Saturday, November 17, 2012

Unprecedented Scenes!


Last night I benched myself for 10 Man, and the Guild are now 3/6 in the Vaults. GO US.

However, I did not slack, oh no, as you can see from the above SCREENIE OF AWESOME. I didn't even have to camp, I just flew into Felwood and THERE HE WAS. After some discussion in Guild it appears that people are missing different 'rare spawn' pets, no-one has the same gaps in their collections... so the spawn rates appear to be spot on. With these pets there's often no chance to multiple battle and improve your pet quality, you just need to swoop in and grab what you can, so that's what I did. Yesterday evening was definitely a Good Day (TM) in that regard. I have the following holes filled:

  • Infested Bear Cub (Rare) from Hillsbrad, FIRST TAME \o/
  • Spawn of Onyxia (Common) after only 30 minutes in the Zone
  • Minfernal (Uncommon) with far less camping than I thought would be possible
  • Tiny Twister (Uncommon) after a couple of trips to the spawn point, it appears the midnight respawn that I'm seeing reported for various pets applies to these guys as well
  • Snowshow Hare (Uncommon) from Alterac, which seems to like to spawn currently as a secondary capture behind Rats
  • Snowy Owl (Common) from Winterspring which I've not seen all the times I've been out there for the Trainer Fight to get MOAR BANDAGES

It wasn't all my way last night however: I arrived too late for Restless Shadelings (back at 11pm UK tonight to capitalise on the reported respawn) and the Scorpling in Blasted Lands is another one tied to a timer. Needless to say, six gaps filled in an evening with the minimum amount of work is pushing all the right buttons especially with time as the new limiting factor when playing.

This weekend however is all about seeing how many pets in Outland I can pick up I'm missing, maybe upgrading some of the common pets I have, and going to poke the Daily Questgivers. Note to Blizzard: we need a Central Training Academy for the Battlers, like a quest hub, so I don't have to spend all this time crossing continents to pick up my rewards ^^

Let's hope last night is just the start of a Fabulous Weekend of Capture :D

Friday, November 16, 2012

Perceived Wisdom


Yes, the honeymoon is over.

5.1 is marked as a Release Candidate on the PTR. Smart money has a content patch for Christmas, to coincide with the first major break many players will have since the game released (yes I know the US get Thanksgiving but the majority of the player base has to wait for late December) The question then becomes, do we actually need new content?

Part of me finds it hard to believe I typed that: after almost a year of no new stuff AT ALL post Dragon Soul, the one thing everyone complained of was the lack of content... except I'm hearing people beginning to refer to those days as preferable to the situation we find ourselves in now. Hang on, weren't you the same people telling Blizzard there needed to be stuff to do all the time, and now you want to go back to the time where you could moan there wasn't? Welcome to the Human Condition, we're all guilty of it: whether its telling our friends we knew this Expansion was trouble at the start or finally conceding that actually, despite all of the moaning,  some people might have a point. Perception is the real culprit in all of this: Blizzard created the Warcraft phenomena pretty much by accident (by their own admission) because they constructed something lots of people could play in many different ways. While the same remains true, the way the world looks at Blizzard has fundamentally changed. As a result there could be a fight right now over just about any aspect of the game, given the correct combination of factors.

Imagine Blizzard suggested the above as a part of 5.1: should you see two faces or a vase in the picture above? Which one is right? Oh, and what about the people who understand both exist simultaneously? Which version is the one Blizzard ACTUALLY INTENDED? I picked this image deliberately because it is a great metaphor for the game as it stands: you can make of it pretty much what you like. Vase, people, both, one of 'the myriad phenomena of visual and auditory perceptual organization,' you choose what you're looking at. Blizzard rarely publish a definitive rulebook: they don't tell you what to do or what you should wear, they just tell you where to get it. The community works out what's best, and therein often lies a lot of the issues.

However there is a problem that this simplistic metaphor doesn't cover, and it is the one getting so many people frustrated right now. We're still talking about perception, but not simply yours.

We have established this week that the Vaults as an entry level Raiding exercise are not forgiving. 44,000 dps from EVERY damage dealer is a considerable commitment. It is enough to upset some people straight out, to make others switch mains. The fact remains that if everyone else in your group is doing it and you're not, there is a problem. Is it with you? Only you can answer that: for me it was and I took this as a wakeup call to improve my position. However, what if you are already flat out, doing the best you can, and what then holds you back is the time commitment to complete what the game demands of you so you can access better items to wear? This is where the cracks begin to show: the speed at which those around you are progressing, especially if you are part of a Guild that raids, can be very telling indeed. There are, of course, ways around what is now acknowledged as the Daily Gating Problem [TM] but if everybody else can spare the extra hours you just don't have... what do you do?

I'd expect to start seeing more individuals complaining of burn out in the coming weeks, poking fellow players if they don't think they're making sufficient effort, finding ways to highlight other people's failings as a way to cover their own. I'd also expect at least one high profile blogger to call it a day: I'd like to think I'm wrong in that regard but I know this land, I've walked it many, many times in the last few years. People find the game is a great stick to beat themselves with when other things go wrong: why I have I wasted so much time on Warcraft, why is it not making me happy... when the issues very rarely simply stem from the game alone. I know exactly how many days /played I have under my belt, and I know precisely what I have to thank this set of circumstances for. I am a far better person now than I was when I started this journey, but I don't have the game to thank for that. I did that on my own.

The question then, at least for me, becomes the following: just where do I draw the line?

I am lucky enough to know my raid performance is in a Good Place (TM) right now. Not focussing on alts, much as it hurts me, is the right thing to do, because the time I have is limited. I have a gear upgrade coming (bracers via the Augusts) which I can garner simply using Daily Valors if I wish. After that it's at least a week of grinding Shando Pan rep to a point where I can access two more pieces, and capping my Valor using the means available. If I'm lucky this weekend I'll have my reward for Exalted with the Golden Lotus too, but if that doesn't happen, so be it. I am doing the best I know I'm capable of with everything else outside of the game I need to be addressing, and that is the way it should be. I sense with many people it is not fun to have to plan your progress in a game, that they don't play like I do with a list of priorities beside them. For me, it has become a necessity.

You do what you need to survive :D

As a GM there is also the desire to show that I'm able to raid if required, and at the same time the wish I didn't have to encourage other people to do the same. I hope those who do want to take part understand what is required of them, and don't automatically assume they'll be carried by the people who've done more work. Inevitably this is where the perception issues break down, and I imagine the next few weeks will be very interesting for many raiding guilds as all the content becomes openly available and the disparity between aspiration and gear really begins to show. When there's too much to choose from, what is the best option: a little of everything, focus on one thing at a time, or just throw the rule book away and start again? Its not like the game is presenting us with any new quandaries; these decisions have always been there to make. The relationships we have in game are being tested by a new set of circumstances, and it is up to us to perceive what is important enough to work for, and what can be left at the wayside.

It's not a vase, and it's not two people. It's a way to test how we see the world, and how our brains can be deceived by visual stimulus. Never forget it's a game, and always remember your priorities.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Token Gestures

My new best friend on the Farm.

Where possible, I enjoy the opportunity to plan ahead.

As things stand, I can only earn one Ironpaw Token a day via the medium of questing (unless you know differently.) This means, that I want to earn my Flippable Table and my own Cookery Padewan (plus store tokens for the Portable Refrigerator due in 5.1) I need to do some legwork. For those of you who don't know, that's where Merchant Cheng comes in. He sits rather unassumingly away from the hassle of Halfhill, and he sells containers. Whoever came up with this idea I must say is a genius: extra foodstuffs can now be bundled (as is the case with Archaeology fragments) and become a currency in their own right. 1 Full Container = 1 Ironpaw Token. 1 Full Container = 1 stack (100 veg, 20 meat and fish except Golden Carp which you requite 60 of) Not all foodstuffs can be containered mind, so check carefully before embarking on any grindfest.

This means, of course, that you can use your Auction House to grind with. Nev at Auction House Addict has a fabulous spreadsheet which tells you how to shuffle your raw materials for tokens, and I'd urge anyone who fancies making some fairly serious cash by this method to take a look. My desires are however far simply grounded: I've decided that 5 tokens a day is a realistic goal, considering the amount of meat I find lying about on daily quest corpses. I have a bag in my bank where I keep an incomplete stack of every major food I can use and it's simply about turning them in whenever they become full. The other tokens are AH bargains, because there's always someone who lists a stack of something at a stupidly low price. Right now I have a 100g threshold: if it's listed below, then its a buyout and a token, because I know full well how long it would take me to grind a stack of anything right now, and it is a resource I can ill afford to waste.

I'd not even considered the possibility of selling the Token ingredients (soy sauce, black pepper and rice flour) but once I have everything I want from the Cookery Trainers it is most definitely something I'd consider playing with. For now I have a side project I can work on without meaning another grind or more time aside from the real business of enjoying myself in game. All it requires is a small measure of thought and organisation. If I could only get the same level of automation running on the alts and their various transmute cooldowns... ^^

Knocked it Off!

This was 1979 at it's finest. Honest :D

I have a list, finally. I have a list so I can put lines through things I have 'knocked off'. BA Robertson was my hero in 1979, by the way. There wasn't any Internet then. We only had three channels of TV in the UK. You'll just have to forgive me unconditionally :p

I digress: yesterday I decided that I needed some help finding the last three Lorewalkers items I'd not been able to locate on my own. Yes, I used Wowhead. I now have my second Exalted Cataclysm rep :D

Wee Dwarf Lassie on a Flying Disc. Discuss.

I have been highly remiss on the mount collection front. I'm not even sure exactly what number this one is either after the mount consolidation exercise that was Cross Character Achievements, but I'm aiming for as many as possible before Christmas 5.1 in the hope I pull together the 150 required for my own Pandaren Kite :D I was really rather excited when I saw this thing on Beta (so much that it appears to have its own tag in anticipation) but so many people use it currently that I'm likely to go back to the Horseman's Mount as my default. Still, the Lodestone's useful, and I can finally start stacking some artifacts to exchange for Tol'vir Fragments. YES ONE DAY I WILL OWN YOU BUG MOUNT.

My next closest rep ding is the Golden Lotus: do they even have a mount? ^^

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Money with Menaces

Right then, pay attention...

Today's post is bought to you courtesy of my Other Half, who bought to my attention via a conversation in Guild the above and not only the rather unique nature of the objectives but also how people react to them. This quest, let's face it, is a Social Experiment in progress.

Every time you go and ask the four relevant debtors for their cash, there is the chance you will be presented with the option to give two a harder ride than the others: you can be nice and offer to pay their debt for them (a measly 1g each) or you can, for want of a better expression, rough them up a bit. What staggered me when this conversation occurred in Guild was the sheer range of response it garnered:

  • Some people just pay for everybody regardless
  • Some seem to take an unusual glee in giving a particular NPC a hard time
  • Some will always take the 'rough them up' option because it's not usually the way Blizzard word these things
  • Some people think other people think too much about quests ^^

Somebody at Blizzard HQ has stuck this quest here for a reason, I believe. As with every other quest that's ever been made there'll be somewhere in the code where the results can be seen and are tabulated, and I reckon someone is looking at these numbers and planning outcomes for other quests based on them. I can remember the outcry in Guild when Wrath launched as it became apparent the Kirin Tor made you help them torture a rogue mage in the Borean Tundra, and then in Cataclysm that sneaky Druid in Hyjal who likes a bit of extra-curricular stabby with her Harpy victims. Little moments like this that force you out of traditional comfort zones are nothing new in other games, but they do cause moral ambiguities to surface (in this case) where you'd least expect them.

What I found most interesting in the answers I heard was the reasoning behind why some people would favour one NPC over another. I'll admit that I'm one of the people who pretty much takes pity on everyone who can't afford to pay and stumps up for them... everyone except the Guy in the Hut :p

You're rude and I don't like you.

I don't normally play the Sexism card but something about this guy's tone presses all the wrong buttons with me. I bet if I did some research there's an experiment somewhere where people will have been presented with this kind of response and these were the two options you could chose from... I wonder how many people took the threat option. I'll grant you, punching him in the mouth is not the answer, in an ideal world, but I don't like to be told to scurry off anywhere. Use your good looks for stuff other than pretending being handsome got you where you are today. Frankly, you can stump up, pal.

The reason why this discussion resonated with me  I think has to do with the way things are currently heading for the factions and the very real issues a growing number of people have with the morality of decisions being made 'above us'. I had a long chat with my friend a couple of weekends back: he works for a major gaming company and knows a fair bit about how the process of quest progression works. He and I both agreed there should not simply be one path to follow any more for a faction: it would be great to have more forks in the road, more points where we are forced to make decisions like these and as we do the quest environment changes around us. This would give those people who wanted to fight for the glory of their faction a chance to shine, while those of us who might want to take a less violent approach get the chance to come to a different conclusion which still affects the final outcome.

I think we need more opportunities to make moral choices in game which will change our path towards the next expansion. I think the consequences for Azeroth could be very interesting indeed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IntPiPoMo 2012 : Not Cheating, Honest :D

One of the things I've been meaning to do for a while is sort out my screenshots folder and to create a master one for all the various shots I took pre-Sundering (in the days before Cataclysm was launched) I've been doing a fair bit of pottering today, so I thought I'd use the IntPiPoMo 'header' to highlight some of my favourites. The rest have been uploaded to Facebook, where you will find them on my Alt:ernative Page.

I love this picture.

Once upon a time, Zul'Gurub had a Rep Hub. That was a grind, huge fun, and probably the first time I made an effort to max more than one character for the rewards. This is it from the water as you swim north from Stranglethorn. I'm not even sure the island is still there now, I should go check...

Feathermoon Stronghold, before the flood.

I think if pushed I'd have to say that Feathermoon in Ferelas was my favourite place in game pre-Cataclysm. I loved the fact that the place HAD IT'S OWN BOAT RIDE, quite apart from the whole green mistiness thing going on. I would find it very hard to get tired of Ferelas generally, it is a great zone even now. Amazing how first impressions will stick with you over time.

Loch Modan. *sigh*

I'll let you into a secret: the first thing I did the day the Post-Sundering servers came up wasn't go straight for the new content, it was to fly to Loch Moden to see Deathwing's destruction to my home. I'm not an Ironforge dwarf, you see, if I RP'd I'd say I came from Loch Moden, by the water. This place, like Ferelas, holds huge numbers of memories for me of my first ever levelling experiences. Fishing, Troggs, being killed repeatedly by Ogres... its all here, except now, it isn't :(

Aubergine. Or summat :p

I miss this pier, and the boat to Darnassus. It's not the same.

Look! The statue is still standing!

This place however, looks better in a mess. Just goes to show... :D

If you want to see all the screenies I took, Access the Full Album Here.

Change is Possible

One of our unsuccessful Feng runs. He died.

Friday suddenly seems like it happened on a completely different planet.

Raiding on a Monday evening, let's face it, isn't really optimal. Many people will have half an eye on work the following day, and may not be as committed to the cause. Last night, when I finally got to log after a day full of everything BUT gaming, I noted with some satisfaction that the exact same 10 people had signed to follow-up from Friday. There was never going to be a better time to check if the changes I've begun to introduce at the weekend were the right ones.

When the Stone Guards went down, I think I realised that I've become a different player than I was last week.

UI Tweaking, Part the 421st. Time to lose Blizzards SCT ^^

I have tweaked my UI so my pet bar sits above the new action bar I made, which makes controlling it a lot quicker. As I discovered last night, Blizzard's own scrolling combat text is now a massive hindrance to concentration, so will have to go (husband recommends Parrot, open to suggestions if you know better) I also burned through a stack of Virmen's Bite: I can use two per fight if I drink one just before the tank engages, and the difference when I pop everything in the first thirty seconds is, it has to be said fairly considerable:

Agi boost + Stampede + Rapid Fire = BOOM!

I wish I could say that I can manage that every fight but that will also need work: there were still moments when I panicked and screwed stuff up, but there were also moments when I was proud of myself. Like the time I used Disengage to get out of a corner in the Stone Guards when both Amethyst Pool and a Colbalt Mine meant I had nowhere easy to run. I also managed to use Deterrence to break a couple of Mines to clear some space for the tanks. I felt confident enough after the first few tried to run to our Wildfire Spark drop-off point in Feng and still be able to do some dps. This was most definitely unexplored territory.

I realise that this might sound, at least to those of you reading this to whom all of this is second nature, a bit like I'm pleased I just worked out how stupid I've been for a long time in not making the most of what I was doing, and you'd probably be right. When you play as much as I normally do casually, it is simply easier a lot of the time to stick with familiarity and never to move out of your comfort zone. Making a conscious attempt to shift your focus can often be disastrous. The key difference here, without a doubt, has to be the support I've gotten from Guildies and you guys (hugs Blog readers) and the confidence that's given me as a result. Even my husband, who is normally my harshest critic, turned to me last night and informed me he could see the effect the improvement was having across the raid. My numbers encouraged my hunter compatriot to start tweaking his spec in raid, and what is apparent is that Stampede may not simply be buggy in Arenas. Using the glyph to copy just one pet rather than using your whole stable and picking your moment to pop it can make a considerable difference to output.

I would again like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who commented on my improvements, who has encouraged me to keep pushing myself, and who has generally been awesome. You know who you are.Needless to say: gear does make a difference as to how much damage you can do. What matters far more however is the way in which you approach the business of doing damage to begin with.

I am 2/6 in the Vaults. :D

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Elephants in the Room

A Giant Crab, speaking at the Weekend.

I think, Mr Street, your blog post should be covering considerably more than that.

This weekend, it has been universally acknowledged in Guild, marked a distinct change in Server mentality. AH sales were very definitely up, considerably more stuff got sold across the board (10k pet sales :O), and after some discussion the conclusion was reached that maybe people had stopped solely focussing on their 'Mains' and gone and done something else. This is what happened with me: I've put half a level on the Horde and Mogging Hunters, mostly because all three characters are now running my new UI and it seems like a decent way to practice the new regime. More of that later, for now I am discussing the (I suspect) unintended consequence of making many achievements account wide: people have stopped playing alts.

Only now, over this weekend, am I seeing Guildies abandon their Mains. There are some who staunchly remain in Rep Grind Purgatory (one of our MT's informed me its unlikely he'll feel the need to touch any of his alts until at least 5.2) and we do have one hugely dedicated soul who's managed to do 4 L90's already. He is very much the exception. Certainly in Cataclysm that would have been me, when it was clear that gearing via levelling wasn't really an issue. Now I find myself planning which zones I'll need to cover to pick up the gear I'll require to make it into Heroics with far more care. Suddenly, the entire process has altered, and it means that alts are going to suffer. They already are, in my case, quite apart from the fact that I know that to even begin to complete dailies at max level I'm going to need to be armed to the teeth.

I have a couple of issues: one is with the way certain achievements have been 'assigned' across my account. The standout example has to be Glorious which isn't account wide, when something like Finders Keepers is. The time it takes to swap from one alt to another when I find a Champion I don't have (and inevitably it is when I'm questing) is normally enough time for that mob to be tagged. These are the kind of achievements that would most benefit from the account wide status (pretty much anything with a time-dependant degree of difficulty or which relies on a spawn) The other issue comes with awarding something like Stay Klaxxi to everybody (or indeed the Zone Quest achievements): what's the point in even playing an alt to begin with? Yes, I know you 'get the ding' when its done but actually, I have to say, that's not enough of an incentive when you know how much work you're going to have at the end of your 85-90 grind to gear said alt to a standard where they can survive in the World to begin with. Somewhere along the way an impetus has been lost.

The main killer for me is the professions 'gating': if I want that Royal Satchel recipe for my Tailor I have absolutely no choice but to level my Tailor to 90, get the Golden Lotus and Shado Pan dailies to a certain level and then spend however long it is on the Augusts. How on Earth am I supposed to do that when at this stage I'm probably a month away from being rep maxxed on the person I want to raid with? Yes, that last bit does sound like whiny needy moaning: its no different from getting that Jewelcrafting bag recipe I STILL don't have from Firelands Dailies. The problem this time is just that, time, and despite all of this I am still sticking by my assertion that this is by far the best way to prevent server economies collapsing, and to preserve the sanctity of professions saleability. Our #1 Tailor is now capable of making those bags, and it will be Quite Some Time (TM) before I see people flooding the market with them. That is the way it should be. I'll just have to accept the fact that having a family that I can rely on for self-sufficiency takes more time this time around.

This means, like it or not, I really need a plan before I start levelling each toon. If I want them to be able to ride turtles, for instance that means a Panda tabard the moment they step out of Stormwind. If I want to maximise gear gathering whilst questing that also means I'll not do Krasarang at all, or indeed Townlong unless absolutely necessary. I have therefore the beginning of an alt levelling strategy:

  • Starter quests in Jade Forest, questline to open the Jade Serpent 'meeting' and subsequent events
  • Only do the quests in VoFW that open my farm
  • Only quest in Kun-Lai (until 89) If not at 89 when Kun Lai complete, possibly do stuff in Townlong
  • At 89, go to Dread Wastes.
  • Run as many dungeons as possible

It stops after I've achieved the exploration achievements on P really mattering about the rich tapestry that Blizzard have woven to immerse me in as I grow. Before the change to achievements it didn't, because you felt obliged to give the 'shallow' alts some depth, maybe even grind a title for them so it was clear you weren't simply going through the motions. Now, all I want is a decent plan to get everyone to 90 with as good a set of gear as its possible to garner from the most efficient number of quests because all I'm really interested in is the iLevels not just for Heroics but then LFR, as that's likely to be the main place I'll see my epics. Suddenly all that Valor gear is a waste of time, especially when I know that if enough time elapses I'll end up with a massive gear reset anyway. If I'm not raiding with alts, if all they do is act as farmers and equipment specialists I'll just make money to buy the stuff I need. I won't be paying the worth of the item, I will start paying for the time it took that person to farm the relevant level of rep to own the recipe to produce it.

The shift has been subtle, but it has been noticeable. Alts are likely to be left by the wayside by many except those with a huge amount of time and patience. Its not just about the achievements either, there are a lot of choices bound up with the way the current system is being weighted. The key question now becomes what will happen to Valor Gear come 5.1. As it is unlikely to become Justice Gear any time soon (with the plans for upgrading items in place) those of us playing the alt game have some interesting decisions to make in the future...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Coming Out of the Caves...

The server restart was going slower than Blizzard anticipated...

Yesterday was something of a revelation.

Firstly I need to thank again all the people who took the time to reply to my post: I am very grateful to all of you, especially to the Guildies who wrote such kind stuff. The fact remains however, I am a Cavewoman in gaming terms. Its been like this for a long time, and the more things go on the harder it becomes to change, but it needs to be done. I must venture out of the cave, and yesterday I took my first tentative steps into the sunlight.

12 buttons, no waiting!

The first order of business, after extensive thought and consultation with my husband (who knows me better than anybody) was to find a way to move all my main abilities into one place. There is now a bar, just below my feet on screen: I realised fairly fast that twelve buttons weren't going to be enough and that I needed a way to combine abilities together. This is, of course, where macros come in. I am sophisticated enough to already possess a macro for using Spirit Mend on myself and a way to activate my pet's Mastery ability simultaneously with Rapid Fire. This is clearly not optimal, but we're working on it. There was the opportunity to put Intimidation and Bestial Wrath on one macro, plus Stampede and Readiness on another (again, not optimal but it's a start) and with that, I had sufficient to begin with. This bar isn't yet keybound, and for a good reason.

I normally use the arrow keys for movement, but on prompting from my husband I have decided to move over to WSAD for basic movement and the mouse for strafing, which I normally can't cope with. I was getting confident enough late in the day yesterday to use my left thumb for the space bar and even be able to tab target and move simultaneously, but I am well aware there is a long way to go. My ultimate plan will be to keybind everything, but for now the speed increase I have from having this bar closer to my character is enough to make a noticeable difference on heroic bosses. I need to walk before I can run, after all. There's a new Post It note on my screen too: NO ARROW KEYS!

I ran a ton of heroics yesterday, all with Guildies (thank you guys) so I could get used to the system: an added benefit I can't talk as much as I normally do because I'm far too busy concentrating on making sure I don't stuff everything up. The real test however is when I'm on my own and grinding/doing rep: whether this makes stuff die faster and I don't expire frequently in the process. That will really be the indicator as to whether I've grasped the new playstyle or not. I even managed an upgrade (450 bracers to 463) so all in all, what started as a fairly introspective day became one of massive positivity. It was proof, if it were needed, that if you can bring yourself no only to admit you have problem but be prepared to accept help when it is given then there is always the potential for improvement.

I'll keep you updated on how things progress, but for now I think its fair to say that I'm more optimistic about my ability to play my class well than I have been for quite some time.