Friday, May 24, 2013


Wet summer
The first appropriate image when Googling 'wet': sort it out algorithms!
Photograph: Lewis Whyld/AP

This is not a Warcraft post.

In fact, truth be told, there will not be any actual playing of any games (other than those available on a phone or a tablet) for the next week. I'm off on a holiday, with la famille, which looking at the weather outside is likely to be seven days of drying clothes and finding stuff to do indoors. This is all the fault of Global Warming, of course, so we really only have ourselves to blame.

However, I do intend to post. This place has become a home to me, and even when I am away I (gasp!) think about things that I think would make decent discussion topics, and enjoy writing regardless of where I might exist. If there's something to respond to instantly I'll be about on Twitter (eventually) but expect witterings here throughout the week as time and circumstances allow. Normal Service, such as it exists, will return a week on Sunday.

Until then, enjoy your extended holiday if you have one.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

You Gotta Be

This will end in tears. Honest.

5.3 has arrived, and what I've seen thus far I've enjoyed.

I have deliberately avoided The Barrens: I'm away from a PC next week so have decided that part of the new patch will happen on my return. For now, I am pleasantly pleased with the difficulty on Heroic Scenarios (gonna need to work on the gear) and there is again an actual incentive to do LFR for improvements. Of course, knowing my abysmal luck with these things I'll not actually garner any proper upgrades and it'll all come via Valor rewards and upgrades, but the basic theory remains sound. There is a path emerging that I can take, things I can participate in that will keep me happy. There are also goals to attain. I'm not even thinking about Battle Pets right now either. We're going to the other tab first.

In a change to previous totals...

My mount total, unsurprisingly, has shifted down from early initial estimates. This will mean, on my return to a computer, that I'll need to start looking to get the Jewelcrafter to 90 (five mounts) and level the other engineer (one mount.) After that... Elune only knows. The Archy mount? Possibly, and then the Blue Proto Drake from Utgarde Pinnacle... and after that, it all gets a bit blurry. Anzu, I'M LOOKING AT YOU. This didn't end well the last time you and I had a relationship, and I'm betting this time will be no different. Mount grinds are, without a shadow of a doubt, officially TEH SUCK. However, I'll cope, because I wouldn't let you beat me with the Fiery Warhorse and I sure as heck aren't gonna let that happen this time. I'm still fully intending to complete 9,999 bones and I'm not afraid. BRING ON THE GRIND.

I'm sorry, announcing this is a loot window
isn't making the Hair Ball epic... ^^

At some point too I'm going to consider The Longest Day but not for a while, because I will need an entire day to do that (the list is already printed) and that's not the kind of thing I can easily do during the week. Add to this the fact that I've not yet completed the Beasts of Fable questline to be able to re-do it, and that I'd like to take the Monk out to faff with Dailies and XP on battling first anyway before I start locking myself into more pet faffing... Oh, and then there are the Alts. All those poor toons left to gather dust who can now level 33% faster, and who would be useful at 90 so they can be ready to do Professions again for the next expansion... and the fact I'd like to have a chance to play something other than a Hunter. There, I said it.

There really is a phenomenal amount of stuff I could do in game at any given point, and there is always this temptation when a whole load of new stuff appears to just go mad and potentially lose focus. I am deliberately moving away from allowing that to happen, and the planning is really beginning to come into its own. The mounts thing is really important to me, to the extent it will become something you're gonna get sick of hearing me moan about (there, warned in advance.) After that, well... we'll see. A girl needs goals, after all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Don't Walk Away

This isn't what I was going to write (again) today.

Sometimes, I get very frustrated for (apparently) no good reason. This is always a falsehood: with reflection and consideration I can always ascertain what it was that started me off on the path to annoyance. It used to take me weeks to work out what was doing this, but I've become better over time in identifying my moods. Today, I knew within an hour of logging on I was going to get grumpy in-game, and so took the (very sensible) option of walking away. This is clearly not how things should work for Blizzard when a new patch is deployed, but it is happing with increasing frequency.

I think I could blame the game itself for this as well. However, I know I'm the problem.

I realise this is why I've stopped making definitive lists of things to do when new patches drop. Anywhere new is immediately flooded, and spawn points are religiously camped, by people with the ability to sit and do nothing else all day except stare at a computer until what they want appears. I don't get frustrated so much now by the fact I don't have the time to wait, and it's not the individuals that cause a problem. I think the brunt of my ire circles around the fact that, despite being told to slow down by all and sundry, the need to 'be first' still features as one of the most important factors in deciding what to do.

Whut he sed. With bells on.

Competition is a fundamental part of normal life. Don't get me wrong, I like a good face-off as much as the next driven individual. Unlike my good dear friend @wingtipswaltz I don't have anyone in Guild giving me a hard time doing those Achievement Dings, so it's not a Guild Chat problem. It is the simple understanding that doing things I'd like to do at my speed is pretty much impossible when faced with the player who decides that, like it or not, you're not going to do this before they do. This isn't like a race to World First either, you're having to compete for things that (certainly with the advent of CRZ) are not easily resettable or in a decent supply. The alternative is blissfully simple: come back later, but if you've only got limited playtime, that can become an issue in itself.

In Good News, the new collection of pettage has begun...

Of course, walking away makes all this seem rather petty when reflecting on it from a distance, but it does make you think. Information dissemination has become far, far better than it was with previous patches, but people still get frustrated when they don't know EXACTLY when something will appear or the frequency of its spawn. Is it really so you can nip on Twitter and announce you have it before everyone else? Hell, of COURSE it is, because that's one of the overriding reasons why people play this game to begin with. Good Luck to those of you able to spend the time to do this, and no, I'm not begrudging anyone the opportunity to do anything because they can. So, what am I bemoaning?

Some days I wish it wasn't about winning, but thinking about other people and helping them out. Often I wish it was about not feeling you needed to keep up with 'others' and simply took your own pace. I think it's also to do with a part of me that I often ignore more often than I should, that quietly points out that listening to your own needs is often a far better way to live your life than doing what you think other people expect of you. Mostly, of course, it is about balance, and finding a way to get everything to work with everything else, which is perilously hard to begin with. If that means I don't do everything the moment it appears, then so be it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Chinese Way

SO much better, in oh so many ways...

Mogging at lower levels is rather a restrictive task, it transpires, but it is nowhere near impossible. It requires not simply a good sense of what works well together but the patience to check EVERY quest reward for potential suitability. Knowing you want to mog from Level 1 is also a distinct advantage, especially considering how much glods some of the lower level items can go for. Needless to say, with B at 62, I reckon there's very little that will change in this outfit. This will serve me until 90: I am already collecting items for a purple ensemble once I get there, with a possible green outfit in reserve. I wanted to try white, but there is a distinct dearth of relevant leather items. This character is the first one I will have actively mogged multiple outfits for whilst levelling. I rather enjoy the challenge.

I also love the way it looks as if the chest-piece and the belt are one item :D

Needless to say, it has inspired me to remog every one of my 85's as I level them to 90. I think everyone could really do with a change of outfit.

  • Headband of the Coiled Serpent
  • Rageclaw Shoulder Pads
  • Ancient Bloodmoon Cloak
  • Feral Harness of the Often Useless Stats
  • Aspirant's Staff of Harmony
  • Swashbucklers's Gloves of the Even More Useless Stats
  • Red Belt of Gentle Persuasion
  • Flayer Hide Leggings
  • Firemoss Boots

Note: some of these items are actually unmogged at present, but will clearly become mogged as I outgear them... :D

On Days Like These

Okay, so NOW we use the fruit motif... :D

Last week, we set the 5 Man Instance to rights. Today, we're going to give Daily Quests a right good going over (no this isn't a darkened alley, all out in the open and proper thanks very much!) and hopefully send them on their way as better things. However, this isn't nearly as easy a task as I first thought it would be. There's an awful lot of contention with the Daily, after all. However, I find myself thinking that this type of quest would be the ABSOLUTELY BEST way to recycle the existing game world, with the use of minimal dev time to do so.

Your Daily Quest Giver: IN STORMWIND?!!11!!!11

The biggest issue I've heard against the Daily is their 'engagement' factor: there are, after all, only so many ways to kill 8 mobs and pick up 6 drops. It also seems that Blizzard now prefer to set aside particular areas of the game world for Daily 'Hubs' rather than make people travel around for their glods. I think we need to throw both models out of the window and set Daily Hubs all around the game world, by re-using Capital Cities. I'm not just talking about those on Kalimdor either, let's have our Dailies in Shatt and Dalaran too. Take out the 'old' quest givers in those places and replace them with new guys/girls/tentacled beasts to re-energise those zones. Oh, and before anyone asks, this guy in Stormwind has a ? for a reason. My new style Daily Quest giver isn't just here to provide you with summat to do, he'll also collect stuff from you too. There are many different types of quests to do from Straw Berry:

  • You can earn faction rep by handing in stacks of raw materials (YES BRING BACK HANDINS) except it wouldn't just be cloth: 100 of any gatherable item rewards you, once a day, with a healthy chunk of rep for YOUR CHOICE OF FACTION. I don't care how you do it Blizzard: whether I have to wear a tabard or press a button, but you let me choose who I gain rep with. Go back to Cataclysm where zone quests reward rep. Give people the choice of where they go, in their own time. Allow these daily givers to let you grind ANY FACTION REP you choose.

  • You'll also, from time to time in Dungeons or killing mobs, pick up special one-off items that start quests that return you to Straw Berry, which allow you to gain specific rep with him as well, which will earn you rewards. He'll like you more and more over time, but the drops are rare enough for that to not happen overnight. Or you could make them once a day handins. That would work too.

  • There'll also be a questline that these guys conduct, tied into a previous part of Game Lore. I'm not asking you to redesign Silvermoon or Gilneas here guys, I'm suggesting using existing phasing and old world areas to do what you TRIED to do with the Cradle of Chi-Ji/August Celestials questline (if this doesn't make sense, read this article from Anne Stickney first) to really work hard to immerse people in what this game has become over eight years. There is a vast world out there that you too often ignore for new shiny content, and ideas that get left aside that really worked well. I think it is high time you tried to combine the best of both.

Now, there's nothing revolutionary in any of this, truth be told. I'm not re-inventing the wheel. In fact, there's a perfect example of what the Daily Questgiver COULD be already in game as I type, and I have to say he's something of a personal hero.

One man and his pole.

Nat Pagle's a perfect example of what a Daily Questgiver should be, and how to evolve the Daily from what it has become to something far more interesting. As a character he too has moved with the game, from the early days of Vanilla in Dustwallow Marsh to his current spot in Pandaria. His role in game has been varied and entertaining: if you don't know what a Mudskunk Lure is, for instance, you missed out on one of the most entertaining parts of the old ZG Instance. So, what's to stop Blizzard from highlighting some of the most 'classic' NPC's in game, across four continents, and making them Reputation hubs all of their own? I'm not just talking about personal reputation with the NPC either (Battle pets ftw), once you max that out let them help you gain reputation with other factions (even classic ones.) Maybe each NPC could have their own Daily 'style' so you can try them all and see which ones you like: what's to say the classic bombing quests in Ogri'la couldn't figure in one NPC's (Griftah maybe?) Oh and Blizzard, I'm not asking you to make a new bombing quest: just use the old one and increase the number of targets required, and add an achievement for doing it in a set time.

This is the key here: No-one's expecting you to waste Dev hours on this. Go ahead and design the new stuff, that's cool. But WHY NOT LOOK BACK AND REUSE CLASSIC CONTENT THAT WAS GOOD.

Having seen what's coming in 5.3 tomorrow... maybe Blizzard are listening? We'll see...


It occurs to me that the key to making Dailies more interesting/engaging isn't simply about variation of content. There's a lot to be said for variety of background too. If this part of the game is to remain as a way of rewarding players for returning every day, then 'rewards' shouldn't just be monetary or 'physical', they should be able to be personalised to fit individual needs. Let the Raiders get their items without a massive grind. Let the Casuals choose which reputations they award to first. Allow some flexibility yes, but PLEASE don't forget that there are casualties of failed Daily experiments scattered across the game. Maybe it is time to go back to the past and admit what was good and what worked could be used again, not just in terms of mechanics. The Old Worlds can teach us so much about how Azeroth has become what it is. Is it really so bad to embrace that past n the present?

No really, it's a good idea! Trust me...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monk's Music

Azeroth's Worst Dressed Mistweaver: discuss.

Last night, B the Monk hit 57.

I hadn't intended to make any comment about the levelling process: I don't enjoy the slog any more, because that is normally what it ends up as being unless a) I'm levelling a hunter or b) the toon is pure dps. I'd always intended my Monk to be a Healer, and this is what I've bought her up as: amazingly however, dps is rather joyful. In fact, I'm really rather getting into biffing random things. I don't spin around nearly as much as I probably should but I'm great at silencing stuff, CC'ing multiple mobs and generally kung-fu-ing anything with a pulse. The fact I am writing 'this is an enjoyable levelling process' is a revelation in itself. I really thought I'd never take another character from scratch to maximum level again. Now I fully intend to make it to 90 and beyond.

It's also made me realise just how much everyone else now looks very much the same with their animations compared with Monks. I am so enamoured with the said animations I am giving serious consideration to making a space on account #2 and rolling a female monk dwarf... just because I can, and that I may even (gasp!) consider working on them as my first ever Tank. There is a lot to be said for enjoying watching your character make their way through the World (Roll ftw) and after eight years to find pleasure in this process again is really rather reassuring. I'm wondering if we'll be getting a new race or whether it'll be a Hero Class in the next expansion... who knows. Part of me thinks we might get a race that starts in their 50's again just so that the first part of the grind can be bypassed...

iLevel 27. Style level zero.

Mr Alt has very graciously hauled me through a number of the high-end 1-60 dungeons over the weekend: Sunken Temple (yes, it's a joke now), Lower and Upper Blackrock, and I hope with the fabulous Enlightenment buff I'll be in a position to be dragged through a bunch of Outland instances this week. I'm levelling her as a Scribe as she'll get a free weapon, and the fact I could do with a max level Herbalist while I level the other bunch once 5.3 comes in and the XP requirements for 85-90 drop. However, my main consideration today is making her look less ridiculous and far more stylish, which may be something of a challenge as she's only little in level terms. I'd considered a white outfit but my options in leather are fairly limited so instead we may go red as that's the largest colour selection I currently possess. Needless to say, once I'm done, you'll see it here.

For now, it's time to pull out Mog It (after I've done my daily Inscription Research of course) and work on getting this little one some elegance...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Serve the Servants

What is wrong with this picture?

Not long ago, I lived on a thriving server.

Since January, there has been an unavoidable change. My Friends List began to dry up. Conversation in Trade slowed to a trickle during weekdays. By the time we entered May I could easily not see another soul in the Dwarven District AH for long periods: of course Ironforge is busy, but only because that's where you enter the CRZ. Stormwind is the real indicator of numbers. My server isn't dead, but it's certainly far less alive than it was this time last year.

Let's not even talk about Orgrimmar...

Once upon a time, a Server was far more than a place you'd call 'home.' It was your centre for excitement and gossip, the only place you could gather people to play with outside your Guild and your commercial market all rolled into one. It's the name you'd give to your mates when they cane to join you. Yes, we're back to Vanilla again (where all evil began and all greatness remains, depending on your outlook) when the Cross Realm Zone and LFAnything wasn't even a consideration. All you needed was your Server to provide everything you could desire: rubbish PuGGers (which is why a Friends List became a lifesaver so you knew who to /ignore) and a Trade Channel so full of Dirge and Anal spam sometimes you just found it funny because it was. Some servers even spawned their own websites, because there was just TOO MUCH STUPID to be contained simply on Blizzard's racks. They didn't call our place Dramasong for nothing.

However, times change. People move on, and friendships for many in the virtual world are fleeting things. Ultimately, for those who remain, the problems have begun to mount. The 'Server' from Vanilla, like so many other things, is beginning to show shortcomings. Of course, it no longer matters where you do your dungeons or raids, but when you return to your server after a long day's biffing mobs, the place you've decide to call 'home' isn't nearly as welcoming when there's only three other people wanting to buy your stuff on the AH. It isn't just the markets however: having decent competition for Guilds to achieve stuff is an important part of the game's dynamic. Being able to recruit people becomes increasing difficult when there's no-one reading your Trade spam. CRZ may make the world 'appear' busy and thriving, but the reality (especially those who play outside normal peak hours) is anything but.

Defending Gnomeregan. FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE!

Solving this particular problem is something Blizzard are struggling to address: the Cross Realm Zone is all well and good, but it has limitations. Cross Realm Raiding is only available on older content, meaning if you want gear from the Throne of Thunder you'll need to find a Guild on your server, or it's time to stump up some money for a transfer. For many the reality is that finding another server is not a practical option: it isn't simply the financial consideration, there's the fact that their name is as important as where they play. If your moniker is a popular one and it exists on your choice of destination already, some people just won't move.

Needless to say, solutions to this problem are not nearly as simple as they might at first appear. CRZ is considered by many as a sticking plaster, a temporary fix for a problem that could ultimately be a far more dangerous destroyer of player subs than engagement or gating. What isn't clear is how important the majority feel their server is to them now: it is clear in the past that server identity was a factor, almost vital in the choices people made when starting the game for the first time. I'd suggest taking some time to read the responses to this WoW Insider post on why do we still have servers which shows that issue is still very important to many people. I'd also bet a neatly-constructed pile of gold this one's a topic of discussion inside Blizzard HQ on a fairly regular basis.

To that end, I'm going to try next week to set up a proper survey to give you guys a chance to offer some feedback on why you've server transferred in the past, what factors you think determine those decisions, and what you think Blizzard could do to solve the server 'problem'. I've already got a willing group of Twitter people standing by to test my survey: once we're ready I'll let you guys get a hold of it, and we can get a better picture of where everyone stands on this issue.

For what its worth, part of me thinks that the 'new feature' we might be seeing once 5.4 finally goes live sometime in September/October could well have something to do with this exact same issue...