Friday, December 07, 2012

Hold Onto Your Hat

The Armoury says it all

I'm Exalted with the Shado-Pan.

Ironically I am unable to ride my Dragon reward because I've not yet completed the relevant level of Cloud Serpent reputation. However, that's not the reason I did the grind to begin with. The mail/agility trinket items are, quite frankly, of secondary importance TO THE HAT. I've wanted that since the first time I knew it was available: I don't normally cover my face but until such times as I change out of my red outfit, this is the way things will be.

This, if I were RP, is my statement on 'going native'. I love Pandaria: the people, the places, and the mystery that surrounds the new island. I'm also becoming aware, as others are, that maybe we're not as responsible for the Sha's emergance as the Shado-Pan would have us believe. There's been something up here for a while, and our arrival on these shores may not perhaps be as co-incidental as circumstances are leading us to believe. Needless to say, I wear the hat of the Shado-Pan in respect to the warriors who took the time to fight alongside and continue to do so as I help protect Townlong from the Mantid. I also wear it to show the people I meet that this land deserves my respect and protection as long as I live inside its borders.

The outfit itself will now undergo some tweaking: I have a crossbow that is a better red match for the face mask, the cloak is likely to be changed. Needless to say, I have found renewed vigour in the last few weeks for preserving my mog, I suspect in the light of the realisation my Grinding Hell is going to end soon.

Add obligatory 'Scores on Doors' caption here.

I will have a Celestials commendation at the Weekend. The Klaxxi should be knocked off  next week (note to self, must do a mount roundup) and after that I'll have access to all the gear upgrades I require, and only be lacking the Valor to purchase them. That means the only incentive to complete any of these is a) filling up the bars and b) the stuff I can access at Exalted which, in the main, is mounts and Tabards. That means, this weekend, we'll make a real effort to get a second alt to 90: the Gathering Hunter is already benefiting from double rep from Shado-Pan quests in Townlong. This should make the 90 plateau considerably easier to cope with, and I'll admit I have half an eye on getting a second 16 plot farm running and profitable to boot.

I've not even touched Shieldwall yet, save running the Dailies you pick up directly on the Skyfire. I'll admit too that I'm only really interested in gathering 2000 Commendations for that so I can open a crate of Rats for Pet Battle purposes... ^^

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Rings Around the World

 Life is better with the Super Furry Animals. FACT.

Twitter is really a rather amazing thing. I mentioned at the weekend how Blizzard have embraced the social media network as an active way of not simply selling their products, but in communicating with their player base. In fact, I think it is fair to say that the company really 'gets' how immediacy can make a difference. Involving people is all about willing, after all: it's as much about people communicating BACK as it is Blizzard sticking out the feelers.

Let us demonstrate this in a personal capacity, with not one but two examples from yesterday's Feed.

First up: Ghostcrawler Hijacked My Tweet (or how Being a Sock Puppet Won't Impress Anybody)

It should come as no surprise that I follow Greg Street on Twitter. I occasionally chuck him a frustrated 140 character rant (CRZ and pet related)  but don't really expect a response because, you know, he's a busy guy and frankly I suspect he gets a lot of grief about the subjects I gather ire on. I do however read a lot of his responses because I find it interesting to see what he reacts to publicly. This has, over the last few months, given me a sense of a company who are all to aware that they probably tried a bit TOO HARD to keep everyone happy with the Expansion, and that inviting a million people into your Beta might also not have been the smartest exercise.

Yesterday, I picked up the following exchange with, I have to say, a sense of disappointment:

No. No. Just NO.

See, the thing is guys, this is just glib generalisation. There's no 'protocol', Blizzard constantly ask for feedback. The problem isn't Blizzard's actions, it's how guys like you perceive them in relation to your own issues and concerns. Too many people assume things are for their benefit and the game should focus on individual concerns, which is just never going to happen. EVER. Reading comments like this make me stop thinking about Blizzard as a nameless corporation and think about how the people must feel when faced with untruths like this, and frankly whatever I feel about whatever part of the game that's causing me trouble becomes completely irrelevant. People deserve respect, regardless of what you think of their game.

Normally, I'd not say anything, but today I'd had enough of whining from other sources, so I responded:

Yes, Yes I did.

I freely admit at the time I had no idea what issue these two guys were grumpy about: it could have been anything. As it turns out, this particular ire was focussed firmly at PvP, which I have subsequently discovered many people feel has been broken in 5.1. Well, that's not the case. According to a tweet thirteen minutes later, it's not been right since the Expansion:

I'm sorry, who are you again?

Yes, Ghostcrawler hijacked my Tweet. In fact, let it not be said he doesn't know how to score the big PR points because when you read this 'conversation' as it happened it makes perfect sense. I nodded the ball across, and Mr Street stuck it into the net. Blizzard admit mistakes. The word 'apologise' is IN THAT SENTENCE. However, what became clear after this (and with the subsequent messages I got copied into from what I like to refer to as 'Egg' accounts, when a user still has the default image from joining Twitter) is that for some people, even an apology isn't enough.

I'm going to go on record here and say I don't envy GC's job one little bit. The amount of crap this guy must get flung at him has to be STAGGERING, and even saying 'yeah we stuffed up, we'll try and fix that' isn't enough for people who then create 'sock puppet' bogus accounts to further throw fuel onto their own ridiculously pointless fires. It seems to me that what a lot of people could do with, in situations like this, is the ability to step away from the game for a while and get a sense of perspective.  These guys are doing the best they can, honest. If you want to be one of 'those' people who sticks on their Tinfoil Hat and has decided this is simply a way to keep us giving Blizzard cash, I'll say simply this. The only person making you part with your cash is you. This is the time to go walk away.

However, not all Blizzard Twitter feeds are as dangerous as GC's. We present The Curious Case of the WTF Mug, which began then CM Zarhym posted this Instagram picture later that evening:

Twitter's not just there for the whiny things in life... :D

I found myself thinking two things when I saw this picture: they all look reassuringly human, and OMG WHERE DO I GET ONE OF THOSE MUGS???? Yes, I'm referring to the WTF? mug on the desk next to Booth #5. One of Twitter's greatest strengths (as we mentioned at the start) is immediacy, and I had but one response to make on the basis of what I'd seen:

You want a cheap gag, I'm your woman :D

I do this all the time, which is borne out by the number of Tweets I've made since I created my account. Retweeting other people, making cheap gags... it's all about the immediacy of the moment. Other people understand this, I see with some satisfaction, so I feel I'm doing this right. I also don't expect any kind of response pretty much 99% of the time, especially not from guys like this who are clearly busy doing their jobs.

Needless to say, when it came it pretty much made my evening:

How to create a Twitter Moment (TM) Just add random!

I'd like to think the above exchange was like that moment in a crowded room where there's a couple of people that you don't know but hugely respect, and you make a comment that makes them laugh, and there's a brief but satisfying second of personal association. The benefit of doing this on Twitter means we can exist in two different timezones as it happens and I don't have to worry about embarrassing myself or having something stuck in my teeth. Is there anything the Internet CAN'T do?

Twitter is a lot of things to many different people: for Blizzard it continues to be a potent platform for discussion on their PR Machine. As long as the rest of the World grasp its limitations and understand their place in relation to it, I'd expect there will be many more opportunities for such crossovers between people like Me and people like Them for some time in the future. However, people need to understand that patience and understanding only work if both sides are prepared to use them.

It's bringing the world together, after all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Disappointed

We believe there was a lot of confusion when we originally announced this change and we're certainly at fault for said confusion. The original patch note was very vague to the point of being misleading. It was never our intent to weaken old raid boss encounters to allow anyone to have a chance to solo them, regardless of class, spec, or skill.

What we did change were encounters that were mechanically impossible for one person to accomplish, solely for the purpose of ensuring players have easier access to the hunt for the new rare companion pets -- the drop rates of which are actually set to account for a group of three players, not one.

Moving forward, though, we do not plan to adjust encounters for tougher raid bosses to be solo’able by all classes and specs.

That reminds me, I must mail that 50g to my Guildie.

After that, let's just take a moment to acknowledge the 'we're certainly at fault' in the above statement in relation to the 'Raiding with Leashes' achievement. Battle Pets are very much the solo pursuit, without doubt created with the single player in mind. I don't think therefore it was at all unreasonable to assume that when a bunch of Battle Pets got thrown into the Classic Raid loot tables you'd be able to pick them all up all by yourself. They've fiddled enough to make it a three person task though (unless you're already in a position to solo everything) which is all well and good for all of us lucky enough to be able to call upon some friends to assist us.

So, what about the people who don't?

The last sentence bothers me the most in all of this: It is entirely understandable to expect content to be a) relevant and b) of suitable difficulty for the size of instance that it is attached to. I don't think anyone would realistically expect Blizzard to retool everything to a point where it became academic. However, there are ways around this, and I'm amazed that they weren't considered. For a start, the choice of certain bosses is pretty incredible: The Twin Emperors? REALLY? Of all the other bosses in that instance you deliberately pick the most technically complicated to stick a pet on? There REALLY wasn't a way to make Razorgore simpler than the method you picked? You couldn't have simply reduced the number of adds that spawned or made the time between the Boss MC and the first wave even longer?

Yes, I know I'm not a programmer, and I'm aware of the often unexpected consequences of certain actions. However, I am very well versed with those bosses, and I find myself thinking that whoever picked these particular drop points weren't thinking from a practical viewpoint, they had boss and associated pet looks prioritised above the mechanics. I also suspect that seeding pets into the Trash loot tables wasn't even considered as a possibility, which is sad because it would have made life considerably more interesting. However, I can't help thinking that Blizzzard totally missed a trick here, especially with MC and AQ40 tied up with reputation grinds that have, for the most part, lost most of the quest lines that were initially associated with them.

This could have been a perfect opportunity to give players who haven't been around since Vanilla a chance to earn rep with two (or even more) of the older factions. In AQ40's case there's quest givers already in place inside the Instance, how hard would it have been to shift them to just inside the Entrance so that newer players know they exist and to standardise the places with the rest of the later instances? How difficult would it have been to make the bosses in MC or BWL drop the same type of tokens you get in AQ for rep gain? You could make the Blackrock ones give a choice of either a) giving Hydraxian or b) Thorium Brotherhood rep, thus allowing additional choice of beneficiaries. Surely that won't take any fiddling with bosses for that to happen, save a few additions to loot tables? Oh, and next time you decide that it's cool to stick a pet on a boss that SPECIFICALLY REQUIRES FROST DAMAGE TO KILL, it might be an idea to make that clearer than it is.

If we look at this exercise as a precursor to the inevitable next step, where we'll see pets in other places they weren't before, and we know Blizzard won't be changing the rules on difficulty, it might be time for a bit of a rethink. There are lots of ways to find pets, after all. Just please, PLEASE, don't make any more dependant on weather conditions or CRZ stability.

I really don't want any more grey hairs than I already possess... ^^

Santa Baby

As much cute as I can cope with during Maintenance.

In case you haven't noticed, it's THAT time of year again.

I have over the last few days been ruminating on what I'd ask for from Greatfather Winter if he actually gave more than the stock selection of gifts every year. I believe, having thrown the Sweater at me last time I'll be getting a Football this Winter Veil, and I don't want to sound ungrateful but... really, you don't know me very well at all, do you?

So, let us imagine that some of that sparkly magic dust I have to haul off the Dwarves every year to rescue Metzen the Reindeer actually had the ability to grant me what I really wanted. I believe the default wish number selection in such situations is three, so there's where we'll start. Three wishes.

What would I ask for? (assume I'm not asking for another three, okay? ^^)

1. The Time Lost Proto Drake


I've seen this guy dead twice within a week, whilst up in the Peaks looking for a Snowstorm. I'd seen him once before that, since they launched Wrath. This was the mount, because it was an ugly colour and it was really, REALLY hard, but then they faffed with the spawn timers on Rares and now... WAH. This is roughly akin to that bike you wanted as a kid and never got and now, as an adult, know you would really REALLY love but it kind of defeats the object of the exercise. It's not like anyone could ever gift it to me, I have to find the thing and kill it myself, and there's the real key. I'd love it but I can't justify the doing nothing in one place for hours to be there in the hope it appears. It's like the Silithids in the Sandstorm. WAH.

If there could be a time free way, I'd be there. I'm almost expecting this guy to turn up on the BMAH and for me to go insane with my savings. Failing that, this is utterly and totally worth my first wish.

2. A Murloc.

iCoke Taiwan. WHY DO YOU TAUNT ME????

Yes, I KNOW I have a Murloc, several if truth be told, but this is a Thing. This is like the other man's grass moment: they're cuter. The earlier you get Murlocs from the game, the more awesome they were, and those are the fellas I particularly covert. If all things were equal I'd die for the Warcraft CE Murloc who can do the song and dance with the Hat, because that's the one that features at the end of my Favourite Warcraft Video of ALL TIME. If I'm able to get the TLPD, this one HAS to also be doable!

3. A Gimme on this Achievement.

Stop the sniggering at the back ^^

I could explain this one in a great deal of detail, but you know what? We've established my play style needs work, and this quest became my Nemesis in the days of Wrath. It would take me 15 minutes to complete it, and some days I'd just not bother at all because... it's like that Torch carrying quest you get from the Temple of the White Tiger. It's like Skyshatter in Outland. It's Torch Tossing at Midsummer. It's taking an Orphan into a Battleground.

I never went back to complete it and it's taunted me ever since from my Achievements List. The thought of going back just makes me feel slightly ill.

If I could just get this one for nothing, that would be great. Cheers.

If all else fails, I'll be happy with the Football :D

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Me and the Farmer

Portal Shards. This could be interesting tomorrow... ^^

Those of you who are regular readers will know I got quite excited about Farming when it was first introduced. The grind, however, like most of those that dominate this Expansion was long, often painful and ultimately something of a disappointment. When I hit Exalted with everyone... well, that's it, really. You get a lovely farm, full of well thought out flavour items, 16 plots and... that's it. It's a decent moneymaker, a great way to provide yourself with cash and raw materials but that is as much as it yields, if you are not lucky enough to harvest an Ominous Seed.

Clearly someone at Blizzard has been thinking much the same thing.

Oho. This smells like more questing... ^^

I like the idea of being able to log off on your farm. I like the idea of making rodent and bird control easier. Gonna have to say though, PLEASE don't make this about more quests, guys. The LAST thing we need right now is more tasks on the only part of the game that effectively nobody else sees. That means you're diverting attention away from important stuff like raiding and instances and actually playing the game. You really don't need to 'perk' this place, it is already one.

Let me let you in on a secret: you can do loads cosmetically to make the place better. Offer that for gold, and I can guarantee you'll create a gold sink the likes of which you'll have never seen in game. People will be falling over themselves to pay for colour co-ordination and special items because this will mean, that finally, we get to have player housing. Who'd have thought the Farm would open the door to such wonderful layers of potential customisation?

Then there's the possibility of what you could grow, or rather what you could dig up in the soil: I have sixteen Portal Shards growing right now. What's to stop you from pulling up new materials for a whole new set of special vanity items that the Professions people could capitalise on? How about occasionally unearthing a rare piece of metal or gem that forms a weapon? Could you find something lost on the farm that could be returned to a potential wealthy and grateful owner somewhere across Azeroth? What else could grow in Pandaria's soil? What if you found an item on a mob in a dungeon with flavour text like 'This looks like a seed. perhaps you should try planting it on your farm.' The possibilities are, quite frankly endless.

What worries me when you see CM's and Devs make comments like this is that we will end up with 'just another grind': the same deal, with dailies and reputation and only rewards after a set pattern of events has been fulfilled. What would be fabulous, at least from where I'm sitting, can be summed up in two words: random surprises. I love the fact that the game has begun to embrace such things, but I think we can go a lot further, and there is potential to push this part of the experience in new and exciting directions. Anyone who makes money knows just how powerful and potent a tool the Farm is currently, now combine that with some fun and random possibilities of EPIC AWESOME and frankly, a lot of people might never play the game proper again... :D

I'm encouraged to see Blizzard already thinking ahead. Let us hope it is with an eye to creating something truly new and unique in Warcraft terms and not simply a hash up of Quest Hub Failies under a different name...

Walking in the Sand

At least I know what it looks like... ^^

I do some pretty damn stupid stuff sometimes in the name of this game.

Last night I was flying around, in Tanaris, having come from capturing a Stunted Yeti in Ferelas. It took a couple of seconds to register what had happened around me but when I understood a Sandstorm had started, my brain thought of only one thing: a Silithid Hatchling. They only spawn during this weather event, it appears.

Well, that's the theory.

I've been in on the Island in STV when it started raining for my Baby Ape, so I assumed that the 'form' would be much the same: a decent, continuous run of spawns which would give everyone a chance to pick up a pet that only appears in a very small window of opportunity. So, I waited.

And I waited.

After a while I got bored and started killing the bugs in the area, which usefully now drop Thick and Rugged Leather. I did the same in the yeti cave (Thick Leather) whilst I waited for that spawn, so at least I could be doing something productive with the wait time. I counted at least half a dozen Alliance in the CRZ I'm in, including one other Guildie. There must have been approximately the same amount of Horde circling the one (of two) spawn areas I was 'camping'. Eventually someone broke the silence in General and asked the question everyone was thinking:

'Has anyone captured a Hatchling yet?'

I suspect if anyone had they had they'd be long gone, because I don't care how much I'd prefer a Rare quality of any pet, this was not fun. A cursory glance on forum suggests that since 5.1, no-one's actually seen any kind of spawn, leading to suggestions that 'this is broken.' The problems with such dismissive assertions is twofold: having a baseline, reliable event to compare this to, and understanding what the spawn conditions should be in an ideal world. This is the first time I've encountered any real problem with spawns, though there have been issues (Bog Beasts in Wetlands spring to mind) The new mob areas have been fairly intensively farmed but I was still capable of picking up two new spawns last night (Yeti and Harpy) so I know they will come in time... so, is this particular event 'broken'?

I didn't see anyone fighting for the two hours I was there. I didn't see a SINGLE MOB spawn. Unlike the Apes, where there was a regular stream of pets of all varieties, not just the rares, there really was nothing. After two hours and full bags of leather I gave up because there comes a point where the time spent becomes better spent doing other stuff (in my case, sleeping.) I'd love to know what constitutes 'normal behaviour' for this event but I doubt that is ever likely to happen, so I will have to assume that this pet capture will be one of those that will happen 'eventually.' If everything sells I'll have made 1200g from the night's 'work' and the understanding that some aspects of pet battling is going to require a measure of commitment I may not currently be able to give. If this is the case, then so be it.

There's still plenty of pets out there to grab.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hooked On Classics

Not bad for five day's work :D

Yes, it was another weekend of Pet Battling :D

I am reliably informed that last night at least a fifth of the active Guildies online could be found in Naxx. Needless to say, I wasn't in a group with any of them so I am assuming a not unreasonable amount of soloing was taking place. As has been reported by Frostheim at the Warcraft Hunters Union, BC and Wrath raid bosses appear to be currently immune to Hunter pet Taunt, which made for some unintentionally hairy moments, but I can say I'm done with the floating citadel anyway :D That leaves two pets from MC, one from BWL and (unfortunately) two including the hard one from AQ40. I'm going to await with interest a strategy for soloing the Twin Emps, coz I'd love to know how it's possible with the heal.

Needless to say, that's not a bad state of affairs after less than a week.

With the Faire in Town I went and had a poke at the new Pet Tamer (within 50 health of a win ^^) and picked up the new pet (Darkmoon Hatchling) whilst picking up the pet I can actually capture in the wild. There's a few issues there it seems: I have two Glowflies: one is L10, the other is L3. No crows to be seen anywhere either. Sort it out Hotfixers! I've also conceded I'm going to need to train a second Dragonkin so I have a plan for faffing this week:

Lung is no longer enough...

To beat Brok, the second Cataclysm trainer, I am going to need a Dragonkin who doesn't turn up and boost the ability of Magic pets, as Lung does with Moonlight. I picked Lil' Deathwing because he brings Darkness to the field instead, and I'm going to boost him with Hazel so I finally have a rare-quality Mechanical in the stable. On current form to get them both to 25 will take a couple of days but when I have I'll go have a go at the last two Cata trainers that are eluding me before moving onto the Master.

This weekend also saw the bug with my 150 Mounts finally being sorted (wonder if people have Safari Hats now...? ^^) Needless to say, my Flying Disc is no longer the Mount of Choice :D

Yes, I'm showing off.

If only it came in red... ^^

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Left Hand/Right Hand Scenario

This conversation has happened.

It's been mentioned a few times in the last few weeks at ALT:ernative Towers that there are days when, let's be honest, Blizzard does itself no favours. Clearly the company not only grasps but firmly embraces the use of Social Media to sell itself and its products, but that can often put it at odds with a game which sometimes does seem to move at a glacial pace, especially when the issue of bugs and fixes is presented. The last time I filed a bug ticket in game I had a THREE DAY estimated wait time. I would wager a weighty sack of in-game gold there's a world of difference between being the Guy with the Name and the Guy Coding the Game. You might both work for the same company, you might both get your pay-cheque from the same Finance Department, but you're very different socks.

As a perfect example of this I present the following conversation that happened, via Twitter, late yesterday afternoon (UK Time)

Ladies and Gentlemen, PR in Action

The key to effectively maximising Social Media (I'm told, because I'm learning about this stuff at present) is the instant reaction. Within the hour is good, on a Saturday, and this is a great example of Blizzard does best. Here's our stuff, don't forget there is other cool stuff that makes things easier too that you could mention. This is all very well if said stuff actually works. Even I knew this feature was busted (along with a ton of persistent Pet Battle achievement bugs that have not gone away) Sometimes it takes the right person to say the right thing to make sure both socks are listening:

Not the person Blizzard might want saying this, but absolutely the person that should.

When the Dev's name an NPC after you, you're clearly considered an important influence in the Community. When Breanni pops up and states that something isn't working, lots of people are going to become interested, as was the case here. So, its not just us (the community) who are experiencing problems: look, the person who everyone uses as their go-to person for pet information hasn't got that hat you said was cool for Pet XP!

I read this and imagined the above representation of what must have happened at least once in Blizzard HQ in the last eight years: one hand doesn't think Item A is broken, or assumes it's already been fixed if it is. The other hand wasn't aware it was broken because they'd assumed it was (hot)fixed to begin with. The problem in this case isn't just a communication issue, its a problem with the Beast: the game itself is very, very large and often does not act as the Dev's expect. I remember reading a Dev interview (can't find a source, if anyone can help I'd be grateful, think this is back in TBC days) that talked about this, and how certain parts of the game were so closely linked that changing one could have catastrophic effects elsewhere. If memory serves, a bug remained in game because switching it would have broken the Illidan encounter in the Black Temple, and the decision was taken to leave things as was because to fix them would negatively impact on the game experience for too many people. I get sometimes that there are more than one set of considerations at play.

Anyway, back to our story. I'm waiting for Cory's response, coz this is gonna have to be good:

How to head off a PR problem in less than 140 characters. Stay Classy! :D

This is why the Guy with the Name gets the big bucks, Game Coding guy :p That's as diplomatic an answer as you could probably manage in the word count, and it shows an understanding of the medium he's working in very well. This needed a quick response, and it doesn't implicate anyone in a 'It's Not Working' scandal. The fact remains that many, many people's games aren't working properly and however many times we clear our caches and delete our WTF folders that won't change until some fundamental issues are addressed. There is a part of me that thinks it MIGHT be a good idea to slow down a bit on the new content and perhaps address some of these albeit minor bugs to some... unless, of course, changing that part of the game will result in all Pandas turning purple.

It is a delicate balancing act, this PR game. Blizzard play things very well, and in the extremely remote chance anyone from Blizzard is reading this, please don't think I don't love you guys to bits, because I do. However, the communication needs work. How you do that isn't my place to comment, but I'd like to think you'll work on making sure that when you say something in future, you can feel confident it is true and not another issue with the socks...