Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)

Ditch your superstitions, lose your inhibitions...

Last week, I told you why you should be playing Warcraft. This week, I'm going to tell you why you shouldn't.

There is a basic problem with Fansites, or indeed any kind of website/experience that relies on support from organisations that fund them: you have to love what you do. When your bottom line means maintaining a relationship with someone, there has to be a line you won't cross. You won't diss them publicly, however bad they may become, because without them, you won't exist to begin with. That can make your relationship with your object of affection difficult too, especially when real life throws stones into the road. However, there is one enduring factor that makes people forgive just about anything, and it is this that is the keystone to my argument this morning. If you want to stop playing Warcraft, it isn't the game you need to look at first as a source of the problem.

It is yourself.

Consider, if you will, every game you play to be like starting a relationship. The first days and weeks are fun and glorious, exploring your new life, understanding which buttons to press to make you happy, and which cause problems. If your game is engaging, if it surrounds you with things and people that continue to keep you stimulated, you'll stay on even when the new becomes repetitive and the wonder becomes routine. However, depending on the kind of person you are, what's going on outside the screen will makes a big a difference to what happens on it. Those factors will continue to sway and influence with far greater significance, as is only right and proper. The problem then comes if you stop listening to what you SHOULD do and begin to focus on distraction.

They see me trolling, I am simply pointing out the obvious disparities...

There is absolutely NO POINT in continuing to play a game if it makes you angry, frustrated or it affects your real life in an adverse manner. However, there is plenty of point in working out WHY these things happen: I mentioned this in my podcast last week. The ability to be critical of something you love is a life skill everyone can do with not simply learning but improving on on a daily basis. Therefore, if it comes as a surprise to some people that I will occasionally not be happy with the content Blizzard gives me, just wait a while and I will tell you why. I understand that this isn't just about blithely sitting back and giving five stars to everything you're given. It is about finding what works for you and then understanding what doesn't, and how to make that better.

The Blizzard 'Fan World' can be quite intimidating when you approach it cold for the first time: the cliques, the in-jokes, the presumptions, the expectations: it's a fan base that isn't simply forgiving and hugely generous, it can also be scathing and incredibly insular. From the outside, that can be enough to make some people run away screaming. At that point, and indeed at every moment, you need to remember WHY you are here, and what is important to you. If you are not enjoying the game for what it is, a game, then you won't engage well with other people either. There needs to be a basic grasp of your own desires and needs, and where those can be best served, because when all is said and done, that is what matters most. If you are one of those people who has to validate by being in a group, then you need to understand that also brings a set of responsibilities. Just because you're alone at your screen doesn't mean you're alone when you login, far from it. It might be easy to forget that sometimes, but inevitably when you do, there are consequences.

There then may come a point when it stops being fun. The moment that happens, I think you owe it to yourself to know it is time to log off for good. The problem comes, of course, in a world where most people around you seem to still love Warcraft, and you don't. They don't matter, you know. You do. What makes you happy is the most important thing, and if being in the game is making you sad or angry or any other of those negative emotions, it really is time to walk away. Of course Fan Sites aren't ever going to say this because if everyone got a strop on simultaneously, a lot of people are out of a job. However, what the collective often seems to ignore is that people do get frustrated and often, simply because of the nature of this massive beast, their cries for help go unheard. That's why I think it's important that more people admit that things aren't perfect a lot of the time, and they need to be better, and I'm not talking about class balance or instance tuning. This community is fabulous, but it is also dangerous. People would do well to remind themselves there are two sides to every story.

I know, Tams. I know *hugs*

In the end, I've been in a relationship with this game for a very long time. I have had my ups and downs, but I understand that if something matters enough to you, then you find a way to make it work. Ultimately, I write here because I want to and I love it. I still do, after all this time: I see the good and the bad together, and I find my own place to exist within it. I'm not doing this to validate myself, or to gain favour... I just write because that's what I do. That's what I've always done and this is how I get better, every day. I find ways to challenge myself and (hopefully) you, to make people think and to not be the same: not because I'm trying to make a statement or wave a flag, but just because I want to say it. As long as this game still makes me want to sit here and put words into space, then I'll continue to do that. When I lose that desire, you'll be the first people to know about it.

I love this game and that's why I play it. If you don't, don't be afraid to say so and walk away.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Staying Out for the Summer

Hunter with Kills.

They weren't joking when they said 5.4 would be different.

So many people are annoyed on the Island. It was noticeable at the start of the week, but now it's becoming a bit depressing. You would think when people are given the opportunity to obtain mountains of free stuff they would be happy, but no. So many people are grumpy, and irritable, and just downright cross they can't get what they want right now. I think these people need to remember this is a game we're playing and not an exercise in entitlement. Also: venting in General? So last patch. If you dislike this that much, go play Rift and do everyone a favour, because if you tell me again how much better that game does this sort of think I'm coming after you with the rotting carcass of a Wildfeather and you're getting it in the face.

Time therefore to turn off General and celebrate what I've done in a week, because it's more than I've managed with four characters in about six months.

This week, I have achieved the following:

  • Mystically Epic on two hunters and mage
  • Upgrade weaponry for both hunters who needed
  • 535 Trinket on P
  • 1000g plus a day on AH sales

All in all, absolutely nothing at all to complain about, especially when you look at my gearing plans for the near future:

Been a LONG time since I ticked off so much stuff on a To Do List \o/

My initial plan had been to start levelling the Shammy next, but I'm thinking about doing the Rogue instead because of the Island, and the fact that chest drops do seem to have a bias towards what you're wearing when you open them, hence the huge amount of mail I've been able to accumulate in the last week. I could also really do with a Vendor who sells the Timeless rings and necks for coins (and possibly the other items too as it happens.) What I need now to do is use everyone who is geared to farm coins for secondary trinkets while they are doing the daily Valor. I need to set Hearthstones to the Farms for everyone so when they log in the farming gets done for extra money. Then I just start ticking off the remainder of the 85's.

Anyone who tries to convince me this isn't exactly what this Island has been built for's gonna get a look over the top of my new glasses.

P's new trinket is making her farming considerably faster than anyone else's, and the leather is everywhere. Market volatility means that there's as much as a 50g difference per stack depending on when I sell and I'd expect prices to pretty much freefall over the weekend. The real bonus yesterday was the Horde hunter who's AH prices made me shudder. If her stuff has sold overnight she'll make me nearly three times as much as I expected. This means I should add the 20-summat Horde rogue onto the To-Do List too, especially when I fill up all the slots for gearing the two Druids. Then, having complained that I'd not seen a single pet drop, I got two Crane Chicks from nests. These appear to be cageable... maybe its time to start collecting Christmas presents early...

This island is very much about what you make it. Arriving with a plan has put me at a distinct advantage, and organised faffing has begun to reap some distinct benefits. Next up is streamlining that faff to distinctive goals: coins for mounts, rep to match, killing mobs that give multiple benefits, effective management of resources, selling at the right time. It might seem a lot of work but it's a damn sight more fun than moaning how I can't get what I want. What you get out of an experience does still rely on you putting something in to begin with, after all. Although I didn't initially grasp this when I arrived, a week of playing has helped me find my groove on the Island. I know what I want, and how to do it.

All I need now is to get on with it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

No Surprises

Raiding is progression. Loots are bonus.

Everyone gets shafted by the RNG God sometimes. It's a Fact of Warcraft Life.

Not getting what you want in a game is always a pain. Getting something however will release endorphins into your brain and make you feel all warm and fuzzy, and encourage you to do better and play more. People even write books about it. It is pretty much accepted that happy people don't normally feel the need to complain, but they will increasingly take to Social Media to celebrate their success with others. No, they're not deliberately doing it to make you feel bad you didn't (unless you can confirm the person concerned is Your Personal Nemesis, more on that at the weekend) and you should take the time to congratulate them on something that makes their gaming experience happier.

You should also bear in mind that individual perception is a curious beast, but that's a discussion for another day.

When you don't win, should accepting that's enough and moving on be the norm? Should the fact you got to have a chance to (especially in 10/25) be enough of an incentive to make you keep playing? Or is it time for Blizzard to finally accept that actually, guaranteeing certain rewards may be what's really needed to keep the playerbase engaged?

It's the Great Big Chest of Everything, with Everything inside...

Giving everyone a Guaranteed Free 535 item when they arrive on the Timeless Isle was a great idea by Blizzard. Not telling everyone how to get it from the word go however may not have been such a smart move, and I'm guessing many people will remain in blissful ignorance of this fact until Blizzard stick a large sign up that proclaims 'Free Loot Here.' Even then some people will complain they weren't told. You could put that in the individual perception argument but actually it is less to do with what the players work out and more about how Blizzard make us game. Questing would have given a perfect opportunity to present said reward, but we don't do that on the Timeless Isle. There is another way, of course, and it would be far simpler for everyone to grasp. It would also be the most controversial thing Blizzard had ever done, far more so than anything else that preceded it, and that's why it's exactly the right moment to propose it.

It is time to introduce a new 'currency' to the Expansion. Blizzard need to guarantee some practical rewards that acknowledge you turned up and stayed put, and that if you continue to do so you'll be rewarded for your loyalty.
Make 10 visits, get a free coffee? Gonna need more than that Blizzard ^^

Yes, I'm proposing a Loyalty System for Warcraft, and the entire Blizzard stable. It's hardly new or innovative, but it does play on one factor that (as yet) has not been tapped by the gamemakers: how long you play and what you buy outside the game. That in itself is fairly controversial: what about new players? Wouldn't a loyalty system that worked on the time you've had an account disadvantage those who came to play for the first time? Well, yes it would, but this wouldn't be about them. Sorry about that, but I'm not looking at a system that plays on short term entitlement. I'm talking about something that acknowledges the amount of effort you've put in over a sustained period. That's what loyalty means, after all.

This means you'd be rewarded a token in-game for a variety of different factors. Off the top of my head, we'll take these ones for starters:

  • How many years you've been playing each of Blizzard's game. For each year, you earn 1 Token.
  • How many Expansions you've bought and registered to Battle Net. For each of those, you earn one Token.
  • Every Blizzard game you register to Battle Net also earns you 1 Token.
  • Every time you level a toon to current max level, 1 Token.
  • Having a permanent game subscription earns you one token every three months.

Your tokens are delivered to a designated main character when earned. The items they provide can be used on any toon, and are Battle net account bound. There's a vendor in game, in every major city, who you can spend these tokens with. What can you buy? Well... you have a selection of pets only available for tokens. Then there's vanity items: again, only available for tokens. Most importantly and crucially, there's armour. It's not as good as you'd get in 10/25 man raiding, but it's appreciably better than 5 mans, LFR and Flex. If you hang around for an entire Expansion you'll have a set of armour that doesn't look like anything else in game.

If you choose not to want to clothe just one character, you can use a number of tokens to buy a set of lower level gear for an alt, which is provided as a standard 'set' well below what would be available in a dungeon or instance. These tokens will also buy trinkets, rings and necks that are upgraded each patch to be at a comparable level to instanced gear. Your ultimate reward for being a Blizzard player is the chance to take all of this and you need never set foot in a single instance to get it.

However, you still need to keep playing the game. If you cancel your subscription, you also lose your Loyalty Items.

I'd love to know just how difficult an idea legally this would be to make happen (any lawyers out there reading this?) but part of me knows the objections to this would be long, loud and sustained... but the basic fact remains that this is at least in part one way of rewarding the loyal player base in a manner far more effective than just a Baby Blizzard Bear or an Onyxian Whelp. As a lot of the issues about gearing and entitlement come from those who have been in game since the word go, this could be an effective way to give them finally an opportunity to show their continued commitment to the game. It is not only utterly ridiculous but beautifully perfect in it's possibilities.

People laughed at the RMAH, after all. Look what happened to that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What Happens Now

Get it while it lasts. Offer subject to change without notice.

It's been a week since Loot/Logistics island arrived in the EU, and the fountain of riches shows no sign of stopping. The only restriction to accessing it is a L90 capable of using the gear and the only way to stop yourself from spending all day there is a strong dose of self-discipline. I find myself wondering whether having no rigid indicator of time spent on an island where time stands still is a good or bad idea. The thing with Dailies was that you knew just how long they took you. They also gave you a sense of structure that is sorely lacking in this environment. Watching people rush in streams from one rare spawn to the next is oddly disturbing, and listening to people complain is becoming increasingly common. After a week, JUST SEVEN DAYS, should you really be making a fuss that you can't get a particular item to drop? Should it be a problem you missed the rare that drops a mount because someone didn't bother to call it in General? Should it really matter that we summoned the ship before we killed the whale?

As we have discussed previously, choice is very much a double-edged sword.

My concern at present is what is happening now at Blizzard HQ, because the next time someone announces the PTR's starting up we're going to be moving towards Expansion Territory. I find it highly doubtful we'll see anything major or public until the beginning of November, but this is where I mention that is only eight weeks away. That's hardly any time at all in gaming terms, a tiny fraction of what we've been used to in previous Expansions, and we need to be thinking how the Lootistics Island (I combined the two!) 'experiment' has the potential to influence the future of our gameplay. We can establish a few immutable truths already about our time in Pandaria based on what we've seen:

  • People don't like having gear locked behind rep grinds.
  • Daily Quests are not hugely popular, but neither for many is 'Free Questing'.
  • LFR has it's detractors, Flex is the new Black.
  • Scenarios are only good to a point, and they've been overused.
  • There really weren't enough 5 Mans.
  • Professions need a massive do-over.
  • Obtaining gear needs to be easier, but not THAT easy.
  • Account-wide benefits need a rethink.
  • Pet Battling was great, now how does it get better?
  • Guild Perks were hardly touched, shouldn't that get some love too?

There are probably many more issues you could add: someone somewhere is already considering these while you frolick in the never-ending late afternoon sunshine of the Timeless Isle. Major decisions are being made on the back of what have been some possibly avoidable own-goals on Blizzard's part since Pandaria began. It's odd, considering how positive the initial reactions were back during the Beta, that so much of what we were presented with hasn't *quite* worked out as well as it could have done. This does mean there's the potential for another Great Red Reset Button this time around, but I don't think the game can either afford or sustain such a slate-wipe, not with the 10th Anniversary of the game looming large. A Decade of Warcraft has to involve looking back as well as forwards in terms of what we'll be playing. It also means, more likely than not, that we're going to see a massive shift in gaming mechanics, if only to accommodate the issue that gear is set to break everything. Numbers on items is a thing, and it's been mentioned in public by developers. If the game is forced to embrace redesigning every piece of armour with lower stats, a lot else might also finally get a re-do.

We should be enjoying our time in the sun while we can, and not necessarily just on the Island.

Even Monty Python's God can't stop the inevitable.

Should we really be worrying what's coming and instead shouldn't we just be happy with what we've been given? For some people the holiday is already over: I've seen more than one person on Twitter announce they're done with 'Free Questing', and part of me can entirely understand why. The Island may be the place where I finally admit I'm giving up pet battling and collecting because Blizzard made it too time consuming: pretty much every mob family drops a pet, and the rates are so low that I KNOW I don't have the time to grind everything... and so something has to give. In giving people so much to do, Blizzard have finally poisoned the chalice. I don't want to have to spend time flying around the Island on an Albatross for the rare spawn that MIGHT drop the pet I want: that's not fun, that's time consuming and frustrating. Give me a way to buy every pet for a reasonable number of coins and I might bite, but for me, at least, this is the final nail. It doesn't have to be about choice every time, it has to revolve around attainable and realistic goals.

The Island may be Timeless, but my life isn't. There, I said it.

This time around, choice has been everything in game: whether you do or don't, if you decide one path or another, and I think that's fabulous, but only to a point. Your gaming time needs a measure of structure and focus, but you shouldn't require a degree in Logistics and Transportation to play a game to its fullest potential. Somewhere is a happy medium between the two, and I have to hope that the Blizzard Devs realise this too, and that the next Expansion is planning to embrace the possibilities both structure and creativity have to offer.

All we can do now is sit back and wait.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wicked Game

Fire enough arrows and they'll eventually stick ^^

It is only beginning to dawn on me just how much potential Loot Island has as my home for the End of the End Game... except the name isn't as appropriate as it was last week. I'm renaming the place Logistics Island, because the possibilities of who does what and where are making my head spin. Just because there's not a rigid gearing path linked to reputation, or indeed a specific order in which stuff can be unlocked, it doesn't mean you can just wander around haphazardly just *hoping* stuff will happen... except this morning it did. That stray arrow that hit the High Priest of Ordos just as he mushed the previous tag-ee into the lush, unchanging Timeless grass... ? Well, sometimes you just get lucky. Kinda nice when I don't have to chase the Achievements, they just happen by attrition... but that's not going to work for everything. I need to start asking some serious questions of my playtime, and how I conduct it.

There is a path to be followed, to a point. The 'Island Tour' followed by doing the weekly 200 Valor Quest and the follow-up 20 Elites/50 Valor would mean a potential 500 Valor a week which I ought to be earning if I spend any time there (because if you're killing stuff for coins, it may as well be stuff that gets you Valor as well.) That makes the Daily a mandatory requirement on at least P until she's as geared as it is possible to be from Flex/LFR (as I am assuming that's as high a point as I will see.) I would also be theoretically possible to kill very little yourself whilst things are busy in the first few weeks and let everyone else do the work if you're on a busy server, thus negating some of the gear worries and letting my alts in on the action. In fact, one might argue with so little rep for the Emperor being obtained on a single kill basis, that Blizzard are actively encouraging people to group for rep farming, which most certainly seems to be de rigeur on my server at present.

In fact, it could be argued with the difficulty of these mobs, even for decently geared characters, that grouping to farm ANYTHING is being quietly encouraged. Certainly having a cleanser in your group for certain things is a bonus (or the Mend Pet glyph if you're a Hunter) and you can't afford not to concentrate on any of the Ordon-related guys. On that front, I'm considering killing 20 of those guys for my Valor fix so I can combine three tasks in one (VP, Coins, Rep) and then just hanging around on the Island cleaning up after people, and if I happen to be close to a Rare when it spawns then so be it. Doing that this morning meant I ended up with 7500 coins and enough leather for my transmute with plenty to spare to send to my Bankalt to clean up that side of the market (selling for 120g a stack currently, GET IN.)

Y'all let me come with you?

There is also the understanding that, if you are a grossly undergeared alt, it is pretty much Christmas and New Year rolled into one evening's visit. Witness our 12 year old son, who once he saw what was available on the Isle finally sitting down over the weekend and levelling himself to 90 so he could visit. His starting level when he began with us last night? 434. When he went to bed two hours later, he was at 478, including a trinket and both rings updated. If there were ever an indicator that this place is now the go-to destination of the recently-dinged, then this is it.

Saying it as I see it :D Seems Crithto's had the same problem ^^

Slowly but surely, things are beginning to fall into place. I can see why people will be loathed to bring Alts to the Island when there is a rep grind that hides a mount: this is a lesson that fails to be learnt. Perhaps as many things are Account-wide, it is time to make reputation that way too and allow people access to everything on a rep path via alts once the main has unlocked the route (Order of the Cloud Serpent, I'm looking at you.) Once the rush dies down it will be increasingly difficult to do what my son did unless you have help so it probably is time to make hay while the eternal sun doesn't move for hours. Just try not to spend too much time in the Vegas Cave, okay?

Finally, a word of advice. Don't get frustrated if you keep missing rares. If you are deliberately targetting a specific rare, find out where it spawns (there's a great visual guide to spawn points here) and just hang around that area until it does, because with the majority of spawn timers during busy periods, you won't have to wait long. Of course, if you don't have time for such displays of patience, you can always log out in the same area and hope you get lucky when you log in. Just as a reminder: it may seem like we've been here forever, but the Isle's only a week old today. There is plenty of time to get everything you need, honest.

You'll just need to brush up on your logistics skills :D

Monday, September 16, 2013

Free as a Bird

The most important Chest on Loot Island

You like free stuff, yes? You're happy that Blizzard's given us Loot island, I'm sure: even I am beginning to warm to a place where I don't even have to hit rares for them to give me loot [*] However, I am getting reports of people being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they're having to process and the number of miniquests/places to look for stuff there currently are. It seems when you take quests away and don't adequately signpost progression, things can get a bit confusing.

That's why I'm starting your week by telling you this chest is the one item you need to take time to go and locate. That's because it contains a GUARANTEED Burden of Eternity. Yes, you heard me correctly.

For those of you still unaware, if you use this item on ANY Timeless Loot (that's the item BEFORE it becomes an actual 496 armour piece) it will create a 535 item. This should be enough to make all but the most Hardcore raider sit up and take notice... but there's a catch. It's not insurmountable, but it will require some thought. This item sits, with two other random Timeless Loot drops, in the Blazing Chest above. Your biggest problem is getting there.

I told you this wasn't going to be simple.

Point A, for those of you that haven't explored that far yet, is the broken bridge that leads to the Ordon Sanctuary. This area is easily accessible if you already have a Legendary Cloak (you just fly over) but for everyone else... well, you need to get creative. Don't get nervous either, this is perfectly legitimate: The cloak ONLY grants you access to the large courtyard (B) (which is where Ordos spawns) Our chest is located in an entirely separate area at C, marked with the dot. As long as you stay away from the Courtyard, you'll stay safe. The question then becomes how you get there.

I can personally confirm shoving a non-cloak wearer in your Chopper sidecar and bringing them over will work, so that should mean a cloak-wearer with a Mammoth or any 2 person mount which works as ground transport should also be safe. If you don't have a friend with a cloak, don't panic: finding an Albatross and hitching a ride can get you there, as will using a flying mount (yes you can still do this on the island ^^) Wowhead's comments section on the chest offers some suggestions so for those of you not lucky enough to have a legendary yet, it is not impossible,

Nasty blokes, but a bit thick.

The next biggest problem is avoiding the really rather nasty mobs around the area. Having an aggro reset or stealth is going to be extremely useful in this case: once you are inside the courtyard the chest resides in running to a wall should reset any mobs from outside. The two fellas that guard the chest are quite easy to avoid, just watch the roaming pats.

Then there is a quick note about contents. This chest, according to Wowhead has an 11% chance of providing you with a Timeless Curio (which converts to a 535 trinket) but part of me is wondering whether this chest might be something a little more sophisticated. After all, Trinkets are notoriously difficult to find in open gameplay and a lot of people will be looking to upgrade them after reaching 90. When I opened the chest on my Hunter got a very pleasant surprise:

This could be a massive co-incidence, but those two Timeless Loots co-coincided exactly with my two lowest iLevelled items currently equipped. Similarly when I looted on my Mage:

Again, bracers and leggings were by far the lowest iLevel items I had on, which is what made me think that perhaps this chest isn't just randomly throwing out loot, but it might be intelligently checking my gear and providing me with a more appropriate upgrade. Of course I could just be imagining the whole thing, but I do know Blizzard like to sneak bits of code into the game like this without making a song and dance of the fact. I'll check with every new 90 I get up there, of course. You may wish to do the same.

The last factor in this is equation whether the chest respawns again on Wednesday after reset. I'm betting this would be a one-shot deal (and Wowhead are saying the same because of PTR behaviour, presumably) but part of me wonders if this chest couldn't be put on a timer. Once a month for a guaranteed upgrade, without coins? I suppose it depends on how generous Blizzard are feeling about gearing. Needless to say, if you've not done so already, and especially if your trinkets are a little shabby, this is one chest you should really be looking to open.

[Oh, and for those of you curious, you can not simply loot but use more than one Burden of Eternity in a week. P's chest loot gave her a second. I have no idea if they stack however... :P]


[*] Yes, this genuinely happened. I'm not complaining.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Alternative Chat :: Episode 01

In shock news, I enjoyed it so much last week that I produced another one. Now I'll have to see if I can make it to double figures. We present the first 'proper' episode of Alternative Chat!

This week, I will be mostly chatting about:

  • Not having any internet (mostly)
  • Not trying to start a fight
  • Being better organised (improved Faff Form will be added to the show notes and linked on Twitter when its complete!)
  • Why you should be playing Warcraft
  • You guys, being awesome
  • Still not having Royal Satchels
  • What Loot Island means for me

I have tried to be a bit clever with The Faff Report too: your comments on that (and indeed anything else) will be gratefully received.



When it is finally done (Mr Alt's on a Charity Bike Ride today) the amended Faff Form will be posted here.

Here's some links on how to generate some income form the new patch:


Until Episode 2! See you there!