Saturday, April 20, 2013

Talk Talk

More friends can never be a bad thing.

It has been a really interesting week.

Last night, I took part in my first, and what I hope will not be my last, podcast. I spent an hour rambling inanely on Guild leadership, having someone to blame and (inevitably) Hunters with the lovely guys at Ready Check. I had an immense run though MSV with some of these guys on Sunday, and it made me realise just how important the community of people who play this game really are. It is easy to forget when you're in a Guild that you are only a small part of a very large whole, and I think reminding yourself of that fact at every available opportunity is never a bad thing.

Remembering why you 'talk the talk' is something everyone should do, as often as possible.

Having finally completed the Chi-Ji questline last night, I was initially rather disappointed that this was all there was, especially after WEEKS of waiting for the dailies to appear so I could complete it for the achievement. Then, this morning, I found this letter in my mailbox, and was forced to re-assess that initial reaction. This game, as I discussed last night with the guys, has never really been about the shiny loots for me. Yes, having my first epic is a feeling I can still remember, but the far more important and meaningful memories have nothing to do with the fights, and everything to do with the people I have met. I can't recall specific triumphs, but I can remember the emotional highs when everyone pulled together and beat stuff AS A TEAM. Like the Crane says, I don't do this with negative emotions, I'm not just here to show off or prove a point. I'm here because this is where my friends are.

I'm also reminded of the discussion earlier in the week about weapon drops, and entitlement. After weeks of waiting, my reward for completing Chi-Ji's trials isn't purple, or equipable. It's a piece of mail that tells me, quite simply, that I am a hero and I hold a place of honour in another of Pandaria's orders. The Shado Pan and I are already a solid fighting unit, and to have one of Pandaria's ancient guardians congratulate me is a far bigger deal than I grasped last night. It's also a better reward in the long term if my efforts mean that I can finally remove the Alliance and Horde from this new land and send them packing so these people can continue to live in peace. Maybe, just maybe, if I'm lucky they'll let me stay here as one of them too.

Inevitably, there are times in game when you question what you do. I will admit I've been through one of those personal soul-searching periods in the last few weeks, wondering why I am still doing what I do after all this time, and it has taken a bunch of people I've never met to re-invigorate my love of some aspects of the game I'd started to take for granted. However, when all is said and done, it is my motivation outside of the game that so often has a direct influence on what happens inside it. Now the sun is finally out here at ALT: ernative Towers there is a renewed enthusiasm for all things in life, both game-related and otherwise. Maybe I just needed it to stop raining and the sun to come out, metaphorically as well as physically, to make the outlook on things improve.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Ready Check for their hospitality (I believe the podcast will be available for digestion on Monday or thereabouts) and for reminding me, should I ever forget it, that talking a good game isn't nearly as important as doing it right for real. I'll be getting back into the new LFR his weekend as a result...

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Harder They Come

Talking with the Tauren about Politics... ^^

This game is never totally predictable.

That's part of its allure, of course: occasionally the impossible is anything but, and the routine becomes a trial. Take last night, for instance. I've done all the non-Troll LFR's for the week and was reticent to go do anything else because I was aware that I was missing out on the items that drop from Part Three of the Legendary Questline. That meant I had to complete the last part of the preceding 'episode.' That, in turn, meant two victories in the new Battlegrounds: the Silvershard Mine and the Battle of Kotmogu.

30 minutes later, I found myself wondering why I'd been so worried.

The writing's on the wall. Literally.

It actually took me longer to prepare a set of gear than it did to get a victory in Kotmogu (even though it took two entries.) The first one was close (300 resource difference) but the second was a whitewash (the All-Star achievement came from the first one as a result) and ended in about 90 seconds. I'd dabbled in this one a bit before 5.2 and considered it would be the easier of the two... as it transpired in this case I got thoroughly spoilt.

I'll be going to Silvershard Mine again, I think, probably after the PvP changes come in 5.3, because this place looks a right hoot, and I really enjoyed my victory (mostly because the gear was useful and I got to show I'm not an utter nub when it comes to grinding people's faces into the dirt) This one was close too, but there was not one abusive word in any dungeon I went into and, for a brief and beautiful moment, I remembered what it was like to win games. I ended up with Honor and was able to pick up a socket for a weapon that I still haven't seen drop in game, and couldn't help feeling that perhaps this itself was karma.

I am well aware of the trouble many people have had getting to the end of Part Two. I've read the complaints, but the fact remains that luck, in all its forms, means that sometimes you get the breaks. This means I can go into the weekend with all four Troll LFR's open to me and the chance to gather the quest items I need with the Trillium required already banked and my Black Prince rep comfortably nestled in Exalted. It is one less thing to consider in a game that continues to vex me with the number and complexity of its requirements, but does occasionally just roll over and give up the goods without being asked.

If only everything in game was as simple as this.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Simple is, inevitably, best.

I have spent some time this week practising my capitalism.

WoW Insider asked last week if player-made gear had become irrelevant and it set me thinking about the small pile of Blood Spirit that I'd been accumulating in my Vanity Bank. A cursory glance on my server's AH revealed that the crafting market appears to be both alive and decently-healthy: not simply PvP items either. The Blood Spirit, which makes up one component of the 496 Epic craftables (with Magnificent Hides and Spirits of Harmony) appeared to be a sensible market to start investing in. However, the patterns aren't learnable, they drop in 10/25 Man MSV/HoF/ToES, which meant an initial investment to buy a selection of items I considered the best bet to resell.

Needless to say, it's Thursday and I've already recouped those costs and am looking at a decently-healthy profit. Whenever I list an item (and tell Trade that I have) two things have happened, often in quick succession:

  1. Someone will whisper me and ask how much I'm selling the item. When I tell them how much they will /laugh or make some derogatory comment about how expensive the item is and that I'll never sell it.
  2. The item sells within 15 minutes of listing.

 This tells me two things in return:

  1. 496 crafted items are essential for many people, especially to gain entry to the Throne of Thunder LFR's (where all the 'good loot' is, not my words...)
  2. I'm selling too cheaply.

Needless to say I've done my maths on buying the Blood Spirits and grinding the Harmony, and I reckon the profit I'm making is enough to keep me in Battle Pets for a while and not be too greedy. I'm only selling one item to and have not yet branched off anywhere else, which I might try and achieve if I can gather enough materials by the weekend.

Selling crafted gear got two people in my Guild to the gold cap. Anyone who doubts the ability of an AH-bought item of gear to make money does not really grasp the mentality of a large section of the player base. This is the real legacy of entitlement: people write Guides on the best gear, and those that read these guides simply accept that a cash 'investment' in the short term is worth the expense for the long-term rewards it will give. PvP gear no longer has a stigma attached to it anyway, but there is something about purple pixels which, as we all know, makes people go the extra mile... or in this case, pay the extra glods. I am reminded of the days when I would make Black Dragonscale gear for those people venturing into Molten Core for the first time and realise that, despite how much things have changed, crafting is still a part of this game that I love, and it remains a fabulous way to make extra money.

Today therefore will be one where I grind out enough Harmony to make a new piece: this has become the limiting factor in my equation. Blood Spirits are listed for silly money, people pulling them out of LFR loot bags and simply wanting a quick return. Leather's lying all over Pandaria, it's just my ability to pick it up that stops me having more. Harmonies however are tied to the horror of the RNG, unless I farm them.

Needless to say, I know what I'll be digging up for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Money's Too Tight To Mention

... you still think this is a good idea?

There is, come 5.3, a need to have someone permanently stationed at the BMAH in Pandaria. As I'd prefer to do this with an alt that won't require any rested bonus in the future, I decided yesterday I'd fly out a L1 bankalt for the task. Then I stopped and thought and realised that, if I was smart, there was a way not only to have a low level at the BMAH but at the main AH to boot, all within easy reach. Hence the reason why my poor, well-dressed man is lying face down in the Valley of the Four Winds... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain my thinking.

There is both AH and Bank access within a mouse click of each other in Pandaria, if you happen to be an Engineer. To become an Engineer, you need to be level 5 to learn the profession: however, that's it. Once you've learnt it all the facilities are at your disposal, without the need to do ANYTHING ELSE. So, my cunning plan was born. My Human Bankalt would move from Booty Bay, where he has served as Neutral AH Liaison, to be replaced by my Gnome Mage (who was flown down there on the back of my rocket two person mount.) I summoned him to Pandaria with the help of my husband's two accounts using the Lock, and then got Hunter #2 to fly him around Pandaria gathering experience to level as we went.

The best two person mount IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.

However, flying a L1/2 around Pandaria proved fatal rather fast (aggro radius of China) hence the opening screenie, so we decamped to the Eastern Kingdoms sharpish where a quick tour of Elwynn, Westfall, Darkshire and Stranglethorn returned the required numbers to ding L5. Oh and for those who may wonder, you get the same maximum XP for discovering Zul'Gurub as you would for Halfhill, as explorations too many levels ahead of you is now normalised. Otherwise, let's face it, EVERYONE would be levelling that way...

Finally, the job was done, and back to Stormwind I went to pick up the Engineering skill. Yes, it does work:

My new best mechanical buddy, H.A.R.V.E.Y

This means that, once 5.3 hits, I can park this guy at the BMAH. He can then stroll across the road to the Tavern and commute back to the main AH by bird (or simply rub his hearthstone, but he has a 30 min CD to contend with) There is a bank literally a click away too, meaning that this fella has the potential to be one of the busiest of my family of moneymakers. To think I considered the low level cashier's demise was coming... how wrong I was.

I look forward to seeing more low level compadres in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms very soon!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Song Remains The Same

Putting those things into perspective, sure, weapons may feel harder to attain since you can't get them through Valor Points, but, if you could carefully plan item by item when and how you'll get each upgrade, wouldn't that remove that excitement of finally getting the item you've been chasing for so long?

No, it wouldn't Draztal. That's because the relationship many of us have with chance has stopped serving a useful purpose, in turn because of the success of the game that currently employs you and the choices that have been made within it.

Once upon a time, random numbers as a way to gate distribution served a useful purpose. However, eight years on the game has become less and less about the wonder of excitement, of the unexpected being delightful when it comes to the tools you need to not only survive but to remain competitive. As Blizzard has actively pushed people into the concept of accessible end game, the means by which they can successfully maintain a standard of equipment to do so has remained staunchly unchanged. As progression even in its most basic form has assigned a number to the standard of every item equipped, the means by which those tools are distributed has remains tied to a system which keeps a relevance for grey items, for quest drops and for everything else BUT NOT the items people require to keep on an even keel with their peers and to remain competitive.

The basic concept is simple: there is no better way to control the flow of items in game than to make their distribution random, and the problem in game is that 'random' as a definition is just that. Someone with an epic weapon is just as likely to win that same weapon over and over again, while someone without one will go empty-handed for weeks (or in my case months) on end. This is, after all, why Blizzard are introducing the system in 5.3 that (supposedly) checks whether you have won an item in game and is more likely to reward you with something in an instance if you continue to lose the rolls. The chances this will give you what you want? For some people, I suspect there will continue to be disappointment regardless. That's the whole point of random to begin with.

Many people cannot understand why weapons are not available for Valor, especially as PvP weaponry can be 'ground out.' I have NEVER grasped the mentality of this either: we're not expecting a massive range of equipment either. Ideally, a set of weapons that would accompany each tier would be a great way for someone who has been out of the game for some time (or out of luck) to attain a basic level of competency. It would help those who play various alts for raiding purposes too (as Blizzard do love to remind us it's the person playing who brings the skills, not the toon they inhabit) Of course, at least in part, this exists through the medium of crafted gear in Pandaria WITH THE SOLE EXCEPTION OF HUNTER WEAPONS. I'm still bemused as to why everyone else got epic weapon choices via crafting but the ONLY weapon available to hunters pre-raiding is a ridiculously low drop Epic bow from a five man most people avoid. When game decisions are made like this at Expansion level, the problem is only compounded (no bow pun intended.)

I am aware of people who have stopped playing because of the way gear is distributed in this game. There is a tipping point for many, when after weeks of running THE ONLY CONTENT WITH WEAPON UPGRADES in groups of vastly differing quality and often with a great deal of attendant personal abuse and animosity. That's the key here, if you want an weapon upgrade YOU ARE FORCED TO RUN LFR. Yes, you could do PvP but for the vast majority of people [*] the ONLY upgrades are in a communal experience that itself needs work. Blizzard clearly worked this out too because in 5.3 Scenarios get the Epic treatment and there are loot bags with 502 Epic weapons BUT THEY ARE STILL RNG CONTROLLED. I know this is a lot of caps in a paragraph but frankly, I'm pretty depressed with this entire state of affairs

Really, what is wrong with introducing a quest chain for the new Patch, linked to events in the Barrens with a GUARANTEED weapon reward? How hard would it be to give everyone a level playing field again and encourage people back to play who feel that the RNG is unfair, which undoubtedly it is? Yes, this also comes from the person who obtained her weapon with EXACTLY the initial excitement that Dratzal describes, but is intelligent enough to grasp that actually, that's no longer enough of a reward. Effort in the Gaming world needs to be re-assessed. Blizzard of all people must grasp this after the problems with Dailies, that expecting people to stay in game until what they want drops is becoming the exception for many players, who simply get bored and go elsewhere.


I think what bothered me most about this CM response when I read it is the same answer that's been given since the game was conceived may actually NOT be the one you need to give to this question. I think it might be time to concede that if you want an increasing portion of your audience to remain engaged, trying to temper their rewards using the medium of a random number generator is not enough. If Blizzard is aiming for ten years of Warcraft (and I have no doubt that is at the back of someone's mind) then solving this particular quandary could go a long way to keeping a certain sector of your player base very much in the game.

[*] I am aware that many of you do not like PvP. Maybe this is why Blizzard are trying to make it attractive again... ^^

Monday, April 15, 2013

Horse With No Name

Often the post title is the hardest part, you know...

Part of my brain, amongst the daily faffs and particular needs of attention-seeking alts, always has half a mind on what's going to happen next. The last wing of the Throne of Thunder may not yet have opened (heck, I've still not made it into Part Three) but 5.3 is on the horizon, and with it come many considerations that with my turning circle I'll need to have covered well before it arrives.

This week, I will mostly be thinking about Mounts.

5.3 introduces an achievement for 200 Mounts, which (according to Blizzard's Armoury) I should have achieved without even having to break sweat. However, this amount is account wide and (as yet) there is no official confirmation that will be the number used for the calculation. So, I thought I'd ask someone who should know:

Have I told you how much I love Twitter lately?

That would make my initial list a pointless exercise, were it not for the fact that a) I made it and b) it made me realise that my mount options are still pretty extensive, even with over 200 currently owned. Looking at the ones that drop in 5 mans, for instance, gives me a number of projects. 25 Malygos and 25 Sarth 3D might be a fun thing to try and persuade Mr Alt to do once a week too (if I can drag him away from his training regime.) Because of the Battle Pets being introduced in 5.3 I actually went ahead and tried to solo Tempest Keep at the weekend but Mr Sunstrider's MC still causes a problem when soloing (and I can't equip the weapon I'd need to negate that without losing my ability to do damage.) Before my hunter friends jump in: yes, I KNOW there are videos which show how to do this, and guides, but chasing mobs around the instance for a LoS faff isn't really what I'd consider a practical solution. I have to wonder if they will remove the MC for 5.3...

I have also to consider the large pile of craftable mounts I have yet to even make a dent in obtaining (Hunter engineers will probably take care of two of those, then I need to look at levelling the Lock) and the next thorn in my side, the Blue Qiraji Battle Tank, which may well become the new thing to moan abut now I actually own an Epic weapon (YAY GO REAL ID RAIDS) Of course I've not even considered the Dino mounts in that list, which reminds me I really should go back to the Isle of Giants and grind me some more Dinosaur Bones...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just What I Always Wanted...

In OMGnews, Hunter weapon drops...

I am still in shock.

I just spent an utterly delightful 90 minutes in a Cross-Realm raid, in the company of Twitter friends. Mostly it was the very accommodating and utterly lovely people from Harvest Moon (including @jaedia and @ReliqEU) @everlysky and the awesome that is @wingtipswaltz. Everyone else needs to wear a namebadge and follow me on Twitter because I have forgotten you already and I was too busy trying not to panic, especially during the last boss when my daughter appeared with an injury and had to do first aid and play simultaneously ^^

Needless to say, knowing MSV from LFR is an advantage, even though I've made the trip through on 10 man a few times. Once I got to Elegon it was all a bit new and scary but I only died on the Will (once) and I only bought it three times overall, which for me is something of a minor miracle. When the above dropped, there was amazement and surprise (and a bit of /squeeing over Mumble) but suddenly having an upgrade was of secondary importance to the fact I'd had a really great time with a bunch of people I'd never met before in real life. If I were so inclined I'd say it was a metaphor: however much you might obsess about a particular item, it really does pale into insignificance if there's nobody you can play with to get it. Without the companionship, what you win has no real significance anyway.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone for taking a chance on the mother of two who loved the fact no-one judged her except on her ability to play. I'd like to also say that the introduction of the Cross-Server Raid is something that is probably used nearly as much as it should be, especially by people like me who often forget that the World of Warcraft is a significantly larger place than simply the server that they play on. Needless to say I hope I get a chance to play with other people in the future, and that I can make even more friends than I have already, because there's a lot to be said for making your first impressions as a wee Dwarven Lassie in a Shado Pan hat.

Now, if you'll excuse me I think I need to go and lie down in a dark room while I grasp the fact I have one less thing to moan about... :D