Google+ ALT : ernative: 07/12/2009 - 07/19/2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mammoth!


So, the aquisition of a new mount would not normally be a source of squee-age. However, this is no ordinary mount. This is a Reins of the Grand Black War Mammoth, which is not only one of those 1% drop rate vehicles, it also allows me to carry two passengers. Needless to say this will make moving around low level toons for my son SO much easier :D

It was also a pretty good night as we managed to clear seven bosses in Ulduar: entire outer area, the entire inner area (save the Iron Council who I suspect will be the warmup act on our next visit) and Holdir of the Keepers. I took P last night (it was SO nice not to have to heal) and got two upgrades and a shed-load of achievements.

Today I will mostly be stocking up on flasks and consumables...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You're Not Relevant, Nublet

Shamelessly grabbed from www.break.com

I have, for many years, had a big issue with people who's job it is in life to dismiss you for not being in their clique. Whether it's Spandau Ballet is better than Duran Duran (so bogus) Trek spin-offs being better than Babylon 5 (may you be sent directly to Z'ha'dum for even saying that) or any of the numerous arguments I've had the misfortune to have to be caught up in, I do not advocate EVER choosing a side, unless absolutely necessary. Every position has it's merits, after all. Yes, I have what I like and what I don't but bitter experience has taught me what happens when you place yourself too far into any one camp and refuse to move. With age has come first relaxation and then flexibility. Just don't get me started on stupid and selfish people, ok?

Perusing wow.com as I like to do of a morning, I happened upon an article that says at the Leipzig Games Convention at the end of this month, Ensidia and Method are competing against each other in a timed Ulduar run.

Eliah Hecht writes the following:
It's going to be on 10-man, which is kind of strange, given that most people (and especially hardcore raiders) seem to think of the 25-man version as the "real" version of the raid. Maybe they wanted it to be easier for spectators to follow the action.
Hmmm. So most people seem to think 25 man is the only true instancing. I mention this now because yesterday I had a 'you're not relevant' moment over the exact same issue. A LFG for Ulduar 10 made me ask in Trade who (on a Tuesday) would actually have a free ID to raid, to which I got the response 'Everybody nublet, no proper guild raids 10 man anyway.' But they were *about* to, so one only assumes 25 man raiding with DKP and all the trimmings must leave something missing in the hardcore diet. No hang on, I know, they were only doing it for the Achievements...

So I find myself wondering why this labelling of instances is taking place. I understand totally why 25 man would be given increased relevance, of course I do. What I'm having some problems with is that people consider 10 man to not have a place if you have enough people to do the harder content. I would suspect primarily it's timing: if you're raiding three times a week and you have enough for 25 then there's no point in splitting that down to 2x10 with five standbys. However on non-raid days these people can find nine friends to raid with, they'll go and quite possibly forgo DKP and raid in a more relaxed environment. That's what my Guild does every time we do Ulduar ^^. So in reality this split would seem to be caused by a combination of timing and expectation. If you raided 25 man Naxx the next logical step is to go straight to 25 man Ulduar and to leave everything else outside the schedule. If you don't have the numbers or you wanna be more casual, 10 man.

Except I have a bigger problem with this than I first thought.

We work REALLY hard in 10 man. We're on limited time and with reduced numbers, especially with it being the Summer. It's no less easy to work out, just because there's less of us to do it. Of course it's relevant because it's us doing it, and what anyone else thinks is completely irrelevant anyway. That's not what's bothering me. What's bothering me is that we are FORCED to approach the content in this order as we have no real choice in the matter, because of the way we are structured and with the restraints we have on time and breaks (AFK Child has woken up and needs a cuddle not heard that often in hardcore guilds, I would wager). That really shouldn't as a result be considered as rendering us in some way inferior. Blizzard have provided two versions of essentially the same place, after all. Let's be honest, it's the first time it's happened as well in this order. Naxx began as 40, got pared down to 25 and then 10. That's an obvious reduction in difficulty. As I have no idea of how it was planned, I cannot say whether Blizz started with 10 and went up to 25 man Ulduar in difficulty, or if it was conceived the other way around. It seems logical to assume they started with more and made it less (take stuff away is easier than adding) but does that really mean that the 25 man mode holds more gravitas?

Of course it doesn't, but on some days I think the Community needs to feel it's running a two-tier system.

It's ironic that as Blizzard try and make more and more content available to increasing numbers of people, parts of that player base seem to deliberately want to maintain the segregation. It's the 'them and us' situation: the hardcore raiders who boast of better gears and more epic kills when in reality those running 10 mans are often doing so when they could just as easily be doing 25 but either choose not to or aren't in a position to do so. Back in the days of 40 man raiding there was no halfway house: you found a large guild or a coalition group or you simply didn't raid full stop. TBC gave you a 10 man with no link at all to the 25 man content so there was still a clear distinction between the big boys and the rest. Now Blizz provide two versions of the same thing, and it is the larger group that becomes more important. One assumes that keeping more people happy counts for something, but you know I'm betting the people in the smaller groups are far happier and for longer. Or maybe I'm just being size-ist :P

What remains however is the distinct impression that because I don't have the choices some people do, I am somehow not as relevant. This bothers me. This is therefore the moment when I remind myself this is a game, and it's all moot anyway.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

World of Server!

Original image shamelessly grabbed from http://www.ultimate-lwt.co.uk/blog/

It's time for another badly-considered and hastily-constructed Occasional Series! Huzzah!

So the Summer Holidays are almost upon us. My eight and a bit year old will be starting six weeks of school-free celebrations on Friday, but the party has already started elsewhere across Europe. The telltale signs are already there, and World of Server will be spending the summer (and possibly beyond depending on the mileage of this shoddy feature) reporting on the latest trends you need to know about, if you were actually bothered about such things.

So, enough chat, on with the show!

The Summer of Extraordinary Gubbins.

It's the time of year when the kids who's parents actually care about their online hours let them loose on computers in the daytime (assuming of course they're balancing the online time with healthy amounts of exercise, not too much junk food and an equal amount of vegetation by the TV/360/PS3) and as a result you're likely to see a marked increase in the following:
  • Greens, Blues and Purples sell for above the normal going rates, normally to expedite profession levelling or alt levelling. Bear in mind weapons and shoulders especially may not sell as well as they used to as many people will be using Heirloom items. This is a great time however to sell your spare cloth.
  • PuG frequency will increase, especially in lower level brackets. The quality of your PuG's WILL vary, check individual servers for details ^^ See below for tips on how to maximise your Ulduar PuG suitability.
  • Odd items may start selling for frankly ridiculous sums. For instance, I sold 2 Pristine Black Diamonds this morning for 200g apiece, with an offer to buy any further Diamonds I might obtain at 100g a go. The person concerned was clearly doing the Insane achievement, and it does go to show that people will pay just about anything if they want it badly enough. So, if you're spending your summer farming Dire Maul for Steamweedle rep, I'd stop vendoring anything that these people might find useful...
  • Merciless undercutting on EVERY item by idiotic sellers keen for a quick gold return. If you have a decent epic, it may be time to brave Trade to sell it.
  • Stupidity in World Channels, commonly on an Epic scale. Actually, those of you of a sensitive disposition may wish to /leave Trade and General altogether until early September... [*]
The massive influx of idiocy during working hours is something that can, on occasions be particularly distressing to those of use used to quietly pottering our way through Dailies and farming spots. I'd remind you at this point that if it's nice outside, it's probably a good time to log off and enjoy it :P

Ulduar PuG-ing and You: A Brief Reminder

There's already a marked increase in the number of Ulduar 10 man PuG's on my Server. If like me you suffer from Alt:itis this could be a very good time to capitalise on the mass influx of keen minds (because I do understand that the nutters make up only a small population of any Server) ready to take Yogg Saron on his home turf. However, much has changed since the days of LFG 39m MC and sadly having a Raid Leader who can link you The Descent into Madness is no guarantee you're going to get further than Brann Bronzebeard at the starting area. You are going to be expected to be able to prove that a) you've at least been to the instance you want to take part in and b) if you haven't that you're capable of at least grasping and working within that instance's level of difficulty.

There's a lot of QQing of late in Trade that it's not fair people are asked to link a specific achievement, when to get it normally needs a Guild to help you. That's not true, and there are ways to persuade any would be raid leader that even if you don't have the achievement they're asking for, you might be worth a look. I've done content without the need to link the appropriate achievement with all my alts, so here's a few tips that might work if the Raid Leader on your server has an eye for a keen player.
  1. Lead with your Best Shot: Link the RL an achievement you're proud of and that shows your skills: Emalon 25, Sarth +1, 10 or 25 man KT are all technically complex fights and aren't really the places where you can carry anyone. They're worth opening with. If you don't have them, I'll be honest and say you need to get them before you stand any real chance in Ulduar anyway. If you don't have them, go try and get into a 25 man Naxx, coz a 10 Man Naxx achievement should get you in there without too much of an issue.
  2. Keep your Armory Profile Current: Time to stop logging out in your fishing gear, I'm afraid. People WILL Armory you, like it or not. So make sure you're in your best gear and preferably log with a flask or food buff on.
  3. Choose your Words Carefully: You may even wish to go as far as making a macro for this. You'd be wise to be able to list your spec, your Spellpower/AP and anything else that you think might enamour you. Someone offered me 250g once to let them into my Sarth semi-guild PuG. Needless to say, I didn't take him. Make sure if you do this that what you say in your speech actually matches what it says on your Armory profile as well. Like I said above, people will check.
  4. Be Willing to Respec (or even) Dual Spec: If you've been thinking about spending 1000g on the DS Talent now would probably be a great time to do so. If you have the flexibility to heal and dps or tank and dps and you're not capitalising on it already, the Summer PuG might be a great way to start. If your RL's already got most of the Raid sorted and needs specific spots filled and you're able to do so, he may forgive you not having the achievement. This is especially true for healers. My druid got into Sarth + 1 by linking Naxx 25 KT and by providing the Tree buff. It can be done.
  5. Go the Distance: Don't start a PuG unless you're prepared to finish it. Commit yourself and you'll sound more confident when you're talking to the RL. You'll be surprised, even in text, how much of a difference that makes.
Above all however, Be Prepared to Be Shafted. This may sound obvious, but you're playing with a bunch of random people. Don't go looking for anything, and anything you get will be a bonus. The best PuG's I've taken part in have always been the ones where I went in expecting nothing. You will get a badge for each boss you kill, and unless you're doing 25 man Ulduar PuGs right now that means that any badges you do have will be useful for upgrades only until the new patch hits. So you may want to look at the shoulder and leg upgrades to tier that Ulduar emblems can give you, or perhaps to use your badges to get a Valor wrist item to sell for cash.

Now it's time to take a short break: coming up in Part 2 we'll help you maximise your 3.2 readiness!

Cue the commercials!


[*]: Let's face it you left months ago, didn't you?

Money Shots.

Oooh, haven't done an update in a bit.

So, this week was more 10 Man Ulduar progress. As you can see, Thorim joined Holdir in the Keepers Team we've helped free from Yoggy's diabolical mindgrasp. I'm especially pleased with the Cheese the Freeze achievement, considering how many people weren't managing to get to the snow piles on earlier tries. Plus we did it with 8 up for the last 40%. DPS last night was rather lovely. Thorim, despite being trailed as Most Complicated Encounter EVAH, was actually far from brain-twisting. I did both the Gauntlet run and the Arena bit and neither were hugely taxing and the fight itself is pretty much the easiest (in my opinion) in the entire instance. I didn't have to move for the whole thing \o/ We finished off with the Iron Council which is now offically on Farm Status. Tier Shoulders went to the Priest (not the same one from last wek) and legs to our stalwart Shaman Healer.

Oh, and Mr Main Tank Husbandadin is now the proud owner of the awesomeness that is Legacy of Thunder, and to say he's pleased is something of an understatement.

Last week also saw the Druid FINALLY snag the 'Champion of the Frozen Wastes' title. Having done the Eye of Eternity I'm still not convinced the 'gimmick' of the vehicle is an enjoyable one (though it seems I'm going to be forced to use mounts in the Crusader's Colluseum whether I like it or not :( , which is a bit bleh) but what was very apparent is that Malygos is not a boss to be fought if you're not 100% focussed. I'm pleased I've done it, but I'm not seized with an overriding enthusiasm to do it again, and that's not good.


The Hunter got taken out for a Naxx on Friday, for the first time in a fair few months, and we snagged a nice slew of achievements. I'm especially proud of the Patchwerk one considering this is the only toon I hold it on. We had only two deaths up until KT, I think had we started earlier The Undying would have been a distinct possibility. The pressure though is as much as a factor as anything else. It makes for an interesting extra dimension, and it shows for me why some of these Hard Modes may, in their own way, be just as challenging as doing instances with 39 other people in tow.


I should also take this opportunity to introduce F, my new project. She's my first Human to make it past L20 (23 at the moment) and as you can see is not only shamelessly exploiting Engineering, but is dealing out Holy Justice as a Retribution Paladin in the prerequsite Polished Spaulders of Valor (for 10% extra XP and pwnage^^) She's also the proud owner of a Reforged Truesilver Champion (with a Crusader enchant) which frankly, when it procs, is the stuff of legends. +100 Strength at L20 is a joy to behold, and the proc rate means I shouldn't be taking too long to level her. She takes her place on the character list and I'd expect here to see Dalaran well before any of my other pre-80 toons.



So, my realm is one of those listed to be unavailable until 3pm Central: this is God's way of telling me to go kick-start my new fitness regime at the Gym. Failing that there's Scrabble on Facebook or trying to beat my high score on Bejewelled... ^^

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Argument for Occasionally Coming Second.

WoW.com argue that maybe it might be a good idea if, for a change, we lost.

This comes hot on the heels of a weekend that has seen the English celebrate a DRAW against Australia in the First Ashes Test. It also comes after a week of Torchwood: Children of Earth on the BBC which saw a number of plot decisions that a small but vocal minority aren't best pleased with.

Now you may wonder why I mention these three things in the same entry, because on first look they have very little actually in common. As it happens, I think they do all have a link: the way we as human beings react to success or failure, and what makes us happy as a result.

At lunchtime yesterday the First Test looked like it was going Australia's way: England seemed unlikely to be able to survive in the field, until an inspired innings by Paul Collingwood and a last wicket stand by James Anderson and Monty Panesar made the possibility of a draw something that was worth fighting for. That's right, eleven men in a stadium full of passionate fans fought to DRAW a match, because they knew they wouldn't win but they believed they could do better than simply lose. In the end some (including the Australian Captain) think that wasn't done fairly, to the spirit of the game, but the fact remains England made defeat into something else. In the rules of the game, they kept the score at 0-0.

The Torchwood 5-part series on the BBC drew larger audiences than any Torchwood series before it. It was, in my (and many many others' opinion) the best series of the sci-fi show so far, but it did things with the characters and the plot that people aren't used to. Without giving anything major away, it placed characters in situations they could not escape, and the consequences were (in many cases) fatal. This isn't the norm for the shows we watch every week, because writers understand how people like to identify with the same characters, and it's important to preserve them as a result. It's also a lot to do with actors who want security and a steady paycheck. Anyone who's prepared to break that mould and do things a bit differently should be applauded, because it challenges our perceptions and makes us think. Sadly in this case people have reacted in an extremely negative fashion, and they've made it personal. That's not fair, and it's not a proportional response to what is, when it's all said and done, a work of fiction.

So, you're wondering what all this has to do with WoW? Give me a chance, I'm getting there ^^

The concept of gaming in WoW is pretty linear. You move forward, you always have something to do, you have many choices. In the end however, it's all about winning. You win items, you beat bosses. However, I'd bet most people would argue that the best fights they've had are the one's they've worked hardest to achieve: wiping for hours, days, sometimes weeks on a Boss until everyone gets what to do and when to do it. The satisfaction when Thaddius finally kopped it in 25 man springs to mind for me because it was SO hard. When 25 people across 25 keyboards in half a dozen countries all finally clicked, it's was GLORIOUS, but it was no less satisfying than knowing how much work went into getting to that point. To win is great but you don't NEED to win to feel as if you're progressing. Sometimes a kick in the teeth is as significant, because it makes you stop and think about how you perceive the world. Getting too complacent, expecting everybody to live happily ever after is pure escapism, but more and more the entertainment we indulge in isn't simply about that, it's about presenting harsh truths in a way that helps us as humans understand ourselves. It's about writers who believe that if their work is to be relevant, it needs to have some basis in realism. Like it or not, life is not fair, and we don't always win.

Except in WoW we do. We ALWAYS win. If the bosses are too hard they get tuned down. There is no kick in the teeth because if there were, it would I suspect change a very basic and essential game mechanic: you have to win to move forward. Failure, as they say, is not an option, because if people can't get what they want they will stop playing. They'll complain to Blizzard, and they'll go elsewhere. This isn't good for the Business model at all.

So, how is it possible not to win and yet still derive satisfaction from the gaming experience? Well, the two RL examples above are how I'd argue it's possible. You can still not win and make it hugely compelling if there's a bigger goal at the end. Had England gone one down in the Ashes yesterday the mood amongst cricket fans would be hugely different than it is today. The events of yesterday in Cardiff will make lots of people re asses how they perceive the game. The England team, who know that they are starting the next Test at Lords on Thursday at 0-0 when they could have been 1-0 down, have to come out ready to win, because they know this Australian team can beat them given the right conditions. So if you lose on the way to winning, what's so wrong about that?

The Torchwood example shows how, if you are prepared to look at the bigger dramatic picture, that change and loss can also be positive experiences. It also highlights how being obsessive about certain aspects of any subject can be dangerous and ultimately destructive. We all know people who are too into their characters, or their specs, or their role playing to the point that any major change to their WoW World can cause harsh and dangerous consequences in Real Life. It's all about stepping back and being realistic: it's about understanding yourself as well and how you react to circumstances. So, if the WoW designers were to come out and kick us all in the metaphorical sensitive spots, how would we react? Would we rise to the challenge and see defeat as a larger part of victory in ourselves, or would we all threaten Ghostcrawler and ritually sacrifice domestic pets? I'm pretty sure that if the WoW guys decided it was time for us to go backwards, and hey did it in a way that actually moved us forwards in terms of understanding our characters and Azeroth, it could have a very positive long term effect on the gaming experience.

Of course, it's whether Blizzard think it's a risk worth taking. I for one would like to see them do so.