allowed ourselves to live in and which lulled us in treacherous passivity. There is nothing worse than a false sense of security while the years go by with nothing truly improving.

So, this year we’ve established that gaming and gamers aren’t a better society than any other – tadaa? What is there to be had other than working with and from within our very own, tiny and handpicked communities anyway?

It always gets worse before it gets better

International media have recently exploded over police violence in the US against black citizens. It’s easy to get involved and upset over cases like Eric Garner’s because for once, they are getting attention and are being widely reported on. That doesn’t change the fact that this reality has been many people’s reality always – or that black men are disproportionally more often ending up in jail or getting killed resisting an arrest compared to white men, on any given day. This isn’t news, yet right now everyone is up in arms about it. The fact that there’s been demos and in some places not-so peaceful riots, well…you don’t get to choose the face of change. If riots seem ugly to you, think of the ugly reality some people deal with every day of their lives that drives them to such extreme and dangerous (for them as well) measures. I don’t condone violence but it’s hypocritical to shake your head over Ferguson when you probably never even knew about the place beforehand and about everything that pushed so many marginalized people to a breaking point. Condemning riots is the tone argument of the privileged. It is also a tool of maintaining the establishment when ironically, violence has so many way more harmful and insidious faces.

"Whatever you do, don't swear."
Whatever you do, don’t swear.

Social change isn’t about making you feel comfortable, it’s about changing things. This brings me back to gamergate and all the ways it’s been uncomfortable but also, all the ways it heralds progress if we manage to perceive it that way. I’ve said it on a related CMP podcast before, the fact that so many people have started to talk about gaming culture or in support of women in gaming this year, is bewildering in a fantastical way. And yes, it also brings the most toxic of our non-community to the table but they have always been there, driving individuals out of this hobby. Did we believe they would welcome more and more diverse forces claiming games for themselves with open arms?
Thankfully, gamegate has brought new allies to the table too and like Liore started vetting her twitter community more closely, mine has not just seen people removed over gamergate but many join as well. Things have been moving and becoming clearer.

On an recount of my gaming background on Gameskinny a while ago, I talked about how I was driven out of a male-dominated gaming forum I had been active in for a decade. The type of treatment and in some cases harassment (not detailed in the article) I’ve received over the years cannot be compared to what some female developers and journalists targeted by the 4chan gamergate crowd went through, but there are all too familiar parallels. I know perfectly well how it feels not to be accepted as a legit member of a community you are contributing to because of your gender. I know how it feels to be scared because the usual rules of online life versus offline don’t apply in your case. This has been my reality and many other female gamers’ always, just as it’s been the reality of women professionally involved in the games industry. It’s just that nobody ever talked (much) about it and the topic certainly didn’t make it into the Colbert Report.

Only when I discovered this small community of MMO bloggers I barely dare call myself a part of, for fear of finding this fragile butterfly shatter too, did I realize there is still a place for people like me – women like me, gamers like me.

You gave me hope and hope was a change. Now change gives me hope. So no, for me personally 2014 is far from the worst year in gaming; a tough year for sure but also a year of more discussion, critical debate and alliances than ever before. And if the “community” has gotten more polarized over it in the long run, that too is part of the process that leads to inevitable change. I live in a country whose relatively consensual and pragmatic way of handling a rare form of representative democracy is in fact not grounded in consensus but on polarities so far removed and so established, that they cannot deal with each other in any other way but with compromise. If radicalization is how it’s gonna be, best get it over with.

I believe in inevitable, bumpy progress. Most of all, I hope to see everyone who is, with an open heart and mind contributing to gaming culture, back in 2015! To my fellow bloggers, podcasters, streamers, commenters and twitterers: your voice matters, more than ever. The only way this 2014 could be the worst year in gaming is if niche communities like ours went quieter and lost faith in their power to reach kindred spirits and change the face of gaming for somebody out there. Somebody like me.

A good Friday to all of you – the un-deceived who are struggling, the un-altered set to alter and all those who will find their strength renewed. Thank you for being my company.

[WoW] Where Meters Reign Way Past Their Glory Days

In her latest blogpost “Living by Numbers”, the ever-enthusiastic Mistress of Faff deplores the meters game and status quo of hunter DPS in Warlords of Draenor. This struck a particular cord with me because ever since returning to WoW, I perceive this dissonance more strongly than ever – a dissonance between what is essentially a very casual-friendly game and a rabid, vocal group full of stat zealots. Naturally, the latter is hardly new: WoW has been heavily modded and then datamined, optimized and cookie-cut from the get-go. Yet, having been away for three years and finding things unchanged in that last department strikes me as more incongruous than ever.

I’ve been playing my shadowpriest since the expansion, mostly because I am over healing in WoW and so far it’s been very enjoyable. I run no mods whatsoever and until yesterday, I had not looked into shadowpriest state of play or rotations for Draenor. What I have noticed however is that my DPS seems lower than some people’s I met during quests and dungeons, that it’s hard work for me to get all my DoTs running before everyone else has already killed half of our enemies and that getting silver in Proving Grounds at ilvl 600 wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for my untrained DPS muscles (I did it on third try but without much time left).

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Me, looking damn sexy in shadow. Anything else I should know?

And that’s okay. Or should be, but it didn’t stop an overeager ingame buddy of mine, coincidentally a MM hunter, to comment on my damage during an Auchindon heroic run, where my DPS was apparently around 10k when his was at 22k. This was a contrast to all the PuGs I have run since returning to WoW and that have been shockingly friendly, successful (not a single disband) and meters-free, to a point where I am tempted to declare the state of PuGs today a 180°-turnaround since I shared my passionate “no-pug policy” on World of Matticus in 2011. The continuous changes that have made this a way more flexible and accessible game over the years have clearly helped turn things around in LFG, color me impressed.

Yet, meter culture persists in some corners of the player base. WoW oldtimers especially and grumpy veterans who have never left the game or never smelled the meter-free roses in other MMOs like GW2 sometime, are clinging to an era where WoW endgame was firmly ruled by numbers and raidguilds. I hate to break it to all the elitist jerks and e-peeners out there but: meters are over. For anything outside minuscule, competetive top-tier raid content, optimizing specs and rotations are not a requirement in order to beat anything in WoW. Players can play whatever spec they enjoy. They can run whatever rotation feels most natural. They don’t require epics with enchants and gems (thankfully both abolished) in every slot of gear. Welcome to World of Wacraft, 2014 edition! Maybe it was time Blizzard did away with these mods altogether? What purpose do they serve exactly?

On the bright side, my brief brush with the meters-nostalgia in WoW has benefited me in two ways: I went to check out current shadowpriest guides and realized that there’s nothing I am “doing wrong”, not even according to those that spend copious amounts of time on numbers. Draenor or not, priests remain late bloomers early into an expansion (as it ever was), struggling with ramp-up time in fast 5mans and versus single-target and multi-phase encounters. I simply don’t compare unless I unleash risky AoE on every single occasion. On the bright side, I never die and make the healer’s job a lot easier.
The even more important realization for me was that I really don’t give a toss. This is a trap that I am simply over. Thanks to so many experiences with other games and communities, I am a better and smarter player today than I ever was and most certainly a happier one. I am playing this for myself and that’s what an increasing number of players in WoW, be they in PuGs or elsewhere, have come to realize as well (shocking truth that it is).

It’s okay WoW players, you can have fun already! Maybe it’s time we re-defined our idea of success.

Treasures of Draenor

It’s about the little things. It always has been. Whether it was finding Sheddle Glossgleam in Dalaran for shiny shoes or so many other secrets in World of Warcraft safely hidden away. Draenor is a beautiful world with its long leaves of grass moving in the wind and snowflakes swirling across the plains of Frostfire Ridge. There is more treasure to find these days than ever, with a map for achievers or without for the more exploratively inclined who’d like to think the world an endless place of mystery.

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And then there’s the secrets. The things only found by chance that someone had to come across, maybe on an errand or erring with nothing in particular on their mind. I love early expansions; between exclamation marks I’ll make time to follow the footprints in the snow, climb a mountain, swim out to the sea. Or levitate, rather. That’s how I came across and island to the southernmost edge of Nagrand and on that island there was a path leading up to something -

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It’s the little things – an odd scenery where you least expect it, mementos thrown away, curious and without explanation. Finding a magic lamp hidden in the grass right next to them, letting you activate whatever is stored inside. Maybe a cloud of dust, a string of words long forgotten or a dark spell? Or a wink from far away, a well-known phrase by a genie called Robin.

Maybe a wish that some things could be preserved forever when memories are all that remain. Life is a treasure. Happy weekend everybody.

Returning to WoW: Everything is the same, everything is different

It is a mixed bag of feelings going back to an MMO you convinced yourself never to return to for lack of better judgement. An MMO you once called home and then were absent from for three years, maybe looking for closure. When I played WoW between 2004 and 2010, I did like so many of us in our mid-twenties, with passion and zeal and an exclusive all-or-nothing attitude. All or nothing, that also means quitting when you feel things ain’t going your way any longer.

Warlords of Draenor is nothing I had planned on; that too was a mixed bag of spontaneous curiosity, lack of content in new MMOs like Wildstar and winter is coming. And I made it very clear to myself: This time around, it will be about me taking my time re-discovering Azeroth in peace. I will sub for one month and find out if I still like this, no pressure. I will enjoy running around incognito after all this time, minding my own business.

Or something.

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Where do I go from here?

Everything is the same
WoD was off to a rocky start with DDoS attacks and massive server queues (how very vanilla!) making it impossible for many players to log in during the first week. After I spent launch day re-installing the game, it took another day before I managed briefly to log in for the first time in three years, finding my character standing in front of the Dark Portal, lagging horribly. After ten seconds of being unable to move like this, I got my first whisper from a very old guild mate from vanilla WoW: “SYL!”.

I disconnected right away. My game wasn’t stable and I really didn’t expect to be discovered so early into my return. But this is how it’s always been on my server – those who have been on Stormrage since 2004, the early guilds and raiders, they remember each other. And so many have come back for Draenor, it is bewildering. My friendlist shows names online I had never expected to read again. Already I find myself guilded once more in the very same raidguild I helped build in vanilla WoW, with almost its entire core and founding team back. A decade later it’s as if no time had passed at all. Sure, everyone’s gotten a bit older, some are married now and some have kids or better jobs. Everyone definitely agrees they won’t be raiding ever again but there’s much else to be enjoyed nowadays.

The player base has aged and so have Blizzard with them. Yet, on the surface everything about WoW feels and looks exactly as before. I spent my first week in Draenor getting used to and then charmed by the beauty of its dated graphics (especially in the old world) and cringing over its messy, gargantuan UI that has been so aptly compared to the old “Weasley’s house” in a conversation between Rowanblaze and Belghast. After I discovered void storage in combination with transmogging, I wasted another day on costumes until I finally felt prepared to see the world, which is why I ran straight into Elwynn Forest, love of my life. To my delight, it was not deserted and not any of the old zones I went to visit from there were either – Duskwood, Redridge, Burning Steppes, everywhere I went I saw players. After 10 years, there is still life in these old zones, I have no idea how that works.

As is tradition, I went to pay Ragnaros and Illidan my respects and announced my coming. They still dropped hunter loot mostly, so nothing has changed in that respect either. Even on the auction house, the same items that used to be expensive in vanilla are still on top of the list today (who would buy a Burning Brightwood Staff today is beyond me but I still want that blasted Greenwing Macaw!). So far, so familiar.

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Draenor is beautiful.

Everything is different
In their mushy Looking for Group documentary from this Blizzcon 2014, which has played no small part in bringing more WoW veterans back to Draenor, Chris Metzen talks about how WoW really has always been about two entities – the world and the player, and he couldn’t be more correct. The successes of this MMO are as much thanks to developers trusting their instincts as to a very passionate and creative player base that has an undying love for Azeroth. This huge and rich canvas of a world with its plethora of maps and music has been such a welcoming and ever more accessible home to players of every color and creed for years.

All the while, Blizzard have continued to re-invent themselves and I believe this is the secret of WoW’s long lasting success. With every expansion, they pushed further to offer something new to more people without dismissing the hard core entirely. Comparing WoD today to when I left three years ago, I can confirm that WoW is a changed game in so many ways, trying to keep up with increased standards, never daring to rest on its laurels. This is apparent in today’s casual and solo-friendly approach to grouping, dungeons and raids for one thing, with flexraids and bronze, silver and gold heroics. It’s the democratic spread of loot and gear models, combined with all the tier look-alikes available. It’s adding small stuff like treasure hunting similar (but more involved) to Rift, jumping puzzles like in GW2, pet battles à la Pokémon and a pseudo-housing system with private nodes, the way Wildstar has them (only in WoW, the Garrison is actually a lot more useful). The talent system has been simplified to match modern MMOs with more minimal action bars and while quests and loot aren’t FFA, important quest mobs are shared nowadays.

All of these changes and additions make WoW not just one of the most approachable MMOs today but the richest in terms of content diversity. Draenor is the pinnacle of that philosophy: jump in right away as a level 90 character, learn basic skills and talents from scratch by playing through the intro scenario (which for once ain’t in a cave!). Get some money and bags to start with and oh, we also boosted your professions so you can join for all these new quests! As for the Garrison, it might be the first example of useful ‘player housing’ with meaningful choices in over a decade.

The genius of Blizzard
In a competitive industry as this, Blizzard’s achievements are really twofold:

  1. Making a niche genre more accessible and creating their own faithful player base in the process.
  2. Continuously re-inventing themselves rather than resting on the laurels of vanilla WoW.

Some will say this is the mark of smart decision making and market observation over at Blizzard. However and without denying the aforementioned, another more simple answer also lies in the Looking for Group documentary where an aging core of lead designers and developers is still creating for a game “they themselves would like to play”, more casually now than in their late twenties. More mature too, giving more thoughts to their diverse target audience than before. It’s not just the players in WoW that have grown older.

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And so it’s the greatest irony of all that, while so many MMO developers raced to emulate what was essentially vanilla WoW’s successes, Blizzard themselves moved on and branched out, leaving their past to others. According to the latest news WoW is back to 10 million subscribers, something that is difficult to swallow when new and shiny titles like Wildstar are struggling to maintain an audience. But who is to compete with a ten-year old AAA-fantasy themed MMO this rich and loaded on diverse content? Comparing other titles to WoW is never fair.

To be continued
As for me and Draenor, two weeks in I admit that I am charmed once more by the world of Warcraft – more patiently this time, more laidback and happy to smell the roses on the way. There is so much to do and learn for me after three years and I am not rushed to get anywhere with anyone. Most of all, this explorer is enjoying the vistas of Draenor (and there are so many beautiful ones nowadays) and a soundtrack so reminiscent of our vanilla days. Yes, for now I believe I do like this again and that is all that matters.

December Blogosphere XMAS Countdown – Get your Date and Calendar!

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Over the past two weeks bloggers all across the MMO and gaming blogosphere have signed up for the merry December blogging countdown and I am happy to confirm a total of 46 people are participating! I have spent the better part of this weekend finalizing a calendar-like page, randomizing dates and working out the last bits and pieces – but more on that later! While the original post already contains most of the infos and ideas behind this event, a very brief summary of what you need to know so you can start writing and planning ahead:

  • The topic of your post should revolve around “gaming and community”; share something positive that has come from gaming/blogging for you as an individual and that involves others in some way. For ideas, see the original post.
  • To identify participating entries, the title of your post should read: “Bloggy XMAS <day number>:…………..” the rest of the title being all yours!
  • Publishing time for entries is at 9am PST which translates to 12pm EST and 5pm (London) to 6pm (Paris) for central European times respectively, to meet the timezones of a majority of bloggers and readers. I am aware that this is not a perfect solution for everybody, but thanks for trying to schedule your publications accordingly if possible. It helps us to get an idea of what time of the day new posts will be up each day.

With the administrative bits out of the way, here comes the list of individual post dates for every blogger. Due to many signups, December 1st – 21st will be featuring two entries per day which is absolutely brilliant. Assignments have happened completely at random, courtesy of RANDOM.org (so please direct all complaints there!). —> Individual posting dates by author’s name A-Z: Follow this link!

Presenting the Bloggy XMAS Calendar:
Finally, it’s time to reveal the countdown/calendar page! I’ve come to understand that digital advent calendars are in fact tricky business: having moving bits, timer lockouts and whatnot isn’t simple, especially if you’re looking for a calendar that caters to different timezones. The Bloggy XMAS calendar page is therefore kept simple, as an overview for you to keep track of all posts published on the topic of gaming community in December. It is a visual guide more than anything and like every physical advent calendar too, it’s up to your own self-discipline whether you’ll spoil all the surprises in advance and binge on the candy inside, or whether you’ll strictly open 1 window per day!

You can find the Bloggy XMAS  calendar at bloggyxmas.blogspot.com. Henceforward, you can use the standalone page to keep track of community posts for the day (also check twitter #bloggyxmas for daily updates), as well as a daily MMO fun fact and MMO tune for the day (of course!). For those who would like to make a sticky and promote the event via their own blogs, feel free to use the banner below!

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The event lasts until December 25th. The blog links provided for each day are currently directing to your main domain and will be adjusted as soon as posts have been published. If you would still like to participate in this event, let me know in the comments or via twitter. A final round-up will be published around Dec 31st.

Thanks everyone for joining for this merry event and bringing some community spirit to the gaming blogosphere this December 2014! Looking forward to many great posts!

Honey, I’m Home!

So I did this…

Still there after all these years.

…and I’m a horrible person and I have no integrity.
You have official permission to mock me. Forever.

A December Blogosphere XMAS Countdown – Sign up!

December is a special time in small countryside communities around here where it’s customary to not just buy advent calendars stuffed with chocolate and toys for children, but to turn an entire town (for reference) into one big calendar with a different house participating every night until Xmas. Participants draw a number and decorate a prominent and visible window on the house they live in, to be lit through the entire night when it’s their turn in December (and onward from there until the 24th). It is a wonderful sight on a cold winter’s night to walk through such a town and discover what people have done with their windows, whether you celebrate Xmas or not. It’s one of those orchestrated displays of community that still work on some level, or so I have always found, and everyone is welcome to join for this tradition regardless of religion.

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Advent window in Toggenburg / toggenburger-zeitung.ch

The MMO Blogosphere XMAS Countdown

December is almost here and constitutes the end of another year of blogging in the blogosphere as well as the end of a quarter that was difficult for gaming culture as a whole. We’ve been reminded that mainstream media still think fairly low of our pastime and that gamers are not one community. Some have stopped to identify with this label altogether, as is their right.

And yet, if we dig deeper past superficial labels, there is still a community of sorts between an ever growing number of individuals – a community by choice of active members in this here blogosphere and elsewhere, among gaming bloggers on twitter and G+, sharing daily quips or friendly advice, joining forces on cooperative events and seeking exchange and respectful discussion week after week while holding to similar standards of communication. At yesterday’s Blizzcon, Blizzard revealed a down memory lane documentary on WoW and their worldwide fanbase which was full of feels and nostalgia for this MMO. It was hard to watch without being reminded of that great idea(l), that promise of acceptance and belonging that virtual worlds still hold for so many players across the globe, no matter where they come from. To claim that it’s all just a sham would be overly cynical – every day, online gaming brings some people together.

Blogging buddies, twitter friends, kindred spirits – they exist. To many of us, they make writing about games that much more special and enjoyable. Nobody likes to blog in a vacuum. This is where the MMO Blogosphere Xmas Countdown comes into play and I call participants from all corners of the gaming blogosphere to join for this merry event through December! Sign up and turn your blog into a community window on a random day that will be assigned before the end of November! Join the calendar that is blogosphere town!

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My thanks go to Belghast from Tales of the Aggronaut for graciously assisting me with the logo to this merry little event! Bel has been the host of the Blaugust blogging event this year and I am happy to be part of a community that has people like him in it.

How to join the blogosphere Xmas Calendar: Q&A

How do I create a “window”? What’s the topic?
Your “window” is a blogpost dedicated to the topic of ‘gaming and community’ which goes up on your assigned date in December. Form and content of this post are completely up to you: whether you include a number of pictures/screenshots or the official event logo, whether you write an essay or even a poem.

As for topics, the sky is the limit: write about how gaming has impacted on your life in terms of meeting new people, or what community means to you personally! Share the story of how you met a special person online, about your time in the blogosphere, times spent with your gaming buddies IRL or your guild online. Alternatively, you could take a more analytical approach as to why community building matters in MMOs and why it’s important to you. Either way, the point is to share something positive that has come from gaming/blogging for you as an individual and that involves others in some way.

Who can join?
Anyone who runs an active MMO or gaming related blog and has something to share on the topic of community! It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a dedicated WoW blog or write about different MMOs or mixed games, game design or gaming culture. The more, the merrier!

How do I join?
You can sign up by adding a comment below or by dropping me a quick line via email or twitter. Please leave a link to your blog if required.

When do I get my date / number?
Dates will be rolled out and randomly assigned to participants. An official XMAS “calendar” with all participants will be published on MMO Gypsy by November 24th including a link to your blog, so make sure to check back for your slot then!

Do I use a specific post title?
To identify posts participating in this event, the first part of your post title should read: “Bloggy XMAS <number>: ……” the rest of the title being all yours!

How long does it all last?
I am am positive that we can make the calendar go all the way up to at least December 24th, with hopefully many bloggers up to join for some merry reminiscing! More sign-ups can always be accommodated – this event being about community more than the actual holiday, I’d like to keep it flexible and go up all the way to New Year (Dec 31st) if required.

Like for the poetry slam and other blogosphere events, all entries will be rounded-up on MMO Gypsy (and potentially more sites!) by December 31st. I look forward to some great contributions again and hope to see some new faces joining the ranks! Thanks for helping to spread the word over the coming two weeks, so we can fill this December in the blogosphere with some happy stories on gaming and community.

Sign up now – and get ready to light your own window!

Creating your own custom Avatar

Avatars are kind of a big deal to online gaming folk – we use them online and offline, as identities on social media, mascots for our blogs and forum handles. Some players switch avatar for every game, others stick to a random sprite or custom image shaped in their real likeness and never change it. If you’re after your ingame characters, tinkering with either screenshots or other programs such as a WoW model viewer is usually required.

I’ve used my own custom priest avatar in WoW over the years and have made a similar thing for Wildstar; I tend to disregard those MMOs which I don’t foresee staying with for long (which is most of them). On general forums, I’ll use my blog’s mascot most of the time simply because I don’t dig randomly created forum avatars or logos that make it hard to spot your own posts on a thread. Personalized avatars are always nicer.

I’ve been asked a few times how I created my pixel sprite for MMO Gypsy and it’s quite simple: go to VideoGameSprites.net and browse to your heart’s content. Find something you like and change it, mix’n match different characters, add items or change colors – easy enough with some basic Photoshop skills. If you can’t find any game you like, search for old VG sprites on google image search.

Casual fun with Avatar Generators

If you’re not into pixel sprites and unfamiliar with basic image editing, using a free avatar generator is a good option for creating something custom and unique. Popular resources include Nintendo’s Mii Creator or Face Your Manga which still require you to at least know how to take a printscreen and re-size an image. I’ve played around a lot with Nintendo Miis in the past and with some patience, you’ll be able to create quite stunning doppelgangers of virtually anybody!

Another great and very detailed avatar creator I’ve recently come across is this Chibi Maker by gen8, which comes with a ton of fun customization options. After spending the afternoon (I am on sick leave, don’t judge) generating my real-life posse, I set out to try and re-create existing blogger avatars / people in the MMO blogosphere:

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Syl, Liore and Taugrim

From left to right: MMO Gypsy, Herding Cats and Taugrim.com, next to their original blog avatars.

There is some deviation but overall, they are quite adorable to say the least and I love the image quality of this particular program (which is free and downloadable too). This whole avatar creation business sure is addictive – have a go sometime and see for yourself (pro tip: change the background colors to white right away unless you’re looking to have a set background)!