Friday, September 21, 2012

The Last Weekend...

Not long now... ^^

There is no escaping the inevitability.

Twitter is awash with excitement. Guildies are buying their CE Packages. We have a levelling event up that starts 10.59 pm GMT Tuesday. The countdown calender on the Blizzard website's is getting close to being at 3 days and counting.

It's the last weekend before Pandaria.

Yes, I am looking forward to what next week brings. You won't find me getting overly enthusiastic however, because after four expansions I'm of the mind that the first week can be pretty much atypical of the entire Expansion experience. Those of you currently swearing at iOS6 will know only too well what its like to be the first wave of early adopters: it doesn't work quite how you expect it, lots of stuff just goes Pete Tong and frankly you wonder why you bothered with the expense in the first place. I updated my ancient first gen iPhone today to an iPhone 4, safe in the knowledge I may be behind the curve but everything will work when it gets here. I'd like to think that's the way it could be with Expansions, but I'm a realist.

Cross Realm Zones went live on my server this week (look for the special post on that over the weekend assuming I get the chance) and frankly, its a cause for concern. Lots of freezes, NPC's vanishing or being unwilling to buy your crap, and all my general chat IN TRIPLICATE is not filling me with enthusiasm. Even if we don't get CRZ in Pandaria, the server population increases next week I feel might yet catch Blizzard out. Lots of people I didn't expect to see returning AT ALL have repopulated my friends lists this weekend, and at the back of my mind... I can see a repeat of Diablo 3's opening few days. I REALLY hope Blizz is ready for this.

I'm also promised a radical new development this time around: no more logging out. I can be online at 11pm and the starter quest will just magically appear in my quest log (yes I've removed one of my 25 dailies to accommodate, thanks Seph for the reminder :D ) and my XP bar will reactivate. No staring at login for 45 minutes like the previous expansions... I hope. I've been promised a lot in the past, but if this feature works first time without an issue I reckon Blizzard are off to a good start. After that: the jury is most definitely out. I know what to expect, I am aware of what is coming, but there is a lot of difference between beta and live. I'll pass judgement once I make it to 90, I think, because there really is so much to consider this time around...

Take it easy this weekend, folks. Sleep well, eat healthily and get some exercise before Pandaria, because you will need it. Let's hope that nothing disastrous happens before Tuesday evening...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How The Other Half Raids...

I'm certain I've been here before today...

Last night, I raided with a bunch of complete strangers.

No, I didn't do LFR one last time before Cataclysm ends. Thanks to I did 8/8 last night in Normal DS, filling in for a missing member of their normal raid group ON ANOTHER SERVER :O. I used Mumble for the first time (listening not participating, but very impressed at sound quality) and for what must be since before TBC I ended up with a bunch of people I've never interacted with in game before the experience.

Blimey, how things have improved since MC was cutting edge content.

The entire thing was, at least from where I was sitting, a tad surreal. LFR (and repeated runs in my own Guild) means that DS now is like driving a car to work and back: it all often happens without you realising quite how you managed it. You know every fight to the point where actions become reflexes: when you see the red line appear under you in the Gunship fight (for instance) you've moved before you grasp WHY that happened. I'm not going to deny this publicly: I won't miss the DS fights ONE BIT. I think repeated runs in LFR have probably soured me to the point where the awe of their first reveal has completely dissolved.

The fights are a reflex: the surreal moment came as I was listening into a bunch of people raiding who I didn't know but were clearly a highly-organised and extremely professional unit. Suddenly making sure that you don't stuff up their evening's work becomes your overriding concern. I died once on Ultraxion (not paying sufficient attention to debuff timers, which considering how much time I spent face down on that boss in Normal is rather disappointing) but for the rest of the time I'm pretty certain I did everything I was supposed to have done, at the right point, without either embarrassing myself or putting unnecessary strain on the healers. I've not had an opportunity to get a debrief from either Ara or her RL BF (and I will be looking to do that today, if only to get an idea of how I did) but I equate last night roughly to being a fairly decent performance from my standpoint. Let's hope that's also the case from the other side of the Cross Realm raiding fence.

There was a brief moment of uncertainty last night when I was asked if I'd like to go along: would I be good enough? Would I embarrass myself? The thing about life is, I have discovered, that opportunities are there to be taken. You only get out what you put in most of the time, after all. I'm really glad I overcame my initial uncertainty and spent the evening with a bunch of complete strangers, because it is only this morning that I'm beginning to grasp just how much of a liberating and positive experience it was. The biggest acid test of your abilities is when you get taken completely out of your immediate context, and are placed against another group of people's expectations. Then you discover if you're really seeing yourself as you are.

I'd like to publicly thank Ara and her Guild for giving me the opportunity to raid with them, and congratulate everyone who achieved stuffs last night: go guys!

As for me, I look forward to seeing how I did :D

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Problem Is...

This is my earworm. GO AWAY musical geniuses!

Yes, I KNOW what I should be doing right now.

Its not listening to Everything, Everything on repeat. It isn't editing fiction (though I do have a Warcraft piece that is likely to see the light of day this week) It CERTAINLY isn't hanging around on Twitter watching the continuing fallout from Theramore (and there I was thinking I'd be in a minority, HOW WRONG I WAS...) What I should be doing is prepping for next week but its the last thing on my mind today.

The problem is, sometimes, knowing there is stuff I should be doing makes me just not want to attempt it at all.

As a result, today I have organised my Shaman with a healing spec and a much-needed UI layout. I levelled a mini-mage into the mid-teens and started them off on a career in Inscription and Herbalism. I spent the best part of an hour piling fish in a vanity bank. None of this is OF ANY USE AT ALL to my plans but frankly I needed to do it. As of next week, things are going to go a bit mental. It doesn't help that there is Potential Drama in various guises already looming on the horizon for the Expansion week... it is time to just try and relax for a wee while, I think.

I'll get everything done. Just not today :D

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No Surprise, Really...

Oh look... ^^

Yeah, we were sold a Dumper.

Next time Blizzard, either a) give us new content and don't leave it 10 months or b) come up with something decent as a transitional event. Don't compromise the Lore, or expect people to buy a book to keep up.

I promise I'll shut up about this now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What is Wrong With this Picture?

Spoilers? BEFORE the Performance?

Why are some films not reviewed until after they are released in theaters?

A lot of movies don't have critic screenings before their release because the studio does not have faith in them. It's a sign that the movie's being dumped or is going to be dumped, and they just don't think it's a movie that's going to gain anything by getting reviewed. Of course, these movies will get reviewed eventually, and people will find out that they're dogs. Maybe the studios are hoping that first weekend might be successful without a critic screening. The first two weeks are really the times when the studios start paying attention to the big box office, because after that there's drop-off and the figure critical attention can only hurt this movie, so they don't screen it ahead of time.

For a long time, something bothered me about the Theramore Scenario. The only (brief) look I got of it was via some fan-rendered models taken from the beta files: it never made it to the play stage during my time in Pandaria. In fact, unless you were MMO and able to datamine your own version, no-one got a sniff at this Lore-rich nugget during the entire Beta process. When the PTR launched for 5.0.4, again... no Scenario. I assumed this was because Blizzard was keen to keep the spoiler-rich nature of the encounter a secret until the Lore-related novel of the event was released. It never occurred to me that they might simply be hiding something below par...

I like the idea of Scenarios a lot: the concept of a 10 minute 'mini dungeon' is great, especially if you don't need a tank or a healer to complete it. I can see the potential this kind of event has in helping people without the time and ability to run LFR or LFG. What I'm finding really hard to swallow right now is threefold:

1. This lore event is too significant for a ten minute, three man scenario. Really, this is an act of Genocide on a massive scale, it will signal all out war between the Horde and the Alliance, and you deal with it in less time than it takes to get a pizza delivered...? I appreciate the time constraints we have in our busy lives, and the timing issues Blizzard had when making this expansion (and balancing what they could reasonably produce in the time available), but to go ten months without any new content in the game and then to be given what is a major life-changing world event in TEN MINUTES... I came out of the whole thing feeling... well, cheated. There's no other word for it. After lots of promises of things being fun and immersive again, this really doesn't do the cause any favours.

I am also aware of the significance of the novel that ties in with this entire event. I think it is not unreasonable to assume that I really should buy this novel, read it, and then understand what has happened in the context of both events. I don't think I should have to absorb secondary source material in order to better understand what I'm being given, I feel it is the job of the game I'm playing to do that in the first instance. Making me buy something else to make what I already pay money for more three dimensional is a smart move, but really should not be a requirement.

2. It took my initial party of three (two tanks and a dps) three tries to actually progress past Stage One of the Event. All of us massively outgeared the minimum restrictions, and we discovered eventually that we had to stand and wait to be told to do stuff before we proceeded... VERY slowly. Being forced to kill things at a vastly different speed to normal, effectively waiting for the NPC's to 'catch up' should not be a requirement in any situation. I understand the need to tune an event to the lowest geared individual, but not at the expense of making things unplayable if you do things the way you always do. In the end, this evening, my husband has run the Scenario seven times with only one successful completion. That's not a great average.

3. This event is not broken for everyone, but clearly it doesn't work 100% of the time: why was it never aired on Beta or the PTR? Surely the entire point when you have something new is to test it as much as possible? Why did Blizzard feel the need to keep this away from everybody until it was too late to do anything about it? Is it really because it's a 'dumper'? Was it because they were worried about spoilers? Who knows, but with a week to go before the Expansion hits there's not much else to do now: this is what you have for a week and then we move to Pandaria... 

The biggest kicker for me of course wasn't apparent until we finally managed to get an event to complete: this exercise constitutes a Feat of Strength. Whereas before I'd have spent the night (and probably tomorrow) running the thing for the Achievement... now I don't have to. Do it once and everyone ticks the same box. For the three people on my 85's list who could benefit from one of the weapon or hat drops... frankly I find myself not bothered with the process of running a buggy, unfulfilling 10 minute event to gear them early as much as I thought I would. I can wait another week.

I really hope this isn't a portent of things to come, and is simply the last throws of an Expansion that I suspect a great many people will be very happy is finally coming to a close.

This Week, I Will Be Mostly... Almost There Edition!

... going up a gear. Second it is!

The excitement is beginning to be palpable: it's eight days before the Expansion. Blimey. Eight days... where has the time gone! Suddenly I have everything to do and no time left to do it in, so that means I'll need to get the arse very much in gear. As it happens most of what I wanted to do is already complete (Skadi the Useless can wait until I get bored again) and on the character side of things everyone's into their routines (7/12 are well into TB Dailies, the last part of my organisation plan)

Most of the planning therefore is on the Web/Twitter side of things: I intend to be live Blogging and Tweeting my first week's worth of adventures in Pandaria as much as possible, so if you're not already following me on Twitter I'd urge you to stick @AlternativeChat on your feed, especially if you want live Pet Battle news as it happens. There are likely to be some cosmetic changes on the site as well to accompany the expansion release, watch this space for more details.

As to release itself, I will be staying up late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning to do my traditional 'Last one Playing the Expansion smells of Cheese' charge: if you're in the EU and fancy poking me while this happens give me a shout with your Battle Tag (I know a couple of people have and I've not yet added them on my list, I'm getting there!)

For now however I'm off to the gym for my last full week of pre-Expansion preparation... :D

Pet Battle Fact Post #1 :: Be Rare Aware!

You will have NO RARE Pets... at least not yet...

There appears to be a fair amount of misinformation at present as to what is going to happen to vanity pets once they magically transform into Battle Pets. As it stands in your inventory right now, every pet has a L1 ranking: some pets can be caged, some can't... but nothing is rare. The Prairie Dog above IS rare, but only because he was captured that way in the wild. There is a chance that ANY Wild pet can be rare when captured, but the same is not true of the pets you already have in your bags.

Rare Wild pets come with obvious advantages: the picture above shows our dog with a Common and Uncommon version of the exact same pet. Rare pets have more Health, and their Speed is increased (meaning they are more likely to go into battle before their opponents.) Knowing which pets will be rare (or will have the chance to be) will be important in formulating pet strategy, and it will also dictate for those of you selling your 'spare' pets which ones are likely to bring the largest returns.

Let's spend a moment clearing up misinformation as to where things currently stand.

There are currently various classifications of pets in your Pet Battle 'Stable' (without confusing ourselves too much with Hunters) They are as follows:

  • 'Unique' pets, of which you (should) only have one: this includes Collector's Edition gifts (Mini Diablo), Feat of Strength awards (Core Hound Pup), Achievement pets (Brilliant Kaliri) and Blizzard Pet Store pets (Cenarion Hatchling). None of these can be caged, but in the expansion many of these should be classified as Rare.

  • Quest Reward pets: Gold Mini Jouster, Creepy Crate, Panther Cub... anything you may have collected across multiple alts, in fact. Some of these can be caged (notably the Children's Week pets), and in the expansion some of these should be classified as Rare.

  • Vendor-purchased pets: snakes, frogs, cockroaches (HOW MANY did you buy, woman? ^^) cats, Ghostly Skulls... basically, anything you can exchange coin for currently in the world. All of these can be caged. It is unlikely any of these will be classified as Rare for obvious reasons...

  • Crafted pets: made via Engineering, dug up via Archaeology, conjured with Enchanting... unless you're a Scribe and you're just making for show (see below). Most of these can be caged, and in the expansion some of these should be classified as Rare.

  • World Drops. The annoying ones you've farmed forever but never dropped, or if you're unlucky enough, the ones there seems to be tons of on your server because some 13 year old has worked out how to duplicate items in game :(  Most of these can be caged, and in the expansion some of these should be classified as Rare.

  • Non-Battling pets: Balloons, Kites, Argent and Guild Employees... none of these get to fight, or indeed be traded.

That's a lot of Rare potential right there...the problem comes we're not yet 100% certain what will be Rare and what won't be. A list appeared via a Blue response during beta of a set of pets that would make the transition to Live with a blue colour, but it wasn't complete and it certainly wasn't set in stone. We'll just have to wait until the game goes live a week Tuesday for the final low down, but rest assured as soon as I know, the changes will be reflected on

There are also some key factors to remember for those of you looking to sell pets, the most important one being NO WILD PET CAN BE CAGED (and by extension sold). This was done for a very good reason: it would utterly corrupt the levelling process: the smart could level their Battle Skills and then go out and capture high level pets for immediate sale. It also means that your currently L1 pets will have less value than (lets say) a L20 version of the same pet. You may wish to consider this factor when initially caging pets for sale.

The other key factor is the size of your 'stable': you are limited to only 500 pets maximum (though this can include multiples at present, but when of the Expansion you will only be able to hold three copies of the same Wild Pet in your stable at any one time) I would strongly suggest to anyone who has multiple copies of the same pet not to delete them just yet, however, just on the offchance something changes... you can never be too careful, after all.

A couple of people asked me how you can actually cage a pet: once battles go live you'll be instructed through a sequence of quests (more on which later in the week) which will allow you to access the ability. For now, don't panic, and rest assured that once Pandaria arrives, we'll do our best to prep you so you're ready to battle!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

If You Want Me...

...I'll be behind that tree. Shhhhhhhh!

I do love me some PvP Action.

I have neglected my PvP stuffs this expansion: Rated BG's were a non-starter, meaning I was out in the cold with virtually no-one else in Guild taking part in any kind of biffage. There were some Arenas, but not nearly enough, and I have looked at that section of Achievements (both normal and Guild) with a resigned air. I'll come back to it during Pandaria...

Then I made the comment on the Blog about AV and Tower Defense:

Woefully unfinished...

There is a problem with placing wishes and dreams into the public domain: people may actually come along and offer to help you make them a reality, and so it was today that a very good Twitter friend, the crafty @ErinysVictoria (go look at her Darkmoon Dolly) popped up on my Real ID with an offer: her and her partner were off to AV, would I like to come with them? I wasn't about to turn any opportunity like this down (as it ticked both doing an outstanding Achievement and 'talking to RealID people' boxes on my list)  and so I hastily grabbed myself some lunch before I got myself into a 40 man frame of mind...

I should, at this point, give a bit of background history to my PvP aspirations. I began my gaming life on a PvP server, where BG's in Vanilla was the (now infamous) Southshore/Tarran Mill 'gambit'. I really did take part in an eight hour AV one wet Saturday afternoon, I remember my first time in Eye of the Storm, but between then and now it has been fairly variable, as GM duties (more often than not) mean biffing people is quite low on the priority list. As a Dwarf I consider AV as my spiritual home, however, and over the years I've tried to complete every BG achievement there I can, with the last one being the Tower Defense. As it transpires En and her partner are both missing one I already have, the capture 50 Graveyards: we all had something to aim for, and all that stood in our way was the 37 other people in our raids doing anything as a cohesive unit.

Not one of our better experiences :(

I must, at this point, say I was in the presence of two extremely competent and highly skilled players, and was in utter awe: there is something beautiful about individuals who can play so well together, something that I wish I could duplicate but know is beyond me. The top tag team of Gnome Rogue and Gnome Priest where a joy to watch and an utter pleasure to play with: our plan was simple. Start at the Snowfall GY, cap it, then go look for bunkers. My favourite moment came when a cocky Alliance Priest decided to Leap of Faith Mr Rogue away from the Snowfall flag so he could cap it himself. Little did he know that En's Priest was nearby and did the exact same thing in return.

Needless to say, in AV the enemy is often the least of your worries :/

By the end of the afternoon I was getting back into the hang of things, had defeated some strong German teams (and had our behinds handed to us as shown by the GY Honor farm above) and had enough points to go buy an updated trinket to free me from PvP gubbins as a first start back to getting re-kitted, which I will do as I level Leatherworking in Pandaria. I am also now 34/50 Bunkers (which was an average of one per BG) for which I am eternally grateful to both En and her partner. I owe them something for this act of total awesomeness: sadly dinner is out of the question (geographically it transpires we are at opposite ends of the country) so I will have to be cunning and think of something suitable... :D I'd like to thank them both for a) asking me and b) putting up with an utter nublet who clearly needs a lot of practice but thanks to you is totally re-energised about PvP.

PvP is not something I should do when I've run out of other things to do, and I fully intend to change that state of affairs once Pandaria goes live... :D