Saturday, September 28, 2013

Silly Love Songs

I'm sorry, but this is all getting TOO SILLY.

Last night a Guildie linked into chat some of the items she'd managed to pick up on the Timeless Isle for her Shaman. She had the Ordon Legend-Keeper Greaves of the Impatient and the Ordon Legend-Keeper Bla Bla Bla Bla Bla and suddenly my brain just quietly went into meltdown. This was probably more to do with the fact I had a 4am start yesterday but I was then aware of the UTTERLY STUPID naming conventions we appear to have strayed into in 5.4. It is as if the Devs have run out of Epic to use, what with it being the end of the Expansion and all, and they've decided to hoard all of the good and inspiring epithets for next time.

I feel it is time for the game to stop being silly, and go back to basics.

See? Simples!

I suspect the obvious change not simply in naming conventions but suffixes is an indicator that work is already well underway for when the NEXT Expansion rolls around and we can see Decimator and Wavecrest on L1 items. It makes sense in my mind, if there's an item squish coming (and I think we can pretty much agree it is going to happen now) that every item will finally be standardised and you'll know from the word go that Savant = just Mastery and Pious = just spirit, and so on. Standardisation is actually more of a big deal than you might at first believe, but I'd like to hope it's on the cards across the board. However, big names = hard to remember. Suffixes make things even worse. Simplicity is the key, which is why I feel Blizzard should be working towards a 'less is more' strategy whenever possible.


I've suggested it before, but this would be the MOTHER of all Contests. Blizzard could ask people to enter their own names for gear, and the best ones get used in the next Expansion. I guarantee they'd be absolutely inundated with entries. It would be a great 10th Anniversary Celebration to boot (see even thinking ahead for you there.) Feel free to have this one on me with the Professions do-over, no charge. You just need to add The Alt:ernative Trinket to the list of Names To Use, and we're golden [*] :D

And there's a serious point to all this, eventually.

What this does highlight however is the fact that, more often than not, it is really hard to work out whether an item is a suitable replacement for another, especially when procs come into play. Although the stat comparison tool in game is a useful way of making sure all your red stats show as green upgrades before you equip, it is becoming pretty much de rigeur to have a programme like Mr Robot at your disposal to do all the complicated mathematical equations for you. Far be it from me to suggest that sites like this should be made obsolete, but I think Blizzard could take this opportunity to make the process of understanding what does what and where a little easier for the average player to grasp. If you can tie that to being able to say to a Priest when levelling 'yes make sure you use anything with spirit AND you pick up any 'of the Pious' green items lying around in game...' and then make sure the same names get used FOR PROFESSIONS ITEMS too INCLUDING WEAPONS. I think we might need less randomly generated items too, especially at the lower levels. If you can do guaranteed use for quest rewards, maybe it is time to stop having unnecessary or pointless stats on other things too.

Oh, and if we're redesigning items and gear? Time to start giving personal loot bags with specific items for your spec and class out from the first dungeon you walk into at L15. JUST SAYING.

I love it when a plan comes together :D

I think we can all agree that, given a choice, simple pretty much beats horribly long and complicated (with the obvious caveats.) When it comes to gear, having only to remember a few things about what you need is FAR more preferable than needing to carry an A4 laminate around of all the options you need to consider when an item drops in your bag, especially at lower levels. Making the names easier is just part of a larger issue. I hope somewhere in Blizzard HQ, on an interactive whiteboard in a conference area, this point's underlined several times.

We don't need more complicated. Keep it simple, and make it fun.


[*] I wish, but in the unlikely event you'd also need Flavour Text, try 'For all your faffing needs.' :D

Friday, September 27, 2013

Smash It Up

There's one consistent continuity problem with Warcraft as it currently stands: you know EXACTLY where each Expansion begins and ends. Nowhere is that more obvious in the business of Professions. You may have a number to aim for when maxxing, but getting to that can often end up not as enjoyable, but more of an exercise in patience. In fact, immersing yourself in the business of any profession currently (with the possible exception of Cookery) is anything but entertaining. Blizzard have shown with Noodle Carts there are ways to make things more interesting and engaging, but that's only one small part of a very large problem.

It's taken me pretty much a year to arrive at a solution to the professions 'problem' that I'm happy with. Many of you will not like it at all, but you know what? At this point, I simply have to commit it to the ether, and to the Nether with the consequences because frankly, someone has to. Sometimes, everything you work for needs to be sacrificed for the greater good: for a system that actually remains useful, regardless of your position within it. Today therefore, we propose a radical rethink of every profession in game. I'm not just talking about the Primary ones either: the Secondary ones are all encompassed in this overhaul, because you can't have one without the other. Using the tools we've been given by the game designers over the last eight years and especially during Pandaria, I propose that when you start every new character at Level 1, this is how it goes. I hope that this will want to make you reroll a new class from scratch, just because you'll get to experience this journey once from the beginning. That's how good I'm hoping this revamp will be..

It all begins with a Magical Tower.

Human Tower. Your experience will vary.

When you first roll a Level One, you'll notice a tower like this (architecturally appropriate to your race) in every Starting Area. It's is where you will find the Crafting League, and it allows access to a phased area that you'll be returning enthusiastically to throughout the entire game as you level to 90 and beyond. Inside this Tower you'll get your introduction to the professions and what they can offer you: There's a Gathering Trainer, a Primary Trainer and a Secondary Trainer (plus vendors, of course.) Each of them has a specific storyline that begins in each starting zone, and which is peculiar to your race. By the time you hit 60, you'll say farewell to this line and hello to another that will take you from 60 to 85, covering the three expansions that encompasses. After that, you'll start a new path to 90. After that, you just bolt on new stories and trainers for each level cap.

Right at the get-go, you receive an item from your first ever quest. It sits in your Inventory, next to your Hearthstone, and it is the most important item you will ever need. This is the free gift from the Crafting League to you, a wonder of joint Goblin/Gnomish Engineering, and it is the Craftomatic 9000-G that no adventurer would ever want to be without, because it allows you to gather everything and make any item (assuming you have learnt the appropriate skill, still only two Primary Skills per player) and ensures you won't require anything else to profession with. No Jewellers Kits or Mining Picks any more, if you have this tool, it does absolutely everything [*]. It is the JML Luxury Item of choice. All you need now is to choose what professions you are going to utilise and off you go.

So good is this 9000-G that every mob you kill from this point onwards also has a chance to drop something useful for your specific craft. Mobs in the outside world yield some items, mobs in dungeons others, even BG opponents drop special items for PvP specific crafts. You then augment this with gathered items: herbs, leather, fish, archaeological finds, ore and your specific profession makes not simply armour, but level scaling weapons. Oh, and because someone asked, you'd get a choice of a PvE or a PvP set, depending on your persuasion. Yes, FROM L1 you can make items that will last you to the level cap, and when the level cap gets raised so do the stats of those items, so anyone crafting from scratch in ANY new expansion produces stuff that has a real value.

YES THE Craftomatic 9000-G is BETTER THAN THIS :D

Oh, and before you ask, when you reach level cap, you can't use your self-made weapons and armour in instances or heroics. You see, professions aren't about gearing you to play End-Game any more, or forcing people to play catch-up constantly to be in the best gear. Professions make stuff that is useful just for you in terms of game levelling, and enhancement/vanity/collectable items for everyone else. It doesn't become a crutch or a way to compensate when End Game gear lacks: it doesn't make massive profits from giving priority to those who can exploit a particular niche simply due to accessibility. Don't worry however about how you'd get your end game items once you cap, we've got that covered a little bit later. There's a bonus too because of this: ALL ARMOUR AND WEAPONRY IS BOA.

The only BoE's are those you'll find that drop in the world, you don't make stuff like that to sell it on the Auction House, it's just yours. There are specific potions and gear augmentations too, that you can send to ANY ALT, not just those with the crafting specialisation, with bonuses that work on any spec or class, as long as you play them. Again, they'll lose their usefulness at max level, so use them wisely (young Padewan.) If you want to sell things while levelling, then you can sell the spare crafting ingredients you don't need, whether they be gathered or created via skills like Alchemy. Instead of a bunch of useless potions no-one ever drinks again Alchemists can create reagents at low level that are still used in high level recipes. Scribes create special dyes to change not simply armour colours, but which can be used to alter the appearances of enchants.  

Everyone becomes interdependent, encouraging more people to pick up professions to begin with. You're also given a decent array of armour and weapon augmentations, other items to cosmetically alter the look and feel of other people's gear (leather for hilts, gems to decorate) plus the inevitable vanity items. Every zone has a specific list of vanity item you can make across all the professions from the SAME AVAILABLE DROP TABLE, so people have decent scope to pick and choose what items they choose to specialise in. Plus, you can have speciality skills you learn in every profession: Alchemists are already making bonuses on Flasks, Potions and Elixirs. Miners will be able to refine ore for better yields or dig differently to unearth rare gems. Fishermen can choose to wait for a larger version of the same fish with the chance of special secondary resources. Archaeologists can choose to focus on unearthing patterns for long forgotten items, or re-purposing items to add to existing pattens for a different look. The key here is that EVERY PROFESSION DEPENDS ON THE OTHER to make them work best.

Yes, you can  of course choose to ignore all of this if you wish and sprint straight to level. No-one's making you do stuff that for many will now seem awfully time-consuming and involved. You don't need it, because all the stuff that drops in the World is slightly better than any gear you'd get from professions to begin with: it doesn't scale with level. The point here is that people get a choice, and everything works together, instead of being a disparate combination of factors that's been reinvented every expansion with no cohesive framework. At some point, there has to be a conscious decision to accept that going back to the beginning and SIMPLY DOING IT AGAIN BUT BETTER is not an admission of guilt or an acceptance of failure. It is an understanding that sometimes the only thing you can do to make something work is to embrace its failings, and start again from scratch.

Honestly, you don't listen to a word I say do you, HAVE YOU GOT A VEST ON...?

The Crafting Guild, at max level, is phased as the Tiller's Farm is now. In this area is your own Crafting Tower where your accomplishments are displayed, available only to you. Your list of legacy recipes (see below), a special banking area JUST FOR CRAFTING MATERIALS similar to Void Storage, a small patch of dirt imported from Pandaria where you can grow items from any level if you can find the correct seed that allows it. If you craft there it happens at a faster rate than if you did so in the normal world, and every day it offers you a series of quests that you can choose to do or not that allows you to earn rewards to allow you to buy better gear than your crafted items, by USING YOUR CRAFTED ITEMS AS CURRENCY.

Like the Craftsman's Writs we had back in Vanilla, you produce a selection of items, exchange those for Writs and then hand those in for rewards... how about Valor Points? Then you can buy the items you need without necessarily having to run dungeons and instances all the time to get them. It gives that much-needed sense of choice and value in your work and making the journey to begin with. However, do do all this, we need to wipe your slate clean and give you a completely new set of recipes and goals, and that will not sit well with a group of people for whom the business of professions has stretched over nearly a decade. I know who these people are: the ones who spent all those months hunting down the rare drops, making sure they owned every pattern their profession had to offer, regardless of the fact that now most are virtually worthless.

I know because I am one of them, and herein lies our biggest single stumbling block to change.

'At some point, something has to give...'

There's at least one way to deal with the legacy recipe issue: make every single old armour/weapon pattern into a Cosmetic Mogging-only item that can be made with materials that drop in a level-appropriate zone for the original drop. Then present every Veteran Crafter when the reboot happens with a Book of Ancient Recipes in which every one they have collected is lovingly transcribed. You have a record of what you've collected, and somewhere to store it. You see, the gift to all the Vanilla Generation players out there who'd technically lose the most on the back of this radical rethink is the legacy the Tillers have provided us with. In your own phased area under the auspices of the new Expansion, whatever and wherever that might be, is your own Player Housing. In fact, the only way to get it is to take a profession when you start the game, and yes you can link those recipes as a badge of honour if you so desire. We'll even give you a Feat of Strength to prove you caught them all.

The question then remains: what happens to a max-level crafter in this new system?

That's deceptively simple. Once the pre-Expansion patch launches, everyone keeps their skills, all old crafting-based achievements get converted to Feats of Strength and you get the complete new spellbook/interface, except you've learnt everything, with the notable exclusion of the special levelling quests you'd get if you started at Level 1 (so you have a chance to do those before the Expansion launches, much like the system worked with Battle Pet Trainers.) You then have an opportunity before the Expansion to gather a selection of the new mats needed to build your basic weapon/armour for levelling.

All existing crafting mats will then become obsolete, be downgraded to grey value, and given a vendor price dependant on level.


AAAAAAND there goes my credibility ^^

I reckon in the above I should have found something to upset just about everyone: the casual gamer, the hoarder, the gold maker, the completionist... all of which I am. I didn't want to discuss this with anyone for the longest time because it occurred to me that actually so much of what is wrong with the mechanic of making could be put right if I would put prejudice to one side and just tried something new. There was also the crushing irony that having complained so often that Blizzard's solution is to simply ignore stuff and start fresh, that's really exactly what this problem requires... in fact after this long it's almost a demand. However, I don't need numbers to know that the quantum leap isn't something to be taken lightly, and when you're sitting on the back of less than favourable subscription numbers with potentially game-breaking issues in the base mechanics of your combat engine, will you ever want to make such a contentious decision to begin with?

The Crab, he has a point.

I am enough of a realist to grasp that what I want and what is practical in an office four thousand miles west of me are two very different things. I'm not about to light my own torch and stampede screaming when none of this comes to pass come November. Yes, I will be disappointed when things fall short of my expectations, but frankly who isn't? Blizzard aren't making this game for me, I realised a long time ago. That means I have to find my own way of embracing what it is and how it works. That's why I took up fifteen minutes of your life if you read this far, and for that alone I am grateful. That is the real legacy of posts like this, and people like me: I just want to help make something broken better. And yes, despite what many people will tell you, it is broken. They're the ones making gold on the fact it remains so, that people fill niches and cubbyholes with the old and the odd, that someone somewhere collects something obscure and as long as that happens, there's a market. Ultimately, there would never be a way to 'fix' professions without making somebody unhappy, and working on that theory I think that the radical could be the answer. I doubt I'll ever know for sure because I don't have 'game designer' listed as my occupation. However, I thought I owed it to the game I love to try.

Sometimes, the only solution is to step back and start again.


[*] Trips to the bathroom and filing Tax Returns are YOUR PROBLEM. Please craft responsibly.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

We are the Champions

Work 'in progress'

Planning sometimes isn't everything.

I'd hoped this morning to have the above Certificate of Faffery done and dusted for a big reveal, but Real Life has yet again conspired against me. Needless to say, if you listen into the Podcast on Sunday I will announce the inaugural recipient of the finished product, which will look as if I didn't spend five minutes rush-completing it in a mad hurry. For now however, I would like to take a moment to consider the benefits of preparation, and the notion of gaming self-confidence. Someone do a Ready Check, will you?

Always the DPS. *sigh*

I've noticed of late that Ready Checks in LFR aren't actually an indication of people *being prepared or even at their keyboards,* they're telling you when the Tank is pulling, which frankly sends a lot of contradictory signals. The basic problem with playing with strangers is the (often very wayward) assumption that everyone is reading the same set of rules. You know, the ones that say that if you mark a skull, it dies first, that mana users need to die before melee.. that sort of thing. The subsequent stumbling block is then what era the people you are playing from come from, because the rules from Vanilla are not the rules of Pandaria, or indeed of any point in between. Frankly, on some days it is a wonder anything ever gets done at all and that is, I suspect, only down to the Internet's ability to provide boss kill and strat guides in a cohesive format. However much Blizzard might think the Dungeon Guide helps, it is fan sites that ultimately keep the wheels of social raiding greased and smooth. I for one am very grateful.

However, with the quite deliberate move by Blizzard to encourage people into what I am now going to call 'smart casual raiding' (because that's how we've referred to it in Guild for as long as I can remember) there is one more ready check to consider. Are YOU prepared?

Seriously, Illidan. NICK OFF.

I watched an interesting exchange on Twitter last night: how one person's enjoyment of an evening's raiding was compromised when other people, *in their deliberately organised purely social group*, didn't take things quite as seriously as they did. This one factor was always going to be the Elephant in the Room for Flex: just because you are able to decide who you raid with, even with the ability to pick and choose who comes and who doesn't, you cannot guarantee the quality of the experience. There are, like it or not, possibly MORE factors to consider with Flex than would be an issue with LFR. After all, you can do a random and pretty much guarantee you'll not have to see any of the other 24 people again. For every brilliant and well-executed idea there is inevitably a skeleton somewhere, but at least with LFR it could remain locked away. Not so with Flex.

I was asked what I thought of the new raid difficulty yesterday, but I can't answer objectively until I've actually done one. As I announced in this here parish, I have one planned for Saturday, and once that happens you can be sure that you'll get only the honest truth from me on how they work. I am aware however of people in my Guild who feel already they're not good enough for what might be being asked of them. This is where I feel I need to make my major point: everyone who takes the chance to walk outside their comfort zone and do something that scares or frightens them is a champion, pure and simple. If you can say in your own mind that you did your best, that you brought everything you could to the experience and you gave the best you were capable of... really, NOBODY has the right to do anything but applaud your effort. Raiding works best when everyone is on the same sheet, thinking the same way... but there also has to be a notion of realistic expectation.

We have an Offtank with two young kids, the second only new to this world in the last few months. I can't reasonably expect him to give 110% if on the day we raid his wife's not well or one of the kids has a problem, that's just unfair. There needs to be a dialogue between people, an understanding of how people work away from the screen, and that's why I am inevitably so emotionally involved in how the Guild works, because without that I can't understand how to get the best out of the people within it. I know that's not how many GM's work, but for me and the very distinct nature of the people who play with us, it pays dividends. On the flipside, therefore, I have very little time for anyone who feels it is our job to accommodate them when they don't give the same courtesy in return. I am aware after many years that if you try and raid like that there will be short shrift if you not only come unprepared, but unwilling. If you want to be part of a Guild, then you need to give something back in return. Oh, and enthusiastically returning once we start making progress because you suddenly decide that's the main reason for playing again? Please, I'm not that dumb, and neither are you.

Winning for most is a simple black and white switch: you beat it, or it beats you. However, if you look at your own individual ability and expectation... well, for me at least, winning becomes a lot less about a big finish line to sprint triumphantly over, and a lot more about small and realistically attainable goals. We have 12 people signed for Saturday. Four are tentative, so my next achievement is to see if any of those feel confident enough to switch their position. Then there is the chance that other people might appear, that players will start hassling me to help them complete LFR's for the legendary cloak, that I'll see more people online simply playing the game. Sometimes, the goals may seem petty and insignificant to some, but they are the world to others. It is at that moment that you need to remember that attainment may be judged in game with websites and statistics, but progress is always immeasurable until you want to play. That's the biggest step of all when you're on one side of a divide and someone else is on the other: do you expect them to want to come to you, or do you convince them it's more fun where you stand?

Sometimes the hardest move at all is to just get someone to believe they're good enough.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Social Contract Theory

History 101. Pay attention, 007, metaphor mixing incoming...

'Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique' was published in 1762 by the Genevan philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau. A direct influencer of the French Revolution, Rousseau 'theorized about the best way in which to set up a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality (1754).' (Wikipedia)

You're already wondering where I'm going with this, I can tell.

Firstly, a Blogger I have admired for a long time is back in Azeroth. I know this because I have seen her log via every night for a while. No, I don't say hello or engage her in conversation because you get a sense sometimes that people are finding their own level, especially after an absence. She doesn't need me hassling her, because this is someone who is renegotiating a place in their own contract, not simply with the game but their own Guild. They deserve the opportunity to do that without hindrance. It takes a long time to find your sweet spot, though I suspect many people never even have to try. I'm not like that, and of late (despite what you may think) I've been struggling. It is all well and good if your level of participation is small, but when that isn't the case, things can begin to get increasingly complex. This is where I enter, stage left, with some baggage I've been carrying since around February time.

I've come very close on several occasions in the past month to quitting as GM of my Guild. There's been no drama that has caused this, no huge social or political upheavals... in fact, there's been very little of anything at all. Over time, the once-thriving community we had has simply dwindled and gone silent. Depending on how you like to operate with the apportion of blame, this could be down to any number of things, but mostly it's Real Life that has done the most damage. When gaming doesn't really matter to you and is simply a hobby, that tends to happen. However, there are those of us for whom gaming is something else, and with that in mind I decided this weekend that I owed it to myself and the Guild to give it one last shot. I know where I want my place to be in game, and it is time to try and use my motivation to inspire others.

I made a deliberate decision that when I started this blog I wouldn't talk about the Guild or specific people within it, because as I have said on many occasions drama is not something I like to entertain or even encourage. However, some things do need to be said, and they bear repeating on a larger stage where the notion of a social 'contract' between people who make games and those that play them is becoming a contentious issue. At what point is it Blizzard's job to improve the gaming environment for us to want to play, and at what point does it become our own individual obligation to step up and take the initiative? Where does the buck stop and start when it comes to the exchange of rights and responsibilities? Now you'll see why Mr Rousseau's been pulled in here this early on a Wednesday. He'll be over there after we're done if you want to ask questions: for now, let's use my particular example and set out the Social Contract I'm advocating with my Guild.

James' idea for Guild Housing needed some work. From

I've put a message up on the Guild Website, in the Guild Message of the Day, and scheduled a Flex Raid for Saturday night, which is shaping up to be the most popular evening for people being online. I'm not pushing anyone to join, and I'm not chasing anyone either. I have decided that, having impressed on people for several weeks that if we don't get enough people to sign, we don't do something, we'll now see what transpires. It is not up to me to bully, cajole or pressurise anyone at any point, because that has NEVER been how our Guild works best, not ever. We don't do stress or hassle, and when it does happen I will do my damnedest to squash it before it starts. My part of this Contract is to open negotiations and see who comes to the table. My commitment is to be as open as possible and state that if we don't get the numbers to do this, then to admit publicly that our Guild has lost the best part of what it once was. Our community spirit has been subverted by the time demands this expansion has made of us, and people no longer have the enthusiasm to maintain something very special indeed.

If something matters, you will make time for it. The great thing about Flex is that has the POTENTIAL to be so much more than simply a gearing apparatus. Yes, it's great for those people who want training wheels before they hit 10/25's but for the rest of us they give a chance to accommodate everyone in a beneficial environment not simply to see the End Game, but to learn how the mechanics of fights have changed (or stayed the same) over the years, with people you know and can feel comfortable with. In the end however, it is not as convenient as LFR, and cannot fit around your schedule, and here is the key. Everyone has to make the decision to work together, and only then will this work. 'Reciprocity with the GM and her membership.' See, I told you the old Swiss geezer would be relevant eventually.

On the wider stage, I have heard many people try to blame Blizzard for the toxic environment that has kept many people away from LFR since its introduction. The harsh reality however is that's not Blizzard's fault, far from it: it's ours. The community makes the toxic environment, and feeds it, and with the introduction of Flex that situation will get worse, and not better. Just because you can raid with friends doesn't mean Raiding gets better, because Flex is only a part of a larger equation, one community that lives in the same social contract as the 10/25-ers and the LFG-ers. There has to be an acceptance that LFR now serves a vital role for those who are not capable of organising a raid in their own timeframes. There also has to be an understanding that if you can't organise a Flex Raid in a timeframe that suits you, organising anything becomes pretty much moot.

The LFR queue realised that if it didn't get a tank soon, things would get ugly...

This, for me, is a chance to see if anyone in my Guild shares the same desires I do and have pretty much since Day 1 of the game. I've never gone this publicly on record before, but if you're part of my lot reading this, if you are free on Saturday night I'd like you to decide your path, and that means if you want to raid signing BEFORE it happens and following our rules and regulations when you turn up. Don't worry, I'll be there good and ready waiting to see who makes it... and what happens on Saturday I think will pretty much seal my fate with the Guild. So, it's in the hands of the people, people. You guys are my guides for this. What you decide is what happens, and for the first time in a very long time I'm really rather happy with that state of affairs.

I look forward to seeing what the weekend brings.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Food For Thought

Standing on books = Genius. Hat on hat, not so good ^^

The Noodle Cart.

This is the pinnacle of Cooking Excellence in game and (it occurred to me yesterday after a comment from my good Twitter friend @kurnmogh) everything that's bad right now about Professions wrapped up in one beautifully neat and accurate package. This is a great example of how a silk purse out of a sow's ear may deceive from a distance, but up close it remains the same. As the Expansion release date rumbles ever closer will Blizzard finally attempt to fix a part of the game that some people will tell you isn't broken to begin with, but which has suffered more than perhaps any other aspect of gameplay since Warcraft began?

We can all agree to begin with that Professions are useful, but some are clearly better coin purses than others.

Never a truer word was spoken.

There is an inherent problem with setting your expectations high: what happens when you don't hit them. With this expansion Blizzard have proved that with thought, application and a dedicated quest zone, yes you CAN make something like Cookery attractive enough that people will spend more time in a place no-one else sees in game except them, just to keep up with their Raiding requirements. We may not be running around Felwood any more for Whipper Root Tubers, but this way of gathering consumables is every much as time-dependent as gating equipment via rep or requiring 4 hours of fishing when every cast has a 22 second timer. However elegant you make your quest lines, however self-referencing you might be with the leanness of your meat, this is just food. It's one stat of many that need dealing with, and once upon a time with gear this meant a real competitive edge that pushed people into grinding specific professions for raiding.

Even that business has changed now, professions being eroded away as vendor and gathered gear becomes more and more important to create the damage outputs required to stay alive, and Blizzard appears to be less and less willing to provide it for individual manufacture unless people have access to Raids or a sizeable stash of cash and and an accomodating AH. Locking key crafting items into 10/25 mans or almost monthly transmute cycles might keep markets from being flooded but it does the game no favours. Have we not learnt anything from the Legendary Questline? Just making an item take longer to make doesn't make it special, and it certainly doesn't guarantee a decent selling price when its done. The best way to create a market is on a level playing field, not gifting deliberate advantage to those who can afford the time to play not just the AH, but the End Game too. How you do that is place all the materials on the same level, and make people choose what matters most. That has been Cookery's biggest single success, when all is said and done. Players had to make the choices of what to grow, the game didn't do it for them. How you succeeded from that point depended on no-one but yourself.

The best ideas often get left by the wayside :(

Then there is the question of WHY you have a profession: is it simply to make money? Is it because of the benefits the title bestows upon you (yes we know, Goblin Gliders ^^)  or do you have it because it has benefits that extend not simply to raiding, but to the quality of life that gives? If you are making something how important does it then come that you can re-use these things, or pass them on to other alts? Should the path to gaining maximum level be as simple as possible and all the benefits sit at End Game (as is the case with content) or should your profession evolve with your levelling journey? What proportion of recipes should have a practical application, what others should not, and how many should allow you to dress as a Noodle Chef... and you see, this is where it hit me. That was the moment when, however funny and clever it might be that you become the Chef and people buy your wares, I could see the person behind the curtain, frantically spinning the wheels, trying to distract me with the reminder that when this is done, there is nowhere else to go. This vehicle shouldn't have been summat you stick in at the end of an Expansion, this should have been what we started with next time. How do you better this?

I mention Craftman's Writs at this point because I remember August 2006 not because I was in Original Naxx fighting off invaders, I was in the Plaguelands and across the world, hunting the Undead Invasion that accompanied it. Suddenly, my Professions mattered because not only could I make gear with them, but I could make lesser items that I turned in using Writs and then, with enough tokens and effort, I got gear I couldn't make. As had been the case with the AQ gates, my skills as a Leatherworker and Skinner meant I had access to other parts of the game, that EVERYTHING I made potentially had a value. If you asked me what one thing needs to change about Professions right now I'd say that this is it: make them matter. Give them value outside just acting as buff enhancers: give us questlines like the Noodle Cart for EVERY profession, so that each one is its own journey, and conclusion. However, that is never likely to happen, because if it were then there'd be no-one left to design the 5 mans and the raids and the Quest levelling... and here's why I wish we'd never got the Cart to begin with.

The Noodle Cart is now the example of what COULD be done with professions if Blizzard decide to take the leap of faith: time, effort, useful and entertaining quest-lines, fun results, everyone happy and you in a hat that sits on your own hat. However, to do that with every profession would require such a massive, fundamental rethink and rebuild of the system that I'm not sure it's actually practical in the time-frames we're talking about, because if it had been, we'd have seen it done already. We've heard the complaints, the half-hearted attempt at making Blacksmithing more accessible without actually attacking the key issues. What they are, and how I'd redesign the system from the bottom upwards you'll have to wait for until the end of the week. For now, enjoy your Noodle Carts while they're current, and remember that this is what happens when farming becomes as popular as fishing. That made Nat Pagle an alcoholic.

I'm not sure I want to know the long-term consequences of a noodle based diet ^^

Monday, September 23, 2013

Magic Fly

Albatross Airlines announce the departure of Flight 129...

I'm sitting next to the Ruby Lake as I type this, waiting for Garnia to spawn. Yes, I'm worth it ^^

When I get to the point where I'm looking at achievements in a new Expansion hub I know the lay of the land. The Island has done its job, and now that four L90's have taken pretty much all they can of value, it is time to start the sub-90's on their journeys. First up, teh Rouge (yes my friend, I am going to ask for help) who seems to be quite powerful at 86 but as I'm only biffing rodents in the Valley this could be a false positive. On the plus side I picked up the Engi Journal last night while questing so I'll be using this Dwarf for (probably) Refrigerator manufacture... because, you can never have enough electrical appliances. Yes, most of this is just for professions. Let's not try and make this about anything else.

Apparently some people can see if I'm lying, they just instinctively *know.*

If I put my mind to this, I reckon I can knock off an alt a week. No frills, no fuss, no stopping to smell the roses or do dailies or get anything other than just the optimum levelling path. That means, give or take, this is how it will pan out:

  • Level to 87 in the Valley
  • Ding 87, go to Kun Lai. Open the Vale, then continue questing.
  • Ding 88, leave Kun Lai and go the Townlong Steppes. Start questing.
  • Ding 89, leave Townlong and go to the Dread Wastes. Start questing
  • L90. Profit.
  • Start next alt.

I can even tell you on which part of which particular quest chain I'll be on when I ding each level and then drop all the followups. This has become a well-honed routine, and there is no time for finishing hubs or dwelling on mopping up Achievements. That's a waste of time and effort in our efficient, streamlined world. I am forced to cut all the fat, trim all the excess weight from the wonder and the interest, because we've passed the expiry date for stopping and enjoying things. This part of our journey is all about business and efficiency and getting the job done. I know this because yesterday my husband conceded that there was no way he was keeping track of everything he's being given on the Island without a form, and if he's having to do this he confidently predicts Blizzard will introduce something similar in due course.

In some parts of my life, at least, it appears I am spot on in my assumptions.

Don't diss the Game. It WILL get you :D

That should mean that this time NEXT week I'll be sending the Shaman off on her 90 fast-track. After that I think it might be a break whilst I get the two of them bedded down with a decent gear set and ready to mothball (with the exception of Professions prepping) because at the back of my mind, there is one date that is beginning to loom large.

Mmmmmmm. Jam.

Yes, with Blizzcon becoming worryingly close (almost less than a month, fact-fans) I sense that I want to have alts done and dusted because the timeframe on the new Expansion's arrival WILL BE A LOT SHORTER THAN PREVIOUS (intentional caps) and that means being ready for anything as quickly as possible. I won't have time to run alts through anything and I want a full school of professions sorted and available at the drop of a High Society Top Hat. After that I can pretend I only have one character and go pick up old achievements and faff at my leisure. Ah yes, Leisure Faffing. Those days seem such a long time ago.

Time to pick up the pace and to start getting the job dun.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Alternative Chat :: Episode 2

Not run out of things to say yet, and I'm getting increasingly more confident about my production skillz. It gets a bit wobbly in places but we manage to break the 15 minute mark this week. For your delectation and delight, I present Episode 2 of Alternative Chat!

This week, I will be mostly chatting about:

  • Not having done 5.4 instances (yet)
  • Other people being grumpy (not me!)
  • How to get free stuff on the Island (I even offer to help)
  • Why you shouldn't be playing Warcraft
  • Some important background for those of you stalking
  • The great big pile of loot I have
  • Getting back into a Faffing Routine [TM]

There have been some changes to the production quality (again) plus you'll only here the theme tune at the beginning and the end. Hopefully this makes the experience a bit more cohesive. Any thoughts or comments, please use my new show e-mail:

alternativegodmother (all one word) AT gmail DOT com



To obtain your FREE GRATIS loot from the Timeless Isle, click here.

@TEAMFAFF's Twitter Page is here.


Better start thinking ahead to Episode Three, I suspect.... :D