WoW – (Not) Hatin’ On The Patch

It’s a longstanding MMO tradition to wail, gnash one’s teeth and tear one’s hair at major game patches (I remember doing it in Asheron’s Call), but for the most part — brace yourselves, this might be a challenging concept — game designers actually know what they’re doing and game changes are almost always very sensible. More to the point, they’re based on a lot more data than single players (or even all players) can see.

So patch 6.0.2 came out this week, in preparation for Warlords of Draenor which launches in a little under a month. It includes — aside from probably the longest patch notes I have ever read — a great many changes, most of which I approve of heartily. One of them is the stat-squish, which was long overdue. Others include all sorts of class changes, which is probably what will occasion the worst of the above-mentioned wailing and gnashing. Me, I like them. I’ve played my hunter, my drood and my warlock so far and while they all feel a little different, it’s not BAD-different and it’s not all that different either. For the first time in two years it feels like my hunter might want to switch to marksmanship spec now and then. (For those who don’t know, I don’t dungeon much, if ever. I solo and I duo, I bimble around, I play alts. I’m not requesting comments on the playstyle, just letting newcomers know what it is.)

The new Reagents tab in the bank is the shiz, as expected, and crafting straight from the bank is even shizzier. Losing 95% of the market for large-ass crafting bags (which two of my characters can make) is less awesome, but not something I’m going to weep too hard over.

MementoThe new character models… On the whole, I like what I’ve seen. My hooms do look a little confused (as has been mentioned by others), the Nelf baby-fat faces are kinda fugly, and I haven’t really looked at any others yet (though the undead females other have posted look frankly adorable). My major gripe with the new models I’ve tried out is that there are only about 3 non-ridiculous models for each race, so we’re all going to end up looking the same anyway.

I’m starting to look forward to the expansion, which I quietly preordered a while ago. The only downside is that it drops 2 days after the EQ2 expansion goes live for us special folks (by which I mean the paying players), but having too many games to play is always a good thing.

I unintentionally ended up levelling the warlock in the last couple of days, and she raced from 77 to 86 in less time than it takes to say “greased lightning” — almost too fast. Hell, I’m two-thirds of the way to 87 already even though Pandaria is supposed to be a bit slower. (And it is, but it’s marginal.) Rest-XP is the greatest shiz of all, of course. Which means that when WoD hits, I’ll have several characters to choose from when it comes to levelling through the content the first time. Eh, who am I kidding? It’ll probably be the Hunter… or the Druid. Feral still rocks my socks.

WoW – drood powa

I used to get annoyed at druids in PvP in WoW, because the little buggers are unkillable, sort of like paladins only more moonkinny. Then again, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with droods. I made one early on and never really played her. Made another and never really played her either – and so on. Each time I’ve come back to WoW I’ve made another druid (to start fresh or some such smart reason) and never played her.

Last year, however, I finally made one as a hermit char and played her up to 60, which took about 17.4 seconds with the new levelling and a couple of heirloom xp items. (For those who don’t know: a hermit character is one nobody else knows about so you can play them when you’re not feeling sociable. Of course, the whole e-mailfriends WoW thing, whatever it’s called, puts the kibosh on that because they can see you’re online no matter who you’re playing, but that’s okay; I’ve only got 2 of those and we don’t bug each other a whole lot.) And then she sat there for a few months, gathering rest xp and dust, until I brushed her off again during the Xmas break.

into the wild blue yonder

Now, while I don’t particularly want to gush… OMGWTFBBQOPSMASHRIPRIP! Druids are fun, especially feral druids when it comes to my own playstyle. Sneak around when you need to, claw-shred-rip the crap out of stuff when you want, heal when required, claw-shred-rip some more, rinse repeat. I’ll grant you it doesn’t require a whole lot of keys and it’s not all that varied, but none of that matters in the face of shredding the opposition before they even know what’s hit them.

So my little druid is now 70 and claw-shred-ripping her way through the aptly-named Northrend. I don’t want to like her more than my hunter, who is my day 1 character (hell, Eloise is a remake of my beta character so she’s like a million years old in MMO years), but… well… who needs a pet when you can be your own pet? And flight form rocks, especially the faster purple flight form.

I’ve also been indulging in pet battles. I’m still shocked at how addictive those are if you let them be, especially when you get complacent about how good your main team is (mechanical gnome, nexus wyrm, flayer hatchling) and then one of the battle masters hands you your ass; not once, but three times. After the third time I realised it was time to a) level my guys a little and b) find some team members who weren’t going to be insta-roasted by the Shadowmoon guy’s horrible little flame elemental.

There’s something for me about WoW that other people report finding in GW2, which is uncomplicated fun. I’ve logged in to TSW a few times and though I still love the game, it just demands too much thought from me at the moment. So I’m dabbling in TSW for brief, cogitation-laden sessions and then going back to WoW to relax. I’m just glad I have several games I can hop around in and only one I need to be paying for.

Dailies and dragons and pandas, oh my

Prescriptum: I was going to write this at the end of the post, but as usual I’m rambling far too much and I’m adding pictures and this post is going to be a mile long before I’m done. So: I’d like to thank the folks who have been mailing me in support of this blog. I’m eternally surprised that people read this not just out of bloggerly solidarity but out of – apparently – interest and for entertainment. Personally, I think my post quality has gone down the drain in the last couple of years, but I’m hoping the doldrums will pass and at some point I won’t mind revisiting some of the more interesting discussions & themes out there. In the meantime, thanks for reading and most of all thanks for writing to let me know you’re reading – it’s not essential, but it’s very nice to receive.

TL;DR - No time to play, waah. Pandaclysm kinda cool. Where’s my hatchling? Dailies dailies everywhere and not a drop to drink. Move along now.

My gaming time has been somewhat limited these last few months – okay, for most of this year actually – with the occasional glutton-day interspersed with weeks of not logging into anything much. Which is a shame, because there are several games out there I could, would, should and want to enjoy. Two of them are even “free”, more or less – TSW and GW2 – but when there’s no time, there’s just no time. Continue reading

WoW Firelands: I was doin’ it rong

Here, specifically, and not so much wrong as not entirely right. They’re my hairs and I shall split them as I please.

As it turns out you don’t get ALL the Shadow Warden dailies and ALL the Druid of the Talon dailies once you’ve unlocked both. You do your dailies outside, as usual, pop into the Firelands and do those initial dailies, as usual, then you get to choose which side’s dailies you’d like to do.

No-brainer there for me then. Jumping off cliffs and getting my ass roasted by birds, or slamming through spiders my hunter can also skin for all their leathery goodness? (No. Don’t ask me how a spider – a fiery spider – can be skinnable. I don’t wanna know and I can’t wait for the pair of fiery red and yellow boots those are going to make me. Shut up there with your realism, you.)

So anyway, quick recap for the 2 people who may not yet have jumped on the Firelands daily bandwagon.

1. Do a bunch of quests in Hyjal

2. Open up the dailies at the Sanctuary of Mallorne. Get enough tokens to:

3. Open up the initial dailies in the Firelands. Get enough tokens by rinse-repeating 2-3 to:

4. Open up the second set of dailies in the Firelands. Once both second sets are open, pick one every day. (Note that it’s worth doing the dailies on each side at least once since there are achievements tied up with interacting/saving/tickling various NPCs.)

5. Repeat 2-4 until you open up the final set of dailies, which is more like one daily in fact.

6. Repeat 2-5 until your head falls off — I haven’t finished each of the last 3 quests, so I don’t know what happens after. I am anticipating an earth-shattering kaboom

*cough* Anyone got a TSW beta spot? *cough*

WoW 4.2 Firelands dailies pro-tip

This is only going to interest those who are actually playing WoW and working through the Firelands dailies content, but I figured I’d post it anyway because it’s been irking me for a few days now.

The dailies come in several phases, and one of those gives you the choice of unlocking either the “Druids of the Talon” quests or the “Shadow Wardens” quests. You’ll end up unlocking both in any case, but since I have 2 level 85 chars I decided to pick different ones to open first on each character, just to compare what they were like.

It may be just me, but the Druids of the Talon content is a pain in the ass. The initial daily requires you to talk some druid type through some really nasty fire, said fire being stupidly deadly and full of mobs that want to tear your poor escort druid to shreds. Deaths the first time: 3. So maybe I suck at that – the point is, the initial daily for the Shadow Wardens just requires you to fight your way up a slope, and if anyone else is also fighting their way up you can jump in at any point. And remember, you’ll be doing this one too every day.

After that, the Druid dailies include ones that have you jumping across a chasm on little platforms — or, in my case, just jumping off the edge because I know I’ll get caught by an NPC and whisked to where I need to be. Why put in elements that nobody in their right mind wants to do once, let alone for 20-odd days? Once you’re over the chasm you have to use various hot air flows to get up and down ledges — again, interesting the first few times, yawnsome and irksome after that. In comparison, the Shadow Warden quests just require you to squish spider eggs or save spider victims, kill said spiders, and mess with a few tough (but handleable, certainly for my pally) evil droods.

Aside from all this the Druid dailies aren’t as slickly designed — I had to spend an inordinate amount of time looking stuff up after my third head-scratching “WTF? Did we do something wrong?” moment (I was duoing with a friend at the time). I didn’t have to look anything up for the Shadow Warden dailies, which is as it should be. Give me quest text that is sufficiently descriptive and a map I can consult and I’m good to go.

These are dailies we’re talking about, not dungeons, and they shouldn’t take all day or make me grind my teeth at the unnecessary level of “Look what we did! Aren’t we clever?” inserted into the quests at every conceivable opportunity.

So here’s the pro-tip: if you haven’t yet unlocked those 150-mark Druid or Shadow Warden lines, do the Shadow Warden one first. You’ll end up doing the dailies for both, but if you pick the Druids first you’ll have do those dailies twice as long as you’d have to if you picked the Shadow Wardens. I realise people’s mileage for this kind of stuff varies, and some folks might love the platform-like feel of the Druid dailies. Me, I just find them tedious and I really wish I hadn’t picked them first on my hunter. Bleh.

Oh, and here’s another tip for those doing the Break-the-Blue-Marks Enduring the Heat Shadow Warden daily. I died a couple of times the first time I did the quest because, duh, I didn’t realise that fire is bad and will burninate even my paladin if I stay in the lava pools long enough. I also had to learn that the critters in there aren’t supposed to be fought – there are too many of them and they respawn too quickly. The idea is purely to run around breaking marks (which also kills any fiery critters in range), and in the last couple of days I’ve developed a pretty good route for them. It’s by no means the only way to do the cave, but it keeps you moving steadily and doesn’t involve any backtracking except for one unavoidable dead-end, which minimises your exposure to the fiery critters chewing on your ass.

Here it is:

1. Head inside, hit the first blue mark;

2. Hang a left and run past the next blue mark (you’ll hit it in a bit and destroy all the fiery buggers on your ass), hanging a left again up the ramp to the blue mark that’s hidden in a corner. Destroy it.

3. Backtrack to the mark you just ignored; destroy it.

4. Run up the ramp to the platform in the center of the cave and destroy the mark up there.

5. Bear left (at least on the pic below) down the ramp and hit the mark at the bottom.

6. Look to your right as you’re facing the cave wall, and you’ll see a mark in the distance on the other side of a lava pool. You can reach it by running to the edge of the pool and finding the hot-air updraft. Stand near the draft (if you’re in range you’ll see air-effects around your feet), make sure you’re facing where you want to end up, and jump. Whoosh, you’ll get carried over. Hit the mark on the far side.

7. Keep running forward and hit the updraft on the far side, aiming at the seventh mark which should be visible. Destroy it.

8. Follow the path with the cave all on your left and hit the final mark. Run like hell to get out.

Quest design – ur doin’ it rong

Here’s an example of how not to modify a quest that’s already in the game.

In WoW, there’s a daily cooking skill quest, one instance of which requires you to find 4 sacks of sugar for the poor orphans of the city. Up until about 6 weeks ago, these sugar sacks spawned in about 5 or 6 buildings around town, in a single location — it was a bit of a wait to get them all, sometimes, but mostly people would queue good-naturedly and just wait their turn. (You could also buy a sack or two at a time from certain vendors, though respawn is fairly slow. This hasn’t changed.)

A few weeks back, this was changed. The sugar sacks still spawn in the same building locations, but now they spawn in up to five different spots in each building, and they don’t spawn any faster than they used to. Which means that now everyone is running around like a loon  trying to be the lucky bastard who catches one of the 1-5 spawn locations in a given building. Any sense of good nature is gone as people snarl at and elbow each other out of the way — it’s like Sale Day at Bergdorfs, only with more F-bombs. Camping and queueing is more a case of spitting and clawing.

So the designers basically did one of two things: either they did a very well-meaning but insanely stupid thing, or they’re downright sadistic and someone thought it would be fun (for them, anyway) to make this irritating daily quest even more frustrating and time-consuming. If the former, then I’d have thought they were paid to be smarter than that, unless this got shoved off onto some noob designer; if the latter then thanks, and if I ever meet you, I will not be buying you a beer. Count on it.

It’s all in the rat

Yes, I’m still playing WoW — coming up to 3 months now — and yes, I’m still enjoying it, though cracks may be appearing in the facade. I have a feeling that in order to keep moving in the game, because WoW is just what it is, I’m going to end up having to do dungeons… and I’m not sure I want to, for reasons I’ve covered many times before but may yet cover again in a more up-to-date whine.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today, we’re going to talk about killing 10 rats and how not all rats are the same.

For the last few weeks I’ve been doing dailies in the Twilight Highlands, and not really because I need to. Sure, I still need to hit exalted with them, but other than that I’m pretty much done with anything I could buy from them. There’s not much there for hunters. But the dailies are a hoot, and I tend to do them with friends in the evenings because they’re just so appropriate for winding down.

The thing to know is that these quests are given by dwarves, and by dwarves who value the finer things in life — to whit, food and beer. So the first thing we do is the Beer Run, which involves protecting a bunch of dorfs with kegs as they go from A to B. It’s hardly difficult, but it is fun, especially when there are 6 different convoys going and everyone’s all bunched up on the road. That’s a lot of beer! PROTECT THE BEER!

The next thing we do is to find more beer — because, well, one can never have enough beer. Only this time, every time you pick some up you also have to drink some, so you end up completely smashed — and you also pick up food along the way because finding beer is hungry and thirsty work.

Okay, so you also kill shit and smash a boss’s face in and all that, but the BEER is what matters. As it should be.

Before you accuse me of being a lush — which may well fit but isn’t the point under discussion — I’m just saying that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with killing 10 rats, or guzzling 10 beers. What’s bad is when 90% of what you do is literally going out and killing 10 foozles. Inject a little humour, make people’s screens go a bit squiffy for 10 minutes, and suddenly the 10 rats become a social occasion and not a chore.

As with so many other things in MMOs (and life, come to think of it), it’s all relative.