Friday, March 22, 2013

Games People Play

Nice use of the hearthstone symbol there Blizz.... ^^

Twitter pretty much imploded this afternoon on the back of the (pretty surprising) announcement that Blizzard will be entering the mobile gaming market with, of all things, an online Collectable Card Game. You'll be able to get this on your Mac or PC, but it will (most significantly) also be available for your Apple mobile device. Announced at PAX East in Boston, this new idea looks likely to eclipse the Diablo 3 port to console, which is odd, considering this game isn't really close to anything anyone actually expected to be announced. In fact I'm betting on the 'List of Possible Awesome Things Blizzard Could Make', an online CCG is pretty far down the list. I'd go so far as to say it would probably not make most people's lists at all.

Needless to say, the hate (and love, and a lot of 'huh?' if my Twitter feed is any indicator) has already begun in earnest.

The biggest single problem for me, I must say, is the fact it's a card game online. Despite people assuring me I will be hopelessly addicted playing with everyone else before I know it I have a very long relationship with cards, which goes back to my childhood. Even if it were the best game ever made in the history of Blizzard gaming, I'm not going to be interested in playing it. Yes, you can say that's dismissive, and you'd be right, because it is, but I just don't do CCG's. Part of it is a lack of interest, part of it is tied up with people I know who used to play such games but there's just a large part of my life that doesn't have either the time or the inclination. After all, there is only so much of my life I'm able to sacrifice to Blizzard's Masterplan. However, I find myself thinking that this 'format' is likely to deliver some kind of Warcraft tie-in: will it be paying for cards with in-game gold? More likely it'll be Vanity Pets linked with taking up the game to begin with and if that is the case, it becomes a bridge too far.

If this does happen, I'm not buying, and that will be a distinct sea change from my decisions pre-announcement. I understand why they'd do it as well, that linking this game to the Battle Pet brigade would be a master-stroke. However, there have to be some principles for me, and if that means I miss out then so be it. I'll consider it in the same vein as not buying a SC2 Limited Edition just so I can own the vanity pet, and I'll simply move on.

There's been some cracking discussions that have come off the back of this announcement: what Blizzard's long term aims are is one of the biggest. I can see them creating an entirely new 'genre' with this kind of game and giving companies like Wizards of the Coast a real scare. Blizzard may not inhabit meatspace as Magic does, but it's clearly making a big swing at its player base, or at least those who have an interest in such diversions. If they were to do this right (and as its Blizzard are we to doubt they won't?) this could give a lot of card games a run for their money. The future, undoubtedly, is in mobile gaming, and if Hearthstone is to be a test run for further mobile apps, they will do a lot worse than they have by linking everything to You have to think that, somewhere in Blizzard HQ, they're already working on a mobile version of the Battle Pets game that allows you to collect new critters on your mobile device and allows you to transfer those to your characters, and vice versa... after all, al the raw data's already there in game, just waiting to be exploited...

Whatever your take on this new 'concept', you know people will be talking about it over the weekend. #hearthstone is likely to be a global trending hashtag for a while yet, and when your official Twitter account's already got 1500 plus followers less than 30 minutes after the game's announced, you understand your markets only too well. Have you signed up for the Beta?

Monster Mash

No, this is not an excuse to show off that you bought a mammoth. ^^

Oondasta's spawn timer's been reduced. Yes, it's even mentioned in the current Hotfix list. However, it remains a really very difficult encounter that requires a level of co-ordination it appears the majority of people on my server are incapable of grasping. Hence yesterday, whilst looking after a pox-scarred daughter, I tried twice to down him. Needless to say, neither actually happened.

Everyone had their own personal theory as to why we failed so consistently. It was because we didn't pull him to the graveyard. It was the poor dps. It was lack of healing, or the tanks couldn't keep aggro. If you know anything about this particular boss you'll understand that this boss is still new enough for all of those reasons to be equally valid or utterly pants excuses. What was missing, throughout both tries (and I must extend apologies to the number of Guildies who vainly tried to get groups together for the second abortive attempt) was the key factor required to make anything this large work successfully: co-ordination. This means people talking TO each other, and without that, you can easily spend several hours doing nothing but wipe.

The more I think about this, the more brilliant an introduction this kind of boss is to realms. What's immediately apparent, at least from where I stand, is that it makes a clear distinction between the people Who Raid Properly and Those Who Don't.  I'm not sure if this was a deliberate move on Blizzard's part or not, but in the early days of such a boss existing, both groups posses some key abilities which allow them to succeed (or fail). The Proper Raiders can co-ordinate raid groups, placing key personnel in each to ensure they know tanks will remain healed. They can ask people to comply to a sensible minimum iLevel of gear before joining, thus giving a rough idea of how much dps an average raid of 40 people will output. Most significantly of all they will understand the mechanics of the fight. That means spreading out to avoid chaining on the Spitfire Beam (which will be easier if you're packing raiding addons and possess a range radar) or standing behind the boss to minimise the impact of Frill Blast. Those Who Don't... well, it would be easy to just dismiss them out of turn, except it's not actually that clear cut.

The first raid I tried to down Oondasta in yesterday was formed at lunchtime, which in itself should give an indication of the type of person you're likely to have found in it's makeup. However what was clear was that there were a number of people who came from the Who Raid Properly group, on alts, but whom weren't prepared to offer the level of co-ordination they did the day before on their mains when I'd downed the Boss on mine. In fact, if I am honest with you, gentle readers, I shouldn't have been there on my hunter alt who was clearly no-where near geared to the level required to provide the dps. I suspect the same thought went through a lot of people's heads: 'ooh look, 522 shinies, I'm sure they'll be enough dps to carry this 90 who I levelled and then left to concentrate on my main...' At some point in this Expansion this will, of course, be the case, but not two weeks into the Patch. Until then, the Not Raiders will be very much reliant on getting a raid that works pretty much without 37 wipes. Those really aren't likely to happen during lunch on a weekday.

Then there is the Graveyard 'problem.' I've seen a blue post saying it's fixed, that there's an enrage if you try, that he can randomly despawn... yesterday I watched Ooondasta stand next to the GY while we repeatedly wiped, before I left knowing full well I'd been stupid enough to waste my time. There seemed to be some belief that rezzing right next to the boss somehow made the chances of not wiping more likely, that the run when you died was a problem. The thing with this is twofold: this boss is made to actively discourage people hugging, and when nine of you all rez simultaneously it should not be a surprise if you all die again simultaneously shortly afterwards. The other key factor in this is horribly simple: if you actually read the boss abilities and spread out, THERE SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM. Even if there is, you bought enough well-geared capable people to make sure there's always a tank alive while other people are running... you did, right? Oh yeah, there's that guy multi-boxing over there. Riiiiight...

Snacks to the guy with the PvP flag on. You'll be lucky... ^^

I find myself thinking this Boss will bring out (equally) what is best and worst about Your Faction of Choice. In my case, it's the (selfish, thoughtless self-centred what's in it for me) Alliance. If it's not the Mount Waving Contests or the 'I know what to do LISTEN TO ME NUBS' Guy or the people who love to tell you how they did this yesterday on their 'alt' and it was far easier or the people who are offline 'until the fight starts' and are actually playing on their alts while everyone else hangs around... I heard everything yesterday, I really did. Everything that is bad about this game all appeared in a glorious, stopped being depressing and actually became funny in the end, kind of way. All of this, of course, wasn't just to get those ten points of Achievement Goodness: it's the 522 gear that makes people act this way. It's ALWAYS been about the gear, after all. When I did this for the first time there was an epic feel to my experience, a fair portion of which was because the people organising it understood what was needed to make it happen. Yesterday lunchtime's raid was more about entitlement, pure and simple.

I can't blame people for wanting to keep up with gear: I mean, look at the poor old Sha, left to stand for hours on end in the Summit. He still drops 496 iLevel loot, including tier, but as its not current the interest in him is pretty much minimal. Galleon is still interesting enough because he was pretty rare pre-5.2, and people want to say they've killed him. I think we can expect to see more and more World Bosses as time goes on: however, if they're going to be this complicated, I can see there being some real issues with those people who don't raid. No, doing LFR does NOT count: the Raid Finder is Blizzard's way of trying to get you to think and (maybe) start raiding in an organised fashion. Those of you who consider LFR as simply a loot dispenser will never understand what it is to actually co-ordinate until you ACTUALLY DO IT. This is simply an illusion of End Game Content, not dissimilar to the illusion you have of thinking that if you throw enough monkeys at typewriters, you can come up with Shakespeare (eventually.) Of course, there is the very real possibility that if you have enough people to try and kill Oondasta you will, because one of two things will happen:

  • You succeed, but it takes an hour.
  • You succeed, due to lag.

Now I sit here and type, I realise that the two kills I have thus far on P actually fit into those categories: the first one was lag, the second was persistence (and a 120g repair bill.) If Blizzard are reading this, I have a suggestion for future 'World Bosses.' Stick them in an Instance so the World doesn't suffer lag. Add a quest chain with them so even when you fail at killing the boss, you get something (which will keep the entitlement whores happy.) Finally? Attach a Challenge Mode to them, so that people can choose to do the encounter in normalised gear, and it can finally be about who actually understands what co-ordination means, instead of those people who just turned up to leech off other people. That should separate the nubs from the pros, once and for all.

Oh, and if this boss was in an instance it would leave the Island in peace so that I can continue to quietly decapitate their number for Dinosaur Bones... :D

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

One Week

Yeah, yeah, I get the idea...

In a week where the idea of Time Management actually became a news story, I find myself at the end of seven days that, if truth be told, were very satisfactory in terms of achievement. What still remains however is the nagging issue that I shouldn't have to devote time to organising myself to begin with, and that I should be considering my desires well ahead of a list of things I think need to be done. As a result, I am the proud owner of the Double Agent achievement and I now know I want to level my alts regardless of the potential issues that might create, simply because I can. It is also abundantly apparent that getting my Main the Valor of the Ancients buff is by far the best way to do this in terms of achieving stuff quickly, and so there will be a new page in my Warcraft book this week, onto which I will begin to plan. I am a mess of contradictions, but there is method somewhere in the madness, of this I am certain.

For the Main, there has been a daily LW transmute and enough Paglefish (TM) to increase at least one friendship level. I made 11k gold in AH sales by pretty much doing nothing at all and it occurs to me that if I tried to start selling some of these LW recipes I could increase that considerably. Plus, I have discovered that the LW bag recipe is only from the transmutes, which makes them a must do at least until that point, but probably until I run out of things to learn. Professions need some focussed love and a separate post, and I ought to start considering dropping some of the gathering proffs I took to level people with to 85 and give some thought to crafting professions that give an advantage to actually playing the game.

Then there are the things that will sit on on my 'Progressive To Do' List: Battle Pets, Achievement Points, remogging, Archaeology, rare hunting...  a constant reminder of what I can be doing if I'm not grabbed by Scenarios, Dungeons or LFR. There's also the need to work out which alts require which reps to be maxxed for professions ahead of actual gear, because having looked at the Horde Hunter it is abundantly apparent that the gearing via rep path is now pretty much redundant.The speed at which I can upgrade myself using Scenarios, for instance, is sufficient for me to pretty much sidestep the entire rep grind process altogether. It makes me more and more dubious of the usefulness of that process to begin with, that perhaps it was really only put in place to rein most people back from sprinting ahead and finishing all the content in the Expansion proper before the first content patch appeared.

There is still far too much in game that I am capable of completing (especially when, like the last 48 hours, it turns out I have a daughter with Chickenpox to take care of) but it is apparent that rationalising what there is into sensible and achievable goals has reaped some results. The next step is, of course, to see if I can continue to feel as if I'm making progress and continue to enjoy myself: I know the best part of that experience in the last seven days was making it worthwhile having alts to benefit from my main's progression. That's where I'll start off from when I next log, added to a concerted effort to actually make some money this week, and see where I am this time next.

PS: Please can I have a 'The Obsessed' title for levelling three hunters thus far to L90. Thank you!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Clubbed to Death

WHY is the gnome on the bigger mount? WHY!1!!!!1!

Say 'hello' to my husband's Paladin and Rogue, who I spent the weekend with on the Isle of Thunder. I have concluded that, although I can do the Dailies solo, it is in fact far more fun doing them with a group, mostly for the potential this affords for rounding up huge amounts of mobs and dps-ing the bejeebus out of them. As my husband pointed out, a fair deal of the enjoyment in doing this is derived in the very real possibility that we'll gather too many and die horribly. You takes your entertainment where you can find it.

Last night we never even made it to the Island: instead we chain-ran Scenarios with a friend, which means (GASP!) I have maxxed my Valors this week \o/ and I suddenly have an interest in running stuff with the Secondary Hunter for double point action. It also occurs to me, with the Horde Hunter into 89, that it would be well worth me knocking that grind off too so that I'll have more than one character to take advantage of the Buff with. This means the week is already shaping up to be fairly packed: I have no more need to run LFR on the Main, I've managed 3/5 days thus far getting my Nat Pagle Fish. I finally got an Epic LW recipe yesterday via my transmute, and even more shockingly it was the 522 mail agility boots. However, there's only one Haunted Spirit on my AH currently, and the buyout for it is 25k. Needless to say, no upgrade there happening any time soon.

Geared for a long and productive fishing grind.

I made a decent profit this weekend doing the Pagle Fish, which had very little to do with selling anything on the AH. Since the Zandalari turned up they seem to be the only type of rare that anyone has any real interest in, thus leaving all the other fellas free for people like me to kill for lewts: I even went so far on Saturday as to log in my mage so I could DE the items I was normally simply vending. My route from one side of the continent to the other for the three fish I need means I potentially pass by tons of rare spawns, and it seems silly not to take advantage of the opportunity to eliminate as many as possible, if only for the chance of a Small Bag of Goods. Of course, there are other bonuses: the Hozen Beach Ball has been my favourite item I've picked up thus far:

Spade, vest and water = PARTAY ^^

Oh, and as I fly over the mob almost daily, I thought it was high time I got myself a Gokk'lok's Shell: needless to say, I reckon this looks better if you're a Night Elf :

Large Red Direhorn is Optional ^^

Proof, if it were needed, that clubbing multiple mobs to death isn't just financially rewarding... ^^