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.

Cheap-ass link to prove I haven’t died

Wot I wrote on MMORPG this week.

I wouldn’t mind exploring the whole sandbox/theme-park thing in a bit more depth than is possible over there (mostly because I don’t think I can bore the readers of that site with the walls of text I’m capable of here), but I’m not feeling it right now.

Feel free to write your own post in the comments though. I’m cheap. I’ll take any content I can get.

More WoW screenies.

In the words of a guildie: "Future me is kind of an ass." I agree.

Best. Quest. EVAR. Nothing like rolling around blowing up/incinerating 1,000 gnomes. I couldn't stop...

Tol Barad – The Old Bag With The Flag

I was wrong, last week, when I said TB was all same shit, different day. The cap speed change has actually changed the battleground somewhat, and the net result has been that control flip-flops almost every battle, or at most every 2 or 3 (on my server).

That’s actually a good thing. It means people get a chance to win now and then, which everyone likes, and everyone gets a shot at at least some of the extra dailies. When one side or the other had control for days and days, that wasn’t the case and it got pretty tedious.

It’s been interesting to see people adapt to the mechanic, myself included. It’s been irritating and interesting to see that despite a pretty clear message in, you know, patch notes, that TB is all about capping flags, people continue to fight off over there in the distance, firmly believing (and saying so in chat) that killing that hunter for the 18th time way off on the road is way more productive for victory than standing at the damn flag.

And it isn’t. I’d have proof if I’d remembered to take a screenshot or a video or something, but yesterday we capped the Ironclad Garrison flag right out from under the Horde, and almost nobody died. Well okay, people died in droves, but the aim going in wasn’t to kill them, it was just to apply what the Horde has been doing perfectly at least as long as I’ve been doing TB: get more people AT the flag than they have. And since we already controlled two of the points (Alliance was attacking), under the new mechanic it took maybe 10 seconds to make them lose control, take control ourselves and win. Yay!

So this is now my Dude with the Thing mantra. I’m the Old Bag With The Flag.

“This is my flag. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My flag is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my flag is useless. Without my flag, I am useless. I must stand true by my flag. I must stand there better than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must stand there before he stands there.”

Extra points for knowing what movie I’m bastardising without having to Google it. Google killed quote competitions!

Oh, and Hi! to all the people who waved at me on Icecrown. (Okay, all two of you.) I’m still amazed people read this blog – when I write. Yeah yeah. Quit nagging.

Tol Barad 4.0.6 – SSDD

Patch 4.0.6 hit today, and here’s what it had to say about Tol Barad:

# Tol Barad

*         Attacking forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control 2 keeps.
*         Defending forces will receive a 200% capture speed bonus when they control all 3 keeps.
*         Daily quest creatures, herbs, minerals, etc. will only spawn when Tol Barad is in the quest phase between battles. [snip blah blah blah]
*         The weekly PvP quest “Victory in Tol Barad” now awards 200 Honor Points and 3 Tol Barad Commendations.
*         Players can now see the status of Tol Barad on the World Map no matter where they are. The time to the next battle is displayed by zooming into the Tol Barad section of the map. The current controlling faction can be seen on the Eastern Kingdoms map.

Gee, thanks. As far as I can tell, this makes zero difference. I’ve been in a battle to see for myself now, and all it means is that the capture points flip-flop so fast it’ll occasionally make you dizzy. Other than that… same shit, different day. Same place, same tactics, different cap mechanics. I don’t know whether to be disappointed or just laugh, because this is a typical MMO PvP “fix”. (Yes, PvP is hard to balance. No, I probably couldn’t do any better. However — unless you’re a dev with direct experience of doing this kind of thing, get the hell out of my armchair.)

(Actually, it means the Horde will have an easier time than ever taking it back on my server, on the rare occasions they let us have it, but I’ll get back to that.)

So basically, players who don’t hold TB continue to get bugger-all for trying to take it back, and the players who already hold TB continue to get commendations, extra honour, even more weekly commendations, a pat on the head and a chocolate biscuit for holding on to it. ALL the benefits accrue to the defending side, and somehow that’s just wrong. Note that I say this after several days of my side holding Tol Barad — if it’s not fair it’s not fair, whether I’m winning or not, and it’s just plain skewed.

From my perspective the motivation is entirely on the wrong side. Players who already have the place have every incentive to hold on to it, while players who don’t have only one incentive: take it so your side can get all the goodies. If you fail, however, you get nothing — too bad so sad, come back in 2 hours and try again, okay? It might be different!

The basic mechanic remains the same. The attacking force needs to split into 3 in order to have any chance whatsoever of winning, while the defending force could technically hold the zone as one single-unit zerg (though that would be really vulnerable to mistakes) — at worst they can split up into 2 major groups, which is usually what happens, and just play the round-robin “We grab the capture point you just took and can’t spare the people to defend” game.

Mistakes and poor fighting by the defending side remains about 80% of the reason Tol Barad changes hands, at least from what I’ve seen. When we’ve lost it, it was because we deserved to after playing like idiots, and not because the attackers deserved it after playing amazingly well. The attackers, for the most part, do play really well, but there’s only so much you can do to overcome the basic inequity, other than pray for a really crap team on the defending side. When we’ve won it, it was partly because we played amazingly well and mostly because the defenders somehow really fucked up. That’s just wrong.

And finally a few helpful tips for people in Icecrown TB teams, though I doubt anyone here really needs to hear them.

1. Moaning and whining in general chat about how awful we are and how we’re zomgqq going to lose — that just doesn’t help. STFU and make yourself useful by dying or something, but don’t mess with morale and don’t clog up chat.

2. Moaning and whining in general chat about how there aren’t any healers just means you don’t like dying. It’s PvP — get used to it. Hell, I hate hate hate dying and I’m used to it, to the point where it’s just a speedbump before I can get back in the fight. If I can suck it up, so can you. And if you’re dying a lot, maybe it’s not the healers’ fault, hrm? Maybe you’re squishy and NOT a priority. As a hunter I’m amazed and grateful when I do see green numbers pop up over my head, but I sure as hell don’t expect them. Healers have enough problems in PvP, like being the #1 target all the time.  STFU and don’t clog up chat.

3. This one is really important. FIGHT. ON. THE. FREAKING. FLAG! Is this rocket science? Is it nuclear physics? There is a flag, which is a big farking pole in the middle of the farking capture point, and you need to be near it. It’s like the dude with the thing. Not difficult. Do it. Here are the 3 main ways in which Alliance (the only team I’ve seen in action) fails to understand capture points:

a) The more people on a flag, the quicker it will flip. 95% of the time we attack a place and everyone fights about half a mile away, nonchalantly, like this is actually going to help. The Horde, who are ugly but a damn sight smarter, assault the flag and not the people around it. This means that once we clear the buggers from around a flag, fucking off to Timbuktu is not helping!! Stay and cap the damn thing! How hard can it be to understand that 10 people will cap a flag a million times faster than 2? How hard can it be to understand that capture speed is tactically vital?

b) Fighting miles away from the flag serves no purpose. I really don’t see how this can be stated more clearly. This is especially true if you’re attacking, since the defenders just rez right in the middle and can go wherever they’re needed. In fact, forcing them to rez and move on can be counterproductive rather than keeping them tied up at a specific place. Short-term gain offset by long-term loss.

c) Someone who mucks around at the edge of the capture point is trying to lure you away from the flag. Just because they’re waving their arms at you in a vaguely taunting way doesn’t mean you have to give in. Gosh, you know — if you let them come closer, to where 15 of your team-mates happen to be standing by the flag, the taunting bastard will die in about 3 seconds. On the other hand, if 75% of the flag defenders see a guy on the horizon and start chasing him, we’re going to lose.

This happens all the time, whether I’m attacking or defending. I’m seething with ire and a strange kind of puzzlement that such a simple concept — fight at the flag! — can seem so impossible to grasp, even when 5 people are repeating it calmly and rationally in chat every few minutes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been standing in flag defense, only to see 1 guy pop up in the distance and be immediately followed by most everyone who, seconds before, was at the flag with me. 3 seconds later I’m no longer alone at the flag — I’ve been joined by the half dozen Horde who were just waiting for my foolish team-mates to be lured away. It almost never fails, and now I watch it with a certain fatalistic resignation.

Here’s the main thing to know as far as TB on Icecrown goes: once the Horde outnumber you at a flag, you’re going to lose that flag. And everything that leads up to them outnumbering us at flags is a major reason why we usually lose. The major reason we hold on to the place when we do is because it’s really, really hard to lose Tol Barad — if victory were a little easier, I’m not sure we’d ever have it more than once in a row after a Horde defense fuck-up.

Yes, I’m moaning and whining, but at least I’m not doing it in general chat during a battle.

Tol Barad: All I need to do

In which I discover the power of absence

All I need to do for our side to win Tol Barad is –

Not take part.

I missed a battle yesterday because I was too busy writing my conclusions post, and hey presto! When I get back we’re in control again. Yay! Huzzah! Drink vodka and let slip the feral druids of war! (No, I don’t know why I’m polluting Shakespeare with grain alcohol and hybrid classes.)

The next battle went fine, even though I was there — hey it’s defense, it can be done by an army of sleepy chimps — but the battle after that was an almost-debacle where the only reason we didn’t lose the island was because ONE of the chimps was vaguely awake.

It was odd. I fought like a demon in that one and so it seems did everyone around me, and yet still we slid almost inexorably towards defeat. It’s actually not about the chimps – the only reason we didn’t lose the island is because it’s too easy to defend. Slowly, sloooooooooowly I’m seeing people come to and stay at the flag, after many many many repetitions in chat. Don’t fight way the fuck over there where my arrows can’t reach your opponent – if you can’t see the possession bar, you’re in the wrong damn place. (As an aside, I can’t see the possession bar at all. I suspect one of my myriad add-ons is to blame.)

Kind commenters have pointed out that an upcoming patch may change the details of how Tol Barad works. Then again, WoW patches less often than Halley’s comet comes around, so I’m not holding my breath.

PvP ProTip of the Week

ProTip, though I doubt anyone who visits here is that kind of asshat: Yelling at people in chat and calling everyone else an idiot because they’re not doing what you’re telling them — not matter how smart your instructions might be? That won’t ensure compliance. For my own part it ensures a hearty “Screw you too, buddy!” if only in my head. Being called an idiot makes me contrary – I know, I’m a little unreasonable. I can’t imagine most of the other people in the raid are going “Oh my god, he’s right, I am such a moron, let me quickly run and do exactly what he says.”

This irks me. Do. Not. Call. Complete. Strangers. Names, you jackwagon dickwad! It’s not polite. Plus it’s counter-productive.

Brilliant, or so dumb it only seems brilliant?

Speaking of instructions, someone was very earnestly telling us never, ever, ever to return to where we died in TB — so if you’re defending the Slagworks and you die there, go anywhere but there when you rez. I’m still trying to puzzle that one out — it’s either brilliant strategy, or it’s really stupid pseudo-brilliant strategy founded on the pseudo-strategic “let’s go round in circles!” principle, which isn’t really a strategy at all but rather simply a direction.

I can see why you might want to simply move on because mostly when the bad guys come in, they do it as a zerg and you’ll be dying anyway, so you might as well reinforce somewhere else and not waste 2 minutes on a hopeless defense. On the other hand, if the other side knows all they have to do is kill you once and you’ll go away, it pretty much ensures zerg tactics and it leaves you open to smarter moves.

This is an Eddie Izzard continuum-of-cool conundrum.

Last and least, some random screenshots

Groove is in the heart (Alouette + ogre + dwarf conga)

My very own minion straight off the cloning line! (Unintentional, too.)


I knew that priest was dodgy the second I saw his I <3 Nyarlathotep badge!


Pretty Deepholm. Slightly Avatar-y?


Uldum. Very Stargate-y!