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Friday, December 19, 2014

Alternative Chat ::
Episode 39 :: Ho Ho Oh Bah Humbug

Not gonna say anything about this.
Just listen yourself, and if you have a comment, leave it below.

Have a Fabulous Holiday Season, ALL OF YOU :D

Beaucoup Fish

A smart person considers ALL the possibilities.

Yesterday, Blizzard seeded some ideas into the Community for discussion over the Christmas period.

2014 is likely not simply to be remembered as the 10th Anniversary of Warcraft: by the looks of this document, it will also mark a distinct sea-change both in the way the game is marketed and promoted. There are some pretty radical ideas in this Forum Post: the fact it didn't make it onto the main Blog of the site should tell people that a lot of this is likely to stand and fall by player reaction. In summary:

  • A Legendary Follower will be appearing in your Garrison for the next stage of the Orange Coloured Questline,

  • Tweeting directly from the Client is being worked on,

  • New tech will bring significantly shorter flight times using scheduled transport,

  • Despite the Garrison being a one-Expansion deal, lots of new shizzle is being promised for future patches,

  • 'We’re exploring the possibility of giving players a way to buy tradable game-time tokens for the purpose of exchanging them in-game with other players for gold.'

  • The much-discussed Heirloom Tab will be available for testing in 6.1,

  • HOT PVP SKIRMISH ACTION promised for 2015 included Official Tournaments,

  • New Blood Elves are coming, plus more tweaks to existing skins,

  • More stuff will happen in Ashran ^^

  • Blackrock Foundary is scheduled for February, SUBJECT TO PROGRESSION.

Unsurprisingly, the 'buying game time for Gold' point has been pounced on by a lot of people, mostly because of the voracious nature of the existing gold making community. I'd suggest reading Zerohour's comments on this change as a matter of some urgency because there are some quite genuine concerns on how this could be implemented. However, as Zero quite rightly points out, there is a thriving sub-economy that has always existed around the game that isn't likely to vanish any time soon as a result of this potential addition. As 'one of those people' who thought the introduction of in-game transactions would mark the end of the game...? Well, I reckon I was right. This isn't the same place I began in ten years ago. You'd never have seen this level of honesty a decade ago, or the desire to involve the Community as part of your development team.

These are Strange Days indeed.

Channelling Bradley Cooper? CHECK.

What this post does do is set the stall out for 2015: Garrisons may only be around for Draenor, but I'd bet these moves mean that you'll see a version of the same tech being developed and tweaked for future Expansions. It's been suggested by certain people that this 'foundation' will see new environmentally-specific buildings being established as we move forward, that the storylines that exist will simply be woven into the layouts and the 'Homestead' concept will evolve as a result. It will be very interesting therefore to see what Blizzard have up their sleeves on this front: I'm also keen to see if there will be any significant tweaks to the new Crafting model as a result of what has been some fairly critical feedback from certain quarters.

What needs to be reiterated on the back of all this is that Draenor has only been live for a month. Scheduling the PTR in January (which is what this announcement is implying, at least for me) means that Blizzard really have grasped the nettle of quicker progress. It would mean that Highmaul as a raid instance could only have a three month shelf life, and as there is no obvious location for a Raid Instance after Blackrock Foundry on current maps... well, this could be an exciting time for development and progression. This is a pretty bold statement of intent from a company that has been criticised for its slow pace in development in the past, which would seem to suggest that not only has that concern been heard, but it is also being addressed with a matter of some urgency.

I dunno about you, but for me Winter Veil suddenly got a whole lot more interesting.

Thursday, December 18, 2014



I have observed a number of complaints that people don't have festive decorations in their Garrisons now that Winter Veil has arrived. I think I have a problem with an Ogre wearing a Hat.

The question now is whether there's a correlation.

The reason why people play games is a hugely subjective one: many are here just for the glory, some come for the completionism, and there are many for whom the 'world' of Azeroth is the biggest draw: the richness of the Lore and the immersive nature of the narrative experience. This is the point where sticking a 'Santa' hat on an Ogre becomes incongruous to me, because however much you may enjoy your 'seasonal' experiences, having The Butcher dressed like this is not helping me get the feeling of a savage ogre stronghold. In fact, I'll be honest here, the whole Winter Veil thing has never really fitted that well in my mind: some could almost say it's another savage cash-in on a hugely over-commercialised season to begin with.

Yeah, Bah Humbug to you too ^^

He's in there somewhere ^^

Using real world events to 'sell' your product or service is hardly a revolutionary step in Azeroth, and some 'Festivals' do the job far better than others. This year, I find myself thinking that Blizzard genuinely have missed a trick: giving people Winter Veil decorations in their Garrisons would have been a massive addition to the customisable nature of the structure. This, of course, could have been linked to every major Festival to boot, but I suspect the nature of the technology means it isn't as simple as just adding a few hotfixes. What this would have done is allow players to set the level of immersion in a manner that they simply don't have access to currently, and that would have been a MASSIVE step forward in the development of an individual experience. Given the choice, I'd like to keep my storyline free of commercial nods to major Festivals but give people the option to immerse themselves on their own terms. Because, at the end of the day, that's exactly how things happen in the Real World.

Where were all you people yesterday, then? ^^

The best gaming decisions, it seems to me, are based on the notion of giving the majority of people what they want. Inevitably, Winter Veil as it is does that, and Scrooges like me will just have to pretend we're immersed and look past the red and green. However, I really can't believe someone at Blizzard didn't consider the option of Winter Veil Decorations in the Garrison: considering how much time my Guild spends in the structure on any given day, if you wanted a way of pushing the changes to the Festival, reminding people as soon as they log in should be a no-brainer...

It will be interesting to see if the stance on Festivity changes before January 2nd.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Let it Go


Sometimes, it isn't about completing parts of your favourite game straight away. Often it is more about finding the right moment in which you can do them. Never was this more true than currently in my Garrison: this morning saw me being able to complete all four of the above in less than an hour. The most problematic? Keeping Busy.

One Carrot, NO WAITING.

The thing about advice is that, for many people, it is highly subjective. That's why writing Guides can be such a hit or miss affair, because what works for one person may not do the business for another. This morning, I was reading Gypsy Syl's Post on how (effectively) to cheese the pre-quest sequence to establish your L1 Menagerie and realised I actually had all the pets required, already at 25, in order to try this out. I know this will upset a few people by the saying, but the three mobs took me less than 10 minutes to dispatch and now, lo and behold, I have a Level 2 structure in my Garrison. In the end, it was the unique combination of ease plus circumstance, and that's all there is to it. I know, if I want to build teams to start farming tokens, I'd need to put in far more work and effort than I just did. Then we start again with the whole 'is there time' thing and frankly, that's a discussion for another post.

I've also upgraded my Inn (mostly for the Cheevo I'll admit) but am hearing talk that the Treasure Missions aren't all that in terms of use. If this proves to be the case, I'll simply sub a L2 Building back over the top. Finally, Resources are not an issue for me, and as long as I can gain hundreds from Missions as well as my steady stream from the Trading Post, I'm golden. I think, I can fairly say, Garrison Management has properly moved into Endgame territory.

Yeah look MOAR PETS ^^

I'm also beginning to pay quite serious attention to places where I can farm outside of my normal Daily Incursion targets, especially where there is the benefit of significant financial return. Despite many people's assertions that this week's changes to fish use in Alchemy being the death knell for prices, I'm seeing VERY healthy returns for the right items of dead flesh. If it is also possible to combine this in areas where many non-skinners are operating, then so much the better: however yesterday I found an area that was off the daily roster with a spawn rate that would make even WatcherDev come and make the most of the drops. These are still the glory days of stuff not being nerfed: nobody complains when there's too much of anything, after all, you have to keep desperately farming until Blizzard notice and cut back the rates.

You and I already know the best place to farm for Feasts of Blood. Now we both have to decide if we tell anyone else or not /taps nose.

Enjoy your Stay!

It's been an odd old morning: when I can get more done in 90 minutes than I've managed previously in a week, you begin to understand how having the answers makes things just that much more academic. Thank you to everyone else who's done the hard work for me to get here, it is greatly appreciated. Now I'm here, I fully intend to make the most of the situation, and reap the rewards.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

One Life Stand


Right then. I have a lot on at the moment, all of it REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF and none of it really that relevant to playing Computer Games, if truth be told. However, this morning I threw all my plans aside and spent an hour finding some inner peace and realising that, actually, being organised isn't worth much when your brain is mush. The last week's been quite the revelatory occurrence to boot on that front: taking some ME TIME is always quite useful when I'm fighting my way through gaming quandries.

The result of all this procrastination is simple: I am ready to start levelling Alts now.

Things to do, things to do ^^

My biggest issue with Not Playing Pher at present is where her Garrison is right now: I still have the Inn to update (not even close with quests) and I've not even looked at Menagerie levelling at all. As was previously established last week getting Nat Pagle in on my Shack du Fishage won't actually take long in principle, but I'm really not in the mood just yet to endure Lunkage and open up his reward system, but it will happen eventually. For now, I'd like to go gather a bunch more Followers (probably enough to get me to Commander) and then, really, I just need to do the Apexis Daily and keep everything ticking over. That does mean the Hunters will get an airing (especially Stables and Barn Hunter to get those up to L3 asap) and I WILL get the Mage and the Warlock into the Garrison Grinder this week, because I'm getting fed up of playing vastly inflated prices for shizzle on the AH.

When the cost of stuff becomes a motivator for action, you know stuff just got realz.


Christmas Holidays are coming up, and I'm not sure how much time I'm going to get to actually do anything, so instead of keep writing about how I'm going to do stuff I will now just be shutting up and getting on with it. Twitter is likely to become a good place for keeping up with me as a result, and I'll try and get back to being more philosophical here. However, I think I can say that Blizzard have managed to completely succeed with the notion of more immersion in game.

Now all I need is the time to actually do that.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Every SINGLE Time.

I was at rather a loss today as to what I would write about, after a largely unsatisfactory session of gameplay, and so I made a decision: stop stressing, and just see what happened. I was checking sales on Demonium above (who is the designated Bankalt for my vanity guild Alternative Towers) when I heard outside of the AH in Ironforge the unmistakable sounds of PvP 'going down.' Out I went to find a L100 Orc Death Knight being pretty much eaten alive by, of all things, a L100 Gnome Warrior.

I watched as did the other assorted sub L5's with a mixture of detached amusement and increasing levels of satisfaction as the wee bloke handed the huge guy his arse with a distinct measure of style. Eventually, the Orc hit the floor and I KNEW there was just one thing to do: /hug. This gives me ENORMOUS satisfaction every time this happens, and I make it a badge of honour on every bankalt I know to ensure they get this Achievement if at all possible.

I have a ridonkulous number of Achievement Points, I'm not going to lie to you. Yes, I do mounts and pets and all that jazz but sometimes, you know? This game doesn't need to be about what you've done, or what you've worked for, it simply needs to be an acknowledgement of someone else, and NOT YOU. There are some fabulous people in game as well as the utter arsecandles, and sometimes the exhibition of pure genius in a spontaneous situation? Just needs to be celebrated. For me, this Achievement is just that. I don't need to do anything, I just turn up and make the person feel good who's face is plastered to the ground after being owned.

This is is why I really ought to do more PvP as a way of dealing with my anger issues :P

Today's post therefore ends with a question: what is your favourite Achievement in game, and why?

Away you go :D

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Alternative Chat ::
#10Years10Questions Prologue

It has been a while, but finally, we have a beginning.


The first episode of the 10 Years :: 10 Questions Podcast Series will be available on Friday, January 9th.

The rest of the Seasonal Schedule is as follows:

The Alternative Chat Winter Veil Special will be available on December 19th

The Alternative Chat 'Gold' Review of the Year will be available on December 26th.

Apologies for the protracted delay in transmission over the last few weeks: hopefully the worst of seasonal illness is over. I hope you are looking forward to the 10 Years: 10 Questions Podcasts as much as I am :D


I'd like to take a moment to apologise for the complete lack of Anything Fun yesterday evening.

My Internet went tits up mid afternoon after a power cut, and only came back online after midnight, which meant there was no Hearthwarming last night. NEVER FEAR however, the Event is going to be rescheduled for THIS SATURDAY, the 20th, with a start time of 8pm GMT.

I will be sending out invitations to everyone who expressed an interest and who has e-mailed me early next week. I'm also planning to organise some giveaways for the Evening, and stream the entire thing via Twitch.

More Details will follow in the week... I look forward to seeing you there! :D

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Take Off and Landing of Everything

So what if I have an Ashran Portal? ^^

I'm becoming quite a fan of Garrison Invasions.

I don't enjoy the rewards, or the Achievements, I'll be honest. My biggest joy in the Invasion 'event' is pulling as many mobs as I possibly can and NOT DYING. I can, hand on heart, happily attest that in all the Events I have participated in I've not died once, and am immensely proud of that fact. That's why I'm here this morning, to state that Garrison Invasions have been better training for me to improve my skills than I'd ever find in a Proving Grounds event, and that maybe it is time Blizzard considered this kind of event as better evidence of how good players can become, or can be 'trained' to be when left to their own devices.

If I didn't know this already, the events of last night bore this out with reassuring satisfaction.


My Dungeon Spec of choice is, as has been previously discussed, Lone Wolf, but I refuse to go into any five man currently without some kind of personal back up. It's not that I don't trust Mr Alt's tanking skills, it was him who suggested that having a secondary tank for wipes might be useful. So, Polar is my wingbear, and he's become increasingly useful as I play the MM Spec for Invasions. Having the burst the spec provides PLUS TANKING has made me surprisingly hardy, in situations where survivability matters more than the speed at which stuff dies. Last night I did a Heroic in Guild without husband as tank, and in a trash pack tank death found myself summoning Polar without thinking, and simply kiting mobs until they stopped firing at me. Only when I'd finished and noticed that everyone else was dead did it register that I'd managed to kill 2.5 of the 5 mobs in the Skyfall Skyreach Heroic with just me and the pet.

I don't think, a year ago, I'd ever have been that confident in my abilities for this to happen.

You don't get this with a Portal.

What I think it is easy to forget sometimes when you play a game is the capacity an open mind brings to the table: I have a Portal to Ashran, in my Garrison, but still I choose to fly to and from my Faction base pretty much every day. Even if they stuck it somewhere easily accessible and not up a bloody tower I'd most likely still take the bird, because you can't get shots like the one above when all you do is cut the corners and find the quickest way to do things. Often the most enjoyment and development is to be obtained when you're not trying to be efficient or clever, but when you simply relax and find your own groove. I'm in a pretty good place right now with my Huntering, and this has been the easiest transition I've ever made across Expansions. being able to find a way not simply to be useful, but to maximise my own abilities, has been often revelatory to me in the last few weeks.

The key is being able to hear your own needs above the noise of everything else.

Another Garrison begins.

I'm slowly pulling more Alts through to Garrisons, but it is slow, and I stop as soon as something on Pher becomes more interesting, because it is still the stage of enjoying the new. That means I am willing to drop everything to come help you with an Invasion if you have one, just because I know that the more practice I get at doing them, the better I will become. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed something as much as this, I grasp, and I find myself thinking Blizzard would be wise to try and capitalise on this in future Expansions.

Anything that makes players better without realising is no bad thing in my book.

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Blue World

Lots of Points, but...

I need to make a post about Professions.

There's a problem however, and it's not what you think it is: normally, by this point in an Expansion, I have everyone with one already working hard on maxxing them. This time, I'm STILL not in a position to work my way past two. That in itself tells me something on how time has become the Mother of all gating mechanics in the New World Order, but there is a LOT more at play here than I first grasped. I've watched a succession of high-profile Twitterati and Guildies bemoan the ridiculous nature of the Crafting System and Stats, but the more I think about it, the more I'd be willing to bet this is EXACTLY what Blizzard planned to do with the redesign.

What I think nobody adequately grasped was just how many people would subsequently use the system exactly as was intended.

The stockpiling begins...

Eventually, I WILL get around to leveling all the Professions of my alts. When I do, the Garrison of my Main and the occasional forays into the Barn and the Stables may well end up as the soul means I require to do that, if the level of raw material gathering continues as it is. The level of Ore from the Mine has already been cut back, but it doesn't matter on my Server, the damage is done. I can't give these raw materials away at present, the AH prices have fallen through the floor. Ironically, I've made nearly 10k this week selling food, fish and Hunter bow augmentations, which says to me that, at least at this stage, that stockpiling all this for personal use is the right plan. I needn't have worried about sticking a raw material collector in because there wouldn't be enough supply, and ironically the biggest use of the Hunter Gatherer at this stage has been the Primal Spirits that I'm saving up to stockpile Savage Blood.

However, I've reached a crucial stage in my Main's Garrison development which I suspect will finally encourage me to level someone else.

There we go :D

I have three Mission Followers at 645, and that means I've managed to 'spawn' a Highmaul reward. This *conceivably* makes Pher self-sufficient in Upgrades, even if she never steps foot anywhere else ever again: the only problem is the horrible random nature of the rewards when you get them. Highmaul's loot table means I don't have to worry about ANYTHING with 'of the' in its Descriptor and therefore I can just set these things up and spit out random rewards for the rest of the Expansion. I do have three Buildings to finish, but there's hardly a rush for these [*], so conceivably just checking her daily is all I now need to do.

Next up? The Barn and Stables achievements, so I can access the relevant plans, so that means a second Hunter to 100.

But hang on, didn't this start as a Professions rant?


I *know* this system isn't perfect, and I'm sure Blizzard are already making notes and learning their lessons, but I'm making cash. Quite a bit of it, as it happens. To do the system justice I can't be critical until I've played ALL the Professions, and the speed at which certain things are being hotfixed makes me thing a lot of this stuff's being reacted to as data is processed. Which means, by the time I come to have everyone up and running in the early part of next year, a lot of the perceived shortcomings may have become less of an issue. Yes, I'd like to rant about the Stupid but I have more raw materials than I've ever had access to at any point in my life, so it comes down to an understanding that to grasp the Bigger picture, I need more data myself.

The only way that is going to happen is for me to keep playing, so I will. Just not in the same way I did in the last Expansion...


[*] L3 Fishing Shack can NICK OFF until I've done the massive backlog of RL Gubbins I need to attack, because really