Friday, October 19, 2012

There's a Plan Now...?

Oh I see what you did thar... ^^

I have decided there's not been nearly enough Pet Battling in the last couple of weeks.

As a result, and as of RIGHT NOW, there will be Moar Fighting. There will be organisation and caging of spare pets. There will be deletion of extra unsellable pets. Most of all, there will be levelling of pets to a point where I can tick off a continent as 'done.'

Eastern Kingdoms, I am COMING FOR YOU.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled game faffing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vaulted Ceilings...

Significant developments...? I think so...

For the first time in any Expansion, End Game Content is easily PUG-gable within the first month.

I could have dived into the LFR Queue last week, with my iLevel exceeding the 460 minimum required for entry, but I decided to wait until reset, so I could run with a morning group. Experience showed during the DS part of Cataclysm that groups were generally better a) at the beginning of the week and b) in the mornings, facts which were very much reinforced by the two groups I did my first runs with. There was little or no abuse, mocking or even ill will: everyone turned up, did their job and took their loot away. I will have to run the system a few times before I make any serious judgements on the fights however, this was very much a training run. What I can say however is that as an experience its a definite improvement on the Dragon Soul 'model'.

Legendary Loot? BEFORE the 10 mans...?

Coming to this entire experience cold, the biggest single surprise I got when loot time happened was the Sigil of Power dropping into my bags. I had automatically assumed you'd only see these with 'proper' raiding but it occurs to me that actually, to do this so that as many people as possible can have a punt at it, it's gonna happen in LFR. I got two for my troubles, one from each run: I assume the Sigils of Wisdom will drop from the other instances. I wonder how long it will take for me to have all the items I need before I proceed to the next stage of the questline... ^^

I also came to the party with SIX Charms of Good Fortune in my bags, and was curious to see if I got anything special for my troubles. Not one boss rewarded anything other than gold :( However it wasn't all bad, as I came away with two upgrades from the loot table: the Bottle of Infinite Stars (trinket upgrades always good) and the Arrow Breaking Windcloak. If I only pull two upgrades a week from LFR I will be a Happy Dwarf... I wonder if the system is intelligent enough to know not to award you an item if you've already won it this early in the Expansion... ^^ In terms of actual fight difficulty I picked up everything pretty fast: I can immediately predict where there will be issues in terms of damage and healing in 10 mans, however, with most fights being simple enough to break down quickly. I can see Elegon being a right pain, for instance, and the mechanics in Gara'jal causing problems with timing... but the subtleties of these fight are lost in LFR. I can anticipate where the complexities will lie but it seems that in LFR if you throw enough healing or dps at a problem, you will solve it regardless. The Spirit Kings for instance I suspect will be an utterly insane fight in 25 man Normal, let alone Heroic, but with the training wheels on it's just an exercise in moving occasionally. However, if it gets just one person inspired sufficiently to want to raid 'properly' then it has done its job...

There are lore implications in this dungeon too, honking HUGE ones in terms of where the Mogu fit into Azeroth's overall scheme, and how the process of evolution on Pandaria has run. That however is a conversation for another blog post. I'm here to report that if you get your iLevel up to the required standard you could do a lot worse than sticking yourself into LFR as soon as you can, if only to give you an idea of what you have to look forward to in raiding terms across the Winter months (unless you're reading this in the Southern Hemisphere and'll be too busy being warm and eating BBQ's to worry about raiding anyway... :p) I'll be back here next week, hopefully with better gear overall if the Heroic Gods cut me a break and actually start dropping some relevant items...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Daily Grind...

What do you mean, this isn't a job? From

I am seeing a fair few people making noises about the changes to both Dailies and Professions in game. The interesting aspect of this, at least from where I'm standing in the queue (sixth from the clock, hands in pockets) is that no two complaints seem to be the same:

  • Things take too long
  • Things are too reliant on other things
  • Things I need are too hard to find/don't spawn fast enough
  • This isn't actually any different from the things we did before
  • This is too different from the things we did before...
and so it goes on...

As briefly touched on yesterday, I don't have a problem with any of the changes that have been made to both Professions and Dailies. In fact, I'd say the refinements that have been made are not only positive but should be rolled out across more of the game, so that not only does it take longer for you to complete them, but the value of what you make and what you grind for is more significant over time.

Hang on, you want this to take MORE time and not Less? ^^

The biggest single issue, it appears to me from what I've seen, is the value people place on certain sectors of the game. For a long time Cookery was something you did when you ran out of other things to do: with its escalation to significance via the six available buffs the profession now grants everyone (not just looking at the raiders) plus the clearly deliberate removal of Cauldrons from the game, key responsibilities have shifted. I sense focus being pointed towards individual accountability, greater gearing flexibility and that the 'grind' is deliberate: call it profession 'gating', if you like, but suddenly when time becomes the only limiting factor on whether you complete content first... the responsibility is yours. Time management becomes a Thing. Suddenly LFR is only one of many things you'll need to do if you want that Server First.

The Hardcore, of course, will grind their reps and their buffs without an issue (because that's always the way its been and frankly nothing is likely to change) The problem this time appears to be emanating from sections of the player base that sit between the hardcore and the committed casuals... and I have a fair deal of sympathy for the position. The problem Blizzard have to address is quite simple: last expansion people got things quite quickly and then got bored. This time the mechanics are holding people back so that the the content lasts longer. That's why there's no tabards, so you can't grind to Exalted in a weekend of frantic playtime and then complain you have nothing to do. That's why LFR's not all out in one hit, so that you're not running that incessantly until you hate the sight of it. Making things last longer isn't there to make you frustrated you can't have stuff sooner, its to try and help you slow down and appreciate what you have to choose from. It is, in essence, EXACTLY what the ethos of Pandaria is based upon.

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

The problem then becomes making the theory work in practice, and clearly for some people Dailies aren't doing this well enough. I've heard concerns about 'flow' and 'numbers' on what Dailies offer you, but I'm really not seeing an issue. Despite other anxieties that the quest 'grind' hasn't really changed over the years I see a definite evolution of ideas through the quest chains I'm doing right now: yes, there are elements of the past to be seen (bandaging people in the Vale of Eternal Doobrey is straight from the Firelands for instance.) However, it is clear that thought has been applied and there is some definite effort to inject variety to the process: the Klaxxi buffs for instance make that sequence considerably less hassle over time. Add to this the fact that there are hidden gems out there, that stuff lying on the ground can sometimes be worth 100g on pickup, that Champions spawn regularly enough in busy areas to add some spice and I'd say, at least until 5.1 comes along, these places are doing their job.

Looking to the 5.1 changes it is apparent that Blizzard grasp the need to keep people moving from expansion to expansion: new hubs appear, new 'distractions' are put in place. The fact remains that choice is a primary factor in all of this and there remain a reassuringly large number of choices to be made on your journey. If there is one problem I'd foresee in all of this emphasis shift it is that there will be those who expect Blizzard to explicitly mark their path along the way: what iLevel do I need for Heroics and LFR? What Reputation hubs should I attack first? These are answers the community has become very good at providing themselves (and they do) and I think Blizzard are aware enough of how the community now works to not feel the need to provide easy answers. Again, this is pointing the finger of responsibility squarely at the forehead of the individual: go and find out for yourself. use your brain to work it out. If all this information is freely available in game and other people can sit and write articles about it, you can do the thinking too.

Maybe you could even write a blog post about it yourself.

I had a really enjoyable 'exchange' on Twitter on this subject last night, and I'd like to thank everyone who contributed. From my small straw poll, the following became apparent:

  • Most people enjoy what they're doing
  • Everyone would like more time to play
  • Haters Gonna Hate

The more cynical of you might have a point when you say that nothing has actually changed, but I think if you look closely you'll find there is an effort being put in place to make the 'same' at least better than it was... Now if only Management would stop posing for the camera we can actually get on with our Dailies... ^^

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Still No Plan...

I'm not exactly focussed right now... :p

I'm wondering at what point I'll have to start thinking about levelling someone else.

Right now, P really is my only active toon: I'm not counting the times I log people on to harvest, because no-one really is doing anything else (okay, so the tailor is making Imperial Silk and the two Transmuters will do Living Steel if someone in Guild wants them) P has a ton of stuff in progress, if truth be told, but there isn't really a thrust or a focus to what's being undertaken. I just do it when a) the mats are available without buying them and b) if I come across something interesting. I am well aware that the Lorewalkers could have been at Exalted a long time ago if I'd followed a guide, but I'm happy discovering scrolls as I look for other stuff (found the last Emperor's Burden looking for a rare that was dead, for instance) The Grill Mastery means I'm 3/6 on the Food Grind, Ella is now my first Best Friend with the Tillers. It is all coming about as a result of other stuff.

I hear an awful lot of muttering about the Dailies in Guild right now: they take too long, they're buggy, there's too much to do, there AREN'T ENOUGH GOATS. I have to say, I've not gotten either frustrated or bored yet by any Quest. I enjoy the challenge of soloing anything and everything, of discovering achievements I didn't know existed and generally feeling that there is a sense of genuine progression in the processes. I can sympathise with the frustrations however (not everyone is Virtually Indestructible, after all) and I try to keep my head down as I do my work. I'm comfortably into Revered with the Tillers, just into Honored with the Golden Lotus (giving me access to the Epic Leatherworking patterns and leg patches \o/) and almost revered with the Klaxxi. All that means I'm almost to Honored with the Black Prince to boot: I discovered today that killing rares gives a nice rep boost for that cause, so no more avoiding a Silver Dragon alert if I already have it on the list.

I've not even visited the Cloud Serpent dudes yet. Mount #150 last night was the Blonde Yak from the Grummles. Expect a return to picture documentation at some point in the future.

I have a Best Friend \o/

I can see how the Tillers have managed to enthral so many people: questing aside having a fully working farm really is the only way to get the sheer number of vegetables you need for maxxing Cookery. Once everyone's got there, of course... I wonder how the market for vegetables will pan out. However, that's a post for another time. My focus, on the personal front at least, is to finish the last three Cookery branches: once that's done I have the six speciality dishes to complete... and after that... I think I might need a bit of a lie down... ^^

Monday, October 15, 2012

(Virtually) Indestructible

Captain Scarlet. I loved him as a kid :D

I am here, bright and early on a Monday morning to report that I am very happy where my Main is right now. In fact, I'd go so far as to report that if you're planning on levelling a Hunter any time soon, you could do a lot worse than do it in Beast Mastery spec.

My Spec Right now :D

I've not played BM continuously since it was introduced as a viable playstyle. I stuck doggedly to Marks and Survival (mostly because of the dps boost they gave) and instead left all the work to my Tenacity pet (who was the same white bear called Polar for a VERY long time before Cataclysm hit when I switched to a Scarab) This time around however, with any pet having the ability to take up the tanking mantle, I decided to award the honour to my first ever Hunter Rare Spawn track and tame:

Not a Football Manager. Go look up the Latin ^^

This goat roams around the Kun-Lai Summit, leaving Heavy Tracks in its wake. Only hunters can see these (you can be any spec, this isn't an Exotic pet), and if you can find the spot where tracks appear magically while you watch dropping a flare should expose the pet to you for a tame. You should note that these tracks need to be followed in the opposite direction to the way they actually face (this confused me initially) but if you're patient and methodical this is worth the effort. Capella and me make a fairly formidable team, and with thought and practice pretty much anything is tankable right now. This was born out Saturday night as I was farming in the Dread Wastes for crab meat, when the Rare Champion Omnis Grinlock pretty much spawned on top of me.

Grinlock has a posse: 2 L90's and an 89 as well as him, and normally that would have been enough to put me off even engaging, but I'm aware of the many abilities my spec rocks at present. Stampede may be as annoying as hell for tanks right now (especially if all your pets have Growl on, yes I know ^^) but its massive DPS boost should not be underestimated. However simply using Glaive Toss (which seems to pull consistently large crits) patience and much pet healing at range was enough to deal with the adds in short order. It was at this point that a Goblin Hunter arrived and decided to try and take me out to steal the kill, and dragged half a dozen crabs and turtles from the surrounding area over to my pet's AoE Thunderstomp. Sadly for him I had Stampede off cooldown, was ready to use Disengage (and proc the incredibly useful Narrow Escape talent) thus giving me the eight seconds I needed to CC all the mobs, rez my pet and send it back into the fray. Needless to say there was no loot I needed, but the kill was mine, plus a sense of IMMENSE satisfaction that even with that number of L90 mobs to deal with I was still standing at the end.

I strongly suspect that once I start raiding this spec won't be the one I'll be using, but for now it is really very satisfying to know that whatever the game may throw at me I am able to respond in kind, that I can solo pretty much any content I come across and that the pleasure I derive as a result is considerable. I suspect I'll be taking this spec back to old content sooner rather than later too, to see what I can do on my own that before might have needed some friends to complete... :D

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Farming Today: Fishing for Compliments

Do I know you...? ^^

Farming has again crossed a threshold: moving from Honored to Revered with the Tillers sent me yesterday to meet with Fish Fellreed, who knows the story of how Yoon's Grandfather saved the Valley. You should go talk to her yourself when you get the chance, there are a couple of tales she can tell that are worth your time. I arrived here however with one task in mind: there's the wagon Grandpa Yoon famously utilised on my farm that needs fixing, and once its moved off the land we'll have space for some more plots for crops... :D

I'm going to need some planks, then...

Fish asks for lumber, and there are 100 planks in the lake where she resides that will do the job (love how the Pandarans recycle, not so keen on the crabs guarding the piles) Once I'd dredged them out Fish was happy to get to work on making me some much-needed space:

Fish is quite handy with a hammer...

Again, whilst Fish is working on your farm you'll have a 10 minute debuff until she's done. Whilst she was repairing the wagon I went and checked for further available upgrades, and discovered that in planting terms Revered is where the really interesting stuff unlocks:

Oooh I say. This is significant.

You don't just have the capacity to grow vegetables on your farm: there are plants which provide you with raw materials to boot. Checking the flavour text on all of these seeds will give you clues as to what you might harvest: The cactus for instance has the capacity to catch cloth scraps as it grows, and should yield you Windwool Cloth when harvested. The seed that interests me the most however is the Songbell Seed: once you've harvested veggies for cookery, planting these will guarantee a harvest of a Mote of Harmony. So if you don't have time to farm for these and want them for other items, here's a very easy alternative. The Saplings will give you a chance to grow a green-quality item which will allow you to grow a tree at a random location for three minutes.

Farm Mark 3: Four extra plots, and free extra irrigation!

Tina Mudclaw also has another farm improvement on offer once you hit Revered:

Look, not just a Scarecrow!

My farm now has the latest in bug-repelling technology. Each repeller covers four plots, I'm hoping they're waterproof coz I'm not sure I want to be standing near one when my sprinklers go off... :D

Its started to rain, this might get messy... ^^

It'll be a long slog until Exalted, but my first bumper harvest last night was enough to help me finish the Way of the Wok, and tonight's should ensure I've got the Way of the Grill finished as well. I predict a vast amount of Jade Squash, Mogu Pumpkins and Witchberries in my future, plus many many Green Cabbages... :D