Saturday, January 05, 2013

Me and a Gun

Screenie from Wowhead. Angst from me.

Let me tell you the tale
of a girl and a gun
and how home truths were learnt
as an Auction was done.
That your life is a game
that should always be real
and that sometimes the truth
needs a loss to reveal.

Regular readers will be familiar with my struggles with dps consistency in Instances. I am doing my weekly pushes into LFR and updating items with Valor as soon as the opportunity arises. However, there is one constant weakspot: my weapon. This is a story I know many of you are familiar with (certainly one with which my husband's Paladin can sympathise) as the choice of upgrades is deliberately small. There is no engineering gun this time around, and only one Epic drop in Heroics. I've tried, but my luck in any kind of group instance has been just above woeful. That hasn't stopped me, every week, making sure I run the Will of the Emperor in the Vaults and Lei Shi in the Terrace in the vain hope that something will drop. For me however there is one alternative: the re-skin of the gun I always wanted from the Crusader dailies but was too low level for anyone to be useful (ah, the days pre-Mogging.) Flintlocke's Blasthammer is a decent weapon, even when you can't socket it with the +500 Agility Sha Gem. Mr Robot tells me it's an upgrade, even though he doesn't need to.

I've tried (and failed) on several occasions to own one. The problem? The weapon's only available on the Black Market Auction House. This week I decided that enough was enough, and I was going to do my utmost to make the weapon mine. It wasn't about the thing looking good, or about owning an item only a small number of people would ever get their hands on. It wasn't ANYTHING about prestige. It was all about guilt: feeling bad that I'm not able to contribute as well as the other raiding hunter in the Guild who's had multiple drops of Epic weapons and who is consistently pulling far, far more damage as a result. I don't want people carrying me, I need to be doing my part. I can't do that when everyone else in my raid has their weapon slot upgraded and mine isn't.

Now, there is a school of thought that says that this state of affairs isn't a problem. I can hear a voice in my head, an imaginary Dev or CM smiling and then saying 'if these people are your friends it shouldn't matter, you will do it together,' and although that sentiment is clearly laudable I'm a grown up and know that the truth is far less clear cut. When everyone else is doing their best, in these situations, it really does come down to the gear, and if you don't have it, then the group fails. I can't easily accept that, when I know there is a way to improve the situation that I have some control over. Suddenly I had chosen to play a completely different game, one that had nothing to do with where I went, and everything to do with how much of my time I was prepared to sacrifice. This mini-game however isn't fun at all. In fact, it's pretty soul-destroying.

The Seven Circles of Hell, Panda Stylee.

I spent pretty much an entire day trying to second-guess the end time on the Auction, to discover that this item doesn't run the same twelve hour cycle most others do. I also spent a long time working out just how much money I was prepared to throw at the opportunity, and in the end this was to be my ultimate downfall. People in Guild kindly offered to lend me cash but I declined. I'd decided the amount I was prepared to pay, but had failed to grasp the fundamental truth that, if you want something badly enough, you need to be prepared to pay everything for it. Part of me refused to throw a ton of money at an item that was transitory. Unlike a pattern, pet or a mount, which would always have some value after purchase, this item would be gone. If I wanted to mog with it it would be easier and simpler to go buy the gun at the Coliseum. Because I couldn't equate a high value to my need to help my teammates I was doomed to failure the moment another hunter arrived and sat down next to me.

Just before the auction went to Short, the bidding began.

This person's name is well known on my server. They're the one who managed to tame a Hydra from Wrath. They're also the person who loves to undercut people's cut gem auctions by one copper, all the time, and the moment the male dwarf appeared next to me I knew that I was doomed to failure. This individual is gold capped, and that means that even if I had chosen to bring all my cash with me and thrown it all at the gun, they had the option to outbid me and win. It was at this point I underwent something of an epiphany, as three more hunters arrived to check on the status of the gun. All these people want this upgrade too, enough to come and waste Real Life time on securing it. Whatever their reasons, regardless of motivation, this game moves people enough to use their most precious of commodities in order to further a world that only exists inside a machine. More significantly however was the realisation that if I didn't have two children, if there wasn't the full-time commitment of being a mother, I'd probably be gold capped too, and be ready to throw whatever I needed at this item to make it mine. I couldn't be critical of this person, of any of these people, because this is how I would have played the game before my kids were born.

I'm really glad as a result I came to Warcraft when I did.

When the auction clicked over to Short I decided my fate. I didn't have enough money on me to get into a bidding war. I wasn't prepared to start one anyway, so I'd throw all my cash in one lump at the Gun and expect an outbid, thus pricing the gun for my opposition to buy. If they wanted it badly enough, then almost a 10th of their income shouldn't be too much of a penalty, after all. Sure enough, as soon as I placed my bid it was countered. Even though I knew it was coming, I got angry despite myself, and before I realised what I'd done I'd used /say to point out that it was a stupid price to pay for a weapon that you couldn't put a sha gem in. A stupid price that I myself had placed on a bunch of pixels. I wasn't trying to buy it for that reason, I just wanted to feel as if I was helping my friends. In the end it had stopped being about that too, and had warped into something toxic that made me feel frustrated, disappointed and angry with myself and a person I'd never met. This was the moment therefore to step away, and I did.

The final bid. I should have gone for the Oozeling ^^

With the benefit of a night's sleep, I realise that my best bet would simply have been never to go to the BMAH in the first place. Regardless of whether I'd won or not I have learnt some interesting lessons, mostly about myself and how I perceive the gaming world around me. Those will take time to digest, the commodity I feel most aggrieved about wasting, far ahead of the benefits the gun's acquisition would have afforded me in-game. Having more dps won't help me avoid Attenuation (blog post to follow) or help me stack for Unseen Strike in the Heart of Fear. A better weapon won't make me consider how I judge people based solely on in-game actions. The BMAH's 'value', for me at least, hasn't been as a place where I can get stuff I missed out on, its been to make me realise how much I assume that the game is to blame for how other people act, when I'm just as much to blame as everyone else. The smart move, for me, would have just to have waited until next week's reset and started again.

This gun is dangerous, but the best thing I could have done yesterday was to lose out on winning it. Nothing intangible is ever worth that much grief, regardless of its perceived significance.

I consider this a valuable lesson relearned.

Friday, January 04, 2013

(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)

Looks easy, doesn't it?

I have been meaning for a while to try it. Last night, someone in Guild achieved 10 PvP Pet Battles and I found myself thinking 'well, why not?' All I've done so far is fight other pets or NPC's, after all.

I had some suspicions about what I'd find and (sure enough) pretty much all of them were confirmed within the first half a dozen fights. Everyone's reading the same guides. Defense is nearly always the best form of attack. People will run away when they know they're beaten. Oh, and cats. Mechanical cats.

Short answer: No. To both questions ^^

I left my first three pet battles without throwing a punch. Why? Because of the Fluxfire Feline, or indeed the multiple rare copies thereof my opponents were rocking. I'm not going to fight you when your only intention is to push my face into the dirt and laugh at me, opposition. One Feline is counterable (and I was as the evening went on able to mount a decent defence) but you bring multiples and I'm not even giving you the pleasure. That's a walk away moment, right there. What became very clear as I battled is the 5.1 pets are showing a great deal of popularity: there's a lot of unique abilities on show. Chrominius popped up (Howl/Surge of Power) as did the Anubisath Idol (Rupture and Reflection seemed the most consistent choices, with an equal number picking either Crush or Demolish) In fact, I saw a lot of Reflection being used, often in very shrewd situations: the Elementium Bolt on my Crimson Geode got sent back at me more than once. Of course, other pets have these abilities and I saw two Flayer Younglings on display, making me think I really need to get back in the field for some battles to update quality.

Players seemed to fall into two distinct schools: the people who'd done research and those that hadn't. Needless to say I was able to beat both (with one player finally fleeing in terror when I outfoxed them on switches one too many times) but if I want to start playing with a real edge I'm going to need to think particularly carefully about what constitutes the strongest team.

No i in team? Mine has two :D

In the end I took some advice from Twitter (cheers @TheOvercut) and piled in with a front row that has some pretty mental abilities, regardless of the pet school of your opposition. The Elementals are the +damage to Mechanical go-to's, plus Bananarama's attack speed normally gives me an edge. It seems to me, as I start thinking about how to win PvP pet Battles, that the fastest pet speed possible is probably a major factor in constructing any team. You want to start first, every time. Then I have some rather tasty abilities at my disposal:

  • Poison Lash (MOAR DOTS)
  • Sunlight (AoE, but bear in mind it gives opposition +25% healing bonus. Plant might be an option to try but for now damaging the back row of a team and having the ability to counter an enemy's weather effects is probably beneficial)
  • Stun Seed. HO YUS. Enough if I can get it off first to make sure even if a Feline pounces me they're dead and rezzing at a disadvantage.

It also occurs to me that I should have at least one self-healer in the pack, and the Imp fits that bill pretty well (Immolation is fabulous for rolling damage) though whether I stick with Burn or move to Rush for the next round I go first advantage is yet to be properly tested.) I think, of my existing team, Chin is the one most likely to be rotated: am not sure what to replace him with. I saw some people last night multiple times, experimenting with different combinations of mobs. Needless to say, I took plenty of notes, understanding that all of this is a great way to learn how to use the pets to their best advantage. If you remove those who clearly think the best way to win is to stack it with Cats, there's still a lot of movement on what makes a decent Gang of Three.

I got my Pet Brawer Achievement last night: next up is to try and get through five battles without a pet dying, and for that I'll need to have a better range of abilities to choose from. I have a list of pets to level, thanks to last night's exercise, and an understanding that winning isn't simply about strategy: I need again to be able to bring the big numbers to the table when it matters. In that respect, Battling and Playing have a lot in common.

Time to get serious, I think...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Big Time

I'm in yr PC, downloading yr Client

Yeah, I'm going on the PTR.

It's pretty much a no-brainer this time around, especially as we'll actually get a bit of grace between knowing new stuff exists and actually playing it Live. There's too much this time around I want to see before it appears: Elite pets, pets generally, new quest hub, you know the drill. Giant angry dinosaurs aside, (thank you Wowhead) there's not simply the potential of stuff to write about: I'm genuinely excited to see where the storyline in this expansion is heading. Plus, it might be an idea to know if they've included any new ranged weapons this time around. Talking of which, must just pop off for a sec to check on that gun on the BMAH...

Still there. Playing chicken on an item upgrade = not optimal.

I've transferred P onto the Brill server so if you see my distinctive silhouette wandering around places I shouldn't be playing in, feel free to give me a wave. If you find me, I'll be happy to feature you on the site... :D 

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Any news on 25men raiding and incentives for them? Numbers of guilds still dwindling, you mentioned a developer blog

We have an idea, but it's a bit controversial so we're not ready to spring it on you yet.

When Ghostcrawler uses the word 'controversial', people like me sit up and take notice. After all, this is guy who takes bickering for breakfast, squabble sandwiches outside Blizzard HQ and finishes off the day dining on dissention. He is no stranger to the world of constructive discourse, let's be honest. What could possibly be considered by him controversial enough that he's not prepared to go public with the details just yet?

The key in that above tweet is 'incentives', of course: something to make 25 man more attractive than 10, to encourage people to try and round up sufficient friends to make the trip into an Instance worthwhile. Mounts no longer hold the allure they once did (I blame the BMAH for that, they should keep the low percentage drops away, people can still work for them) and any gear advantage is a dangerous path to tread, because it only serves to push people away from 10 mans, which in itself is setting an equally dangerous precedent. Personally, I think this 'controversial' idea's already being tested (back in Cataclysm) and they're going to wait until 5.2 to push it live.

25 mans are going to get a twice-weekly raid reset.

Like I said, this was done in Cataclysm for the Taiwanese and Korean servers. If you use that link to WoW Insider you'll see that Zarhym's even quoted as saying the following:

We are testing these new raid lockout changes in Taiwan and Korea first. Our goal is to expand this change to other regions in the future, but we don't have anything further to announce at this time with regard to North American implementation.

That article dates back to October 2011, long enough for most people not in the areas concerned to have forgotten it happened to begin with. If you want a controversial incentive this should fit the bill: it will undoubtedly get the 10 man people all fired up that they will only get one hit at an instance when the 25's can have two, especially when most people will tell you that 10 man modes are considerably more complex to successfully execute. However, I'd argue that doing this will simply add more prestige to the the lower tier: 25's may take an effort to gather the requisite numbers, but if you want incentive to encourage people to do so, this is going to be the ultimate carrot: two bites of the orange vegetable in a week. It makes perfect sense.

What we then need, and this would be (in my opinion) the next logical step, is to give people back the choice to run both 10 and 25 man instances in a week. What I'd love to see (and I'm not sure if it's practical) would be an opportunity to choose what combination you took part in.

In my Game (where I'd be able to buy a weapon and stop being bottom of my raid meters), I'd give everyone two 'tokens': an opportunity for you to choose either a 10 man OR a 25 man instance ID. Blizzard would put everything on a twice a week reset and I would then have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Run two 10 man instances
  • Run two 25 man instances
  • Run one x 10 and 1 x 25 man instances

Typing that is incredibly simple, but I understand enough about the way the game is now currently constructed to understand the logistics of that are INCREDIBLY hard. However, it would return a measure of flexibility to raid rosters and (assuming that gear was a constant in Normal/Heroic modes) would throw some much needed spice into the mix of End Game Content.

What we will get from Mr Street in reference to 25 man Instance 'incentives' should be announced sooner rather than later: in fact, I'd expect to see some major announcements appearing from Blizzard HQ very soon indeed...

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Coming Around Again

It's a Trap!

Those of you paying attention will have noticed I've been afk for a bit: I left the Guild running in my absence and we're now 7/8 in the Vaults, and I'd confidently predict it won't be long before we have a full clear under our belts. Me, I've been trying to sort out my life outside the game (including running in a new Fitbit) and so I've been deliberately avoiding the thorny questions of what I do next in game. If I'm honest, I'm not sure what that involves: I am at a bit of a metaphorical crossroads in that regard. I know I still want to battle (I picked up a common Wanderer's Festival Hatchling on Sunday, and an Emerald Shale Spider to complete the majority of new pets from 5.1) and I know that I'd like to try some more Brawler's Guild now I have an invite. There's still only one alt at 90, and as yet she's been woefully underused, plus I need to be earning Valor every week for my Legendary. As this might be my only real chance for a weapon upgrade this expansion, I should be making the most of the collection times I have.

It occurs to me that the problem I've had with getting the family levelled has pretty much evaporated with the introduction of Commendations: K's rep gain while questing means that she's close to being revered with the Klaxxi without even having close to competing the questlines. This means that if I quest (which at 90 means extra cash) and exhaust all the potential rep sources before I start dailies, I should still be able to use gear without grinding myself into the ground. I'm still not done with P reps however: August Celestials and Cloud Serpents remain incomplete, plus I have the Anglers to do for mounts and other items. What I really do need to do as a matter of urgency is a clearout of every single toon, bank alts included, as part of my 'Starting Fresh' approach that I begin each new year with. There is an immense amount of accumulated rubbish across two accounts that needs dealing with.

I think it is also high time that I start a Panda on a journey: what class and how I do it with everything else is still something that requires consideration, but it has been long enough since I levelled an alt to make it something I really fancy doing again. There's also the issue of two outstanding professions to consider (Blacksmithing, Engineering) and with the Faire due at the weekend, this seems a wise opportunity to try and capitalise. Add to that a Darkmoon Trainer to beat every day for a week for a chance to snag the Eye, and I suspect I have my work cut out for me.

I reckon it is going to be a busy 2013. Frankly I'd not want it any other way.