Sunday, February 24, 2013

A proper farewell

The following post is out of character.

Dear Reader,

I apologize for never providing a satisfying ending to the story of R. Pebblebottom.

If you still visit this blog from time to time hoping for a new chapter, it's likely you still yearn for the innocence that Pebblebottom embodied. You still long for the times when the game was new and there were secrets yet to be discovered. You still wish that you could go back and experience it all again with fresh eyes just like the first time.

I do too.

I left the World of Warcraft a year and a half ago and I miss it. I still think about it daily. Certain details of certain zones. Specific quests and NPCs. Particular pairs of pants.

Even for months after I posted that last post, I was fine tuning a few more letters, and had brainstormed ideas on how to bring Pebblebottom back for many more adventures. But things changed, and it all didn't seem important anymore.

I can't blame a specific element of gameplay for tainting my experience. I can't even chalk it up to "people change and move on." It was a bit of both. Changes in the game led to changes in the players.

If I had to pinpoint it, the beginning of the end for me was the introduction of heirlooms. I loved them. Everyone who had them loved them. Around that time, they also introduced the dungeon finder. Most people point to the dungeon finder as the end of The Golden Age, but I think heirlooms played a much more sinister part.

New players were grouped with 'loomed players, who rushed through dungeons without using "proper" techniques, and many heirloomed players berated those without gear for being useless. Those new players in turn became accustomed to being carried or rushed through content and learned "gogogogogo" as the norm. The Veruca Salt syndrome… "I want to get to max level now and you're in my way." Leveling and progression was expected to happen quickly. So quickly that there was no time to get to know anyone. Joining a guild wasn't for companionship, it was a means to an end—new shineys, fast and hot. "If one guild can't give me what I want, I'll keep jumping until I find one that can."

It fostered single-player mentality in a multi-player game. Participating in a virtual community and being morally accountable for one's actions quickly vanished, and players without a tight guild or group of in-game friends were left out in the cold.

I've read many stories of people who love/loved their guild. All the memories they made together. All the good times. I never got to experience that, which is the reason I ultimately left the game.

Playing alone is unsatisfying. The dungeon finder—and I'm sure the raid finder that followed—makes grouping easy, but it doesn't satisfy what drew so many people to this game in the first place… adventures with others. The joy of the second 'M' in MMO was reserved for those that had friends in-game.

The closest I came to experiencing such camaraderie was Single Abstract Noun-US. I felt in tune with the members of that guild, and a kinship with other bloggers, (like Anea.) But it was a fleeting few weeks of bliss before most everyone moved back to their real (virtual) worlds. It was glorious while it lasted. Reinvigorated, I brought Pebblebottom out of hibernation. For a while…

My experience with SAN-US, and the sense of loss that followed, helped show me that I was playing for nostalgia, not fun. I was trying to capture the elusive emotions I experienced when I made my first character—and to be with friends. My real life friends. And playing the game was keeping me from doing real life things with real life friends. I was either spending long hours at my job or spending long hours in Azeroth. There was no room for life.

It took over a year to come to that realization, and to finally stop chasing what was impossible to capture.

Two months after I left the game, I lost my closest friend to an awful disease. He was the one that introduced me to WOW. He stopped playing shortly after I was hooked, but I kept playing for years, in hopes that he would return, wishing for more good times. He didn't return, and now he's gone. And instead of spending more time with him after he quit, I spent time being lonely in a virtual world that I still can't stop thinking about.

A lot has happened in the year and a half since I quit. Things that wouldn't have happened if I was still playing. I developed a solid business plan, secured a business loan, left my thankless job, leased a storefront, and am getting married in a few weeks. (Sorry, ladies. This one's taken!) My future wife and I are opening a bakery, and are gambling everything that life will get better living entirely in the real world.

I still miss the world of Warcraft, but I know the version in my mind is better than anything I'll experience if I returned.

Rest assured, Pebblebottom is safe and sound, napping peacefully in a bed in Ironforge, dreaming of pants and elves. And Plops is at his feet snoring little bunny snores.

I know, because that's where I saw them last.

By Magni's Beard.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Feathermoon Stronghold, Level 42

Dear Quintis Jonespyre,

I was recently in the Feralas area gathering some kocktail ingredients for a friend, when I spotted a ferry traveling to your charming island. I’m a sucker for a good boat ride! I did my traditional mid-deck dance and yodeled with the crew a bit, but they weren’t very talkative. (Slight nods, some bouncing.) They certainly take the long way around, don’t they?

That psychic trick you did was pretty neat. It really helped me out with a favor I was doing. I know it put a wobble in your step, but do you think you could do readings of a few more items? (23 at most, may need two readings on some.)

I have a pair of pants I’m curious about. (moderate craftsmanship, brownish, no pockets) I got them off a yeti I was skinning, and have had ‘em in my bag for a while. They’re pretty ripe, but what can I say, I’m pants fan, so I take what I can find. My pants collection is coming along nicely and I hope the Ironforge Arts Council will host my exhibit in the near future. (Watch for Pebblebottom’s Breathtaking Insect-Free Trouser Showcase later this year. “There’s no ants in my pants!”)

Do you think you could make the time to analyze them for me? I’m pretty sure they have a good story. I mean, what does a yeti need with pants anyway? Did his mother lovingly knit them for him? Or do you think they were hand-me-downs from his big yeti brother? I can’t wait to find out!

Looking forward to my next visit.
R. Pebblebottom

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hinterlands, Level 41

Dear Rhapsody Shindigger,

Gryphon Master Talonaxe and I are a little concerned about your recent drinking. Of course, he lives in an oversized gryphon nest, so I’m a little concerned about him too. When I came to visit, you were pretty tanked, yet you asked me fetch you another round! Maybe you always kind of sway around and burp a lot. I could scare those hiccups out of you if you want. (may involve jumping out of the bushes in a yeti cape) Have you tried holding your breath? How about the old thumbs in the nose bit? (do not attempt to smell. dangerous!)

One time I got so cockeyed drunk that I misplaced my hearthstone. I remember bits and pieces, light hiccupping, no nose-thumbs, semi haircut.

Even though I think you’ve had enough, I just got my ram pimped and want to see how she handles on the curves. Plus, I’m really curious about what happened to you in that swamp! Sure hope I don’t sog my skivvies when you tell me. I have a feeling it’s gonna be good!

I see you don’t have a shower or bath at your camp. (I found you by sense of smell.) You may want to consider relocating to the Aerie Peak area. They have a nice little public well. I’m assuming it’s water, but might also be a clever ale distribution point. (both would be great for washing up!) Also, I noticed either a massive telescope or the biggest cannon I’ve ever seen! I think they’re really trying hard to bring in tourist dollars. I’ve enclosed a nice snapshot courtesy of the Aerie Peak Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“Aerie Peak. Look for the big bird!”

Maybe Talonaxe will even let you crash in his massive nest for a few days. I’ll be back in a few with your drink.

R. Pebblebottom

P.S. I love your malt! Have you tried Hair of the Hare yet?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ironforge, Level 40

Dear Mr. Sternhammer,

How are you? I am fine. Thanks so much for teaching me to wear plate armor! I’ve been taking a lot of hits lately and could really use something a little sturdier than mail. I was recently struck with 108 lightning bolts, and the mail did little to protect me. For four days, I thought I was a night elf hunter named Timothy. Have you seen this happen before? Will the plate help with that? Have you met Timothy? (nice guy, little to no facial hair)

I spent some time in the auction house buying myself some new pieces of armor. It arrived in the mail very quickly (no extra shipping charges!) and I’m pretty happy with how it looks. (a few rusty areas. mostly chest, pits, groin) The new gear is heavier than it sounds, so it looks like I’ll need to get in shape. Ironforge could use a gymnasium. People love lifting things and working up a good sweat!

When buying my new outfit, I’m not sure, but I think that gnome auctioneer was marking up prices. (no yeti cape or yowling this time, so must have been something else she didn’t like) I think the redheaded lass was making eyes at me, occasional blinking and subtle nods, so I decided to take my business over to her instead. I laid on the charm hoping to get a few good deals. (frequent hand raising and sporadic cheers) She’s a sturdy gal with just a peek of midriff. Yee! I tried influencing her with some Hair of the Hare and a romantic walk around The Commons, but apparently she was working a double shift. (might have been washing hair as well, not sure)

Do the ladies dig plate, or should I get some “around town” gear as well? I could keep them in the locker room at the gymnasium. Please keep me in mind when they open one up. I am very conscientious about wiping up afterwards.

By Magni’s Beard,
R. Pebblebottom

Have a question you'd love Pebblebottom to answer?

Or maybe you want to book "Plops, Azeroth's Slowest Bunny" for an upcoming event? (Perfect for auction house dance parties or weddings of any size.)

Don't be shy, just drop me a line at