Saturday, January 16, 2010

Look at Me, Ma!

I've been watching the reports that the Frozen Throne has finally been introduced into the game files, and this morning I decided I'd be popping into Icecrown for a look for myself. I think the screenshot is worth sharing pretty much unadulterated.

As is stated in the article there's no Frozen Throne as yet, but as is the case with the Crusader's Coliseum, you can't see all of what's actually there from the outside either. It's pretty high up too, and the view looking down might be enough to give even the most seasoned adventurer a touch of vertigo.

This has added significance as we're due a mini patch week commencing the 25th, which is going to contain a much-anticipated cut scene. Yes, I will be spoiling myself. You have been warned!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is It Worth It?

Here is the one item that bothers me the most in-game right now. Let me tell you why.

The life of the average crafter can be tough, you know. Once upon a time it used to be all about the grinding. I have often regailed you with tales of the Burning Steppes, of long hours farming Black Dragonscale to craft that set which was pretty much required wearing for any Hunter taking their first tentative steps into Molten Core. It was hard, yes, but it was fun, and the only restriction was you. You farmed until you had the mats you needed, you sold everything you didn't need, you crafted (and never asked for a fee) and as a result the tips were normally pretty good. You earnt enough for half an epic mount [*] and then you earnt enough to buy the mats to allow your Warlock to do the Dire Maul Epic run. Then TBC came along, and all the crafting changed.

Blizzard introduced the wildcard, the additional material. The Primal Nether completely transformed the way crafting works in game, by adding a vital final factor to the mix. Now crafters were in a position where, to make the best items, you needed to (assuming you first had the reputation to buy the patterns you required) either a) get lucky and have a Nether drop after a L70/Heroic run or b) afford to buy a Nether on the AH. Of course the Nether was added as a way to extend the life of content, I completely understand that. It meant that you couldn't have the best items three days after launch or just farm until your eyes bled any more, you were required to provide an item that was only available via instances. You had to go work with four other people. Ultimately this caused problems, and when Blizzard offered a solution to those people who thought the Nether drop was restrictive, it created a whole new slew of issues. Once you could buy Nethers with Badges of Justice, things got really interesting.

As crafting has progressed into TBC, prices have closely mirrored content for these additional materials. Runed Orbs, the key to Ulduar patterns, now sell for under 100g on my server where once you could have happily added an extra 0 to that number. Crusader Orbs, the ToTC added extra, just dropped below 200g, and as they are used in all the iLevel 245 gears, now is a great time to be going out and grabbing them and crafting bracers especially, which are more than likely going to last the majority of players all the way to Cataclysm. Primordial Saronite right now is worth 2000g a piece. I cannot see it dipping much below that price until ICC is fully open and Hard Modes have been engaged.

Sorry, but that just seems like too much to ask.

Money like that makes people look to gold farmers, I know it does. 1000g for Crusader Orbs made at least one person I am aware of just that, and despite me reporting them to Blizzard they are still playing. I think it's a dangerous game when inflation in-game doesn't just affect the stats of your gear, it makes people expect to pay frankly unrealistic sums for items that, if we are honest, are only there to help you compete the current portion of content and which will be disgarded come Cataclysm. At the price of 23 Emblems of Frost, I cannot imagine there will EVER be a point where I can afford to purchase them this way either, unless Blizzard upgrade the Heroic content to Frost for the last few months of the game. This is where we see a major difference in the additional material market. Frosts ONLY come from Weekly quests, ICC or the Daily Heroic, making the Primordial Saronite the most sought after. You can downgrade all higher Emblems for purchase EXCEPT Frost, so if I wanted to I could use Frost to buy Crusader Orbs or Runed Orbs, but only if I was certifiably insane. These ilevel 264 items are unique not simply because of the ingredients, but also because it costs a Primordial Saronite to purchase the recipes.

I have a real quandry to consider as a LW once I hit honored with the Ashen Verdict: the completist in me wants four recipes, the GM in me wants to be able to offer the choice to Guildies. This will mean an outlay of either 92 Frosties or 8000g. I was saving that for my Chopper :( To make matters worse that's the same again at Revered for the leg recipes. I would have to seriously up my game time to even consider this at present, and I know that there are people out there who will be dialing 1-800-GOLD-FARM without a second thought, and that makes me sad. Yes I'm sure that's always been the case, but this is a frankly mind-boggling amount of cash or emblems to spend.

I know Blizzard have said that things seem hard currently with so little content to run for Frost Emblems, but still, the fact remains I can only run ICC 10 once a week, and Primordial Saronite hasn't dropped from ANY of the bosses there. With Daily Random plus weekly Raid Quest I can afford a new Saronite roughly every 10 days assuming I don't upgrade my Tier Gear or anything else. All the other creation crafts have a three day cooldown :p I find myself wondering if this is a deliberately steep mountain I've been given to climb, or whether my old age and cynicism has finally broken through: what is the point to buying these items when I have so many hoops to jump through to even be able to craft them.

I have to ask, is it worth it? Sadly, right now at least for me, the answer is no :(

[*] ... and then your Husband generously gave you the rest. What a top guy :D

No News is Great News?

With a resounding thump the Ofiicial WoW Magazine finally arrived at Alt-ernative Towers this morning. It's a mightily impressive thing, it must be said, not an advert to be seen in the entire shebang. As a result, on a first read, it looks at times as if the writers are struggling to fill the extra space. However it must be said that the entire thing oozes quality and clear thought, and for this I think it scores highly. Just don't expect any stunning revelations...

The map I posted in the week is pretty much the ONLY piece of news that we didn't already know concerning the Expansion. There are titbits about the planned underwater zone, stuff concerning Guild Levelling and Archeology, and pictures of the altered areas of Azeroth but this is nothing we haven't already seen elsewhere. If it is this magazine's job (and I hope it will be) to give us the lowdown on what to expect in Cataclysm, it's not happening yet... but we know this, so while we wait there's articles on the Crusader's Coliseum, plus BG guides to The Isle of Conquest and Arathi Basin. I'd say it's safe to assume that come Issue 2 we'll see the same for Icecrown Citadel (which does get an article, but only furnished with 5 man instance art) so it's meagre fare for actual current content. Where the magazine shines I think is when it gets the Community to join in: there's an article on Loot Systems for instance, on Vanity Pets, plus perspectives on classes and races by actual gamers. There's even a cautionary warning on how to keep your account safe by a Blizzard Blue. None of this will be a revelation to those of us who get our fix of information online, but you need to bear in mind that this magazine took months to prepare.

Of course, this is the real problem.

The greatest strength in WoW has always been it's immediacy, and it's constantly evolving nature due to the frankly vast number of people who play it. Yes, you can make it all about pets or outfits or RP or rated Arena matches, it's entirely up to you, and as a result targetting a magazine at that audience is probably far harder a task than it might first appear. More importantly, with the sheer number of online sites and news hubs that work hard to produce new and interesting posts on Azeroth and beyond... every day... there's just not the immediacy in a magazine that you can find online. The fact that everyone and his mother picked up on the changes to the leveling zones from Issue One is because it was news, no-one else had told us this, and suddenly it was everywhere. I think if the Official Mag wants to succeed, we're going to need more of the kind of game details people will want to copy from the page and transfer to the screen. Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting read, and it's beautifully made, but if you're going to call it the Offical Magazine I think it's going to need to be full of something more than just the facts we already know.

As a start it's very promising. I hope however Issue 2 delivers some real tasters of what we have to look forward to in Cataclysm.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Loot is Hunter Loot

No it's ok, I'm not going to start the Maces and Shields discussion again, we both know it's just a matter of time :D

Last night in ICC 10, the Hunter Mantra paid off in spades. I suspect Festergut will be eating floor come the weekend, and I for one thank the Game Gods for making last night a Hunter Festival thus helping me speed the Abomination's demise. Let's have a look at the old scoreboard...

I will admit there may have been squeeing when this dropped from Deathwhisper. I know how sought after this trinket is: 35% proc rate, a 15 second duration and 45 second internal cooldown. I read that it works extremely well with the Darkmoon Card: Greatness. I already manged to snag the Needle-Encrusted Scorpion from ICC 5 Mans, but last night I couldn't use both because I'd have lost too much hit from unequipping my Mark of Supremacy. Frantic searching of the game database went on as my husband explained the tactics for Saurfang (who we one-shotted for the record) and I was all ready to go buy the Frost Emblem mail belt when the game solved my hit problem for me.

Considering I've not been wearing a tier chest since 25 man ToTC this came as actually only a small upgrade (245 to 251) but looking at the stats on this and the fact that I suddenly found the need for 50 extra Hit... well, it wasn't going to the DE pile. Looking at my stats on the Armoury this morning:

52.73% crit. Blimey Charlie. Nowhere is this more obvious than in my AoE: Volley now hits consistantly for 3100 a tick, and I'm seeing Multi-Shot numbers well over 5500. Raid buffed, I am hoping it shouldn't be long before I can break the 6k barrier. 6000 dps. It's the stuff of legends, at least for this hunter.

I will be doing some dummy tests later, but needless to say last night Pally and I dialed a late night Daily Random, got HoR Heroic, and had it done in 25 minutes, with appropriate achievement to boot. I will be making hay while the sun shines, do not worry, because the last time I had dps this good the dev's came along and nerfed me to the basement. These are wonderful times for P. I will make sure they are lived to the full.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


On my server, the lag really does bite.
AP/Steve Chen, from

Last night, shortly after P finally managed to get the Halls of Reflection ticked off the 'To Do' list, our Battlegroup fell over with some style. Stories drifted through the ether of priests tanking Rotface in ICC and taking no damage. Whatever happened, it was huge, unimpressive and ultimately frustrating. We'd done ICC in a Guild 4 man with one PuG Mage, who after waiting 10 minutes for the LFG Randomiser to send us somewhere was told it would probably be best if he tried to get back to his own Server first. When the dust finally settled we ended up in The Oculus, which pre-nerfs we'd have simply left in disgust. Last night we resolved to four man it. In the end we were 90 seconds outside the Make it Count achievement, and P got Experienced Drake Rider for her troubles.

Anyone who still thinks The Oculus is worth skipping... as long as you get the drake abilities, it's simple. If you have trouble with the three dimensional aspect of the flight, stick someone on follow and pretend. Even with chronic lag, we did it in under thirty minutes. That really can't be bad.

The fact remains however, our Battlegroup capacity remains wanting. As Lord Marrowgar is our Weekly Raid Quest, last night a far higher than normal amount of people were in ICC, and the servers simply couldn't cope. The ominous 'additional instances cannot be launched' message made a reappearance last night as well, and I have to hope someone in France was paying attention and has ticked the 'Needs Moar Hamster' button next to our server cluster. I know it's cold, maybe the rodents could use a good cuddle. Needless to say, this is not the first time it's been this awful. A member of our party last night remarked that maybe we'd inadvertantly become part of a Social Experiment, just to see how much we'd put up with before logging off in disgust. I tried logging off. It took nearly five minutes.

Please Blizzard, sort it out :(

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

IWIN, but You Lose.

 Leave the easy mode button ALONE...
I have to say, this makes me a Sad Panda. I like things to be a bit difficult. I enjoy a challenge. I think that being able to do OK, all the bosses, is considerably more satisfying than the sanitised version that Blizzard will now be presenting us with come the end of the upcoming PvP Season. However, what worries me more is the following comment from Zarhym:
We've learned a lot from our Wrath of the Lich King dungeons. I think you can expect us to approach Cataclysm dungeons with some new ideas, especially taking into consideration the Dungeon Finder. This system has drastically changed the way dungeons are run and we want to make sure future dungeons are designed with this in consideration.
I honestly hope this does NOT mean dungeons with no CC required, thought on competion or indeed ramped levels of difficulty. I pray this means we won't see an end to the Epic Dungeons like UBRS and BRD (or even Sunken Temple, with the fabulous statue unlocking thingy). I fear that this might mean that five mans stop being the place where the new players learn their craft, but instead they become a mechanic to obtain tokens to buy gear that players then have no idea what to do with. They fall into raids with no understanding of role or function, and then it's up to the poor hapless Raid Leaders to teach them how to actually play.

Don't get me wrong by the way, I appreciate that some dungeons (especially the Culling of Stratholme) lose their appeal once you've had to sit through the preamble a dozen or so times. However, when that dungeon was launched it was by far the most enjoyable five man to run PRECISELY BECAUSE of that preamble, encompassing the lore that it did, laying the foundations for our trip to Icecrown. The lessons have been learnt with the five man Trial and the Halls of Reflection, and I hope in future all 'lore' dungeons are fitted with the 'skip the pagentry' option. However I am concerned that this might mean the removal of the lore altogether, which would be a terrible loss to the entire feel of the game.

The Easy Mode stuffs, I suppose, were inevitable considering the life of the game. The current content, the ICC Five Mans, are at a level of difficulty that won't be changed I would suspect because the next time we see a new slew of dungeons it's going to be with an expansion. This means the content that is accessible to the majority is streamlined, giving everyone new gear and allowing people back into the bigger theatres (Naxx, Ulduar, Trials) with an advantage, as will be the case once Icecrown is fully open and the area buff comes into play. Of course it makes sense in order to retain player interest in the 8-10 months we have to wait. However, will it mean people get lazy and complacent, and will it mean that if new levels of difficulty appear in Cataclysm people will complain anew that things are too hard when infact they're significantly easier than they ever were?

Let's be honest, that's the way it's always been. I remember taking four hours to clear the Cathedral in SM and being proud it took us such a short time. I remember spending nine hours in BRD one weekend because I was determined to get to the end boss and finish the quest I'd had in my log for a month. Yes, back in the day when it took three days for fourty people to clear Molten Core, everything was hard and then Blizzard wielded the nerfbat on content far more people would cheer than would ever bemoan the simplification of the mechanics. Even though it makes me sad, it's clear that nothing has actually changed that much in five years, it's just my perception of the surroundings that alters.

If you ask me this game needs less Easy Modes, and more people with branes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Your Turn Now.

Form an orderly queue please...
I have often discussed with those who play the game simply with one Level 80, the merits and pitfalls of running multiple maxxed characters simultaneously. There is a fairly compelling argument in my mind that you should only have one 80, if you want to play them properly and learn all that you can about their abilities and pitfalls. Spreading yourself thin simply means you're never really any good at anything. There are days when I think this is true, and then there are days when I don't fancy being a hunter and want to be a mage, or a warlock, or I want to heal instead of dps, and I decide that I've made the right choice in what I've done because it affords me a measure of flexibility ingame that one character would never give. With six L80's now in the stable, the problem then becomes how you keep everyone at a level of relevance.

I have two 80's (Mage, Beast Mastery Hunter) who have never stepped foot inside a 10 or 25 man. With the options for gearing in five man and via emblems, this isn't nearly as big a problem as it might have been back in the day, when if you wanted to gear you needed a Raid. These two guys rank very much as my Casual Team yet I probably spend more time playing them than I do any other toons apart from P. I use G the Hunter as my primary ore gatherer and eternal collector, and K with her Tailoring (and therefore cloth cooldown) spends a fair bit of time in the LFG queue. She was the first of my posse to grab a Perky Pug. I just like playing a mage, and while the rest of my brethren all seem to be chucking Arcane Bolts around she remains steadfastly Deep Frost. I suspect it's the anti-establishment in me, but I love Freezy Spec even if the damage sucks right now. I just play her as relaxation. She grabbed her 4 set L232 bonus as a result yesterday and despite the fact the rest of her gear's full of holes, I think I'll be using her to potter for some time to come.

M the Shammy and M the ex-Main Boonkin are the middle ground team. Their gear's pretty solid, they have run a variety of 10 man content, but they don't get as much airtime as perhaps they might have done six months ago. These are the two who tend to get overlooked for the current normal run of things: I'll only get the Boomy out if I want some herbs, the Shaman if we're short a healer for an instance. These two are holding the specs I need to learn more about and the Druid especially has some real issues with gear. Writing this now is making me want to go away and do some reading on Boomkins, so that can't be a bad thing. I suspect it's also due to the fact that these guys take the most concentration to play well that they are curently in the Inn sharing a flagon of something low-calorie yet very alcoholic and comparing notes. To make multiple alts work, you need to know your limits, and these guys are taking a break because I know mine. They will no doubt be back, when I'm in a better position to do them justice.

That leaves P and W as the A Team. W did her first Trial of the Crusader over Christmas in a PuG and walked away with three upgrades, and despite some disappointing dps numbers (which Mr G.Crawler of Califonia has said he'll look at \o/) is seeing a great deal of random action. She's two Frost Emblems away from a cloak upgrade, but is more likely twelve emblems away from a belt swap which should sort her hit cap issues out for some time and allow a nice gear reorganisation to boot. Locks are in pretty short supply on the Server and in Guild for some reason (I suspect it's that DPS thing that's making people go play their other alts) which does mean I'm getting random whispers for both 10 and 25 man action. It's a good time to be Demonic! P of course is blazing a trail through ICC (Server 27th!!!!!) and as a result is being exposed already to the lure of T10 set bonuses... mmmmmmmm bonuses. However she STILL hasn't done the Halls of Reflection on Heroic... must remember to sort that out. These are the guys who get the evening play, the ones with the most focus on and as a result the ones I think I'm playing the best at present. I think the fact they're both dps-ing big numbers has also got something to do with my interest.

The trick therefore, if you want to play multiple alts to a decent standard, is to know your limits. It's to not overstretch, it's to plan well and ultimately to listen to yourself. There is never really a plan, there's just you deciding what you want to do to enjoy yourself, and it's then about being able to pick the right characters to help you do that. Right now I think I'm doing a pretty good job at keeping both myself and the Giant Family 'o' Alts happy. Here's to many more months of balance and enjoyment as a result.

Oh, and if you could remind me that six 80's is more than enough when I next get the urge to level my Priest, I'd be very grateful...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Little Knowledge... this case, is going to be very useful.

The Official Warcraft Magazine is now shipping, and although I do not yet have a copy in my hands the information within it is beginning to leak out. Most notable so far, and featured via World of Raids, is the continent redesign to cover the Worgen and Goblin starting areas. This is coupled with improvements to the levelling experience in Kalimdor. For anyone who's been around since Vanilla, this will be a major revelation. Let's take a look at the Worgen map first:

As we can see, the Worgen will be put pretty much head-to-head with the Forsaken from Day 1, which fits in with the associated events that come to bring the population of Gilneas to side with the Alliance. By far the most surprising changes come in the Hinterlands and the Plaguelands, which recieve a fairly hefty reduction in level range: whereas before you would enter WPL at 45-50 you'll be set to leave EPL at that point, which makes me wonder for one if we'll see a similar reduction in entry level on both Original Stratholme and Scholomance. More significant still however is the addition of a new Neutral Port between the Hinterlands and EPL, in an area that's been begging for some attention for as long as I can remember.

There's no map available currently for the Goblins, but considering their placement I'd say it's a fair bet we'll see them in direct competition with the Night Elves in Ashenvale and Darkshore, moving south to the Barrens:

This area has seen a major change with Thousand Needles moving up in level from the late 20's/30's to 40-45, and Tanaris also increasing in difficulty. The Southern Barrens area will take up the 30-35 slack. We already know that a lot of the 1000 Needles area will be flooded, which may mean the loss of one of my favourite areas of the Game, the Mirage Raceway (a great place for any prospecive skinner to level) Considering the proximity of Goblin to Gnome, I wonder if there wouldn't be an international incident if they were allowed to co-exist...

I'm really looking forward to seeing the magazine, hopefully the bad weather means I won't be waiting too long to actually digest my copy...


See that! Server 27th Kill, that was :D Bring on the Next Wing!