Archive for January, 2015


As I write this I’m waiting for Rutå to realm transfer to Draenor-EU. My guild application has been accepted. I’m done with Vek’nilash, to be honest it was a mistake moving there. It was low population when I transferred from Dragonblight and the connected realms have simply papered over the cracks. Why am I going? Well that’s simple to answer.

Partly bad associations. I was in Kiss My Axe for fifteen months and an important part of that community. Ultimately, as Andy put it, I could never let anything go so eventually the GM, Geoff, had to let me go. Of course, part of the reason for that is that Geoff would quite happily tell you one thing and another person another thing entirely. I signed my own death warrant when I said to him “You’ve made a good decision, mate, all you need to do now is stick to it.” He couldn’t even give me a reason for ejecting me…it just had to be.

So I tried a second Vek’nilash guild and the way that was run simply wasn’t for me. I moved on, no hard feelings. I joined Infamy and still really like the GM and hubby, but they took a break from the game and the guild was taken over by a guy who liked to mass invite, spamming his guild recruitment addon at newly rolled characters in starter zones, and I don’t what to be involved in that kind of cesspool. I took a break in Alliance and succeeded in joining a really nice group of people with one slightly unhinged, genuinely troubled GM. That’s enough Alliance to last me a life time. Back on Horde there were three guilds left…pretty much. Renascence: the guys running that seem nice but Rena is a invite all, cesspool and I don’t need the drama or the dregs. Special Edition is a Mythic raid guild and never been, nor wanted to be raiding at that level. I joined the only other and again all lovely people (this time including the GM), but they are more than happy to be approaching the end of the tier with only half the current raid instance cleared in Normal. By Normal I mean, of course, the new Flexible tier, below Mythic and (the old normal) Heroic. I’m not judging their ambition or saying they’re bad players, I’ve seen them and some of them are better than I’ll ever be. But I want to raid a higher level. Simples.

Ermigawd

Guild Application accepted!

So I pretty much ran out guilds. Which sounds suspicious and I would be of anyone rocking up to any Dragonblight guild I was in and saying that. But Vek’nilash is not Dragonblight. There are a very small number of guilds knocking on the door of Heroic hoping they might clear it and try a couple of bosses on Mythic. Time to move on. I’ve picked a server that is Full and if I don’t find a good home first time around I’ll have a foot in the realm and more potential guilds to try. Guilds come in all shapes, sizes and flavours so I happy to try a variety to find one I like. That sounds like a guild hopper, but of my nine years playing WoW I spent half of it in 5 guilds. So if you choose to focus in the guilds I had a short, look round in you won’t see that in the right guild I’m happy to stay for years.

“Don’t know just where I am going to…but I know I’m going there with you.” Let us begin.

Where is all the content?

Not the map of Draenor (allegedly)…

Blizzard have changed tack…again. After two (god awful) expansions where Blizzard quite literally spoon fed and hand held the casual player base into all aspects of their content (including raiding in LFR) Blizzard have stopped. There is no shortage of content on Draenor, trust me, it’s in there. If you want to find it you’re going to have to leave your Garrison and look for it.

Garrisons are part of problem. People are logging on completing their Garrison Missions, sending Followers out again, harvesting their profession huts and wondering what else to do then logging off. Then they’re unsubscribing. Warlords of Draenor caused a huge buzz in the Warcraft community and subscriber numbers swelled to levels not seen since Wrath of the Lich King. However, I’m pretty sure that Blizzard will have shed a couple million players by the end of the Q1 2015.

Old BarrensFundamentally, the existing player base (myself included) have been accustomed  to expect a trail of  breadcrumbs leading from where we’re questing to wherever we need to go next. In the absence of breadcrumbs and NPCs to direct them players have been lurking away in their Garrisons. There’s plenty of fun and rewarding content in Draenor, it’s relatively easy to find too, but you need to be proactive. The game has made players more reactive and less proactive so this change of direction has challenged most of us.

Fortunately for me I remember how things were in vanilla: the game frequently left you washed up in the middle of nowhere. I’ll take this opportunity to give the lie, again, to the idea that vanilla was the best iteration of WoW. Until the Cataclysm retooling the questing system, 1 – 60, was broken in several places. The Cata redesign improved quest flow and corrected difficulty disparities. In vanilla it was not unusual to complete a group of quests at one hub, say in Arathi Highlands, and have no more quests and no clue where to go to find more. You would’ve already completed the Hillsbrad quests, the Wetlands was fundamentally an Alliance starter zone and The Hinterlands was too high level. Funtermore, half of Stranglethorn Vale had quests of one level the northern half were much higher level quests, the same was true in The Barrens.

Like a stale blast from the past the Iron Horde is back and so is our regular sense of bemusement. What the hell do I do now, where do I go? Well, one thing I can guarantee, ladies and gentlemen, is that the answer to those questions are not going to be found in your Garrison. I can tell you from experience that stumbling across something cool you were not expecting is so much sweeter than mechanically rushing down a quest line of breadcrumbs to somewhere you did expect. So get out into the world and see what you can find.

Draenor Pet Tamers

This is also my suggested order for making you way around each day.

Tarr Team

Unborn Val’Kyr
Inested Bear Cub
Infected Squirrel

Strategy

Cast [Curse of Doom] followed by [Haunt] don’t worry that they hit different targets. Use [Maul] on cooldown and [Diseased Bite], [Bash] or [Hibernate] are not used. When Cub dies swap Val’Kyr back in and re-apply both dots if you can. Squirrel will mop up remains.

Taralune Team

Nether Fairie Whelp
Nexus Whelpling
Carry Pet

Strategy

Cast [Arcane Blast] twice (neither will hit) followed by [Moonfire], with >700 health consider [Life Swap] but ideally (RNG permitting) this should be your first attack on pet two. [Arcane Storm] then [Mana Surge] as usually unless the Fairie dragon has destroyed the first two pets. [Tail Sweep] will take the final pet low enough to swap in your carry pet (beware what level and family you swap in the moths are hard hitters).

Vesharr Team

Nexus Whelpling
Teldrassil Sproutling
Nether Fairie Dragon

Strategy

Straightforward one pet for one opponent fight.

Ashlei Team

Lil’Smoky
Carry Pet
Carry Pet

Strategy

Easiest fight ever. [Minefield], [Launch Rocket] and then nuke down the first pet with [Missile], when Elekk Plushie swaps in reapply [Minefield] first, [Missile]. The last pet will swap in. The [Minefield] explosion and [Launch Rocket] are overkill. Swap to your carry pet whenever you like the Elekk Plushie does no damage or healing.

Cymre Brightblade Team

Anubsath Idol
Mechanical Pandaren Dragonling
Pandaren Fire Spirit / Carry Pet

Strategy

Cast [Deflection] us this on cooldown to counter [Rot]. Below 400 health the Idol of Decay is likely to cast Dark Rebirth, it doesn’t matter if he does, you need approximately 1000 health to face the Lantern. When the Lantern swaps in either case [Deflection] or [Sandstorm], this is essential to reduce the Lantern to manageable levels of health. Use [Thunderbolt] and [Decoy] on cooldown and burn with [Breath]. The Dragonling can usually destroy the Clockwork Gnome pet (last) but any good elemental pet will teach it a lesson if the Dragon goes down.

Gargra Team

Menagerie Custodian
Tranquil Mechanical Yeti
Carry Pet

Strategy

These three wolf beasts hit hard. prioritise [Shock and Awe] and use [Zap] otherwise. Save [Ion Cannon] for just above dead (and rez) round. [Call lightning] and [Metal Fist] will tenderise the final pet and you can finish with a carry.

No guild…

sad kittyI left another one. It does make me a little bit sad, but then the people I really wanted to stay friends with have swapped Battle Tags with me so that is OK. I have been guild hopping frantically for the last year and half, but I thought Infamy would be a long term home but if the GM is going to have a long break what can you do. I jumped again to keep raiding.

So why did I leave this one? Well, not because I clashed with anyone, everyone was nice and I was detached enough not to be concerned or involved in any drama or behind the scene intrigues (if there were any). I left because I wanted to raid. Proper raids.

When I joined I talked to the GM about the achievement “Ahead of the Curve” which involved killing Garrosh Hellscream in Siege of Orgrimmar. Now she’s Dutch and I clearly misunderstood. After many weeks of being driven to crash like a wave on Garrosh (with the Alliance fruit loop) I was keen to join a guild that had a more measured approach. It seemed like this new guild were getting a lock on Garrosh every couple of weeks and having a run at him. Then dropping off to farm the rest of the raid. Good approach I thought and joined up.

The cracks started to show almost immediately as there were no Garrosh locks, no talk of the achievement and no attempts on the final raid boss of the expansion. Well, I thought, we’re nearing the end of the expansion so no big deal. When 6.0.2 dropped and the item squish hit Siege of Orgrimmar literally became a non-max level, legacy raid. The raid was no longer progression content and our characters were over-powered, over-geared and performing very strangely in raids: we were balanced around level 100 talents and new stats (Avoidance, Versatility and Multistrike) none of us had. My guild wanted to do Heroic, now called Mythic content, and we struggled up to Sha without too much trouble. I decided to quit raiding until WoD at this point as steam rollering (and face-rolling) “Mythic content” is not my idea of progression raiding. A Guild Master becoming a touch rabid about “Mythic quality” legacy gear with several “Ruta you must roll” comment is just odd too. In four weeks when Warlords of Draenor drops the gear it would be completely irrelevant. As will our Wowprogress ranking: up to fourth on the realm with all our “Mythic” clears.

I can haz real raids?

I can haz real raids?

Now the new expansion is out I see starkly the level of the guild I joined. five weeks struggling in Highmaul on Flexible difficulty. OK Brackenspore looks challenging but on Flex!? Five weeks in and they’ve got two to three boesses on farm and Bracken still gives them issues. We had ten one night and decided to try Heroic (call it what you like that’s the old normal raiding level) and we wiped abysmally on the first boss a few times until the tanks called it. I’ve always looked for guilds that reflect my own level of skill and commitment: a normal raid level ranged DPS that can operate at top level when geared. Inserting the new terms I’m an Heroic raider with Mythic potential. I joined a guild that needs to farm out LFR for gear to support their casual Flexible raid progress, when they overgear the content they can do normal raiding. Now that’s perfectly fine, there is nothing wrong with that at all. They’re lovely people who try to have fun when they raid. If they have no ambition to raid at higher level that doesn’t make them bad people or me a much, much better player. If DPS is any kind of measure of performance, with the warlock I would suggest several of the DPS are much better players than I.

It’s time for me to find a guild with a better fit – a guild that is in Highmaul and cleared at least the same number of bosses, only at the next level of difficulty: Heroic. I wish everyone in my old guild well and hope they have fun and achieve all their aims.

WoD ReleasedWoD-US-NormalBoxArtThere is so much that is new in this expansion that it will take more than one blog post to cover them all. This post will be my first impressions of opening of the expansion. My first impressions of Mists of Pandaria were very positive. I really liked the Jade Forest quest chain, but almost as soon as I entered the Valley of Four Winds the questing felt repetitive and began to drag. Krasarang and Townlong were zone failures for me and the appeal of questing waned until the Dread Wastes. The over-populated Klaxxi area offered old style questing: pull one mob and quickly get overrun with respawns, patrols and wanderers: it wasn’t for everyone. However, reaching max level in Pandaria revealed the shortcomings in Blizzard‘s initial design. The Daily Quest grind was appalling and their replacement of 5 man content with three man scenarios was flawed. Any idea of levelling alts to have to put through that grind was off-putting for most players and subscribers left in droves. For this reason it’s worth bearing in mind that these are my first thoughts of the opening and levelling quests in Draenor. My opinions of the whole expansion will not being to form until I sample end game content at max level.

Blizzard are really upping the ante in the opening of this expansion. We’re back the Warcraft lore and history we all know and love. Not only are we back in Draenor, before it became Outlands, we’re confronting lore figures the size of which we have not seen since we put Arthas to the sword. No stitched together dragon conveniently wreaking havoc and breaking up a world we need to completely redesign, no jolly fat Pandaran’s and Sha in a land beyond the Mists that were never more than a footnote in Warcraft lore

BlackhandNow we’re fighting alongside Durotan (a bit shorter than we all expected) and Khadgar against the forces of Kargath (the horde camp in the Badlands was named after this lore giant), Blackhand, Naz’hul, Grommash (of the Hold in the centre of Orgrimmar) Hellscream, Gul’dan, Mannoroth…and the world seems huge and more epic. From the first moments bursting through the Dark Portal to stem the flow of the tide of the Iron Horde we’re caught up in an epic struggle to secure a foothold in a violent and chaotic land. Even after reaching the bench mark of max level, 100, Draenor continues to feel vast, sweeping and engaging. I hate to say I told you so but…er, yeah. No flying in Draenor, even at 100, keeps the world large. To demonstrate my point take a ride to Rilzit’s Holdfast in Nagrad on your ground mount, then fly back to your Garrison. Point made.

GuldanWhich segue-ways seamlessly, like a professional writer, into the Garrison. Which is great fun. Then again I love the Tiller’s Farm and had all sixteen slots open on six characters. The cut-scene heavy (they’re thankfully all quite short) first frenetic fight to establish yourself in Draenor‘s Tanaan Forest is over pretty quick and then you’re immediately trust into Frostridge and instructed to build a garrison that you will then command. With this relatively simple device Blizzard have created player housing, an activity hub, a profession centre and created the feeling that you are a high ranking and important member, a commander, of the Horde army. A very refreshing change from the days when you Thrall and Sylvannas raged through the Battle for the Undercity and crushed the coup d’état, returning control of the Forsaken to Sylvannas. How did it feel the next time you had to report to Sylvannas and she says “Who are you then?” “Cheers bitch, I’m the one who helped you recapture Undercity remember?” She still looks unsure. “I’m the one who isn’t Thrall!”

Your Garrison squarely places you at the heart of the Horde operation, able to send out minions to complete missions, craft trade goods and fight beside you against the Iron Horde. I could talk about Garrison’s all day, but suffice to say you get very attached to yours very quickly and it’s a joy to see it swell, grow and deliver more and more. You literally start with a possible defensive position with some natural resources. You need to clear the area of wild mobs and organise your few peons to chop down some trees. You literally start from nothing.

I wanted to start on a positive note because this expansion is so good, possibly Blizzard‘s best, the Garrisons are great and the levelling experience is best I’ve had since at least Wrath. The game is re-invigorated. People are always telling me how good Warcraft is and that Blizzard, although they make the occasional mistake, do know what they’re doing and I should trust them and accept every decision they make as a good one. Well, honestly Blizzard have fucked up so badly in one respect, they have dropped an enormous clanger and frankly demonstrated some fundamental confusion about their own design goals (again). Of course I’m talking about the loot debacle.

qqI’m not going to bemoan the problems of the Warlords of Draenor launch when Blizzard was frankly overwhelmed with new and returning subscribers. Allegedly they’ve swelled subscribers numbers by two and half million, back to The Burning Crusade levels, to in excess of ten million. Despite a lot of (vacuous?) beta testing (by anyone and their dog?) the initial release of Draenor was bug ridden and still demonstrates some quite sizeable glitches now. People couldn’t log on, get into Garrisons, I still can’t reliably open profession panels and craft goods on all my characters, I can’t always loot goods in instance or manufactured in the Garrison, my mailbox is always full of items from the Postmaster…most of these problems have been resolved and frankly there was a lot of QQ and bitch-whining about waiting for minutes to log onto full realm servers, something not seen since vanilla, but this only lasted for two to three days and life is to short to dwell on these transient issues.

Server downThe loot problem is fundamental and highlights the probability that Blizzard is a victim of it’s own success has become quite a large company and has a large development team working on World of Warcraft. This is good because we can expect a constant stream of high quality, compelling content. The downside is that design briefs get watered down, misinterpreted and misunderstood and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

I applauded when I heard Reforging was leaving the game. Reforging was interesting when gear was slightly more black and white. You want to ensure you meet this level of one stat, a soft or hard cap (Hit, Expertise, Dodge, Parry, Block, Defence whatever) and these stats aren’t that easy to find on gear. You need to balance because these stats do not directly increase your DPS, HPS or TPS. So every stat point over the cap is a waste, you want to be as near to the cap as you can, preferably just over it. One of the secondary stats will probably be very good for you, so some DPS gear very clearly has the optimal stats for you and another piece is sub-optimal. Reforging came along to help you cap essential stats, reforge out of excess stats, reforge sub-optimal stats into optimal stats and make your gear as powerful as it could conceivably be. Interesting.

Simply gearHowever, during Mists of Pandaria gear got plentiful and easy to get. Hit et al were derisory, the were so easy to cap and most reforging involved getting rid of the excess, we were swimming in Hit and it stopped being an interesting stat because of that. Reforging became at it’s core getting rid of Hit and creating a useful stat. It became obligatory despite a complete reforging of all gear never delivering more than 4 or 5% damage. Boring get rid of it. Blizzard agreed. When an exciting piece of loot dropped in a raid they wanted you to be excited, get that loot on! You may need to carry an enchant or two on a scroll in your bag a couple of gems but you could do that. Gem and enchant that epic loot you’ve just won and get it on!

I’ve just won a piece of epic loot and I will equip it tomorrow after I’ve been to a website and worked out the best combination of gear (from my bag and bank) and how to reforge it all to reach the cap and maximise my DPS (or whatever). No! NO! NO! Let’s get rid of stats you simply have to cap. Everyone does, job 101 at max level Hit (etc.) cap. Get rid of reforging, no more min-/max-ing and shuffling all those stats around to get the most Crit, Hit while reaching the next nearest Haste ‘breakpoint’ (or whatever). No, you get the loot you get, you enchant and gem it and get it equipped.

Maths is comingSo why randomise all the potential stats and add some new tertiary ones: Versatility, Multistrike and Avoidance?! Yes, people are farming the same content (extending it’s viable lifespan) to get the same drop with different stats, but with all these new stats and no way to equalise stat distribution on different gear with Reforging how can you evaluate what is and what isn’t better gear. Is it an upgrade? Good question and my answer to you is SIMULATIONCRAFT. Or go download a spreadsheet.

Now raiders, you will say, were always doing this. If we weren’t sure between two competing items we had in our bag we simm-ed it out and calculated which one was (even marginally) better. Now it’s very difficult to tell whether one piece of gear is better than another, even for the most casual of players. Most people (even in my guild) are labouring under the misapprehension that higher item level still maps to better gear. Look again. I have a blue, 615 trinket with 146 Intellect on it! 146 Int – that knocks almost all of the the ilvl 630 trinkets into a cocked hat. What if I get a warforged Heroic item though? What is I get it one with new tertiary stats? Say Multistrike which is some good for ‘locks? I don’t know!? This is one small, trivial example, with the randomised stats and chance for warforged items how can you be sure whether or not you’re getting an upgrade or not? Item level is no longer the simple rule of thumb for evaluating gear. If you want to know whether it is an upgrade or not you going to have to get out your pencil and slide rule. Or use someone else’s calculating spreadsheet. Enjoy.

It’s been a great start! Garrisons are great fun, but Blizzard needs to fix the loot going forward and soon. Raid loot is already non-randomised. This cannot stand beyond the next patch, sort it out guys, you had a plan now stick to it.

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