Friday, January 11, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Seemed vaguely appropriate... :D

When I first started this blog I made a promise: I wouldn't talk directly about my Guild. A lot of this is to do with the fact that I've never been a great fan of dirty laundry in public, and the rest is wrapped up in the fact that most of the people I play with are the same people I began my Warcraft career with, 'back in the day.' As a result, it would be like dissing friends in public, and as this isn't Facebook, that simply wouldn't do. However, this week's Guild activity has been interesting enough to warrant more than a mention in passing. Consider this a reflection on my job as GM, and some thoughts on that most thorny of issues: approaching that tricky boss fight.

Last week the Guild had a bit of bother with the second boss in Heart of Fear. The biggest single issue was the difficulty in accurately predicting how Unseen Strike's damage component would affect the raid, which would occasionally manage to wipe people who weren't standing in EXACTLY the right place. We spent a night faffing with positions and options: we made P2 once by which time the stacking debuff was enough to kill most of us, because we'd spent too long fighting beforehand. Faffing is exactly the right word too: lots of people giving an opinion on TS and (it was decided) no firm leadership voice to give the evening the sense of direction it needed. At the end of the night we were no further forward so something happened that doesn't normally: we simply threw the tactic we'd used since we began away and started again. As it transpires that gave us by far the smoothest and most manageable attempt of the evening, but it left the Raid exhausted and ultimately demoralised.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was back in Karazhan by an ex-guildie who I still remember with fondness. Pick a strategy and stick with it until the boss is dead. This has always been the way I've viewed fights: the learning curve is so different for individuals that you need to try and get everyone first to simply to be able to replicate the same actions as a group. After that can come the finesse and the tweaking, but to begin with there must be a plan that everyone sticks to. Despite the issues with that fight (and the fact we were 0/6 to start with and 1/6 when we finished) we now have a solid plan of attack. The mechanics are doable, and tonight (I hope) we will have enough people a) to give it another go and b) to actually make P2 consistently. That, however, is not my real concern.

There's been a lot of muttering this week: I sense too much focus on individual accountability and not enough of a grasp of the major problem, that we have 10 people to teach a new strategy to. Ultimately some noses seem to have been put out of joint, and that's where (with my GM hat) I tend to get a tad frustrated. See, the thing is that I can guarantee if Person A has an issue with person B, F or Y I'll be the one who gets the arse-end of the conversations. As GM it is pretty much my door people pitch up on in such circumstances, and really I shouldn't have to remind people that this is a game. You play your own way, to a point, and when you allow individual prejudices to start colouring your outlook, it is never going to end well. In the end I know the people who'll suck it up and learn, those who'll get the hump that we're not doing it their way but go along for the kill, and those people who will not move fast enough when they get Unseen Strike and kill us. I'm really glad I'm not raid-leading progression as a result.

It is a precarious balance to strike in progression raiding, to keep momentum constant but at the same time not to allow individual issues to hold the whole back. It requires a level of selflessness that many people are simply unwilling to give, and often a grasp of technicalities that some simply can't attain. Having done a Heroic Run of Dragon Soul last night (bonus title ftw) I find myself again in awe of any team of 10 that did it when current and completed it without at least one major personnel fall out. There is so much that can still go wrong, even in content that is no longer considered a challenge. It's great to be able to cheese it now, but it does seem unfair to those who earned titles that they are devalued over time as older content becomes trivialised. I never really grasped the significance of that until this Expansion, but I think it matters, perhaps more than it has at any other point.

Ultimately, if you sign up for a progression raid, it is your task to come prepared, in every sense of the word. There are those who are happy to wait until content is on farm before throwing themselves into the picture, and although I have absolutely no problem with that, these people need to understand and accept the knowledge they owe an enormous debt to those who blaze the trails on their behalf. It's not a lot of fun sometimes at the sharp end, especially if your nights are spent with your face on the floor. Don't try and pretend you're anything that you're not, however, because that's just asking for trouble and ultimately will mean that things WILL end in tears. Come do a job and well, to the best of your ability, and the results truly can be glorious. Don't get stuck in the the middle of 10 disparate individuals: become part of a team.

Now if you'll excuse me I'll be off to LFR to practice not being eaten by Attenuation... ^^

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I see what you did thar... ^^

There's a new PTR Patch this morning: Stormwind's FINALLY repaired post-Deathwing attack (and about time too!) There's at least NINE new BoP Battle pets (apart from any indigenous wildlife roaming around we can battle) but my interest was piqued by this little snippet in MMO's rundown. Producing Imperial Silk from Tailoring and the new Lightning Steel bars from Blacksmithing will give you a chance to discover new recipes.

Ever since Blizzard introduced the Alchemy 'discovery' model at the start of this Expansion a part of me has wondered if this would be the way forward: it makes the entire 525-600 process considerably less stressful, there is no chasing around for recipes from multiple sources and (most importantly) it means everyone's needs when levelling are different, so you don't have loads of players all hunting the same raw materials with which to do so. I am going to assume that the four new recipes above are possible from the Silk proc, so it would then be logical to further postulate that the rate will be quite low. However, there are those professions where there is no 'transmute' component (looks sadly at fellow Leatherworkers) so I'm wondering how this will pan out in time. Who knows, maybe I'll be getting a new type of leather to work with this time around...

This would be the point where I hope that someone from Blizzard might be reading, and that I can pitch an idea I (and I'm sure others) have had that might be worth repeating. There's a phenomenal number of 'old' recipes trapped in instances from Kalimdor to Northrend, some with drops so low it's shameful. Would this not be the opportunity to introduce an 'Ancient Crafting Tome' to the game: a book filled with vanity items, specific to each profession, which when used gives a chance to learn a 'Classic' recipe from times past? If we are going to start treading the road of recipe discovery it would be fantastic to give everyone a chance to pick up the more obscure, and would prevent such classics as the Rich Silk Purple Shirt being lost forever, or certain unscrupulous types selling the few recipes that remain for ridiculous prices.

Needless to say, if I didn't know already, I really should be poking about on the PTR as soon as possible, if only to get a sense of where to go for these new quest areas. If there's new recipes to be learnt as well, it's the incentive I need to finally extract the digit and finally finish the the Master of All achievement in game...

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Saddle Up

No. Just.... No.

There's a new Mount to buy in the Blizzard Store.

According to the official spiel, if I buy one of these, 'it is said that good fortune will follow.' Elune knows I could do with some of that at the moment, but even the sway of better luck is not going to be enough this time around. The thing is, I'm not getting one. At least, not right now.

This is something of a departure for me. I'm Mrs Mounts, after all. Any excuse for a new set of legs is often all it needs, except... I didn't know what the problem was last night, despite staring at the thing for a considerable amount of time. Some people say it looks like a goat, that its spacebar animation's too excessive. Others don't like the transition from riding to flying. Me? My initial thought was roughly equivalent to the reaction I had when Scully left the X Files (she came back, but that's not the point.) It's also akin to the feeling I got when it wasn't Aaron Sorkin writing The West Wing any more. You see... it looks like a Blizzard mount, has the same attention to detail that accompanies such a release, but something's just not the same.

20 Euros for this mount isn't even a real issue: I could afford it, but I didn't rush to purchase one last night when the news was all over Twitter. Looking with (relatively) fresh eyes this morning I still can't pin down why I still have no desire to part with my money to be riding around on this, but I won't. It could be a post-Christmas funk, possibly just a feeling that Blizzard don't really need any more of my cash at this moment. I severely doubt it's an indicator that I'm losing my interest in the game, so if anybody with a degree in Psychology could make a space on a couch for me at your convenience I'll be happy for you to deconstruct me in an attempt to fathom this one out.

I don't need any more flying mounts, I'm happy with my cloud disc, and there's no achievement to complete that requires some purchasable luck. I'm more excited about hitting Exalted with the Shieldwall Offensive and getting a choice of new mounts on both Factions than chucking the folding stuff at a goat with a cloud. That means, for now, we'll move on...

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


That's the bunny!

So, I've been slacking on the Pet Training front.

I've lost ten places on my server's WoW Progress page. Ironically both my hunters now register so I occupy two spots as opposed to one, but that's scant compensation. The problem, of course, is time: it is a bloody long slog levelling any wee beastie to 25. I have other things I want to be doing, but at the back of my mind there is always the voice, quiet yet insistent. 'You want 75 pets to 25, then you can relax.' Of course, I guarantee the moment that happens will coincide with 5.2 dropping on live servers and then... frankly, DOOM. Therefore I must attempt to do something to keep the wheels from falling off the Pet Pattle Wagon. I imagine that transport looks a bit like the Mystery Machine, except it's pulled by a Yak. If anyone artistic fancies doing me a mockup, see me afterwards.

I spent an hour last night desperately trying to formulate some kind of plan. It seems the best idea to just level everything closest to 25 (with the occasional diversion for PvP testing purposes) and just hope I get there eventually. I also feel a contractual obligation to have the only Epic Pet at 25, just so when people search my WoW Progress profile he turns up first . No, I'm not doing it to show off: I wish to demonstrate that I consider the killer fella important enough in my collection to not simply fester away as a L1 ahead of everyone else. I won't forget for a very long time the generosity of the person who gifted him to me, and I think as a result he deserves pride of place in my collection.

Anyway, I digress. That seems to happen a lot when pets are involved: just one more fight, let's just get them one more level... oh look, it's one am and I have to be up in six hours. The pull is clearly irresistible, I only have to look to my Twitter feed for confirmation of that. There are grown men doing Pet Podcasts. There are immensely long and complicated discussions in Guild about the best compositions for Trainer fights. I'm still fighting people off at rare spawn points at all hours of the day and night: the enthusiasm isn't waning, far from it. If I didn't know better there are more people than ever out in the fields, slapping the indigenous wildlife as if their Warcraft reputations depended on it. I don't need proof as to the addictive nature of this game at any point, but should it be required I have many, many pages of damning evidence to send Battling down the river for quite some time.

I see immense amounts of excitement today on the back of the announcement there are two new Pokemon games due this year: X and Y (are colours passe now?) Any scrap of pet information on the PTR arrives on my feeds so fresh it's still panting. Pet battles aren't going away any time soon, so the sooner I extract the digit the better it'll be because once you start falling behind...

Monday, January 07, 2013

Everybody's Changing

He's here 'til Thursday, tip your Server.

It's easy to forget just how much has changed in Warcraft over the years.

We have our moments of nostalgia here at ALT: ernative Towers, as well you know. Occasionally these manifest themselves sufficiently to inspire us to get out the replica TARDIS out (made from cereal boxes and sticky-backed plastic) and roll back the years to when things seemed simpler. Ironically I found myself writing a job interview last week that mentioned one such notable moment: however, these are mostly tempered with the understanding that its not just the game that's changed, we have too. Currently I have two good friends who I met first in-game, who went away during Cataclysm to do sensible stuff like have jobs and a family, and have now returned to a world that is a long way away from what was familiar. As I was struggling to explain last night the concept of the two-level Instance group it occurred to me just how complicated it can be to make sense of something you've not come to live with by simple association. Then I found myself yearning for those halcyon days of instance travel.

Makes me cry. EVERY TIME.

One of my favourite trips 'back in the day' was Southshore to the Scarlet Monastery. If we go back to the Dawn of Time, you didn't even have a mount, it was a sprint from the Flight Point across Hillsbrad to the lake, where you'd swim across to Tirisfal and then leg it to the Summoning Stone. Many would argue that the flight to the Plaguelands was closer but not at level, not back then. Less stuff could munch you going the Lake route, plus there'd always be that Goblin (old model) with his robotic mate you might run into for the chance of a rare pattern to sell on the AH. My other favourite was the jog to the Uldaman Stone, so beautifully captured in the video above.  Hard to believe so many people hated the stones back in the day, but I suppose that's the soft-buttocked PvE-er in me talking.

With 1-85 whizzing past at such a rate these days, I wonder how many people actually travel to instance entrances any more. If all you are interested in is an Exploration achievement, you need never touch the ground at all in many cases to be called an 'Explorer', and that still seems wrong. I hear many people complain about the lack of flight form in Pandaria at 85 and I think that perhaps these people wouldn't actually appreciate the effort put into the World around them at ground level to begin with. My IntPiPoMo screenies from November are enough to constantly remind me just how beautiful the worlds of Azeroth are, and that sometimes it pays to get off the Flying Disc and walk: except when questing with my Husband, of course, because you need to grasp when it's appropriate to enjoy your surroundings.

My friend asked me last night which was my favourite zone in Pandaria: she has come to love Krasarang Wilds for the forests and (rather oddly) the whales. Oddly for me because I didn't even realise there WERE whales in the Zone, which made me stop and think: I've become as bad as the people I consider with a scornful wrinkle of the nose. With my rush to 90 on P and the obsession with dps, I've forgotten about one of the fundamental reasons I love this game: the world itself. Needless to say I fully intend to get off my flying mount more as a result and to spend some time looking around me more. As everything changes around you it easy to forget the fundamentals that make Warcraft such a joy to immerse yourself in.

Once in a while, there's no shame in stopping and taking in the scenery.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Even in the Quietest Moments

It must be an important cutscene, it's widescreen.

After the week I've had, I decided by far the best thing I could do yesterday was faff.

Firstly I maxxed out P's Cloud Serpent rep. I've not done a single race, so at some point I'll need to go back and pick up the associated achievements. However, I do have all three of the Wild Pets that spawn when the zone opens up at Exalted (with one at Rare to boot) so that's another job ticked off the 'To Do' List. After that it was high time to get K's aspirations of a fully working Tiller's Farm kicked into touch, and I now have 12 plots to harvest when I've finished this post. Well, 11 plots and a Vanity Pet :

I have a bad feeling about this...

It's the first Turnip I've farmed myself: I'll admit I bought the first one. This one will go to the Pet Bankalt, who's had a reasonably decent week in terms of sales. I'd still not recommend anyone taking up battle pets as a sure-fire way to make your AH fortune, but I do okay. Far more money is made from selling the spoils from the 1.75 Farms, currently herbs/Golden Loti. In fact, I've made close to 7000g this week simply by this means: however, I am reliably informed that selling armour made with Spirits remains a better bet. I'm not playing my Hunter friend at his own game however, I'll let him haggle with others for that market sector. 7k a week just from this is good enough for me.

What all the best dressed L1's are wearing.

It hasn't just been herbs though, there's been Enchanting Mats (Cata stuff seems to be selling particularly well) and Inks, as I've syphoned some of the herbs that K's been gathering off to the Scribe, as well as gathered ore off to the Jewelcrafter. With the Faire up I'll want to get both the Engineer and the Blacksmith off to earn their +5 to skill, plus give the Darkmoon Pet Trainer a hard time (soundly owned was his behind last night with my current Team of Awesome, expect a repeat of this until next weekend.) I've finally dragged the Tailor kicking and screaming to 86, and have half a mind to level her along with finally getting a Monk to the stage where they can be guilded.

Oh yea, and then there's the PTR to take a peek at. It's a good thing the kids go back to school tomorrow...