Saturday, May 04, 2013

Different Class

Pulp. Almost like PvP, honest

If you’re into PvP, recent changes have made PvE gear pretty decent in PvP, and vice-versa. Outside of sockets and set bonuses, you can get a bunch of Honor (or Justice Points, and covert them to Honor at the Justice Trade Good vendors in Orgrimmar and Stormwind) and buy Item Level (ilvl) 476 PvP gear to help fill in any gaps and help you get into the higher rungs of PvE content.
What was once frowned upon becomes acceptable over time, simply because it makes perfect sense in the bigger context. In this case, after years of hiding the practice away as as not ideal but acceptable in CM responses, in forums and across the net, Blizzard finally came clean. They admitted that what many of us have done for years is, thinking about it, not a bad idea. Yes, you can legitimately cheese your iLevel with PvP gear to gain access to PvE content. We know you've indulged in the past, but now we're saying publicly it's okay :D

I find myself asking as a result: why did this take so long to 'officially' admit?

The problem, once 5.3 hits, at least for people coming to this content fresh at 90, is time. You want to go straight to the top tier and don't have the time to run all the faction dailies to get the 476 gear needed to open LFR. In fact, reading the a whole of the above statement (find it here), running Heroics is pretty much a waste of time as well, because 463 gear from those bosses at the rate it drops isn't going to cut it either. PvP gear is now at a level where the experienced player can make it work as well as PvE gear and vice versa (though many will argue the good player was never defined by their gear, but that's another argument.) All those years of feeling cheap and dirty because you made PvP gear. All those people who made their first million selling the stuff for precisely that reason. Suddenly, its okay to be that person, because Blizzard know you're only running those low-level LFR's to get the gear to access the next tier, and then the next.

You're having to run them anyway because there's very little gear available elsewhere. Don't start me off on Hunter weapons ^^

In discussion of this yesterday on Twitter, someone made the very sensible point that one new five man dungeon with enough loot stuffed into it could fix this 'problem' in a stroke (that's what happened with ZA and ZG in Cataclysm, after all.) The issue with that, as we have noted before, is that dungeons outside the remit of an Expansion are clearly not on the agenda when scenarios utilise the existing phase technology and world terrain in a far more development-friendly fashion. No doubt this is why the 'heroic' scenario is a 'thing' in 5.3. Basic quests in the new Barrens content will, as a default, reward 476-489 gear. Blizzard are assured you'll have more than enough places to pick up the armour you need, so much so that they confidently predict:

an adventurous player should be should be able to walk right into the Raid Finder Throne of Thunder within a week or two of hitting level 90, even without touching any of the mainland reputations.

The problem with the Raid Finder however is that rewards are only at iLevel 502: the Quartermaster at the Shado Pan Offensive is dishing out 522 gear. What a lot of people are after isn't just the gear from the ToT, it's the rep and the Valor Points. Once you hit Exalted with them, it makes more sense to collect Valor the quickest way possible, and I'm betting that won't be running Lei Shen every week, that will mean people nipping back into MSV (which runs at about 15 minutes at peak times on my server currently) Gearing in LFR is only part of the story.

Once upon a time, I could guarantee being in a PuG Raid at least once a week where Gear Finder would suggest chucking out a player in full PvP gear because people considered them inferior. Well, back then they were. A lot has changed in the last year on the PvP front, with Blizzard making a very real effort to remove the stigma attached to the two different gear types. The fact remains however: there are two types of playstyle at the core of Warcraft, which demand different things from the equipment they use. You may be able to sub in pieces here and there, but to do the best job in either situation you really require one or the other. If you didn't, the two separate sets wouldn't exist, right?

Until that changes, cheesing iLevels remains just that. Publically encouraging people to do so is a bold step to take, and I look forward to seeing what changes this move may foster in game...

Friday, May 03, 2013

Lessons in Love

No. Just NO.

There is a standing edict for anything Blizzard send to the PTR, one that has been in place for some time. Just because you can datamine something doesn't mean it's going to happen. This is in place for many (very obvious) reasons: sometimes a great idea in Blizzard HQ doesn't look so fabulous once it's out in the Real World (TM) The reasons for this can be manyfold: maybe the tech doesn't work (e.g., The Skyclaw engineering mount you are unlikely to ever see in your Professions window) or maybe Blizzard decide the time is not yet right for the item to appear. Occasionally, an idea is just so awesome it has the potential to break the game. Yes, Tri-Specs was that idea, but I hate to break this to Ghostcrawler, the damage was already done before this nugget sneaked onto the PTR.

In other news, comments like the one above are going to do you no favours at all.

Some of us NEVER considered our friends as fulfilling simply one role, going back before the days of Dual Specs. I believe Blizzard itself coined the phrase 'bring the player, not the class.' That meant you knew someone who could play a number of roles simultaneously, and they'd be happy to pay the money to swap specs and retalent if it meant you'd get the progression you needed. Giving us Dual Specs meant those people were further rewarded and didn't need to keep dropping loads of money every time this situation came to pass. I can understand the sentiment behind this first tweet, but this isn't to do with the player. They want to be able to choose what they are and change that at any given point. They won't be angry their spec isn't as inflexible as Ghostcrawler has now decided it needs to be. The question has to be: why suddenly is choice a bad word?


I sense the first genuine developer regret of Pandaria might be emerging, and (sadly) it looks like it might be linked to the Talent revamp that most people seems to acknowledge has made life easier for most. BY FAR one of the best things about the Talent system is the ability to do EXACTLY what Ghostcrawler says we shouldn't be doing, changing on a whim. Using P as an example (as I do in these situations) the ability to swap between Wyvern Sting and Silencing Shot is, frankly, a million kinds of awesome. This makes my HUNTER (no, I don't need to label myself with the BM tag) far more useful in a number of situations, and the cost of change is a book that the lovely Yak mount you made for me to buy sells as standard. Again, the reality of this statement is not hard to grasp: making encounters a challenge is always going to be a problem when the people you're working for have the ability to change spec at the drop of a tome. For every choice, there are consequences.

Hmm. I think you may be regretting a lot of this conversation.

The basic thrust of these exchanges is inevitable: you're not going to see Tri-Specs any time soon, because too much choice is in its own way as dangerous as not enough. Of course, there will be those people who maintain everyone looks and plays the same regardless, because... well, just because that's always the way this argument has run. Class Balance is the Holy Grail, this we all know. The day everyone is happy will likely co-incide with a cosmic event of such significance that the World will conveniently forget it even happened to begin with, and Blizzard will still lose. In the end, accepting you're going to piss off someone is a chance the Developers will just have to take.

What is more likely to happen, and this will have significance in areas away from such major issues, is that what dataminers can unearth will decrease over time. We will be less likely to unearth nuggets of awesome possibility with each new PTR push, and Blizzard may become reticent in trying new things with the current speed of patches in production. Now, more than any point in the past, the ability to 'muck it up' before a Patch goes live could mean that certain things we might once have seen experimented with may never get to see the light of day at all. Such is the cost of having to know everything, before it actually happens.

More concerningly, especially in light of these comments, is the very real possibility that Blizzard might regard the current system as too flexible and go back to the drawing board AGAIN for the next expansion. Could we be forced to completely relearn another new Talent System from the ground up...?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

The End

Time for a quick confession.

I was going to write about something else for this entry. I have that post all ready, so no doubt you'll get it eventually, but I was stopped in my tracks by a whisper from a Guildie as I logged earlier this morning, and it made me think. So much so, in fact, that I decided I wanted to write this post instead.

Today, we are going to talk about loss.

This morning I spent some time removing a bunch of people from the Guild. After a call on our Website last month I gave everyone plenty of warning: if you don't tell me where you are and what you're doing, you're out. It might seem cruel, saying it in those terms, but after a while, for a unit to actually function correctly, everyone has to be involved, and many people were simply with us as somewhere to park themselves while they didn't play. This morning I removed close to 50 toons in one hit, and said Guildie whispered me, rather sadly, telling me it was upsetting to see so many names that he knew so well 'before' disappear from the ranks forever.

Then he asked me, as I was logging out, whether it affected me.

The top job is a thankless one, but being GM is often about tough decisions and doing the thing no-one else wants to do: telling the knob he's a knob, chastising someone for deliberately not making an effort, having to remind people certain words are never appropriate, regardless of your seemingly rock-solid context. However, that doesn't stop you getting attached to people, and if (as has been the case for many, many years) you are the one who still plays when others move on, sometimes it really does hurt. There are those who would tell me that my attachment to Guildies is sentimental and pointless: people are fickle, many simply don't realise the depth of feeling other people develop for them, especially in virtual situations. This is undoubtedly true, but it doesn't stop it happening.

It doesn't stop me missing people when they vanish.

Many of out Guild have moved to other games, and I know who these people are. I wonder, once they get bored with the latest MMO they're playing, whether they might come back, but then grasp that these fickle individuals aren't ever going to be happy, whatever game they play. Then there are those who's playtime co-incides with weekends, or times that kids allow them to have free time to themselves... ultimately many of those people simply decide that friendships online are less important than their lives, and I can't blame them for that either. These people I wonder about most of all, if truth be told, because I suspect these are the individuals whose lives most mirror my own. Telling your GM what you're doing so she doesn't worry isn't on that many people's 'To Do' lists...

I remember everyone who has been in our Guild and took the time to make a difference. I especially treasure those people whose understanding of what we've stood for over the years has mattered more than the need to show off, or belittle, or be anything other than a decent human being. Some people didn't answer my call on the Website and I've found myself unable to cull them from our numbers, simply because I know how decent a person they really are. I've broken my own rule, that I needed to be cruel to be kind, because deep down I've never seen pixels when I play, it is always the person behind the characters that matters more. To lose people, for whatever reason, makes me sad beyond words. This part of the 'job' (that I don't get paid for, remember) does sometimes reduce me to tears, until I remind myself that there has to be a point where you draw the line and walk away. I know this is why I've been dreading this morning for a while. Half of the task is done, and when this post is done I'll go finish off the job.

In answer to your question, Gen: yes, it makes me sad. I miss the golden days of the Guild we had, but I know enough about how this game works to grasp that forward is the only way to go, and that means admitting some people will never return. Once our 'grieving' period is over, maybe there will be an opportunity to move on. To do that however is going to take a particular kind of person, and part of me is concerned that those special individuals are becoming harder and harder to find...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Once Upon A Time...

There's a lot of history in my bank.

When you've been there and done that enough times, the world gains a different complexion. Take Children's Week, for instance, which this year I don't need to touch. It is the first time since the Festival was introduced that I find myself not needing to quest (I missed it once along the way before someone does the maths and points accusingly.) I could, because the pets sell pretty well, but as at least 101 other people on my server will be thinking the exact same thing... Relaxing about stuff is becoming something that I don't have to work at doing. That, I suspect, is tied up with my life outside the game far more than I'd normally care to admit.

Learning not to stress at the virtual however is a skill I suspect many people could still do with grasping.

Stress-free pursuits ftw...

Of course, stress is one of those things it's all very well saying you need to deal with, but when you have it any rationale gets eroded pretty fast. Take my epic weapon as a good example: I did my best not to let it bother me but it's influence leaked all over my gametime. Only when you can deal with the problem, when you can wrest back some of the control into your own hands... and that's often not practical in situations where you have to play with other people. This is when I return to solo play, when grinding and AH speculation become the order of the day. I'm sure you have other ways to deal, which is all well and good until you're not actually playing the game any more and avoiding the issues that vex you.

Then there's the point to make that gaming is supposed to relieve stress, not further promote it.

Read the poster. READ THE POSTER.

Relaxing in this game is not as simple as in others, however. The greatest strength the franchise possesses, its community spirit, is often as big a problem for those who find themselves unhappy with the particular situation they find themselves in. Guild woes, friendships turned sour, mates off playing other games... we've all got our particular stories to tell. For some, the only way to deal with the issue is to go afk. For those of us who remain, that in itself can further contribute to the problem, if we let it. That's the key to all of this, in beating the problem. The understanding that, like it or not, the world does not rotate around Azeroth: try as you might, this shouldn't the most important thing you do all day.

That statement in itself is a buzzing hornets nest that I'm not going to poke any further, I'm simply going to leave it hanging where I found it. Needless to say, a healthy life involves time outside of Azeroth. That's why there's a tooltip on startup for it :P What do you do therefore if you're having trouble relaxing in the place you should be enjoying yourself? There is, of course, no definitive answer because everyone is different and, as a result, you'll need to look for your own answers. I'd say, as a first point, if you're getting unduly obsessed about a particular thing you can't do or that seems to consistently go wrong, it may well be time to take a step back.

If, like me, you've been at this for a while, there is no shame in occasionally cheating on the game with something else. Remember that to relax you need to work out why you're not, as well as how to deal with the problem. Most importantly of all, no-one will think badly of you if you ask for help, which is a very good way of reaching out to new people in the Community and forging different friendships. The first step is always the hardest, but once you've made it, the journey does get easier.

There's a lot of us on these journeys too. Remember to wave as you see us.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pure Pleasure Seeker

Big dragon, purple dragon, collecting ROCKS.

This week, I have blown all my crafting profits on fripperies.

I know, I'm never going to build a massive capitalist empire if the first time I see something shiny I blow all my hard-earned cash to obtain it, but I have my priorities. Battle pets are pretty high up the list, and an increasing number are appearing on the AH with what I consider to be affordable prices. With 5.3 unlikely to be that far away, I would like to try and make some inroads into knocking off my 5.2 list. I still have the issue of the Beasts of Fable to address, but it's not going anywhere and I'm getting increasingly sanguine about Not Getting Stuff Done (TM) because other stuff is more important right now.

There is also my mount collection, recently gifted with the Twilight Drake from OS3D 25 man (thanks Mr Alt for tanking) I'm quite close to being in a position of making my first Engineering mount (more money needed there) and once I've completed that I'll start on getting the other specialisation maxxed. I've also decided to throw caution to the wind and have another big push for the Archaeology mount, because I really do need more blue/purple mounts in my collection (the drake above will be an very decent accompaniment for the Mogging Hunter, now I think about it.) When you break it down, a lot of this is about pushing some fairly fundamental pleasure-buttons in my head: collecting stuff, doing professions, and basically not getting narked off with the fact there aren't enough hours in the day to do everything.

Things to Do #125 : Hunter pets to fill 55 Slots, GO!

One thing most definitely on the To Do List is working out which rare pet skins I'll want to go track down once 5.3 hits. Yes, I know: its not just about the useful buffs your pets bring to the party. It's partly to do with matching certain combinations up, and about the possibility of colour co-ordination (yes, there are more red/blue/brown mounts out there I need to make the Hunters look EVEN MOAR AWESOME.) Mostly I like the idea of filling up my stable with pets because, you know, I CAN. Remind me to spend an hour on the Interwebs this week and start working out what I'd like to start tracking down...

Once we reset on Wednesday I'll be back to the dedicated money-making, but for now... if you want me, I'll be over here faffing, and loving every minute...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

You Only Live Twice

This is something we struggle with, because after Cataclysm we seriously question the time-investment of re-doing old zones. Presumably, from a lore standpoint, the Horde is going to have to back down from areas on the edge of conquest (particularly Ashenvale.) But we don't want to re-do that zone - it's an important Horde level-up area. And even if we DID re-do it, we'd still have to have quests - it couldn't just be night elves /dancing. On a related note, would you guys be willing to sacrifice a new zone in the next expansion for us to re-do Gilneas? As an Alliance only zone? What gameplay would we get out of it?

I think Blizzard and I need to have a serious talk about exactly why people keep playing their game.

This might, I realise, be an age thing, but the concept of the reboot has always been something I've struggled with. If I take a very personal example to demonstrate: when Eon Productions rebooted The James Bond 'franchise' in 2006, I was concerned. After all, taking such an iconic character back to where they began could end up creating far more questions than it answered, might completely destroy the ethos and idea that Ian Fleming had initially created in the 1950's. However, it was patently obvious, even in the eyes of this amateur Bond aficionado, that some of the Bond 'legacy' needed to be left where it had been created. Picking and choosing your moments is a hard task, knowing what to leave out and what to include... and I found myself thinking that there were some parts of the 'old' Bond that I missed.

Fortunately, when Sam Mendes came along and made Skyfall, he realised that there was a way to combine the old and the new in a way that didn't break everything, but somehow just made the entire experience that little bit more complete.

Daniel Craig AND Ben Whishaw. IN THE SAME CLIP11!1!11!!

I sense that Blizzard feel that because Cataclysm is considered a failure in most people's eyes, that means that everything within it did not have merit. I have to disagree, and say that I think the work done to create the Sundering was enormously satisfying not simply from a lore standpoint but also from that of a quester. Re-running those old zones was a revelation, and hugely enjoyable. However, levelling has stopped being what people play the game to do, it is simply a means to reach End Game, and that is where I suspect the reticence to 'reinvent' old things becomes most acute: Ghostcrawler is right. What would be the point of Gilneas as an Alliance capitol if all the player base wants to do is run endgame...?

So then, Blizzard, why not put end-game content in Gilneas?

What is wrong with a full top-down reboot? With almost ten years on the clock, it would be a fabulous way of bringing the game up to date. Is it really necessary to make 'new' the only option when it comes to continuing the stories and conflicts in Azeroth? As Q and Bond can attest, taking the old and flipping it on its head really can work, if you find people to do it who understand their source material and have a real love of what they do. For the second time this week I feel the need to appeal to developers who think the only way to guarantee a return on their hours of work and investment is with the word 'new': considering how much of the game is currently recycled to begin with (and we're not just talking models here) I really don't understand the reticence to go back to basics and try and bring some consistency to a storyline scattered across four expansions and countless continents.

The practicalities I do grasp: I think last time the decision to place so much remodelled content in an area where the majority of people would give it only scant regard is a lesson well learnt. However, and I think this is an important point to make from the viewpoint of continuity, going back is not a bad thing. Someone somewhere is already thinking ahead to 10 Years of Warcraft: don't tell me they're not, there is a team already in place doing just that. If you want to celebrate the true strengths of this game, then the lore is absolutely at the foundation of that, and there is a growing feeling that this means everyone needs to be on the same page. If Blizzard could pull off a consistent storyline from 1-90 AND into endgame for the 10th Anniversary, I suspect that would be a master-stroke no-one else will ever have to opportunity to ever repeat.

The new isn't a bad thing, I know. Neither is the old. The ideal world is somewhere in-between: getting that balance right is no mean feat, and you're never likely to keep everyone happy. The reboot has a lot to lend to Warcraft, if the right people know which moments to pick. Maybe with the movie in production, which I reckon might also make it in time to cinemas for Warcraft's 10th birthday, we might see some of the old and the new together. For now, I can only hope that the people in charge realise that a redo is not a failure, or a waste of energy. If done right, it has the potential to completely redefine what the game can be.