Saturday, April 28, 2012

[BETA] Catching Them All... ^^

Jacob the Test Seagull welcomes you to this post :D

Following on from my 'game changing' pet battles post in the week, I though (now the beta is stable and playable) it might be an idea to see what any potential battler is letting themselves in for when signing up for the job. As things stand, you're going to have your work cut out.

Even at what is clearly an early stage of proceedings, there is a lot of information to be gleaned from the interface. Many pets are duplicated in the Master List, and with these duplications (and only my fingers to count on as I'm no data miner) I make it 326 pets on the current beta.

Let's use this Lamb as an example of what you can expect to see when things go live.

There are a decent number of pets currently listed both with a location and a full list of spell abilities, but considerably more that have neither, or simply a location. I have to say I'm impressed at the thought that has gone into naming the particular live abilities, and it's clear that whoever is programming has not only a sense of humour, but a grasp of stuff outside of Azeroth. There are some smile-inducing Easter eggs even at this early stage.

I remember Joan Aiken's 'Arabel's Raven' from childhood. 10 points for the reference!

We've been informed that certain pets will only 'spawn' at certain times and under certain conditions, and we have a number of pets currently with unlisted locations with their own names. Some, like Bananas, I know come from the CCG and are likely not yet labelled. There are the three Crocs that you get from completing the 'Crocolisks in the City' Fishing daily in Shatt, similarly unlabelled with a location, plus a number of rather famous Murlocs. However, there are some newcomers: Lizzy is a Warp Stalker, Polly is a parrot (DUH) and Xelnath is a Drakonid. I suppose it could be possible that they're destined to become rewards in the future but a part of me hopes that maybe, just maybe, the really rare pets could end up being specifically named.

This pet's gonna be available for the Day of the Dead festival, then... ^^

Looking at my meticulously hand-transcribed list (which stretches to four pages of my A4 Warcraft notebook [*]) the way pets have been chosen fits very comfortably into the current game world. You'll find the Snowy Owl in Winterspring, the Tiny Harvester in Westfall, a Scalded Basilisk Hatchling in Blade's Edge Mountains and a Scourged Whelpling in Icecrown. They complement the local wildlife well and should help people associate certain critters with certain zones. Some, like The Gurkster, are models I don't immediately recognise, others are existing skins with reworks to reflect the areas the new critters are located in.

Awwww bless, he doesn't look very well or very happy :(

What is going to be very difficult, and I suspect will require someone with more data-crunching skills than I will ever possess, is to work out what constitutes an 'ideal' three man team. Will it even be possible to do that, I wonder, or will it be about identifying the most powerful particular pets in each of the ten classes... I've never played Pokemon, but I know a lot of you guys have, and here I think the experience of understanding how types work against each other is really going to pay dividends.

Despite its delicate appearance, Legs looks as if it could kick butt ^^

Although this is very much a work in progress, what is already apparent is the effort being put into this 'mini-game', and how seamlessly it will fit into the Game World once completed. It's clear that Blizzard really are making good on the promise of bringing the fun to Pandaria: next up, how will all this work play out when properly let loose to the over one million Beta players (potentially) available to test this?

[*] Yes, I have a Warcraft notebook. Don't you? ^^

[BETA] A Two Edged Sword...?

There's a new Beta build, and finally, I can portal back from Pandaria to Stormwind.

You arrive where the balloon is tethered, unsurprisingly....

I'm hoping there will be portals in cities other than Stormwind, Blizzard, you did promise moving stuff about a bit for this Expansion, after all. This does mean for P that, after checking the LW trainer and finding nothing, we high-tailed it out to the first Archaeological Dig we could find to see what has changed. Which, as it transpires, is quite a lot...

At L86, digging for XP becomes rather more attractive in the Old World...?

This is a change from the early days of Beta. Old World Digs are now giving SIX solves (for a Dwarf) and 34,700 per set of uncovered fragments, meaning a MASSIVE 208, 200 XP per site (at L86, no less) Crucially, solving gives you NO SKILL INCREASE.

I've checked this at two Fossil and a Tolvir site thus far, and solves themselves still have the sale value as their current Live counterparts.

Yes, really, that's six solves per site...

For those people with computers which run on the slow side and might struggle with the high FPS issues the starting area will provide, digging for XP as it stands could be a viable alternative until things calm down. Certainly this could be a great way to level an Alt if the XP remains unchanged. Crucially however, it could be a way for some people to level whilst searching for Wild Pets to battle with:

Not seen him around here before... because he's a tameable pet :D The map says so!

I'll be keeping an eye on XP gains throughout the Beta, and if anything changes you guys will be the first to know :D

Friday, April 27, 2012


Hunter, nil points :(

I have been patiently waiting, and this morning MMO have confirmed via datamining two things I'm rather excited about (it's okay Anne, I read your post yesterday, and I get the 'possibly not yet actually confirmed until Live' thing) However, as both these things were promised with the Panda Package, I think I can start getting excited:

The following has been added as a Tooltip when your game starts up:

Companion pets are account-wide. If one of your characters has a pet, all your characters can use that pet.

This is fabulous news. It may also cause me to save a wee bit of RL cash to swap one character from account #2 to account #1 and vice versa, but that's forward planning... :D

The other key change is that Achievements have become account wide. This will have a MAJOR impact on how I do things in game, and it also means I'll need to appoint a Major Achievement Gatherer on both accounts. P is the de factor #1 Dwarf Girl on account #1, and I suspect that M the Druid will move up to the top spot and become the main girl (and pet battler by default) on account #2. 

So, if you'll excuse me, I need to process the significance of these two pieces of news on the insanely large alt family... :D

Thursday, April 26, 2012

[BETA] The Littlest Game Changer?

The most worrying development since the Klout score? ^^

I'll admit it: when Blizzard announced Pet Battles for the upcoming Expansion, there was scoffing in this household. When even your 11 year old son turns around and says 'that's just Pokemon' then you realise that boundaries are beginning to blur. All things are ultimately connected to all other things, after all (ask those nice people at Klout) and sticking a potentially utterly addictive mini-game into an already addictive game... well, it could be asking for trouble on all sorts of levels. Except... the more I think about this, the more of an UTTERLY GENIUS idea Pet Battling is becoming.

Linking the Battles to over sixty Achievements in game makes them essential fodder for anyone who likes to 'chase the swirlies': that's a LOT of points, and you don't need anyone at all to help you get them. You could battle whilst waiting for LFR to pop, for instance, or LFG, or for 15 minutes before you go to work or in your lunch hour... and then there's getting all the pets. There's naming them too (yeah, don't remind me) and the fact that the Battles (from the few people who have managed video before Blizzard shut the feature down) still happen in the game world. I think this point is crucial in selling the entire concept: you fight in whatever zone you encounter your pet in. A circle is drawn on the ground, and off you go. Here's some video from a friend of mine on Twitter @EpicGems, who was lucky enough to get some battles done before it was all closed down:

Follow @EpicGems on Twitter or Check out her Website

I had imagined a far more simplistic interface for this entire affair, almost like the classic background/foreground screens I remember from my Son's (many many) Pokemon games. However, this method is clearly utilising Blizzard's phasing techniques, which gives the entire affair a real and tenable connection with Azeroth. It's also clear from the Achievements available that you'll need to travel the entire game world not only searching for pets, but battling pet trainers to boot. If there was ever a cast-iron way of getting people back into the Gaming World, then chasing achievements plus cute critters comes pretty close to a perfect means to an end.

Even at 11pm on the Beta, there's a LOT of people wanting to talk to the Pet Battle Trainer... ^^

All of your pets are linked across your accounts, it appears: what is not yet clear is if your scores on one character remain the same if you log another: if that is the case and the entire shebag is completely transposable between characters then frankly there's nothing stopping sneaky gits like me people parking alts on rare pet spawn points to pick up the harder to find critters over time. The fact that these achievements could be linked across accounts is a fairly major one, and has ramifications far beyond the world of Pet Battles. Fowever, that's a conversation for another post.

I'm confident enough to say I think Pet Battles are going to fundamentally alter the game for a great many people. Sure, there will be a few who'll simply stop alt-tabbing out of game whilst they wait in a queue to actually interact in game, but there will be a great many others for whom this becomes as important as raiding or professions. I think this aspect of the Expansion could be the factor that stops the rest of the content being released early to boot: getting this right is going to increasingly matter. Pets, after all, don't need you to do anything in a Group or Raid. They make Warcraft a first person concern, and that really does have the potential to become a game changer...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Contact Details Post

WTB Location of Black Market this UI is running :D

A few things have changed in the last 48 hours, and this post has arrived to inform you of the places you can now read this Blog if you don't happen to be passing this here webpage.

If you are a Facebook type, all posts (as of today) will now be cross-posted to the Alt Ernative Facebook Page. Sadly I can't be known as The Godmother (for obvious reasons) so instead I've had to compromise, but no matter.

If you are a Livejournal type, my website is syndicated there too. You'll find the details here.

You can also find me on Twitter as @AlternativeChat

If you want an RSS feed of this site, you can find the details at the bottom left of this page :D


If there's anywhere else you think I should be delivering content to and I'm not there, gimme a shout and I'll see what I can do!

[BETA] Oh, and one more thing...


Oh.Emmm. GEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!11!!111!1!1

[BETA] Moving Onwards!

We have a new build on the Beta server (15640 for those of you who like the numbers), and there's a LOT of changes. I've made a video to cover the major two UI upgrades:

I'd suggest watching this on the HD option as you can read the pet abilities :D

However, it's not just the UI that's got a poke.

They have really gone to town on the Battle System!

If you are an Achievement Chaser, you are going to want to pet battle ^^ All the existing game content, including Outland, Northrend and Cataclysm will have pet achievements linked to them, which include battle pet trainers in every 'expansion':

You weren't thinking of levelling any time soon, were you?

There are a ton of new achievements linked to collecting, battling and levelling your Killer Critter Army 'o' DOOM. Needless to say, you need never be bored waiting in the LFG/LFR queue again... :D

There's some bullet point highlights too!

  • Plump Intestines are still only yielding gold, so no Spirits in game as yet.
  • However, Panda Greens are now DE-ing into the appropriate dusts, although (as yet) without new icons:
Same icons, different results :D

  • Gold totals in your various bags are now grammatically correct! 283771 gold will now show as 283,771 gold.
  • There are no Panda voices as yet. When we get THAT Beta patch, then we know things are really moving on... :D

E's Angling already has an excellent piece up on the Fishing-exclusive faction in game. I am amazed one NPC's name actually made it to open beta at all :D I'd expect a ton of other stuff to appear as the day goes on as well...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We Interrupt This Rambling...

... to recount a story, about some 'chick' that levels dwarf females ^^

One lunchtime she was checking her site stats, as she does whilst faffing online, to discover she'd garnered a large number of hits from a link which originated from Blizzard's Forums. As a rule, being linked in this way isn't a good thing, especially if you a) didn't do it yourself or b) you didn't get warned beforehand that someone else was. So, off we went for a look.

The post I came across is linked here.

It is one thing to be randomly complimented by people you know, but it is something altogether more special and amazing when someone you've never met garners you with the same. As a result, there was a short period after I read the first post where frankly, there was much amazement.

I remind everyone who ever decides to start a blog, for whatever reason, to remember that your words can have an impact far and beyond what you may think is possible. Pick them with care, and make sure that when you write, it is what you really want to say.

Most importantly of all, remember that without readers, this is all a bit pointless. As a result, I'd like to say the following:

[BETA] Digging the XP...

If you are checking my Lock achievements to the right of this post, you'll know I'm quite efficiently steaming through my Archaeology levelling. It occurred to me late last night just how much this entire process has been simplified since I endured the initial grind on the Hunter on Cataclysm release. I also found myself wondering how much XP I'd be able to get if I was doing this task in Pandaria...

There. Easily answered...

I'd forgotten I had the Lock copied to the beta sever, pre my Archy splurge. She was at 100/150, now she's at 105/150, but most importantly she earned 104,100 XP for those 5 skill points. To put that in context, that's roughly akin to completing a quest in the starting zone (which reward 111,000 XP) as an average dig site gives three solves.

If this XP gain remains constant and is not nerfed before the Beta goes live, suddenly Archaeology becomes a VERY attractive prospect to level from scratch, especially if you are on a computer that will struggle with the starting zones when they are busy. You could effectively avoid them altogether and simply dig across the old world for 85-86. However, once you get to 86, the XP drop (at least in Pandaria) is fairly substantive:

At 86, not so attractive.

What I can't currently check (and am hoping at some point they'll make the portals work from Pandaria back to SW) is the comparable XP gain/ solve rate at 86 at digs that aren't on the new continent. For instance, would a Rare solve still grant extra points in Azeroth?

I am also thinking about the merits of 'stocking up' on Old World Solves before the Expansion. You can hold a maximum of 200 fragments for every race. If (on average) you are given one point for every solve, and a solve uses (on average) 45 fragments, then I believe the (very basic) maths would work out as follows:

Number of Races with Archy Dig Sites = 9
Maximum number of fragments you can store = 9 x 200 (1800)
giving @ average 45 points per solve, a 40 point skill rise.

Frankly, that's an awfully large starting advantage. The maths is a bit wafty I know (some rare solves are 100 fragments plus) so I admit to working on a theory that (like P) you've solved most game rares and all you currently get is 'trash' but... it's a sizable bump on your 525 skill. I have to think it would be nerfed before the game goes live, or that the number of fragments you could hold will be reset to 0 before the expansion hits...

Whatever happens with the content of this profession, the numbers currently give me at least some pause for serious consideration. Maybe it is time to level Archaeology after all... ^^

Monday, April 23, 2012

Method in the Madness.

Even in the best-laid plans, some sacrifices need to be made...

So yesterday I sat down and came up with a plan to take my game time up to the pre-Expansion event. I'm working on the assumption that we'll see the Pandas in late July, which of course means all of this could be very much a pre-emptive strike if that proves to be incorrect. Suffice it to say, with the massive range of games I'm likely to be playing in the next six weeks, some actual additional planning is wise, when on top everything else I also have two college assessments to slip into the mix.

Here's where we're planning to go:

  • Lock gets Archy to 525, then works 'in the background' in an attempt to solve the Vial of the Sands (see below)
  • Second Jewelcrafter gets to 525 (currently 521) Completed!
  • Paladin Healer (who is secondary JC-er) gets to 85
  • Hunter Gatherer gets to 85
  • Everyone with a Profession is provided with sufficient mats to make five points (minimum) in their skill once Expansion hits. Items should (preferably) be stuffs that can be used to assist levelling (flasks/potions/enchants/enhancements) or that will sell on the AH post-Expansion. This also includes cookery and first aid.
  • As many toons as possible achieve Exalted with Therazane for shoulder enchants (*)
  • As many toons as possible complete Cataclysm quests (**)

Once all of this is completed I will load everyone up with 25 quests and put most of the family 'to bed.' I've also picked which toons will be sent out as the 'First Wave' of XP gatherers come the Expansion, with a plan as follows:

  • P is Primary Quester, gathering leather (and the only person likely to be selling gathered mats initially). She will also supplement her XP with Archy solves.
  • W (Lock) is Secondary Quester, but is more likely to level using Archy/Dungeons.
  • K the Hunter Gatherer will... well, be a hunter gatherer (mining/herbalism)  in an attempt to 'feed' profession levelling for everyone else. Priority will go to Scribe/Alchemist for herbs and JC-er for ores.

Part of my frustration last time around when I levelled was not being able to 'do' professions as quickly as I wanted, because I didn't have a dedicated gatherer 'out there' when everything kicked off. I want to actively address this issue because, as may have become apparent to a few of you, I like my professions almost as much as I love the Raiding and the levelling.

I also have some additional things I'd like to do (including getting one of my vanity guilds to level two if possible) but those really are minor in comparison to having myself sorted on the above.

There will be those of you who, having read all this, will be thinking that this is a lot of effort for a game. Yes, it is, but I have learnt over seven years that I can prevent an awful lot of frustration by planning ahead. I can also make a tidy sum of gold to boot, and although I'm never going to break any records for speed, the nest egg I'm taking with me this time around is a testament to a system that I KNOW works for me. Planning, preparation and execution are all key tools in the trade of the Gold Generator, after all... :D

Oh, and if you're reading this and are in my Guild, don't panic. We'll still raid faff all the way to the wire, including Old Skool Runs and the like. If you want to do something and it's not being catered for, you know who to ask... :D

(*) May also cause subsequent reduction in sanity.
(**) Likely to induce madness after prolonged exposure.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Digging for... Profit!

Ah yes, Harrison's lectures bring the best out in the girls... ^^

I could say I'm not sure how it happened, but that would be a lie. The Warlock is actively leveling Archaeology. It could have been any of the three Alchemists I currently have, if truth be told, but it's her because... well, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yes, you should be afraid. I am!

I have been considering for a while now purchasing a Vial of the Sands. Sadly the one person in Guild who could make it has unsubbed from the game, and is unlikely to be back before the Expansion hits. Although I could easily hand over my mats to a stranger, part of me feels the need to keep the entire transaction 'in house', and I'm also mindful of the purchasable mats cost as they stand. Being lucky enough to be the GM of a L25 Guild, I think I should really be taking advantage of Bartering sooner rather than later, in case Blizzard decide to reset Guild Perks come the Pandas.

That means a total spend of 26,100g on top of the mats I already have, and the recipe itself. Having seen my husband do 1-525 in pretty short order post the nerf that appeared in the last patch, I thought I'd test the waters and see just how easy things have become. As it has become clear today, things are considerably less of a faff than they were:

Progress as of this post, not bad at all...

The Chalice will be my fifth rare (Gnome pet already added) and thus far it has been remarkably smooth sailing. I'm in Outland already but I can go straight to Northrend in two solves time, so the grind per se is far, far easier. What happens once I hit 525 however... well, we will see. I only ever got the bloody Canoptic Jar on P when I'm after other stuff... which probably means I'll never see the damn thing with the Lock at all. Time will tell.

For now, this is all forming Part of a Larger Plan, which I will address in more detail in the morning...

The Bucket List Redux.

In the end, not as painful as anticipated...

Priest is now 85 :D

Things I discovered whilst doing this can be bullet-pointed as follows:

  • I take my hat off to anyone playing Shadow currently. It's at least slightly easier than wrestling with a Lock, but only because the CD's are shorter.
  • I still enjoy healing as Holy. Whether I still say that after a week of LFR, well...

This does mean however that I am on target for my short term goal of ensuring I'm free for the GW2 beta weekend upcoming (coz I do want to give it a go) and that everyone I want at 85 is there before D3 drops on May 15th, so I can give that a proper look. I had considered doing the the Stress Test this weekend but I'm saving myself. I hear many good things and am looking forward to coming to the entire experience cold.

However, I digress. Hunter is half a level from 82, which I intend to knock off this morning using LFR, and the Pally is next on my list after her. This is possibly the easiest pre-Expansion faff I've had, if only for the fact I have a decent idea of what is coming and how I should plan for it accordingly...

Last night we went and blitzed 10 Man Ulduar Heroic, grabbing a bunch of people nearly everything for the Mounts (need to go do some Iron Dwarves on reset for the last part) and Starcaller to boot. I lost count of the number of times we ran Ignis in the hope the gun would drop, and the only time it ever did I wasn't there and my dashing Dwarven Hunter colleague snaffled it. Tonight therefore was rather special... :D

The best steam-powered gun in game. OFFICIAL.

I also have Deliverance in the Mog Bank for future use, plus four achievements I missed when I did this last time, so frankly it was an evening very well spent. Now all I need is Subtraction in 25 man mode... ^^

Next up, after that half a level on Hunter #4, time to sit down with pencil and paper and work out exactly who needs what finished in terms of reputation and shizzle once the 85 work is done...