Daily Archives: January 19, 2007

Isn’t it nice when things just… work?

So goes the tagline in Honda’s excellent Cog advert (well worth a look, if you’ve never seen it). It’s a shame so few things just… work.

World of Warcraft interface addons, for one. They’re a bit of a delicate ecosystem of their own; from using one compilation pack for patch 1.12, patch 2.00 required many addons to be re-written, so as a temporary measure I grabbed another compilation pack someone had produced for the beta client (and which Melmoth had the foresight to save the day before, as all the interface websites collapsed under the strain of a good chunk of the playerbase all trying to find updates of their favourite addons). And there were some new and shiny things in there, but some things missing I’d liked from the previous compilation, so I started adding a few bits here, taking off a few bits there… I’ve now got a bit of a sprawling assortment of addons, which mostly function, more or less, but a couple of things seem to have decided to just stop working entirely, and others pop up error messages here and there. This isn’t to take anything away from the addon authors, who in most cases produce really useful stuff, for free, spending much of their own time debugging and improving; it’s hardly their fault I’ve gone and installed their addon on top of 23 others all trying to interact with the same bits of the game. Just another little annoyance…

Then there’s monitors. You might recall, a little over a month ago, I got a nice new widescreen monitor. And after a few days, it started making a high pitched whining sound, almost painful to listen to. The nice people at Viewsonic said it sounded like a failing coil in the power supply, and said they’d arrange a replacement. Simple, right?

Or not. My wife and I work full time, which usually makes arranging deliveries a bit of a hassle, but over Christmas we had plenty of holiday, so it would have been a good time to sort out return and delivery of a replacement. Except Viewsonic didn’t have any replacement units in stock. And still didn’t have any replacement units in stock in early January when we were both back to work.

Last week, they did have a replacement unit in stock! I’ve got limited flexibility in my working hours, but I can get away early on a Friday if needs be, so delivery was arranged for Friday afternoon. Needless to say, no monitor turned up Friday afternoon… Turns out there may have been a mixup between “dispatch” and “delivery” (quite why we’d want to arrange when they dispatched the monitor, I don’t know, but hey). And the actual delivery work is subcontracted, but the person on the phone couldn’t tell us who would actually be delivering the parcel or supply a reference number, so we couldn’t get in touch with the delivery people direct.

Wednesday, a card turns up from the delivery service. “We tried to deliver a package, but nobody was in…” So we phone the delivery company; nice helpful people, they asked if there was somewhere they could leave the package if nobody was around? Strangely enough, we weren’t too keen on them dumping an expensive monitor in a garage or somewhere, so no. Anyway, weren’t they picking up the old monitor? They couldn’t see anything about a pickup… still. Arranged delivery for this Friday afternoon.

Yesterday, a card turns up from another courier service. “We tried to collect a package, but nobody was in…” OK, so that explains it, one company delivers, an entirely different company collects. Only this company are subcontracted to a repair service, themselves presumably subcontracted to Viewsonic, and the card says the courier service will rearrange collection with the repair service, and none of them have phone numbers or reference numbers. In the middle of trying to phone one of Viewsonic, the collecting courier service, the repair company, or anyone else vaguely connected with any of this (and failing, as everywhere was closed for the day), our neighbor pops around with a little gift. It’s a Viewsonic VX2235wm, which the delivery service had dropped off earlier today. Fortunately, our neighbors are lovely people (though we may now be in the wife’s bad books, as, prompted by the delivery, the husband was last seen investigating the possibility of buying a nice large widescreen monitor).

As is often the case, any time we’ve managed to get in touch with a human being, usually at Viewsonic, they’ve been nothing but polite and helpful, but there’s not usually much they can do in the face of byzantine multinational bureaucracy. Oh well. At least this new monitor (so far) hasn’t started making any strange noises (fingers crossed), and I’m back to larger, vibrantly coloured gaming. Sorry for the not particularly entertaining post, sometimes you just need to vent…

The nine circles of questing: The second circle.

We continue our plunge into the depths of the questing conflagration; beware adventurer for we leave the first circle and move into areas where such horrors that torment the soul abound!

Second Circle.

The second circle of questing is the one where many adventurers find themselves when starting a new character, especially if it is one that resides in an area of the game that has yet to be explored. Everything is new. Everything is easily achievable. Everything is new, achievable and progress is swift and satisfying.

The quests are still abundant, and the objectives for the quests are close by and can be carried out solo with relative ease. The item rewards are not epic, as one would expect, but the experience rewards are. At no other time does your character grow so quickly and painlessly (unless you’re in the first circle, when each quest provides enough XP for you to hit the level cap three times over, with enough left over to get each of your alternative characters to mid-level).

Not only are the experience rewards good, but the death penalties are minimal; it is therefore possible in the second circle to fling your un-armoured, naked-as-the-day-you-were-born self into the midst of a whole host of foes, swing your starter weapon – usually a bit of string with a knot tied in the end – and slaughter them all, but if not, never fret, it’s only a few seconds to get back to your corpse.

Life isn’t all golden in the second circle, otherwise it would be the first circle and then life wouldn’t have much meaning, because you’d already be an immortal deity who has merged with the game world and become one with it. Anyway, I digress. In the second circle the fresh-faced adventurer faces a new enemy: other fresh-faced adventurers. All those lovely, squeaky clean, easily achievable quests are now being undertaken by others. The nerve of some people! So even though the local wolf population is each entirely covered in ears (and yet somehow can’t manage to hear a bumbling adventurer’s approach, as he charges in swinging his mighty frayed-string flail of wolf filleting), finding an actual wolf to smite with extreme prejudice is somewhat of a challenge. Quite simply, new adventurers are like locusts; they’re like a plague of locusts on methamphetamine and they’ve had a dodgy stomach for a couple of days and they’ve been starving themselves; so they’re a little bit peckish.

‘Ravenous’ is to new adventurers as ‘a bit ambitious’ is to Ghengis Khan.

And so you leave the small hamlet that you started life in, and make your way out towards the Moderately Dank Forest of Not Much Challenge to start your quest for wolf ears. ‘An easy quest!’, you think. ‘Everyone knows that the wolves around here have hundreds of ears each, and although they are fierce fighters when confronted, they have a strange and yet convenient weakness to string with knots tied in it! I shall do well on this quest!’. On rounding the first corner out of your home village, you see… a wasteland. As you wander further on, you can identify where the Moderately Dank Forest used to be, but now there’s just nothing. No wolves; no conveniently placed aggressive mobs that always jump you when you think the area is clear to begin your attack on the wolves; no NPC’s with bottomless bags and infinite gold that you can sell all your leftover wolf parts to; no trees, in fact. Nothing.

Eventually, after an hour or so of wandering, you do stumble across an NPC, stripped naked and huddled behind a boulder against the cold. As you approach the NPC to ask what has happened, a fellow adventurer – we shall call him Norom the Confounding – appears as if by magic, grabs the boulder out from underneath the NPC, shoves it into his Backpack of Convenient Size and Depth, and dashes off. Just as you recover from your utter astonishment at such behaviour, Norom darts back into view, pulls out a pair of scissors and lops the NPC’s beard off in one fell ‘snip!’. And then, just as quickly, vanishes into the distance.

In the end, the Moderately Dank Forest of Not Much Challenge is renamed by the local populace to The Barren Wasteland of Not Much At All, and your quest for wolf ears continues for many hours more than it should have, were it not for Norom and company. You still get your fine reward at the end, and lots of experience, sure, but as Magistrate Von Lotsakasch sings your praises and explains the wonderful and myriad uses he has for a third of a ton of wolf ears, you can’t help but notice that he has a very fine beard; a very fine beard indeed. And there’s an NPC in the next village who will reward any adventurer who can bring her enough beards to thatch the roof of her house.