Saturday, April 06, 2013

Rat in Mi Kitchen

Finally, the magic number :D

It was always the plan this weekend to do some #TEAMFAFF gubbins, considering the week that has preceded. First up today I went and killed some Dinosaurs on the Isle of Giants for a) bones and b) another egg (I've now had THREE Red riding raptors from my last three eggs, thus proving the RNG does hate me) I failed in the latter but am up to 1750 of the former, so after this and some domestic faffery it was high time I sorted out something on the To Do list that's been bothering me for a while: the Sumprush Rodent.

The Rodent's a queer capture, and I suspect I've not seen the last of this technique by Blizzard: to get the chance to have these fellas spawn, you need to gather 2000 Commendations of the faction of your choice in Kararararasang. This is no mean feat: after I'd reached Exalted I'd managed just under 1500 which meant I would have to grind for the remainder. I've knocked it off in fits and starts as I do with most things and this afternoon I pushed the last 150. As it happened this came with a bunch of green drops, a stack of Exotic Leather (thanks crabs!) and not too much effort as no-one does these dailies any more. Thunder Island is where it's at (baby!) after all.

After that, I took my marks to the lovely quartermaster at Lion's Landing (Alliance). He, in turn, gave me a crate.

It's a crate WITH RODENTS IN IT.

Before I dropped my crate (oo-er) I took a moment to inform my Guild I was about to unleash a rodent infestation upon the Alliance, because despite what the tooltip above says, you get considerably longer than 20 minutes for hoovering up the critters. Wherever you drop said crate the guys always spawn at the area close to the flightpoint and vendors, which caused some issues with obstructed pet areas. However, I was able to level two pets to 25 in the time I had battling.


Before you mention, I KNOW I don't have my Battling Extra XP Hat on, but I did swap after that battle. The best I could manage was an Uncommon rodent for my troubles, so there's a good chance when the next Flawless Beast Battle Stone comes along this guy will be a recipient, because the Mudslide I reckon might be useful in PvP. Even though I still have the 75 @ 25 achievement I'll still be levelling my rares wherever possible, working on the theory that if I do it long enough I should be able to replace everything that isn't a rare eventually [*]

I already have my eye on the Beasts of Fable rewards as my next faffing target (special team is already 'in training') but until then I've freed up 2 bag slots and crossed at least one more little fella off my list of Things To Do...

[*] Warning: Game may end before I achieve this. JUST SAYING.

Friday, April 05, 2013


You were expecting something else?

Subtlety often seems like a dying art in this game.

LFR is a great example of this, on any given day. For every Tank who wants to eat a food buff and check he's not still in his DPS gear there is the guy who just zones in and starts hitting stuff, regardless of the rest of the World around him. This is a fact that hasn't changed since Leeroy Jenkins, after all. All the planning in the World will never compensate for the nutter who didn't read the memo. That is a fundamental part of what makes things interesting, and is now accepted by most people as part of the occupational hazard in game. Many more like to moan about it, but the fact remains that this continues to reinforce Warcraft as yet another Metaphor for Life.

WoW Insider this morning has the sobering reminder that, like it or not, your gaming experience needs to have an element of suck inherent within it. Whether this destroys your enjoyment or whether you simply choose to ignore the consequences is, of course, very much up to you. If the horror becomes too great (as I know has been the case for a number of high-profile Bloggers) walking away is by far the best thing to do for your sanity. For those of us who remain, however, judging the success or failure of our game becomes an increasingly complex equation to solve. Do we look simply at the numbers of bums on seats in terms of subscriptions? Is it even necessary to place such epithets on Azeroth to begin with? After all, the Naysayers do love to keep finding ways of joyfully pronouncing the game is dying, even though it clearly refuses to do any such thing. Does it end up (as with my post yesterday on dps as a reward) becoming necessary to fixate on a very specific part of gameplay as 'needing work' to get a handle on what might be a bigger malaise?

The thing about subtlety, you see, is that people don't go around making a big fuss to begin with. It's the lone healer in LFR who takes the Pheremones at Garalon just because they know if they don't they'll be there for hours. It's the Guildie who makes the selfless gesture and sends a levelling Tailor a ton of cloth just because they can. These are the people that seem to be fewer and further between these days, and I find myself thinking why. Did these people get tired of doing stuff and no-one noticing? Do these people just think that there's no point in bothering when the majority of the people around them are obsessed with other issues? Is it more likely that these people are still out there, I just don't get lucky enough to to be blessed with our paths crossing? It's not like there aren't as many awesome people out there either: I know there are. I just wonder if, in the miasma of Dailies and Reputation Grinds something hasn't been lost.

NOT just the numbers ^^

All that talk of reward yesterday made me realise just how huge a spectrum of tastes Blizzard's franchise currently covers. Ghostcrawler publicly admitted yesterday he considers the game less of a fast food experience and far more like the concept of fine dining. He also made us all promise we wouldn't all start spinning the metaphor out of control, and I feel duty bound to adhere to the rules. However, I do feel game rewards should have substantive nutritional value. They need to cater to a vast range of tastes.  Does that mean that everything has to be cooked Gordon Ramsay style? Is there a place in this gaming environment for less is more cuisine? There are indicators in the new LFR wings that actually yes, you can be the hero. Soaking up feed pools on Ji-Kun, kiting Gastropods, not kicking Whirl Turtles unless there's a Furious Stone Breath being cast... all these things will make the difference between success and failure in the early weeks. Let us hope that these bases continue to be covered, because it will make the difference.

I wish that more people thought before they logged into Warcraft. I hope that for every idiot who refuses to read a guide or even consider the consequences of their actions there remain those who will take the time to explain tactics at the start of bosses, to point out what can be done better and not simply make a wipe a blamefest. More and more it seems that it is simpler to hide from the bricks that are inevitably thrown in the more public places than it is to actually take the time to make a well thought out and reasonable point. If you want respect, then you must learn to give it, after all.

Next time you throw a mindless brick, thinking it doesn't matter in a group of 24 strangers, take a moment to consider the consequences.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Hunting High and Low

Hunters. Are they really broken?

Once upon a time, I applied for the job of Hunter Columnist at WoW Insider. When I didn't get it I found myself thinking I was quite relieved, because on reflection I'd have been exactly the wrong person for the job. I don't think about Hunters the same way a lot of people do. Certainly I don't have the sharp end raiding mentality that I suspect I'd have needed to be impartial about the way hunters have changed since that time. What I'd always hoped, however, is that whenever key issues were discussed by people who mattered, they'd grasp the fact that there are many, many ways to play a Hunter. More importantly, many different people play them.

For a long time I allowed myself to get unreasonably obsessed about my dps, mostly because I couldn't play the game with my friends the way I wanted. I made some fundamental changes as a result and I'm having more fun with my Hunter than I've had at any time in the last eight years, and I haven't touched a serious raid environment since January. Those changes in my playstyle made me realise that, yes, dps is an issue. It does make the difference between success and failure in many situations. However, when your primary weapon hasn't been upgraded since three weeks into the Expansion, and despite multiple attempts to do so you're still packing less dps than most of your fellow raiding Hunters, you are forced to compromise.

My discussion above with Frost (which came off the back of a discussion with Ghostcrawler about how hunters need less things to press to make them better) has filled me with a measure of surprise, because for the first time since I started reading his comments (both on WoW Insider and on this own website) I know I disagree with him. Reward should NEVER be measured with a number. I get his point, really I do, but I don't see that making things 'easier' with less buttons and forcing people to play a 'set' way will ever end in anything but failure. I'll happily agree that there are a ton of people who can't play their class for toffee, but that's not just the Hunters, that's anyone who can't be bothered to work out how things actually work. I believe the problem is that the three Hunter specs are just variants of the same basic principle: we trap stuff, we sting it for damage over time and our pets kill things. That's three specs, all too similar to the other for it ever to be a big difference.

The problem therefore isn't the shots, it is the specs themselves.

Let's say, for the sake of example, that Blizzard went back to the drawing board. They'd need a spec that owned in PvP and was an easy fit. There'd need to be a spec you used for Soloing, and then one in Raiding situations... except, of course, you don't do that anymore in this game, all specs fit all contingencies... which is why Hunters now work rather well, because they are simply one spec that can be adapted to any problem almost seamlessly. The fact they overlap so much is part of the charm, at least for me. You can simply spam Arcane Shot if you so desire but then you can go to town with other abilities in specific situations. I have learnt to love my Silencing Shot so much in solo play. Disengage is a godsend. Deterrence also is a must have in situations where it's just you V the Game World. Reward in these cases comes not from dps, but from not running from the Graveyard.

Reward exists in other places too: soloing stuff notwithstanding, I am hugely resilient in LFR with a Spirit Pet and when I've never met anyone whose healing me nine times out of ten the ability to keep myself alive is very welcome indeed. Killing large groups of mobs with Mr Alt is an absolute joy with the right pet and a combination of traps and aoe. In these situations, having the right weapon doesn't actually matter at all. You know if you are a regular here that I have lamented my lack of LFR drops over many, MANY months but now, as I type this, I realise my weapon really is only a means to a 10 point achievement and the thought I finally beat the RNG. I can do so much without it, and as the rest of my gear increases in iLevel around it I can still do the numbers in LFR without being laughed at because it's less and less about just standing still and pumping out numbers and more and more about learning the mechanics and adapting my abilities to play around them.

I know I speak from a standpoint that is a world away from the business of serious damage, of World of Logs and World First Kills. I also know that with eight years of experience under my belt I'm in no position to understand what it must be like to pick up a Hunter from scratch. Satisfaction and enjoyment does not come simply from an ability to pick a specific set of commands to execute. It is an incredibly complex process that I sense has a lot more to do with gender than I'm comfortable or capable of discussing. There's an awful lot of contention over that subject in mainstream gaming right now, after all. Suffice it to say: Pavlov taught dogs to respond to basic stimulus. Game designers are doing the same thing, for an audience of considerable diversity. Assuming reward is simply quantified is a dangerous precedent to take. What makes one person happy is clearly not how it works for another. Blizzard have been living off the ability of this game to perform that task for a long time now, and I'd like to think this part of the game plan isn't likely to change any time soon.

Frost felt the need to clarify his position after that initial tweet: the reward for optimal execution of your rotation should be better dps. It is, right now: if you do it right you bring the numbers. Poor players will, by definition, never execute correctly, they'll just keep mashing buttons and never learn. Giving the people who do learn less things to do sends us back to the school of 1 Button Magery: you'll get bored in the end. Better dps is meaningless unless it is coupled with many other abilities. Reducing the number of buttons so you can move out of the !*$£ will never help some people regardless of how much you streamline the process. Making this 'easier' might help Frost and the high end people, but it has the capacity to cause more damage over time than his correctly executed Serpent Sting ever would. Some people will, regardless of any change, simply revert to the way they find simplest. I'm pretty convinced that we want to try and prevent that happening at any cost. 'Not thinking' should never be the default state in this game.

The reward for optimal execution of your rotation should be the knowledge you're doing your best. The numbers should be a bonus, and they should never define you. The acceptance of your friends that your class is really robust and great fun to play right now should not be a hindrance. Not raiding should not make you a bad person, and raiding at high end should not make you a pariah in your peer group. Numbers are academic, what matters is enjoyment and frankly this class is NOT BROKEN AND DOES NOT NEED FIXING. Like a flesh wound that's happily healing, the last thing you should ever do is keep picking at it until it becomes inflamed or infected, because you're right back at square one. There are lots of ways you could change Hunters, of course there are. I just don't see the need.

Despite 'everything', I'm really rather happy where we are.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Ready To Go

My day, by the Godmother, aged 46 and a half.

Getting a weapon upgrade on the Hunter is continuing to prove a challenge.

I decided this morning I'd run the three instances I know drop a weapon and I am reasonably familiar with (having heard a number of horror stories about Durumu on LFR and not wanting to go in there alone that can wait) I was armed with Charms and Runes for bonus roles. I made the mistake of opening my mouth in the Terrace and trying to be helpful (note to self, don't bother on Wednesdays, people are too hardcore and just assume you're being critical) and so kept quiet in both the Vaults and the Depths. After three runs I was pretty much done for the day, and it wasn't even lunchtime.

At this rate I'll have my Valor capped by Thursday.

All the talk in the LFR's was of gold and nothing but. Even with the 'extra loot' people are still complaining that its not enough: I'm not surprised, of course. This is the way it ends up being, because nothing is ever enough when you fancy having a moan. The mechanics of the Throne of Thunder are still causing issues with some people (no you don't kick the shells as soon as they die) and the path from Tortos onwards is still fraught (our raid ended up in two pieces when it became clear Tank #2 didn't realise he had to kill three mobs to make the next boss spawn) but people were already nominating themselves for nest duty when the last boss rolled around. The learning curve appears to be decent enough, and it is becoming clear that picking the right time to do an LFR (and knowing early on if it's going to be problematic) are also good skills to be learning as this way of gearing becomes the viable alternative to running 5 mans for Valor.

I am surprisingly sanguine about my lack of upgrade: last week it was a problem, this week its beginning to become funny. I will (potentially) have FOUR places where a weapon could drop: you would think therefore at least one of them would be good enough to do so, but this is what happens when you rely on the Randomness of the Universe to guide your travels. Whatever happens in the meantime (and I know having two more hunters in LFR is just asking for trouble) I have a ton of stuff to do regardless, and that appears to involve things where maximum dps isn't an issue. While that remains the case I'm quite happy to see how long I can go without an upgrade...

This week therefore should involve a great deal of faffing (use the #TEAMFAFF hashtag to show your support on Twitter!), grinding of leather and Dinosaur Bones (once my current Primal Egg hatches and I can get a new one) and getting our Server to Stage Six of the great Thunder Island adventure...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Bad Cover Version

I look GOOD as a Troll ^^

I've started measuring my Warcraft 'weeks' from Tuesday to Tuesday (even though I don't reset until the morning) to give me an idea of how well I'm doing on the organisational front. This is the second week I've capped Valor (cheer) meaning the alts have gotten a bit more love than they experienced last week. However, yet again, the main focus of attention was on P (seen above pretending to be a Troll in the Dagger in the Dark scenario) who has begun to make a fairly decent profit from her Leatherworking. This week I've pulled in 17k from that and various sundry gubbins (including some pet sales :O) which is a distinct improvement on last week. I'm seeing a distinct increase in sales across the board, which makes sense as it is Easter and a proportion of the player base isn't at school during the day. Still it is encouraging, especially as it means I'm almost halfway to my first major gold milestone.

A major achievement completed. YAY.

It was with a great deal of satisfaction I finally knocked off Pro Pet Mob from the Big List of Things To Do. I'm not done yet on the levelling, however, as I still have Rookie Pet Crew to complete. I'm hoping to have that done before 5.3 in anticipation of a new slew of pets to collect: there are still a ton of wants in the current content too. I've not even looked at the Beasts of Fable yet, which is something I hope to find some time to do in the next week. With Thunder Island about to move to Phase Five and a new LFR wing I'd anticipate being capped by the weekend which should give a bit of time to spare...

Getting very close to 500 points...

Both Hunter alts have access to LFR and I suspect I will gear them as and when I can spare time to run those. I'm close to a third farm too, and with herb prices slowly increasing that seems the best way to use that space, though I am considering converting both Hunters to Engineers (and working on the theory that 5.3 might well introduce an easier levelling curve for that a la Blacksmithing.) If that happens then I can see myself farming Harmonies for a supply of scopes and sales of other items. Then there is the business of getting my Mage to 90 so I can start working on reputation for the Royal Satchels...

Generally speaking I'm feeling increasingly more comfortable with how things are working out with my system of planning. If I could only get a decent weapon to drop...

Monday, April 01, 2013

Won't Get Fooled Again

Not yet, but almost.

April is here, and there are no Fools in our house. Mr Alt has signed up for the London to Brighton Bike Run this year and as a result the entire family is getting behind his training efforts. This means that, on a Bank Holiday, I've already started my plan to support him. It's time to extend that across my life, and that is going to include my gaming, because last night I had a minor epiphany as I got myself to 74/75 pets and then walked away.

Yes, I stopped short of the achievement because I wanted to be fresh to go to the Gym this morning.

Normally I'd have played the extra time it would have taken to get that last pet to 25, but instead I took an early night. I've spent the weekend on my Horde alt getting enough Lesser Charms from battling to earn 3 Mogu Runes as an added incentive to drag her to 480 iLevel. Somewhere over the weekend I began to get my groove back, finally. I'd notice the detail that was put into everything in Pandaria, especially shrines and graveyards. I've found two spawn spots for the Spectral Porcupines and find myself wondering if I can be good enough to tame one. I've pushed myself to name every pet I've trained with something original and funny (my favourite is Super, Shrine Fly) which has resulted in the following being stuck in my head for two days. What has become apparent is that I get the most out of my play time when it is a) not a job and b) something I can dictate the terms of and pet battling is very much that. Once this is done, of course, there is the desire to level EVERY SINGLE PET TO 25 just because I can, and it will fit into my more casual approach to the game of late.

Just you watch, I'll get there eventually.

Time for some new Item sets.

I was fighting Whelks when Omnis Grinlok popped for me late yesterday too, and finally I have the 'other' free stuff trinket from the Pandaran rares. I'll make myself a 'Grinding' Item set this week and take it out into the field to test, along with Helpful Wikky's Whistle. I should probably chuck in a couple of Potions of Luck for good measure and see what I can end up with... this means that rares for me have handed over just about everything I've asked for since the Expansion started. Time to write that farming post.

That's what failure looks like...

I failed to win an Epic weapon (again) this week: there is a third spot on my Circuit of Disappointment, which means Tortos is one of my To-Do Bosses. It also means I've seen this buff a few times: it starts at 5% and increases by 5 every time you fail. What's not clear is if your 'failure' is counted on a boss by boss basis or is cumulative: either way, this makes complicated boss fights (like the nightmare in LFR that is Ji-Kun if you don't get a group of people who a) understand the mechanic and b) are prepared to actually take some individual responsibility) a great deal easier. I'd assumed however that we'd have to wait to get help in the new LFR's, and not that the buff would be applied in the first two weeks... ^^

Call me dumb, but I only just noticed this spot in the Jade Forest...

It often takes something else to force a revelation: as I feel the need to get behind my husband in his efforts, things start falling quietly into place. The fun is coming back to Azeroth: of course it never left for most of you, you're just looking at it in a different way to me. I suspect mine will continue to have a lot to do with lists and excessive organisation...