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Friday, May 22, 2015

Just For You


Progress.

I may joke about the lack of mounts in the Circuit of Disappointment, but even I will admit that sometimes the absence of actual achievement gets to me. Fortunately, there are still ways and means for me to obtain stuff reliably via actual hard work, and last night I ground out the last three and a half thousand rep I needed with the Council of Exarchs in order to obtain the Dusty Rockhide Mount.


There you go.

In the end, I just repeatedly ran Socrethar's Rise in Shadowmoon with a series of 'get 800 Apexis for attacking this' scrolls on until the job was done. I have a stack of 120 Draenic Dust from the greens I DE-d, a Servant of Demidos from my second successful Rare farm (cheers to @RhoWoW for the tips) and the It's The Stones! achievement as a little added bonus. And that's done. The next grind will be the Arakkoa. I assume this means biffing Skettis a lot, which is about as attractive as something very painful and unpleasant I cannot adequately conceive right now. However, if I can earn 800 Crystals every time I farm X Mobs, it at least contributes to the price of the next mount. Also, if it is guaranteed at the end and I don't have to sacrifice small animals on the RNG Altar to secure it, so much the better.


This one next. Probably.

The Circuit, albeit completely lacking in Mounts, has been ridiculously profitable this week. I've not even looked at ICC so far and already I'm 20,000g up, thanks in part to some very lucky pattern drops and hugely opportune pet sales. It also helped that both Heroic Dragon Soul and Heroic Firelands were a festival of weapons and trinkets. It makes up a bit for the complete lack of mounts, but it has been a few months since anything of note dropped. In fact, I think we're going back well into last year since I saw anything rideable fall out of an Instance. That's the joy of farming, after all.


The One Tower.

Needless to say, we'll keep on chipping away and eventually, something will change. The fact I actually loathe the idea of having to go back to current content to farm is not lost on me either.

But that's a Blog Post for another day.

6.2 PTR :: Living in the Past



The @WarcraftDevs account has been quite busy in the last couple of days. You can go use your third party datamining site of choice to take a look at the highlights: it's an interesting cross-section of answers to 6.2 queries and, quite frankly, education of what you can expect in the Patch itself. Lunkers, for instance, will no longer have a five catch limit. Mythic Dungeon loot is indeed higher iLevel than LFR, for those of you perhaps not paying complete attention to the Patch Notes. Oh, and the Legendary Ring muttering continues. I think some people just won't be happy regardless. 

The past is dangerous to live in.

Then, there's the latest discussion on the deployment of the Mystic Runesaber.

If someone buys a mount off the Shop we don't want there to then be confusion as to whether it's the Shop version, or a recolor obtained through in-game means. We essentially purposely ensure shop mounts stand out as shop mounts. 
SOURCE
That last sentence caused a bit of healthy discussion in the thread, unsurprisingly... I even saw a You Tube video on the subject floating around yesterday. Needless to say, the discourse is lively, pointed and often sorely misinformed at what work is actually involved in making a game.

And then there were two Tweets this week from @Muffinus that bear repeating at least on a wider stage than simply the social media platform:




I was alerted by several people to this tweet 'statement', because it could well be taken as a deliberate off piste journey by someone in the Dev Team which seems to contradict what we know we've been told in various quarters about 'official' communication from Blizzard. Except, this isn't about anything specific. Feasel has been very deliberately asking questions of the 'casual' community in the last few weeks, a series of what seem very well-structured attempts to ascertain what's missing from a vital portion of the playing equation. And it appears to be working.

The beauty of things remembered.

ALL of this above qualifies as talking to the player base. The key difference for most is that they feel that it's not the right kind of communication, and we all know what that refers back to. When MMO Champion dedicate a section of a news post on their front page in recent memory from the guy who used to work at Blizzard as if he knows more about the future of the game than people actually making it now? It is really time to move on. What this does show, without a shadow of a doubt, is that lots of people who think they know about game design and appropriate timescales and what made this game great, really need to think long and hard before opening their mouths whilst robustly ensuring they are confident with the validity of their arguments.

I count myself very much in that number, as it happens.

It is often nearly not as attractive as you remember.

I've kopped a great deal of flak in the last few weeks about the fact I am prepared to allow Blizzard to communicate as they see fit, and this staggers me. None of us, myself included, have the faintest idea of how Blizzard works from the inside, and how the absolute torrent of criticism and abuse must be like to bear from that side of the fence. These men and women do indeed get paid to do this, but honestly, some of the player base need to take a cold hard look at themselves and consider whether the level of anger and bile thrown at these guys is even justified considering this is simply a computer game. I may write about changing the landscape and altering the gaming fabric but at no point have I felt the need to outright abuse the people making it. Maybe that's because I know what its like to take criticism that I'm prepared to defend the right of those who are simply trying to make something that is simply meant to entertain. Because in essence, that's all I try to do here as well.

This has been one of the saddest weeks I have ever had playing this game in terms of the abuse I've personally taken, and I suspect things are only going to get worse. I can't make people listen who clearly don't care, and appealing to those that do is simply preaching to the converted. But yet, I will say it again. Blizzard ARE COMMUNICATING WITH YOU. All you need to grasp now is that what they say may not be what you want to hear, and when that happens you need to deal with that like a grown up. It is only a bunch of pixels and in the general scheme of things? It really doesn't matter as much as common decency and humanity.

Please go away and consider this before you say anything to a Blizzard employee again.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's Different for Girls




This was the video that made me want to raid for the first time in Warcraft.

Rediscovering this piece of work over tea and a biscuit in the week really did open up a massive wave of nostalgia inside me: I'd downloaded this once upon a time onto my PC too so I could watch it without having to deal with my Internet Connection stuttering through it. I'd NEVER seen the Horde work as an organised unit before, and was genuinely amazed at the number of Tauren in this raid. The way people stood and fought, the Undead Mages with Arcane Missile barrages, the female Orc Hunter with the Dragonbreath Hand Cannon. There is a very good reason I had that gun for transmog as soon as it was feasible, it represents a part of my life that I sometimes don't want to acknowledge but I need to remind myself still exists as often as I possibly can.

Loot should not matter in this game nearly as much as it does.

The moment when your friend finally wins that long sought-after sword can be just as important to you as that moment you won your boots—and we wanted the game to help you celebrate it, too. Now when you loot an item, everyone in your group will see what you won! 
SOURCE
I read the Dev Watercooler on Stat Itemisation yesterday and frankly was amazed at some of the stuff I saw. This quote in particular stood out after years of having to soothe players' shattered nerves in Guild Raids as a GM when 'their' item would never drop. Then there'd be the moment a much-needed item finally surfaced in the loot table and someone else won it on a greed roll: players would do everything from hurl a torrent of abuse onto Teamspeak to rage-quitting the Guild altogether. Oh and many a time we'd have completed a boss and then there'd be the insidious whispers from people who'd inform me that Person A was wearing something better and they didn't need that item anyway... There's a part of me that actually thinks that for some the LAST thing they want to do is celebrate anyone else's good fortune. Showing it's an upgrade with lovely animation? That's not going to go down well everywhere.

With a great chopper comes great responsibility ^^

When you invent what you believe is a great new crimefighting helicopter loot system you want to roll it out everywhere, and that will mean that all the dungeons in Draenor will be getting this, including the new Mythic difficulty. Except I don't think we actually NEED a new loot distribution system. I'll happily accept that the loot itemisation changes make sense, are perfectly logical considering previous complaints and will give people more choice. I'll also heartily agree that making higher item levels drop the further you go into an Instance will incentivise people to stay on until the end...


'... it feels good to get higher-level items as you progress through a zone.'


Actually no, it doesn't, Systems Design Team. Not for many of us. Please don't treat us like we're all some West Coast focus group, and that ringing a bell and presenting 'a worthy reward' for our travails is all that matters. It feels good to play with friends, and to beat a difficult boss. I know what adrenaline high you're talking about with loot, and the 'incentive' that you reference is exactly why I won't play this game like this any more, because manipulating basic instincts to promote obsessive and detrimental behaviour is not good and it won't keep people in your game. This is why I want loot out of the equation, but you know its far simpler to keep that carrot front and centre. I know it is a FAR better idea to give your items to someone who needs them more than you do and NOT keep them for yourself. I don't see that celebrated and promoted in your literature, however. What I see is the massaging of the 'individual mentality' ego that actually, this game could well do without right now.

And frankly, that bothers me a great deal. Then I remember that actually, I am not the target audience for this 'change' and for those who want to be seen to be improving, this is EXACTLY what is needed. So, in that regard I would hope lots of people will be very happy with what Blizzard have presented, because if you want to progress, you will need better gear, and this entire system will help you both show and do just that. I just wish there was a way to do it without the need to show that you are.

However, as in game as it is in life, you can't have everything.

One More Kiss, Dear


Not long now, Dear.

The Future is a great place to imagine. It's only four years now until Ridley Scott's vision of Los Angeles is 'current' from Blade Runner. There's been much excitement this month at the date Marty McFly visits in 'Back to the Future' having been, and gone, and more disappointment we don't have a viable hover board... though in good news, they are working on it. And then we have the visions of future possibilities from even further back in the past. My favourite is a silent move classic, featuring possibly the most iconic of heroines.

Metropolis, 1927.

All this talk of films is here for a reason. I worry today about what people are already expecting to see when the Warcraft movie hits cinemas next year, players for those whom the 'timeline' of Warcraft is often intractably sacrosanct. You remember Orgrim from Wednesday, I hope: it appears in early promotional art he is Green, and now quite obviously he is Brown. The Lore Nerd in me understand that if he's the latter colour this will be because he's not drunk the Blood of Mannoroth yet... except which version of the timeline are we talking about existing in the Movie? Here's an issue we discussed a couple of weeks ago on The Starting Zone: canon, such as it is, might not be as cut and dried as everyone is deciding it should be (Dalaran is FLOATING CITY in the movie, remember?) In fact, the normal run of events as has played out in Warcraft may not have any relevance at all to what the Movie is about to show us.

Heck, if I believe Twitter, Leeroy Jenkins is gonna be in this film [*], and I'm pretty certain he's as non-canonical in traditional terms as you can possibly get:

THAT'S ALL THE SPOILERS YOU GET, FOLKS.

What I think a vast number of gaming types forget in all of this is for most people who watch movies, for the last decade this is what an Orc looks like:

WELL DUH OFC THIS IS AN ORC ^^

It is only in Warcraft that they possess the measure of 'humanity' one suspects Duncan Jones will be using as a means of engaging players with both sides of this storyline, and that means giving words more relevance than which bit of the timeline your Orc is permed from. I'll be honest, I didn't pay Orgrim's colour any note at all when I wrote that article, I just saw a more honest interpretation of the race than I thought would ever realistically be possible. It makes me realise a lot of things about how expectations are being carried for next year inside the Community, and I'll be honest it makes me more than a little nervous as a result. I think everyone will have to judge this Movie as a work of fiction quite separate from the source material its being lifted from, and my worry now is that certain players will do anything but.

Going into anything with preconceptions of it's outcome can be dangerous, after all.

[*] Unsurprisingly, Twitter may well be lying. WHO KNEW.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Coming Up


If it's Wednesday, it's CIRCUIT TIEM

Reset Day has come around again, and that means I finally sit down and document for the people who care about such things the actual details of my Circuit of Disappointment. For the three new people here, that's when I go around a bunch of old Legacy Content killing end bosses in the vain hope that I'll get a Mount to drop. It's become a bit of an institution around these parts, and if you want to join me? Without further ado, let's give you the details that matter:


The Circuit of Disappointment


PART ONE

  • Hearthstone to Stormshield, Portal to Stormwind.
  • Fly from Stormwind to Rebel Camp, Stranglethorn.
  • Go to ZG and fail to get a mount from Mandokir [*]
  • Fly from Rebel Camp to Booty Bay, boat to Ratchet.
  • Fly from Ratchet to Mudsprocket, go to Onyxia and fail to win her mount.
  • Back to Mudsprocket, fly to Schnottz's Landing. Fail to win mount in Throne of the Four Winds [**]
  • Jump off Throne and Goblin Glide to a spot of your choice then Fly using a Mount BECAUSE YOU CAN to the Caverns of Time.
  • Do Dragon Soul for the chance for SEVERAL MOUNTS not to drop.
  • While you're at the Caverns, go do Hyjal for Vanity Pets.

[*] Second mount available in this instance
[**] Mount also available at Vortex Pinnacle if you don't have it.


Bastion of Twiglets: No mounts, ALL OF THE EMBERSILK.

PART TWO

  • Hearthstone to Stormshield, Portal to Stormwind.
  • Boat to Northrend, fly to ICC. Fail to get mount off Arthas.
  • OPTIONALLY then fly to Ulduar and fail to get mount off Yogg but stuff that for a game of soldiers ^^
  • Fly to Utgarde Pinnacle and tell Skadi the Useless he IS INDEED USELESS for failing to drop his mount.
  • If time allows, clean up Naxx 25 for ALL THE GOLDS plus Vanity Pets.


Mounts from Garrison are JUST TOO EASY ^^

PART THREE

  • Hearthstone to Stormshield, Portal to Ironforge.
  • Fly to Sunwell, Vanity Pets and LEGENDARY BOW POKEAGE.
  • Out of Sunwell, fly from Sunwell to Stormwind [***]
  • Take portal to Outland, fly to Zangermarsh, biff SSC for Patterns and Vanity pets.
  • From SSC to Tempest Keep, FAIL TO GET KT TO DO ANYTHING USEFUL AT ALL.

[***] It is a RIDICULOUSLY long flight but it allows you to be in the air over the only areas in game that remain inaccessible to flight apart from Draenor. As a result, worth doing at least once. For me, this is now the time I make a cuppa to prepare me for Tempest Keep FAIL.

==

And there you have it. I'll start this latest Circuit probably later today, so keep an eye out for pictures and general muttering on Twitter when I do. It'll make me only one of nine people in Europe playing the game today as EVERYONE ELSE will be doing that Heroes thing... ^^

6.2 PTR :: Seven Seas of Rhye


Milling, muttering AND Morris Dancing? TRIPLE TIME!

I can hear the cheering already from certain sectors of the community over this one considerably louder than the groans and curses of the TSM designers as they realise they'll need an update. Possibly the most frustrating part of Professions PERIOD has now been given a fix, and you'll no longer be tied to your computer for making Ink. And frankly, that's all there is to be said.


OMG PIRATES. Obviously.

This Build has very little of actual interest apart from the Milling. It's looking like the kind of Patch that happens at the end of the development cycle, indicating that Blizzard are pretty much ready to deploy this to the Live Client. And, lo and behold, look what people are now seeing in their Battle.net launchers:


Capture courtesy of @ayligerwolf THANK YOU :D

So, I think we'll try sticking some numbers into this equation. Blizzard won't release this puppy until the Heroes of the Storm hype has died down, I think we can be fairly confident of this as there isn't a Release Candidate on the table as yet. This won't drop NEXT Tuesday/Wednesday therefore and certainly not on the following week... So, Release Candidate by the 2nd, 6.2 launches on the 9th.
Yeah, that sounds about right.

You can go back to your Heroes levelling now. SHOO.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Big Man on Mulberry Street

It's a man. As an Orc.

I'll admit even I was impressed at this article from Wired yesterday.

CGI has come an awfully long way in twenty years, and to realise this is an actor underneath all of this still pretty much blows my mind. A guy with virtual prosthetics. Everything I see here is computer-generated on top of a man in a black suit with his face covered in dots. When you read Guardian articles like this back in 2011 that suggest making things look too real in animation turns them into something they are not, you realise that the process really does have its flaws. However, what it clearly does so very well is take something that began as virtual and make it utterly believable, and no more is this true than with Robert Kazinky's Orgrim Doomhammer. This is what a 'real' Orc would look like, totally and utterly. Duncan Jones has nailed it, with bells on.


What actors do to become CGI, Part One: Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn.

There's a lot of stuff 'on the Internet' that informs people how filmmakers now take actors (mostly Andy Serkis, it has to be said) and use their visual performances as a starting point for completely different 'characters': Mr Serkis has done Apes (various), Captain Haddock above and a certain mythical creature called Gollum. The process is known as 'performance capture' and Sekis' own website has an insight into how the entire horrendous process works. Certain actors find it odd and disconcerting, but get it right? I think Orgrim's looking totally and utterly spot on. Even if I have to wait until June 12th for even the possibility of  trailer for this movie, I find myself actually rather excited at the prospect. Good work, Warcraft movie people.

OUT IT COMES AGAIN.

Someone said to me this morning that June 2016 seems a long way away. Well, it is June 2015 in under two weeks so we're almost talking about less than a year before release. Honestly? Not that long to wait. If a lone Orc looks this good? Think about the might of the Alliance.

Really, can we have a proper trailer now please Legendary?

Calling all the Heroes


Shooting up the town, Boys.

Today, Heroes of the Storm moves into Open Beta and I'd expect the new game to be front and centre at Blizzard HQ. I confidently predict all of the talk in social media will be about getting people involved, and undoubtedly there's gonna be a fair few players looking to get myself to Character Level 20 in order to claim their battle pet reward for Draenor once the game goes live. I am well aware of how popular this here title is amongst the 'target audience' that are probably bored by Warcraft right now, and undoubtedly the company would prefer people to be playing any of their titles as opposed to none at all. If this acts as suitable distraction to the people who have no interest taking Selfies? So much the better.

Token Blonde.

I have actually tried playing this game, as far back as the Technical Alpha. I get the appeal of the MOBA, how it requires a level of physical co-ordination I'm not easily capable of mastering well, and as a result expecting me to play Overwatch competently is probably also an unrealistic ask. In fact the only 'game' in the Blizzard family I've actually taken a liking to is Hearthstone, until I realised that I'd need to drop a ton of cash on it to do what I wanted. And that, frankly, is where I draw the line with pretty much all modern gaming. Entertainment is largely a by-product of financial investment. That's why, for so many years, Warcraft has appealed to me as I didn't need to spend anything to stand on a level field with everyone else. Some would argue that too has changed, but in reality it is me that has made the choice not to seriously compete any more.

I get far more enjoyment right now simply watching from the sidelines.

Last year's 'Ride London' for Mr Alt

Variety and competition are really important for a lot of people, however, and I get this pretty much daily from Mr Alt who's in the midst of some fairly intense training currently for a slew of Charity Bike rides across the Summer. Knowing your limits is all well and good, and being able to push yourself is important. I have thought about taking the plunge again and trying Heroes from scratch, but then I have to make the bigger admission that my heart isn't in it to begin with. There's the problem: I just don't find the concept attractive or engaging enough. My love is God Sims such as Civilisation and the closest I get to having to truly co-ordinate is Assassins Creed. I've not been grasped by any other title for close to a decade, not even the current iterations of Lara Croft do it for me.

I'd never make a real gaming journalist because there's just too much out in the world I loathe with a passion.

Engaged? Yes, I was.

My co-host in the Starting Zone, Mr 'Mad' Mick Montgomery, said something telling this week when we discussed the possibility of a game 'reboot'. He thinks it has already happened. This game has neither a clear focus or direction at present, and his supposition is that the Multiverse is actually preparing us for a Movie where plot becomes largely secondary to what creates the most compelling big-screen storyline. I think he's absolutely right. This is a different place we inhabit, and Blizzard's priorities are no longer strictly dictated by this one title. That's a good thing in the long term for everyone, and just means people like me will need to twiddle their thumbs for a few weeks until all the hype is done. Heroes is the News Cycle this week, and will be all the way until the beginning of June.

I don't have a problem with that, if truth be told. I hope the same is true for everyone else.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Looking for Clues


Well this makes a change from motorcycles... ^^

As this is now Official, I can nip in here with a Blog Post and fill in some details :D

There's this Selfie Scavenger Contest that officially starts today, and Bizzard themselves have teamed up with Carbot Animations in an attempt to make things as primary coloured yet as shiny as possible. This concept is ridiculously simple: all you need to do is find a location that is featured on Blizzard's Official Contest Site Page (intentional caps!) and take a screenshot of your character replicating whatever it is that you see the original picture depicting. Submit it to Blizzard and you have a chance to win some BIG PRIZES, including:


  • A selection of High Quality Blizzard gear (see above picture)
  • Battle.net Balance Codes
  • An iPhone 6!

However that's not all, once the Contest is over there'll be an overall winner picked from all the entries and your prize?

A Complete Trip for Two to Blizzcon 2015

Well, there's a thing! But WHY THREE TICKETS BLIZZARD?

I suspect a lot of people's interest will , for the next few weeks, be quite justifiably be focussed on That Heroes Game and as a result, giving people a genuine reason to be in Warcraft is probably a Very Good Idea. As a result, and because it involves nothing being ridden or hit with a large tool of any kind, I whole-heartedly endorse this entire endeavour. I am also reassured by @CM_Zarhym that this contest is available Worldwide, so if you're in the UK and fancy a couple of tickets, you could do a lot worse than at least give one entry a go.

The best of luck to each and every one of you.

Purple Rain


Oh look, PURPLE MOUNT ^^

I don't normally read Forums, as a rule, because I enjoy being sane and not imploding when I encounter large amounts of Inevitable Stupid that normally accompany people posting in such public places. However, I saw a thread title earlier whilst browsing the MMO Champion front page and was compelled to take a look. The topic of discussion? 'Back when Purple Used to Mean Something' Go take a look for yourself: it's not unsurprising fare, and it works from a basic principle that 'back in Vanilla' the colour of your armour was all that mattered. Because, in the heady days of The Past, that was the only way people could tell what you did in game.

Everybody knows of course that colours are now largely academic to your iLevel, because Epic Gear's a chance as standard when you quest. Okay, it's not quite as Epic as that Mythic gear, but Blizzard clearly understood the significance of the colour scheme when it designed the Draenor levelling experience, or else why bother giving every rare in the Expansion the chance to drop a clearly superior version of it's own loot? Why else would we have a Legendary item that is now so cool people complain about the possibility of other people being able to use its proc? The colour of your gear used to matter because it was an indicator of where you earned it, but now those colours have become simply markers for a path of progression, what can easily be totally negated anyway by Transmog. So why does the colour of an item continue to be a big deal for so many?


Proper fights are HARD, remember?

I suspect it has a lot to do with the assertion by many that fights now may seem far more 'complicated' than their historical predecessors, but in reality back then everything was just more difficult generally, because... well, just because. People had more buttons to press, remember. Stuff wasn't as optimised as it is now. You had to deal with more players knowing less about their classes and then there'd be the five people who were afk at any given point... and just stop right there. Take off the purple-tinted glasses for a minute and think about any perception of a game that you remember in the past. Mario. Space Invaders, Pong... was it just because the game was in some way better back then, or is it because your memories of just seem preferable?

What is this obsession some people have with going back to the way things were because they don't like what's happening now?


DEAL WITH IT /glasses

If you want to go play Vanilla Wow, I wish you the best of luck. This game has moved past a great many things, and I'm not here to tell you that it's current iteration is any better or worse than anything that has preceded it. The fact remains, it is what it is. You choose to accept that or you don't. Everyone has a solution to make it better than it, everyone's offering the next big fix or the direction things have to head in... but in the end, there will always be someone with a problem. What people like myself should be mindful of in situations like this is that for every person who agrees or otherwise, the vast majority are just getting on with their lives without the need to communicate anything, because they get that this is entertainment. If they don't like Warcraft there are other things to play, and then the TV and possibly even going outside. This is not all there is, but for so many that is anything but the truth. And then we're back to yesterday's post about obsession.

Stop worrying about what colour stuff was, or how important something feels when you wear it. Start thinking about the people who play and treat them better before you start dictating what looks attractive or preferable from a distance. Most importantly of all, leave the past where it is, and simply move on.

Trust me, it will be a lot more enjoyable for everyone if you do.