Friday, October 26, 2012

Protest and Banning at Burn2

For the most part, the Burn2 festival has gone well those participating. Last weekend however on Sunday October 21st, there was a protest at the event, followed by a mass banning. According to eyewitnesses, not only were those actively protesting banned from the Burn2 sims, but apparently so were passersby whom did nothing more than watch.

I was contacted about the incident by an eyewitness, saying that Burn2 artist Kandinsky Beaumont needed the help of a Saveme Oh for her exhibit. Trouble was, Saveme wasn't allowed at the Burn, "Saveme … has been banned by LEA, SL9B … she was banned from (the) Burn last year. So Kandinsky was refused. So they started a protest."

I was given a name, Marmaduke Arado, and contacted him. "We were just banned from (the) Burn," he told me, "we were staging an improvised 'protest' performance and were mass banned. Even people just watching were banned … a few just for watching. Without explanation, warning, nothing."

Saveme Oh has a blog at (very much Not Safe For Work), in which she writes about the Burn2 incident, and previous ones she was involved in. Some people commenting on them accused her of editing out certain details. In her June 24 post, she wrote, "The first day after a Secondlife break I always have the uncontrollable urge to misbehave badly."

One other blog, Apmel,  had some information. One post (Not Safe For Work), shows pictures of Kandinsky's exhibit before and after she was given a notice, "Your build as a large protest creates disharmony in our community … It damages the joy of the celebration and community spirit. It also is not within the spirit or aesthetics of this event. We have a policy of 'No Drama' within our events. Your build is dramatic because of it's size and focus. This has to change significantly … Please consider a build that will enhance the joy and celebration of Burn2 rather than damage it."

I later met up with two of the leaders of the Burn festival, EmCee Widget and Ronon Carver. EmCee refused to comment on the matter. Ronon did answer, saying she was sorry but they would not talk about these kinds of matters.

It is unknown whether or not any of those not taking part in the protest who were banned have had it reversed.

Bixyl Shuftan

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review of World of Warcraft's "Mists of Pandaria," Part Two

In Part One of the review, we discussed "Mists of Pandaria's: new race, the Pandaren, and the new continent of Pandaria. Besides the Pandaren and Pandaria, the new feature getting the most talk is the Pet Battle System. Here, all those non-combat pets players have been collecting over time can be put to use besides showing them. It's gotten a lot of comparisons to "Pokemon," which even Wowpedia admits.

To gain the ability, one visits a Battle Pet trainer. Only one character needs to do so as the ability is account bound rather than on one single character. One's pets start at Level one, and by challenging wild pets or another trainer's pets in duels, winning pet battles increases' ones pets experience and over time levels them. Like items, pets can be common, uncommon, or rare in quality, rares having higher stats.

Players can heal their pets once every ten minutes. They can also pay a stable master to heal them or a special battle pet bandage. There are some achievements and quests than can be done. One can also buy and sell pets at the auction house. Naturally rares sell for the most. 

Mounts have also become account bound, although characters can still use only those of their level or lower. And those of the opposing faction will be unavailable.

Another new feature is scenarios, which are much like instances, but are shorter "with progressive objectives and a story arc." Unlike regular instances, tanks and healers are described as not truly needed. One "WoW Insider" writer described them as much more ideal for warrior class characters than instances. The first one, Theramore's Fall, was made available a couple weeks before the release of "Mists of Pandaria," which gave the sense of the Horde and Alliance, already hostile to one another, getting closer to all out war. If this was a signal for "get ready for more player vs player," there were opportunities for it in two new battleground areas.

There's some fun new things in the game. One feature isn't so much new as brought back from WoW's beta days. While the game was still under development, druids in their travel form could carry a passenger. But this feature was cut before the game's release. The reason, Blizzard was a bit wary of juvenile wisecracks of guys "riding" female druids. But with some of the more suggestive jokes and flirts for the past couple expansions, a guy going about on a lady druid's travel form was mild in comparison. So the feature was brought back for "Mists of Pandaria", with the addition of a new glyph for druids. By now though, it's more of a neat feature than a practical move since back then it took a lot longer to get to level 40.

Players in Pandaria can also do a bit of farming. Unlike games such as Runescape, there is no farming skill. Instead, one can help a farmer at Sunsong Ranch in the Valley of the Four Winds, and he'll let you grow your own veggies. Quests allow one to gain favor with the farming faction, the Tillers, and the further one goes, the more plots that are available. Naturally it isn't always so simple to just plant and forget. Your crops may need watering, weeding, defending from critters trying to make lunch out of them, and "wild" crops will need to be wrestled (see picture). "Farmvile" certainly didn't involve defending pumpkins from Level 86 Swooping Planshawks. Successful harvests yield cooking ingredients for Zen Master level Cooking and other items such as herbs, enchanting materials, and even skins, minerals, and cloth.

One fun new gadget for engineers is the "Blingtron 4000," as well as fun for everyone else around it. When summoned, it hangs around for about ten minutes and gives a gift to anyone who talks to him. WoW Insider described the gifts as a variety of items from potions to items that help raise your skills, to "a steamy romance novel."

It's a little easier for those doing the archeology profession. Instead of three digs, one is able now to dig five times at an archeology site on a map before it fades. In Pandaria, Pandaren archeological finds can be crated and stacked in one single space in your backpacks and get you better reputation with the Lorewalkers.

With five new levels come some new moves and attacks. For the Hunter, one fun move is "Stampede" in which all of your pets attack the target at once, although each having only a quarter of it's offensive strength. 

One major difference between "Mists of Pandaria" and the two previous expansions is the lack of a single villain dominating the plot. "Wrath of the Lich King" got it's name from it's big bad boy. With "Cataclysm," it was Deathwing the dragon aspect that threatened to wreck the world. Here, no one bad guy dominates the field like they do, players dealing with a few separate bigger bosses as they go about Pandaria.

However, there will be one interesting villain that players will deal with later on after a major patch several months from now: Horde Warchief Garrosh Hellscream. In the plot, Thrall's replacement as the Horde's leader as he goes off to help the elements against Deathwing isn't the careful statesman he was. Instead of bargaining, Hellscream feels the Horde should simply take what it wants, and if it means war with the Alliance, so be it. Unlike Thrall, he feels only Orcs are deserving of the most honored roles in the Horde, and woe to anyone Orc or not who openly questions him. His plans to expel the Alliance from the continent of Kalimador change to outright genocide. More and more, Horde members are increasingly dissatisfied at his rule, and eventually rebellion will break out. In the upcoming Siege of Ogrimmar, both Alliance and Horde players help the Horde rebels to defeat Hellscream, whom as it turns out has been secretly been doing some abominable activities. There is only speculation as to who replaces him. Will Thrall return, or will the Horde see a third Warchief? Time will tell.

Considering World of Warcraft's size and fanbase, any news involving it is going to get conversation, and the "Mists of Pandaria" expansion has brought about no shortage of them. A number dismissed it from the beginning as little more than a "Kung-Fu Panda" joke because of the new race. Others however welcomed them, one girl saying, "They are just so CUTE!" Some PvP players do have a preference for this kind of character, feeling others will be embarrassed to be "pawned" by a cutsie character, "You just got your a** handed to you by a panda?!" The biggest complaint about the Pandaren I've heard is of them being a neutral race, though most can see why Blizzard made them available to both sides, some citing Horde fan complaints about the Worgens' Alliance status.

Of the Pet Battle System, many have dismissed that as well as "WoW meets Pokeman." Others find it an occasional interesting break from the routine of the game. Though few if any seem to be making it a major part of the game for the long haul. The new scenarios, however, have gotten praise.

Among the comments about the expansion was of the detail of Pandaria, very picturesque with it's towns' architecture and the wilderness. Some also commented the land seemed more "normal" than previous parts of Azeroth. Here, you're more likely to see NPC people going about their lives farming, mining, fishing, and otherwise living. You'll also see a lot more kids.

WoW players interested in the role-play aspects of their characters have expressed these kind of  Pandaren players have something of an interesting challenge. Not only do they have to come up with an explanation why they sided with Horde or Alliance, but as from a race that's been isolated, war-torn Azeroth that's had to deal all kinds of threats and challenges from The Plague, Goblin technology, all kinds of demons and monsters, and of course that the Alliance and Horde are perpetually at some level of conflict. A new reality entirely foreign to these characters, it could certainly warp the mindsets of these furry adventurers. Or perhaps they somehow remain laid back and curious at heart.

A number of people feel Blizzard did a better job with "Mists of Pandaria" than "Cataclysm." Among the people I know, the Sunweavers guild in WoW is active again, with players both rolling up Pandaren characters and exploring the new land. The response doesn't seem to be as great as Cataclysm, when the guild grew with new players happy to have Worgen characters, but it has brought life back to a guild that was seeing only minimal activity for the past few months.

It's been commented on that if "Mists of Pandaria" fails to keep World of Warcraft's numbers up, it will be the expansion that sees the biggest multiplayer online game begin to lose it's dominance. While it will still be number one for at least a few more years, if it continues to decline like it has, games like Star Wars the Old Republic will begin to have comparable numbers of players. For the short term however, "Mists" has been a success, with 2.7 million units sold in its first week and the total number of players past ten million again, up from 9.1 million in August. So at least for now Blizzard is unlikely to make any major changes, such as expanding it's free-to-play version beyond level 20. It's a safe bet this game will eventually be getting players who hadn't been born when it was first launched.

My personal opinion is "Mist of Pandaria" rates a four out of five. If you're a dedicated WoW player you'll most likely love it, especially if you're a panda fan. If you're not already playing, it may not hold your interest for more than a few months. As for yours truly, I'm keeping my subscription.

And that's it for now from Azeroth.

Sources: WoWpedia,, WoWInsider,

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review of World of Warcraft's "Mists of Pandaria," Part One

On September 25th, Blizzard's "World of Warcraft," the most popular of massive multiplayer online games, released it's fourth expansion "Mists of Pandaria." Anticipated for several months, the update promised a number of new features, notably the new continent of Pandaria and a new player race: the Pandaren.

The Pandaren were originally created as an April Fool's joke, but to Blizzard's surprise the response was a positive one. So they were included in the Warcraft III computer game. The Pandaren are of course panda-like, with females smaller than males and sporting earrings. They also have small tails, with female reds having longer ones. They have a few special features compared to other races. They take less damage from falls. They get double the " Well Fed" stat bonuses from food. They start off with a fifteen point bonus in Cooking. Their "Quaking Palm" can stun a target for a few seconds. And their rested experience bonus lasts twice as long. The latter can be quite helpful for players leveling up a character. Most player classes are available: Warrior, Rouge, Mage, Priest, Shaman, Hunter, and the newest one: the Monk. What truly distinguishes Pandaren from other player races is that they are the first "neutral" one. They don't start out as Alliance or Horde, but choose who to side with near the end of their introductory quests.

Saying the Pandaren background have a Chinese influence is stating the obvious, though this is nothing new with World of Warcraft races such as American Indians with Taruen and Victorian English with Worgen. The plot background describes their last emperor shrouding their lands with an "impenetrable mists" thousands of years ago to protect it from the calamities at the time other lands were facing. Some generations ago, some Pandaren explorers founded a colony on the back of an island-sized sea turtle and their descendants have wandered the ocean since. This is where new Pandaren characters begin. Pandaren and turtles go together in other ways, with Pandaren hunters starting off with a turtle as a combat pet, and their racial mount being the speedy Dragon Turtle.

Beginning Pandaren characters start off as training in a small village, then are sent on quests to help out the island, occasionally fighting hostile monkeys and rabbit-like denziens. A few quests are an obvious take on one popular Japanese anime. Around Level 10, one's character and his/her friends come across the source of the island's distress: an airship having crashed into the giant turtle's side. There, they meet up with members of the Alliance and Horde, fighting against naga which have been stirred up by the crash. Once the island has been saved, it's decided to send Pandaren out into "the broken world" to help out it's other peoples. One of the character's friends decides on going over to the Alliance, while another will head to the Horde. The player then decides which path lies before his/her character: Alliance or Horde. After meeting up with the new leader, the player is free on how to progress while his/her friend begins teaching those interested on the ways of the monk.

Blizzard advertises monks as being experts in unarmed combat that "draw their weapons for devastating finishing moves." This doesn't mean going in without a weapon in your slot. Monk characters should be armed as normal. Monks have both an energy bar, and another bar for "Chi" energy. Some energy attacks will build up Chi energy,  while other special attacks use it up. Besides staves (which mine started out with), these characters can use fist weapons, one handed axes, maces, and swords, and polearms. Monks can be of most races, Humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and Draenei for the Alliance, Orcs, Tauren, Trolls, Forsaken, and Bloodelves for the Horde, and of course the Pandaren. Monks are limited to cloth and leather armor. Monks have three specializations: Windwalkers who concentrate on melee attacks, Mistweavers whom can heal, and Brewmasters whom can tank with their special moves like the "drunken masters" in some martial arts flicks.

Besides new races and new characters, players have some new territory to cover with their current ones. Level 85 characters upon entering their capital are given a mission. A ship carrying the Prince of Stormwind has run aground on a strange new land. Alliance characters are sent with a force to recover him and secure the land before the Horde does. Horde characters are sent with a force to get him and likewise secure the land before the Alliance. Once getting to Pandaria, both sides come to blows, and besides fighting one another are trying to win over the local Pandarens, as well as fighting the locals old foes whose attention has been aroused, as well as some dark spirits which have also been stirred up.

Characters will be unable to fly on personal mounts, until reaching level 90, the new top level in the game. Until then, there's the Pandaria kite transportation. There's also no mailboxes in the first few places you come across in the Jade Forest Zone, the entrance to Pandara. So saving loot such as player gear for the Auction House and skins & ores may be a problem at first. But if you look around the region, eventually you'll find a village with one. Deeper into the continent are some auction houses, including the Black Market Auction House with some items unavailable anywhere else. In the Black Market, items will be generated and listed by NPCs. There is no buyout price, only bidding.

Part Two of the "Mists of Pandaria" review will cover the Pet Battle System, and what some have been saying about the expansion. 

To read the second part, Click Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

Saturday, October 6, 2012

"Luskcraft" - Luskwood's Place in Minecraft

A few months ago, the Sunweaver/Angels' community in Second Life began making a place for themselves in Minecraft. They weren't alone as a number of other groups from the Grid began expanding onto the sandbox world. Recently I heard that the oldest one, Luskwood, was among them. They had been there for about a year, which raised the question what could they have made given that amount of time?

Talking to Michi Lumin, she told me who to get in contact with for access, and it was soon done. This is what it looked like when I first arrived. But what had I arrived on?

As it turned out, the entrance to the server is one giant Luskwood logo. Although building mode was off for newcomers "so that they can't place destructive lava," there were a few supplies in a nearby ship.

The place is called the Community Project Docks, part of "the player-run city of New Horizon." And it was a well-detailed port area, with a carrier, a submarine, a zepplin, and this clipper ship.

Quite a bit of detail went into the making of the vessels. There were a few monsters about, but things were set so creeper explosions couldn't hurt them.

A look at one of the port cranes.

A walkway connected the docks to the mainland.

And getting to land, there was a huge wall (the Great Wall of Lusk?).

 It went on for quite a distance.

 A look back at the docks, from further along the wall.

  After a long while of walking, and spider-stomping, the wall ended at a complex of buildings.

 There were a number of things here, rooms with beds, indoor farms and critter pens.

 So far from the port, it can't be seen.

The tallest was so high, clouds brushed against the top.

And that was my introduction to the Luskwood server. Unable to build shelters, I was pretty much limited to where there was light, which was the wall and the buildings. A more detailed look of the interior will have to wait until I can get build permissions. I had been told there were some places built inland, though warned some were booby-trapped. So a look there might be hazardous. A bit of an irony that the place that gets so much griefing in Second Life has residents setting up traps as pranks.

After a year, the Lusk residents have created quite a bit. And only part it it's been shown. I still haven't gone the other length of wall, so perhaps more pictures soon, build permisions or no.

Bixyl Shuftan