Saturday, April 13, 2013

In the Ghetto

...and so it begins...

It is easy to forget, if you are lucky enough to be running at the cutting edge of game content, that there are people for whom LFR is the best it gets. As we're now aware, there will be no more new 5 mans this expansion either, so if you want new content that gives Valor, you have either Scenarios or LFR as your choices (where gear dropping is the bonus, should you be friends with the RNG.) The problem with Scenarios is that there's only three of you. No hiding at the back or blaming others, which is why LFR is becoming more and more contentious as your preferential place to gear. Some people have already given up in disgust and frankly I don't blame them, especially based on personal evidence. This morning encompassed all that was good (and bad) when you stick 25 people into a situation where you cannot guarantee any of them know what to do.

I made the observation before 5.2 that the 5.0 Raids had the potential to polarise really fast once they were officially 'not current': I used the word 'ghetto' with good reason. This is the impoverished part of the game, where alts come in the hope of a quick boost up to the richer pickings of the Throne of Thunder, where no-one wants to stay, where bad attitudes and criminal behaviour are commonplace. Of course, there are people in 5.0 LFR's by no fault of their own: the solo players, the people who aren't able to play as much, those who simply find it's the best way to be anonymous but keep themselves alive. This makes for what are becoming wildly variable experiences for those of us who go into these instances not simply for the Valor, but because they are the only places we can find upgrades.

The simple advice is often the best.

The problems inevitably arise when you die. It is often very simple to analyse why this happens, without the need for Recount or anything other than an understanding of the fights and some common sense. Tanks fail to communicate. Healers aren't doing anything other than minimal button pressing and fail to grasp the importance of dispelling/cleansing. DPS don't understand basic mechanics and take massive damage. If these happen in isolation they can be covered but when all occur at once (as can be the case in Tsulong) you'll simply keep hitting your head against a wall until people do one of two things. They either think, or they pick up a pitchfork and flaming torch and become part of an Angry Mob of DOOM that anyone who they consider is FAIL is summarily removed. At first hand, this is depressing in the extreme, especially when spearheaded by someone like a tank who is at fault but can hide his ineptitude around other people's shortcomings. I entirely understand why some people never step foot in LFR any more, because unless you get really lucky there is never going to be an instance where there isn't Drama (TM) of some variety. Ironic that Blizzard take loot issues away but that's the least of most people's worries any more.

Some days, it is just the right thing to do.

I stuck with my Terrace for the chance of a Bonus Roll on Lei Shi. I'd already done it this week, but there was still the slim possibility my bonus roll might net me the Sha-Touched weapon. Over two hours after I entered I finally saw her released from the Sha's grasp, and I got loot: another trinket. On reflection, on this day, the hassle, the abuse and the recriminations were not a surprise, considering the sequence of events. An inept tank tried to blame the healers for his death and then was kicked at the behest of his tanking partner, for not understanding the mechanics. The replacement tank left after one boss. The replacement for him and the original tank died more times on Lei Shi than was necessary: were they stacking damage debuffs too high or was it the fault of the healers? In the end the lowest performing healers were systematically voted out, one by one, until we succeeded, and I decided that 45 Valor wasn't worth staying for despite the effort I'd expended. There comes a point where you need to assess the best use of time, and I decided to be subjectively selfish. I had done my best, and what I had come for had not appeared. I COULD have stayed for the last boss, but in the end I chose to walk away. Does this make me just as bad as the people I bemoan? Maybe I just saw a painless way out and I took it...

LFR is, for some of us, the ONLY way to see Blizzard's End Game content. As a result, the patience to remain in the system is likely to last at least until Garrosh meets his (wholly justified) unpleasant end. It doesn't matter how many helpful buffs you chuck at people, if the people playing aren't there to do their best, there is absolutely nothing you can do. All you can hope is that everyone turns up and at least makes an effort, and if they do you'll wonder why you ever bemoaned LFR's system in the first place.

I don't know about you, but I don't think that's really enough.

Friday, April 12, 2013

No More Tears (Enough is Enough)

The real heroes of Thunder Isle. I just turned up.

Having completed the Scenarios on the Isle of Thunder, I have come to a decision.

I have done all that I have been asked of in this undertaking, and more besides. Wherever Jaina asked me to go, whatever I did, I never once asked what my reward would be, and expected none. My continued guilt over the Alliance and it's actions in invading Pandaria was motivation enough. Finally, when we are at the Storm Lord's front door, when I help the Shado Pan defeat Shan Bu, almost at the cost of their own leader's life, my faction stands by and does nothing. Oh no, that's not true, they stand and decide to have a Mexican Standoff and get all pouty and postury with the Horde and it takes a gravely injured man to point out to them what I've known since this whole sorry affair began.


Seriously, Garrosh is a wanker. The Alliance have known this since Theramore, and (to their credit) so do the Horde too. Sadly the damage is already done, and looking at what is about to come for 5.3 I find myself thinking how close the Alliance is to the exact same thing. No-one is pulling in the same direction, just look at my own kin for an adequate example of that. There is no solid leadership, and no alternative to those who would wish to live in peace, and that has bothered me for quite some time.

I have hugely enjoyed working with the Shado Pan, however. Their philosophy calls to me, their methods suit the loner. I can be helpful and feel as if I have achieved something without the need to be praised or plied with gifts. Taoshi is a strong female role model I can identify with, far more than the High Elves and Lady Proudmore, who all seem far too wrapped up in agendas of revenge and political significance. I don't want to be a part of this charade any more: I knew this when I encountered the Sha in the Jade Forest and now I'm convinced. I want to carry a new faction banner, and represent a new group during my continuing travels.

I want to join the Shado Pan.

Give me an affiliation: let me wear the uniform and carry a banner for their cause. They don't care about the petty and the insignificant, they simply understand that the way to deal with evil is to eliminate it and move on. Their cause is not only just but noble, and they don't get swayed by personal and negative arguments, they simply find the solutions. Let the Monk Sanctuary in the mountains of Kun-Lai be their Capitol and let Taran Zhu be their worthy leader, freed from the grasp of the Sha and with a true understanding of what must be done to release Pandaria from the grip of the most ancient of evils. Let me roam the lands and show people there is an alternative to both the Horde and the Alliance, that perpetual war need not be the answer. As the Pandarans were forced to choose a side when they first met the rest of Azeroth, let them now become their own separate and distinct entity, accepting all who wish to join them. Give them the sanctity of their own land back, and the opportunity to live their lives in peace again, away from the oppressive regimes that currently bicker on their own doorstep.

Most of all, afford them more respect than is currently being given, because they deserve this more than anything else.

I may be a dreamer at heart, but I'd love to think that, after all these years I might get the chance to choose more of my own destiny than I have before. The Shado Pan's approach to live and their attitude resonate so deeply within me, I feel compelled to at least ask for the possibility. After all, if you don't ask, you will never know.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


It's been a while since I've done a confession.

Back we go to Vanilla, where levelling via instance quests was nothing to do with grabbing your !'s at the beginning of an Instance. You had to hunt them out, and with Blackfathom Deeps (shouldn't that be Depths? ^^) this entailed a wander around Ashenvale and a trip to Darnassus. It also required I'd need to travel over a set of platforms across the water at the start of the instance. This, in turn, meant jumping.

Actually, I should be honest. For a VERY long time jumping in-game was my Achilles Heel. Whether it was Thaddius (there's a reason I never managed Shocking in 25 man) or doing the Firelands Dailies (stupid tiny floating platforms of DOOM) I'd end up frustrated. On the wrong days there'd be tears as well, because there was something about hand-eye co-ordination my brain could never QUITE grasp. However, since I forced myself away from the evils of keyboard turning, things have improved significantly, and I have discovered (mostly because of the horror that is The Crumbled Chamberlain) that, actually, I have improved in something over eight years.

This is quite opportune timing, it transpires, because I was dispatched to The Swollen Vault last week, and since then there's been the realisation that, like it or not, I had an Achievement to consider that required a test of co-ordination. Not a few leaps, but a whopping 90 SECONDS OF JUMPING.

Ah, my nemesis. WE MEET AGAIN.

Once you've accessed the Shipyard on Thunder Island, you'll be asked by the Shado Pan to go get the Choker of Storms from The Swollen Vault. Once you've killed the Gatekeeper you have to get to the other side of this maze, which would be hard enough to traverse for yours truly under normal circumstances, were it not for the swirling thunder atop each platform. Every second however one platform clears as another is repossessed, which not only means precision but quick thinking. Needless to say I knew as soon as I successfully completed this the first time I had to try for the Achievement, simply because it would prove, once and for all, that I have gotten better at 'playing.'

What also made me laugh, as I practiced my moves, were the people who tried to cheese it. Bubbling, Stoneskin, whatever anyone could find so they could avoid the puzzle and simply get to the other side of the room and pick up the quest item. One guy spoke to no-one in particular and /said 'Not worth it, dropping quest' and walked out, and I found myself wondering why some people bother to 'play' games to begin with. It goes back to last week's rant about subtlety and doing the work, and the fact that regardless of your individual ability there NEEDS to be parts of any experience that make you think, that challenge the way you traditionally approach the gameplay experience. If there aren't, there's just no point, and eventually you'll get bored. Of course, I suspect some people feel the exact same way when they can't get what they want instantly, but I am not one of those. I enjoy the thought and effort required, especially (in this case) when I know HOW to do this is just as important as doing it to begin with. For the record, I've completed The Crumbled Chamberlain in 20 minutes. Next up is The Crumble Bundle, because this thing is OWNED.

Oh yeah, Nalak gave me 522 Tier Gloves. THANK YOU!

It seems to me that whoever is creating Achievements these days has a very sound eye on what is and isn't possible in the content: some of these achievements are fiendish in their criteria (still not sorted the Golden Lotus Roll Club, for instance) and make for entirely diverting mini-games all on their own. For those of us who place 'Achievement Hunting' on their list of Things to Do In Azeroth that means an awful lot of residual content to plough through once we FINALLY get everything we want to do sorted in Pandaria. Part of me REALLY hopes I'll get a chance to do this before the next expansion rolls around, and that I won't still be caught up in the fight to complete the current content...

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Down Among the Dead Men

Video may be iffy, but the SONG IS CLASS.

There are many discussions within this parish about the misconception that Things Were Always Great In The Past. [*] If you don't already know I consider this statement, quite frankly, to be a large streaming pile of wobbly dum-dums. For example, let's take Fishing as possibly one of the best reasons why this game is so much better now than it was 'back then': long cast times, no handy pools of fish to stick your bobber in and a levelling curve that was enough to reduce you to tears meant I was very much in the minority 'back in the day.' A lot has changed since Fishing was something 'only sad people do' (yes ex-Guildie, I still remember your words) but as I will never get tired of telling people, fishing was big money. So much so it bought me my first Epic flying mount [**]. It also lead one Guildie to discover Glider, and for me to end up with a GM quandary I still chuckle about to this day, but that's a story for another time.

Since 5.2 launched, Fishing has been elevated to Daily Event status: across Pandaria, random pools of fish appear, in enormous numbers, allowing those with the time an opportunity to cash in or simply stockpile for feasts. There is also a bonus: occasionally an Enormous pool will spawn.

Yes, this is a larger than average fishing pool.

According to El's Extreme Anglin' these pools have a far longer respawn rates than the smaller ones, which I can attest to having fished for over an hour for several days since 5.2 launched and having never seen one. However, when I logged this morning, the Daily location was right next to Trainer Aki in the Vale of Eternal Doobreys. It would have been rude not to.

This mob is honking gynormous, this mob is far away.

After 96 fish and 4 crates, up popped Krakkanon. If you've fished up The Lurker Below in SSC this guy shouldn't be a surprise skin wise: he's also a fairly long fight. I was able to pop Stampede twice and was quite grateful for the presence of a tanking pet to make things easier: because he uses a water jet attack being in the water should minimise your damage. When he (finally) died I was rewarded with 20 Jewelled Danio (Fish of the day) and a Flying Tiger Gorami, sadly no use as I'd caught one from the same pool about 10 minutes earlier. C'est La Vie.

Big nameplate, MASSIVE footprint :D

I can at least say however I've seen one of these fellas 'in the wild.'

[*] Music is probably one of the few exceptions to this rule. See above.
[**] Mr Alt lent me the rest. I still owe him, and at current rates of inflation I sincerely hope he never calls in the debt ^^

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Over and Over

Another day, another random AH :D

One of the unexpected (and as a result not that much talked about) advantages of all your characters being 'linked' to your account is something I've been wanting to try and play with for a while. Over the weekend I finally got the chance, and I've now set up a Bankalt on a completely different server to my main playing place of choice, for the sole purpose of buying battle pets.

I didn't spend any real world money to do so, far from it, and currently I am almost 1000g in profit. Let me explain to you how this has been achieved.

The first sale is always the hardest.

As an avid collector, I am well aware of the variance in prices of pets across multiple servers. What might cost me 10,000g on my server could well be purchasable for half that somewhere else or indeed double that on a second server, such is the nature of market economics. I also have a LOT of spare pets after the merge of accounts, many of which are simply sitting in one of my vanity banks gathering dust. The key to setting up a new bankalt (in this case on a high population server that is part of my CRZ area) is the knowledge that any one of my characters, ON ANY SERVER, has access to the same centralised pool of Battle Pets. That means I can learn a pet on Server A but then could cage it on Server B. Therefore, ANY pet available on an AH across any server that I have funds and access to is potentially a place for me not simply to buy pets I need, but sell excess I have.

New Banker, Tabard optional.

Working on this theory, I went ahead and made a L1 alt on one of the high population servers. I surmised after research this would allow me access to more pets (not necessarily cheaper) but with a spread of pets I wanted to buy as well as the potential to sell, which is the key to my planning in the long term.

Then I waited. I quested in Northshire whilst I did, and sure enough by the time I had made L4 someone had appeared in trade offering 50g if I'd sign their Guild Charter. One click later I had a character with enough cash to go to the AH and list a pet I could cage across servers that wasn't on sale. Twenty four hours later I was nearly 1000g better off, and on the start of my journey. As I had a bit of money to spare I decided to legitimise myself a bit and I formed my own vanity banking guild: no need to beg for signatures here however as I could ask Mr Alt and my son to make L1 alts on the same server and help me out (only 4 signatures required now for a Guild). You don't need to do this, of course. You don't even need to go though the process of buying bags if all you are interested in is picking the occasional pet to sell to build up a fund that can then be used to buy something of interest. The more financially savvy of you of course (I'm sure) are already doing big things with this system... I'm just here to keep picking up the spare pets I'm missing.

Meeting yourself at the Ironforge AH = awkward.

It occurs to me this is probably one of the most compelling reasons for Blizzard to bite the bullet, once and for all, and make centralised AH's. That way there would be no need to spread myself thin like this. As a tool for making money (for those who enjoy such diversions) its potential is significant, because once you have a set amount of money all you need to do is start the business of installing addons and flipping/reselling items for fun and profit. I'm pretty certain Blizzard never considered this as a consequence of the pet battle system, and part of me can't help but keep looking behind me, wondering if this will be addressed in future patches.

Needless to say, I will be looking to fill the holes in my collection via this method for as long as it is viable. I am curious to see how well I will do with the task...

Monday, April 08, 2013

Rare, Precious and Beautiful

...aaaand there's another one!

There really never has been a better time to complete your Glorious achievement, if you have not done so already. Whilst other people are distracted by the Throne of Thunder and the Zandalari rares, the old Pandaran Champions are quietly languishing in unkilled magnificence, waiting for you to come along and give them a good biffing. However, even if you have completed the achievement, knocking these guys off is still well worth the effort. It helps too if you a) are an enchanter or b) have access to one while you farm, because (depending on your Server) there's a fair bit of cash locked up in these guys to boot.

Every Champion has a chance to drop a 'vanity' item: most are BoP but there are those (like the Hollow Reed dropped by Nalash Verdantis or the content's of Lon the Bull's Big Bag of Herbs) which have a decent AH value. Wowhead gives a complete list of the rares and what you can gain from them and you will see that amongst these are a fair smattering of Epic items. A few are BoE but others are BoP, which is why either killing these guys with an Enchanter in your party or being one will put you at a distinct advantage. I'd also suggest before setting out doing a price check on your server: currently anything that I loot in the highest level zones (which will DE into a Large Ethereal Shard) is preferable to simply vending the item for cash: however, your mileage may vary.

An hour's work on my server. Not bad at all.

There are a number of bonuses as well to doing things like this: the key is to understand that if one rare is 'up' in a zone, that (technically) means that all the others should be too, as they share the same timer. Therefore if you are fast in your slaying, you can pick up a large number of rares very quickly (as you can see by the Jade Forest) This zone has a higher than average Epic Item drop, and most are BOP, so is the best area for your DE-age. Remember that with any rare drop there is also the chance to pick up a Small Bag of Goods which can contain any amount of useful gubbins, which if you are well versed in the use of a Bankalt can be stacked and sold as you gather them.

Part of my return for the day.

The benefit of doing things in a zone by zone basis (at least for me) is the ability to couple this additional gold-making with other activities: in this case, Fishing for Daily Quests to hand into Mr Pagle and battling Pet Trainers (which today yielded two Flawless stones) However, as yields go, this wasn't a red-letter day. My best day has yielded ten Sha Crystals which at my current Server rates makes this well worth the effort. I would strongly recommend also picking up an Addon that will track the rares for you: I use Silver Dragon, which when linked with a map overlay addon like Handy Notes will give you a clear and precise idea of what rare is where and a means to track a quick route from one spot to another.

The rares themselves can be quite difficult to kill unless you're an OP Hunter like myself but as gear levels rise as the expansion goes on, more and more people should be able to give these a decent biff. I'd recommend this video by my good twitter buddy @wowmartiean which should give you an idea of what to expect. Needless to say, in many cases you don't need to pick a quiet time to do this, you just need to be around when one rare spawns and be able to capitalise on the opportunity.