A Hero Emerges September 15, 2012Posted by Ben in Pandaria, Uncategorized.
add a comment
When I Stormy invited me to start writing for this blog, I had a vision of writing about the zones themselves and exploring their changes. One post that I wrote was of particular popularity (The Moral Quandary of Westfall) where I wrote a first-person perspective of questing through the zone and how the events left me feeling less than heroic.
I want to write more things like this as Mists of Pandaria unfolds. As my Tauren Paladin quests through zones, dungeons, scenarios and eventually raids, you’ll see his adventures reflected here, in addition to my own ramblings about game mechanics and such.
But without further ado, an introduction to our hero…
I miss being a youngling on the rolling plains of Mulgore. Standing on one of the towering bluffs of my people’s capital, I could see the village of the Bloodhoof clan nestled into a curve of the largest lake in the region. I remember learning to ride a kodo along the shoreline, racing my fellow paladin initiates, being scolded by our mentors for indulging our pride.
With a sigh, I look back down at the letter than had been delivered earlier that day. The aid that I’d been able to provide to Thrall and the Dragonflights against Deathwing had raised my profile considerably. But when the Maelstrom no longer threatened to rip the world apart, I only wished to return home.
Colonel Bullrushed Sunwalker,
The Horde has need of your service once again. We have received word of Alliance activities in Theramore that must not be allowed to continue. You are required to present yourself to the Warchief with all due haste.
General Lorak Stonejaw, 3rd Army of Orgrimmar
Shield and mace slung across my back I climbed the wyvern roost as the time for my departure neared. I was far more comfortable making the trip on a light-blessed kodo of my order, but the urgency of my summons would not allow that luxury. I summoned the strength of the Light to overcome my fear as I mounted the tamed creature.
As the city faded into the distance behind me I prayed for a smooth flight and that Lady Proudmoore’s reputation for peace and diplomacy wasn’t undeserved.
Reshuffling buttons September 6, 2012Posted by Ben in Uncategorized.
That title makes it sound like it’s going to be one of those blog posts. But it’s about keybinds.
As has become my custom when a new expansion arrives, I take the opportunity to refresh my interface. My old set of actionbars contained at least three rows of 10 buttons, and some classes had an extra bar scaled down with twelve more buttons. Almost every ability from the spellbook was featured on my bars. At least a third of them weren’t even bound to a key. So useful.
So when 5.0.4 dropped and I had to reorganize my bars with new and changed abilities anyway, I decided to start from scratch. I cleared my bars completely and decided on two rows of five buttons. (and a stance bar for the Druid and Paladin) The buttons on the bars are those required in the rotation and a few utility buttons (Taunt, Silencing Shot, Searing Totem).
This also means I’ve had to configure the Cooldown Timer feature of DoTimer (for which there is an unofficial update, thankfully), and get used to using that instead of watching cooldowns on the buttons themselves.
Needless to say this has been an involved process. Especially with most of my main characters being dual-specced. Of the nine characters on my primary realm, I’ve gotten the bars set up for five and the OPie rings set up for four.
Have you changed your UI before you head into the Mists?
Guild Wars 2: Getting My Feet Wet August 30, 2012Posted by Stormy in Other Games.
add a comment
Yes, this is a blog about World of Warcraft…mostly. Yes, WoW dropped a huge patch this week, and there are lots of things to say about it. But I also putter around in various other games and MMOs (not that I’ve found any that rival my emotional and time investment in WoW), so I thought I’d take a few minutes and talk about Guild Wars 2.
I wasn’t going to play GW2. The big Mists patch dropped this week, and Mists itself is less than a month away. I talked it over with one of my gamer friends/coworkers and decided it just wasn’t worth it to spend the money for something that was likely to give me just a few weeks of game play, if that. Then the lovely and talented Arolaide of Dragonsworn posted this. I saw the green Necromancer outfit she posted, and that sealed the deal. I got the game up and running this morning–after a lengthy download–and here are the random, discursive brain droppings currently rolling around in my head. Fair warning, though: this is GW2 through the lens of a WoW player, and there’s a lot of WoW talk here.
- The game is visually stunning. The characters are realistic, the countryside depicted in the Human starting zone is magnificent. Divinity’s Reach, the main Human city, is absolutely gorgeous–there’s a sprawling garden in the middle of the wheel-shaped city that one could get lost in for days. More than that, it’s alive. There are people and guards everywhere, and the people talk to you. It’s a living, breathing city any time, day or night. There’s been some discussion this week about the cartoonish nature of the graphics of WoW, and this is a complete departure from the graphics I’m used to.
- The character creation screen is heads and shoulders above anything I’ve seen in any other game. In GW2 it’s actually possible to create a dark-skinned Human, something I have yet to see in other games. I played around with the sliders and options for a bit, and here’s what I came up with:
Meet Sterrin, the human Mesmer. Yes, I’m embarrassingly shallow, but behind that silly Mesmer mask he’s really pretty to look at, trust me. I’m still baffled, though, by game designers’ consistent inability to make human hands that aren’t oversized, clunky, angular, and just…odd. In any event, I also enjoyed being able to pick various personality traits for him, and I think it would be interesting to play through the same story twice with different personality traits to see how it all changes.
- The world feels large and overwhelming. When I first started playing WoW many moons ago, the friend that dragged me (kicking and screaming) into the game wanted to show me the new mount he had just gotten (this was back when mounts were a big deal, and he was super proud of himself). I stood in Dun Morogh for what felt like hours until he came riding up on his nightsaber, and I felt small and insignificant in a giant game universe. Over time Azeroth has a tendency to shrink, especially with portals, flight paths, epic flight and the like, and in Tyria I was able to recapture that feeling of being a speck on a giant marble flying through space.
- I absolutely *love love love* the fill-the-heart questing mechanic. In WoW you’re sent to a quest hub where four NPCs will give you four quests to kill ten rats, kill the Alpha Rat, gather ten shiny rocks and feed ten cows. In GW2 you go to a quest hub where one NPC asks for help, and you can help them by killing ten rats, killing two rats, the Alpha Rat, and gathering seven shiny rocks…or any combination thereof. The world is your oyster. Hate rat-killing quests? Skip ‘em. Hate use-the-item quests (which I normally do)? Skip it. The world is your oyster.
- And when you’re done killing rats and helping the NPC, the NPC sends you mail full of prizes and money! And to collect your mail, you don’t have to visit a physical mailbox. Perhaps that’s less realistic than the WoW mailbox mechanic, but it’s a lot easier to deal with.
Now (to steal a rhetorical device from Arolaide) if you’re the kind of person who’s only here to have me blow sunshine and roses up your butt about this Guild Wars thing, you can stop reading right about here.
- Although I appreciate the racial diversity offered by GW2, they still fall into the old trope of “All the wimmens must be hot and have giant boobs, and all their outfits must be halter tops and plate bikinis.” I saw a whole lot of cleavage in the last few hours.
- I still cannot, for the life of me, figure out why game designers–save Blizzard–make all your ability icons look so similar. On my shadow priest I can tell Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death apart just at a glance even though they’re both yellow skulls, and I can tell Devouring Plague apart from them both since it’s a different color. My GW2 ability bar, on the other hand, looks like this. It’s an improvement over the gray abomination that passes for an ability bar in RIFT, but it’s still…purple.
- I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but travel is just…overwhelming. Navigating Divinity’s Reach with the giant, overly convoluted map is a bit of a chore–although I rather enjoyed the waterfall elevators.
- The game feels overtuned. Maybe it’s just because I’m a noob, but killing mobs seems to take forever, and I seem to die an awful lot. Perhaps I’m used to the WoW method, where it’s virtually impossible to die in the first ten levels unless you’re *really* dense, but combat just seems so tedious. All the same, it’s fun to be able to create little clones of myself, and some day I hope to be in a lengthy boss fight and create dozens of little mini-mes, cackling maniacally all the way.
- Also, for the record, the next time some insolent, impatient little brat whines about an extra two hours of maintenance ahead of a WoW patch I’m going to slap them upside the head and remind them of the GW2 launch. I give credit to Arenanet for realizing their limitations and shutting down online sales of the game this afternoon when they realized they simply couldn’t handle the load they were getting, and I give them credit for constantly communicating about what’s going on, but this launch has made a seemingly rocky WoW patch look like a peaceful Sunday drive.
Anyway, there’s a three-day weekend coming up here in the States, and since my partners-in-WoW-crimes will be away in a magickal faerie land called “Nebraska,” if anyone needs me, I’ll be in Tyria.
So much to do, just not yet August 25, 2012Posted by Ben in Classes, Leveling, Pandaria.
add a comment
“The launch” is a month away.
In 31 days, I’ll go from wondering what to do with my time in the game to having a glut of options. And I’m a little overwhelmed. I feel like I need to make a “plan” of some sort.
Leveling – Obviously the first priority. Earlier this week, I laid out that I’m starting with the Paladin. And if I can manage it, he will be the only toon/character/avatar that ventures into the wilds of Pandaria until at least Hallow’s End. I learned from the intense zone burnout of Cataclysm that pushing the entire stable to max level all at once isn’t a good idea.
Monk – Back into the warm embrace of the dungeon finder. I think I want to go Tank/Healer with this, and I do have the heirlooms to support it. Maybe switching roles to help with the repetitive nature of running Uldaman for the umpteenth time.
Pet Battles – So excited. Building and leveling my new stable will require a fair amount of travel and being out in the world, so I think I’m going to designate the Hunter as my “pet trainer.”
Archaeology – Probably lowest on my priority list. My Associate Professor is my Priest, and I’m probably content for him to continue puttering through the Old World working on rares (like that damned Clockwork Gnome) until it’s his turn to level. Added side benefit: leveling Archaeology provides experience.
Professions – Blacksmithing, Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, Tailoring, Inscription, Leatherworking, Alchemy, Engineering. All over 500. I’ll be watching the Auction House like a hawk for great deals on herbs, because none of my herbalists will see the fields of Pandaria for some time.
Dailies, Scenarios & Dungeons - Follows directly after completing leveling, and is the other reason I’m going to try to focus on a single character. Burnout is the enemy, and I am determined to keep him at bay.
Raids - Given the super-casual nature of my gaming, this will be LFR-only, and I’m okay with that. Given the recent announcement of how they’re going to extend the rollout of said dungeons, I’ve got two weeks before the first one is open and now close to two months before it’s all available. And while I think this staggered release is caused by stupid complaints, I’m more than happy to have the flexibility to not work my way through Pandaria at my own pace.
Well, looks like I want to do pretty much everything…except PvP. How about you?
Main Change August 22, 2012Posted by Ben in Classes, Leveling, Pandaria.
Burning Crusade? Rogue.
Wrath of the Lich King? Druid.
Each expansion has seen me with a different main character. Changes to leveling (and elimination of deadzones) allowed me to level several classes to max level in Burning Crusade, and I discovered a love for a new class by the time Arthas attacked. A server change to join a Horde guild made the Blood Elf priest I’d leveled as a side project and grown to enjoy a more economical option. And I stormed the gates of Icecrown in Shadowform. Now as Deathwing’s sparkly death fades into memory, I find myself shifting again.
Up until a few weeks ago, I’d intended for the Priest to be the first to make landfall in Pandaria. He’s an Enchanter and a Jewelcrafter, and those are two things the rest of my stable will need. Another character was sure to follow quickly on the heels, because well, our little gang was going to need some support roles, and I have just never been fond of priest healing (not that I can honestly given it a real chance). But then Stormy and I were chatting, and he reminded me that what fun it was to be slogging through Deepholm for the third time in the first month of the expansion, and I remembered by my formerly Primary Alt (the Druid who was my main at the start of wrath who’d had an unfortunate accident with some Gnomish technology and become a Tauren) didn’t reach level 85 until a few months ago. Okay, part of it was that I didn’t enjoy Balance’s Eclipse style in solo play, and was too afraid to attempt healing, but mostly it was because somewhere in the middle of Uldum, I just couldn’t force myself to do another quest. Even now, other alts that land in Deepholm or Uldum find their leveling speed drop significantly. So, I’ve decided that my main has to change again.
Mists of Pandaria? Paladin.
I get to benefit from short queue times by leveling a tank first, and faster Holy Power generation will make questing as Ret less like watching paint dry (although I remember leveling as a DPS Holy paladin back in BC, and that was truly glacial). Plus as Mining/Blacksmith, he can split the ore between his own profession and the Priest’s jewelcrafting. And our intrepid triad of guildies won’t be all-cloth (Stormy’s a Priest and Suz a Warlock).
How about you? Is your MoP main going to be different from the one who started Cataclysm
Ack! August 3, 2012Posted by Stormy in Uncategorized.
add a comment
Both of my WordPress blogs are under the same WP account/email address, and I just accidentally posted a rather lengthy treatise about my health journey to my WoW blog by accident. I’ve deleted it, but if your feed reader is particularly speedy it may have picked it up before it was deleted.
Sorry, I goofed, my bad, je suis desolee, lo siento, etc.
The Great Bank Purge July 24, 2012Posted by Ben in General Whinging, Pandaria, Sweating Bullet Points.
add a comment
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been systematically cleaning out the banks of the characters on my primary server. I’ve never been someone for whom bank space has been at a premium, in fact most of the characters only use 16-slot bags (and a few didn’t even have [Safe Deposit] until recently), but I still had a fair bit of stuff that had collected for no apparent reason.
So when I’d started the project of reorganizing and cleaning out our Guild Vault, I was motivated to clean out my own bank as well.
When cleaning out the Guild Vault, I set up a few simple rules:
- Is this an item that can be fairly easily farmed? – Items such as Copper Ore or Kingsblood are fairly simple things to farm and were sold off, whereas things that randomly spawned within the nodes like Eternium Ore and Frost Lotus were kept. (Although did we really need to keep 60 Frost Lotus?)
- Is the item useful for leveling a profession? – We have a sizeable stockpile of gems from Malachite to Inferno Rubies. We have a guildie who might be leveling Jewelcrafting in MoP, so for now the gem cache survives.
- Is this something that we are likely ever to use? – Over the lifetime of Cataclysm, many helpful guildies have deposited stacks of cooked food or enchanted scrolls into the GV that they’d created while leveling professions. Since we’re reaching the end of the expansion’s lifespan, they were sold off for profit.
So when cleaning out my own banks, I set up a few rules for myself:
- Don’t keep profession leveling mats. – Those that are harder to obtain were deposited to the GV, and the rest were sold off. (Particularly awful was the 30+ stacks of Wrath level meat and fish that I was still holding on to, and now sell for nothing on the AH.) The exception were “parts” from Engineering, because you never know when those will come in handy, and they don’t sell well anyway. But with eight characters on this server at level 84+, I’m not likely going to be crafting a pair of [Spidersilk Boots]
- Don’t keep gear that you can’t see. (unless it’s that special) – There’s no reason to keep that ring I picked up on a fun run through Serpentshrine Cavern. I can’t mog it, so it’s just wasting space. Exceptions were made for Ashen Verdict ring (sentimental value) and items with fun “On Use” abilities like the [Rainbow Generator].
- If the tabard is easily re-obtainable, pitch it. – I’ve maxed out rep with the major cities, and if I get a wild hair to level Kirin Tor rep on someone, I can buy the tabard again. Good bye.
- Utilize Void Storage if at all possible. – My paladin has started to assemble quite the arsenal of weapons from running old dungeons and raids. And at this point in the expansion, I don’t need my transmog set readily available when I’m not getting to new gear pieces.
- Lose the Seasonal junk. – How many Moonstones had I kept from past Lunar Festivals because they were once useful for marking dungeon spots, when I can now just use the in-game markers? How about those [Lucky Rocket Clusters] that you can only use during the festival. Or that stupid Fruitcake from Winter Veil. Or the eggnog or gingerbread cookies.
So now I’ve got much cleaner banks. Which will come in handy for my primary characters as I work towards getting them “out in the world” bank access. The Hunter already has Jeeves, and the Shaman has her Hobgoblin. And soon enough, the Priest and Paladin will have Ponies for their Argent Gruntlings.
Now if Blizzard would just announce the release date…
Blizzard wants you to have fun July 19, 2012Posted by Ben in Beta, Classes, Pandaria, Raiding.
How’s that for a controversial title? No? Well, anywhos…
It was revealed recently that the number of dailies available to be completed each day in Pandaria is going to be about 48. With the removal of the daily quest limit, that’s the potential for a fair bit of gold to be earned on a daily basis (and valor points)
But yesterday, someone took to the pages of WoW Insider to complain about this number. It turns out that they hate daily quests. And they think they’re going to be forced into doing them. In fact, because they award valor points, they’ll be forced into doing all of them. Every day.
And that’s not true.
Currently, you can get yourself to the cap of 1000 Valor Points in the following ways:
- Complete up to 7 Random Dungeons a week (max 1,050 VP)
- Complete each half of the LFR Dragon Soul (max 700 VP)
- Kill bosses in Regular or Heroic raids (max 800 VP from DS)
If you were to do all of these things, you’d far exceed the weekly cap. In fact, you could exceed the cap without ever setting foot in the raids.
So in MoP, assuming that the cap remains the same, you’re just going to have an additional option to get to the maximum number of points.
Because Blizzard wants you to do the things at endgame that you enjoy. And they want to make those things a viable way to progress your character. Doing daily quests isn’t going to be the most efficient way to get more and better gear, that will always be reserved for organized non-LFR raiding, but that doesn’t mean it can’t help. Because Blizzard wants each and every one of the players who are paying $12-15/month to get enjoyment out of the game every time they log on. And for this more welcoming concept, I am grateful.
Because it means that when my stable of characters (9 that are level 83+) reach level 90, I’ll be able to set each of them on somewhat different tracks and perhaps stave off the ennui that can settle in when gearing up the next alt.
What I was doing/am doing now:
- Priest: Dungeons & LFR
- Paladin: Dungeons & LFR
- Shaman: Dungeons & LFR
- Hunter: Dungeons & LFR
I could do the following:
- Priest: Dungeons & LFR for gear; Lorewalkers dailies (my max level Archy)
- Paladin: Guild groups for Scenarios & Tank Dungeon Challenges
- Shaman: Cooking/Fishing daily quests; Dungeons & LFR
- Hunter: Daily quests and Scenarios
And that’s just four of the characters. No longer will my character select screen be a choice between doing the same thing with different classes, but I can potentially have significantly different things to do with each character.
And doesn’t include the Pet Battles that I’m pretty excited about.
Pandaria is going to be fun.
A Word (or Six) on Pet Battles July 16, 2012Posted by Stormy in Uncategorized.
As you’re all well aware, the latest Mists of Pandaria beta patch is here, and it brings with it the debut of one of the bigger new features in Mists, pet battles. Despite the incessant whining I did when the beta first launched, I haven’t been playing the beta at all. Having slogged through the Therazane quest chain five times, I don’t want to feel the same way about Mists a year from now as I do about Cataclysm now (“Oh God, I have to do that *again*?!”), so I’ve largely been avoiding the beta. I did, however, catch this video demonstration of pet battles from the fine folks at Wowhead…
Note that in the beginning of this post I referred to pet battles as one of the “bigger new features of Mists,” while every other post I’ve read on the subject invariably refers to them as the “most anticipated new feature.” Perhaps. Pokemon was a big thing back in the day, and I’ll confess that I am too old and was too much of a loner in middle school and high school to have any exposure to Pokemon at all. I knew it was a kids’ TV show and I can recognize Pikachu, but other than that my level of familiarity with Pokemon is on par with my level of familiarity with Star Wars–it’s about space, and there’s a girl with a cinnamon bun hairdo and a couple robots, right? So I have zero frame of reference for how this whole pet battle thing is supposed to work or why people have worked themselves into such a tither over it. Having seen the Wowhead video, on the other hand…
This may, in fact, be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
To qualify as a “video game” and not just a “video,” a game must require some sort of input from the user in order to make the game do something. The player clicks things with a mouse or types things on the keyboard, and things happen as a result. To be a good video game, there has to be a point to the inputs a player is making: a baddie that must be killed, points that are accumulated or some other sort of prescribed outcome at which the player can either succeed or fail.
Let me tell you a little story–although it’s one I’ve told before. Five years ago I met a guy I really liked, and he kept interrupting chat sessions with me to go play this thing called World of Warcraft. He kept referring to “instances” and other things that apparently required his full attention so that he could not talk with me and play WoW at the same time. That was okay for a while, but after a while I became curious and decided to try out this WoW thing to see what all the fuss was about. I was a level 1 dwarf pally in Dun Morogh and I was given my first quest to kill a certain number of boars. I found an appropriate boar that needed killing (he looked at me funny, I swear) and clicked on it. And that was it. I had no concept of special attacks or that I was supposed to do anything more than click on the boar to kill it. The boar and I went back and forth doing white damage to each other, and because I had more hit points than the boar did, I eventually outlasted him. It was a nail-biter of a battle, but I won. At the time, I thought this was the entire premise of killing things in World of Warcraft: find something smaller than you that has fewer hit points than you do, click on it, and it will eventually die.
This *is* the entire premise of pet battles. Once you’ve selected a pet to kill, you quite literally take your hands off the keys and mouse, and your pet and the other pet go back and forth biting each other until whoever is the strongest wins. There is no intervention from the player at all. Once you’ve picked another pet to battle, it literally becomes you watching what amounts to a video of your pet killing the other pet.
Please, someone tell me how, in a game where players are continually chewing each other out for not knowing the different stat weights for intellect, spirit, hit, etc., in a game where only a handful of guilds can put together the coordination, gear and outright skill to take down heroic raid bosses, in a world where even the Auction House can be played in such a way that it requires a degree in Microeconomics, this fits as something the playerbase is going to find engaging and interesting. I just…don’t get it.
Beyond being a complete failure at the purpose of a video game (giving the player an objective at which to succeed or fail), I’m actually insulted that the folks at Blizzard Entertainment felt this was an appropriate use of development resources for World of Warcraft. I wish I could find the actual tweet from Zarhym from a few months ago, but part of the justification for canceling this year’s BlizzCon was that Blizzard’s two marquee products for the year, Diablo III and Mists, were both scheduled for release in Q2 2012 and would be old news by October. Now a release in Q3 seems less and less likely every day, and our attention has shifted to a possible release in Q4. There has literally been zero new content introduced in WoW for eight months, and it’s likely to be eleven or twelve by the time Mists is actually released. The last big piece of the puzzle to be released, which is by all accounts a buggy mess, is pet battles. There are coders sitting at desks in Irvine right now coding their collective tails off to get this pet battles feature perfected so the expansion can be released. As a result, almost every server is a ghost town right now. Raiding guilds have largely locked up the shop until the expansion comes out. Those of us who are still logging in are flailing around to find ways to fill the time between now and the release of Mists (and although I can’t speak for everyone, I’m currently doing content from BC and Wrath, grinding my second Crusader title and Netherwing rep, because there just simply isn’t anymore Cataclysm content to be had). The content that *has* been released on live servers, the Dragon Soul raid, is widely considered one of the most underwhelming raids in the game’s history. Every minute of programming time spent on pet battles is a minute that could have been spent programming something else.
I know I’m in the minority. There are tons of people looking forward to reliving the ’90s through Pokemon, and there are tons of people excited about this pet battle thing for all sorts of other reasons. I sincerely hope they get the enjoyment they’re hoping for, and I hope they get their money’s worth out of the new expansion. As for me, I’ll stick to things that actually constitute playing a video game.