Saturday, March 31, 2012

How To Guarantee You get What You Want!

I'm making a lot of bags lately. They sell very well, and I use every opportunity I have to grind cloth: not simply on my Tailor, but on all the toons I have. Doing the 250 Grisly Trophies for the Darkmoon Faire is a great opportunity to pick up piles of the stuff. However, I have also cornered the market in Imbued Netherweave Bags, thanks in part to having discovered that Karazhan is a great place for all the raw materials in one place.

Yesterday I sent K my Tailor in to kill the trash up to Opera, avoiding any bosses so I could come back later in the week for another pop. However, K does not as yet have means to vendor stuff, and so I decided I'd clear to Attumen so I could access the vendor afterwards for selling...

You know what's coming next, don't you?


I didn't even register it had dropped at first, more concerned with the fact this item couldn't be DE-d, and I couldn't work out why... ^^ Needless to say, I've farmed for this on P for over a year. It's proof, if it were needed, that going to somewhere not being bothered that you want something to drop is a pretty good way to make it happen.

Gonna need to make an outfit to match this, you know... ^^

As there are no flying mounts in Panda Land, this is going to be the mount of choice when I head there. At least I know it actually exists... :D

Friday, March 30, 2012

[BETA] The Skins I'm In...

Right, that will be that, then :D

Skinning. Once considered the minority gathering profession, until Cataclysm when it's become one of the most consistent and simple ways to make cash. Stuff dies, you dissect it. It's a classic tale!

As I said yesterday, you could do a lot worse on Pandaland release to have a maxxed Skinner in a starting area. Hundreds of rabid players, all desperate to make it to 90, with scant care about what they leave behind. Skinners are the ultimate Clean Up Crews: Sethria's Roost, the starting area in Vashj'ir, all were teeming with creatures at the start of Cataclysm WITH FREE GOLD ON THEM. You just needed the tools to extract it. I made a very decent sum in those opening weeks, and I intend to do so again this time around. That means maxxing my skill as quickly as possible.

First things first: just skinning in the Starting Area doesn't look as if it's going to cut it. You get stuck in the 580s and progress (assuming levelling rates are set) is VERY slow. What you need are some 85+ mobs, which in the Jade Forest right now are quite hard to find... if you don't know where to look. But they exist, if you know that the Jade Forest is where you train a Wind Serpent Flying Mount, and you can only do that when you reach L90.

Working on a hunch, my favourite thing ever.

The train of thought went something like this:
  • You can only fly in Pandaland at L90.
  • There are a special set of trainers to help you get a flying mount.
  • There will be L90 trainers, and by definition, L90 quests to complete.
  • If there are L90 quests, there are going to be mobs higher than L85 involved.
  • I wonder how many might be skinnable?

A cursory examination of the surrounding countryside revealed Windless Isle up to the north east: knowing how Blizzard like to name things so they are thematically linked, I thought this was probably a good place to try. Hooray for a Sea Turtle to get there, and when I did...

Me, Porkupine and a L89 Turtle. I love it when a plan comes together...

It was a faff. With no pet talents and only 85, I came close to death on a couple of occasions, but it never happened (I am not that pants at this Huntering lark) In the end, it took about 30 minutes to knock the last 11 points off. Oh, and in case you don't believe it (as one hunter didn't when the question was asked in Trade, I do come with a certificate:

Oh ye of little faith :D

Whether these mobs remain when we get to Live, or indeed if the skill curve remains intact or not, I can happily report I've maxxed my nerd skill this afternoon. I am a happy crafter :D

However Good it Is...

You're not quite done yet, are you?

100,000 people (potentially) will have a chance to log onto the Beta this weekend. This is great news for them and not so great for the other however many people remain without a Beta shout. However, this is not going to be another rehashed take on the 'we were promised a pony a chance to see content before it's finished' argument. This is about something quite different.

It's taken a week, but finally the realisation is beginning to sink in: anything I do now in Beta is, at least from a personal standpoint, pretty much a waste of time. Of course the total opposite is true for the people watching the steady stream of data I generate and the bugs I report. For them this is vital input to identify areas where the game needs tuning or mobs aren't doing what they have been designed to do. Once you grasp the concept that Beta Access isn't for your benefit, a lot of things change. I'm suspecting this is why, even with (potentially) a million people available to 'test', there will be bugs and issues that make it to the live release, unnoticed and not dealt with. It is only the dedicated testers who are going to stick with the game until the end: not to get to L90, or to level their Pandas to End Game, but to give the most thorough throughput of how the new data slots into the old. This does not escape the fact however, that however good the Panda Experience is, it's not the game you leave behind, that continues to move on regardless.

I'm now grasping that my enjoyment from Beta is becoming less and less to do with the experience of pushing myself to max level, and more and more about preparation before the Expansion starts. In the first weeks I'm always scrabbling about for information on what materials come from which area, where I should focus to improve my skills... levelling is always the bonus, the relaxation. Now I have a unique opportunity to arm myself beforehand with the particular items I need, to work out which mobs are likely to drop what bits I'll require... and I know that this interest is not simply limited to my personal focus. Judging by the interest my Beta posts are generating there's two distinct camps I can identify: the people who want to know about changes to classes and what this means to them, and the people who make/sell things. The best way to learn what is happening to my Hunter is to play her, of course, but that can be accomplished just as easily grinding skinnable mobs and chasing down raw materials as it can be completing a quest chain. Both yield significant data, but in distinctly different ways.

I'm hoping that all the people who have their Beta invites don't all to try and log on simultaneously this weekend (^^) although that in itself could be an interesting test of server capacity. I'm wishing they don't all plough into the game and burn themselves out, and that as many as possible push through their characters until max level. Then I'm hoping they try and experience as much of the Beta as they can, so that every area of Pandaria is properly tested and prepared for when we all get to go there for real, whenever that ends up being. However good you think something is, there is inevitably a moment of disappointment when you grasp your personal expectations don't live up to actual reality. Let's hope all the hype of the last ten days doesn't diminish with this first wave of new explorers, and remember: there's lots to do in this game apart from levelling. Test everything on your travels. It all needs breaking...

We Interrupt your Beta Experience...

This message sponsored by Pokemon Warcraft Pet Battles...

It's the Darkmoon Faire this weekend! That means +5 to all your professions (including cookery, first aid and fishing) and a chance to stock up on tickets for pets and mounts. Having seen just how many pets there are to collect in the Beta, the more you can procure BEFORE it arrives the better, to be honest. Don't forget to also pick up your Darkmoon artefacts from Heroic Bosses (what do you mean no-one runs Heroics anymore?!!?1!!?) for EXTRA BONUS TICKETS.

Don't say we didn't warn you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

[BETA] The Gallery

For those of you in the UK and of 'a certain age' remember to start this video before you look at these pictures. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, go and read this first:

And now: the Gallery :D

Blue items dropping from mobs: always good.

This is a Spirit of Harmony, From what few crafting recipes I've seen, you're gonna need a lot of these. Keep them in a pile somewhere...

I'm betting she doesn't play guitar...

I found Yol when I was first deposited in Pandaria. Am kind of hoping we get noodle-based food as a result, or else she's going to need to think about switching professions...

Does she knows she's doing this part time, I wonder?

I'm almost tempted to make a guild called 'Temp Staff' on the back of this: I assume the place holder refers to the actual staff she's wearing (which doesn't look very Pandaren) Needless to say, I hope she has a CV standing by...

Pointy. Ouchy.

I am tempted to go and take pictures of all the new models in the Jade Forest, because there are so many of them and they are all fabulous. There are a number of familiar skins too and I'm wondering if they will be repaced in time with newer models. The cranes particularly are gorgeous. I look forward to being nibbled to death by them on Live as soon as possible.

No s**t, Sherlock.

Think this one's pretty self explanatory... :D

[BETA] Hints of Something Larger?

I will be honest with you at this point, gentle reader. I am very grateful for my Beta Invite. I know how many people are narked at not having one, and I'm well aware that this means reading about things you can't be involved with may well not be the most fun ever. I'm trying to rein in my enthusiasm but this is the Honeymoon Period. Everything is new, and unexplored. There are no guides to look up and follow, I'm on my own, and I love the feeling of genuine exploration, because that's what it is. I pick everything up. I interact with anything that moves, and I get teleported out of zones I shouldn't be in yet. BOO.

Then, I discover something that makes me even more excited than [Plump Intestines]...

You know, I think that flavour text is there for a reason.

I found this when I killed a turtle in the Murky Bank, which is very close to the Valley of the Four Winds border. It's not a skin, it's a drop, and it's soulbound. I have to do something with this, obviously, and as I have no idea what I'll keep it in my bags. However, as it has a 6g sell price I could just as easily sell it or grind multiples of it for cash... but you know, I reckon this could have a higher purpose. There's nothing else for it, I'm going to have to quest and see if its purpose becomes clear.

I'm also going to have to do a LOT more exploring :D

[EDIT: From Twitter: Details of Cookery. Well, a few anyway :D]

[BETA] Notes from a Pandaren Island :: Day One

Right then. Let's go do some actual questing, shall we? I won't do spoilers here, and I'm not going to give away anything intentionally: needless to say some may just happen. You have been warned.

There are no loading screens at present. However, there is a fully functioning quest sequence that begins at the Alliance start point at the far south of the zone. As of now you have to ride there to find it from the point you are deposited. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was a portal back to Stormwind, so we have at least got full mobility options :D

Two new Questing icons for you to learn... :D

You'll encounter some new yellow advisory symbols on your initial forays into Pandaria: the yellow speech bubble and the yellow cogwheel (which also appear on your minimap). Needless to say, you interact with the former and talk to the latter. Easy game :D There are also hints of a more intelligent quest phasing taking place even at this early stage: asked to rescue some Alliance people, once they do they vanish for you, and don't hang around as is often the case just waiting for the next quester to come along and find them.

At this point, I was very glad I was a skinner. EVERYTHING you kill in the starting area can be skinned, but at present only about 40% of what you skin actually gives you some leather (either scraps or a complete piece). This could be intended of course, I'm not sure as yet. I'm at 562/600 and at the rate the mobs are being slaughtered I can see myself maxxing out before I even leave. If you don't have a profession coming into Pandaria (and I know many people don't bother), you really could do a lot worse than take Skinning now.

Then there was the moment when my skinning yielded something new:

Hang on, that's not a Mummified Organ!

Official: Plump Intestines are the new Strangely Bloated Stomach. Crack them open and they currently give Volatiles (I have Life, Water and Earth thus far) but I'd bet whatever the Pandarian equivalent become, you'll see them in there soon. Next up: skinning enough mobs to see if I get an equivalent of the Pristine Hide... ^^

The biggest change I'm seeing thus far is rewards.

I can see a pattern emerging here... ^^

My first reward was a 372 crossbow. No difficult choices to make, just one reward. After that, it was a mail hat and now... I have mail trousers. If you come to the zone fresh from 1-85 levelling, without a Dungeon to your name, you'll have a set after you finish these quests you can dive straight into a dungeon with. That's class, Blizzard. It also pushes people to quest. Also brilliant.

Right, now if you'll excuse me I need to find someone and see how long it takes to max out my Skinning skill... ^^

[BETA] Hunter News Update!

Reminding me of 'The Man with the Golden Gun'... ^^

So, we have Hunter News from the Starting area... and it's that nothing is tameable :( I've seen some fabulous skins too: the new tiger, a wonderful porcupine... all yellow, and all with the same depressing dialog when I cast Beast Lore on them. However if the game is telling me what they eat, there's always a chance I will be able to tame them at some later date... so no worries there. There also seems to be a phenomenal number of hunters around the place as well. This is a good sign.

Right! Video time, and today it's all about Call Beast:

The tooltip says this is on a 30 second CD, so I'd expect a hotfix shortly. Fun while it lasts though :D

[BETA] Flying Kite Video :D

It seemed rude not to: I found my second flight point, and when I flew back... this is the benefit of FRAPS, even if you had to plead to borrow it from your 11 year old son. He'll understand :D

I also have some video of a new Hunter ability that I'll post shortly :D

[BETA] Now the Fun Begins...

Welcome to the New World :D

There's a new Beta Build, and Pandaria for the grown-ups is active :D

You don't have a questline to get there yet, there's a Portal panda in your capitol city of choice to go talk to who will take you there but once you do... I was right, this place is going to be fun to look at. It's beautiful and although obviously Azerothian it's just... well, not. There's also a load to report after only thirty minutes in the zone, so let's get to it.

Confused which bit of gear is yours? No longer!

You can now sort your gear on vendors by spec. This will be particuarly useful when selecting gear on points vendors (assuming we still have points come Expansion of course) Oh, and before you ask, the gear this guy sells doesn't have a Pandaren skin yet, it's just boring. I looked :D

You get ported to Dawn's Blossom on arrival and (unless I was being blind) I don't actually see any quests yet, or at least no !'s were immediately apparent when I arrived (with the exception of the flightmaster) However, one thing on the map immediately jumped out and grabbed my attention:

Like I'm going to ignore two digsites :P

Taking the roads (coz I am a safe soul ^^) I made my way to the more Eastern of the two Digs. Sites may be showing, but I'm going to suggest it's not properly implemented yet: I was able to excavate NINE times and create two objects from the same site. None of the Icons or flavour text exist as yet either, and there's not a unique Icon on your Professions screen...

Pandas looking a lot like the Vrykul right now...

One solve = one skill point. That's probably not final either ^^

Needless to say, this took a lot of digging to unearth :P

I also tried fishing, as there's a lot of water about in which to do so... and again, I was thwarted :(

Blizzard, why do you hate Professions so? :(

Realising my minority interests were again not again at the top of the priority queue, I thought it might be an idea to actually kill some mobs and see what happened. Not everything that should be skinnable is registering as such, many mobs when skinned yield a skill point but no skin. However, in about 40% of cases, you get both the skill raise and summat to show for it:


For a while all the mobs I could find were yellow, until I happened upon a large village of Red monkeys (who helpfully drop beer and Windwool Cloth, the bandage making material and quite important for you Tailors) I also found a boss mob, Kung Din:

Quest Target Mob!

This guy has a rather clever quest mechanic, which I will not reveal, but needless to say if Blizzard intends to make mini boss fights interesting like this one was, I'm really rather looking forward to levelling. I also used another of my new Hunter abilities, which I'll stick in a video and publish after I've posted this.

I'd expect to see a ton of new information in the next day or so as more people get their Beta invites and start exploring. For now, I'd say things are off to a very good start.

With the Best Will in the World...

So, how many people here actually came to enjoy the Instance...?

My good friend, Mr G. Elf, made a post yesterday about the new LFR Loot Rules. His 'Boss Teeth' idea is a good one, but part of me knows that there are times in random groups when loot isn't the problem.

It's the people.

Last night I watched a spectacularly unpleasant LFR. It wasn't the dps that was the problem, or indeed the tactics, it was five people, all from the same Guild. They weren't interested in the loot, far from it. What they'd come to do was grief, and that's what they did. Unluckily for them they were in the same raid as my husband and four others from my Guild, who don't take this kind of wank from anyone, especially individuals who think that it's cool to chain pull mobs, abuse others and keep themselves alive whilst others die. They refused to act reasonably and respond to polite requests to stop, and as soon as they were challenged they began to make it not about the instance, but the 'mean' people who were telling them to stop being idiots. They could do what they liked, and it didn't matter.

In the end, the loot became secondary. It became about convincing enough people these guys did not deserve to finish the instance, that they should be removed before the last boss went down.

Eventually everyone got angry. Healers refused to heal, people were willingly dying so that the raid wiped and the offending mage, his priest friend and a couple of other idiots could be removed. As one sensible voice after another chimed into Raid the idiots would shout in caps for them to be kicked, or complain their dps was too low. Eventually on Hagara it got to the point where the five guys who had caused all the issues were the only ones who remained, desperately trying to dispatch the boss so they could 'win.' The moment the Mage died he was kicked, with his priest friend leaving moments afterwards. The other three remained however and tried to wipe the raid (I assume as revenge) but failed, and the relief I saw as a result was palpable.

No-one should have the right to hold a Raid to ransom like that, but I'm betting it happens a lot more than anyone is prepared to admit.

My one main worry before LFR was introduced was that this kind of behaviour was going to take place, and there would be no way to prevent it. It doesn't matter what loot rules you put in place, you're never going to find a way to restrict idiots like this. Some people's idea of enjoyment is a Universe away from everyone else's, and thriving on other's upset and discomfort is something that, quite frankly, makes me ill just thinking about it. It happens across Azeroth, on countless servers, and the ONLY way that things will ever change is if enough people take the time to report these individuals to GM's, and to make their names known as the type of people you'd never want to group with, even in nightmares.

Next time you find yourself in a Group with someone like this, PLEASE report them. If you have someone in your Guild who thinks this is cool and you don't, maybe it's time to find a new home.

This is bullying. Bullying is wrong, however anonymous you might think you are. Make sure people like this are reported please, and please take the time to make a Ticket. It's not pointless, if enough people do the same GM's will sit up and take notice. You will do everyone a favour in the long run.

However good the loot rules are, they'll never stop people who think they are beyond the rules. It's our job to make sure these people are dealt with, to make this game a safer and happier place for everyone to play in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

[BETA] Ever Wondered...

... what the Professor Putricide skin was originally modelled on? I can answer that for you :D

[BETA] Last Chance to Achieve?

The Scholomance. A lot purpler than I remember it.

It should not be news to anyone following the MoP Bandwagon as it slowly rumbles across these lands that both Scarlet Monastery and the Scholomance will be receiving L90 updates come the Expansion. This (of course) means that their lower-level counterparts won't remain intact once Mists arrives, and in turn we could see some fairly significant changes not simply to the levelling experience, but to some established achievements as well. Having been in both instances I can say they're a lot less confusing, but in the case of Scholo I'm going to miss the old layout in favour of the newer, less convoluted trip.

However, we're here to consider what might vanish forever...

The hugely frustrating but rather satisfying Well Read for instance, needs you to locate many books which are housed in both updating instances: as of now on Beta none of those books exist at all. It is of course highly likely that they may return (bear in mind that the low level instances in most cases don't even have loot if new mobs have been introduced) We also have no idea whether items like the Tailoring pattern Jandice Barov currently drops will be gone or be replaced elsewhere. Certainly there are a lot of items that drop in the normal loot table that might be living on borrowed time...

A rather cool ability from a new Scholo boss. Professor Putricide FTW!.
These are items that, I suspect, will be low on Blizzard's priority list, and may well be totally overlooked for End Game and 'new' content. If you haven't yet completed the 'current' Scholomance (or indeed Scarlet Monastery) experience you might want to consider adding them to your 'To Do' List... :D

Giant Dwarf News... :D

I normally pay scant attention to idiots in Trade, but this morning even I had to stop and stare in awe at this one:

Yes, that's a mammoth.

There's a Dwarf, in Stormwind, the size of Deathwing, and it's a legitimate item doing it.

Say hello to Fras Siabi's Barely Bigger Beer. It's been in game for a while but, looking at Wowhead in the last few days, some bright spark's found a way to stack it to monstrous proportions. Needless to say, I reckon this will be hotfixed pretty soon, so if you want to take advantage of it, I'd move fast :D

Proof, if it were needed, that we could really do with some new content very soon :D

EDIT: Thanks to Zable on Twitter ( for some additional shots of the potion 'in action':

Thanks for the pics, Zable!

[BETA] Pet Battles: Yes, it really IS Pokemon ^^

Yes, it's important enough to warrant a graphic. There goes NEXT month's budget... ^^

I have come to grasp that my interest in Professions is only likely to be shared by the rest of you lot when they're actually finished, and every piece of news I get is not nearly as significant as I believe it is. Therefore it might be an idea if I mindlessly fixate concentrate on summat else instead.

Let's summarise what Wowhead have been able to dig up on Warcraft Pokemon Pet Battles, shall we? All of this is taken from their exhaustive post on the subject:

We have eight classes, as demonstrated by our new graphic above. They are as follows:

  • Beast : Bonus to Critter Attacks, reduced damage to Humanoid and Flying.
    [Melee Attacks: stuns, increases physical damage taken]
    Example: Scorpion.

  • Critter : Bonus to Humanoid, reduced damage to Beast and Flying.
    [Sneak Attacks: damage based on the number of enemy buffs]
    Example: Prairie Dog

  • Dragon : Bonus to Flying, reduced damage to Water and Dragons.
    [Fiery Attacks: Single Target/aoe damage.]
    Example: Crimson Whelpling

  • Flying : Bonus to Mythical, reduced damage to Dragon and Flying.
    [Crit Strikes: multiple turn based abilities.]
    Example: Rustberg Gull
  • Mech(anical) : Bonus to Humanoid, reduced damage to Mechanical and Water.
    [Tech Spells: Powerful DoTs but unreliable.]
    Example: Tranquil Mechanical Yeti
  • Mystic : Bonus to Dragons, reduced damage to Animal and Mechanicals.
    Looking like Elemental-based spells based on Mystic Powder (from Wowhead)
    Example: Lashling
  • Water : Bonus to Mechanical and Dragon, reduced damage to Water and Humanoids.
    [Healing Spells: only class so far with these]
    Example: Island Crawler
  • Animal: no information, but 3 abilities are currently linked to them. Mythicals do less damage to them.
(I'm betting those classifications might change, by the way.)

Wowhead have a full list of datamined abilities and the first details on where wild pets will be available to tame: I would expect to see WarcraftPets go into high gear in the next few days and for there to be full guides in production as to what you can find where. Needless to say, as this is Beta things are going to change a fair deal, but I'd go out on a limb and say that this set of 'core' classes is a fairly solid framework, even if names change.

Time to start learning your class abilities, folks :D

[EDIT: WarcraftPets are showing three additional pet classes on their recently posted update: Elemental, Humanoid and Undead, and is registering Mystic as Mythical. Wonder if I can get a refund on that graphic ^^

Needless to say, their article is better than this one. Go read it now :D]

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

[BETA] And so it Begins...

Let us dig these new mining items ^^
... and let us be enchanted by these new recipes... :P

Wowhead has already provided us with the raw materials we'll be using to do our crafting in Mists, and finally we're beginning to see the recipes that will be used with them on trainers. Kaliope has done an exhaustive list of the Alchemy recipes at her crafting blog and a cursory glance after the scheduled maintenance in the US shows additions to Mining and Enchanting.

Here's the Enchanting recipes available thus far:

That should be all the Enchants as things stand, and I'm not seeing any additions to the other professions as yet. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for them to appear :D

In My Head

Just think yourself lucky you're not in my head right now, because this is stuck on repeat ^^

This is 'one of those' posts I've meant to make for a while, but (I'll admit) I've avoided because I needed to say it right, and that required me to stop and not think about gaming.

There are an awful lot of grey areas when I do game. However, in the main I am lucky enough not to have to deal with people unless it's on my own terms, and those are (95% of the time) free from a lot of the issues that I am well aware cause a problem for other women. I have read and noted comments of this from across the spectrum, and part of me is encouraged that lots of people feel comfortable enough to talk about subjects wrapped up in the sphere of feminism without fear and with a great deal of intelligence to boot. I'm also well aware that the Internet is like an iceberg when it comes to what you can actually see: most of the real and genuine trauma is below my personal waterline, and therefore I often fail to see it altogether until it tears a hole in my side and snaps me in two. This has happened a few times in my life, and the best lesson I think I ever learnt about maintaining equilibrium online was the simplest: always know your exits. The same could be said for any situation where the onus is on you, I suppose.

Inside my head is utterly subjective, a fact I am continually reminded of. Most days if something aggrieves me or someone/something online upsets the equilibrium, my first port of call is always offline, and to my husband. He is my sounding block, but even he will have his moments when I'll be forced to give him THAT LOOK that this wife hopes designates suitable indignation/disgust/amazement at his response. Everyone is human, after all, and we all have moments, but it is one thing to admit this and another to continually fail to grasp that certain things are just common decency. We're having to teach this to an 11 year old right now, and it's a sobering lesson in how the foundations we lay with care and thought are normally the ones that survive the longest.

The ones we have covered so far are where I stand on these subjects:

  • Words like 'rape' and 'retard' are not jokes, they refer to serious subjects that deserve to be treated as such. If you don't actually understand what a word means, don't use it.
  • Women are capable of exactly the same thing as men are. Yes, men are physically more capable, but only to a point.
  • Everyone is equal, and should be treated as such.
  • What someone looks like has ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on what kind of person they are.  

I also try and impress on both my kids that just because they play online in their own home, that doesn't mean that everything is safe, and that everyone can be trusted. When you reduce such things down to simplistic terms it's easy to forget how grey the areas can become, and how potentially dangerous not following the rules can be. It's also easy to overlook the fact that not having an opinion on certain issues can be as dangerous as saying nothing at all. Silence should never be the option for anyone. Unless you subscribe to reincarnation, there's precious little time for anyone to hear your voice, and everyone should have the right to say what they wish, even if some people may not like it.

I thought it was probably time I put my hand up and made my comment on a subject I know drives a lot of people whose work I read on a regular basis. I'm not pretending to be anything I'm not, and I'm very aware that there is a lot more I could do to make my life more accountable to the basic ideals that drive me. For now, consider this a colour pinned to a flag.

In my head, I know it's important that people understand what I am.

[BETA] Not Ready Yet...

Yes, this is a Beta, in case you'd not grasped that fact...^^

Time to talk about the 1-10 starting experience for the new race, I think.

It's not done, let's be clear about this. It may look wonderful but there are a lot of holes, and it's clearly taking cues from the Worgen/Goblin experience in terms of both questing and pacing. There is nothing particularly taxing about this entire first ten levels, either. The only time I died was when a vehicle mechanic bugged and I got nibbled to death by cranes. Hardly a trauma, you will agree.

What I think was the most striking thing about the entire experience (and this excludes the visuals, which I will come back to) is the fact there is no baddie here. The inciting incident that ultimately forces you to choose a side is NOTHING to do with a Big Bad, or a motivating evil, or indeed anything combat related. It's an accident. When you finally meet the Horde and the Alliance (at least as of the situation on Beta) no-one is being openly aggressive to anyone else. They're both out of their depths, scared, and they're as much an unknown quantity to the Pandaren as each other.

What brings them there, and what has happened before you meet them, could paint one side as bad and the other as good (if you consider the dynamics between Horde and Alliance: being deliberately vague here as to not to spoil too much) but as a Panda you don't see that, you just help them, because they're causing a bigger issue you need fixed. The way in which that scenario is resolved demonstrates that the two Pandaren traits that we know Horde and Alliance ascribe to. It is perhaps deliberate therefore that positions are reversed for the Red and Blue Teams when they first cross your path. However, it matters not. Pandas aren't about this fight, they're joining it very late in. Their motivation is subtly different.

They are here to learn.

This is the key to making the choice before you leave as to your race completely logical. There's not a massive schism that splits the Pandarens in two, you're leaving to help one of these two races, and it's entirely your choice, because it's that's what Pandas do best. If I were a roleplayer I have to admit I'd be rubbing my hands together in glee at this prospect, because here we have the closest thing I think we'll ever get to a lawful neutral/chaotic neutral race. The only reason they have to hang a colour on you is because that's how it works for dungeon/raid/BG content, it seems to me...

Needless to say, for me at least, this is a master-stroke. The desire to play a Panda to learn about the new healing abilities is now very strong, because I can identify with a new race, one who comes to this seven year battle with no baggage. I'm sure there is some, and I'm pretty certain as an 85 I'll discover that the new continent isn't as serene and balanced as my impressions now are telling me. There are hints of evil before I leave, that all is not well, but that's all there is for now, an elegant foreshadowing of the chaos the now-Mortal Races carry with them, regardless of the colour of their banner.

All this is most definitely helped by a backdrop that is, at times, jaw-droppingly beautiful. I've said before that one of my great loves in this game is the background, and how it often helps make the mundane something quite special, and nowhere is this more true than with this starting area. There is a real sense of being utterly isolated too, that this is a bubble in which we find ourselves, that the outside world has never encroached on this place. The Design Department really should be applauded for not going for the obvious and instead creating something that is truly different but yet does not feel out of place in the Azerothian context. You know you're not Over the Rainbow, but there's still the real understanding that you left Kansas for somewhere altogether more distinct.

For someone like me, who will mark story over mechanics, I'm going to say I'm sold. I'll take a Panda to 90 far quicker than I have either a Draenei or a Worgen, that's for sure. What now sells me completely is what happens to my character once I reach Azeroth, and how the Pandaren story is integrated into the fabric of the existing Universe. Needless to say, this first step on the journey is pretty solid.

Monday, March 26, 2012

[BETA] Probably NOT as Intended...

Last night, I met my first L90 Mob. I'm pretty certain it wasn't intentional.

Shhhhh, I'm hunting spoilers... ^^

I read last night about how the Scarlet Monestary's undergone a bit of a remodel (note to self, go take some pictures of the old one before it goes) so I thought I'd pop up there on the Beta and have a look. For the record, the new FP at Hearthglen is by far the closest flight point now to SM if you possess a flying mount, but I digress. I wasn't concentrating when I entered the instance, had I been so I would have seen the following:

It transpires the last time I went into a 5 man before I copied my character to the Beta Server it was a TBC Heroic... ^^

I had to go back to get this screenie, not unexpectedly.

Needless to say, L90 dogs hurt, but not as much as I thought. I hastily retreated and reset back to normal: lo and behold, L30 mobs, but an instance that is most definitely a Work in Progress. The new Houndmaster encounter appears to be broken, but the path to get to it is a thousand times cooler than it ever was. I got locked into Herod's old room so had to Stone out, but I'd go so far to say that the fifteen minutes I spent in a L30 instance is the most exciting thing I've seen so far in the entire Expansion. MMO has a video up of both instances and they'll do a better job of showing the changes than I will but needless to say, I'd argue you'll want to do both Normal and Heroic just because...

I have no idea if setting your dungeon difficulty to Heroic will toggle the L90 instance this morning when I go back, but I guarantee the time the next Beta Build goes live they'll have stopped it, so if you are on Beta and want to go take a look at what Real Hard Mobs look like, I'd go soon...

[EDIT: 9.25am BST, and you can still toggle Heroic Difficulty.

L90 Dog health and buffs explained.

Needless to say, as I'm pretty sure this is a bug I will report it. Get your skates on.]

Sunday, March 25, 2012

[BETA] In Which I Make a Proper Video.

I thought I'd have a punt at a 'proper' video.

Things I have learnt from this experience include:

  • Need to watch my cursor more.
  • Need to get snappier with editing.
  • Needs more thought generally.

However, for my first genuine effort at this, I reckon it'll do.

[BETA] Unusual NPC Activity...

That Hat needs some work, Blizzard... ^^

The Panda made it to Stormwind.

I'll leave my thoughts on the entire Starting Area experience for a separate post, because I am still distilling what I think into a workable read. There's then a quest chain on your arrival which, it's fair to say, isn't complete yet:

Varian's a Surfer Dude. OFFICIAL.

Needless to say, that's not what this post is all about. I'm here to consider the emergence of a number of new NPC's in Stormwind...

One of my biggest issues when you create a DK for the first time and are dumped into Azeroth is the lack of continuity after you become an Alliance Member proper. This is addressed to some extent with the Worgen (who at least get an interim home in Darnassus, even if most people ignore this fact altogether and take the first boat out.) Part of me would like to think that, as the Alliance's newest member and without a clue as to how all this shizzle works, that Blizzard might be preparing a set of quests for acclimatisation to the New World I now inhabit. Certainly, it's a large range of races and classes that appear to have popped up as if by magic:

Stealthed Worgen Rogue by Trade District
Night Elf on Canal Bridge, class unknown.
Sanguine Dwarf (with beer mug) at entrance to Stormwind Keep.

Lucas and his companion (Naanae), both Paladins, on the steps of Stormwind Keep.

It might just be a co-incidence that you pass all these guys on your way from your drop-off point as a Panda (outside Stormwind) on your way to meet the King, but I find myself thinking this is a bit more than that. There is nothing more to do with these guys currently than just click on them (the panadins do self buff each other but that's about it) but I for one will be watching things closely. I have one other NPC who is isn't on this 'route' too, and I'll be doing a tour of Stormwind again later to see if I can find anyone else who I don't immediately recognise...