[Random] Introducing the Random tag—buy toothpaste, get SimCity DLC

And in a new blog feature, I am going to highlight acts of randomness in gaming PR where I read the story and think “OK, that was random.” Feel free to submit odd gaming related PR stunts that you find.

EA’s Random Sim City Promotion

If you buy a specially marked tube of toothpaste, you can get a DLC for Sim City that includes such noteworthy city attractions as “a giant garden gnome”  and “the world’s largest ball of twine.”

Man, what?

The burning question in my mind is that if you get an in game giant ball of twine when you buy toothpaste, what do you get if you buy a ball of twine?

[NBI] Content: What should you write and how should you write it?

Welcome to issue 2 of my advice to new gaming bloggers. This is the part where I state the obvious for a paragraph or too, and then discuss  it so brilliantly that you forget it was obvious and you already knew it.

If you are a gaming blogger, you should blog about games from time to time. Preferably games that you are playing. You may see other bloggers spawn huge comment threads by writing provocative opinion columns or raising knee-jerk issues (ie. issues that are guaranteed to get a reaction), but before you throw yourself headlong into a flamewar frenzy, bear one thing in mind. What people really enjoy is to read opinions that agree with their own, especially if they feel that their opinion is a minority. There is probably a psychological phrase for this, but it makes those readers feel good about themselves.

I’m not saying you should write for anyone except yourself, but if you write about things that you enjoy in your favourite game/s of the moment, you will probably attract a readership who are in tune with that. If you write about a great time you had in the game, readers will remember why they also liked that game. If you write about how much you enjoy grouping in MMOs (I’m using Skaggy as an example because he posted this today), it reminds readers of why they enjoy/ed grouping in MMOs. If you write about the joys of soloing, you’ll please readers who connect with that too. So even if you are in a gaming slump, try to post more positive articles than negative ones. It’s good for your mental state and it makes other people happy too. If you read a lot of older gaming blogs, you’ll see that people like Tobold and Syncaine are careful to schedule some positive posts even when they are mostly feeling negative about the genre. It is a way of connecting to readers who also enjoy games, and if they didn’t enjoy games they wouldn’t be reading gaming blogs in the first place. It is also a way to remind people who game that you are ‘one of them’. This can sometimes get lost if you tend to use a more formal writing style, or focus on writing guides. None of those things are bad, but writing about your own positive experiences will always engage with readers.

You will never go wrong with a post that describes how you had fun in a game. I am sure it is possible to offend more people than you gain via your notion of fun, but I’ve never actually seen anyone do it. If the fun involves playing an underplayed class or much-hated-on game or playing style  then so much the better, because you’re also demonstrating to other people that fun doesn’t have to involve minmaxing or playing ‘the cool new hotness’.

Or if you want to write about how much fun minmaxing is for you, then that’s good too.

How much of yourself to put into your posts

Some blogs thrive on the personal voice of the writer. Others may use a team of writers, focus on curating links, or cultivate a more professional writing style. You should never feel pushed to reveal more of yourself than you feel comfortable with. If you want to write a high concept theorycrafting blog then there’s no need to write about how games affect you emotionally, especially if they don’t. If on the other hand you are an emotional person or want to use your blog to let off steam, a blog can be a good way to do this.

Warning: Do not blog about your guild or in game friends without thinking hard about how they might feel if they read it. Everyone else will LOVE reading about guild drama, it has a sort of car crash fascination, but getting it off your chest a) might not make you feel better and b) might get back to them and increase the drama. If you’ve thought it over and you’re OK with that, then go for it and send me the link Smile

Readers do like to get a sense of the person behind the blog, because that way they can build up a sort of relationship. I’m sure anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile will have a sense for my gaming interests and how I tend to play and think about games.The longer you stick at it, the more likely your persona is to end up embedded in the blog whether you mean to or not. Your opinions and attitudes will colour what you write about and how you write it. While it is possible to front a persona for the purposes of blogging, authenticity is what attracts readers. Be genuine. Don’t pretend to like something you hate. Don’t be afraid to admit you like something that you like. And don’t be afraid to write about why you like or dislike those things.

Topics that will usually get a reaction

This is just based on my experience. Don’t do this just to get a reaction, just be aware that if you want to write about these things it may happen.

  • Posts about feminism or discussion of sexy character costumes in games
  • Ditto for racism or portrayals of gay characters
  • Pictures of cute animals
  • List posts. ie. title is something like ‘X reasons to buy Diablo 3.’ (Please don’t make your entire blog into list posts.)
  • Posts connecting your subject to something currently in the news.
  • Posts about casual vs hardcore gaming
  • Posts about soloing vs grouping in MMOs
  • Direct attacks on other bloggers/blogs. Blog flamewars can be kind of fun, though.
  • Anything really negative about a fan favourite game (rabid fans have some kind of psychic way to find these things)
  • Anything really positive about Blizzard or Bioware

And a couple more ideas to get you going

Rowan has some advice on RSS feeds and blog lists. I rely heavily on RSS to source links for my link posts, and one of my fallbacks for post content is to look through the reader at what other bloggers have written and see if I feel inspired to reply via blog post to any of them. It’s polite to link to the post you are referencing.

I saw this in problogger recently, it’s a link to a google spreadsheet that will draw in recent articles on a topic of your choice. I thought that looked like an interesting way to generate some ideas so am passing it on here too.

[NBI] Blog advice: Picture manipulation tools, and copyright

In my intro post for the NBI, I mentioned briefly tools that I use for writing up blog posts. What I didn’t mention was anything about prepping graphics for your posts, which for gaming bloggers will mostly involve screenshots.

If you are writing a blog that is very screenshot heavy or you want to do something fancier with graphics, this is likely going to be just a starting point. But for my purposes, the usual sorts of alterations I would make to screenshots involve cropping the screenshot down, and maybe touching up the image a bit if it has come out fairly dark.

A graphics manipulation program will also make it easier for you to lay out several pictures on the page, which you can do by combining them into a single new image that you fiddle around with until you are happy. Using cut and paste on the separate pictures to paste them into a new larger image as layers will let you move them around easily while you are working.  This, I have found by trial and error, is about a zillion times easier than trying to get separate image files laid out neatly in your HTML or word processor.

Once the image is in the blog post, you can use HTML/ formatting tools in your editor to position it. You can also adjust the size of the image in your editor via HTML or formatting tools, although the quality of the image may suffer a bit.

When you save the processed image file, you probably want to avoid using large graphics file types as that will make your page take longer to load. .jpg should be fine. (If you need more information than this about optimising for the web, it’s worth searching around via google as it’s a well trodden path with lots of good advice around.)

What I use

Image3

This is what I use, an old copy of Paintshop Pro (PSP) which we had a licence for in the house. It runs on just about anything (Windows based), and happily copes with anything I might ever want to do to my screenshots. If you feel like spending money on blogging tools, this one will serve you happily. I imagine the latest version does all sorts of fancy extra stuff, but this is good enough for me.

I’m also fond of being able to paste images from the clipboard direct into PSP. The picture above shows PSP with the ‘enhance photo’ menu open which is what I’d normally use to tweak the colour and contrast balance. All of these graphics programs allow you to easily roll back any changes if you don’t like how they look, so you can experiment a bit.

Free graphics manipulation packages

There are some good alternative graphics packages available.  These are three of the options available. GIMP and Paint.net both have large communities where you can ask any questions and find out about addons or tweaks. Picasa has Google behind it.

GIMP

GIMP is an open source program, and the link I have given here is to GIMP for Windows. It’s probably better known as a Linux program, but the Windows one works fine too.

gimp

It’s a very powerful graphics processing package, can be a bit fiddly to use, and if you want to use it I suggest paying close attention to the manual.

Picasa

Picasa is Google’s picture editor which was developed mostly to let people manage their photo albums online, but also lets you tweak and crop pictures for later use in blogs. You can download the client and use it offline to prepare pictures for publication/ upload.  It even has an option to upload your finished picture to Blogger (also a Google product).

picasa

It’s a nice simple tool without too many of the bells and whistles, and if you’re a bit nervous about diving into something like GIMP, this is probably the one I’d recommend you try for starters.

Paint.net

This started off as a student project to provide a freeware version of Microsoft Paint (avoid downloading OpenPDF by mistake from the same page, unless you really wanted it), and now has a fairly extensive following online.

paintnet

I’d place this as a sort of happy medium between GIMP and Picasa in terms of complexity.

And those are just the start

There are also online tools which let you load up your graphic and manipulate it online, specialist tools which provide specific automated manipulations if you want to make your screenshots look like a funky collage or write your own text onto a picture of Einstein (hey don’t ask me, I just find this stuff), etc.

But you’ll likely find that most people use an offline tool to prep their pictures.

Copyright note

I am not a lawyer, but if you don’t own the copyright for an image, you should check with the person who does before you post it on your blog. Games companies typically don’t mind if you use media from their site, especially if you are praising the game (that’s why they make it available from the site in the first place).

If you want to check out libraries of photos, the Creative Commons on Flickr has pictures made available under a variety of licenses if you want to use them. The most basic is the attribution license, under which owners allow you to use their pictures in return for a link and an attribution (which is basic good manners anyway). So that’s one place to start. Different blog writers probably have their own favourite picture repositories, and no I’ve no idea where Rivs gets his hot chick pictures Smile

[New Blogger Initiative] Join the bloggerati! Fame, fortune, flames await!

nbimedium

If you read many MMO blogs, you’ll see this logo popping up a lot during May because the gorgeous Syp (of Biobreak and Massively fame)  is organising a whole month worth of new blogger initiatives (NBI)  to encourage new bloggers to throw down with the rest of us!

There are at least 70 other blogs supporting the NBI, and I’ll get a link to the others later in the month so you can check them out. If you are interested, or recently started a blog and want to get involved, there is a bboard where you can sign up here.

We’ll all be aiming to post some articles giving advice to new bloggers – probably including advice we wish we’d had such as ‘never offer to buy the first round’ and ‘don’t go to bed with your boots on.’ If there is anything in particular you’d like words of wisdom on from me, feel free to suggest in comments. (Don’t ask about how to make money from blogs, I’ve never tried to do that so I’m the wrong person to ask!) And we’ll be spreading some link love.

So if you’ve always wondered about blogging about games, whether it’s one particular game that you love, one that you’re really looking forwards to, or general squeeing or ranting about games you love/hate, there has never been a better time to get started.

Why blog, and how I got started?

Blogging is a great hobby. You get to practice your writing, polish up your editing skills, spend lots of time thinking and writing about your favourite hobby, and make new friends. That latter may sound odd, but after you have been knocking around the blogosphere for awhile, interacting with other bloggers and writing comments on their posts, you get to know people.

I’ve also found that blogging means I enjoy games more, rather than less. It doesn’t feel like work, instead I think more about the games I play and why I like them. It doesn’t work like that for everyone – some writers find that analysing their games takes the joy away, and if that happens then you can stop any time.

Others find that they love writing guides to their favourite games to encourage new or inexperienced players to get involved. MMOs encourage community building and social gaming, even if a player prefers to be solo at all times in the game itself. I’ve seen many keen and insightful commenters who play solo, where I’d reckon that interacting with the bloggers is part of the social gaming experience.

And the other great thing about blogging is that instead of bothering the partner/cat/random facebook friends with details about your screenshots, character and the cool stuff that happened in game, you can talk to readers who are actually interested :)

The first MMO blog I wrote was about Warhammer Online, which was called The Book of Grudges (an inspired name, I still think) – my sister, Arbitrary, thought of it and co-wrote the blog with me. We started it during the hype cycle for WAR and stopped soon after the game went live.  I still have a soft spot for WAR, whatever it’s issues, we had a lot of fun playing it. We didn’t really have a blogging strategy, just we both posted short posts whenever we thought of something to say. This resulted in a blog which had loads and loads of short updates, BoingBoing style, which seemed to be entertaining for people. WAR also had a great blogging community and we threw ourselves into it, and many of the other WAR bloggers who got started during that time are still going now.

After that, I took a break for a few months, started playing WoW since Wrath had just come out, but I missed blogging. I did think hard about starting again on a new blog because it meant starting from scratch again with no readers. But this time I knew I didn’t want to focus on just one game, so I did it anyway! I knew that the WoW blogosphere was huge and unlikely to want much to do with me, but I figured “Hey, why not?” even if just me and Arb and a few old WAR blogging friends read, it’s something to do.

One of the nutty things I did when I was first getting started was write a polite rant about something one of the big WoW bloggers had written. If you read that post, you can see how my writing style has improved since then. But the thing which blew me away was that Matticus linked to me in his blog as part of a summary of reactions to his post, and replied. I wasn’t expecting him to even notice, I was just a two-bit blogger. But some of his readers came to check out the link and before you knew it, I had COMMENTS! (!)

So the WoW bloggers weren’t such an intimidating bunch after all. And this is what you’ll find with gaming bloggers in general, we do like to interact with new voices even when they disagree with us.

So you want to get started!

I’m not going to post a newbie’s guide to blogging right now, but the first thing to do is decide which platform you want to use. WordPress or Blogger are the main platforms people are using at the moment. I like WordPress, which is where this blog is located.

WordPress for Beginners

Blogger (it’s part of google so you can log in using your google account)

If you use Windows, I’d also recommend Windows Livewriter as a blog writing tool, although both WordPress and Blogger let you type your post straight into an online editor.

I also recommend reading other blogs, for two reasons. Firstly they’ll give you an idea what people are writing about, and secondly writing comments on other blogs and interacting that way will be one way to get involved and have larger blogs post links to you. Most bloggers have a blogroll to the side of their posts, mine is on the right hand side, which is a good way to start reading around.

And go sign up on http://nbihq.freeforums.org/index.php if you’d like to get involved, there will be a lot of advice and linkage around this month. Take advantage of it!

Surviving April Fools Day

In the interests of allowing people to make total tits of themselves, I won’t post up links to any of the bloggy April Fools I’ve found so far until this afternoon. Feel free to suggest good April Fool links in comments.

(Big admission, I was going to write an April Fool about some big game company apologising for not including EU participants in something or other, because we know that never happens. But Bioware actually did that yesterday.)

Until then:

Guardian reports on Gordon Brown’s new electoral campaign

The Brown team has been buoyed by focus group results suggesting that an outbreak of physical fighting during the campaign, preferably involving bloodshed and broken limbs, could re-engage an electorate increasingly apathetic about politics.

In other election related news, BMW debuts its new Political Roundel Attachment Tag (PRAT) technology. They have some pictures of it on the homepage. (Thanks, Twoo.)

Kotaku is linking gaming related April Fools as they find them here.

Google introduces a new Animal Translator, bridging the gap between species.

A few more April Fools

Tobold reports that we’ll soon be able to play WoW on Facebook

And We Fly Spitfires has news of paid class changes in the works

TAGN reports on all the official Blizzard April Fools

Tanking Tips has news about a new legendary shield in WoW (about time too!)

Kill Ten Rats offers the one off chance to send ten dead rats to your favourite developer

Troll Racials are Overpowered has seen the light! He’s starting a new incarnation as a gnome paladin.

wow.com has had a change in direction to become Mass Effect Insider (or Leer at Taylor Lautner Insider?) (note: I will laugh if the Twilight stuff sends their hits through the roof.)

More from Bioware: They’ve announced a new 9th class for SWTOR, the Sarlacc Enforcer

Massively.com introduced new premium member services (Thanks, Wilhelm2451)

And props to Andrew Doull who totally had me fooled with his series of posts about Dwarf Fortress 2

As he says himself:

The typical reaction to falling for a hoax is outrage. I want you to put aside that emotion as much as you are capable of and celebrate another – imagination. If you fell for my story, it is because the seeds I planted fell on the cherished soil of fertile and optimistic dreamworld. This should be something you should be proud of. You have the capability to rise above the mundane and cynical, escape the clay around your boots and float away on boundless escapism. You are a gamer.

How MMOs infect single player games, and other syphilitic themes

This was inspired by Tam’s syphilis meme, where he bravely offered to suggest personalised topics to all comers. So with no more ado, my topic is:

  • How do you think playing WoW influences our attitude to and engagement in other games?

Before I start on the lists, one comment. I wrote a few posts about Dragon Age while I was playing it and loving it, even though this blog is usually focussed on MMOs. Why? Because I never doubted that the vast majority of people I knew who played MMOs would also love Dragon Age. Not for a single moment was there a flicker of doubt. (Also Bioware are apparently working on some teeny and totally unhyped MMO that some of you may have heard about …)

Sharing our Games with Other People

gamers benimoto@flickr

There was a time when playing a single player game meant buying a box, taking it home, loading it up and … that was it. Maybe there would be computer magazine articles to read with hints or tips. Perhaps you’d discuss it with other kids at school. I even played Diablo II like this, it never really occurred to me to do any research into useful builds or optimal gear, or to want to talk to other players beyond trying to get my friends to try it. I just experimented on my own and had fun with it that way.

But MMOs aren’t really like that. The whole point is that other people are there, whether or not you choose to interact with them. They are right there in your game and possibly in your face. The game offers a variety of activities to do with them too, whether it be trading, sharing craft skills, running instances, or just ganking their noob arses. And a lot of players do want to interact even beyond this. WoW, as the biggest player on the block, has spawned thousands and thousands of fansites, blogs, bulletin boards, databases, tweets, facebook pages, and other ways for players to get together and discuss the game. They are brilliant, and lively, and smart, and sometimes very wtf. But don’t ever doubt that these games spawn huge amounts of player generated content, it just isn’t inside the game itself.

And now … now it’s hard for me to play a single player game without wanting to talk about it online too. Or to find out what other people are doing with it, to get some hints and tips, and maybe to even try out the multiplayer options.

Much of this is due to the rise of social networking in general. We’re all more likely to talk about everything online,and it’s much easier to find a community of fellow hobbyists who share your interests. But I never used to share my gaming experiences – my solo games were private time. Now I can’t stop talking about how awesome the dog is in Dragon Age and how my dwarf rogue chick managed to wipe out an entire town of elves. And I know that other people are interested too because my post on Dragon Age endings got more hits from search engines than just about anything else I have ever posted.

Even though those other people are not actually in my single player game, I feel that I’m sharing experiences as if they were. It’s subtle, but it is a different approach. This is even more marked for people who want to share their achievements, their speed runs, their cool or crazy tactics, or bizarre things they have managed to do in single player games.

Developers are responding to this with more multi player options, more social networking, more ways to share achievements or to chat to other people while playing solo. And I love it.

Drilling Down into Tactics

tactics

Another way in which playing MMOs has changed single player games for a lot of people is the idea that we’d sit down and discuss tactics at all. Or spend time thinking about them in depth.

Single player games are often a smooth flow of experience, you learn one level and then move on to the next. Sometimes you will hit a brick wall and have to rethink your tactics. But otherwise, unless you are very focussed on optimising, playing well enough is going to be good enough. It’s a far cry from writing long posts on guild forums about tactics for a raid boss that we haven’t yet beaten. And despite all the complaints about games being dumbed down, let’s remember that tactics can get very complex when there are 25 players to consider. No single player game approaches that sort of complexity.

I don’t mean by this that everyone needs to optimise their play — games are about having fun — but being exposed to in depth strategy discussions in guilds for MMOs has forever changed the way I play single player games. I will spend more time wondering if there is a way that I could  do things more efficiently or more neatly. Single player games also help with this by offering save points so that levels can easily be replayed.

It has also thrown up some particularly amusing raid leader diagrams – I wish I could find some good links to old strategy guides for WoW raids in vanilla. I know our raid leaders loved producing them, and they always got a good reaction from players.

And because of learning all those raid boss strategies in WoW, I’ll recognise similar puzzles when they come up in a single player game. Dragon Age was a great example of this, with different boss fights that feature adds to be picked up, pressure points to stand on, multiple phases, resistance gear, and so on. Of course the single player examples seem simple, there aren’t 24 other people involved.

Rolling the Play, Playing the Role

Playing a single character or a single game for months and months is a very different experience to most single player games. It’s easy to identify strongly with a main character, and that can affect how people approach subsequent games also. For example, people who always roll healers or support classes, or people who always roll tanks. Not every single player game offers those options, instead you play what you are given. But having developed a gaming ‘identity’ in MMOs, it’s easy to feel more at home with a similar role.

And I think that having played an MMO, I appreciate more the ability to customise my character in single player games. There’s no real excuse for at least not having male or female options, for example.

The Things are Also People

Playing MMOs will give you an appreciation for the vast and varied way in which different people can choose to play the same game. This appreciation may take the form of wishing you could kick them in the nuts through your monitor.

And although single player games are happy retreats from the uglier side of MMOs, safe from players who call you a noob, gank you, or steal your kills, I wonder if seeing other play styles in action does bleed over into how we play. Ever spent more time fussing over your appearance in a single player game, from having played with people in MMOs who did that? Ever considered a speed run in a single player game just from having played with a hardcore raid guild where other players did that?

The Holy Trinity

This is the core of most current MMO gameplay, and once you have learned about it, you will see similar undercurrents in a lot of other games also. And when I say learn about it, what I really mean is once you have lived it.

Because our characters in MMOs are so immersive and so focussed, you only have to play in a few groups before you understand how the different roles are meant to work deep in your bones.

After that, the first approach you will take to any new party based game will be a tank/ support/ dps one. Possibly with some crowd control if you are feeling fancy. This has the amusing side effect of making you feel like an instant expert if the game has a long, patient tutorial mode.

the holy trinity #2, a metaphor for everything

Matt had a post on World of Matticus about how he downed his final exam boss, to which I’m sure every WoW player can relate. And it doesn’t stop with exams – it turns out that the holy trinity, and raid boss fights, are actually an awesome metaphor for absolutely everything.

I know that I’ve had good line managers who ‘tanked’ senior management so that the dev team could get on with finishing their project on time. How does it fit into single player games? Well, the metaphor is so pervasive that it’s easy to feel that you just tanked a level or that some NPC is your personal support class even when there’s no tanking or healing involved at all.

Designers who want to throw out the holy trinity do so at their peril, there’s something in that setup that speaks very deeply to gamers.

And … some more about Dragon Age, the RPG for MMO players

Where does Dragon Age fit into all of this. Certainly it was an experience that could be widely shared online, Bioware had a social network all set up. We chatted about it on bulletin boards and blogs also.

But the actual core of the gameplay was familiar to MMO players from the start. This is where the RPG of the MMORPG came from, it wasn’t from the tabletop world, but from the single player RPGs of which Dragon Age is just a recent iteration. There was the large world with the detailed setting, the gear collecting, the holy trinity based squad combat, the quests, the NPCs, the storylines.

It played like a single player MMO, and that was what dazzled a lot of MMO players who hadn’t dabbled much recently in single player games. And that alone shows how much times have changed, because I remember early MMOs being described as ‘just like multi player RPGs.’

Tam, my challenge to you in return is to write about how playing MMOs has affected you in real life. Anyone else, feel free to join in also.

Pink Pigtail Inn’s List of 2009 (WoW Version)

Larisa started a tradition back in 2008 of taking nominations for the most memorable gaming content and moments of the year. Well, it’s that time of year again, and the 2009 version is being worked on even as I speak.

This is a cleaned up and (slightly) expanded version of what I posted in comments to that thread. I wanted to share my love of Naxxramas because people don’t say ‘love’ and ‘Naxxramas’ in the same sentence often enough.

Best raid instance

Whilst I think both Ulduar and ICC are excellent, fun instances, my vote goes to Naxxramas.

Why? I know some people felt it was too easy but the smooth learning curve into raiding helped a LOT of new raiders in my guild to get the raiding bug. And it also eased my transition into running 10 mans.

I still find a lot of the bosses to be good fun and the raid where we got the 10 man achievement for downing all the 4 horsemen within 10s of each other was one of my proudest raid leading achievements in this expansion because I figured out the strategy on my own. (I’ve noticed that I was much wordier back then, I think it’s because I was still excited at the newness of it all. It’s harder to find a lot to say about familiar content than about something new.)

Also Ulduar has a strange difficulty jump in the middle, and we’ve found it just a bit too long to comfortably complete in one evening even when it is on farm. I enjoy the difficulty, but it has been a barrier to more people seeing it.

Least successful raid instance

Sartharion. Firstly, it’s a dull encounter anyway. Secondly the 3 drake version was horribly tuned in the beginning and resulted in lots of DK and druid tanks being first feted and then nerfed. Thirdly, people can now brute force the 3 drake version anyway so those titles became meaningless. Undying in Naxx still means you had some semblence of execution.

Silliest gold sink

The pets that cost real money. This is a strange category because you could argue that anything which doesn’t directly affect gameplay is a silly gold sink. But people have so much fun with the expensive motorbike and mammoth mount (where fun may or may not involve accidental boss pulls) that I struggle to see those as being sillier than anything else in the game.

I guess the silliest one to me would be anything involving buying up old reputation tokens in order to get achievements. But that’s because I don’t value achievements much.

Most longed for instance

Icecrown Citadel, and the new five man instances. I think it speaks well of them that we didn’t know how much we longed to dive into Icecrown in single groups  until Blizzard announced that they planned to implement some.

Enjoy it now before the sheen wears off.

Biggest addition to the game

The biggest one for me personally was the revamp of protection warriors just before Wrath was released. It made tanking the new heroics a pleasure rather than a headache, and I’ve loved how the spec has played all through the expansion. At the moment, it just feels perfect to me. Protection Warriors may not be the toughest tanks, or the easiest to play, or have the best buffs, but I feel totally and utterly fine with all the current PvE content. If a group passes on a warrior tank just for minmaxing purposes, then they are being silly.

No, the problem now is that after we all get overgeared and the old heroics turn into AE fests, tanking gets … rather more dull? It was more interesting at the start of the expansion when people played more carefully.

The new dungeon tool is probably the most far reaching addition to the game. It has been a game changer, and finally many more people can experience the levelling game as it was originally designed. I’m sure the core team intended everyone to intersperse instances with questing — and now they can. And we are all reminded that it’s actually a pretty good game.

I am fascinated to see where this is all going to lead. What effect will it really have on players to keep being thrown in with uber-geared raid bods who are in a desperate hurry? What happens when newer players ‘learn’ from more experienced ones that pulling everything in sight is what the pros do?

In truth, it’s only when the next set of level 80s roll out, the guys who actually did have the chance to level in instances, that we will really see what effect the dungeon tool has on the WoW player base.

Best quest

I’ve enjoyed a lot of the Wrath quests. For quality of writing, the forsaken quests in Howling Fjord leading  my character through helping to develop the new plague and then finishing with Wrathgate captured my interest instantly. Whoever writes the forsaken dialogue really has that faction nailed.

For the most fun gameplay quest, I’m going with the Sons of Hodir questline because the Drakkensryd is just that cool. It doesn’t get any more cinematic than flying in a crazy race on protodrakes, and jumping through the air from drake to drake so that you can unseat their riders. For me it marks why WoW questing is so fun at its best in the new expansion, and it’s because you can experience the crazy dragon rides, cut scenes, and phasing rather than being faced with walls of text.

Ugliest tabard

No idea, although I’ve seen some pretty revolting ones in PUGs. I think the Argent Crusade tabard is the best looking, though.

Favourite non combat pet

Calico cat!!

I also made about 2000g from selling them on the Auction House. Poor kitties, hopefully they went to good homes with lots of cash to spare on spoiling their pets.

Most charming Blizzard employee

No idea. I like Ghostcrawler a lot though.

Most noticed blogger breakthrough

Now, I started blogging in January last year (just checked, first real post was Jan 8th so I have an anniversary coming up soon :) ) so I don’t know precisely when anyone else did. I’m going with Tamarind though, of Righteous Orbs. I noticed his blog from his post on Blog Azeroth and immediately loved his writing style, so I tried to link across a few times fairly early on. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see that he’s gotten so popular. It just means people have taste.

Most solid content provider

Tricky, because I don’t really read blogs for content. I always value Veneretio’s posts at Tanking Tips, and Kadomi’s at Tank Like  A Girl (she also has great advice for beginning warrior tanks). And an honorable mention to the No Stock UI blog which has lots of addon related tips and tricks.

Most hugged blogger

I’m not a huggy person (Spinks is so boney that if she hugged anyone they’d end up with unexpected extra piercings), but I make an exception for a certain pink pigtailed gnome and  her bartender too who have both been great inspirations to me this year.

Do you have opinions about best entries in any of these categories?  Why not post about them or go reply to Larisa’s original thread.