Archive for July, 2012

A world less epic…

A few posts ago I challenged the oft mooted theory from trade chat that this is the worst expansion. I concluded that finally the trolls did have it right. With a steady increase in the overall quality of the game from it’s original iteration through Burning Crusade to Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard were constantly improving Warcraft.

Wrath of the Lich King annoyed many of the hardcore community and it’s trade chat troll hangers on with it’s broadening of accessibility. I could only dream of getting beyond Gruul’s Lair and progressing into Black Temple, Serpentshrine Cavern in TBC, Mount Hyjal LOL. Sunwell was simply never happening, not on the agenda.

By contrast I got to see all of the Northrend content, now that’s progress. Perhaps not if you want to be elitist and say I got to Sunwell only a tiny minority of ‘proper’ gamers did. So Wrath made a lot of sneering elitists very, very mad. Shame.

In Cataclysm the balance of enjoyable, challenging content versus accessibility and the ability to join raids in the current raid tier (despite not having stepped into the one before) arguably tipped. It tipped down onto the side of easy, almost derisory content in places. The question is can Blizzard rescue the game for it’s committed, raiding fan base while making content that is accessible to new and casual players. I think doing both is possible and desirable.

Opening up raiding wasn’t the only change that Cataclysm wrought. The entire game world and the levelling process was overhauled and streamlined. Blizzard had recognised that, especially for new players, the act of levelling to 85 was unwieldy and in places actually broken. Now we have an Azerothian base for leveling to 58/60 that is quicker and smoother. Blizzard reduced the time and effort to reach max level. It think it should’ve been to a point where it took about as long as it did when the game was new, but now it’s easier than ever before to roar through the levels to max.

Indeed it’s so easy that four or five quests will take you up a level in your mid thirties and if you can’t be bothered two or three instances. It isn’t just trade chat trolling that the game is now much easier compared to the pre-expansion Azeroth. Back in the day Azeroth was rock hard, a dangerous and scary place. You could spy your target in the distance and gingerly try to work your way around to pull one mob or a single group without pulling the whole zone down on top of you.

You’d be in the Barrens fighting one mob (and just about holding you own) when a Hecklefang Hyena with a huge patrol path stumbled across you and you’d be hard pressed to cope with both mobs. Then a Vulture would handily flap by and you would try to run away….as you were running away you might’ve thought you’d escaped only to have the four Alliance Outriders ride up, dismount and unceremoniously gank you. We used to think this was fun.

I can’t but lament the vicious nerfing of every dungeon that we used to consider challenging. The immensity of Maraudon and Uldaman, the horror of Scholomance and Stratholme. In Wrath we had significant end game content, I’m thinking especially of Halls of Reflection that even towards the end of the expansion some tanks wouldn’t even attempt. Getting an alt through it was amazing as the DPS really needed to be top drawer. Getting your main through with other mains was expected, but still required focus from everyone.

In Cataclysm we were told to expect the return of crowd control. Polymorph and Sap were back, joined at last by Fear (now glyphed so mobs didn’t run around and pull everything)…and disappeared as a requirement for progression through 5-mans, very quickly after. In absolutely no time at all we were back to the indignity of trailing along behind speed tanks, chain pulling instances. Trying to keep up to dot mobs and try to squeeze off a long cast before the tank kited them out of range. Only some tanks ever thought this was fun.

There was a short break in the chain pulling regimen. The 4.1 Troll dungeons were almost universally pilloried…by those who were likely to complain. The problem was they required thought, some party coherence and they did not tolerate chain pulls. For this reason they took a long time (read a normal amount of time for a group by group clear). With a real passion for retooling old content Blizzard presented us with lvl 85 heroic Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines. They made them tough too, and they were almost universally hated for it. I like them, they still present a (small) challenge even in T13. You need a half decent group.

However, we can see Blizzard’s thinking clearly. Losing a couple of million subscribers and putting their flagship franchise into decline needed addressing. What were the minority of gamers fapping about on the forum. Well, crowd control, dungeon difficulty, too hard, whah whah whah, I’ll throw my dollies out of the pram. The answer? The nerf hammer and three new dungeons that feature more cut scenes and dialogue than actual combat. That combat was superficial and derisory. For example, in Well of Eternity Illidan buffs the group in the final fight against Manaroth and you could put out in excess of 100K of damage. It often seemed like it was a question of timing and positioning who would get the biggest boost and hit the top of the metre early. This would ensure you stayed out in front if you kept your DPS pretty consistent. The inevitability of completing the fight, and all three instances, was laughable. I described them as loot gimmes. The dungeon quest rewards we’re valuable for raiding in Dragon Soul and the drops were just as good if not better. Everything, including gearing up to raid had become a whole lot easier.

Then Blizzard introduced Looking For Raid (LFR), the Dungeon Finder for raid groups. LFR really is raiding on auto-pilot, or as it’s called (quite fairly) in Trade, raiding for morons: Looking For Retards. I wouldn’t mind so much if normal Dragon Soul had been challenging. I feel that I have to do heroic raiding to have a proper progression raid experience. In Firelands and Dragon Soul we would down a new boss every week, sometimes more than one. We’d gutted out the content in three or four weeks.

Indeed only Ragnaros has eluded me in this expansion and that’s only because I didn’t start raiding until just before Dragon Soul dropped and my team had no appetite ‘to go back’ and finish Firelands when new content was available. Indeed my break with my guild was in no small part due to the lack of appetite to do some proper raiding (Heroic mode) after we’d completed LFR, sorry normal. Most people wanted to do normal modes after finding LFR so laughably easy. I was dismayed that normal modes had little progression challenge. See the fight, know the fight, pick a tactic, down the boss. This would all take place across two or maybe as many as three wipes…people would lose interest and motivation if we wiped more than three times on a boss. Guildies started talking about calling because we weren’t progressing!

I thought of Saurfang, Putricide, Sindragosa…all those fights that had us ripping our hair out and evaluating potential upgrades very closely to try to squeeze out out maximum possible DPS, healing throughput, survivability to finally overcome these challenges. We fought these bosses unsuccessfully for weeks. Now guildies threw in the towel after a couple of wipes!

I’ve seen the game progress a long way from dense and rock hard (classic) to light and derisory (Cataclysm) and now I feel like the elitist bemoaning how easy it is. To be honest I think LFR is great and casual players should stick to that. If they want to step up to real raiding they should get a shock. It should be hard, it should be challenging. That is what we signed up for that is what we want. I don’t care if some people don’t want to do ‘real’ raiding and they access all Blizzards content through LFR. Give the raiders a proper challenge to get our teeth into. Dragon Soul was crap and piss easy when it was released nerfing it made it a very, very bad joke.

Extending accessibility and giving people a chance to taste raiding in LFR is a great idea. However, Blizzard are destroying challenge and trial and everything we began and remained playing for. They have built a world less epic and are in danger a finally making some long term players who have climb up t raiding at the top level quit the game once and for all. Sadly I have arrived at the realisation that this is not a problem for Blizzard. In original WoW Naxxramas was generally considered by many to be the best raid instance blizzard ever created. You would need eight tanks to complete Four Horsemen. Eight.

However, 1% of WoW subscribers set foot in there before Blizzard removed it from the game. For many, many people raiding, end game content, never mind heroic modes is not on the agenda. Most players in WoW have yet to reach max level. Let that sink in… So if the broadening of the games accessibility is leaving me disappointed and lack of hardcore raiding challenges is making me feel I’d like to pack up and leave I can. I can leave and all the other ‘hardcore’ raiders can go too. At 1% we’re about 100,000 of the 10.2 million player base. Blizzard is making the game more accessible and more fun to play for the majority of its players. Losing 100,000 subscribers because of that is a price worth paying. Remember they listened and upped the difficulty and brought back crowd control and gave us two tough Troll 5 man challenges and lost over two million subscribers. If the pendulum swings the other way and they lose 100,000 subscribers it’s a price worth paying.

Mists of Pandaria has a tricky balance to strike to keep me as WoW player…to Blizzard’s credit they do keep trying to accommodate me and the (I now have to accept this epitaph) hardcore raiders. Blizzard have to do what is best for their game and their investment and not cater for edge cases. I just wish I hadn’t evolved into an edge case.

Higher Learning guide.

I did this on an alt recently and people are still going back to Dalaran for this and running alts through it themselves. Here is my guide.

Higher Learning is achieved by reading 8 books: “The Schools of Arcane Magic”. It sounds easy, but the books spawn randomly, anyone for s duration of three minutes, every four to five hours. There are two methods to completing this achievement and I recommend combining them both. Obviously you can camp out spawn locations until you get the book you want. This can obviously take days depending how long you can be online, camped, each day. With eight books to find camping is inefficient. The other method is ‘pathing’, travelling from one spawn location to the next in a circuit sequential through the eight locations in three minutes or less. Clearly when you are down to two or three books this method is better replaced with camping and a little speculative checking.
Server resets are your friend as one book always respawns on restart. I started off my search by doing a quick circuit every time I was in Dalaran (fishing and cooking dailies mainly). I was very lucky and found six books this way. Four in one forty-five minute period one lucky day. So don’t underestimate the value of a quick path round every time you’re passing. Also if I find a book I

/yell HIGHER LEARNING BOOK in [book’s location]

Not only is this just a nice thing to do, it might give other people the idea, especially if they get a book out of it themselves. Also it may get someone’s attention who comes to see what you’re yelling about and gets drawn into doing the the achievement, having now completed 1/8 of it, they might also start yelling out book locations too. This just might help you completing the Achievement.

The path to follow around Dalaran.

You can, of course, choose your own pathing route around Dalaran but here is my suggestion. After some practice I hit on this route as the most efficient, it changed a little with being allowed to fly in Dalaran, but essentially this is the route I’ve used for years.

1. The Violet Gate.

This is a good place to start, as it is inside of the Violet Gate (the room with the crystal that will teleport you down onto the ground in Crystalsong Forest), location 1 on the map. You must be unmounted to see this book. The precise location is on the floor between the bookcase and pillar to the imediate right of the door. this door is opposite the stairs down from Krasus landing.

The Schools of Arcane Magic: Introduction

2. The Violet Hold

Go outside of the Violet Gate and mount up fly over the wall in front of you and immediately back down. You’ll find two crates in the corner of the wall you just flew over, location 2 on the map.

The larger of the two crates has a candle, this is not the crate the books spawns on.

The smaller crate, corner most, with the wine glass will have the achievement book on it.

The Schools of Arcane Magic: Illusion

3. Dalaran Visitor Center

Up and back over that wall bearing left to the other corner of the central block in Dalaran. This time into the Dalaran Visitor centre, location 3 on the map.

The book is once again on the floor next to a small table on the wall to the right of the door. The table has three books stacked on it and sits between two chairs and NPCs. You can see this book from the doorway so don’t dismount and go in.

The Schools of Arcane Magic: Abjuration

Threads of Fate
4. The Threads of Fate

Fly down the street towards the Violet Citadel.

On the next corner of the central block, on the upstairs balcony of the Threads of Fate shop is the fourth Achievement book. On the left hand side as you fly onto the balcony are two more of those crates.

The smaller crate, that has nothing else on it, will hold the book.

The Schools of Magic: Enchantment

Violet Citadel downstairs

5. The Violet Citadel (downstairs)

OK do a 180 and fly across to the Violet Citadel.

Fly in the door and on your right you’ll see two bookcases.

The further bookcase (the left one as you face them) will have the Achievement book. It spawns on the left hand side of lowest shelf.

The Schools of Magic: Conjuration

6. The Violet Citadel (upstairs).

Run up the stairs and at the top turn right passed the portal to the Caverns of time.

The Achievement book spawns on the floor between the two bookcases on this side.

The Schools of Magic: Divination

The Legerdemain lounge (upstairs)7. The Legerdemain lounge (upstairs)

Run back down the Violet Citadel stairs and out of the door to the top of the steps. Mount up and fly left down the street to the fourth and final corner of the Dalaran central block.

Fly onto the balcony of the Legerdemain Lounge and turn right into the room on that side. Opposite the door is a bookcase, the only one in the room, it is normally empty. The Achievement book spawns on the second shelf.

The Schools of Magic: Necromancy

The Legerdemain Lounge (downstairs)

8. The Legerdemain lounge (downstairs)

The final book is downstairs. Stop at the bottom of the stairs.

On the other, left hand, side of the room by the stove and the other door are two bookcases. The right hand of the two is normally empty.

The achievement book spawns on the second shelf of the empty bookcase.

The Schools of Magic: Transmutation

Duck out of the door to your right, turn right and run up the street back to where you started from in the Violet Gate.

If you decide to camp some of the book at the start can I suggest the awkward ones that require you to dismount and enter buildings. Number one awkward book is #6 located upstairs in the Violet Citadel. Taking that book out of the path is a result. Almost as bad is #1 inside the Violet Gate and #6 downstairs in the Violet Citadel. Removing these three location does speed up the pathing though to be honest with books spawning for three minutes pathing around significantly under that time is no advantage. As it stands a full circuit will only take about three minutes.

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