Mods, mods everywhere

One of the things that has irritated me in the past few weeks on reading about mods is that a lot of the articles and chapters and papers:

  1. Mostly use the term ‘mods’ to mean anything that a user creates for a game (occasionally add-ons) but they:
  2. Don’t distinguish between different types of mods/CC
  3. Don’t refer to how games and communities use different words to mean different types of changes
  4. Don’t generally discuss how developers and players themselves have a complicated view of modding behaviours (Consalvo is an exception to this).

Even though I want to focus on a specific type of user created content, I feel it is very important to make these sorts of distinctions since I’m struggling to find it already done elsewhere. This stuff may seem obvious to you, fair enough, but that’s because of your insider knowledge. That is sort of half the point of cultural or sociological research – to look at the stuff someone may think is obvious or takes for granted so much that they’d don’t even question it.

FYI: I’m also referring only to computer gaming. I don’t really play consoles and have little idea of how mods work on there.

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Okay, not a mod, but I laughed XD

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Gaming Paratexts

So where does a game begin and end? Or a book? You could say it starts with the beginning and ends with the end or credit screen, but there’s a whole new world out there! Gérard Genette wrote about paratexts, the little things that surround a book – like copyright, chapter headings, cover, interviews, etc – which surround and extend a text (within the book = peritext; external to the book = epitext). Genette calls paratexts a “threshold”, an undefined zone that is neither in the text, nor outside, but frames the text and extends it. Genette is very obviously discussing books, but let’s see how it can work for games!

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Embodying the Avatar: Experiences in WoW

In my search for a good methodology, I’m trying out different techniques of gathering information. Some theory, some gathering player responses, some visual analysis. This one is some interviewing. I interviewed two friends, one over skype, the other through Facebook messaging, about how they relate to their avatars and experiences in WoW. The first one was entirely unstructured, I just kept asking questions. From what I asked them, I narrowed down the main topics of conversation and the second interview on FB was more semi-structured. For sake of convenience, let’s call the friend on Skype Grumpy Gills and the friend on FB Goat Herder.

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Constructing a gaming body

Today I’m thinking about how a gaming body is constructed. It’s easy enough to say “DUH, it’s your avatar”, but really it is so much more than this. Gameplay affects the construction of the body, dialogue does, the narrative; but also things external to the game, like concept art,  manuals, the disc covers, figurines, books or graphic novels. And no, this isn’t really news to anyone, I’m just looking into the various things that work together to create the image. Some scholars seem very focused on gameplay elements only and ignore these extra things that game studios also produce to go alongside the game. Some consider these sort of items to be ephemera, stuff meant to be tossed away. An article I read recently called some of these physical items ‘feelies’, from Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World. I prefer instead to adopt the term paratext. A paratext is usually applied to the extra stuff about a novel: the chapter headings, the contents page, the dedications, the blurbs, the covers, marketing materials, author interviews. It’s stuff around the text itself and can actually influence the reading itself. Consider John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars Author’s Note:

“This is not so much an author’s note as an author’s reminder of what was printed in small type a few pages ago: This book is a work of fiction. I made it up. Neither Novels or their readers benefit from attempts to divine whether any facts hide inside a story. Such efforts attack the very idea that made-up stories can matter, which is sort of the foundational assumption of our species. I appreciate your cooperation in this matter.”

~

I’m going to use the example of the undead or Forsaken in World of Warcraft. In part simply because I freaking love the Forsaken, I love their story, I love Sylvanas (if you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know all this). But also, the Forsaken are the most abjected race, they are reviled, even their allies dislike them. They are walking corpses, an affront to nature itself, and most came about from the plague that used to infect Azeroth, but these days they are resurrected by Val’kyr.

~

Also this post is way long, due to the loads of pictures and Youtube clips.

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Agents, avatars, bodies and evolution, OH MY!

For the current expansion of World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor, the dev team decided that the character graphics needed a bit of an upgrade. There had been a lot of innovation and progression in graphics in the past ten years since WoW originally hit the shelves. They took on this incredibly daunting task with one idea in mind, to keep the “spirit” of the original:

With the revamp, we’re completely overhauling every aspect of the player models, but our goal is to do so while retaining the core look and feel that has always made them your character. We’ll feel like we’ve succeeded if you see the updated version of your character and it still feels like you’re looking at the character you’ve been playing for the past however many years—only someone has finally focused a lens. ~ Chris Robinson, Artcraft – A First Look

Now I was hugely invested in this change. I take so long to decide on a look for my avatar, not to mention the time invested in her (them – I’m an altoholic), their transmog, their general attitude and what titles and non-combat pets suit them best (no, I’m not on a roleplay server 😛 yes, I still consider all this anyway). For some classes, even their spec is taken into consideration when deciding on these things. leia

My Frost/Arcane mage in her Leia outfit … not sold on the staff mog or the belt, but when I get time to play I’ll look at getting more matchy ones!

Continue reading Agents, avatars, bodies and evolution, OH MY!

In Character

While I don’t go on RP servers in Warcraft, I define particular personalities for each of my characters (which also is reflected in their transmogs, titles and even pets). I also play DnD, in which I do completely roleplay! This post is inspired by this blog on WoWInsider. There may be issues with the lore – this is based on what I understand. I am interested in lore, but not as proficient with it as others (I’m working on it :P). If I get something wrong, let me know 🙂 I’m just focusing on a few alts, because there’s not enough room in the world for me to discuss ALL my alts!

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The Alliance

In general, I feel I’m more Horde than Alliance. I have a thing for monsters <.< Of the Alliance, most of my characters are Draenai (and I can’t wait to see more of their lore and history in Warlords of Draenor). I don’t have much love for any of their leaders, although Varian is getting more development. Tyrande is pretty cool, but I feel she could do more. I used to care for Jaina, especially how in WC3 (and in Caverns of Time. Man I love that place XD) she rejected Arthas’ order to storm Stratholme and left the Eastern Kingdoms for Kalimdor. Since Theramore, she hasn’t been the same and I rather think she’s going a bit insane. Her values are no longer that of the Alliance (personal perspective from in-game events. I need to read Tides of War). I feel Varian is stuck between two extremes now: Jaina’s mad push for revenge, and Anduin’s weak “let’s all be friiiiiiends!”.

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I get the feeling that my warlock isn’t as dedicated to the Alliance as the rest of my characters. Gilneas initially refused the call to join them, and built the Greymane Wall after the second war to isolate themselves (a good idea since a bunch of internment camps of orcs were nearby). Worgen are a hybrid, cursed monstrosities. Not to mention that, as a warlock, she wouldn’t be very trusted anyway. Some Alliance races have been horribly decimated by demons and refuse to touch that kind of magic, and she feels this distance keenly. She is outside of humanity and disregards the original Alliance races for forming the Alliance in the first place, and feels that the Draenai, Night Elves and Pandaren would also reject her for her use of demonic magics.

Once noble, she is reduced to being a refugee and not entirely a welcome one. Although she now lives for war, she *thinks* she would have been happier if the Wall had not been demolished by the evil undead. In her mind, they destroyed her peace, but also she had problems before them. One of her family became a true feral worgen years before and has not been found since, so could not be recovered to their senses and taught to control their beastial side. She is alone in the world, as much as she tries to deny that it pains her.

All that said, she will fight the good fight. She quietly rejoices in killing (and even has GoSac, so she’s not above killing her own demons either). Her manner is often sarcastic and slightly bitter, even towards her friends (yes, she somehow manages to have friends despite all this :P). She is cautious of others and will choose who she spends time with very carefully.

 

 

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My shaman is usually quite open and friendly, even bubbly with friends, but she’s been very disturbed of late. She is steadfast and dedicated to the Alliance, away from the demon tainted races. Admittedly, she feels more pity towards the orcs for falling for the demons deceptions. Not so much pity for the blood elves who took on the demonic powers willingly (although playable belves are a bit different from those who went to Outland, I think?), although now she is beginning to soften towards them for their killing of Kael’thas and rejection of Garrosh. Both orcs and blood elves are still the enemy of the Alliance, however, so her pity does not extend anywhere near to sympathy. She would never defy the Alliance. She believes in the goodness of the faction and holds fast to it.

However, she was my main when I chose to do Operation: Shieldwall, and she hasn’t fully recovered from the horrors she has seen. Her innocent belief in justice and a justified war has never faltered as strongly as it does now. Jaina’s attack on Dalaran was ruthless and without mercy. It was an act of cruel revenge for the Sunreavers for helping the Horde, after Garrosh destroyed her city of Theramore with a mana bomb. My shaman was shocked by what she was asked to do (for gameplay reasons, I played through it. If I played for RP’ing, my shaman would not have continued. She would have been disgusted and left to contribute to the war in other ways).

She considers Draenai to be a little bit superior along with nightelves for rejecting barbarity, although this has no bearing on how effectively she works or fights. Jaina’s actions have made her wary about the future of the Alliance if Jaina is still around, and continues to have the ear of the human King Varian. Varian’s choice not to start a war with all of the Horde and just focus on Garrosh, working with Vol’jin (the troll leader), made her maintain hope for the Alliance, that not are all as warped as Jaina has become.

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The Horde

First off, I just don’t get orcs that follow Garrosh. Garrosh is a cruel and twisted leader who uses corrupted magics and has no problem in killing other members of the Horde to further his own goals. This is, perhaps, because I’ve never played an orc. On the other hand, I totally sympathise with Sylvanas. I was there with her as she was killed and resurrected by Arthas. I followed her journey from slave of the Lich King to regaining consciousness and establishing the Forsaken. Rejected by the living, the story of the undead is of heartache and immense loss. I am not blind to the crazy stuff she does now, and that she is quite screwed up, but it perhaps because I’ve followed a lot more of her story that I take this position. I think the two best starting areas in the whole game (post-Cata) are Undead and Worgen, although I’d be more likely to get a tattoo of the Horde symbol IRL and only play Alliance more because all my friends are there. FOR THE DARK LADY!

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This is my undead warlock. Unlike with the living races, warlocks seem to be much more accepted in Forsaken society. They’ve cobbled together what was left of their dead realm and remade themselves, fully in the knowledge that they are made from unspeakable evil forces. They embrace their dark side completely, but will never again be controlled or manipulated by demons or Lich Kings or anyone else (including the leader of the Horde).

As far as I’m aware, they’d be entirely happy being on their own – except for two reasons, no one living would leave them alone. Pretty much most races consider them an abomination, even within the Horde, and they definitely aren’t to be trusted. The second reason is that they cannot procreate – Sylvanas has been searching for new ways to create a plague or use Valkyr to raise new undead to bolster her forces and keep her Forsaken going (disregarding the living is a pretty big thing for the Forsaken), but without wide-scale success and of course with no support at all.  Without Sylvanas, there would be no Forsaken, so of course my lock would follow her leader anywhere.

This is the world my Forsaken lock lives in, and she accepts it completely. Darkness is now her comfort. She has no regard for living beings, long since having lost her own humanity. She chooses not to remember much of her life before as she was without power or influence. Her life before has no meaning now. In her Forsaken life, she is Born Again with more than she could have dreamed of in her tiny, useless existence as a human before. Humans are nothing but annoyances with the Scarlet Crusade presence in Tirisfal and the whining of the living for the territory they used to own. Lordaeron is Forsaken territory! Gilneas is empty, Hillsbrad is now plagued. The humans have no power over the Forsaken. No one does, mortal or immortal.

 

nysMy blood elf huntress is fierce and focused. While she’s rather ‘meh’ about the other races of the Horde, she fights for them (not for Garrosh’s version, obviously, since he only likes orcs). She thought Thrall was rather weak, but Vol’jin has earned his title with his own blood. She is rather sympathetic to the Forsaken, in a large part due to Sylvanas’ former station and her working to get the Blood Elves into the Horde. She wasn’t too thrilled about the potential for the Blood Elves to join the Alliance (*spits on the ground*). She’s less likely to treat her allies with outright disgust (as my undead lock) and is less suspicious (like my worgen lock). More so that she doesn’t feel completely bound to the others (Horde, allies or others of her race) but she tolerates them.

Despite their prettiness and fancifulness, blood elves are not to be underestimated. She may have a bit of a bikini-armour thing happening but this does not mean she is not a threat to her enemies. She is more devious in planning and executing a strategy against her enemy. She’s more used to being alone in the world with her pet prowling by her side, and doesn’t really hold any expectations of others. She knows she can only rely on herself. My hunter will work with others of course, and she can play on a team, more so that she’s tired of useless bickering and just ignores it to get on with the job.