Google+ ALT : ernative

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ride a White Horse ::
The Kindness of Strangers


A Bonus Day

I will freely admit that this weekend has not been one in which I have focussed my efforts on collecting. In fact, it has been anything but a mount chase, as these things are not necessarily time dependant. Focus naturally shifted to more pressing matters, and I haven't seen the inside of Mandokir's Arena since Friday. However, last night I was given a chance at a Meta Mount, and that doesn't happen around these parts very often.


HO YUS.

I'd pretty much written off doing Dragon Soul with the Guild last night because of my RL commitments, but an Officer kindly asked if I'd like to step in and do Deck Defender as he knew it was the only achievement I was missing for the Meta. Fortunately I was able to duck in, achieve and duck out too for kids bedtime, but was able to return in order to help the team finish the Instance, so I didn't feel that bad about cutting and running after I collected the mount.



First of this style mount.

This is pretty much a First for me: I'm pretty certain this is the fastest its ever taken for me to pick up a Meta from raid content. I also really like this style of Dragon, and I am tempted to run this Instance solo once the pre-Patch hits to see if I can get a hit at the other mounts that drop. Needless to say, I'd not expected an update this week, so having #219 here is most definitely a bonus.

I will say however, having not made the effort to do my normal Circuit of Disappointment, I did make two swings at the World Bosses this weekend (clearly to no avail but you do need to be killing them for a chance) and this reminds me that I should organise tokens for more alts this week so I can keep stacking up the chances at a drop. I'm also very glad I don't have to run Brewfest for a mount, as I hear drop rates continue to be the random bane of various people's existence. Such it is when you do this thing for a hobby.

Needless to say, am very happy that the next time we talk in this feature, I'll be wheeling in Mount #220 :D

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Happy Days


Grouping needs work ^^

Yesterday, I was handed an unexpected bonus of a clear stretch of time without hindrance where I could do nothing but play. This is quite a rarity of late, and I realised it was important to seize the moment and to make as much of the time as possible. As a result, I got a PHENOMENAL amount of stuff done, because when you are able to focus and know you will only have this time to make progress, the choice comes down to you. Is it time to procrastinate or is it the moment to capitalise?


Bonus!

Therefore yesterday I managed to accomplish the following:


  • Capped Valor on both the Secondary Alliance and Primary Horde Hunters. I won't spend it on either (until it is clear whether we get cash for points or not) as neither are raiding. Managed to snag two LFR upgrades for key spots on the Horde Hunter (trinket and hat) and a neck from Ordos on the Ally side. I also broke my own rule and spent some cash to upgrade the Ally Hunter's trousers because it is looking as if gear will last longer into Warlords than first anticipated. Needless to say, both are in a good place and are becoming increasingly easier to grind though stuff with P's efficiency.

  • Managed to do some farming to stick stuff on AH to sell. Have made another Royal Satchel which sold within 5 minutes. Considering selling a Sky Golem as the market is particularly buoyant.

  • Got a ton of stuff on alts organised, including cancelling quests and organising which pieces of equipment can be easily updated. More UI re-organisation happened too.

  • Restarted farms for additional income.

It also helps matters greatly that during the week I was able to pick up the final August Celestials token I needed to get the Horde Rogue Exalted so I could start making money on both sides on that front.


And THIS is a Shallow Alt.

I even managed to get some things done on the Stuff Going Away front, and decided to drag the sub-60 original Hunter through a couple of runs of UBRS for some much needed XP. Needless to say, collecting Blue Dragonscale is now a bloody thankless task, and I'm kind of hoping they amend the recipes for Warlords, though I have evidence this is not yet the case. Whatever happens though I will have something in the bank, though not nearly as much as I'd like.


Needs more dragons.


Finally, the last of the Bankalts is back from travelling, and I finally admit to myself that these are the Last Days of Pandaria. Ironically, this is as happy as I've been playing for any point in the last year or so, but I know it is time to move on. Warlords frankly cannot come soon enough.


Be Cool :D

Saturday, September 20, 2014

BETA :: The Way It Is


I had a plan last night for a blog post this morning, which will still go ahead later this week, but I want to start today with something else. I often use Twitter as a tailor's dummy, on which I'll pin various things as basis for discussion. Last night, a series of events transpired that I realise this morning don't actually need any further explanation. I can design this outfit and you'll know EXACTLY what I created it for.

So, without further ado:


Initial Post, my reaction.
Olivia reminds me of the obvious.
I retweet with my disappointment showing.
Someone helpfully points out some realistic motivation for Blizzard...
Spoilers are always news to someone, but Data Mining is killing Game Enjoyment.
Epilogue: look what happened in the last year ^^

And there you have it.

Needless to say, I'll be waiting for the Expansion to view these Cinematics. Please respect my choice as a result.

Friday, September 19, 2014

To Build a Home :: Friday's Child




Yet again, there's not been enough hours in the day for Garrisons catchup, but I can now see light at the end of the tunnel. A week tomorrow I'll be (fingers crossed) able to put some serious hours into updating you and myself on what's changed in your home on Draenor since the last time we spoke, and it is considerable. I hope there'll also be the time to start doing some major Theorycrafting, because I for one am actually looking forward to working out how all this will work in practice.

On that front, I'm here to discuss the notion that, with all the changes and additions this feature has undergone in the last couple of months, you will be forced to play it whether you like it or not. Certainly if you want to maximise your Professions this feature's pretty much a mandatory part of your experience, I don't think anyone would argue that isn't the case any more. You can rationalise it however as part of the evolutionary process of this part of the game, which sorely needed an upgrade.

It is also at this point that I feel I ought to point out this article, which I wrote back in September of last year, which suggested a central Instanced Hub for Professions, not unlike that there tower in my header. The change was needed, and it has happened, and I for one am pleased to see Blizzard taking so much time and effort in instigating that much-needed process. For me, mandatory isn't a word that is scary in this context, but for others it is clearly enough to spark considerable concern. Such it was yesterday when it became apparent that the quest to begin your Legendary Ring search, which actually appears at 98, is only available from an NPC inside your Garrison.

A quick consort with the team at Wowhead reveals that yes, the starter quest is from Khadgar's Servant (who gives Call of the Archmage) which led some people to assume you'd need a max-level Garrison in order to even access this. However, that is simply not the case:




To be totally clear: the first thing you do when you arrive in Shadowmoon or Frostfire is the series of quests that gives you the Garrison. At most this will take you 30 minutes, but even then you can choose to ignore it and forge into the world. What it means in its simplest form is that to access the Legendary Questline you'll need to spend a short period of time, at your convenience, accessing the Questgiver, which can easily be considered as another step in the chain. That's it. As I said yesterday:




If you are one of those people who is looking forward to the new experience, this will not bother you at all. However, if you're now resenting Blizzard's choice to tie professions and a number of other features into the Garrison, I suspect it might be time for a moment of reflection.

This is Blizzard's game. They make it and ask us to help them test it and to point out issues. The vast overriding feedback I've seen from Beta is that these changes are both welcome and much needed, and hopefully when launched on a wider stage will meet with more general approval. However, if people don't like them after having played the game, there is still means to offer constructive criticism and push for change. Complaining about a product you've not played (I'm sorry but not everyone gets a Beta Invite, that's still how sections of the gaming industry work) isn't really fair to the people who make it. Making assumptions before you've had a chance to get hands on does everyone a disservice. There will be genuine moments where Blizzard stuff things up and pointing this out to them will be useful. However, when it comes down to long-term planning decisions, they are still the company who get the final say, even if you don't like the words that you see come out of their mouths.

This is a subject we'll come back to at length on Sunday. For now, I can still confidently assure you that Garrisons are NOT mandatory, despite people drawing conclusions to the contrary.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

BETA :: Synth and Strings


There was a new beta Build last night, and although part of me is now frantically making notes concerning Garrisons changes, there's another section that's started skimming all the data that appears because I'm expecting something else. I've lamented the fact I feel like I missed a meeting somewhere in the last couple of weeks, and I think now I know what it was about, even if I wasn't there ^^ Somebody sat down and tried to work out what would make players want to return to the game, when the carrot of new content wasn't enough. There need to be more external incentives, and certainly the last few days has been heavy on both carrots and sticks.

Needless to say, when I saw the data-mining this morning, my interest was piqued.



MMO Champion Strings.

These two strings have been added to the current Beta build. As it's Beta, the standard caveats apply: what goes in can also come out (look at poor Hogs as an example of that) and this may not even be related to the US/EU market (as was the case for the XP 'potions' for Asia that heralded the arrival of the Blizzard In-Game Store.)



Wowhead Strings.


So then, lets put the Tinfoil Hats on and speculate here: this 'boost' is scheduled to be removed well into the lifespan of the Expansion. It is included in the same week as the announcement of the Official Battle Pet for Blizzcon: would it not be beyond the realms of possibility that this is part of a 'promotion' that will be offered to Blizzcon attendees, both Virtual or Actual, as a reward for their loyalty to the cause? You'll be given a FREE L90 as a thank you for your commitment to Blizzard and their products, either by attending for real or being there via the Internet.

It would certainly make a lot of sense for those people undecided who could then choose to tune in for the Virtual Event and receive a boost (effectively) at a discounted price from normal (£25 pounds for the ticket as opposed to £40 that the boost would cost for me in the UK.) It would create yet another revenue stream pre-Expansion, yet act as anice bonus to all existing ticket holders. There is also the possibility this is being offered as part of the 10th Anniversary Celebrations, but I think the notion of using the Virtual Ticket (which every Blizzard attendee who goes to Anaheim receives as standard) is far more credible. As your account is flagged for the battle pet delivery, sticking summat extra in the mix wouldn't be hard on top.

Of course, the notion of 'Free' is relative, as to get to Warlords you'll need to actually buy the game, which in itself offers players a boost to 90 to begin with. The second theory as to what this may be could then wrap around the HUGE number of inactive players, who may find this sweetener to update wrapped around their Battle.net accounts as the game goes live, or even before (in 6.0.1) However they'd still have to (again) buy the game and therefore they receive a L90 by default.

There's a third theory here too, which is possibly the best one in terms of giving something to players who aren't involved in the game at all: this could act in the same way as gifting your inactive friend a Scroll of Resurrection. Instead of levelling together (which is going to be hard when Blizzard take away a bunch of heirlooms) you simply gift your Friend a 90 and its job dun. All of these are possibilities, at least in my mind. There may well be others I've not mentioned either.

Needless to say, now the information is public, it will only be a matter of time before someone in the right place asks the question at the right time and we get an answer... ^^

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Louisiana, 1927





Some people are incredibly good at evoking the past. This song, for instance, is always one I come back to as an example of something so simple yet utterly powerful. It recreates an aural image of an event with beautiful simplicity, and reinforces the theory that you don't need a bunch of words to make your point, just the right ones.

This morning, I noticed a piece of my past had resurfaced. A notable blogger, an ex influencer, a part of my personally enjoyable and inspiring past popped up and reminded people that you can grieve about leaving the game, and you don't have to go back. The pull of nostalgia, which Blizzard is trying so hard to use as leverage on a dormant playerbase, can easily be ignored. Ironically, writing fiction for Cynwise about his character appears to have been more attractive in the end than playing her, and I find myself with a measure of empathy with that outlook, because for many people it is about an emotional attachment to the 'persona' you create in game. The past looks different to everyone, and that will, like it or not, colour both present and future.

There's been a lot of nods to the past in the last few days, and not all of them are necessarily as attractive as maybe Blizzard hope they will be.


Cynical? Quite possibly.

I've now podcasted twice this morning about the Legendary Cloak removal: once in an 'official' capacity and once with a sense of relief because taking this away from me is going to have the utterly opposite effect that perhaps Blizzard would hope. This is not an incentive to get other characters kitted out. I don't now care how much extra dps everyone else does, I'll manage without it, because some pieces of the past need to stay where they are left, and this Quest line is an example in point. It doesn't matter how much easier they made it, while the PvP element remained as a means to try and get people interested, it just drove others like me away. Sometimes, you can't make people yearn for the past by giving them a version in the present. What it needs is the past to be reinvented as it was then, in the now. That's why Tarran Mill v Southshore is a stroke of brilliance, and why the judicious use of Ashran as a PvP Pinata will do far more good for that side of the game than forcing people into content will ever achieve. Perhaps Blizzard will now learn the lesson it never grasped with the World Events Meta. We shall see next year as all of the relevant Holidays are being reconstructed if the School of Hard Knocks remains. Part of me thinks, finally, that Blizzard might take the hint.

Knowing what you take with you and what gets left behind often isn't an easy task to grasp, but as you get older it becomes easier to understand what makes you happy and what should remain undisturbed. After ten years of Warcraft there are some clear lessons learnt from the design perspective, but other decisions still make very little sense. The problem for us of players, of course, is that we're never really ever party to every meeting that gets made along the way. I mentioned in my Podcast that I feel like I've missed a memo somewhere in the last week, and that's still very much the case. This is certainly a kick in the teeth to anyone who genuinely turns up late wanting to resub and play the game as it was, and for players who started this Legendary Questline there was no indicator at any point it would vanish like smoke when Pandaria disappears back into the mists of our collective unconsciousness. One can only assume that there's a bigger destination in mind. That's nearly always how these things work out when you step back and stare at the bigger picture.


As a reminder... ^^

I've mentioned it in passing, and people are beginning to ask the question too, so much so that WoW Insider actually wrote a blog post on the possibility of the NEXT expansion being announced at this year's Blizzcon. The trick with using Nostalgia as a marketing tool is that it is fleeting, and rarely predictable. The trick is to offer the 'experience' in limited doses, carefully register what parts of each part people enjoy the most, and then milk that for all its worth return to those popular areas over an extended time period. Some people might find it hard to look ahead, but we've spent the best part of a year being educated about Draenor. A clever marketing campaign, targeted interest in key areas and a lot of new carrots to players if they return and begin again in Draenor could still get those elusive subscribers to make a return. It will all depend on what Blizzard desire the most.

However, some people will never return, and that is only right and proper, because for some this game wasn't just the best of times, it was the worst of times too. I wish there were more respect for those who leave the game, but I suspect that there are a number of factors that contribute to that not being the case. Every ex-player is NOT a whiny annoying evangelist, as we have discussed on many occasions, though it does appear sometimes that ex-players spend more time moaning about Warcraft than not playing it. These people have important lessons to learn, and walking away is pretty high on the list. When people do this with both grace and intelligence, it makes you wish more ex players were as decent as them. Of course, the problem with that is that with all things in life, not everyone is decent to begin with.

When you do find good people, remember to be as good to them in return.

Alternative Chat, Episode 33 ::
16th Nervous Breakdown


I'm Going Slightly Mad... ^^


Bit of a false return to business there, Podcast fans, for which I apologise. Let's see if we can get things back on track this week.






In this top quality episode you'll find the following:

  • Real life owns my arse, OFFICIAL.
  • Raiding with good people makes you question your own ability.
  • Raiding with good people then makes you want to be BETTER.
  • How LFR broke the End Game experience for me.
  • Mount Total = 218.
  • No more Legendary cloaks for me.


PS: Garrison Podcast Special OFFICIALLY SCHEDULED for October 1st.






Contacting the Show:

E-mail:

alternativegodmother (at) gmail (dot) com



Social Media Gubbins:

@AlternativeChat on Twitter

http://www.facebook.com/alternativeblog on Facebook

Other Notes:

Would go here if there were any, but here aren't so NEURGH.


==


Planning to be back here next Wednesday with another shortened show. Until we meet again!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Shoes


The full release because...

Giving people something for nothing seems to be a bit of a thing of late. As a perfect example of this, Apple gave everyone on iTunes a free U2 album last week, though it appears that doing nice things for people isn't always accepted by an entire community with open arms. You only have to read the responses to this 'event' to understand that sometimes, doing people a favour may not have the effect you first hope it will.

Therefore, I'm wondering what kind of  reaction Blizzard's announcement yesterday may end up having in the long run.


WORD.

In absolute terms, there is some debate as to exactly *how* many names this may free up for players. Undoubtedly the opening four year period Blizzard has ringfenced was one of rapid growth, and the decision to delete this particular segment of data will have a couple of immediate effects. Primarily, people who've not played and wish to keep their names will be forced into logging on: whether they then buy the game to keep playing is moot. There is no need I suspect to buy the game either to do this, having the starter edition would be enough to access most characters up until 2008 anyway. Secondly this will prompt players who have been looking for specific names to log on when 6.0.2 hits: if these people are currently not playing it may well cause a brief spike in subscriptions. This is an announcement to pique the interest of anyone with an investment in the game.

I'm also suspecting it will free up a section of 'relative' space in Blizzard's backup routine :P

However, if you're coming here looking for indignation, this is the point where I remind you that I've been playing this game without a sub break since 2005.


Look. Face. Bovvered?

What should be very much apparent however, is that Blizzard are going pretty much all-out to promote interest in the game. Whether this, or indeed any of the other 'promotions' on the table result in an upswing of subscriptions remains to be seen, because these things are fleeting means to an end. Encouraging people to play again is the goal, and the only way that happens is if the game itself is entertaining and engaging. What I will say I have seen, and this is only anecdotal experience, would suggest a distinct increase in players on my server without Guilds. For instance, last night I spotted Frost the Death Knight, whose Armoury history would suggest that an old player has returned to the game after an absence (and is picking some interesting items for Transmog :D) If this trend is playing out across other servers, then people may well be returning for a look-see.

Only time will tell.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ride a White Horse ::
A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall


Yes.

In the Collection 'game', choices have to be made. For instance, which mounts should you attempt to try and snag alone and which will require friends to come along? I'm one achievement away, for instance, from grabbing the Glory of the Dragon Soul Raider, but as that particular one is Deck Defender doing it alone is pretty much out of the question. In fact, what I could do with is a massively overgeared 25 man raid so that I'm covered for all aspects of potential failure. However, there's now a new wrinkle in the mix for some mounts, which I know is good news for those people who feel that certain rewards are devalued by people like me going back to two expansions ago and cheesing their acquisition. Both the Challenge Mode mounts and Garrosh's guaranteed mount for killing him before 6.0 will vanish with the introduction of the pre-Expansion Patch. This means, for people like me, some fairly significant decision making over the last couple of weeks, the consequences of which are still being mulled over.


#218

The lovely people at Open Raid offered me a chance at a full clear of the Siege two weeks ago, in the understanding I might not get a Garrosh kill, which was exactly what transpired. Yesterday, I took that saved ID and killed him in 15 minutes (one wipe) and was rewarded with the mount. The ethical consequences of doing this are not lost on me, especially as my Guild is only at Blackfuse in Flex mode. I know players who are raiding on other servers right now, so there's a lot of grey in my raiding world when I look at things closely. The overriding reason I took this opportunity was it was in a timeframe I could actually attend (Sunday afternoon) in a two week window I'm unlikely to have again now until the Expansion hits. It was opportunism, pure and simple, and that is often how these situations pan out. The final arbiter of my choice was Mr Alt, who turned down the opportunity to go so I could, knowing how much the mount means to me.

However, the Challenge Mode mounts will deliberately remain unclaimed this Season around.


The scores on the doors.

As you can see, I do actually have a Silver Award. It was gained back in January, before the Guild lost the impetus for raiding when a number of key people departed under less than helpful circumstances. I am confident that when Warlords launches I can find enough people in Guild to give the new Challenge Modes a go, and that's really how I want to do them. I really do appreciate the offer of people to take me through but yesterday's run through 10 Man made me realise just how much I have to learn about being a better player. I was bottom of the meters and utterly outplayed and outclassed by people who are naturally brilliant exponents of their abilities. It doesn't make me sad or disappointed however, it just hardens my determination to keep trying to get better as a player, to learn from what I see other people are capable of and what I should be able to master myself.

Failure used to be something I would frequently walk away from in many places, but not any more. If I want my gameplay ability to change the responsibility is very much in my own hands. There is also the very real understanding that if I'm playing with people who know me they'll be more accommodating when I do struggle, and I'm genuinely a bit fearful of failing in such a small group of people I don't know. There are still issues to overcome in my mind at least, and until those are overcome, skipping the mounts isn't a problem. I sense I ought to be honest in that regard, after all.

Therefore Mount 218 will be remembered as the reward that galvanised me into a rethink of my play style, and a reminder that when rewards actually mean something, they really are far more significant.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sixty Seconds to What


You could at least come down ^^

It is now less than sixty days to Warlords. With the PTR up, there is the inevitability of things not done hanging over everyone, and I found myself this morning wondering how much of anything I can reasonably expect to achieve before the world as we know it ceases to exist. This is, as you'll see from the blog posts of late, pretty much a permanent state of mind at present, which is a pleasant change from panicking about how organised the house will be when my son's Exchange Partner arrives from Germany on Friday. Apparently he plays Hearthstone and is rather good at it. At least we'll have something to talk about when he gets here ^^

Anyway, enough of my worries. I'm here to tell you that the impossible is still doable. I know this, because Open Raid told me the same thing this very morning.


Only 3/6 in Heart of Fear ^^

Places like Open Raid should really come into their own in the next couple of weeks, but you shouldn't be waiting for an announcement of the end of the current PvP season or the PTR patch going live before moving to achieve your goals. As an indicator of current demand, looking at a scheduled 10 man kill of Normal SoO (which in this case only involves knocking off Garrosh) on the Open Raid site there are THIRTY people on standby should a space become available. The odd thing is, of course, is that you're not guaranteed a Heirloom as a 100% drop until we hit 6.0.2, which says to me that the Ahead of the Curve achievement (and of course the mount it rewards) is clearly far more significant a prize than I was previously aware of.

But yes, I must poke the Guild and see if anyone's interested in finishing Heart of Fear on 10 man.


NEEDS MOAR FLOWCHARTS

I've given you a lot of advice on organisation in the last couple of months but there is one significant point that probably needs reiterating at this juncture: time to decide what is most important for you. There is a ton of stuff you *could* be doing and I know players love to have Guides and Bucket Lists to refer to as reference, but this isn't about doing what someone else suggests is important trhis late in the day. That choice is yours. This means that you could do a lot worse today than deciding just one thing to focus on above everything else in the next seven days, and do your best to complete it. I know how much satisfaction is derivable from simple and achievable goals, and you will get frustrated if you list 30 things to do before 6.0.2 drops and only a handful of them get done. Remember; realistic goals within your time-scale have a better chance of success in the long run.

The problem, of course, is making those decisions. I'd go make yourself a drink :D