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Monday, June 29, 2015

6.2 :: No Surprises


THERE YOU GO FOLKS.
And so it was, that with minimal fuss on Saturday afternoon, I finally dragged a second Alt to 100.

Now, this is kind of a big deal for me, considering the Expansion thus far. The thing is, it isn't actually that hard to do it: a bag full of Potion of Accelerated Learning pretty much indemnifies that whole 'second one is worse than the first' argument anyway. I used Midsummer Bonfires to max out too, which I'll do on a second alt this week before the Festival ends for the last pet I'm short of. What the whole 'hitting 100 now' experience has been more about is how a Zone like Tanaan has pretty much been built for someone like me to go and utilise once I'm past the levelling itself. I gave my thoughts on this yesterday, and actually, there's a few things that I feel could be added.

Because that was WAY more fun than I expected it to be, and I'm actually itching to get the next one off and running.


This was actually a surprise. So NEURGH.

It is odd, because as I read more and more people saying how they don't want to play alts as there's more important things to do, I'm sitting here realising that having someone else to fall back on is EXACTLY what I need right now. I know I need Mage Towers on all the Alts to expedite Shipyard completion (which I'll get on this morning for the first 100, I was wondering what I'd build in that spot for Kumiho) plus I'm realising that actually, Resources WILL be a problem if I'm playing boats with any seriousness. Because at 500 a pop to change my Abilities? Its gonna add up. But you gotta hand Blizzard their snacks on this one, kudos for stopping people using those Resources to buy stuff to sell. Also, when I can get surprised by an item like this dropping from Doomroller, not only do I want more alts out farming this stuff, I need to be making some kind of Daily 'List of Shizzle to kill' (though one assumes that's a weekly vibe and not a daily one and will therefore be affected by the reset.)

Mostly, I'm actually having a ton of fun orientating myself to the Zone. Because It is clear Blizzard learnt some tricks from the Timeless Isle about ensuring your terrain is as engaging as the content you put in it.

Bleeding Hollow clearly got the message about spikes ^^

I'd not sought out all the Incursion areas properly until yesterday, and having now worked out the Fel Forge and the Hunting Grounds as places to farm, they're probably two of my favourite places in the Zone. Each is visually very different to the other (which really didn't happen on the Timeless Isle) and uses terrain as part of your problem solving. I'll frankly never get tired of using ropes to climb up and down Towers, for instance, and the whole 'standing in Green Shit can actually be beneficial if you are happy to take damage' is, I have to say, a stroke of GENIUS. There are lots of subtle touches as well: I notice mushrooms a lot in the ground, as it happens. Treasures aren't arbitrarily just placed and forgotten, I am liking HOW you have to find them and that it really is a case of taking your time. If I had one criticism it would be that if I learn a Shipyard Blueprint on one character it would be preferable to have that account-wide. But hey, you can't have everything.


Look what Pherian did this weekend, folks ^^

This week, therefore, will be getting a THIRD Hunter to 100 and doing the same dance I've done with the other two. After that, I suspect the Mage will be next up as she is the one closest and easiest to level, because it might be nice to do something other than Hunter... though I suspect her trip to Tanaan may not involve nearly as much farming. What has become abundantly apparent is that having a pet as a meatshield makes this entire process quite entertaining, but more importantly requires significantly less thought. As my Water Elemental is anything BUT a Tank, it actually makes me think the Warlock is likely to be a better bet for a grinder , with the Mage looking at minimal engagement in Endgame and possibly gearing her via other means. Or I could just suck it and find daily grinding groups.

Its really quite refreshing to be spoilt for choice for a change.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

6.2 :: The Certainty of Chance


Needs moar Yellow, frankly. 

Many people, myself included, have complained that Blizzard did not bring their 'A Game' to Draenor, and the company itself were quick to admit a few weeks ago the level of their failings once players hit level cap. When 6.2 appeared, from my spot deliberately abstracted from PTR Testing to be nothing more than a Timeless Isle reboot, right down to the Apexis just lying down on the ground, I realise I did the company something of a disservice with the observation. Tanaan, having played the content extensively since Wednesday, is actually a very clever and well-executed attempt by Blizzard to break their own mould of playing on rails. The patch notes taunt the zone as Open World, and I think I might actually agree with them.

In fact, the more I play in Tanaan, the more impressed I are with what Blizzard have reinvented in the category of 'iLevel catchup mechanics.'


As if by magic, a second Outpost appears... ^^

Those of you following me on Twitter would have seen my second Hunter hit 100 yesterday using Midsummer Bonfires and Pet/Toy collecting as a starting point. She came to Tanaan at iLevel 591, and left only a couple of hours later at 621, which for the time spent is remarkable. What is even more impressive in my mind is the steps forward Blizzard have made in making that transition neither seem trivial or boring: in fact, the process of guiding a freshly-minted alt to this point was probably the most fun I've had playing this game in quite some time. It's taken a while to work out why that is, but I now conclude that, for me at least, feeling as if you have earned your equipment is as important as receiving it. Tanaan makes you work, and it makes you think, but it needn't be a slog. In fact, there are multiple ways to complete quests without penalty.

You just need to look for them.


You might wanna move, Mr Orc ^^

The daily incursions have myriad paths to completion which, if you are one of those sneaky types, you could well complete without killing a single mob. For those of us who like to beat up Orcs however there are many and various means to our ends, and the addition of secondary quests that ask for Orc Blood or Demons can easily be completed in tandem. However, there are areas where the game will force you to gain assistance, and actually that's no bad thing, because it will encourage people to communicate and use Group Finder. These things are neither bad nor wrong, and you don't really lose anything by not doing them. That's part of the key in my mind to proper Open World questing: your deck is never stacked in any one person or group's advantage. I'll grant you, the demons on the Throne will be hard work for those of you playing odd hours or unhappy to group, but the key thing is it won't stop you getting upgrades or hinder your progress significantly.

In fact, the more I think about this zone, the more I see this model hitting a lot of the sweet spots Blizzard have previously failed to even aim for.


Oh Kazzak you rascal ^^

You can grind Saberstalkers rep to Exalted if you wish, or you can simply skin in the Swamp, or there's those all-important Blueprints on rares, or perhaps all you want is Apexis to upgrade items... what is key here is the notion of flexibility and understanding. I have no idea what the Blood Moon is yet, or why people are hunting for 'one of the four', or a lot of other chat in General that makes little sense right now because I simply haven't done the research. All I'm really interested in is taking my toons through the dailies for a small and sensible amount of time per day, getting the Garrison/Shipyard to a state where it runs with a measure of self sufficiency... and after that? I'll wing it. I don't even care if I'm not ready for flying or not when 6.whenever appears. If I turn up late and a Rare is dead? It'll respawn eventually.

What is apparent however is the genuine excitement and enthusiasm from people that I'm seeing after a quite considerable absence. I hope that those who are capable of grasping just how much of a gift this zone will be who turn up late and can now gear for the next part of the journey, that actually it doesn't matter that much about the messy bit in the middle if Blizzard can pick up the game and make it to a victory. What encourages me MOST however are the secret places I've found, areas clearly not meant for daily questing that represent the Campaign Quest continuation, that I can visit now without context but clearly that hold significance for the future. And it is those places that I think are could end up being the cleverest part of this entire Patch.


The dark heart of Tanaan Jungle...

I may malign Blizzard for doing as little work as possible on Timewalking dungeons but they do their job for the majority of people. These areas, caves and grottos tucked away, excite me in a way I didn't think would be possible any more, because they are the possibility of something clever and special. Now all I have to do is wait and see whether the storytelling goods are delivered or not, because if 6.2 is the way to lay the ground for 6.3? Well, you gotta hope that's going to be awesome, right? The sets look impressive, and that end Cinematic? I know we're not done after the Citadel. Everybody does. The key is how that and the Zone now mesh and when we're done in I'd say about eight weeks when LFR is open across all wings? Things will get very interesting indeed about the middle of August. Right about the time of Gamescon... :D

On considered opinion, Tanaan is EXACTLY what it needed to be and more. The Patch delivers content in spades, and choice in abundance. All you have to decide is whether you play 6.2 or not.

I know which choice I'll be making.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

It's my Life


I would love to write a blog post, but I'm too busy enjoying the game and ACTUALLY PLAYING IT right now, so instead here is an artistically composed picture of the Spires of Arak.



Enjoy your Saturday


Friday, June 26, 2015

6.2 :: Real Gone Kid


I know you... ^^

My Garrison Campaign has kicked off again, and because I've still not finished Chapter 3 of my Legendary Ring quest-line, chronologies appear to be a bit scrambled. I've accepted my fate however, and the realisation that plot in this Expansion isn't exactly Epic by anyone's standards. I can't help but feel we're treading water, this entire situation being something of a diversion from bigger fish to fry. And now I've had time to think about it all with the benefit of knowing the end game? Even greater is the belief this is simply a Prologue to a MUCH bigger Episode.

Yes, I watched THAT Spoiler last night before I went to bed.


I know where this ends.

I'm letting the consequences of knowing what happens at the end of HFC peculate in my head, and because so many people won't know what that entails, I'm not going to discuss what I saw in detail. I sense more now than I have at any point in this entire Expansion that we were never going to be done and dusted within the Expansion time period we were given when events here in Draenor came to an end. I think the time may have passed where players were presented with an epic and self-contained 'story' of the ilk that has become legendary in Northrend. The storytelling method has not neccersarily evolved, it has more focussed on a particular line of investigation. This year's worth of 'work' is only the beginning of something far more significant, and I cannot help but wonder where the last seconds of that Cinematic take us all moving forward as inhabitants/friends of Azeroth.

What I am certain of however, more than at any point in the last year, is that neutrality is a place I need to exist within.


Ah, you know me so well, Yrel ^^

Of course, I understand that my views continue to place me in a minority, that most still desire the Red v Blue conflict to be front and centre... except, there is a sense now that this is only important when it comes to the petty details outside the main thrust of this 'plot', or if it involves co-operation front and centre. I may be wrong, of course, but the larger problem in the future won't be what side you're on. It will revolve around whether Azeroth alone is enough to stand beside the might of the Legion. That may actually provide some of the comfort I require, that I'm not constantly fighting the same enemy for the exact same ends. I've discovered a far more important mission to complete, and that involves a force that's tried and failed on many occasions to subjugate my Planet for its own ends.

If you didn't know this was all about the Legion...? Tanaan should give you that idea very quickly, and Hellfire Citadel simply reinforces the point. The old enemy isn't just back, it has a plan.

I sense that previous efforts in Outland might be nothing compared to what could now have been set in motion, and a part of me is genuinely afraid for the future. Remember all that stuff Wrathion was raving about in Pandaria? Green fire approaching the Planet? I think he actually had a point. That's a fairly sobering thought as I begin the campaign in Tanaan, with the understanding that actually, there could well be a sting in the tail, hidden in the jungle itself. The Shaman appear to know something of what this may be, and I for one am wondering what it is that Gul'dan has discovered and the relevance it might have beyond the realms of Draenor...

So, what happens next?

6. 2 :: I'll Be There


MANY BOATS HANDLE THEM!

It says something about the nature of content that if I'm too busy playing to write, the stuff is clearly doing the business. I'll grant you, not everything is great, but if you can hit the target seven times out of ten? I'd take that. Certainly, the Boat Thing is going well. I'm at capacity now until I've done my requisite 15 missions, but there's the Blueprint for the Battleship bought and my follower to use for extra Oil missions all standing by. The system works, and I'm compelled.

Frankly, I think that's all that matters from an individual perspective.


LOOK MA I HAZ LUNKERS

Then there is the reminder in my mind that I have Alts to level, and things to do that I've not touched for a few days. The Lunker rate from fishing is now lovely enough for me to want to run down the Tannan Coast and pick up Sea Scorpions to send to Alts for First Aid levelling. I'm on 8 Nat's Lucky Coin in two days, which for the amount of fishing I've done is pretty decent, which means I can add a Mount and some Pets to my Want list and know I'll be able to achieve them without too much hassle. I've also amounted 24 Pet Charms and have begun the slow and steady task of setting up Pet Teams for the Menagerie Dailies, and to beat the Draenor Pet Tamers. These things were frustrating for me before because of the sheer weight of other stuff to sort, and it helps that there's now a wealth of Guides and Advice out there to glean from. Frankly, having someone else to do that work for you is helpful. So, thank you Community, it is appreciated.


AN ACTUAL CHOICE OF MONUMENTS :O

Oh and then there is Tanaan itself, which is by turns enjoyable and frustrating. Because, for someone like me, this is hard work when you have to concentrate on EVERYTHING, when going out to do dailies pretty much demands a flask and a food buff, and your brain is exhausted at the end of a day's 'work.' All I can equate it to right now is like constantly clearing Instance Trash, and that means I want to pick and choose exactly what I do for a relevant reward. So, for instance, I'll kill Orcs if they give me a large reward at the end, or I'll complete Incursions if they grant rep. But I won't farm things unless I feel the drop rate is appropriate or I'm focussed on a particular job. That means that certain Reps will wait until I'm better geared or I can find some help, and as a rule I won't farm ANYTHING in the Jungle unless I can skin it. Because Felblight, general usage and NO NOT GOING THERE.

Still, at this rate, 150,000 Crystals is gonna be easy pickings ^^


The right reward balance? Quite possibly.

There's a lot of discussion topics on the table for this weekend, things to reflect on over design choices and approach, but three days in I'm cautiously optimistic. In fact, I can see this content being robust enough for me to stick at it it across the Summer.

Whether this pulls people back? That's a topic for another Blog Post... ^^

Thursday, June 25, 2015

6.2 :: Build


Right, lemme see if I have this... ^^

I wasn't a great fan of 'the Boat Idea' when Blizzard announced it, I'll grant you. It all seemed a bit convoluted and depressing, having gathered all those people to find they'd effectively become useless overnight... except I now realise the fiendish cleverness of the grand plan at work. This is all very smart, Blizzard, and I tip my tricorn hat to you and your evolution of the Facebook Game to something that I doubt that anyone will effectively find an add-on to trivialise.

The simplicity of this new system is actually quite brilliant.


MY GOD IT'S FULL OF SLOTS :o

Eventually, you will own MANY BOATS that you can custom equip as you see fit. Until you do, this new minigame actually forces you to constantly assess and upgrade the equipment you have on board if you want to try and avoid the destruction of your vessels. One assumes at 100% there is still a chance of losing a ship, because you know RNG HATES ME, but if I can minimise the possibilities, so be it. That means the following:

  • Locating every Blueprint that builds a Ship Improvement
  • Having enough Garrison Resources to be able to buy them all if the need arises
  • Being able to work out which Threat is countered by which piece of Equipment
  • Getting all my ships to Epic ASAP so they can use BOTH EQUIPMENT SLOTS

So actually, this version of the Minigame has the potential to be even more addictive than its predecessor, which I didn't think would be possible but what do I know? I tell you what I am already grasping, which is a concern. I'm thinking about how many Bond vehicles I can use to name ships after. I'm considering if I can get my Alts to 100 just so they can play this game as well. I have become utterly enamoured by something that I really should be running away from at speed. But I WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME DAMMIT.

This is all going to end in tears, isn't it?


Yes, yes it is ^^

6.2 :: Blinded by the Light


Almost time for that Second Monument ^^

It's Day Two in the Jungle, and already I'm seeing some issues for the future. Or rather, I'm having trouble seeing them properly.


YUK.

Certain parts of Tanaan do NOT work with my eyesight, and I know I'm not alone. I run Ultra on everything, and although I'll grant you the falling ash in certain zones is clever, the mist effects actually make my eyes hurt. Add to this the fact that things are now so dark I'm playing with Gamma full up at 9am and I know now there will be certain places I will not be able to play in for protracted periods. The swamp area especially yesterday forced me to take an eye break about 30 minutes in. I get that Blizzard are going all out for graphical innovation, but dark is pissing me off. It really is, and if I'm in physical discomfort playing a game? I'm going to get grumpy. Needless to say I'll do every Daily Incursion once, but the ones that actually make me hurt? No.

Having said that, this is really a great deal of fun to play solo. It's proper hard too, and I like that.


Deliberately lightened for your viewing pleasure.

I've been pottering about, completing Dailies in my own time, killing Rares when I find them and not really making too much of an effort to do much out of the way... except having done research on Shipyards (more in the second post) I know I'll need to be killing specific mobs that drop Blueprints. And so, this morning, this meant I was in the water just before 9am with a raid of 40 people, waiting for a bloody big fish.


You're not fooling anyone Nat, GET UP FFS!

As it happens, 40 people killing anything remains really effective, albeit time consuming. At this time on a weekday it's also a decent bet you're playing with the more rational portion of the playerbase, and as a result nobody flounced, abused or did anything except bring the numbers. So, I have another Blueprint, and I'll slowly knock those off in the next week or so.

I also have a confession to make: I did some Pet Battling in the Jungle, and part of my brain is considering Dailies to get tokens to buy pets. I know, I am a failure.


ARSECAKES.

Also, I caught AN ACTUAL LUNKER. Yeah, I'd better get that sorted too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

6.2 :: Sail Away


And so it begins. AGAIN.

Despite myself, I went and played 6.2 for an hour today. I'll admit, I was pleasantly surprised. I did the 'introductory' Quest chain to get from my newly-constructed Shipyard to Tanaan and then proceeded to establish a foothold in the Zone. I wandered around for a while and killed a few Rares. I fished and skinned some beasts, who helpfully provided me with Felblight. Then I went and killed Kazzak (World Boss) before popping back to Shadowmoon to set up my Naval Missions.

And then I logged off and sat back, and tried to work out if all of this is enough to make the most bloody minded of critics happy for the rest of the Summer.


Decent use of Art Resources? CHECK!

I had one overriding problem in Tanaan, I will admit. I couldn't see a bloody thing. Having to turn my gamma up to maximum to even have an idea of what I'm looking at really isn't optimal, and I'm not about to go and sit in the dark in daylight hours to play. Because of this, it was not exactly possible to grasp the overall feel of what the zone was aiming for. I'll have to wait until it is dark and I can give the place a better assessment. It is one of my criticisms of the game in general that playing it in daylight isn't optimal anyway, but that's my problem to solve and not Blizzard's. Needless to say, Rares are hard, you need to think to progress, and I could skin there for the rest of my life and not get annoyed. In fact, this may be the reason I need to knock down the Barn and replace it with... well, something else that would be useful. Because if I want Leather now I'd be bloody stupid to go anywhere else, simply because of the Felblight drop chance.

Maybe that was Blizzard's plan all along.


The Good Ship 'Little Nellie' sets sail again... ^^

The Ship Thing isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be either, but when a Mission takes two days to complete and you might lose your boat at the end? Facebook mini-games just got real. I'll do my best to get things to a stage where they're beneficial, but I'm not going to push the boat out to complete this ahead of anything else. Also, I promise that will be the last boat pun I do. No really, it will be. I also entirely grasp why this is happening the way it is, that suddenly we're looking at destructible units and the possibility of sending artillery into battle. This 'concept' is progressing, but still not really in a direction that I'm excited about. I'm still hoping to match banners and tabards.

Maybe customisation might become a thing in 7.0


Sir, I covet your headgear.

All in all, this patch is HUGE, and yet already I see people moaning there is nothing to do. Well, I'm sorry but I can't help you people any more, you are on your own. I'm swamped with possibilities and no time to complete them all, so all I have is compromise and the desire to make the time I do have as productive as possible. Tanaan is packed full of things to kill, find and attack, and still for some of you this will just not be enough. Do everybody a favour, if you're already unhappy with the lot you've been given. Just leave now. Go and spend the Summer doing something worthwhile and leave the rest of us to do the things we want to do without being poisoned by your belief that gaming is meant to do everything for you and you never have to think.

Because this Patch demands more respect than you're already giving it.

6.2 :: Simple Things


Oh, THANK YOU.

For quite a while I've been suggesting that the Heroes Call Board would be a great place for Blizzard to direct players to for information that isn't just related to quests and Expansion information, and that it would be fantastic if more useful things could be accessed from it. These structures are in every city, and are easily recognisable as places to go if you want to know what to do.

It would appear, at least in my Garrison, that Blizzard were listening.

It is the smallest of changes, and hardly significant for most who know their way around Azeroth on instinct. But for those who don't, this is a BRILLIANT addition to the game which is likely to go unnoticed by millions. Except I see it, and I know what this represents, and I for one am grateful that somebody inside Blizzard heard and acted on an idea that although not ground-breaking, made a difference to at least one person's life.

Thank you. I don't know how much that matters to you guys, but it means a great deal to me :D

6. 2 :: Dignity


There are many like it, but this Shipyard is mine.

I woke up this morning, and the EU Servers were online.

For this fact alone, I'm going to declare my first part of 6.2 a total success: because, after ten years or so, actually getting into the game itself after a patch has been fraught with issues. I loaded up the Battle.net Client and I was already updated: no need to faff or fiddle, it was all done. Blizzard themselves reminded me that addons would be out of date and made me shut the game down to correct it. And when I loaded up the game for the first time? It's not like I'd have no idea of what there was to do:


This is progress.

Even though the cynic in me wants to complain about the obvious issues with the all too brief and almost perfunctory questing in Iron Docks, the fact that making everyone click on the same item is asking for trouble, I can't fault Blizzard's application to the task of making the game more accessible generally. That's what I've been pushing for, and that's now what we have, and I realise that progress is slow and often difficult when it comes to the pace of fundamental change. I'd already resigned myself to having to wait for a week until everything calmed down, that there'd be an inevitable period of just being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people. Except, at 7.30am this morning, I was able to fly to the Docks, complete the questline and be back at my Garrison in under 15 minutes. Okay, it's not exactly immersive, but that's not the point of this part of the game.

There's a part of my mindset that needs to change along with everything else in this equation.


The Docks are very... well, brown. ^^

I've not stepped foot anywhere else thus far, it was literally 15 minutes in between breakfast and setting the kids up for the School Run, but if this is to be my future in gaming it was time really well spent. Life, like so much of most things, shouldn't be a vast procession of organised events and scheduled moments: there has to be spontaneity and a sense that you don't need to be ahead of the game sometimes just to enjoy things for what they are. I've realised in the last few months that the subjective process of enjoyment stems ultimately from an individual's expectations going forward: I'd assumed this morning wouldn't even happen, and so to be able not simply to log hassle free but to progress in a small, stress free chunk was a really pleasant surprise. And there's an issue Blizzard solved by being able to get servers running well before they should have been.


And so it begins.

I'd not intended to play the new content at all, but now I can, because Blizzard exceeded my expectations. I know that some 11th hour patch changes got sneaked in at the last minute, that people are complaining they can't Theorycraft, that there are screenies clearly with hundreds of people trying to do a task it took me three seconds to complete. I get there are two sides to every story, and in this case I got lucky and landed in the right place. The fact remains, that it isn't just Blizzard who causes issues. Some are undoubtedly theirs to shoulder, but many others simply happen as a result of what people want and can't get right now.

Today, I made the most of an opportunity that arose. I hope this is the start of something enjoyable.