Good Games That Are Good: Warcraft III

There was a time many years ago where Blizzard wasn’t That Big Game Company With That Big MMO.  Instead, they were That Weird Company Who Randomly Makes Really Good RTS Games And Thus Has a Cult Following.

Heck, one of the earlier online communities I was really a part of was a forum dedicated to Blizzard games.  This was around, oh, 2002 or so, and it consisted of a bunch of us weirdos who wouldn’t shut up about Warcraft and Starcraft.  So we had a forum where we could blather about these games to each other.   That forum seems to have given up the ghost (finally, since I think they were still around just a couple years ago) so now I’m here to blather about these games to you.

Warcraft III.


I really, really like my strategy games, and Warcraft III is one of the finest RTS games ever made.  It’s up there with Age of Empires II, Command & Conquer Red Alert 2, and, well… a bunch of other Blizzard games (Hi, Starcraft Brood War and Warcraft II)

Real time strategy is a genre that Blizzard has distilled down to both a science and an art.  Want an RTS with races and factions that play very differently to each other but still somehow manage to balance each other out?  Want an RTS that’s easy to learn but difficult to master?  Want an RTS that’s absurdly fun and addictive? Have I got some games for you!

The other thing that Blizzard does, of course, is place a big ol’ emphasis on story and characters.  Most of the time when I play an RTS game I couldn’t care less about any story that was tacked on; I just want to, you know, make my units kill other units.

But Warcraft III has got… an interesting story?  What?  I actually enjoy playing through the campaign?  In an RTS?  That can’t possibly be right!

But it is, because this is Warcraft Feckin’ Three that we’re talking about, and it’s just that good.

the sheep is done with your nonsense
the sheep is done with your nonsense

Really, I could spend all day telling you how great this game is, but that would put a dent in my current replay of it, now, wouldn’t it?  Basically, if you haven’t played it, you should.   If you’re a die-hard RTS fan then WCIII is for you because the gameplay is solid, and even if you’re not then WCIII is still for you because it’s not terribly difficult to play through the campaign.

Also, Arthas calls murlocs betrayers of the light.  Tell me that’s not awesome.

Also known as “Thalassian Ear-Warmers”

althalor scarf 3It’s a bit nippy at the garrison in Frostfire Ridge.  How’s a young blood elf supposed to keep his ears warm?  Althalor has hit upon the answer, and the answer, my friends, is socks.

Seriously though, has anyone ever thought about the logistical problems caused by elf ears?  Stuffing them in a helmet has got to be awfully uncomfortable, but otherwise they are at the mercy of both the elements and the enemy.

Clearly socks are the answer.  Ratchets, my up’n’coming goblin hunter, is already planning to bring a whole crate of them to Silvermoon and market them as Thalassian Ear-Warmers.  Stay tuned.

Pike vs. The Anxiety Boss: So uh guys, I did a raid

Pike vs. the Anxiety Raid Boss chronicles my quest to beat a bad case of “gaming anxiety” that crept up on me a few years back.  Exciting!  (Or not!)

Let me tell you, briefly, about my raiding history.

My raiding history involves raiding during Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King.  It required lots and lots of tactical discussion on voice chat.  It required lots and lots of commitment.  It often required spending hours on one boss.

So hopefully you can’t blame me when the idea of pugging a raid kept me far away from LFR for a long time.  I was convinced it was all a big train wreck waiting to happen.

Boy, was I wrong.

LFR is a glorious – and glorified – loot pinata.


It really felt quite weird.  More than feeling like a raid, LFR felt like stumbling across some world boss, pulling together a hodgepodge group of random people, and then jumping right in.  Oh, there are some gimmicks here and there, of course – you know, the one’s you’ve seen before if you’ve done any dungeon boss at all ever (Stay Out of The Bad, Move Away From/Towards The MacGuffin, Move Away From/Towards The Raid).  But there was never really any sense of danger or urgency.  Possibly because this raid has already been out for months.  Or possibly because LFR really is that easy.  Maybe it’s a mix of both? I’m not really sure yet.

The veteran cane-waving side of Pike who did hard modes back in the day found it all kind of underwhelming and perhaps just a bit silly, but the gaming-anxiety-riddled side of Pike was ecstatic.  This was fun, easy, straight-forward, and dumped purples on me.  And as silly as it sounds, it did wonders to boost my WoW self-esteem, and now I’m looking forward to more raiding adventures.

TLDR: If you have similar anxieties, I recommend jumping into one of the lower level raids in LFR.  I promise it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. :D



Top 457 Things I Need In My Garrison

1. A bed.

2. More songs for my jukebox.  Remember that kazoo song from MoP?  Where is that, Blizzard?

3. Customizable building styles.  Level 3 Barracks get us racial guards but where’s our racial buildings, Blizzard?  Hmmmm?  Seriously just make it so different building styles cost garrison resources and then sit back and watch as us saps run around frantically doing garrison stuff again.

…okay, so that was three things.  I was only 454 off from my original estimate.  Not a huge difference, really.

Sometimes I Draw Dumb Pictures

althalor smugfaceAlthalor only wishes that he could be this smugface in real life.  In reality he’d rather not deal with most people.  All he really wanted was to stay home and hide with lynx cubs and dragonhawk hatchlings.  Unfortunately extenuating circumstances made that prospect rather unlikely.  Thanks Arthas.

Actually probably what happened is that he was giving his squirrel Nuts an “I told you so” look during a pet battle, at which point Nuts turned around and lobbed an acorn at his head.  (This has actually happened in game.)

Anyways, yes.  A smugface.  Heh.

Anxiety, WoW, and Me Part Two: Electric Boogaloo

Wow!  I got a fantastic response on my last post.  All sorts of people came out of the woodwork to comment on the post or talk to me on Twitter about their own gaming anxieties.  Some people even went through it all at the same time or with the same expacs I did.

Frankly, I had no idea that something like this was so widespread.  Oh, I figured a couple of people here and there would know what I was talking about, but the lot of you?  It really took me by surprise.

Since this seems to be a fairly common problem I think I’m going to do more writing about it.  I also think I’ll blog about my efforts to get over my own gaming anxieties.  I know some people are happy with playing solo, and if that’s the case then that’s awesome and keep on doing that.  As for myself, though… I want to tackle the big bad boss at the end of the anxiety raid.  So I think that’s what I’m going to try to do, and anyone else who is trying to do likewise can come commiserate and maybe learn with me!

So… let’s do this.  Ya’ll ready?

[Initiates Ready Check]

Anxiety, WoW, and Me

Hi, I’m Pike.

(Hi, Pike)

And I’m scared of dungeons.

[record scratch]

Wait, that Pike?

That Pike who threw herself into any dungeon or raid PUG that came her way during TBC?

That Pike who leveled a druid to max almost entirely through dungeons, mostly before Dungeon Finder even existed?

That Pike who would happily spend three hours in ToC on her hunter and then another three hours healing Ulduar with her druid immediately afterward?

Yes.  That Pike.

I think it started with Cataclysm.  Blizzard did two major things that affected the game for me: They made substantial changes to the way hunters work, and they also decided to make dungeons “hard”.  I think that I probably could have dealt with either of these on their own, but when they were together, it planted a little worm of doubt into my brain.

What if I’m not good at hunters or dungeons anymore?  What if I let everyone down?


I did ultimately do some dungeons, but that little thought didn’t go away, so because endgame was now scary (and also because I wasn’t keen on Cataclysm), I unsubbed.

I gave it all another try for Mists of Pandaria.  After greatly enjoying the leveling process, I told myself that this time I’m going to do it.  I’m going to get back into endgame.  And I’m going to love it, just like before.

Unfortunately a couple of bad groups and douchecanoes had me convinced I was terrible at hunters and at dungeons, and because the only other real thing that MoP had to offer at the time was an endless stream of dailies I quietly left the game.  Again.


And so here we are.  In WoD.  The itch, of course, is back, like it always is.  Oh, how I secretly long to spend the day in LFG doing endless heroics, or spend hours butting heads against a tough boss in a (real live!) raid.  But instead, I’m tip-toeing into normals maybe once a week when I summon up the courage, despite being overgeared and having a Gold in Proving Grounds and all that stuff.

“Why don’t you find nice people to play with, Pike?  A really nice guild or something?” I’m sure you’re asking.  And, you know, I’ve thought about it.  But because of my work schedule I’m tucking myself into bed right about when the rest of the United States is getting home from work and logging in.  I don’t think it would be impossible to find a nice guild that raids at 1:00pm.  But it might be a bit of a serious hunt.

So now what?

weird-al-yankovic-my-little-pony-friendship-is-magicWell, right now I’m determined not to let this beat me three expacs in a row.  How?  Well, uh, I’m not sure yet.  You see, there will be people involved.  And the possibility of failure.  And instances that I haven’t done before.  This is all very scary to me.  But you’ve gotta confront your fears head on, right?

Sorry for the break in pony pics.
Sorry for the break in pony pics.

So yeah.  That’s my confession for the day.  Embarrassing?  Maybe a little.  I’ve struggled with anxiety most of my life, and seeing it creep into video games – my favorite hobby – is never fun for me.  But maybe this post can help others who feel similarly – at least to know that they’re not alone!

Good Games That Are Good: Archon

When I was a wee child, I cut my gaming teeth on this sucker:

C64_startup_animiertThere were a variety of fantastic games available on this thing, but today I’m going to talk about one that has been ported to Steam so you can play it even today.  I’m talking about ARCHON.

C64_ArchonI tell a lot of people about this game because it’s great, and the biggest and most common mistake people make when dismissing it is assuming that it’s chess.  I can assure you that beyond the superficial similarities they’re really nothing alike.  Pieces move differently, the goals are different, there’s magic spells involved, oh, and your pieces have to fight each other to the death in remarkably tense and fast-paced action battles.

The rules are simple: Either kill or capture all the other pieces or capture five power points on the board.  It’s a fantasy based game so if you want phoenixes fighting dragons and unicorns fighting golems then don’t worry, you’ll get a lot of it.  Oh also you can summon air elementals and stuff.

Remember when I said you can get it on Steam?  Yeah.  Get it here, play either a more modernized version or the classic mode, and enjoy one of the more overlooked games of the 80s.

Hunter Without A Cause

I hope you’ll all excuse me and pardon our dust as I start this blog anew.  You see, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I want to blog about.  Any of you long-time readers who were here in the early days (all four or five of you still reading) know that I used to pride myself on teaching what I called “Hunter Kindergarten” (for lower levels) and “Hunter 101″ (for freshly dinged max level hunters).  This is because I loved sharing what I knew about the class with others, so they could enjoy playing it as much as I did.  Plus, then I’d feel set to recommend the graduating students head on to other hunter blogs that focused more on raiding.  (A moment of silence to The Hunter’s Mark, BRK, Stabilized Effort Scope, and all the others.)

Now it’s hard for me to feel that much of this is necessary anymore.  Many of the nuances of the class have been streamlined or changed to the point that I actually find it difficult to play a hunter wrong.  Oh sure, in the early days when your first ten levels were spent sans pet and you had a dagger or axe thrust in your hand, then you bet there were all sorts of bad habits I wanted to help new hunters grow out of.  But now there’s no minimum range, you only have a ranged weapon, and you’ve got a pet right from the start.  Similarly, there’s really no need to learn how to chain trap, due to how long traps last.  And modern shot rotations are, for the most part, simple and intuitive, especially compared to a few of the ones from back in the day.

So what is a Pike to do?

i-dont-know-smiley-emoticonA few people have expressed interest that I try writing about hunters anyway, because why not.  Perhaps I do bring a unique spin to things.  Maybe people would rather hear me talk than read a more “sanitized” Icy-Veins or WoWHead guide.  I have no idea why, but hey, who am I to argue with that idea?

TLDR: I’m still not 100% sure what I’m doing with the blog yet, so please bear with me.  And if there’s something you’d like me to write about, do let me know!  I’m desperate for ideas.

Flashback Friday: The COOLEST Raid I Never Did

So I mentioned this in my last post, but in case you missed it, I basically didn’t play Cataclysm.  That also means I didn’t do any of the Cataclysm raids until like… last week.  Most of the Cata raids I’ve duo’d so far weren’t particularly exciting aesthetic wise (although we certainly did have some… fun… with Deathwing’s Spine), but there was one that knocked my socks off and made me wish I had done it back when it was current.

And that’s fecking Blackwing Descent.

You know what’s great?  Dorfs.  (Note: “Dorfs” is the preferred way to say “Dwarves”.)


I have always been one of maybe three people I know of who like BRD, and watching Desolation of Smaug was a real treat because it was basically Awesome Underground Dorf Lava City: The Motion Picture.

Are you guys looking at this?  P.S. the world may never know whether running BRD or watching a Peter Jackson movie is longer.
Are you guys looking at this? P.S. the world may never know whether running BRD or watching a Peter Jackson movie is longer.

Blackrock Descent is MAD SCIENTISTS IN AN UNDERGROUND DORF CITY, and it is marvelous.  Oh it’s so good.  Best aesthetic in a raid since forever.  Look at this and tell me this isn’t great:

Is this not, like, the best thing you’ve ever seen in a raid?  …no?  It’s just me?

Okay, fine.  It’s just me.  But the rest of you guys need to learn to appreciate the finer points of dorf culture.  For starters, do YOU need alcohol to get through the working day?  Because that’s just Dorfs 101.

Everyday I'm Huntering