Wrath of the Lich King: Leveling and Lore

Three steps away from the level cap, I am astounded.

Looking back on all the questing I have done I realize now that Blizzard has held true to their promises. They wanted story to be a big focus this expansion and by golly they threw the whole nine yards into it. It's wonderful.

The Burning Crusade was, and remains, Blizzard's huge gameplay fix. For the most part they tore up the foundations of the game in order to rebuild it all better. The job they did was superb and the expansion reflected that. Burning Crusade was built to test the new gameplay mechanics, to require the playerbase to learn them, understand them and love them. For those who could it was awesome.

For everyone else, or those who were tied down by everyone else, the expansion was half-baked. Blizzard's big mistake was assuming that all players, or at least most of them, would eventually come around and learn the esoteric intricacies of their carefully designed game. They found out the hard way that this was just as huge a barrier to entry as the required overhead of organizing forty people. Huge swaths of content were left undiscovered by the vast majority of the population because they could not, or would not, min/max to the extreme levels required.

On top of that, there really wasn't a cohesive story to Outland. It was steeped in history, brimming with interesting peoples, and had many memorable bosses. However, none of it really held together. The Burning Legion opens up the Dark Portal, forcing the Horde and Alliance to work together and push them back. Upon doing so they... wander around a marsh, help some ogres, relive Jim Henson's Dark Crystal, fight alongside mana sheiks, scale Medivh's tower back in Azeroth and generally fail to encounter any centralized threat from the Burning Legion. Oh, and Illidan dies somewhere in there.

Wrath of the Lich King is quite the opposite. Upon landing in Northrend you're surrounded by Scourge forces. While there are quests along the way which divert from battling them, everywhere you go the touch of Arthas can be seen and felt. The quest text that was occasionally interesting but mostly ignored in the Burning Crusade carries far more character and depth. With the simplification of many game mechanics the whole thing is in some ways an about face from the Burning Crusade.

I am only now nearing the completion of the third of nine zones (ten if you count Wintergrasp). It is likely I'll only have completed four before I hit the level cap, but I intend on completing them all. Meanwhile my Death Knight languishes.


Teatime Philosophy

From the BBC.

1. Should we kill healthy people for their organs?

At first the situations presented seem to build a clear set of dilemmas. If we're willing to run over the one person over the five, why would we hestitate to gun down one of our to save the others. If we're willing to do that, why hestitate to kill a person for their organs? The questions are disturbing not because the situations are analogous, but because it isn't immediately obvious why they are not.

The key attribute of the train situation is the powerlessness of the driver. Their only ability is to change which track the train travels, anything else is impossible. Nothing short of a miracle can change the fact that someone will be run over. In such a situation there is no recourse but to accept that someone must die, and the obvious choice that the fewer dead the better.

The kidnapper situation is starkly different. Despite being simply explained, the same hopelessness is not present. You, tasked to shoot one of the other hostages, have far greater command over the situation than in the case of the train. The gun you are given, and your own innate abilities, afford far more power than the hopeless driver of the train. It's dishonest to limit the question to the dichotomy of choosing one of the hostages or all of them, because there are more choices than two, however limited or ill-advised those options may be.

So when thinking about the situation with the patients, neither of the other hypotheticals are particularly helpful as they only serve to oversimplify the situation. It overlooks the potential for organ donors, the existence of other people outside of Bill, and the desires of the patients themselves. In short, the proper answer is that while Bill may have the right to sacrifice himself so that others may live, we do not have the right to sacrifice him. Rather, we should ask "Should all capable individuals be organ donors?"

2. Are you the same person who started started reading this article?

The answer is, simply put, yes. I am the same person, but I am not the same.

The question seeks to dive into the muddy and ever confusing realm of the self. Is a car taken apart and put back together the same car? What if you take two cars apart, and put them back together mixing the parts perfectly evenly, do you have the old cars or two new cars? These kinds of questions always arise, and for someone such as I must be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Starting backwards, the situation incorrectly assumes an absolute uniqueness of the self. It isn't just that one person cannot be in two places at once, but that two identical minds can not exist at the same time without being the same person. It's the second, implicit assumption that is at fault. One person can not be in two places at once, therefore two identical minds in two different places can not be one person.

What's important is to realize that while the two minds are theoretically identical, the instant either person awakes that is no longer the case. They see a different room through different eyes, and interact with different people creating different memories. While everything before a certain point is shared, they cease to be identical.

So we have two different people originating from one. This creates something of a conundrum, which of the two people is now "you"? Does it make a difference whether the original "source" was destroyed? It is undeniable that both people will wake up from the operation remembering what happened before it, their mother's gentle smile, and that they forgot an important meeting. Which leads us to the following puzzling conclusion.

Both people are the same person as the "you" before the operation, but are not the same person as each other. If we are unable to accept the importance of this kind of continuity of the self, then we much accept the article conclusion that the you from moment to moment is a completely separate entity bound to the others only by circumstance. I can not accept that conclusion simply because the circumstances themselves are continuity, and treating them as anything else is dishonest.

3. Is that really a computer screen in front of you?

Tongue in cheek: No! I printed out the article. HAH SUCKERS!

More seriously, my senses tell me that it is so. I can see the monitor, feel the monitor, hear the monitor, taste the monitor and even smell the monitor.

Note immediately that there are five senses corroborating the existence of the monitor. It is dishonest of the article to so haphazardly compare five senses working in harmony to one barometer. It acts as though the only method of verification we have is sight, which is somewhat discriminatory to a certain blind Republican I know who wrote lengthy (and hard to read) emails and browsed web pages.

One could attempt to argue it's irrelevant how many senses we have because they are all processed by the same brain and thus independant verification remains impossible. This is true, except that I can ask other people if the computer monitor is in front of me. They can verify its existance. At which point you question whether there are actually other people, and so it goes on until all of reality is untangled into a mess on the floor.

This question is a carefully disguised version of the age old quest for proof of reality. As I believe no one has yet found adequate proof of reality's existance, I'll ask the person who is posing the question to first prove reality exists. Until they have, I won't waste my time on people who don't exist.

4. Did you really choose to read this article?

I've actually answered this many times before, and the answer is yes. Being able to predict or know beforehand that someone will do something doesn't mean that the person had no choice, or was unable to choose. This isn't necessarily intuitive to Western thinking, but it's my viewpoint on the subject (and one that I'm not inclined to rehash again for the sake of this question).

Yay Philosphy.


Wrath of the Lich King: Death Knights and Dungeons

I haven't had much chance to progress much farther through Northrend, partly because of real life fun and obligations and partly because playing a Death Knight with my brother is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'll start there.

The Death Knight starting area is amazing. The first half hour we played was spent running around Acherus reading all the books and scrolls lying around. Some were humorous, some were informative, and some were dripping with the juicy lore and story that I love so much. The quests that followed were very story driven, interesting and fun. The slow and careful pacing of talent points also alleviated the possibility of being overwhelmed. The "Phasing Technology" which sounded very much like hype actually lives up to the press. While I can't see it being universally applicable, it truly makes the Death Knight starting area one of the best experiences in the game. Even if you're perfectly happy with your current class of choice, you owe it to yourself to run through the Death Knight starting area at least once.

Some highlights include receiving quests from raid bosses straight out of Naxxramas, the haunting whispers of the Lich King urging you to destroy everything, the incredible voice actors behind Darion Mograine and Tirion Fordring, and more.

Outland is now overrun with Death Knights. We know this because it's impossible to go anywhere in Hellfire Peninsula without standing knee deep in them. My brother and I were a part of Ramparts group starring almost exclusively Death Knights (one Warrior tagged along) that would have functioned better if we weren't the only competent members of the group. It was still fun, but also pretty psychotic (I can't count the number of times that if it wasn't for the direct actions of my brother and I, the group would not have succeeded).

So in short, Death Knights are extremely fun, particularly when played with your sibling.

I did manage to do some grouping for instances in Northrend, both Utgarde Keep and the Nexus. There were many complaints that the Burning Crusade's instance design was uninspired, linear, and largely boring. I don't think we'll find such problems in Northrend.

Utgarde Keep is linear, but it is also awesome. The trash isn't interminable or uninteresting, the instance itself is rustic yet engaging in style, and the bosses are non-trivial. The last boss in particular was incredibly fun. I can't think of another boss where the tank was required to flee periodically or face certain death.

The Nexus was stunningly beautiful, it is also the first instance I've encountered where the very first mob you see is the last boss. There are three interlinked paths to take each leading to a boss which, when defeated, will release a lock allowing combat with the final boss. The trash in this instance is also perfectly proportioned and interesting. One path involves unkillable flowers that will continue to pester you until the boss is conquered. The last boss is a huge challenge, sporting a debuff that requires you to move constantly or freeze to death. We wiped several times before mastering the fight.

One notable difference between the two runs was that I respecced away from putting my spare points in Protection to throwing them in Arms. This meant I lost Improved Thunderclap, which I noticed immediately upon multi-mob pulls in the Nexus. It wasn't terribly difficult, but it was noticeably harder to keep mobs attentive to the meat shield rather then my squishier comrades.

I'm really looking forward to the level 80 instances and whatever else I encounter along the way. Alas, more familial obligations and important events are looking to continue to keep me away from the frozen realms of Northrend. My virtual snow fix must wait.


Wrath of the Lich King: Initial Impression

This will be short, since I need to be asleep an hour ago.

1. Leveling is slow. It probably feels this way because I'm now adjusted to the mondo crazy leveling from 1-70, but it definitely feels sluggish. In a way, this is a good thing as it means I'll be able to savor everything better. At the same time, looking at my 6 other 70s and my Death Knight makes me wonder how long that joy will last.

2. It's subdued. Hellfire Peninsula was very much in your face at first, with such an alien landscape as to really draw your attention everywhere to its sharp contrasts. The Howling Fjord is far less brazen, feeling very much like just another zone in Azeroth. This is also, in some ways, a good thing though I'm disappointed that I'm thus far unable to capture the innocence I longed for.

3. The quests are very well designed such that it's easy to complete them even with competition.

All in all so far so good. I'm still waiting for that tingling awe moment, I wonder if I've simply become to good/calculated when it comes to the game.






I just deleted over 4000 emails from my email address.

I'll bet Dad's mail server feels like a hiker after taking off their pack.


How to Fail Christianity

In one easy step: Pray to the bull statue on Wall Street for money.


This kind of Fail should have been obvious. Even those who learned everything they needed to know about Christianity from watching Charleston Heston in Ben Hur and the Ten Commandments would know better than this. You could ask any agnostic, atheist, muslim, wiccan, or anyone on the street really whether this was in line with Christian teachings, and they'd all pass the test with flying colors.

I could only be more shocked if my Dad failed basic arithmetic.

While we're talking about Christians missing the point, here's another easy way to fail Christianity.


We have what is one of Christianity's most holy sites, and the six groups responsible for its keeping are too busy squabbling over it to fix the roof, build a fire exit or even take down a ladder.

Interactions between people are never simple, and interactions between six different groups are surely extremely complicated, particularly over something so important. However, one would hope and expect that Christians, of all people, would be able to practice the words of their namesake and get around normal human fallacies and work together. Alas.

At this point I wonder if it wouldn't be better if the whole thing collapsed (though the endless recriminations resulting from that would be unhelpful).


I Must Be Crazy!

Spammers have resorted to a new tactic, trying to convince your that you're crazy.

I just got an email from myself telling me to sign up for exclusive offers. What other madness occurs while I'm comatose?


The Wonder of His Work

I imagine I would have been dreaming this had I spent my election evening playing Mario to pass the time.


At the End of the Tour

Last night Obama secured his place as the 44th President of the United States of America. For twenty-two months I have followed his campaign with ever increasing vigor and intensity. For almost as long as I've lived in Texas this election has been at the center of my attention. It is over, and yet everything is just now beginning.

As I remember this election the chain of memories flows back years ago when my mother first uttered the name Barack Obama. She was reading, if I recall correctly, Obama's book Dreams my Father and said in her direct no-nonsense style "he makes a lot of sense, I'd like to see him run for President someday". I was in high school at the time, blissfully ignorant of politics, but the conversation we had that day stuck with me for reasons I couldn't possibly have understood at the time. My mother talked of how he represented a new generation of politicians, and how all the "old farts" in the system now needed to move aside. We needed people with a new perspective, young people who understood the new age and the generations that with which it would come. My mother's uncanny insight is now almost prophecy.

Barack Obama gave his speech announcing candidacy for the Democratic nomination nearly a decade later. By coincidence I turned my radio on as I drove to work and caught snippets. With just the fleeting glance the program provided I was overwhelmed by the ideals and goals it presented. Moments before I had given politics a disinterested and disaffected cold shoulder, but despite my cynicism I quickly pulled up the entire speech at work and listened with rapt attention as this candidate, now my candidate, made his first case. The resonance I felt was strong enough to break crystal.

It wasn't until much later that I made the connection. By then he had already won Iowa, lost New Hampshire, and recieved my first $25 donation. In viewing for the first time his famous 2004 speech at the Democratic National convention I remembered my mother's words and hope that he or someone like him would ascend into and transcend our politics. Even as the other candidates began to disappoint, both practically and in timbre, Obama continually defied my cynical eye I developed from being sandwiched between my adamanty republic college roomates and my sister's passionately democratic circle of close friends. In situations where another politicians would weasel their way around giving a definitive answer, Obama stood his ground and staked a claim. He gave clear, if non-Manichean, answers to the issues of Abortion, gay marriage and race. Each passing week reinforced my feeling that he was a democrat because of his positions, rather than holding those positions because he was a democrat. "Messianic" was used to describe him, an image that has a certain appeal in these troubling times.

His messianic purity is, of course, a myth. Obama would eventually disappoint me in how his campaign spun the various metrics used to measure success in the primaries, and his less than honest excuses for backing out of public financing. The former became moot eventually, though I really wish he'd simply said, "I'm backing out of public financing because I feel it best allows me to compete with the republican financial machine" in regards to the latter. These sins I have forgiven, though I will certainly pounce upon him should he fall short again. Still, two black marks in twenty-two months is an almost unreachable bar for politicians, it was uplifting to find one who could clear it.

And so, hundreds of gaffes, stump speechs, sound bites, polls and policies later we've come to the end. It's ephemereal and unbelievable, but the election is over. I don't have to mention John McCain, save for if he truly goes maverick and decides to thwart any Republican attempt at a filibuster. I don't have to read polls, demographic turnouts, projects and pundit analyses. The paradigm of these last years is over, and I am left in bewilderment.

In a way it's back to square one. In the past I paid as little attention to what happens after an election as I did to what happens before. Just as watching the primaries with intent was a new experience for me, so too is this period of transition. Yet for the time being a quiet elation wells within me as I think about how my support played a role in this outcome.

I pose a final question, one I think is entirely pertinent: Why does Kenya get to have a day of celebration and we don't?


In one moment...

In one moment I felt
the sound of the word
an echo from unknown waters


It's not just a right, it's a responsibility.


All I Want for Christmas

I have my two front teeth, but I don't have:

1) An Electric Razor. Mom's complaining I don't shave enough, my poor, bloody face is trembling at the thought of more than once weekly massacres.

2) Sony Vegas. It's $200, so I'll accept minor donations in lieu of the full package.

3) A Guitar. Low Priority, High Price. Not advisable, but I thought I'd throw that out there.

4) A Gamer Chick. Resumes accepted but direct interviews preferred.

5) An Obama Presidency plzkthx.

6) A Monkey Music Mix. This is a specialty job that only one couple I know can perform.

7) Music CDs. Classical, Techno, and anything you think is awesome is welcome.

8) Nerdy T-Shirts always accepted. Nice shirts and ties also a good idea.

9) Prayers that I actually get Christmas week off.