Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hip to be Square

Boring is the new Rock'n'Roll!

As I told you last week, I've sorted out a bankalt presence in Pandaria. He's been settling in this week, selling PvP and 496 items with varying degrees of success, and has begun his daily commute between the Shrine and the BMAH.

No, really, he commutes.

You see them on the freeway, it don't look like a lot of fun...

The deal is simple: log on, check the main AH and then pop on a kite and head to the BMAH. Of course, there's nothing of real value there right now, but that's not the point. 5.3 is already being downloaded, so it won't be long. His time will soon be here.

Almost 20k FOR A TABARD? :O

If you've not yet got your Brawler's Guild invite, especially with the changes coming in 5.3, this has got to be the moment to go snag one. In fact, if I'd been smart, I'd be buying mine now and not stressing/obsessing about having one as soon as the the thing went live. Yes, you live and learn. There's a Battered Hilt here too, which at 10k might well be worth a flip if your server is that way inclined. This is the most items I've seen on the BMAH for a while, and the quietest it has been on a daily commute, but I know that this won't last.

But don't you try to fight it, an idea whose time has come...

I'll admit at this point the Bankalt Faff (TM) has become one of the most enjoyable parts of the daily login (which should in itself make the Game Devs sit up and take notice, but that's a post for another day) but a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's just me out here in the fields. That outlook may change in 5.3, but that all depends on what the patch really will bring, and it is already clear that a lot of things we've seen datamined won't make it into the final product. Whatever happens however, at least Huey Lewis is making some cash in this whole affair...

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's All In the Game

We like gathering professions and think it's more fun to explore and level up when you have gathering. Not sure we're ready to pull the handle on everyone getting a gathering prof, but it is something we discuss. We have a different solution that hopefully isnt too clever for its own good that we are currently exploring.

If you haven't already, you should really go and read the Live Q&A Transcript that Blizzard gave (a handy copy of which is available on MMO Champion this morning) There's a ton of great stuff there (especially concerning lore developments) yet (rather sadly) Professions got a measly one question devoted to them. If you're an engineer I'd not hold your breath for a Skyclaw either (reading between the lines I'd bet the Devs can't get the claws to work on grabbing so many differing body shapes), but I digress.

The above statement is, as it stands, quite a change in stance. If I read it right, it intimates that Blizzard have considered making gathering professions 'as standard' for every toon. Whether this then means that you'd be able to take another two professions ON TOP of the gathering one is a question only the Devs could answer, but it would make a great deal of sense. Having mining coupled with Engineering AND Jewelcrafting for instance would make a toon with considerable punch. Being able to have both Alchemy and Inscription with Herbalism would be awesome. Being able to keep Skinning and being given the chance to pick up Enchanting with my Leatherworking frankly would be as good as it gets for me, making P pretty much a one Dwarf grinding machine. Needless to say, the fact a) this is mentioned publicly and b) we now know there is a possible alternative on the table gives us some serious food for thought.

What could Blizzard possibly be exploring therefore as an 'alternative' to giving everyone the chance to gather 'as standard'?

We already have, at L90, a farm for your characters to use and harvest items from Pandaria. is it therefore too much of a stretch to imagine that we might have an influx of merchants at Halfhill at some time in the future, from Azeroth, Outland and Northrend, who have heard about the amazing growing properties of the soil and want to sell you seeds from all previous expansions? You'll have the opportunity to grow any herb, or ore, or skin you like depending on the seeds you plant. Suddenly farms will become your own mini gathering empire, and you'll be able grow raw materials to order... However, that's only going to work for existing 90's, which is no good for anyone wanting to start a toon from scratch. If we're not going to get a default gathering profession from the off, how can you help people gather what they need for two disparate crafting strands?

What if there were some entrepreneurial Pandarians who'd come to the capitols looking for a way to start businesses, and they'd lugged a ton of their soil with them? Consider the concept of the Crafting Allotment (or Community Garden if you're not a UK resident): a spot, phased only to you outside one of the Capitols. Here you can come as you level from 1-60 and grow things from everywhere across Azeroth. Once you hit 60 you'll need to find a Garden in Outland (Netherstorm I'd reckon for the extra magical energies), and at 70 you'll go to Northrend (and go to the Basin where the weather defies the northern snows.) Here you would learn two passive abilities: Growing in Outland and Still Growing in Northrend. By the time you come back to Azeroth at 80 the Pandarians will have imported a new bunch of seeds from those zones for you to plant, and you've become experienced enough to grow any seed you've discovered from 1-80 in said allotment. Then you're off to finely hone your growing skills on a new continent at 85, whereby you say goodbye to the Community Garden and get access to all the seeds you need in one spot in Halfhill.

Is that too clever for it's own good, I wonder, or could that be considered as a stroke of genius...? Needless to say, if we got this as the alternative to gathering, I can guarantee there will be some people who'll never play endgame again, there'll just be too busy on their farm! However, it would solve the problem of gathering in one easily accessible swoop. It couldn't be that simple, could it?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Even Better than the Real Thing?

The Case for the Defence.

I noted with some satisfaction yesterday that other people are beginning to suggest that two factions in-game aren't really enough anymore. After eight years, the game that began as Red versus Blue has  gone through numerous incarnations, but (at least until Cataclysm) remained true to the two faction balance from which the game was originally descended from. However, as time has gone on, it has become increasingly clear that this isn't enough, that fostering an Us versus Them mentality perhaps isn't the best way to maintain the longevity of the game. I think it's fair to say that Blizzard is going to want to eke Azeroth's existence out until it makes it to a decade of gametime, and with that in mind I find myself thinking ahead, as my good dear friend Mr Bear Butt did. With Blizzcon in November, I think we can safely assume we'll get an Expansion name when it arrives. The question then becomes: what's next?

What's next, Josiah?

This game needs an Expansion that keeps the bar as high as Pandaria has: that gave us a chance to choose our faction after 10 levels of understanding that we had no choice, that the Horde versus the Alliance was a fight we had to buy into as the new race in town. As time has gone on it has become increasingly clear that the Pandarian's outlook to war isn't about having sides, it is about defeating the enemies that present themselves, in whatever form. That means getting the Kirin Tor to forget their differences and their affiliations and walk away from conflict. When Garrosh is finally knocked into next week, are we REALLY expected to just go back to the way things were and forget all the lessons the Pandarians taught us? I for one really hope not, which is why I'm advocating a third, neutral race or (as has been hinted at in various places) a chance to break away from your current racial leader to become a champion of a specific faction that already exists in game.

SUCH a good idea. No, it is!

As BBB mentions in his post, the Horde's gonna be a right mess at the end of the Expansion. To be honest the Alliance isn't in such great shape either, but as a writer I see the benefit in having things as a mess. Conflict is a great storyteller, after all. As we've already broken with convention and have a 'Big Bad' this time around who's actually a part of the core races, it shouldn't be a stretch to allow us to start making greater decisions as players, surely? The problems come with the coding of the game, that large areas of the 'Universe' we inhabit are oddly out of synch with each other. How can we have consistency when the world exists in so many simultaneous 'timezones'?

I think this might be where championing a faction could come into it's own, and we could end up in a position where 'new content' for the next Expansion isn't actually new at all. Part of me can see no new races for the next phase of the game, and no new continents to explore. Instead, Blizzard take the renegade step of COMPLETELY updating the existing game world to represent the state of the Horde and the Alliance post-Garrosh. Outland and Northrend get their much-needed facelift, and encounters like Ulduar and The Lich King end up being accessible via the Caverns of Time, which becomes a hub for those people wishing to relive the classic battles of days gone by. After all, with the Bronze Dragonflight effectively out of a job, becoming a tourist attraction seems a great way to employ all those guys for the forseeable future. They could open a new branch in Dragonblight under the temple for the Lich King fights, and maybe re-purpose some of that open space in Auchindoun for an Outland hub. I bet the Explorer's League would be interested in buying some concessions...

Archaeology, and everything else, gets a makeover.

If you think about it, this would be the ultimate 10th Anniversary Makeover. It could easily pull back all those people who left to see how Blizzard finally change the game into something new, but inherently 'the same.' We might finally get flying in Ghostlands, or closure on old storylines we pursued in TBC and Wrath. This time however we won't be doing this as simply Horde or Alliance, we could choose our own 'alliances', even (shock) switching sides in specific Scenarios to go work for what was once our enemy. Battlegrounds however are the massive sticking point in this plan, and that's why, like Mr Butt, I think it could finally be time for a third faction in game. Not someone like the Forsaken or (as I have previously suggested in this parish) the Shado Pan, but a truly neutral group that does not look at the colour of our tabards or the race we are. I think we already have the lore established for this in game too. I think it may be time for our friend Tirion Fordring to come home from the Frozen Wastes and take the Argent Crusade to the next level.

One man went to slay, went to slay the Undead
One man and his sword (Ashbringer!) went to slay the Undead...

The Argents have been a consistent part of Lore since Vanilla, as the undead/demon menace have been a constant thorn in their side. They re-invented themselves for Northrend and I have no doubt they could do so again post-Garrosh, to provide a place for those weary of Horde/Alliance politics to hang their armour and attack the problems that exist inside the factions before we start worrying about any huge Big Bad menaces. Let us say then that we could not simply play under this 'neutral' faction but also become a Champion for another cause. The archaeologists could go help the Explorer's League, those who enjoyed working in the North could pick a Northrend faction to help out, and we could all explore a world bought up to date post-Garrosh. I'd happily forgo a new race, a new continent and the rules up to this point if it meant we could go back to Northshire and travel to L95 in a consistent Universe.

I realise what I'm asking for is quite possibly a technical nightmare and will never come to pass, but part of me hopes that Blizzard's attempts to rationalise things like Professions is an indicator they know, at least in part, there has to be something done about the way the Universe currently hangs together. In the meantime, I can but dream...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Sound of Silence

It's a lot like life, you know.

No, I will not be buying Blizzcon tickets today.

I promise not to get too maudlin because I'm not going. I won't begrudge anyone the enthusiasm and joy when they finally get through the F5 Hell and secure their places. I will accommodate the countless people Twittering on the subject. I have already had my say on this particular subject, and this isn't the time to recycle that post. I'll be honest with you, after three hours trying to write various posts with differing degrees of success, I'm simply enjoying sitting here NOT having to listen to my neighbours house alarm go off, which was the case for close to THREE HOURS.

Writing about anything during that, frankly, has the capacity to get you royally irritated.

It makes me realise that silence is a much-maligned joy: have kids, and you'll understand. Be the one not talking about something and silence can be as dangerous as 180 minutes of high-pitched repetitive whining. The trick always has to be to find a happy medium between the two, and that's never an easy balance to find. One of the sure-fire indicators in Guild that things are not well is when people stop talking to each other or saying hello or goodbye when they log. Getting everyone talking is great, except when people don't understand that certain conversations will only cause trouble. Keeping everything balanced is one of those reasons why, if someone asks you to be a GM of a Guild, you should just say NO, politely but firmly. It's frankly one of the hardest jobs in the world.

Knowing when to keep quiet is also one of those life skills that you can often wish you'd thought more about before opening your mouth. I am spectacularly good at making a complete idiot of myself via not engaging brain before opening my gob. I've done it on Teamspeak (more times than I care to remember.) At least Twitter and blogging give me the chance to go back and remove stuff if I screw it up, but I often realise that I would be better off learning not to say those things to begin with. That's the bigger achievement, grasping that sometimes it is more sensible to not keep talking. More significantly too is the understanding that the wrong thing said in a certain place by the wrong person can now have some fairly spectacular consequences. Just look at what happened when AP's Twitter account was hacked.

You're wondering where I'm going with this, I can tell. To be honest, I was considering how much you tend to take stuff for granted until you lose it. Getting silence back after a morning of aural torture made me think about the number of times in game where people 'going quiet' was a precursor to something far more serious. Some people simply vanish, that I understand, but there are others for whom not talking could be an indicator of something far more serious. It occurred to me I should take the time to check up on people I've not heard from for a while, to ensure that everything is okay, because someone might appreciate the thought. So, I'll be e-mailing the people via the Guild website over the next few days to check up on things, and making an effort to say hello to people via, just to check they're good.

Just because this is a game doesn't mean we can't be decent to each other as well.

We now return you to your regularly-schedulled Warcraft postage...

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Music To Watch Girls (Mushan!) By

It's a pile of Mushan.

As discussed previously, there has been a fair bit of grinding around this parish of late. This means, for easy leather gathering, I have spent quite a bit of time in Townlong Steppes. We like the place, and it reminds us of Nagrand, back in the days when that was the only place to grind leather. This is what these guys are being harvested for, plus the fact that their Belly Flop ability makes for some very entertaining mass pulls. In fact, after you've killed enough of these guys in enormous groups, you'll want to put The Blue Danube on repeat and wish you had the skills to create a video based on a wee Dwarven Lassie and her trusty Direhorn being thrown around the lush green hills by a herd of rampant and justifiably angry Mushan.

Trust me, it would be awesome.

There's more.

The benefit of poking these guys is many-fold. The spawn rate is great, they drop all manner of useful gubbins before I reduce them to raw materials, and their number is supplemented by the roaming turtles in the area, which means I get Prismatic Scale as well as the leather. This in turn has guaranteed that I've saved enough scales to do my Magnificent Hide 'transmutes' until they're well past complete, and I can convert all the leather to hides for my burgeoning clothing empire. Job's a good 'un!


Needless to say, if these guys get nerfed in the near future I will a) have conclusive proof that Blizzard read my blog and b) be rather annoyed I shared this spot with you to begin with, because it's lovely and I am rather enjoying the farm. Let's hope no-one else is listening... ^^

Ready For The Floor

Musical Gods. You're welcome.

After my post on crafting grabbed a mention on WoW Insider at the weekend I realised I'm really enjoying my push into making things, and that it might be the right time to make a concerted effort on that front. It has become apparent that it isn't just the 496's that are selling well, but all of the PvP gear that I've been able to learn as a result of my daily 'transmute', resulting this week in a very comfortable 40,000g profit.

This has meant some quite serious (for me at least) thinking about what is the best way to further my cause, and some distinct changes in approach from my initial outlook on gathering. The biggest single issue holding back my crafting ability isn't the Blood Spirits or the Hides, it is the Spirits of Harmony. Obtaining the four a day I require for a craft to keep up with demand has meant some actual background research, where I have come to the following conclusions:

  • Farming for leather is not an effective way to farm for Motes, and it is more efficient to do the two process separately (although I do garner motes when grinding skins, the drop rate does not seem to be as decent with non-humanoid mobs)
  • Everyone appears to have a favourite spot for grinding Motes, but few are reticent to 'go public' with them for fear that if they do Blizzard will come along and promptly nerf it. This I can entirely understand, and so no, I am not telling you where I farm mine ^^
  • Killing sub-90 mobs is by far the most optimal way to farm anything. Killing mobs that respawn fast is also recommended, and this inevitably means quest zones. Farming whilst other people are trying to quest is impolite however, and so I will always stop if a lower level is in the area. Yes, it's common decency and it doesn't stop me making money. You should do it too.
  • I'm going to do my best not to make stuff until other stuff has sold, so I don't end up with a massive inbalance. Thus far, nothing hasn't... at least not yet...

I'm kinda doubting that I'll be able to better 40k for next week, but rest assured I'm gonna give it a damn good go... Better go start picking up some more Motes...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ain't No Pleasing You

'Why DO you read it...?'

Last night, I ran some Heroics.

There has been much criticism in certain quarters that there will be no new five man instances this Expansion, that the Devs are showing a clear move towards far more immersive (and less labour intensive as it utilises the existing world of) Scenarios. Although part of me loves the way the Scenario has combined action in the Real World, there is something about five mans that makes me hope that part of the game is never phased out. As a great example of this (and why Statler and Waldorf make their appearance) is the Stormstout Brewery instance. It's nothing to do with the bosses or the instance itself, you understand, it's something you might blink and miss if you're too concerned with getting to the end.

It also does something to the 'fourth wall' that I'm pretty certain happens nowhere else in the game.

Ancestral Brewmasters. They're a perceptive bunch!

After you kill the Giant Mutant Rabbit and his rival legs it with the giant carrot, you clear trash up to the last boss which, as you pass it, seems fairly drunk. Somehow this intoxication allows the Brewmasters an insight into adventurers that we don't see anywhere else: especially the two lines here which intimate that these guys are aware of the vast numbers of groups that make their way through the instance on a daily basis. There are a number of 'bad class jokes' too: we didn't have a Druid in our party so clearly the responses are purely random and not tailored to individual groups, but it does show an attention to detail that I don't remember seeing anywhere else.

I'd urge you, the next time you make a trip into Stormstout, to stop and take a look at the dialogue, because I'm pretty certain from previous trips that there are a fair number of different responses. It also opens the possibility that, away from the lore-immersive and story-driven World of Warcraft, there is at least some acknowledgement of the relative lunacy of the 'dungeon' concept: I can't believe I'm the only one who's never considered what the NPC's might do in dungeons where no-one goes any more, or speculated on the conversations that might go on when there's no adventurers around to sweep up the loot and argue over offspec rolls...

This aslo proves, if it needed to be, that you can miss a great deal of detail if you don't stop and take the time to look around you. Next time therefore you're pushing your face into the ground trying to get that next 10 or 25 man boss on farm, remember that this isn't just pixels. This world lives and breathes in it's own very special way, and it is amazing what you can miss on simply a cursory overview...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

What's Another Year...

Nothing beats blowing it all on a graphic :D

Yes, I KNOW that my 4 year blogging Anniversary was in February, but it's better late than never. With thanks to my super Wee Dwarven Mate Mins, I can now haz logo to remind you good people just how long I've been whittering on about all this.

If you'll excuse me, I'll be off to stick it into the site pronto!