Saturday, August 31, 2013

68 Guns

There's been a lot of Class Love in the air over the last few weeks: Lae started it all with Death Knights and this week it's all about Druids: heck, even Murlocs have gotten in on the act! However my interest is in what happens next week, as it's the time to throw the spotlight on my favourite class. There's a reason why they're the most popular class in the game: either stupidly easy to pick up, or far too complicated depending on your outlook. They're the guys you never want to meet in 5 mans or the unsung heroes of instances. They're your worst nightmare in LFR or they're 24th and AFK, running into a wall. You either love them or hate them, but you can't escape them.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time to announce that in conjunction with Lae's Grand Plan, and as of September 1st, ALT: enative enters it's OFFICIAL FIRST EVER Hunter Week :D

High Quality Graphics 'R' Us (TM)

I'm going to make this an annual thing (just because I can) and therefore starting Sunday we will be talking ALL HUNTERS, ALL THE TIME (at least until the 8th), and we're asking the good people of this parish to participate with your favourite hunter tales, to tell us why you love/hate the class and generally add to the awesome nature of the experience. To this end, you'll want to be telling me what you are doing for Hunter Week: you can either tweet me @AlternativeChat, or e-mail me using laughinggeek (at) gmail (dot) com where I will be happy to add you to the (hopefully) rotating door of Hunter Goodness.

I'll be covering a range of topics, which is likely to include what I'd like to see introduced to further improve THE OBVIOUS AWESOME, a look at some Hunter History (you can blame that on the back of a week of museum visits) and what I like to do with the (vast range of) Hunters I have at my disposal. I'll also be starting YET ANOTHER HUNTER to experience what life's like for the neophyte beginning their journey after almost nine years of the class, and I'll be asking for your help via Twitter in order to guide my way. 

After all, you can never have enough hunters. NO REALLY YOU CAN'T STOP STARING AT ME.

So, all that's left now is to find a comfy spot in the newly completed Hunter Chillout Lounge and relax in anticipation of what is to come. If you'll excuse me I'll be off to shove hundreds of bits of pineapple and cheese onto hunter arrows as our pre-celebration entrees... :D

Friday, August 30, 2013

Seven Days Away: The Lights Go Down

The Last Place on Azeroth.

I have recently been considering my time in game, and what might happen when Warcraft finally turns off the lights.

It seems to have become de rigeur for people when they leave Azeroth to log out in a place with a particular relevance for them, which is something I can completely understand. What I hadn't considered until recently was where I'd send the legion of alts when that day finally came, because I feel I owe it to every one of them. After all, each has been a part of my life in one form or another, even if  some have obviously had more time spent on them than others.

When the lights go down, here's where some of my toons are heading.

P will go back to what remains of Feathermoon Stronghold, which may seem odd as she's a Dwarf. However, a great many formative days were spent in Ferelas, and it is a place which I periodically return to during stressful times. I think, in those last hours, I would fish off the coast in my Fishing Chair and remember the great moments of patches past.

My Mage K will return to Stormwind, where I can assume the lag will be appalling but the party will be spectacular, because despite starting her life initially as a Gnome she's always come back to the Alliance Capital. She'll spend her last hours in The Slaughtered Lamb with W, my Lock, who had considered going and throwing herself in the lava at the Burning Steppes but instead would rather be off her face lying in a corner. Of all my toons, she was the only one who showed a real interest in getting drunk. It's the dark magics I tells yah.

There are a multitude of hunters to take care of: The Horde one E would go sit in the Storm Peaks in that last vain hope that the Time Lost Proto Drake might swing by and finally make my expansion, while I suspect the Mogging Hunter K would spend her last days levelling Archaeology in the vain hope we'd get the Tol'vir Mount via the same means. Neither would succeed of course, but it would be fun to try. Finally G the Bearded would sit in the way only male Dwarves can, in the fountain in Dalaran, and wished those chat up lines had actually worked. C'est la vie.

Finally, I'd make sure each and every bankalt I own was stripped naked and left to /dance atop the mailbox of their home location, to remind all those who were leaving Azeroth like me for the last time that life wasn't just about the epics. However many Mammoth Parades and AoE parties there may have been over the years, you can't beat a naked toon on the mailbox.

Gets them EVERY time.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm feeling rather maudlin so I'll be off for a nice cup of hot cocolate and a good cry into my Official Strategy Guide... *sniff*

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seven Days Away :: Missing Words

WTB More NPC's Like this in game :D

I think most of us can agree that Warcraft, despite still being hugely engaging (YES I STILL BELIEVE THIS STOP MOCKING ME), is beginning to show its age. We're reassured that new character models are coming (roll on Blizzcon is becoming a hackneyed phrase around these parts) and there's a fairly strong swell of opinion that we'll get a new class this time around rather than a new race (we could get both, who knows?) With the Warcraft Movie possibly influencing decisionmaking, I find myself wondering what could still be on the table. Here's the Top 5 Changes I'd like to see on the table for 6.0 and beyond:

  1. Player Housing. THERE I SAID IT. Just go look at Animal Crossing, New Leaf and tell me that people don't care about the place they live in. Look at how people dutifully Tilled their way towards Exalted in the Valley. People care about stuff no-one else can see. Just go the whole hog, let people share their homes on Facebook/Twitter and have a contest for the best Decorated Home every month. GO ON YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.

  2. A New Profession. Do it from the ground up in a way that is easy to level and fun, and then change all the old Professions to match this. You can make NPC's in each Expansion's Capital to sell the old patterns for a currency that you get as a drop whilst herbing, mining, enchanting, milling and prospecting. Everyone is happy, nobody loses out and you finally get to streamline all the Professions the same way. If you have problems designing this, gimme a shout. I'll be happy to help.

  3. Give us Couturiers. In every Quest Hub there are people who JUST SELL MOGGING GEAR. That's right, just mogging stuff: make it recolours of existing gear. I'm not expecting new stuff. Just get the old stuff out there so people can mix and match more stuff. How hard would it be?

  4. More Lorewalker Cho-type NPC's. I'm not asking you to change old stuff, just add an NPC from the Explorer's League/Reliquary in the levelling zones, to give us more lore background to what's going on around us. They can be linked to Archaeology certainly, and maybe if you have the time you could do the same kind of stories you've utilised with Cho in Pandaria.

  5. A Return to Class Specific Quests. You proved it worked with the Warlocks. They were ace in Vanilla. Bring them back for everybody, and link them with proving Ground-type 'learn your class' quests as you level. Instantly better players, happy because they had a story ALL TO THEMSELVES :D

This is the point where I sit back, drink my tea and wait to see what you guys think needs to be added to the list.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Seven Days Away: Open Arms :: Krasarang

Title: Open Arms :: Krasarang

Author: @AlternativeChat

Character/Pairing: The Rogue meets Lorewalker Cho. Be prepared.

Rating: Pretty much good for everybody, yet again.

Summary: Patch 5.4 has just gone live, but our players are not yet ready.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step...
Disclaimer: All these people live in a computer game owned by Activision and Blizzard. NPC names are specific to the Wrath expansion. The one I play is mine in my mind only.


This one was the hardest of them all to complete. A lot of words have been lost by the wayside to get here, and a great deal has changed as a result. I would like to thank Scott (that's what we call him now) for undying effort above and beyond the call of duty. It all gets pretty weird from this point onwards :D


Open Arms.

Tiny lights bob on the water, points of brightness in the gathering gloom, memories of those who left this land and travelled afar, explorers of past and present. He watches them drift, carried apparently without direction, but understands that the tide will drive them, their destination reassuringly predictable. They will wash up at the Alliance structure that invades this sanctity, an alien outcrop in the beauty of a land that never asked to be helped by human hands, but got it anyway. They never asked to be harmed either, but after 10,000 years of self-imposed exile perhaps both were an inextricable part of a conflict seemingly without end.

For the first time since he arrived in Pandaria, Crais is lonely, truly lost. He has come to try and find calm in his personal chaos amongst the people for whom stability seems easier to locate than for any race he has encountered- yet he cannot engage with any of them. Their good grace and warmth in the face of almost constant disaster is something he simply cannot grasp: there is no anxiety in their natures, and he does not understand why. He has felt compelled to sit alone, to watch the lanterns in a desperate attempt to maintain his equilibrium, to hide his disquiet.

'I sense a troubling fear inside you, Master Assassin.'

Loremaster Cho has been watching him for some time, but has taken his leave from the throng by the Wanderer's Shrine and now stands beside Crais, serenely challenging him to meet his gaze.

He is nine years old and more afraid than he has ever been in his life. His mother lies in his arms, her life ebbing away- he has finally silenced the source of their fears: his father will never again raise a hand against them. Joseph knows he will be judged, but a part of him understands this is right, that the truth will save him. He wishes he had more time to love her as she is now, calm and serene, not frightened and cornered, but time has run out. He finally understands that the moment is what matters, her words coalescing in his mind. 'Take every opportunity as it arises, because there may never be another chance to do so.' Death scares him more than anything he has ever known.

The Rogue understands the importance of the moment. His response, like everything else, is a carefully-timed reflex.

'I carry many fears, Loremaster. Which one do you see?'

'This is a man who is alone and does not wish to be, yet this is a human who comes to lose himself whilst surrounded by those who would happily be his friends.'

Crais stares at the Panda, into eyes that don't reflect his uncertainty. Of all the natives he had met, even the great Chen Stormstout, this man was the one he felt he most connected with. Cho's understanding of the past, its significance to the present, the continued desire to understand what was happening around them- and yet in this all there was something about him that the Rogue could not place. A sense of mystery not deliberately created, but undoubtedly present. In those regards, they were much alike.

'I have lost a friend. I don't know how to find her.'

His honesty hurts far more than he is comfortable admitting, even to himself, but the truth needs to be spoken, to be given a form outside of his mind. He knows about the argument in the Keep between the Dwarf and Sky Admiral Rogers the night before, more by luck than planning. Although he'd be reprimanded for engaging stealth inside Alliance buildings he is grateful for the ability to vanish when it comes to her. Events had come to a head far quicker than he had expected, but that was beyond his control. Garrosh's destruction of sacred ground, the disappearance of Taran Zhu, the need to explore further into the Vale for answers. He cannot do this alone. He needs P back in Pandaria.

'Perhaps there is a reason she does not wish to be found?'

He is fourteen, and wants the ground to swallow him as the girl kisses him tenderly on the cheek. He doesn't crave what she does, he needs a friend. Not to hold hands, but to fight battles. He is most comfortable with daggers in his palms. He never worries about anything when he does, except the desire to win. When he fights, he is complete and without fear.

The Rogue accepts that emotion must never cloud his judgement. However much he cares, his mission remains the priority.

'I believe she needs my help. I wonder if I have made a mistake.'

He knows why she has disappeared, the words Randall pressed into them all after Mirrie's death in Northrend making sense just a moment too late. He'd told them all never to hide, but she believed that to survive she must retreat, conceal herself away from everything. Crais wants her here to mock his lack of finesse, his inability to charm under pressure. Then he'd respond by pressing her to acknowledge his skill in communication as well as his understanding of the both his own and the opposite sex, a skill at which he is infinitely more accomplished than she will ever be: a fact she had begrudgingly begun to admit.

He just needs her beside him, because without her the fight has less meaning. Then again, she is abrasive and frustrating, a constant and persistent irritant. She argues and cries far too often for his liking.

And yet, when she picks up a gun, something happens that Crais cannot explain, brilliance that diverts all of the wrong into something so perfectly right he is often left breathless. It is a dance he has learnt with her, the effortless grace and finesse of a woman whose biggest skill is also her greatest failing. She was born to hunt, but finally the demands of that profession have bought her to her knees. Her heart and soul, perpetually in conflict, have fractured her mind.

Cho's response is reassuringly predictable when it finally comes.

'I believe you know the answer to your own question.'

The Loremaster is right, as Crais suspects is most often the case. He doesn't care about the negatives. He never has. He needs to remind her that she isn't alone, that conflict is a feeling they both share.

He is seventeen and the woman is dead, killed by a common thief for three gold coins. His relationship and their future has been shattered, destroyed by greed. He cannot control fate, his destiny is out of his hands. He swears to himself that he'll never love again, but he knows it's a lie he'll always tell if the moment allows him. Deep down, he still craves something better, an understanding not bound by flesh. A connection to a kindred soul. A mind as frightened of the unknown as he is.

The Rogue wishes fate didn't exist, but he knows there must be some events beyond his control. He cannot fix everything, however hard he tries.

'I am truly sorry for the conflict my people have bought to your lands.'

The apology is nothing, he knows, simply an afterthought, but it needs to be said, especially to Cho. At this the Panda's face breaks into a smile and his paw touches the man's arm, a brief acknowledgement of his understanding.

'Neither you nor the Dwarf are responsible for what has happened here. You will both carry the guilt, regardless of this fact, and this is what makes you as noble as you are. You may not feel like heroes, but I would choose to disagree.'

The fur on his arm connects Crais to the moment, to the Vale. These people are in danger from our actions, regardless of the reassurance. I must redress the wrong the Horde's errant leader has wrought on their most sacred place. We must restore balance to these lands.

He didn't come here to be told what to do, because he knows what must be done. She is a fugitive in her mind and that motivation will drive her differently, but she won't run far... because she'll be hoping deep down he will come and find her. Not because she's after a happy ending, and certainly not because its the right thing to do.

All her friends have gone.

He understands that for a long time she has remained alone and afraid and those are emotions the Rogue grasps- far too tightly, every day. In his life he has sought out many people for countless reasons: love, respect, lust, guilt, responsibility... but like the Dwarf, friends never quite stuck. The constants, the companions, the comforts in moments like this. The real reason for living.

His motivation for saying yes when she first asked him to join her.

The scroll that sits in his pocket was given to him by Proudmoore. She had known his desire better than he had himself: sometimes, it takes an extra step to change a direction. This Panda understood all about journeys, and why his race needed to leave their homes, to make a difference. To change the future into something better.

'I was alone, Loremaster, and briefly lost. Not any more. Thank you.'

'Your apology was unnecessary, but is still gratefully received. When she is ready, return her here. I know this land still has lessons to teach you both. I am sure I have much to learn from you, too.'

The longer he stays here, the harder it could be to find her quickly, and he wants her back. Her team needs her too, a fact he is all too aware of, and he can use that as ammunition if required. If he's clever he can grab a space in the last Portal back to Stormwind before the day is done. He's not been to the Slaughtered Lamb since Mirrie's wake, but he knows that's where she'll start- that the beauty of the past still exists in her memories, and that's where she'll have escaped to survive.

He needs to find her so they can start again.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Seven Days Away: Out of Time

Sometimes, you find yourself questioning a decision in game without adequately considering the consequences of your actions. I did this with the above tweet, because part of me assumed that if Garrosh was going to become our enemy in 5.4, having a 'copy' of him sitting in Orgrimmar simultaneously would just seem wrong. That's until I stopped and realised just how significant the Horde's errant leader has become not just in current lore, but all the lore. With the exception of existing racial leaders, there's very few NPC's who could lay claim to having had such an influence on the life and times of Azeroth, and you can't simply remove him from the timeline.

In fact, he's a great example of not only the game's greatest strengths, but probably its biggest weakness.

We're about to throw ourselves headlong into a battle with an Orc who has existed since the days of the Burning Crusade. And he still does, his story unfolding across multiple Expansions simultaneously... he is a perfect example of the basic problem inherent in a game that does not evolve as time goes on. We can see his development captured, the way he has progressed, from the lush fields of Nagrand, to the battlefront in Northrend, and his ascension as Horde Warchief. He is an integral part of countless quests, and numerous flashpoints, and you cannot take him out of those situations without having to spend time and money redeveloping everything around him. Therefore he remains, and becomes a timeline that Horde players will follow as they level. Although this will be far less pronounced for current players, the older Horde player has had Garrosh as a part of their lives since Outland.

Relaxing in ma crib, homies.

Now he has evolved into a villain (and presumably one we will dispatch or at least subdue to a shadow of his former self, no I'm not spoiling myself to find out) that long journey will come to an end, or at least a conclusion of sorts. Again, that doesn't mean he can be removed from the static timeline, so he will remain testament to the company that has created him. As is the case with all the faction leaders, and a handful of NPCS, he becomes a constant we cannot remove, because if we do the fundamental meaning of the game will, like it or not, be subverted.... but hang on, hasn't that already happened? Haven't we seen Garrosh aggressively move into places like Ashenvale post-Cataclysm? Why is it possible that this could change but Garrosh remains head of his tribe in Nagrand or in the Citadel in Northrend?

The problem, of course, is that there's not that many people who actually notice.

Most of our player base, let's face it, are here to get to 90 and win stuff. Yes, I know that's merciless over-simplification for the sake of argument, but the fact remains that because of the way our brains are taught, we tend to forget that 'the past' actually still exists in Azeroth. Of course it's still there, and you may occasionally brush past it on your way to 90, but for the vast majority of players it is just that, the past. Imagine it as a continually looping movie of the time period that you played that Expansion at level. You know the opening title sequence, and what happens just before the end credits, but most of what happened in the middle isn't that memorable because... well, that's how it works. You might remember the big fight sequences, or there'll be a part of the film that strikes a chord because you have a personal recollection of a real life event that happened at the same time. In the main however, it's old news. You're in the present and that's all that matters, and that's what the developers pin their hopes on too.

In fact without that, we'd not be here to begin with.

The problem with Garrosh comes from those of us who broke the films down, scene by scene, who learnt all the lines and remember all the easter eggs and pretty much nerded our way through the entire experience. We're the ones who can't cope with having six different versions of the same Horde figure across a timeline even when it doesn't matter if there's one or a hundred, only the current one matters because in essence, we need to live in the present and stop obsessing about the past... but there is a point, even after we've exhausted ourselves into a corner. Consistency. This time around, in the Movie of this Expansion, some fundamental rules have been changed, and that's caused a wee bit of a problem.

Trouble 't Vale. By 'eck.

This time around, Blizzard have taken phasing to their hearts with a vengeance, and this means that the world around us HAS altered, and quite significantly as time has gone on. However, those old-time movies of the other three expansions still continue to rumble on regardless, because people have to start somewhere, and while you still need to level from 1-90, there needs to be a place in which to do it. This has meant that more and more people are questioning the static nature of places that before they weren't bothered about, because we've been shown that if the designers want to, yes we can have change. The problem is, those who want change in the old don't grasp the fundamental problem that it is old, and therefore not a priority to those designing the new.

How this problem resolves itself remains to be seen. I severely doubt you'll see the entire timeline revised from the ground upwards, precisely because Garrosh has to exist inside it to allow so much else to survive as well. There are options: you could restrict people to a personal phase and give them a pre-defined path that took them on the equivalent of a one-man scenario from 1-90. You could let everyone start at 80 and bypass all the bad stuff altogether (yeah like that's going to happen.) The compromise, because that it is what it will end up being, is that we get a little bit of change, a lot of stuff stays the same and those of us who bemoan consistency just have to like what we've got.

It may not be perfect, but it will do.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Seven Days Away: Busy Doing Nothing

I've been meaning to sort this out for a while, but (ironically) there's just not been the time... not so today :D

For those of you unaware of the term, the Urban Dictionary defines 'faffing' like so:

Don't push your luck, lad...

Faffing, like it or not, constitutes a fair bit of my gameplay existence. Whether its at the Auction House, at the Farm, or just digging some Archaeology fragments, faffing is a way to remind myself that sometimes the most fun you can have in game is when you're not actually doing anything worthwhile, but just kicking back and chatting with friends. Hence, the #TEAMFAFF ethos was born. Eventually.

Now, I don't want you to think that I've spent hours organising this because frankly that's just anti-everything this stands for, so over breakfast I quickly cobbled together some details, made a Twitter account called @TEAMFAFF (yes all caps because you know SOMETIMES ONLY CAPS WILL DO) and now I'm just waiting for you guys to join me. Just summon up enough enthusiasm to PRESS THE BUTTON :D

When I can be bothered to get around to it I will set up a separate website, but for now this'll do.

So, what's the point in being involved? Well, starting in September, I will pick one follower at random from the official feed every month who'll receive something to ensure their faffing time with us has been well spent. Can't say fairer than that, Guv :D There's also a good chance that we'll set up some kind of TEAMFAFF MEETING on the EU Servers, assuming anyone can be arsed to turn up ^^

For now I'm wondering just how many of you can summon up the enthusiasm to join the cause. Of course, it's entirely up to you, and I understand you've probably got far better things to do...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Seven Days Away: In the Hall of the Mountain King

Seems appropriate considering we're off to Disneyland...

I think it is an appropriate moment to consider at P's homeland as we approach Blizzcon and the almost certainly of the new Expansion's reveal.

I'm well aware that with the scope of Warcraft, it is often difficult to tell everybody's story simultaneously. That means that while we are wound into the intrigue of the Trolls, or we help Anduin in his tasks, the other factions remain static. In the 'real' world this wouldn't happen, time would march on, but not so in Azeroth. Moments are trapped in amber, the past remaining the present until the designers decide that will change. If we're lucky, our favourite storylines might get closure.

For the Dwarves, that moment might not be far in coming.

That's not a good look for you Magni...

When you complete the 'Blood in the Snow' Scenario in 5.3 you'll be aware that Ironforge is currently being ruled by a trio of Dwarven houses who make up the Council of the Three Hammers. The mutual distrust between Bronzebeards and Wildhammers of Moira Thaurissan, legitimate heir of the throne and de facto leader of the Dark Irons, leads to Moira pledging herself to the Alliance's cause, and uniting the three clans for the first time since they were installed as leaders. This is well-timed, when you consider what happened to Ironforge's previous ruler, and how the Titans yet again have a part to play in events shaping Azeroth's future. Considering we are now aware the Mogu, like the Dwarves, began their lives as beings of stone, the relevance of the tablet Brann Bronzebeard bought back from Ulduar all those expansions ago suddenly has a more pressing relevance.

Magni Bronzebeard remains beneath the surface of Ironforge, petrified in an ancient ritual undertaken before the events of Cataclysm, assumed dead (and even given a burial in the novelisation of The Shattering.) He is a static reminder of what transpired before Deathwing's arrival, but his entombment has relevance in light of current events. This was a king who undertook a Titan ritual to commune directly with the earth itself, drinking a potion to activate the Ulduar tablet and use the old tongue of the Earthen. We see in the 'Dark Heart of the Mogu' Scenario just what Titan technology is capable of, that it can alter flesh as well as creating new life. What is to say Magni is really dead? Perhaps he is being 're-engineered', as is the Titan's wont, for an entirely different purpose?

There is a mini-game on the Cataclysm website, entitled 'Azeroth's Fortune' This is the entry for Magni, which interestingly lists him as the 'Paragon of Stone'...

When the winds scream and the stones shudder, the mountain king shall look to the earth for reasons why. He shall taste the soil beneath his feet and ask its advice in a tongue no longer his own. In reply, he shall be made one with his past and transformed into a paragon among mere stone.

Interesting use of the word 'Paragon' there, especially when we look to the Klaxxi as examples of beings referred to in the exact same way that were buried in amber, waiting for the moment they would be re-awakened when needed. I can't help but wonder, is Magni really dead, or has he been preserved for a reason, to be re-activated by the Titans themselves if required in an emergency? You know, like some nameless terror rising from the dark below us?

I'm sure someone's already jammed a tinfoil hat on and speculated about all this before me, but I've only just come across this revelation, and it's quite significantly altered my understanding of events below my capital city. There are a lot of threads of story that remain unfinished in game: if I had to choose which ones were resolved, I think I'd like to see this one given a bump up the pecking order. I reckon this one could be a cracking story to be continued...