Monthly Archives: September 2009

Never was anything great achieved without danger.

“Melmoth throws himself fully in to the method of a newbie, going so far as to pretend for half the instance that he doesn’t realise hunters get a frost trap. Even when he finally ‘remembers’, getting a polymorph penguin frozen in the trap is clearly not a mistake, we are just taking a ‘belt and braces’ approach to crowd control. All we need now is a rogue to sap the frozen polymorphed mob to make really sure he’s not going to cause trouble.”

Tiger Ears provides a splendid and light-hearted possible explanation as to why I don’t often get invited to the cool kids’ parties. However, I would have it known that Zoso used to play a Rogue in World of Warcraft but is currently abstaining from the game; so you see it’s not that I’m a total noob, it is in fact all just part of Melmoth’s Master Machination.


The Goodly Guide to: A Life Well Wasted.

A Life Well Wasted is subtitled “An Internet radio show about videogames and the people who love them”. You might be fooled into thinking that ‘Internet radio show’ was just marketing speak for ‘podcast’, and that the show was merely another general hour or so of light harmless banter by one or more personages who are excited enough about the subject to be bothered to record themselves talking about it and then publish their output on the Web.

You would be quite, quite wrong. A Life Well Wasted is utterly deserving of its subtitle, in fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s rather modest, and ‘Internet videogame documentary’ would be closer to the mark.

It’s not just the professional audio quality of the show, where speech is always clear and unmolested by external sound sources, it’s that host and producer Robert Ashley has an impeccable sense of timing, a fine taste in musical breaks and backgrounds, and an ear for the perfect sound bite. The production quality is absolutely first rate, the interviews and main narrative are interspersed with the perfect level of background audio, be it atmospheric music or just the general ambience of wherever he happens to be recording from. The interviews are, frankly, captivating. Whether you are interested in the particular gaming sub-genre under discussion or not, you can’t help but be drawn in to the conversation as Ashley asks insightful and searching questions that, although appearing simple, actually drive right to the heart of the subject, which is clearly evidenced by how passionately his interviewees respond. The interviews are cut, faded in and out, the audio output generally played with, and then interspersed with asides and general narrative from the host, whose soothing ‘surfer dude’ accent and laconic style bring an ambience to the show that both relaxes the listener while at the same time captivating them. Not only that, but Ashley isn’t afraid to just let people talk in the classic documentary style, without the need for the rigid structure of a question/response interview at all times; this can be a dangerous thing to do – giving people freedom to run with a topic that they enjoy – but again his expert editing cuts away the chaff and leaves behind only the pure whole grain of the point at hand.

The only downside to the show is that episodes are few and far between, but given the amount of effort that must go into researching and recording interviews, let alone putting the show together and then polishing it until it glistens, it is a disappointment that is easily forgiven. Each time a new show arrives in the iTunes feed it’s like a an unexpected gift has been sent your way.

If you don’t have this on your podcast subscription list, and you are in any way interested in gaming, then go and do so now. You’re missing out on one of the best audio gaming shows on the Internet.

And we’ll fly and we’ll fall and we’ll burn

Clicking around the newly-imported archives I ran across an old post of mine from MMOG Musings about character builds and the straightforwardness of Lord of the Rings Online compared to City of Heroes, World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons Online. Coincidentally it’s something I’ve been contemplating again in light of the classless society that is Champions Online.

The initial options in Champions don’t seem too daunting. You’re offered fourteen Frameworks of powers (Fire, Ice, Single Blade, Power Armour, Supernatural, Darkness etc.), you pick the one that seems most appropriate to your character (or go crazy and pick a combination for a custom framework), and get two attacks. The first is an “energy builder”, a low damage auto attack that, as the name suggests, builds up your energy, and the second is a more damaging attack that requires a certain amount of energy. This avoids falling down into The Zero-Button Phase (the City of Heroes tutorial as a Controller was quite painful back in the old days, when you could end up with one Hold and one “Heal Other” power and spend half an hour slowly punching frozen thugs into submission), though The Two-Button Phase does last through the tutorial.

There are variations between the Frameworks: some attacks are melee, some ranged, some have additional status effects such as a chance to root or fear the target, so it’s not like the choices are utterly irrelevant. By the traditional taxonomy, though, whatever you choose you end up as “DPS”, whether blade-wielding assassin dealing death by micro cuts or mystic from the city of delusion firing mental blasts; it’s not the game-defining choice you usually have to make in character creation in a class-based game, where your selection generally maps to your role(s) for the rest of the game.

Having chosen your powers you get onto the properly difficult bit of character creation, the costume editor, and spend a good couple of hours tinkering with the sliders so your new born character doesn’t look like some exhibit from a muscle museum with sunburn, then another couple of hours weighing up the eye accessory options (are sunglasses a bit too showbiz for a member of the resistance trying to stage an uprising? Maybe a blast visor is more practical…) Then it’s off through the tutorial, and before long you’re feeling good at level five or six, and levelling up properly for the first time.

This is where things open out more. You need to pick stats to focus on (there’s a useful link in Syp’s handy tips on stat selection). You pick a travel power, and another of those starter tips is entirely correct: swinging *is* awesome. And in the game, ah. You also pick your next “proper” power; a couple of wiki pages go into the full technicalities but broadly, depending on pre-requisites, you could choose another attack (ranged or melee, single target or cone or AoE), or self-buff (active or passive, for boosting energy or damage), or a crowd control power (various roots and holds), or a healing power, or defensive power (passive, or active working in conjunction with the block system), or a pet summoning power (though they might be later on)… It must be a bit of a nightmare to balance, with so many combinations potentially leading to unintended results; I don’t imagine the early tweak to passive defences will be the last change to cause forum hysteria and mass wailing that characters fell less “super”, but being invincible isn’t a very practical base starting point for challenging gameplay.

The classless system is a real fillip for both roleplayers, who can escape the traditional class constraints and select the powers they believe most appropriate for their character, and powergamers, who can really go crazy with the min-maxing after checking out all the small print of every power. If you’re a roleplaying powergamer you can have some fun if an “uber” power seems like an unnatural selection for your character: perhaps the beams you’re shooting out of your hand aren’t flames but lasers from a glove-cannon, or starlight, or strawberry jam heated to unbearable temperatures (take a bow Cream Tea Man, a baker who, when not entirely sober, suffered a blackout and fell into his scone mixer which was then struck with cosmic rays…)

Actually, talking of roleplaying, another general problem with the superhero RPG genre like the “everyone’s a hero” issue is the whole business of gaining levels, and thus powers. It can make sense for some origins (perhaps you retreat to your hero-Cave between levels and come up with a new gadget or two), but if your story is that you gained your powers after being catapulted through a supermassive black hole it’s a bit harder to explain why new abilities keep manifesting themselves (maybe its space dementia and you just forgot the rest to start with…)

Anyway, the upshot of this all is a massive choice of powers for your hero, offering unparalleled freedom, and no “tank” or “healer” pigeonhole to get stuck in (I’ve seen comments that, in the later game, a team benefits from having a more conventional “holy trinity”-type setup, but I don’t have first hand experience of anything like that yet.) Bliss, right? Even if you’re a perfectionist and realise you made a mistake somewhere along the line the tailor and the respec (or “retcon”) system allow you to change everything about your character apart from the name, so long as you have enough in-game money (it seems pretty expensive, so not really practical to be endlessly changing your powers or appearance unless bankrolled by an extremely lucky auction house sale).

Oddly, then, I’m having a problem settling on a character. Deciding between so many powers is difficult, I’m not even trying to work out optimal builds or come up with a map of the problematique, but it’s not a great issue as I’m sure I could scrape up enough cash for a retcon if needed. It’s more that where in another game I’d try a few classes, and one of them would generally click in the way it played so become numero uno, in Champions I can build any character however I like to to suit my style. Characters are therefore more about concept than role or play style, and I’m coming up with a bunch of them, and having trouble choosing. I’ve never suffered altoholism like it before, perhaps it’s long overdue! This wouldn’t be a problem, but the tutorial is getting a little over-familiar (especially after a couple of re-rolls to either fix power selections without paying for a retcon or change names), so I’m going to have to make a decision before too long or go mad at the prospect of re-running the same content…

(Special bonus contest: see if you can guess which band I saw last week and the 30 song titles of theirs embedded in this post…  at least a couple stick out like sore thumbs)

Men are only as good as their technical development allows them to be.

It was upon listening to the Gamers with Jobs podcast #150 that I was struck by a thought on the current trend of development in MMOs.

The conversation had digressed slightly from the listener’s initial question about voice acting in games and onto the more general topic of ‘game character as actor’ and how games go about achieving this. While talking about why they had, in general, left out character facial animation in Bioshock when it clearly would have been complementary to the excellent voice acting in the game, special guest of the show Ken Levine said:

“If you can’t do it right, then you probably shouldn’t do it.”

In his opinion the short sharp motto that should be adhered to by any developer who wishes to produce a game that presents a high level of quality is:

“Don’t do shit you can’t do.”

In this case his example being the fact that 2K Boston removed facial animation from Bioshock because they felt they couldn’t afford to produce it to a high enough standard.

In another comment, which perhaps cuts more directly to the heart of MMO development issues, he points out that:

“There’s very few games that can afford to do everything well.”

Granted, at the time he was talking about games like Bioshock, but is this a lesson that MMO developers have yet to learn? I wonder if MMOs perhaps try to do too much for the initial release, and in doing so end up with a less than sublime release which has many broken aspects to it, which is actually more detrimental to building that vital initial foundation of the game’s community than if they had launched without those broken features at all. Any serious MMO is developed with the ‘long run’ in mind, they’re a very special genre of game which can keep players not only interested (because games like Starcraft and Diablo II manage this just fine) but also paying-to-play for many years at a time; would a potential strategy be to release a very solid core game, where the developer does the basics, but does them very well, on the understanding that they will then continue to add further elements to the game after release?

I’m not talking about content expansions here, or not exclusively content expansions, but whether an MMO could release with just the fundamentals that we have come to expect from such a game: a way to create a character, and a way to develop that character. If the production quality of that game was outstanding, of the sort of quality we’d expect from a console game where, until recently, show-stopping bugs couldn’t be patched out, therefore things had to work ninety nine percent of the time out of the box, would we be prepared to invest and play while we waited for the developer to concentrate on, say, a complex and innovative crafting system if the game initially just had a slick combat system in place? I think the answer might be surprising. Just consider how many players are happy to butt their heads against the same end-game raid content in WoW when it’s made even slightly accessible and provides suitable Skinner Box rewards. So many players, in fact, that Blizzard haven’t got the hardware in place to deal with the increased number of players now trying to enter dungeon instances, and “Additional instances cannot be launched” has very much become the mantra of the frustrated World of Warcraft dungeoneer.

Would MMO players accept a game that did one thing, but did it brilliantly well, with the promise of further elements of the game being added after the fact? Should MMO developers stop trying to do everything at once, because outside of Blizzard and SoE there probably isn’t one of them that can afford to do everything well?

I look at Second Life and wonder whether it wasn’t ahead of its time in many ways, and thus shows us the potential for an MMO to, at least initially, concentrate on doing just one thing well. It obviously tried to do something that the technology of the time was barely able to deliver to the end user, but because they concentrated on that one thing and made it the focus of their entire game, they produced something that kept a wealth of players interested and invested far beyond what the graphical and technical limitations of the game would lead one to believe was possible.

Playin’ for keeps is still playin’, mon ami, so take a card…

And now we return you to the regularly scheduled program: The Continuing Adventures of Melmoth in MMOland.

My foray into the lands of Middle Earth hit a temporary setback recently when I decided to have a little tinker with the Warden class for a brief change of pace and to see what it was all about. Twenty-odd levels later and I really can’t see myself going back to my Champion any time soon. My frustrations at race/class restrictions in MMOs continued when I wasn’t able to play a dwarf Warden, and although I know that the Lore Lords of LotRO are, even as I type, activating their rings of power and mounting their steeds in order to ride me down, I can’t help but feel that this is quite a pointless restriction, even for a game such as LotRO that attempts to stick to the letter of the Lore where it can. Lore with a capital ‘l’, to show that the only correct way to enunciate it is to holler it in a Brian Blessed fashion whilst slamming one’s fist down on a nearby desk. As I bemoaned on Twitter, it’s all well and good standing by your convictions with regard to the Lore, as long as you don’t then ignore the Lore at the drop of a hat when it suits your game development needs. Which, let’s face it, is what just about every MMO developer does in the end anyway.

Lore is a tenuous beast at best. Take Captains for example, they can only come from the race of men (and women; thanks Stan), an entirely acceptable and understandable premise, because “that’s how it was in the books!”, as the Lore Lords would cry. Captains can also, however, magically heal their allies by shouting things. “Ah!” cry the Lore Lords, “they are not healing, they are boosting the morale of their fellowship through vocal encouragement. Also in the books!”, a sentence which is probably punctuated with some more high speed fist-desk interaction. To which my response is: if you honestly feel that someone yelling encouraging words at me when I am being stabbed in the face by the swords of five orcs is really, honestly going to boost my morale in any measurable way, I have a graph plotting the axes of Morale and Near-Fatal Stab Wounds that might enlighten you. I’m pretty sure that, in the Lore, Sauron was not trying to depress the lands of Middle Earth into submission. Yeah, pretty sure that Stabby Death was involved in a huge number of cases.

So of course, being that I was required to stick to the Lore, I had to pick an appropriate race for a spear-wielding tank class, so I chose that well known stalwart tackler of multitudinous bloodthirsty enemies: the Hobbit.


The Warden class is a thing of wonder, though. A light tank class, primarily to be found wielding a shield and one-handed weapon (traditionally the spear) and with the ability to launch javelins at their foes from range, the Warden is perhaps most easily described as an off-tank ranger. The class comes with a wide scope of abilities, from temporary stealth, to ambush attacks that stun foes and then allow you to follow up with a powerful strike against them, to run speed boosting travel abilities. The primary system of attacks though is based on what are called gambits, and it really is a system that is a joy to use.

The Warden has three primary attack options: Attack, Block and Taunt. They are more correctly known as Spear, Shield and Fist respectively, but I find that using those terms can lead to gambit conversations such as “You’ve got to fist him twice before you can get in behind and spear him” and it all gets very messy, especially when you find that Jones has taken you literally and you now need to prise him off of that orc because after its initial surprise it really seems to be rather enjoying things.

Each of the primary combat abilities that you gain is associated with one of the three attack options, logically weapon attacks are associated with ‘Spear’, shield attacks are associated with ‘Shield’ and taunt abilities are associated with the curiously chosen clenched ‘Fist’ (fight the power!). There is also a secondary set of skills – they even have their own tab in your character window – which you learn as you progress in level, and these are known as gambits. A typical gambit will perform a slightly more powerful manoeuvre, perhaps with an additional minor bonus, such as a buff or heal over time. Each gambit also has a number of icons associated with it, each of which being one of Spear, Shield or Fist; it is the way in which you trigger these abilities which is the fun part. As part of your basic skill set you have an ability that, on its own, performs a mediocre attack. This unassuming skill, however, is actually the Transformer of Warden skills: it is other skills in disguise. When you use your normal attacks, you also, in addition to the attack itself, queue up the associated gambit icon in a little UI element unique to the Warden. When you have queued up a set of gambit icons such that they match the pattern of an associated gambit – order is entirely important here – your Transformer attack changes its icon to match that of the gambit, and you may then use it to activate that gambit’s ability.

Part of the beauty of the system comes from the fact that you very quickly end-up with a vast number of abilities, and yet you only need one quickbar slot for the activating ability and, as it currently stands for me in the low level twenties, one slot for each of the attack, shield and taunt abilities, and yet I easily have twelve or more gambits available to me. Now this system does rely on the player being able to memorise the combinations of attacks that trigger each gambit, if I want to increase my shield block values because I’m taking a heavy beating, for example, then it’s an entirely different combo from the one that enables me to do an AoE taunt and damage over time. Again though, the system works around this issue well, because there’s a beautiful general synergy between the basic attacks and what gambits they trigger. For example, you know that performing two shield attacks in a row is going to open up a gambit which will perform some sort of greater ability which is shield-based, in that particular instance the gambit will apply a temporary buff which boosts your block values. It’s a system that is intuitive, simple to understand and yet difficult to master when under the pressure of intense combat. It’s superb.

As you gain levels with the Warden the initial two gambit slots eventually becomes three, and you move from the simple one-two gambits, onto gambits that require three icons in the correct order before you can activate them using the Transformer skill. You quickly find, however, that many of the two-icon combos then lead on to a more powerful three-icon combo, but again they perform attacks and abilities that follow the same theme as the two-icon combo, such that you know that if you perform the two-icon combo. that starts a heal over time ability, you can add another suitable icon to turn it into a more powerful heal, perhaps with an added secondary effect such as a minor damage over time. It really is an elegant system, a powerful system and a clever system. Is my admiration for this system coming through loud and clear? I hope so.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in the heat of a hectic combat, hitting all these skills in exactly the right order can be difficult, or you may find yourself half-way into a damage gambit when you decide that really you need to be throwing up another self heal gambit instead. Turbine has you covered in that situation too, because one of your non-attack abilities allows you to clear the gambit bar of all icons and begin the gambit chain afresh. It still takes time to build a gambit, because you have to execute each attack in the chain to queue up the appropriate icons, so there is plenty of tactical choice required in just when to start healing, when to start buffing, and when to build-up a nice heavy hitting damage attack, but when it all starts to go a bit pear-shaped, you have the option to reset and change tack without any frustration.

You’ll notice I used ‘combo’ several times above, and it was deliberate, because the way the combat feels is very much akin to the system in arcade fighting games such as Tekken, only slowed down to the more traditional MMO combat pace that exists in LotRO; and also without the need to go searching around the Internet for a million arcane FAQs, each professing to know exactly how to perform a Spinebreaker combo, and each one getting the button order slightly wrong.

The other benefit to the way this system was designed is that, unless I’m mistaken, Turbine kept the standard attack animations down to a minimum in order to allow the building of gambits to be quick and responsive. The last thing you want is to have to wait a long time between each attack when building up to a badly needed heal gambit, the delay is inherent in the gambit system itself (in the fact that you have to activate each of the individual attacks first) so there’s little need to restrain the activation of skills with a particularly stringent swing timer. Or so it seems to me at least, and it is some of the most engaging combat that I have had in a fantasy MMO in a long while.

So if you play LotRO, you haven’t given the Warden a shot, and you think a slightly more thoughtful melee combat experience would suit you, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Just remember that you can’t play a dwarf, even if you want to. It’s the LORE.

To the cynics.

There is returning to WoW in order to be reminded of the good times that you had, and there is returning to WoW in an attempt to relive those times.

They are two different things, and it would behove you to confirm which is being undertaken before being smarmy about it.

If after being proffered the former option you still think it is a waste of time and foolish, you have my deepest sympathies; and tell me, when exactly did you last have contact with your soul? Perhaps we can help you find it.

Thought for the day.

Zoso expressed his wonder at the many epic stories of struggle against adversity that are told by the players of EVE Online, triggered by the splendid series The Five Year Spree by Jim Rossignol over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

It’s one of those things though – like reading about intrepid arctic explorers – that’s absolutely bloody fascinating, and which fires the imagination and massages the soul, but also confirms that these people are bloody mad and that I’m glad I was gifted with a healthily sized sanity gland.

You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you.

After the long and drawn-out interactive electronic entertainment drought of the summer, where the bounteous river Gaming is deprived of content and dwindles to a mere trickle maintained only by the delta of hype tributaries that continue to feed it, we now begin to see the autumnal deluge of new releases, which rained down on the Beta mountain ranges not so long ago, slowly gather speed as they wend their way down the steep slopes and out onto the flood plain of launch titles. And as the river Gaming begins to regain its strength, returning life to the dishevelled and starved media that line its banks and drink deeply of its waters, the native inhabitants of the river begin to return; here and there gamers frolic once more in the seemingly illimitable expanse of the rejuvenated river, their joyous cries to one another filling the Autumn air with the sound of rapture.

PC and TV screens flow again with the neon light of the river as it streams out and lights-up the faces of gratified gamers across the wide expanse of the world.

Or in short: new games, woo yeah!

Champions Online has now set ‘engines to power, turbines to speed’ and is battling with the evil forces of General Release, where it seems to be winning on the whole. Certainly it’s been a smooth launch for a vast majority of players as far as I can tell, and my experiences with the game so far have been almost entirely positive, with Lord of the Rings Online being the only other MMO springing to mind that has done so well on its opening few days. Still, the game is not without its issues – as is the remit of any true MMO at launch – and Syp reports on at least one rather game-stopping issue for some people, this one regarding frame rate frinkiness.

As for me, well I’ve made it out of the character creator for long enough to get my main character to level fifteen and have thus made my way through the first two introductory zones and into Millennium City and the game proper. I do intend to post a lengthier disquisition on the game, but for now the important thing to say is that this isn’t City of Heroes 2.0. No really, it isn’t. Yes, there are a lot of ideas that have been inherited from City of Heroes, clearly there are. In fact there are some audio assets that seem to be exact copies, for example the ‘vomit’ attack sound of the Qulaar aliens you meet at the very start of the tutorial area are, to my ear, identical to the Vahzilok vomit sound effect from CoH. The character creator is also evidently a spiritual successor to its CoH counterpart, but if saying that a few ideas taken from CoH and improved upon make Champions Online nothing more than CoH 2.0, then we must also say that WoW is nothing more than EQ 3.0. Champions is a very different game to CoH in many fundamental ways. Take combat for one: in CoH you press an attack, wait for that power to fire, then press another attack. If an attack is on cool-down you can queue it up and wait for the power to recharge, at which point it will fire and go back on cool-down. It’s a very traditional PC MMO system, whereas Champions is, as has been pointed out elsewhere already, a Console MMO system: it is fast, it is furious and it is a lot of fun, assuming you aren’t set in your PC MMO ways. As one example of the difference between the two, many attack powers don’t have a cool-down and therefore you can mash the attack as fast as your keyboard and latency will allow, which is, to Cryptic’s credit, really pretty fast and very responsive. In fact, people should really be quite impressed with just how responsive the attack system is in Champions. It’s one of the things that I secretly (not so secretly now, of course) think made WoW great: you press a button, you get a response to that button press. Straight away. Not when some special internal cool-down occurs. Not when the game feels like fitting you in to its diary. If the power is on cool-down, you can’t use it, if it isn’t on cool-down then you can use it Right Now. It’s probably my biggest issue with combat in LotRO at the moment – at least with my Champion, the Warden seems less effected – in that I can press an ability and then seemingly have to wait an age for it to activate. Maybe it’s based on the swing timer, maybe it’s an internal timer, I don’t know, but it makes having an interrupt ability that is used in response to an enemy’s attack nigh-on pointless. Champions also requires you to actively block enemy attacks, you can get away with not bothering to do so with their standard attacks, but if you see the enemy winding up a big power (as indicated by a comic-style BLAM icon above their head) then you’d better get those shields up, Captain. It makes the game more like an arcade beat’em-up, and as far as super heroism goes, it feels a lot more true to the genre than standing on the spot and pressing ‘1’ in CoH. And maybe a bit of ‘2’, just to spice things up. With the occasional excitement of pressing ‘6’,’7′,’8′,’ALT-1′,’ALT-2′,’ALT-3′ and ‘ALT-4’ if a mob knocks all of your toggle powers off. Of course CoH isn’t really as staid as all that, because they managed to make the fights hectic enough that it feels as though you’re doing a lot. As a final thought, another MMO which tried to mix the combat up a bit and went for a more frenetic option was Age of Conan, also slated to be a console MMO at one point, and again the combat in that game was a lot of fun if you were open and receptive to that sort of thing. More on Champions once I’ve had a chance to play my character to a higher level.

Other new games that are now causing a quite audible ping on my game radar are Aion, which I ordered some time ago on a whim and am not sure I will get a chance to play for a while; Batman: Arkham Asylum, about which I have heard what can only be described as the unrestrained screams of orgasmic release; Section 8, which has been pimped quite heavily by Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and seems to be gaining momentum in the blogger hive mind; and last but not least Dungeons & Dragons Online: Unlimited, which I have yet to look into properly but would like to return to at some point, having played the original on release. I think it would need a decent static group to make the most of it though, so I’ll probably dabble in the free section of the game and then determine where to go from there.

The only problem is that until recently I’ve been happily subsisting in the isolated ponds of LotRO and WoW, those enduring habitats that remain a watering hole of gaming life when all other options have dried out. I’m not entirely sure I’m prepared for the rapid influx of fresh gaming waters, and I’m probably at risk of being swamped by the oncoming wave of new ideas and thoughts, sights and sounds. I need to anchor myself, and I shall do so with the next post, where I’ll talk about my ongoing adventures in LotRO, and my recent return with Tiger Ears to the lands of Azeroth, for one final fond tour of its lands before they are sundered by what one imagines is the wrath of a development team who, after being labelled the ‘Blizzard B Team’ for so long, have finally reached their enrage timer.