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Thursday, April 24, 2014

ALPHA :: Green Door

Wasn't just me then ^^

The problem with a brilliant idea? Someone has to actually execute it.

I did a massive reorganisation of Twitter yesterday, and moved a bunch of Blizzard Dev accounts out of my personal Twitter and into the feed for my news podcast. As I did, I came across this post linked by @Celestalon. Its premise is wonderfully simple: you make a game about Doors, and instantly you want to do everything with them. You need them to be shiny and awesome and capable of 101 brilliant things... but that's just your idea. Putting that into practical production? Slightly different, and often by making your door Green in certain circumstances will restrict it from doing 101 other things you might have wanted. Then it becomes about compromise, and nowhere was that more apparent than with Mr Stockton and his 'levelling flow' that ended up being a bit of a flashpoint in this parish yesterday. However, The Mumpster never promised us a moose like the other guy never guaranteed we'd have Garrisons movable. At no point did anyone actually confirm *anything*, because after ten years they never *really* do.

With every brilliant idea there are always potential downsides.

However, we should all be very aware of an often-overlooked truth: we're not the designers.


If you can separate the person from the concept, there's a lot of mileage in understanding *why* we may have been tied to a zone with the Garrison. I have to say although the whole 'levelling/possible narrative flow' thing is a good enough reason on its own, I suspect there are a large number of practical coding considerations at this early stage in having everything tethered to a single point in Warcraft time and space. If this isn't actually finished yet (and 10g says they're building it as you read this) then they'll want to actually have the entire thing working in once place, consistently, before they even consider moving it elsewhere. That would mean that we *might* see this happen later in the game, and indeed that possibility has already been discussed via the medium of Twitter:

Rule #2: Never discount a possibility.

With every brilliant idea there'll always be someone who thinks you're having a laugh.

We've already considered those people who won't want to use this feature, and there will likely be an increasing number of those as time goes on. It will have something to do with this being perceived as 'mandatory' content even though there is absolutely nothing here, thus far, that says you'll require it for endgame. The inherent problem, of course, is that levelling is mandatory at this stage, but we have already seen a new willingness by Blizzard to circumnavigate even that obstacle with the L90 'boost.' It's probably worthwhile saying this now, long before the indignant cries begin, but you WILL see L100 paid character transactions well before this next Expansion has run its course. Even at this stage there will be someone considering those options, and running the spreadsheets, because ultimately this is business, and if someone like me can work that out, there's already a person in Blizzard doing the numbers.

So, if you're smart and patient, just give it a year. Come back, buy your 100 and away you go. Welcome to the Disposable Generation.

Rule #3: You won't please everyone. Pick the largest sample.

The fact now that we're seeing tweets where it's being made clear this is optional should be enough to reassure those who want no part in this that they can walk away. However, and we have iterated this before, that's not what Blizzard will want or indeed hope for. They will now try their level best to make this feature as attractive as they possibly can. The whole 'moving' thing will be an issue, of course it will, for Anne's observation above alone, quite apart from the aesthetics. The fact that new players can pay for an expansion plus a character boost and have two toons with every profession is probably quite attractive if those professions have any actual value, and this is where we drift into one of those mist-shrouded parts of the Draenor map where we have absolutely no idea what's going on, and won't until Blizzard reveal their hand. If Professions have been totally devolved from combat usefulness (with the possible exceptions of Alchemy, Cookery, Fishing and Enchanting, discuss please Goldmakers) then does it matter what you do with a Garrison anyway? It will if those four have a value for Raiders, and I've seen Enchants and Potions already in Alpha files. The key then becomes if this is an individual responsibility, or if raiding guilds could assign 'mules' to cover the Garrison tasks for their teams.

Needless to say, until they're ready and Blizzard hand over the facts, we just won't know.

There's also one final possibility to consider in all of this: if, as a solo player, you want to prepare yourself for End Game currently it's a pretty thankless task, and can be extremely expensive to boot. If the Garrison offered individuals the right combination of factors to be able to quickly and easily prepare themselves for raiding and be self-sufficient at the same time, this would become a very attractive proposition indeed. Mandatory would vanish, and essential would appear in it's place, and you'd have people happily levelling their Garrisons knowing they could provide their own food, flasks and enchants without the need to ever set foot in an Auction House again. Certainly the possibility for this is here, especially as all professions are now devoid of an advantage to take for individual bonuses. This morning, with my cuppa in hand, I see myself wanting Alchemy, Herbalism, Enchanting and access to the Fishing Shack as a matter of priority to make sure I'm ready to Raid and be self-sufficient the moment I hit 100. Tomorrow, that might change, it all depends on the information we have to hand. 'Playing' your Garrison may end up as more fun than speculating on the Auction House.

With every brilliant idea there are often a number of unexpected consequences...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rebellion (Lies)

When your frame of reference is small...

Writing about something that doesn't exist is sometimes a fairly soul-destroying task.

When you don't know that your World is round because no-one's proved it, life is a considerably simpler concept. It's the basic conceit in 'The Truman Show': the primary protagonist has no idea he's in a TV show until he discovers he can't leave the 'world' he's trapped in, when his view of existence is challenged by a desire he cannot reconcile. It is often the same when you write about something you don't have, but know MIGHT exist: I'm well aware that parts of Warcraft that I've come to love and enjoy are about to change forever, but I have no idea what that actually means. All I have to work from currently are scraps of information from a client that doesn't function for me because I'm not in a position to make that work. I rely on other people for everything, most of whom aren't even aware that I'm here doing just that. That has, in recent weeks, been something of a frustration, and that boiled over last night when I 'listened' to the man who's altering my gaming experience pronounce a key part of the process they'd promised has been scrapped because it didn't fit the current plan.

The problem is, I still have absolutely no idea what that current plan actually is.

In charge.

Someone was kind enough yesterday to compliment me on what I'm doing, to tell me that I'd fired their enthusiasm for a feature which I've been clinging onto like a life-raft since it was announced in November. I found myself thinking why that was last night, and the answer was easy to supply: this is what I've wanted from this game since the word go. Having six professions on a Main would have been absolutely fantastic at Launch, and I don't just mean because of the bonuses that would have given me. The process of having a character who doesn't just beat bad guys and save the planet, that has depth and can allow me to do many things and not simply exist at max level has long been something I've really wanted. I'm aware that my ideas and views won't mesh anywhere near as closely as the people making the game, but I've accepted that, and I suppose I've even used this Blog as a way of wish-fulfilling my way along with changes that will never happen, but I could imagine would be possible as a result.

The problem then comes with my expectations versus the truth, and the longer I have to go on without actually understanding what that is, the more frustrating it will become.

I'm well aware 'what I'd like' is of little significance in the Great Big Map of Azeroth. I'm not a PvP Person or an End-Game Raider after all. I don't command a five figure Twitter following and can motivate thousands to push for a particular cause. This is a very small niche I inhabit, and I could probably name everyone else who exists in it with me, and to them I owe a debt of thanks I will never be able to repay for support in the last few months. Without your site visits and encouragement on social media I suspect I would have withered up and died by now, because the hard fact remains that my interest in the World of Warcraft isn't going to make anyone a fortune via clickthroughs or be enough to radically change the way the End Game is played. These are not the interests that earn thousands of dollars on Twitch or motivate 'Faction Pride.' I am very much minority and although on most days that's something I'm proud of, there are other days where it makes me want to cry, because it always seems that those interests are the last thing that ever get addressed.

It's a Pile of Balls.

I'm also acutely aware that whenever I start a post like this someone will read it and immediately pronounce it as a 'angsty teenage rant' and at least in part be right. Yes, this is entitlement rearing its ugly head again, even if it is a very small, non-consequential part of a very large whole. If I wanted to be 'popular' I could sell myself in very short order to do just that, but I don't. I want to be happy doing these things I love, and I want things like Professions and Questing to be what EVERYONE wants to do, not just me, because I think it should be possible if it is designed well. What I forget, and I did it again yesterday, is that not everyone sees the World the way I do, and that's the bigger issue, it has NOTHING to do with the game or indeed anything else. This isn't about Blizzard's delaying tactics or other people's disinterest. This is about how I see it all. I'm frustrated I'm living on crumbs and that all the sensible people stopped caring and went to do something else.

Blizzard will tell me what I need to know when they're ready. If that upsets me, that's nobody's fault but mine.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

ALPHA :: Words


Sometimes, you find yourself wondering whether you're playing the same game as the people designing it are actually selling everyone else. That's certainly been the case over the years when Professions often appeared as something of an afterthought. This time around, however, that's probably as far away from the truth as it could be possible to get. Professions are in your face, from the word go, thanks to the Modern Wonder of Garrisons (is there anything they *can't* do?) which, according to that there Mumper Bloke... you'll be able to pick four out of a possible twelve Production or Gathering professions to utilise.

Yeah. FOUR. At least it was when I first wrote this post at lunchtime UK time. By teatime, we'd gotten two more, assuming I'm interpreting this subsequent tweet correctly:


This just gets better and better...

The problem remains however that with such 140 character assertions over something as complicated as Professions is, frankly, HUGE. There is very little (if any) evidence to give us anything other than the basic facts, or what indeed it will mean for all of us who carry ten years worth of Patterns around on a couple of characters because you couldn't do this until now. Needless to say, there are some fairly important questions that need to be asked as a direct result of this statement.

  • Will you be able to disenchant items using your Garrison? If so, how do you level your skill to the maximum (presumably required) of 600 if you don't have the skill BEFORE you choose the Enchanter's Study as an option?
  • The same goes for any gathering skill you could now gain using the same method.
  • Will you be able to retroactively gain patterns from old Professions? Will people even need to?
  • What are the OCD Completists going to do? Will there be counselling?

My gut reaction was (at least at lunchtime) that you'll want to take all three gathering professions plus Enchanting if you don't give a stuff about the Garrisons and just level them for a steady and uninterrupted income for the entirety of the Expansion, with the option to DE everything you don't need for same, but we don't have this confirmed, and until we do I'm betting you'll need to hold that skill personally and NOT have it as a Garrison' standard.' Of course, now we have an extra two to add to that... well, the sky is probably the limit, really. It will depend on what the phrase 'pretty similar to the normal profession' actually means ^^


In fact, based on this, I suspect this would be my levelling order:

P: Leatherworking + Skinning PLUS Enchanting + Fishing + Inscription + Engineering
K (Mage): Enchanting + Tailoring PLUS Inscription + Herbalism + Blacksmithing + Mining
W (Warlock): Alchemy + Jewelcrafting PLUS Enchanting + Mining + Fishing + Herbalism

Of course, if Enchanting doesn't give the DE Skill then there's no point in having it for the Lock or the Hunter, and then I'll probably take Skinning on one and Mining on the other. In fact, the World has become a VERY interesting place in the last 90 minutes...

The starting bit is the key.

What you need to bear in mind with all of this however, is you won't get your six professions from the word go. What you get, as the map here clearly shows from the Alpha Client, is two plots (marked with the 1's) on which your first two Professions buildings will go. Now, this will provide the new player with an interesting dilemma, ESPECIALLY if Enchanting allows you to DE as you travel. Does one pick complementary professions to go with existing ones, or do you pick ones you don't have? Suddenly, all those years of Skinning appears to have come to fruition because if I want to assign a worker for Skinning, he goes to the Barn. As the Barn is provided to you for free as a starter building you'll presumably be able to use that and begin Skinning immediately. I had thought this might give you an advantage, but (of course) I'd forgotten that Miners will have a Mine for raw materials. One presumably also assumes that the Herb Garden, which is the only Building so far in game files you have to repair, will be providing Herbs for those who require them as well, evening out the playing field for all those professions. You have to assume therefore that the Barn will provide Tailors with some kind of source of Cloth as well, as they are the only other profession who require gathering but don't expressly have it built in as a profession.

Thank you to the various people who pointed this out. You should still do skinning, as raw materials sell REALLY well, as a rule :D

However, what it does mean for my Enchanters, who already have the skill regardless of obtaining it from the Garrison, is that there may be no need to initially specialise in the skill which would allow me to pick two completely new professions to Specialise in for additional gold/materials for others. There will therefore be some VERY interesting choices to make when this feature does finally appear for testing...


[*] If I can assign a follower to it, and I can, I assume it counts as something that can therefore happen offline.

Like To Get to Know You Well

Introductory Gubbins, LET'S GO!

Hi, I'm the Godmother, and you might remember me from such social networking sites as Twitter and Facebook. I'm here today because I want to alert those of you reading this Blog who haven't yet considered doing something of their own in this particular vein that, starting next month, there's an Initiative being aimed just at you. YES, YOU.

It's true: people like me are going to try and persuade you that blogging about your particular interest isn't just a great idea, it's something you really should start doing right now.

Okay, you have my attention. Now what?

The thing about Advice is... well, it's like having an Opinion, which is pretty fundamental for any successful Blogger. Both these things with capital letters are important and at the same time tricky things to pin down: what suits one person won't fit another. Just because you can do something doesn't mean it'll work for the next individual you speak to, and this makes trying to persuade people that Blogging is for them often a pretty thankless task. However, there is one thing that overcomes all of these potential issues, that will allow you to get away with a lot of stuff you might normally be frowned on for entertaining. That quality is ENTHUSIASM, and it is my specialist subject. I know an awful lot about staying cheerful as a a Warcraft Blogger, especially as there are some really rather unpleasant individuals hiding in the trees in Elwynn Forest.

With enthusiasm, pretty much anything is possible.


That's also where the lovely people at the Newbie Blogger Initiative come in: this will be their third year of existence and their brief, according to the website, is pretty simple:

  • Promote aspiring game bloggers. 
  • Establish a friendly support network to nurture those bloggers. 
  • Create an on-going community for bloggers that’s available 24/7/365.

That's not all there is to it however, there's lots of cool things going with Steam and mentoring too, but the fact remains that the first step remains very much yours as a person to take. I'll tell you now, this is not the easy 'stick some words on a page and walk away' task it may often make itself out to be. There could be tears, and anger, and disbelief too. All those things have happened to me, but you are different, and so you may well discover that writing was what you were born to do and your blogging career will be born in both warmth and brilliance. For what it's worth, I started this blog five years ago as a way to help me reconnect with the world after the birth of my kids. Early last month, I received payment for the first article I'd written for a Warcraft website. After five years, my blog has become a way for me to stand up and say, proudly to to the world, that I'm a Writer for a living.

Okay, I'm not buying a gold-plated Aston Martin any time soon, but it's a start.

Writing is YAY :D

I wanted to contribute to the NBI effort, and so my initial attempt make contact with the powers that be... well, it was a bit of a disaster, all told. I managed to upset someone by being *too* enthusiastic and forgetting the basic rule above. What is right for you may not be right for someone else. If there was one piece of advice therefore I'd offer to anyone wanting to start Blogging for the first time, that would be it, and after that I'd remind you that people will see right through you if you're not anything more than 100% genuine. They do, trust me on this, and that's why if you decide to take the first tentative steps into the blogging world, it is really rather reassuring to know that you are not alone. 

That's where the NBI come in. Go see them now. They have cool stuff for you too. You won't regret it, and it'll give you a chance to make .GIF posts like this.

What are you waiting for?

BLOGGING IS... the Future!

Monday, April 21, 2014

This Week, I Will Be Mostly ::
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Something appears to have gone wrong... ^^

I did 4 levels on my Druid yesterday. IN A DAY.

Needs Werk.

It began simply enough: my son wanted to level his Hunter to 90. My Druid was just into 86, my husband wanted to level his priest. So, with some dual screen fernangling we made a 4 man and off we went across Pandaria with P at the helm, running dungeons and piling up quest rewards like they were going out of fashion. Finally, son dinged on the Timeless Isle with me acting as destruction expert. I left my husband at 89 and went to bed, to find he ground the last two hours and now has his Priest from 85-90 IN A DAY. I'm very tempted to let the Druid gain rested for the last half a level she has and then grid out to 90 on Island reset on Wednesday.


That means next up is the Dwarf Hunter, who'll I'll be strapping to the back of a two person rocket later. Then we'll go kill ALL THE RARES and sweep up ALL THE CASH and if this fella can hit 90 this week then that only leaves the Palalalaladin at 85 of the main family and then finally, FINALLY I'll have everyone who began the Expansion at 85 max levelled. There then may be a small moment's pause for celebration once that happens. This then leaves the following to do stuff with:

  • Human Hunter (50 summat) to 90,
  • Draenei Hunter (20 summat) to 90, both by 'traditional' levelling methods.

After that, there's nobody else. Blimey. I'M ALMOST DONE :O

Human Hunter, YOUR TURN COMES.

What this does mean, of course, is that the Alpha Client can go live WHENEVER THE HECK IT WANTS NOW. Assuming it doesn't, and I reckon that could be construed as a fairly safe bet, that will mean that I will be forced to gear everybody to a better standard while I'm waiting which could then get TERRIBLY complicated. I can see lists being written as a result, but frankly anything that stops me having to do Archaeology is fine by me. There's basic provisos like using Timeless Coins for weapons, and making sure everyone has decent rings and trinkets, which will require some Island Time in the evenings, but it shouldn't be utterly impossible to get everyone to a reasonable standard. That's one of the overriding advantages of two accounts and dual boxing.

Needless to say, WATCH THIS SPACE for further developments :D

Sunday, April 20, 2014

ALPHA :: Stupid Girl

The Hunter Philosophy?

I'm here this morning to talk to you about LOOT.

It used to be a joke, in this Parish and others, back in the day. Hunters could use just about anything, and often did, especially when it came to random drops in Dungeons. It didn't matter whether there was strength on your polearm or not, it was a Polearm, and as a result, IT WAS HUNTER LOOT. The only three exceptions? Wands, Shields and Maces, but that didn't stop the more mercenary Hunters giving those items a NEED roll if there was a quick buck in it. Why am I reminding you of this now? Because of this item of interest in the recently-updated Alpha Client Notes:

Stats that are not useful to your current class specialization will be grayed out in the tooltip rather than green, and will not be counted on your character stat sheet.

Of course, this change is actually rather brilliant, because it will mean those people without a clue no I cant's say that how about stupid people who roll need on anything regardless no can't say that either any item has potential use if you can wear it. Of course, this means everyone will want to be a Paladin or Warrior in Draenor because that means *technically* there's only wands, daggers and staves you can't roll Need on with a clear conscience... but there is a way to make sure this doesn't happen, and that's by making everything class-specific. But that's not perfect, because of Spirit on gear for casters... however, what must be said, is that this change actually is going to be quite useful for those of us forced to endure the Joy of Random Grouping. Because we've all met that player who's attempting to tank with nothing enchanted or gemmed and with half their gear utterly inappropriate for that spec. With this change, that Tank will at least have the game helping them out by automatically making sure the gear that's equipped is being useful, even if they picked it just by rolling Need on every item from Ragefire Chasm to Stormstout Brewery because it had a higher iLevel than the item they were wearing.

If you think Blizzard is moving away from a situation where it favours random players, think again. Also, iLevel beats stats right now for FAR too many people, and that perception also needs to change as a matter of priority.

Everything Must Go... or summat.

Because of the fairly fundamental nature of this change (and you should go read about it here via WoW Insider as you don't have to wade through what is more than 33 pages of stuff in which to do so) its going to be applied retroactively to all our current gear (which one assumes is also going to lose its gemming and reforging as well as the benefit from professions boots at the same time, but this is not as yet clear) which IN TURN is going to come as something of a shock one assumes to those people not paying 100% attention. You know, the people who are still expecting to get a new Race in Draenor ^^ BECAUSE this is so major, and because it is going to impact so hugely on everything ANYONE does in game, this too is going to contribute to the 'when is this Expansion actually launching' timeline which does at this point appear to be stretching ahead of us like something that is particularly elastic at this point. Getting people's heads around this however will take some time. From the notes:

New secondary stats added:

Bonus Armor: Increases armor.
Multistrike: Grants a chance for spells and abilities to fire an additional time, at 30% effectiveness (both damage and healing).
Readiness: Reduces the cooldown of several class abilities with long-cooldowns.

Hit and Expertise on all items have been replaced with these 'uiniversally useful' second stats

Mists of Pandaria and Future Items.

Dodge and Parry have been replaced with Bonus Armor. If an item had both Dodge and Parry on it, it has been replaced with an additional useful secondary stat.
Head, Chest, Hand, Wrist, Waist, Leg, Feet, Weapon, Shield, and Off-hand items that had tanking stats (Dodge, Parry) or healer stats (Spirit) have been replaced with a different universally useful secondary stat.

Warlords of Draenor Items.

Plate Armor pieces will always have Strength and Intellect on them.
Mail and Leather Armor pieces will always have Agility and Intellect on them.

However, what is not clear is whether this has been extended back to *all* items from L1 upwards. If it hasn't, there still could be a problem in re-educating the playerbase. This change *appears*  to work on the assumption that people will automatically boost themselves to 90 and not bother to level 'traditionally' any more, which I'm pretty certain is as far away from the truth as it may be possible to get. If all those *useless* stats still exist on the pre-90 gear, then there is still the potential for players who level that way to completely fail to grasp the good work Blizzard is attempting to do here (and believe me when I say I know what's what's happening.) Therefore, I think we could do with some clarification on this point. Whenever is fine.

In a nutshell.

This change is undoubtedly a good one in the long term, because what it does is take away the uncertainty from equations that people clearly find confusing. Making things simpler and easier is never a bad thing, after all. However, what also needs to happen is for players to understand that entitlement should not be the default state from the moment you walk into a room with a group of random people. How Blizzard fixes THAT issue... well, it's probably not even their problem to begin with. What is disappointing is that this solution, although clearly a step in the right direction, isn't tackling the key issue with the playerbase that could perhaps be better served by a rating system once you leave a Random. After all you don't need everything that drops in game, not even Hunters do any more.

However, this is at least a start.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I Owe You Nothing

Those are some SERIOUS Stats...

I'm not well (again) and in an attempt not to spend three weeks being incapacitated (and often voiceless) like I was last time, I am deliberately NOT trying to run myself into the ground, despite Blizzard's best efforts to chuck a ton of Alpha Client Gubbins at me (more on that when I am awake and with far more caffeine than I am now.) This means Faffing on a scale that I've not done for some weeks, and it's actually quite therapeutic :D At the top of this list was dropping a not inconsiderable amount of cash on pets from LFR and Raids that I KNOW I have little or no chance of farming successfully at any point in the future. As a result I only require a Viscous Horror and I own everything that's been stuck in a Dungeon since Pandaria began. I realise it's not the cheapest way to do things, but it is sure as heck the most time-efficient, and that's frankly all that matters.

Next on the list: Unborn Val'kyr. That's gonna be fun ^^

And another one's gone, another one's gone...

Priest obligingly hit 90 midweek getting me Pet #100 levelled to 25. Next up will be the Druid, once her Mog is complete, and that won't happen until I've retooled the Rogue (who in a stroke of pure luck is the same faction in Shatt as the legs I picked for her to Mog with :D) This weekend therefore is likely to be filled with sleeping, Paracetamol and the undoubted amount of Faffing required to make all the crafted items for the Rogue and then trying to get Naxx 10 to drop the belt needed first time to complete the ensemble. Like *that's* going to happen. Having said that, it only took nine tries to pick up the Warp Splinter's Thorn in the Botanica, so that's progress.

Expect a MAHOOSIVE series of Mog Posts over Le Weekend.


I've been quietly faffing for a few weeks now on the Horde side of my Server, buying Battle Pets I don't own and levelling Enchanting/Tailoring so that any drops can be efficiently used. Plus, as a Rogue, those 36 lockboxes in the Vanity Bank all got opened. For now, I'm making a decent wage selling bags. It's nice to run old dungeons to boot. It suits my style.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to chainpull Blood Furnace on the Hunter with the Rogue on the second screen for Netherweave... :D

Friday, April 18, 2014

To Build a Home ::
That was the Week That Was

Oh look, everyone else just turned up ^^

Garrisons really are a key part of your entire gaming experience in Warlords. You don't need to take my word for it now, there's irrefutable proof, in print and audio form, from various sources to back up those assertions I've been making here for the last month or so. As soon as you help fight back the Orcs in Draenor your reward is a place to form your own outpost. This will be your Garrison, and although Blizzard are at pains to point out you can just level dungeons for ten levels if you wish, you'll miss an awful lot of content that (I'm thinking) won't be like any other you'll have seen from the company before. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say they had to redesign large proportions of the game to even make this work. This feature is one you are going to WANT TO PLAY, because I think this could be the beginning of the future of your MMO experience with Blizzard.

That's a fairly grandiose claim, even for me. Let's go about justifying it, shall we?

Commit this map to memory. From Wowhead :D

Although we may never know for sure, there are those who would speculate that Garrisons are what's holding up the deployment of a large-scale playable Client for anyone else outside Irvine. Of course, there's a great deal more at play than *just* this feature in the finished product, but what appears to have become apparent as a result of the PAX interviews is that this is the place you'll want to come to as you level, and what you do here (points) at the map is moving Blizzard into a new age of individual 'choice' that has never previously existed in game. Of course, for some, choice means not wanting to play at all and simply piling towards a World First Kill, but these people make up an increasingly small proportion of Warcraft's player base. For most, there needs to be more than just powering to max level, a level of engagement that will last beyond the first run from 90-100. That means making every time you take the journey a different adventure than the one previously. That appears to be the niche your Garrison is attempting to fill.

A cursory look at this map above will tell you that although everyone has to have their Farm, Town Hall and Mine in the same place, pretty much everything else is up for debate, and that is something so new Blizzard have admitted having to re-write code to accommodate the consequences. This is the clearest indicator for some time that Blizzard have exhausted pretty much all previous avenues of linear questing, even though I can guarantee there will be those who claim this is no less linear over time: the key difference is the choice of input from the player. There will still only be a finite number of building combinations, and presumably a limited combination of interactions with Followers and via Missions. However, this is a quantum leap forward from killing 10 rats and then gathering 6 plants without any other choice. The problem for many players is the understanding they have, which Blizzard may like to overlook, no need to ever repeat the process of levelling more than once. One would argue that the Garrison isn't for these people anyway, but Blizzard may secretly hope if the format is attractive enough they may be persuaded to play the 'game' at least once.

LOOK IT'S A HORDE MAP. They have more letters :O

This is all you can expect, in the end, but to make that attractive Blizzard already know the stakes: the game is littered with failed attempts at creating content that engages the player. There are already those who feel they know that this too will be simply thrown away as a bad idea at the end of the Expansion, that there is nothing Blizzard will ever be able to do to make the process of 'questing' attractive to everyone: which is exactly the point. The aren't trying to please everyone, they're attempting to attract as many people as possible, with a combination of attractive snares that will make this idea last (presumably) an Expansion and maybe beyond. That means hot-linking Professions into this so you can't just use them alone any more if you wish to make the most of what's on offer. It means giving the Garrison enough attractive 'features' that levelling without one being at least basically utilised will put you at a disadvantage. It means trying to dissuade players from using one-shot pulls for massive XP or running trash over and over again to level alt number five by giving them a realistic alternative that guarantees they can see content in different ways, creating different experiences as they go.

In the end, however, if you don't like questing, you won't like this. You'll just see it as another way to dress up the same old thing because you're utterly focussed on what YOU need from the game. Blizzard will never please you because, ultimately, you refuse to be open to the possibility that you are half of the problem.

For me, this is a time of daily excitement. I have to rein in my enthusiasm for fear of putting people off because I can see something completely new being built pretty much from the ground up. I am enough of a realist to understand the limits of linear gameplay and timeframes, that there will be only so many options presented, but that's not going to stop me GETTING UNREASONABLY EXCITED at what I can see and what I KNOW could be possible with this combination of factors. What encourages me most, more than anything else, is that with this feature, Blizzard show me that they have listened to all those years of criticism. There are distinct and definite moves to make the game less rigid and more intuitive, to add life and depth to parts of the franchise that have remained static since the beginning. Okay, so it's not my idea of what I'd like but that really doesn't matter because I trust these people, that they know what they're doing, and even if they may not identify me as their target audience, I still respect them for what they are capable of doing.

I also genuinely believe that whatever they come up with, it's going to be worth the wait. Some may say this is misguided enthusiasm, yet I do not care. You should not judge something before you've tried it, and you shouldn't dismiss it out of turn just because you think your way is better. Give these guys a chance, and play Garrisons at least once, and THEN pass your judgement.

Until then, watch and wait.

HotS :: Coming Around Again

This isn't Azeroth any more :O

For those of you tuning in expecting the Garrisons feature, it'll be with you later. Promise. For now, however, I appear to have found myself in The Nexus...


This, for the seven or so people on my feed who DON'T know, is Blizzard's MoBa (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) Heroes of the Storm, which is also in it's Alpha phase but seems considerably more advanced than the other thing does. I already appear to have upset a few people by being here already, for which I apologise profusely, as I'm hardly what you'd call Pro by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I can already see myself attaching a Post-It note to my screen with all the various keys I'll need to press to not utterly embarrass myself. However, if I can stick at this, it might be the game that stops me keyboard moving once and for all. We shall see.

Just so we're clear. This is what an Alpha looks like. 

I come fresh from my Tutorials and am already well aware my inability to distinguish right from left in stressful situations now has a really good chance of killing me. I like the general idea (far more than I did Hearthstone and I downloaded THAT on the iPad last night ^^), and I also like the fact that James Raynor appears to share my sense of humour ('You had me at 'Hail' got an out loud laugh, for the record.) I am aware that people can buy different Heroes and skins and mounts and all that funky stuff but I'm on a budget here so I suspect it'll be me and Mr R all the way to max level (if I can make it that far) There's also a very real sense of Blizzard not taking itself too seriously (in the Nexus, 'Death is merely a setback') which is going to be a really rather pleasant change from what's become my day job.

It goes without saying, of course, that everything looks ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS.

May not see a lot of these, MAKE THE MOST OF IT :D

Needless to say, you're likely to hear a bit about this on the Blog as I progress, I'll mark them with a HotS header here and on Twitter so you can easily choose to ignore them if you so desire. I am well aware of the popularity of these 'genre' titles and that they've never appealed to me because, frankly, they have no 'hook' with which to snare me. That's where the Blizzard franchise comes in, of course, that I'm playing in places I already know and with characters that I recognise and associate with, and there we have the old Blizzard magic weaving it's spell, because that's just what they did with Hearthstone and look where that's gone. It is an unbelievably shrewd piece of market capitalisation on Blizzard's part to pitch this where they have, and it is now very easy to see why so many people are interested in a piece of this even at the Alpha stage because, really, it has everything I suspect a MoBa fan would want, and it's wrapped up in Blizzard paper.

What I'll need to do now is actually play it and see just how awful I am. I'll bet you 5g right now I'm going to spend most of my time face down in the dirt.

Welcome to a new Level Grind :D

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ALPHA: Build 18156

I will be discarding the normal song title nomenclature for builds to make it easier for people to ignore the posts (for obvious reasons.) Also, anything Garrison-specific will now be covered in depth at the other Website.

Highlights of this build (in this Parish) are as follows:

  • Totally awesome Twitter Peeps get a drink named after them
  • Cookery Recipes (at least a basic set) now exist, there appear to be some Tailoring Items Tailoring items too
  • Is there now actually a Horde Garrison in the Alpha files? (only one site is suggesting this, I'll wait for secondary verification before getting too excited). Names also seem to exist for Garrison 'families', plus a bunch of 'bonus loot when fighting X' titles appear to have been added (but again this is only showing on one datamining site at present so I'll wait for independent corroboration of this)
  • Events may well now actually exist to found your Garrison \o/

Wowhead have listed a ton of new phases in this post  (BE WARNED POTENTIAL SPOILERS EXIST THERE) which look like the leadup to the establishment of your Garrison proper. I could make some broad guesses at how the questline's going to run too, looking at these events, but it would all be MASSIVE SUPPOSITION and as a result, I'll go do it on the actual Garrisons site later. For now, this is very encouraging news because it looks as if we're getting closer to having the Garrison ready to play in Alpha \o/

  • There appears to be a new 'Personal' loot setting: what could this allude to?

    ERR_SET_LOOT_PUSH:: Looting set to Personal is a new datastring. It is actually surrounded by Garrison-related strings, yet when accompanied by such strings as DATAMINER_RED_HERRING:: There is no cow level you are immediately mindful of drawing all the wrong conclusions ^^ However, I'd like to know what this one specifically refers to (not the cows, the personal loot :P
  • Quite a lot of stuff seems to have changed for Druids ^^ There's a fair few class changes generally (though I don't see any Hunter ones) so you may wish to check these out.

Needless to say, as more stuff appears, we'll be poking it for you here :D