Quick Kistarter stuffz

Tabletop and non-MMO stuff, oh noes.

First off, the Interface Zero kickstarter. If the name means nothing to you, this KS might not be for you. Me, I knew immediately and I am throwing some money at them because tabletop frenzy. And because cyberpunk. And because I like Kickstarter. Click the pic for the KS project page.

IZ KS project

I had this discussion with several different groups over the last few weeks, namely how I love Kickstarter and how they either don’t like it or don’t trust it. I get that, and I’ve heard some of the horror stories. I’ll just say that for myself, I don’t view it as ‘I’m buying a stake in an enterprise/company, so I should get to share in the profits’ (as some people I was talking with have said). I view it as providing undemanding patronage to someone whose work I feel deserves support. And I use the word patronage advisedly. (Yes, I support several Patron endeavours too.)

Every successful Kickstarter I’ve ever supported (all dozen or so of them) has provided me with a product, or will shortly provide me with a product, or might someday provide me with a product but I don’t really mind whether it ever does or not.

Wait, what? Ysharros has so much money she can afford to just throw it away on projects that might never come to fruition?

Not quite. I’m not rolling in cash by any means, but neither am I living at the poverty line. I have enough that I can donate some to charity… and can use some to support projects where a) I believe in the author/entity, b) I believe in the product, c) I believe the endeavour deserves support in the form of some cash, whether or not it ever comes to fruition, or d) all of the above.

I’m careful about what I back and I don’t see Kickstarter as my cheap-games and game-related-products grocery store. That’s why I don’t get mad if there are delays — shit happens. The reason people (ok, ethical and honest people) do Kickstarters is because they have a cool idea and can’t quite afford to fund it themselves. The reason I support those Kickstarters is because I agree that their project is a cool idea and I am happy to lend a hand to support the net volume of ART and CREATIVE ENDEAVOUR available in the universe.

So yes, I Kickstarter for philosophical, not economic reasons. And I’m perfectly happy with that. YMMV.

passion planner

Next up, a completely not game-related personal planner. I pledged last year and I’ll be pledging to this new effort too because I approve. Do I follow everything Ms. Trinidad tells me to do? No, but I’d probably be better-organised and a lot less anxious if I did. Will I try to do better? For sure. And I get to help someone else get one as I get one? Awesome! Quote:

Why another Kickstarter?

I started this company wanting to give the world a tool that I wish existed when I was feeling lost. 

From day one, we have offered the PDF for anyone to use for free; we launched our Pay-it-Forward program, a program that allows people pay a planner forward to a stranger in need at half the cost; and we’ve given thousands of Passion Planners to 84 non-profits all around the country.

But we want to do more.

Now, on our two year anniversary, Passion Planner is taking one of our biggest steps forward. Today, through Kickstarter, we are becoming a Get-1-Give-1 Company.

Every time you purchase a Passion Planner we are going to give one to someone in need. When you invest in yourself, you will also be investing in the dreams of someone else.

Even for someone as resistant to organisation as I am these little planners are awesome, so I thought I’d put this out there for fellow stationery addicts or organised wannabes. Apparently we are legion.

Tabletop gaming — Fate and why I love it


So after I finally got my act together, a few of us made characters and played the first session of the Dresden Files Accelerated Edition playtest. I’ll write more about that later, but today I want to deal with a comment one of the players made on the G+ community we have going. I was going to respond in the G+ group, but since it’s something I hear a lot about Fate and because it’s about tabletop systems and paradigms in general, I figured I would post my response here instead.

(Plus it gives me a blog post and those have been rather nonexistent sparse of late. Scotchtober has yet to happen, for instance. Maybe we’ll have to do Vodkember instead.)

Note that my response applies more to Fate Core than it does to the Accelerated editions, but since the latter is derived from and intended to fit in with the former, what applies to Core applies just as much to Accelerated versions.*

The Comment

Here’s the comment, with apologies to Eric for quoting him without permission. My lawyers will be in touch with your lawyers.

Had a blast – even if my brane wasn’t firing on all cylinders! I’m still not sure I get the system as a whole. I feel it’s designed to be so different from any other RPG on the market that it obfuscates a lot of stuff that could be put in much plainer language. I’ll soldier on though because it was fun if confusing. [My emphasis.]

Yay for having a blast, btw! I felt my pacing was off but we’ll get to that in the session post.

Eric makes a valid point when he questions whether the Fate system is just a shtick to differentiate it from the more crunch-heavy systems out there. I don’t agree, but rather than keep telling you all how good I think it is, here are a few resources that might help make my point.

Wikipedia’s Fate article – a decent starting point

A D&D lover’s guide to other RPGs: Fate Core

Stackexchange forums: Approaching Fate systems from a d20 background

Paizo forums – Fate Core: Tried it, didn’t like it (Because dissenting opinions matter. Also because the poster makes a valid point, albeit not all that well, and because some of the responses are worth reading.)

But, but… it’s awesome because I said so!

And now I’m going to tell you again why I think it’s so good.

Eric – note that our group and the players we know have played narratively and collaboratively for decades; hell, we played (A)D&D collaboratively back in the 80s. This is apparently not the norm for tabletop gaming (maybe especially in the US), even moreso with the rise of the later D&D/Pathfinder editions where how far you can walk in a given span of time is painstakingly represented on a game map. In that light, I think Fate is an attempt to ‘formalise’ (ironically) the more free-form nature of cooperative and narrative-driven games. Yes, you and I & the NWO crew did this for years and actually wrote “Freeform” games for 20-100 players where they got a character sheet each and we sat back to watch the mayhem, but that’s not the norm for tabletop or LARP/-adjacent experiences.

As I see it, Fate is intended to be a) a generic system usable with any setting and b) a system that promotes player/GM narrative collaboration (and starts that right from the get-go with collaborative character and setting design). Mostly though I believe it’s designed to encourage players to let loose with their ideas and to make them understand that they can exert creative direction in the game. The GM already knows she can because GMs have been doing this since forever, but players need to be shown they can do it – and then, helpfully, shown how they can do it.

I’ve run Fate now with 6 Fate-newb players in several different games, and most (all?) of them have had a hard time getting their heads around it. As a Fate-newb GM, *I* had a hard time getting my head around it, and I was more than ready for a formalized representation of the way I prefer to play. For many players, the idea that they can and in fact should exert a measure of narrative control in a Fate game is difficult to a) get their heads around, and b) actually do.

If that doesn’t happen, the group might as well go back to playing anything other than Fate, because Fate doesn’t work nearly as well if the players don’t commit to an active engagement with (and development of, as ideas strike them) the scene, the scenario, and the world.

I’m emphasising that because I think it’s the living beating heart of the Fate paradigm. I might be entirely wrong (and the Fate folks can come over and tell me so), but I suspect I’m not.

As a GM, I am so freaking ready for this kind of system I can’t express it properly without excessive and enthusiastic swearing. Benefitting from the table’s ideas makes the GM’s job a lot easier and lets her concentrate on lesser jobs like pacing, dramatic tension, saying MUAHAHA a lot and organising the mechanical bits. Because the plain fact is that 3, 4, or 5 brains are always better than one, and not just if you’re a zombie.

All the times when players in our groups suggested something way better than what the GM had come up with (and the GM instantly adopted it)? That’s what Fate encourages or even mandates. And while we’ve had the benefit of a closely-knit, trusting and collaborative gaming group, this allows people who haven’t known each other since college to experience the same kind of creative cooperation.

Those funky-ass aspects and why they’re cool

And that’s where aspects come in, that traditionally OMGWTF hard-to-understand part of Fate systems. In the context of the argument I’m making here, aspects are the levers the players and the GM use to exert their control over the world, the NPCs, the action or themselves. It’s a way of saying “OK, we know you’re not used to having this level of control/input in a tabletop game, but it’s fine really, you’re supposed to, and this is one way in which you do it.”

Example: A character has the Always in the right place at the wrong time aspect. The player can leverage (aka invoke) that aspect in order to show up, quite by ‘accident’, at the super-seekrit take over the world board meeting. Or at the invitation-only Bad Guys Inc., fundraiser. Or to come out of the mall into the parking lot where one of his buddies is currently being kidnapped by Ninjas. Note that this in no way decides whether those scenes will go well for the character – it just means the character gets to show up and in that way affect the course of events.

Similarly, the GM can leverage (aka compel) that aspect to have the character be passing by the isolated park clearing in which the We’re Really Nasty Witches coven is having its monthly esbat. Or to make him decide whether to attend his child’s talent show (after missing the previous three and making a solemn pinkie-swear promise)… or save said kidnapped buddy before he’s loaded onto a plane bound for who-knows-where.

It’s something Eric, Dave and I have been doing for years even if we didn’t call them aspects, but it may be a paradigm very few RPG groups are comfortable with. One of the things Fate does so well is to provide a framework for playing cooperatively even if you’re not initially that way inclined. (To quote another friend who shall remain anonymous: “I’ve never dared play a tabletop game because all the people I know who play are ridiculously competitive and that’s never struck me as fun.”)

Eric, I hope that helped. As for the rest of you – there will be more Fate games going on once the Dresden Files Accelerated playtest is done (end November). I’ve been in a tabletop drought for over a decade, I’m quite willing to jump back in at the deep end.

A few more links for interest & further reading

(Dev post) Fate misconceptions and aspect spamming

Rick Neal — Birthing Pains: High Concepts, Templates, and Troubles (Dresden Files)

Rick Neal — The Lightning Bug and the Lightning: Aspects in Dresden Files RPG

Or just read all of Rick Neal’s articles on the Dresden Files RPG (not the Accelerated version): http://www.rickneal.ca/?page_id=842

… and on Fate in general

– – –

* For what it’s worth, I’m fairly sure I prefer the full-on Core versions to the Accelerated version. That said, the Accelerated versions are excellent for pickup games or for inexperienced and/or young players. They definitely have a place in the Fate universe. It just turns out that I like my rules a little crunchier than I expected (though not as crunchy as, say, Pathfinder).

Announcing… Scotchtober!

I’ll start right off by apologising to those who are reading this who are or have been struggling with an alcohol addiction. I’m not trying to be disrespectful. If alcohol-containing or -related posts are difficult for you to read, skip the ones with the Scotchtober tag — which won’t be until next month anyway. (Not counting this post, obviously.)


Dahakha challenged me — in jest, I’m sure — to post a daily pic of me having a tequila during Tequilatember. While that does appeal, October is my birthday month which sort of justifies me drinking a little more. And I prefer scotch, which goes well with October, so there we have it. Scotchtober.

If I do it, you’ll likely get grainy, hand-shaky shots of whiskey glasses, because I’m not happy with myself in photographs. (Sort of like Darth Vader wasn’t happy with the Light Side.)

It’s just silly enough to appeal to me, and a shot of Scotch every evening is supposed to be good for you, right? I’m utterly not afraid of this going down a dreadfully slippery slope paved with Glenlivet bottles because last New Year’s Eve was, how do I put it, my liver’s cry for mercy. And I listened. Being sick as a dog for 2 days worked wonders on my hearing.


I’ve never been a particularly heavy drinker, or a drinker at all outside social events. My problem is that the older I get, the less I can handle my liquor. And I most certainly did drink too much at NYE. Lesson, apparently, learned. Whenever I try to drink too much now my brain, liver, pancreas and toenails say NO! Probably a useful thing, that, given the damage my dad did to his own liver over a lifetime of functional alcoholism.

Yikes, we’re getting way too serious here again.

Meece update

There’s nothing new under the Corpse here today anyway. My brain is slowly being fried by sleeping in discrete packets of 2-3 hours at a time during the night to feed those voracious little bastards I was foolish enough to take on lovely baby mice we rescued. I’m an 8-hours a night kinda girl, especially these days (anxiety meds tend to have that effect, at least one me). Fortunately the spousal unit is ex-Navy and quite accustomed to getting up at WTF-o’clock and, more importantly, to waking my ungrateful and grumbling ass up when required.

The babbies are growing — it doesn’t seem that way to me, but I think I’ve gone all Jewish mother on them: they’re always too skinny, not clean enough, and they never call or write. Night 3 came and went and they’re all still with us, all getting darker and more furry (well, fuzzy at the moment), all wrigglier than anything that small has any right to be. They have distinct fingers and little claws, tiny little whiskers, and apparently the teeth are coming in too; they can’t bite yet but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I become victim #1.

And that’s it. Go read someone else now! I wasn’t going to post at all today, dammit!

Blaugust Day 27 – Game MMOver?

Well, at least by now I’ve learned how to type Blaugust and not Balugust, Blagaust, or Blasgut. Small victories, folks — small victories.

I’m careening full-speed ahead on my tabletop RPG kick. It’s energising me far more than the thought of any MMO has in the last [insert time span]. In fact, thinking about tabletop playing has energised me far more over the last 4 or 5 years than MMOs have; the fact that in half a decade I still haven’t managed to get myself a regular group with a regular game is entirely my fault and not that of the poor games I’ve perused, pondered and reminisced over. Like my writing (what writing, we ask?), it’s something I really, really want to do — in the case of tabletop gaming, because I actually enjoy it as a social activity and because it’s a great creative outlet… But, as with “proper” writing, I spend more time wanting to do than actually doing. Again, this is entirely my own fault. Time to stop QQing or going down nostalgia lane and DO SOMETHING about it. But for now, let’s talk about MMOs.


Last night, as I lay wide-awake after too much coffee too late in the day and too many creative juices churning with no outlet (they should make a pill for that), I wondered once again whether I’ve finally outgrown MMOs. I’m not the only one to ponder this during Blaugust or indeed at any other time of year, so perhaps it’s simply part of growing up and growing older, this wondering whether we have outgrown the things we used to love so passionately.

Perhaps. But it’s been 15+ years since I played Ars Magica and I’d play it again like a shot given the chance, so clearly I haven’t outgrown that — or moved on from tabletop RPGs. Not playing because I lack the gorm to get a group together /= having outgrown it.

I think my problem with MMOs is that I have nobody to play them with. Which may seem like a rather sharp about-face given my usual stance on solo vs. group, but that’s playstyle, not playing. I’ve always preferred bimbling around by myself in MMOs — I don’t mind mine being the only butt I see onscreen… but up until a few years back there were always a bunch of other people also bimbling around at the same time, single-butted or otherwise, and I was in constant contact with them through chat.

alone together

In Asheron’s Call we had a large and active monarchy (guild) and loads of people to mess around with even using the incredibly primitive chat. A number of the AC monarchy people moved to Star Wars Galaxies when that came out, and we had friends both old and new cursing the not-so-primitive but also non-functioning chat. We moved from SWG to (City of Heroes, briefly, then to) World of Warcraft, so there again we had old-old friends, new-old friends from SWG, and new-new friends from WoW to chat with on various channels.

And that’s sort of where it ended. I moved on to EQ2 in 2006 or so, and while I made quite a few new friends there, it wasn’t the same either in quantity or in quality… and it only went downhill from there. In the last decade we’ve seen an explosion of MMOs, and while that’s a good thing in many ways, one of its less social effects is that it has diluted my pool of available friends and acquaintances when it comes to having people to play alone with, together. We’re all still playing, yes (albeit probably not as much as we did back in 2005), but we’re not playing the same games.

Or not at the same time, anyway. Many of us hop around from one game to another, myself included. In the last 5 years I’ve played more games than I care to count, but none of them for more than 3-6 months at a time. We try new games as they come out, and for a few weeks I’m back in the halcyon days of having plenty of folks I know in-game to talk and mess around with… and then I lose interest, or they lose interest, or for whatever reason we move on.


I really thought I’d come home when I started playing the SWG Emulator, as my posts back then attest. There were only a dozen or so of us playing but it was enough to keep the social momentum going. And then… one by one, folks dropped away. Including me. My enthusiasm was in full fire in April this year… and by July it had petered out to nothing. I haven’t logged on in over a month and my houses are probably on fire (well, houses don’t burn, but you can be sure my harvesters are gone). The worst part of it is, I don’t really care.

Because MMOs simply aren’t as much fun when the O doesn’t stand for “Others”, whether their character is on your screen or whether it’s just the characters they type in guild or global chat.

You can never go home

The social aspect is by no means the only reason MMOs are going stale for me, even if it’s a large part of the reason. I know I can slaughter 10 foozles over and over again for ages in the right company, because — well, because I’ve been doing it for 15 years in 30 different games. But there’s another rub: the 2015 foozles have better graphics and perhaps slightly better AI, but the beast itself hasn’t changed substantively.

It’s undeniably another reason why MMOs are going stale for me — even I, with my enormous capacity for repeating content, might be reaching my limit. I stumbled across this post from 2011 just now while looking for links to something else, and it shows that the growing malaise with endlessly doing the same thing in MMOs isn’t exactly new. How quickly we forget the dawn of time when everything was shiny and fun, even after 10,000 foozles. Ah, 1999, those were the days.

But that’s human nature, I suspect.

Back to the beginning

And so we circle back to tabletop RPGs. I started playing MMOs in 2000 because a friend told me it was just like tabletop roleplaying, only online*! You could play with other people at any time of the day or night!! You didn’t have to wait for your half-dozen friends to have a free weekend and pile everyone into a small UK house for 72 hours every 3 to 4 months!!! You could even play alone if you had to and get eaten by a pixellated grue!!

I didn’t get into MMOs because I played computer games (although I played quite a few, including MUSHes). I got into MMOs because they were supposed to be just like tabletop gaming, only different.

Turns out they’re too different, at least for me. I can’t roleplay in an MMO, for various reasons described elsewhere — or rather, I can but I don’t enjoy it. And the thing about roleplaying is that you’ll never have the same experience twice. Sure, some events will resemble other events, some plots will be rather similar to other plots, but those just add to the RP lore and mythos in your mind and in the shared memories of the group.

That element of creation, permanence and effect on the world — even an imaginary one — coupled with the social aspect is what I’m missing in my MMOs. It’s not that MMOs have become crap, or worse than they were, because if anything they’re improving (even if the WoW model is getting a little stale); it’s just that I can no longer pretend I’m getting out of them what I got out of tabletop RPGs.

So while I may dabble in my usual MMOs for the foreseeable future, I’ll be turning my energies to the tabletop arena. It’ll recharge my batteries and who knows, it might even help me recover that sense of fun in online gaming.

dark side

You’re welcome to join me. I’m going to set up some kind of social phlumphty-phlump (AKA I have no idea what to use — Google Hangouts? Vent? Skype? Roll20?) to chat with anyone who’s interested in trying (or returning to) tabletop gaming.


* You did have to pay exorbitant phone fees in the era of minute-based internet connections, but we won’t go there.





Blaugust Day 14 – Don't be a Jerk

TL;DR – Project Gorgon… no wait, we’ll do that tomorrow. Introvert vs extrovert: don’t be a dick. Oh hey, I should be fired (from MMORPG).

I sat down to post about Project: Gorgon, which I finally got round to trying out for an hour or so yesterday, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I didn’t really get anything done other than being killed in a couple of interesting ways and trying to talk to a wolf who, shockingly, refused to respond in any way but by “Grrrr”.

As I was using my Google-fu to try and figure out where the game had put my screenshots, I saw that Twitter had some updates and clicked over to see this, from Aywren:

Click it. Watch the TED talk. Nod in agreement if introvert (vehemently in my case) or look bemused if extrovert.

And this scratched an old, old itch in my brain, one I still can’t reconcile and one which will presumably never change. Why is it that introverts can understand and empathise with extroverts, but the latter can’t seem to extend the same courtesy to us?

I’ve been here before. (I’m not going to add any other links because that post is dripping with them. The solo vs group introvert/extrovert debate has been going on since before some of you were born.)

Is it just a case of majority privilege? When white people — like me– in the West say we’re not aware of privilege, or when men say they’re not aware of it (especially white, anglo-saxon men), their saying they haven’t noticed something isn’t proof that it doesn’t exist. You may not have noticed that it’s raining but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that it is, actually, raining. (And don’t get me started on the fact versus opinion debate or we’ll be here all week.) Extroverts may not notice that pretty much everything around them is built for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Check out the TED talk, she’s much more eloquent about it than I am.

facts_huxleyI have no hard data but I’m pretty sure extroverts outnumber introverts*, just as group-type players outnumber solo-type players. And I will avoid the obvious fallacy of drawing a direct parallel between introvert and solo, and extrovert and group; even to me things aren’t that cut and dried. All the same, there are some definite parallels in terms of behaviour.

Extroverts tend to think everyone is like them — or if not, that they should be. My family has its fair share of both personality types, and it was my misfortune (and to be fair, my great good fortune) to be raised by a very extroverted mother. She claims to be an introvert but she recovers energy from being around people, which to me is one of the classic signs. She positively thrives on having people around. Me, I thrive madly for a very limited time, after which I become increasingly grumpy, bitchy, and anti-social. There comes a time when I have to physically get the hell away from everyone (or almost everyone) in order to feel like I can breathe again.

Point being, I get that my mother is like she is. I don’t tell her she needs to be more like me — I don’t even think it, because it’s pointless. She is what she is. There’s nothing wrong with being an extrovert.

And if that’s the case, why does it seem to be such a bad thing to be an introvert? Why does every last extrovert in the galaxy feel we introverts are somehow weird and mutated from the norm? My aunt (an introvert who spent her life pretending she was an extrovert and ended a bitter and angry woman) used to tell me literally ALL THE TIME to smile more. To look pretty. To smile. To not be so quiet. To not be in my corner. To smile…


To this day, being told to smile makes me want to punch something. Fortunately for the somethings I’m very conflict-avoidant and just punch myself mentally instead.

I’m generalising terribly here and I know it, but that’s because one can’t rant without drawing a few lines in the sand. So here are mine:

  • Extroverts: please, please try to understand (and empathise with) the fact that being around people, even people we love, is extremely exhausting for introverts. We are not like you. We should not have to be like you. If you desperately need other people, which I get that you do, then please find another extrovert to spend time with for a little while. Introverts are not closet extroverts who need to be dragged forcibly into the joy of in-your-face-ness.
  • Groupers: please try to understand that solo players often like to play by themselves, and respect that they do not have to justify this to you. Just because your playstyle is the majority one doesn’t mean we have to shoehorn ourselves into your mould. If you desperately need other people to play with, which I get that you do, then please find another grouper to spend time with for a little while. Just because solo players like to chat does not necessarily mean we’re frustrated groupers who just need to be taught how much better life would be if we could only learn to doublethink group all the time.
  • Introverts: please try to understand that extroverts aren’t really, literally, physically trying to suck the marrow from your soul. They can’t help being energetic around other people, it’s who they are. Understand that a little tact when needing alone-time can go a long way and that the OMFGGETTHEHELLAWAYFROMME! posture is the opposite of tact.
  • Solo players: please try to understand that groupers feel games are designed for them (you know, that MULTI- in MMO, because apparently ‘multi’ is synonymous with ‘always with others’) and that you are breaking the rules when you persist in wanting to play by yourself.

Okay fine, that last one was a bit obnoxious; but I am very, very tired of a battle that’s been going on for years. I will never surrender, which makes it even more exhausting. Being in a minority does not make it wrong to be me — because if that were true, then on a global scale that makes it wrong to be male. Yes, it’s that ridiculous. Or left-handed (which I also am). Come to think of it, being left-handed was seen as wrong until not so long ago – my left-handed mother had that hand tied behind her at school so that she could learn to write the ‘right’ way.

Being in the majority does not make you the only possible iteration of a thing. Being the ‘norm’ doesn’t mean that the non-norm is wrong, except possibly at the extremes of that case. Please bear that in mind next time you mentally castigate someone for being in your face, for not being in your face, and for wanting or not wanting to group.

– – – – – – – –

As a final aside, I found this while I was looking for an old MMORPG.com column I wrote on the solo/group subject. As the more astute among you will deduce, that’s my real name. Wait, no. It’s my pseudonym! Whoops.


The forum post itself doesn’t seem to be there anymore, which is a shame since I never saw that at the time — or maybe it’s a good thing. I didn’t read comments and forum posts over there because of the inanity and vitriol-quotient, so it’s probably for the best. But I sure did like to stir shit among the masses now and then. And no, I don’t really have Bruce Campbell’s chin — there is only one Bruce Campbell.

– – – – – – – – – – –

* Though apparently not by as much as we introverts tend to think


Blaugust Day 13 – the Dreaded Doldrums

TL;DR – Much soul-searching as to why I’m ‘meh’ about games. Need people. Don’t want dungeons. Insoluble. Inconceivable!

I keep calling them that, but I think it’s more than the usual “I’d rather be outside reading a book” summer thing. I have a million games I could be playing and yet, as I have lamented more than once of late, I’m not really playing any of them. Not to any degree of involvement, anyway. Actually, when looking for posts to link in that previous sentence, I realised that those two “what shall I play?” posts were in fact not weeks, but rather months apart (January and July). Which means I’ve been feeling this ‘meh-ness’ about gaming for some time.

meh_catFirst I wondered if it might be that I’ve simply grown tired of MMOs or, *gasp* gaming in general. I still have fun playing Sims 4 now and then, though admittedly that’s not a particularly demanding game; but I don’t play for ‘demanding’ so that’s not an issue. I log into WoW more out of duty than any particular desire to do so, but I am paying a sub (and have been for the last 5 years – I might want to rethink that) so I might as well use it. I haven’t logged into EQ2 for almost a year now, even though I love that game. I check in on The Secret World now and then, but that game is demanding, specifically in a theory-crafting kind of way which doesn’t particularly motivate me. (More on TSW some other time.) I’m not logging in to SWGEmu much and if my vendors burn up, I’m not really bothered. Aside from those there’s The Repopulation, Shroud of the Avatar and Project: Gorgon, and that’s just all the MMOs I have I’m not playing. And I really want to play Project: Gorgon. I’ve backed the Kickstarter and all. But… meh.

And it’s MMOs I want to talk about in particular because I think I know what’s going on.

I don’t really have anyone to play with anymore.

It galls me vaguely to even say that. I’m an introvert. I’m perfectly happy in my own company. I don’t mind — in fact I very much enjoy — bimbling around by myself in games… provided there are other people to chat with. And there’s the rub. While I’m an introvert, I’m also a sociable player and I like to share the experience with people I know. Which means I’m not counting General Chat in any game as an acceptable alternative. Taking part in general chat is like bathing in a sewer — and not the clean, clearly lemon-scented sewers Baghpuss mentions.

Part of the problem is that I play odd hours. I’m not much of an evening player for one, and I’m in a weird time zone for another — 2 hours behind the US East Coast and an hour ahead of the West. (Granted I’m not playing from Australia or Thailand, which I’m sure presents even greater challenges.) I play during the day, which means I tend to interface most with Euro times — and that’s fine, when it works.

Another issue is that while I know eleventy-thousand gamers through Twitter, Facebook, blogging and just general gaming, we’re all playing different games — so even if they’re online when I’m online, chances are we’re not online in the same virtual world or server. And while I am acquainted with many, I don’t really know who they are in the various games; my occasional attempts to hook up with folks in games tend to fall flat because of issue 1 above.

Then there’s the fact that I am primarily a solo player. I did game with bloggers and e-friends at one point, and we even made guilds together, but because I am not particularly keen on the group thing, I don’t really fit in. So I slip out of touch. And then everyone moves on to another (usually different) game and/or stops playing, etc. etc. etc.

I’m beginning to think I’ll have to embrace the group thing in games. I don’t mind grouping at all (ask my SWG buds, if you can find them), but the primary purpose of grouping in most games is to run dungeons and I would really rather not. I’m certain I’ve explained why elsewhere but I can’t find a link, so in 10 words or less: dungeons = too much visual / auditory input for me. I’ve tried the whole desensitisation thing (thanks to friends who kept telling me that if I did lots of dungeons, I’d start to like them), I’ve tried running them with friends (helps because no PUGs, doesn’t help with the whole input-excess thing), I’ve tried running them in different games (and some are less bad, e.g. FFXIV, while some are awful, e.g. WoW). I’ve tried turning off the particles and turning down the sound, but then what exactly is the point? Oh, right — items.

Makes my eyes bleed (From the GW2 forums)

I am not motivated by items. So the absolute primary reason to run dungeons, which is to obtain stuff so you can run the next dungeon and get even more stuff… just doesn’t matter to me. The only items I care about are my crafting tools, my housing deco, pets, and the occasional piece of clothing. And even then I’m not always motivated enough to get those that I’d crawl over broken glass to get them (i.e. do long & boring quest lines and/or dungeons).

So while I do occasionally run through dungeons by myself when I’m high enough to not get my ass kicked, it’s not something I make a habit of. And it’s not something that really floats my boat or rocks my world.

I have the uneasy feeling that what I really want — which is to be in an MMO for more than 2 months at a time, to have a couple of dozen folks I can hang out with, and to feel at home again in an MMO rather than like a visitor — may not be available to me right now.

Well then. I shall just have to stop whingeing, pull my socks up, and pick a game. Then *I* can be the one player that’s always there even when everyone else ups and wanders off.

Eenie-meenie-minney-mo… PROJECT: GORGON it is! On with the download! And if you decide to join me, chances are you’ll find me as Ysharros*.

– – – – – – – – – –

* Except in all the games where I’m Eloise or Heloise or Alouette or – yeah, whatevs.

Blaugust Day 9 – The Gaming To Do List

A week or so ago, when A Green Mushroom (Void on Anook) posted literally eighteen-thousand writing prompts on the relevant Anook forum post, I read through them.

eighteen thousand writing prompts

“Ha!” I thought to myself, “I have a mind like an explosion in a gummy-bear factory, I never run out of things to write about, I’ll never need those. Ha!” (I like to Ha! I do it in real life too. Occasionally accompanied by a rapier flourish.* Ha!)

I also thought “Damn, that Green Mushroom chap has way too many ideas and way too much energy and is making the rest of us look very bad!” Then I thought, “Oh well, let’s— oooh look, shiny!!”

And now — as you might expect from the blatant telegraphing I just did — I am in fact casting about for things to write. Last weekend was easy (well, relatively-speaking) but I think that was coasting on the wave of OMG I’m really doing this enthusiasm. This weekend I’m more “Geez, again? Can’t I just play something? [whine] It’s national book lovers’ day, not national write said books day!” [Distant sound of Waaahmbulance siren.] “It’s SUNDAY!!”

This final argument has failed to sway my Rational Decision Maker and as of about 5 minutes ago** it has soundly beaten Instant Gratification Monkey*** (buy your own here and get your own damn name!) (yes of course I’m going to end up buying one, probably right after I finish this post, or somewhere in the middle if I can’t manage to get to the point) (and yes of course it’s perfectly fine to keep chaining parentheses like this; trust me, I’m a lit. major).

IGMonkey-1_1024x1024Where was I? Ah yes, here. I’m actually not taking one of AGM/Void’s prompts today but I have learned my lesson and now know that when I do — as I inevitably will — I shall do so with the requisite gratitude and humility. Today, however, I am going to fill out Izlain’s Gamer To-Do List.

As may be relatively evident from my amazing barely passable atrocious Conscientiousness score over at Quantic Foundry (a whopping 6%, which means basically ALL my friends in any grouping of 10 or so are more conscientious than me), I’m not much of one for being constrained by stuff I don’t want to do. Homer holds the upper hand in my subconscious probably 94% of the time. It’s a wonder I manage to finish showering and come out clean.

And the number of useless but hopefully entertaining tangents so far will amply demonstrate how little I actually want to be doing this list thing. I do not like lists. I do not like having to order my brain in coherent, sequential segments. Organising is hard. I’m creative, dammit! Which means I get to be messy, unfocused, messy, easily distracted, messy, occasionally brilliant, and messy. It does not mean lists.

Alison HendrixWhich is pure bullshit, of course. Lists are helpful. I don’t think I’ll ever be Alison Hendrix even if I spent the rest of my life in rehab for the terminally-disorganised procrastinator, but even I can aspire to a modicum of sense and structure in my life. Sometimes I’m so scattered it seems hard to keep a single thought at the front of my mind; I’m not sure if age is making that worse, or if meds are making that worse, or if it’s just one of those things that get bigger and more awful and more noticeable the more you look for them, but it’s a fact that I have real trouble focusing on things I don’t want to be doing. Probably, you know, because I don’t want to be doing them.

I’m not convinced that carefully structuring my entertainment time is going to work for me, not just for the reasons given above but simply because, ironically, I am as spontaneous in games as I am unspontaneous in life (there might have been a time when I was spontaneous but that was before anxiety and comfort zones — now my spontaneity is carefully-planned). There are few things I love more in games than seeing something on the horizon and taking off to see what it is, getting distracted halfway there by an abandoned [insert structure] and exploring that, only to get distracted halfway through that to read up on all the mythological and lore references… etc. etc. etc. (Much as I dislike questing in MMOs with the significant other, he probably hates questing with me for this very reason.)

So here is the damn list already. Chop-chop!

Ysharros’s Gaming To-Do List

1. Make a gaming to-do list. Okay, I’m kidding.

  1. Real number one. Play a Sims 4 legacy family to at least Generation 4.
    This is because my previous Legacy family made it to Gen 3, but I abandoned it amid much grumbling regarding twins/triplets, families who forgot all about each other between dinner and breakfast, and other sundry bugs that have since been fixed. I am currently playing the Stylish family (bien sûr) and have taken a million screenshots, but I haven’t written anything about it partly for fear of jinxing it and partly because starting it coincided with Blaugust and I didn’t reckon the new visitors would be much into the Sims 4. I might be wrong! If you’re a Sims 4 or Legacy challenge fan, previous legacy posts start here
  2. Check out Banished
    The first of a number of Steam games I bought and have never even fired up.
  3. Check out Torchlight II
    See #2 above
  4. Give Elite: Dangerous another shot
    As in, try to make it out of the space station (easy peasy!) and back to the landing pad (not so easy) and maybe even, you know, to somewhere else. No game in the last 25+ years has ever made me feel as incompetent and uncoordinated as E:D did. If that doesn’t work, shoot it in the virtual head.
  5. Get past the intro sequence in Dragon Age: Inquisition
    As you might by now have gathered, this year I have been mostly having problems playing the games I have bought. Games I know I’d like! What is wrong with me?!
  6. Check out Witcher 3
    By which I most likely mean Buy it and forget to play it. See above.
  7. Finish the Garrison Shipyard line/quests/whatever they are on at least one of my WoW characters.
    I’ve got 4 to choose from, 5 if I could be arsed to level the mage, so it’s not like I’m lacking for candidates. I just can’t muster any enthusiasm for WoW at the moment. Come to think of it, I can’t muster much enthusiasm for gaming in general, but that’s another topic for another time (probably this week since I’m definitely not the only Blaugustinian suffering from Summer ennui).
  8. The not gone and not forgotten list — Landmark, SWGEmu, EQ2, STO…
    I’ve played all of those apart from STO. I love SWG and EQ2… but I don’t want to play those either at the moment. At the very least I can schedule time to update them, which with my internet connection requires some actual scheduling.

That’s enough for now. I feel tired already just looking at it!

Last but not least:

We’re almost a third of the way there. Only 22 days to go. Take heart, fellow Blaugdignagians!

* Okay, not since my LARP days 20 years ago, but I have gone Ha! with a rapier. Everyone should do it at least once. Chandelier-swinging is on my bucket list.

** After watching an old Chopped, making an elaborate brunch, cleaning the kitchen, and futzing about on iPad games for a couple of hours…

*** Does he have a name? I think I’ll call mine Homer. You can think it’s a Simpsons reference but I swear it’s epic and Greek.

Blaugust Day 4 – Portrait of a Gamer

Deadalus Project & Quantic Foundry

Years and years and years ago, at the birth of the new millennium, a smart studenty type decided that researching gamers might be an interesting thing to do and began doing just that, surveying thousands of gamers. I don’t remember how I became one of them but I did, and I filled out a bunch of surveys over the years. You can still check some of that data and his conclusions out on the Daedalus Project.

The Daedalus Project has been over for some time, but Nick Yee now has a new, just as interesting venture going: the Quantic Foundry (no, I have no idea what it means, but it certainly sounds cool, smart, and even a bit gamerish). Long story short, there are still surveys to be done and if you check the place out you might want to start with the Gamer Motivation Profile. Hell, even Ars Technica got in on the survey action.

I’ve done mine and while the results were no surprise to me, they might be interesting partly for my usual readers (who probably won’t be much surprised either) but mostly for the screaming hordes of Blaugustinians dropping by. I read a number of blogs written by people with utterly different gaming styles from mine, but I certainly tend to empathise more (and comment more) with gamers who prefer some of the same types of things I do.

Gamer Motivation Profile

So here’s my profile page. And here’s the chart from the profile page for those who can’t be arsed to click:

Gamer Motivation chartAnd a quick caveat quote from the profile info:

Percentiles are how you rank relative to other people. In this report, your percentiles are how you compared with other gamers who have participated in this profile tool. A percentile of 80% means you scored higher than 80% of gamers. Conversely, a percentile of 10% means 90% of gamers had a higher score than you. This means that a 50% is perfectly average.

Most people will have high scores on a few motivations, low scores on another few motivations, and the majority of their remaining scores will fall near the average (in the 35%-65% range). Thus, it’s your non-average scores that most define your profile as a gamer.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a competition or an exam. High scores are not “better”. Gamers with extreme motivations (on both the low and high end) represent a smaller proportion of gamers and may have a harder time being satisfied by available games (which try to capture more average gamers within their genres).

It’s really difficult for most people to see percentiles and not compare themselves to others, for good or ill. In some ways it’s not a bad thing — I always knew I was different and a little weird when it came to the ‘norm’ of gamers (by which I mean MMO gamers for the most part; we may also play Candy Crush Saga, but most Candy Crushers have never even heard of an MMO and for my money they’re not ‘true’ gamers — but that’s another discussion for another time).

Action, Mastery, Achievement

I score exceedingly low in areas where most gamers I know tend to score much higher — and I’ve known for a long time that I’m absolutely not motivated by action, mastery or achievement. My action score is actually broken down into Destruction (35%) and Excitement (0%), which is totally me. I don’t like adrenaline — it makes me feel physically ill — so while I can watch people play fast-paced, action-oriented games (by which I mean Tomb Raider & co; I don’t think I could bear to even watch anyone play Silent Hill or whatever the current scare-the-pants-off-you game is), playing one is extremely un-fun for me. I do, however, like blowing things up now and then. Who doesn’t? Similarly, while I do enjoy some strategy (23%, and why I’ve been playing Civilization throughout its many incarnations — but I prefer the building side to the war & conquest side), I only give a 1% shit about challenge. As for achievement… I get a measly 7% for completion (my anemic achievement score in WoW proves this) and a total 0% for power.

All of which actually represents me rather well as an individual and not just as a gamer. I don’t care much about achieving things just because they’re there — Sir Edmund Hillary and I clearly wouldn’t have much to talk about at a dinner party. I believe power is a pointless and ultimately destructive pursuit (even in games, where there are no real consequences, the pursuit of power leaves me yawning). And while I like to blow up pixels or build bonfires almost as much as the next guy or gal, I actively avoid situations where adrenaline is a factor. I do really badly with adrenaline and I have an extremely low threshold for excessive sound and visual input — you know, like you find in most dungeons. My dislikes certainly inform my gaming a great deal. So how about my likes?

Social, Immersion, Creativity

Without going into massive amounts of detail (you can check out the write-up on my profile linked above, and better yet — go do your own!), they’re very true to who I am as well. Socially-speaking I am into community and cooperation (86% — shared effort, building things like guilds, cities, houses, communities in general) but not much into competition (8% — the why may be worth exploring someday, but I suspect the number is skewed by the fact that most competition involves excitement and adrenaline and I shy away from both). My Immersion-component scores are the most balanced out of the 6 — 64% for Fantasy (becoming and playing someone else) and 65% for Story (good storylines, complex characters, etc.), which is no surprise to me given my tabletop role-playing background. In fact, I’m quite sure that if I had an actual tabletop gaming group to do stuff with, as I used to, I would do a lot more of that and a lot less MMO gaming, and my blog would contain a great deal more content about pen’n’paper than it currently does. Which reminds me, I really need to look into those computer-based gaming program thingies… (Feel free to comment if you use one and like it!)

And lastly, the Creativity component. I scored 71% on discovery (exploring the game – both ‘physically’ and in terms of systems, options and mechanics) and 91% on design (making your mark on the game, be it through character customisation or through buildings, ships, etc.). This not only doesn’t surprise me, it actually helped to validate how I feel about myself. I’m a mostly-frustrated creator, a wannabe writer who failed at overcoming writer’s block almost 20 years ago and turned to ‘easier’ alternatives in order to scratch that creative itch. Like this blog; like 4000-word character sheets; like designing an endless series of game settings for games that never get played… and so on. I’m sad that I allowed myself to give up on my dreams of being a writer, but glad that I found other outlets.

Role-Playing Tangent

The one thing that might surprise new readers after the above is that while I definitely identify myself as a role-player, I am not a role-player in MMOs. I’ve covered this elsewhere (here and here), some years ago now, but the not RPing in MMOs part of me hasn’t changed. It boils down to the fact that too much is imagined for me in MMOs, and there are too few tools to do some of the behind-the-scenes hand-waving that needs to happen for meaningful (in my opinion) role-playing to be able to happen. Also, you can’t reach through the monitor and knuckle-sandwich the RP-nazi who insists on defining for you how your character reacts to what they’re doing, which is a major downside as far as I’m concerned.

Personality Profile

After (or before if you’re a contrarian) the Gamer Motivation Profile, you can take the Personality Profile survey (here’s mine), which also produced very accurate results in my case.

Personality Profile chartThe one totally skewed result was “Extraversion”, and I sent the Foundry folks some feedback about it — but it’s interesting nonetheless. Basically I filled out the survey assuming it wanted to know about how I am in games, when I guess what it wanted to know what how I am in general (i.e. also out of games). In games I am in fact super-social, helpful, chatty, and occasionally even manic (except when I’m a hermit and then I play a character nobody knows so I can just bimble about silently with my own self). In real life I am also social, helpful, chatty, and occasionally even manic — but only with a small number of very close friends or in much, much, much smaller doses (like an evening or two every few months).

I probably should take that survey again knowing that it’s asking me about RL-me, not gamer-me, and see what comes out.

Conclusion? Cute Baby Animal!

If you’ve stuck with me this far, congratulations, you win a cute baby animal picture! (And as I write this, I pause for half an hour while I coo over cute baby animals I’ve Googled and get tied into knots trying to figure out which one is the cutest that I haven’t already posted.) Do check out the Quantic Foundry — it’ll give you food for thought, and if you’re a Blaugustinian it might even give you food for posts.

baby animal awww




Blaugust Day 2 – Feedly, Seymour!

TL;DR — Use something that will help you organise the blog content you want to read. I rant for 1000+ words about why I have to use Feedly, but that’s what I use. It’s not bad. Use it. Byeeeeeee! [Also, this is how Ysharros posts — see section headings below.]

Not very grabby intro

Man, do I really have to post again?! — Oh wait, that’s the opening for day 8. Moving back a bit…

[Squiggly hand-wave, camera blur… POOF!] It’s July 2013, and my beloved Google Reader shut its doors. I started blogging (and really only became aware of blogging as a thing) in 2008, not counting some LiveJournal foofery I’d done for a number of years before then. I guess LiveJournal is a blog, but it never felt like one to me: it was more like my friends and I each had a semi-public journal — you know, sort of what Facebook is like now only FB has way more pictures of food that nobody gives a shit about. (Mea culpa there, but at least mine are mostly home-made — or maybe that’s worse.) Anyway I started this blog with a whole bunch of other people in Casualties of War (a guild, for Warhammer, with bloggers) who also had or were starting blogs and suddenly keeping track of each other via bookmarks just seemed like way too much work.

Long, rambling middle bit

Enter the wonderful RSS feed and the beautiful, magical* RSS feed-reader; in my case and for many others, that piece of amazeballs web magic was Google Reader. (If you don’t know what an RSS feed is or what Google Reader was or why I care so much, read section 1 of this. It’s perfect.) In one fell swoop I could add feeds and see all the new stuff in one handy-dandy list, every day — or every hour if that was my whim — and not miss a single post of a single favourite blogger.

After a year or two of using the Reader I had something like 130 blogs in my feed, which I’ll tell you right now was way too many. I’d ended up having to make categories like “Blogs I follow but don’t actually want to read” (why??) and “Blogs I follow that hardly ever post” and “Blogs I actually care about reading”, which oddly enough didn’t really help in terms of organisation.

Unexpected tangent!

My G+ is organised rather the same way. I am not someone who likes being acquainted with eleventy-million people, in fact I very much dislike it (I’m an introvert), and when I inevitably end up that way on social media I have to find a way to keep most of them at arm’s length because I have no tolerance for a low signal to noise ratio (I had to look it up to get the direction right, so you might as well have a link). And let’s face it, social media is 99.9999% noise… or maybe that’s just how I feel about it. So on G+ I now have this circle, that circle, and the “Feeds I give a shit about” circle (yes, that’s really what it’s called) which contains only 36 people and is the only one I actually read. And this is with a total all-circle-people size of only about 150, which is quite enough to overwhelm me.

Random filler pic to break up the text (Mysericorde on her bike in TSW)
Random filler pic to break up the text (Mysericorde on her bike in TSW)

In any case I don’t quite get G+, which sadly proves that I’m not the cutting-edge know-about-computer-things person I was back in 1990 when ‘Kermit’ was more than just a Muppet. Like, what exactly do these circles do? Do people know what my circles are (God I hope not)? Is it like sub-sets of friends in FB so if I post to the Super-Seekrit circle, only the people I put in there can see it? And what’s the difference between me having someone in a circle I post to and them having me in circles, since unlike FB is doesn’t have to be mutual? Yes, I could look it all up but I don’t want to. I actually grasp computer and web stuff pretty fast since I’ve been working with them all my life (Commodore Vic20 at age 13, yo), so if after several years G+ still doesn’t make sense to me, I’m kinda sure it’s because it doesn’t work in a way that’s intuitive to me. Which is probably why I still don’t really use it.

Basically I’m pretty sure G+ is the indecent and noxious love-child of Facebook and Google Reader, and that’s just wrong. When I want blog posts I’ll use my reader. When I want to keep up with my friends’ kids, dogs, dinners and dislikes, I’ll use FB. /end_tangent

Facebook rant

A few years ago I used Facebook primarily to keep up with my much-missed friends from England**, because I totally suck at keeping in touch by email and I suck even more at keeping in touch by phone, plus many of those friends were friends but maybe not good enough friends for regular international calls***, and Facebook does do a good job at giving you a window into the (Facebook-oriented) daily lives of the people you care about, and— breeeathe… And anyway, it was good for that.

It’s still good for that. But — and this deserves caps because I feel very strongly about it — FACEBOOK IS NOT A BLOODY FEED-READER YOU ZUCKERBERGIAN MORONS!!

In 2013, they sent Google Reader away to be sensible oblivion, because Facebook and Twitter and Instragram. And, I guess, because RSS feeds and RSS readers weren’t in fact the magical flange every. single. person. in the world was using, but rather something only a few people thought worth bothering with. I still can’t quite digest that fact, but I guess I’m not your standard Facebook or Twitter user.

To get at least marginally back to the point, when Google Reader stopped, I did too pretty much. A few companies were scrambling to develop alternatives to the reader but none of them really did such a simple and elegant job of simply presenting to you the new posts from the sites you wanted to see. Nooo, they had to dress it up and make it look like a magazine, or make the posts into post-card looking things that danced around on your screen, or make it look like a book you had to turn the pages on— breeeeathe… I missed my GReader and, as a result, I simply stopped reading blogs. For two years. AND IT’S ALL GOOGLE’S FAULT!!!

[Squiggly hand-wave, camera blur, end of flashback] Now it’s 2015 and Blaugust and I’ve missed way too many blogs and blog posts these last two years. I miss the blogging community — and to some extent I wonder if not feeling part of that community anymore didn’t influence my sudden lassitude with keeping up with my own blog.

Random filler pic 2 (Also TSW)
Random filler pic 2 (Also TSW)

Finally, the point

If you’re a blogger and/or Blaugust reader who doesn’t use some kind of content-aggregator and would like to have blogs and new blog posts more easily to hand, consider using a reader. I can’t advise on any but Feedly, which is what I’ve decided to go with (after several false starts with it in the last 2 years). I’m still in the process of remembering/finding the sites I want to read and getting them vaguely organised, which means I have totally got a new Blaugust category set up and totally haven’t actually added anything to it yet. Because being organised is so tiring

But at least I have a few dozen blogs on there and when I load up the page, POOF!, there’s a lovely, simple list of all the new posts since I last checked in.

HUZZAH! Now I can go back to wasting 30 minutes 2 hours every day reading everyone’s posts about gaming, because not reading them would impoverish my life. It really would. I know this, because I lost my reader and it really did. (But maybe I can cut back to 30 minutes.)

– – – – – – –

* See what I did there? I don’t add music videos but I cleverly embed lyrical references instead. I’m cool like that (and too old for YouTube embeds in my posts).

** For those new to this blog, I’m French and German hybrid who grew up in Switzerland (among other places) speaking English, French and German, before attending university in England where I then lived for a decade and a half. In 2001 I moved to the US. Which means I’ve actually been in the US longer than I was in England (by a hair), but I’ll never lose my accent, am not likely to ever feel American (though I do feel New Mexican, especially when I drive badly), use Us in words like colour and armour, use -ise instead of -ize (when auto-correct doesn’t catch it), and generally get homesick for Europe even though I love where I live now.

*** Believe it or not, there was a time before Skype when phonecalls around the world actually cost money…

WoW – Noobness Never Dies

Just to prove that I’m not lying when I say I’m a perma-noob — I’ve done the quest in the screenshot three times already and NOT ONCE did I notice the 4th ingredient in the top right (the quest doesn’t necessarily use all four possible ingredients). It was only after my druid failed three times to get the ‘glowy’ ingredient that I, puzzled that none of the three ingredients were working, went and checked the quest out on WoWHead.

If I’d been a bit less of a noob I’d have remembered that the previous quest had me gather four ingredients to make that potion with. Duh.