Saturday, January 04, 2014

Map of the World

That's a very good question.

My good dear friend (who works for a big-name software developer that isn't Blizzard) and I have, over the years, had numerous discussions as to the various approaches to questing and exploration in MMO's. Although Syl's tweet that began this entire train of thought wasn't referencing Warcraft at all (and was talking about 2013 'indy darling' games) it immediately made me think of Warcraft because, like it or not, that's how the game has worked in my mind pretty much since Day One. With one notable exception we've always started our journeys in exactly the same manner, and although the World may maintain a measure of flexibility and intrigue, very little has altered that approach in ten years. You need to get from A to B: in our case, from 1-60, 60-70, 70-80, 80-85 and finally 85-90. That's pretty much as linear as it goes, and the process that accompanied all that remains pretty much untouched since Vanilla. You went to Place A, you got XP, and then you moved to Place B as you got higher levelled for better gear. In fact, I have the process so refined now in Pandaran terms I can tell you which quest area I'll stop in when I hit a certain level, which quests I'll drop and where I'll go next to maximise not simply the time it takes, but the gear I receive.

In our discussions M and I inevitably return to one fact when this subject is raised. There is normally the single path to tread when you level, and there are very rarely consequences to your progression as you do. To give you an example of this, I'm going to take you to Krasarang Wilds, and a quest that really bothered me when I had to complete it... so much so, I won't go to the Wilds again as a result.

Horde captive, *not* my problem? *sigh*

So, there are both Horde and Alliance NPC's trapped, yet the quest dictates you can only free your own faction. This is just wrong for me on so many levels: I've helped the Horde before, and at the end of this very Expansion we find ourselves willingly accepting just that... so why can't I free them as I do the quests? There's a very good practical reason for this, of course: that's the Horde's job, and assigning individual quests to each faction is hugely time-consuming from a design point of view. This game's become all about speed, and moving expansions through quickly... so I'm doubting you'd see a massive diversion in Horde/Alliance goals any time soon. I understand why these things happen, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. When it comes down to it, I think I'd rather lose the need to quest altogether if these are the kind of choices I am presented with as a player. So, what does that provide developers with as an alternative?

In 5.4 Blizzard deliberately threw away the rule book and gave us an Island where anything goes, to a point. Think what might happen, for instance, if every Rare you were killing in the new Expansion granted XP to 100? If they were all giving the same XP, would it really matter what order you killed them in? No, it would simply boil down to how many, but there'd still be a very linear progression to your goal. What might then matter more would be grouping, and that would be a change to the way things have worked... which is why traditionally questing's always been the better choice because it rewards you gear AND more XP than just simply killing mobs. However, if my alternative is nothing but a pre-defined path with no 'real' options, is this really so bad? Where would my gear come from? Would it matter if there were a group of us combined anyway?

Is there really any way to avoid the persistent spectre of linear progression?

From Someone wanna explain this to me? ^^

These problems aren't really Blizzard's, if we're honest. They get stymied when people get their hands on the game in Beta and are able to find ways to 'cheat' the intricately-constructed system: all you need to do is look at how people made it to server first 85's and 90's to understand that there's more kudos getting there first than actually following any kind of plan Blizzard put in place for you to follow. If you can chain grind mobs with help it's well worth ignoring every signpost to do so, because the game has played on the notion of 'winning' for far too long as the ultimate goal for certain players. Questing is long, time consuming and the gear ultimately pointless if you're moving to End Game, especially if you're already in the best gear the game has to offer before you start the Expansion grind. There are considerably more ways you can't 'beat' this game immediately, and the notion of completion/winning something is a far bigger positive endorphin hit than you'll ever get from quietly grinding away. However, if you believe what some people tell you, lowering your expectations can be the key to greater happiness. Maybe it is high time that Blizzard stopped the need to push everyone to the End Game as a priority... oh, who am I kidding?

Look at the fuss when they told us there was no flying. Any 'deliberate' gating mechanic will now have some fairly serious consequences...

What we need ideally is less ways to cheat the system but a greater flexibility in the choices we are given. Even I think that may be a Holy Grail too far under the current circumstances, but there are possibilities. As soon as Blizzard present their Beta to the world someone will be in there, trying to exploit every niche... and actually this then becomes a compelling reason for having every player possible playing it, despite the seemingly 'terrible' idea that was with the Annual Pass last time around. It then moves to the Devs to be able to deal with all the data they'd get, to try and identify the areas where people might be exploiting.... but again, we're straying off the path. How can Blizzard make the 'linear' not seem that way, when it remains as exactly that? We're on a path from 90 to 100, like it or not: how does that become different? Is it even possible without making things so complicated most people will simply give up and stop playing?

From Just how simple do we want this, exactly?

This is the other reason why linear works, because it can be so easily documented, and therefore emulated by the masses via the wonder that is the Online Guide.

We have often spoken here of how it's great to have a plan. That is particularly true when levelling: understanding what rewards you get, what the benefits are of staying in certain places for so long (often not completing the quests in a zone when you out-level rewards) all adds up to making your first max level as stress free as possible. Beta access again becomes a positive advantage, but then there's the problem that if your questing experience is terrible the first time around and you did it before the game was even released, you'll not want to even go there again. So, throwing away the rulebook's all well and good, but you stand the chance of destroying all player trust when you do. The Timeless Isle shows there is longevity in the simply reliance of a few well-placed gathering quests to allow people their meat and drink (50 Valor a day works for me added to all the other potential sources of points collection, and my gear supports the endeavour now with pretty much the minimum of fuss.) Using the drop mechanic on the Island also allows persistence to take priority: if you want to camp or farm you can, but it won't destroy your World if you don't. Giving the choices back to the individual in a linear environment can produce some interesting results, if they're prepared to do the work... and that can happen over a week or a month, depending on their personal commitment. Then the power goes back to the individual, and Blizzard can sit back and get on with the next bit.

A change in attitude can make you believe it isn't a journey, even if that's exactly what it remains.

It's a place called DECEPTION PASS, folks :D

So, to alter our perception of the journey, I reckon there's going to need to be some deception. People are ready and waiting with pitchforks and torches the moment Dailies reappear, or if ANYTHING gets shoved behind a rep grind... but if you are ready for a bit of smoke and mirrors, an opportunity to let yourself be deceived by the notion of old dressed up as new, we could still get just that, under a different guise. What I think might help, and this goes back to a notion we used back in TBC, is not to strictly segregate zones as being 'you should only be here if you're 90-93' If we want to negate some of the notions of linearity, I feel each zone needs to cover the entire 90-100 journey in some form, depending on which 'random' course we choose to steer through the experience. So, you could take as a starter the 90-91 experience in Zone A for your first L100, and then 91-93 in Zone B, but with your second 100 you'll take the 90-91 Experience in Zone C and 91-93 in Zone A... so this means each area has a questline you could follow from start to finish in a set zone if you desire, or you could mix and match pieces from a 'puzzle' that still come together to form a coherent picture. Looking at the Warlord 'figureheads' we're being presented with for the Expansion, I reckon this path could be the most likely, and if the formula works, it would be a fabulous template on which to duplicate subsequent Expansion 'experiences' onto.

It would also significantly redefine the notion of linear in Blizzard terms, even though this is exactly what the idea remains.

See, the thing with Warcraft is the numbers. It always has been, and with a company that excelled in strategy games and with linear progression as it's lifeblood, that's not really a surprise in the long term. What we lose in spontaneity and excitement is made up for in a community that is quite unlike any other you'll find anywhere online, and so you make a choice. For someone like me, having invested a significant portion of my life into something, it would be a revelation if Blizzard threw away the rule book, but not a total surprise having experienced the the events of the last year and a bit in game. Warlords needs to be something rather special indeed if it is going to herald the renaissance that the game requires to keep it riding high in the public consciousness, and to make it to the release of the Movie next year, because that's at least one reason why we've been sent back into past to begin with. All we can do now is sit back and wait for a Beta.

This real world linear progression is a right pain too... ^^

Friday, January 03, 2014

Alternative Chat :: Episode Eleven

Right then, we're back, but in a deliberately truncated form, but don't panic. There's a reason for all this, as you will discover as you listen to Episode Eleven of Alternative Chat.

This week, I will be mostly chatting about:

  • What's going to change in this Podcast.
  • The launch of my new project, Azeroth in Five.
  • 2014 and the YEAR OF FAFF.
  • The Accidental Goldmaker.
  • The Burning Question.
  • How you can help me make things better.
  • How this took me all evening to record :D.

I'm looking for people to act as a Focus Group for the next episode and to give me feedback on what I'm doing. If you'd like to be part of the experience, please send an e-mail to:

alternativegodmother (all one word) AT gmail DOT com



There will be some notes, but not right now.


Alternative Chat will be back with a full 15 minute episode next week, on January 10th.

My new Podcast, Azeroth in Five, debuts next Wednesday January 8th.

How Much is That Doggy In the Window?

Polls. Is there anything they can't do?

Okay then, we'll go there.

The poll above ran as yesterday's Breakfast Topic on WoW Insider and... well, I think the poll's asking a bit too much, and by that I mean in terms of cash. $20 is ridiculously expensive, when you set it alongside what is currently available in terms of Account Services. If Blizzard were seriously considering this I think they'd be far better served going for a scaled plan. I'd say your first 90 should cost no more than $10, and maybe after that you're given a discount for each additional 90 you boost... and now I can see people looking at me incredulously. You mean I actually approve of this? What happened to the 'if this happens, the World ends' attitude?

There comes a point where the inevitable needs to be accepted.

Another member of the WoW Insider staff floated this idea a couple of months ago, and when I read his article then a little voice inside my head speculated whether it was an exercise in wish fulfilment or simply a reinforcement of an inevitable truth. Seeing the news story surface this week, it appears this 'customer survey' could just be coincidence, but is more likely that same inevitability. Eventually it was all going to boil down to this question: many people can't be bothered with the effort of levelling. Simple fact. Many people have the disposable income to buy what they want and play, and if Blizzard provide a means to satisfy that, they make money. Simple as. This is the future, and however much people might not like it, the fact remains Blizzard needs to make money. If they can extract it from those people willing to provide it to return to the game, then why not?

The key to this, of course, isn't the first 90 that the returning player receives. They're already paying their box price to get that as part of the deal, assuming they're updating from Pandaria when they left. To update to the current at present is only £11 in the UK, I know because I did this for a Recruit a Friend mount. After that purchase, people will want more 90's because of the convenience of the first one, and that's where the money will matter. Blizzard would be foolish not to capitalise on the first character, and if they set the price at something sensible for each subsequent upgrade there's undoubtedly money to be had. Update a full server account's worth of slots once you have the chance? $10 each, give a discount if you do more than five. Seriously, people will go for this.

Oh, and for the record, I voted that the option shouldn't exist.


There's a problem when you open the box, you can't shut it, the stuff is out there and you have to deal with it, and that's what happened with the introduction of the XP potions on the PTR last year. It's why (at least in part) the In Game Store exists as it does: there needs to be a reliable and dependable income stream for the company to plan its long-term future upon. This is a clearly a sensible and rational progression from the initial question of how you get old players back into the game, as well as enticing new players with disposable income towards adopting your product. It can be, quite rationally, met with disappointment and resignation by sectors of the existing player base, but it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone any more. This is how gaming works: an average 'adventure' title on a console can be played out in a couple of days. Attention spans demand instant fixes to issues and not anything that involves wasting that most valuable of resources: time.  In the end, this is a great solution to the issue of how Blizzard makes money, and keeps the game alive. If the only realistic objections boil down to moral indignation, then that can easily be covered. Just make sure everyone can play the game the way they want, and on their terms, and there really shouldn't be a problem.

In Warlords of Draenor, we're implementing a completely new Group Finder, which will allow players to find or create cross-realm groups for pretty much anything, including raids. We think that sort of environment -- finding an organized group, with a leader, and strategy, and possibly even using voice chat -- will be much more appealing and enjoyable for the player who craves an endgame raiding experience but can't find a team that fits their schedule. Plus, having an easy-to-use in-game Group Finder will, we believe, make finding such a group just as easy as queueing for Raid Finder (or easier, if you often find yourself in Raid Finder groups you'd rather not be a part of). 
That, in turn, will allow us to take another look at Raid Finder and how exactly it should be tuned. I don't have any specifics to share (we simply aren't at that point in development yet), but our hope is that we'll be able to better provide for both the "busy raider" and "sightseer" styles of gameplay as a result.

Blizzard are putting a lot of time and effort into giving the existing playerbase the choices they want and crave. There should be no excuse you can't find a group come Warlords, if you're prepared to put in the time and effort... so even your freshly minted 90's will need to do the legwork at some point. Really, if they are good enough, it doesn't matter where the character came from... does it? There's a reason why these surveys get sent out to people, real or not. All companies, regardless of their size or operation rely on feedback to continue the success they create. When a contentious subject comes along, the perfect way to test the waters is with questions and surveys, the 'what if' that bloggers often speculate on which can often become fact.

The fact remains that Warcraft has allowed you to 'buy' characters in one form or another via the Scroll of Resurrection and Recruit a Friend scheme for a while. The only difference with these schemes and actually standing at the door and asking for your money is the illusion of effort that was previously involved. There are already going to be people judging others when they buy their 90's out of the box, you don't need to be amongst them. This is the future, and to succeed in your endeavours the customer needs what they want.

If that's to purchase a 90 off the shelf, then let them have it.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Even Better Than the Real Thing

Feel free to steal away :D

Many things will be changing around these parts in 2014, and the game is likely to be just one of them.

This year we will be taking the notion of faffing to an entirely new level. For those of you not familiar with said concept, faffing is defined as follows:

Thank you,!

What this basically means is playing Warcraft... well, not quite as seriously as perhaps you might when you're gunning for that Server First or that top Challenge Mode time. Often, faffing turns into something quite productive (last night's helping out a mate in Ulduar 25, for instance.) It began as a 'lets give her a hand to get some achieves she doesn't have' and ended up... well, it took on a bit of a life of it's own.

Total for the night = 180 points. Not bad ^^

I like to call this sort of activity 'comfort gaming': doing what you want to do, in your timeframe, rather than being bound by what has become an increasingly restrictive set of 'demands': in fact, I suspect this kind of activity is EXACTLY what Blizzard will be trying to aim for when we finally see Warlords: a move away from a strict 'plan' when you play. I'll anticipate less 'you must do this to then do that' in our new expansion and more of a free-form approach: picking and choosing what you want to do without a penalty. In effect, the Year of Faff means approaching gaming where you decide on a character by character basis what is the priority, as opposed to the game instructing you what you need to do in order to make progress. It's also a chance for you to take a moment and assess your situation, to still play without the need to feel there always has to be a plan. Part of me knows as a GM there would be a market for organising planned runs of old content, but by doing just that these things lose a large part of their enjoyment, and (like it or not) undue pressure is introduced because people expect a certain result. By introducing structure, expectations change.

This is absolutely vital to understanding why I've faffed for as long as I have, and that you can achieve great things if you're prepared not to do everything immediately.

Only one more left now. Oh yes.

The key, in the end, is understanding the limitations of your ability. I can't make the RNG roll over and gift me the Tol'Vir Archaeology Mount, so I have a choice. I can keep trying and hope, or I can move on. The same is true for any aspect of any game, in effect: yes, you can cheat and buy your way in at the front door [*]. If that's what makes you happy then by all means go ahead and do just that, if that's how you obtain your satisfaction. Some of us, however, don't want an easy way in, and for us the process of time and effort is, in effect, its own reward. That's what makes everyone different. I'd expect Blizzard to be exploring as many inroads as it possibly can with Warlords, because that's what gaming companies do. For me, I'll get there eventually, I always have. Not being first is something I'm getting quite comfortable living with to boot.

So this year you'll be hearing a  lot more about #YEAROFFAFF both here and on Twitter. Don't worry about it for now though, you enjoy the last few days off if you still have them. There's plenty of time to sort all this out, eventually.

There's no rush, after all.


[*] Yes, I've read the MMO Article. Yes, it will happen, because that's how Blizzard make money from the people who want stuff now and are rich enough to pay for it prepared to stump up the cash. For those of us who have other priorities, not so much.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

TWIWBM :: The Year of the Cat

Start the way you mean to go on, Faff-Fans!

It is time to get on with some SRS BNS: 2014 has arrived, and I hope that, like me, you're about to pick up the New Year in both hands and give it a damn good shake to see how much spare change is hidden inside it. We've had our break, we've eaten far too many mince pies, and now it is the moment to GET DOWN TO WORK. You're going to see the green banner around a lot in the next couple of weeks, on Twitter and around these parts (I'll be providing you with your own for your Website too if you want to be a part of the Faffing Experience.) For now, it is the moment for some harsh Home Truths, and the knowledge YOU ARE NOT PREPARED for what is coming. That's why it's high time we all got ready.

The Year of the Dual Box.

I don't know about you, but my Alt Family are a pretty shoddy bunch right now. Hardly any are max level, even fewer are maximising their potential as gold makers in the downtime before Warlords arrives, which could be as little as FIVE MONTHS AWAY. If you wanted any indicator that Stuff is about to Get Real, I'd like to direct you to the following tweet from a well known Blizzard Community Manager:

Shouldn't you be enjoying yourself?

If a Blizzard CM has the foresight to post this at a time when he (and his employers) KNOW loads of players will be on Social Media to see it, that says to me that people are thinking about the game just as much as I am. This means it is the moment to start getting everyone maxxed as soon as possible, to get farms ploughed and planted, to start clearing the useless stacks from the Vanity Banks to replace them with Things To Make Money With. The biggest single problem, of course, comes with not (as yet) knowing what changes we will get to game mechanics. At the back of my mind I'm thinking there may be a MASSIVE Professions reset, and if that is the case then I'm best served at this point in time in getting all those Alts to 90 as soon as I can. Therefore, this week is all about Dual Boxing Alts.

Olivia Grace has provided a most excellent guide for those of you wanting to do stuff properly. For me however, multi-boxing to me means I will be dragging an alt behind me though low level dungeons until they ding and we can move to a higher level one. Doing this yesterday granted me the Lock to 87 and the Shammy to 86, and both are now luxuriating in the Inn at the Vale gaining rested bonus and generally looking likely get closer to 90 in the next week. They'll have their UI's sorted in the meantime and some work done on getting their particular professions streamlined (NEW FAFFFORM INC) and once these two are sorted and their Farms maxxed to 16 slots, it'll be onto the next two alts, and so on. This means the Rogue who's still only got 8 plots organised will be doing her Tillers Dailies once I'm done here. Really, there is no longer any excuse.

If all chests could be this big, all my problems are solved...

If my Christmas Wish comes true and we get a Beta soon, all this planning might yet have to be reconsidered, but for now it seems like the best of all possible worlds. So, if you will excuse me I'll be off to start organising the Vanity Banklats in anticipation of a mass influx of raw materials... :D

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sunset Now

And so it begins...

When we sit down in a year's time and look at what 2014 has brought us, what will we say?

It may seem a bit pre-emptive, looking a full year ahead when 2014's not even here (lalalalalala Oceania Readers, can't hear you) but I can't help thinking that we'll be celebrating the Year When Everything Changed, at least if Blizzard do it right. 2013 was the year when lots of really well known names and faces left Azeroth for good, and many people as a result maintained it would never recover. It was the year many people found it easier to fight with each other rather than pulling together to a common cause. It ended up being typified by words like 'toxic' and the notion of community evolving to mean different things to increasing numbers of people...

I reckon everyone could really use a change of direction. It is time for new people to step up to the plate and hit the balls right out of the park.

Fortunately, Celestalon appears to have done just that.

That's a no-nonsense tweet, right there. We wanted change, well we're getting it, and with a substantive hit to anyone currently making a living as a Jewelcrafter to boot. This Tweet not only tells it like it is, but I sense is a potent indicator of what we can expect in the weeks that follow: everyone's going to be affected by this, change is coming, is inevitable and is likely going to be HUGE. What it means for the average player of course won't immediately be apparent until Blizzard can get as many people as possible playing the game and that means a Beta Client, and (I have to hope) that it'll be sooner in January rather than later. Without Mr Street in the mix, many will still (mistakenly) believe the game is without a direction, that all those assertions he's made that Blizzard play a team game are just to make feel better that nothing will change as a result. These guys not only go to the Bathroom with a plan, but they have several contingencies and a choice of emergency exits should they require them.

2014 will be the year that either made or broke the game.

Let's hope not, shall we?

That's the great thing about the Future, nobody has a clue... except, of course, if you know your Future is a certain past you wrote a decade ago. The trick then is to mesh that seamlessly into a system that people don't need a maths degree and six websites in order to maximise, that means that every Guide everyone ever wrote is likely to become redundant as a result. This is the time not only for change, but for people to take this data and make sense of it, to transmit it differently, via a new tranche of Social Media outlets. 2014 is where everyone has a chance to stand up and make a name for themselves as Warcraft becomes yet another new incarnation of itself, and Blizzard hopes that with titles like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm keeping players reminded of how great a franchise all this is wrapped up in, people will be enticed back to the game. If they pull it off, the gaming industry won't have seen anything quite like it.

All we have to do now is wait.

Then we have to ask how long for a Beta, and I find myself thinking that if Blizzard are going to make good on their promises, it will indeed be Soon (TM) Tweets like the above one say to me this stuff's in place and ready to roll. The only way we find out for certain is when the dust settles and Blizzard get back to work.

Frankly, the Future cannot become the Present soon enough.

Monday, December 30, 2013

To Build a Home :: My Perogative

And now... here's the weather...

I'm keeping everything crossed this is the last full week before a Beta client appears.

Of course, I have no idea how all of this will work: I have no hotline to Blizzard Devs, I'm not in on the Mailing List... I can simply hit and hope. Needless to say, I said last week I felt I'd exhausted the possibilities for a weekly feature, and if I'm honest, I have. However, there is one more point that I haven't made and I really should, and it is all tied up in yesterday's post where we realise that the past still has a relevance to the present. It is understanding how everything gets tied up with everything else, and that some things will only ever have a finite existence in the gaming 'timeline': like the Tillers, whose day in the sun is soon to pass... or perhaps not.

This is about the Gold Makers.

That's a Question :D

I've been happily bemoaning the loss of the Tillers Farms, that no-one will play that 'mini-game' once Warlords rolls around... but that's not how it will work, not at all. There's still money to be made with farms, if people have the time and the alts to exploit it, and many gold-makers do just that. After all, unless you're multi-boxing 60 accounts, there's only one character to level to 100 at a time, so what are the rest of your family going to do whilst that happens? Well, if they're smart they'll be exploiting their farm setup whilst the 100's get ground out, and left at the Tiller's Farm to gain rested whilst that happens, and at the same time making... well, I have my theories as to how your farm can be profitable well into Warlords and beyond, and that's with content that Blizzard won't go back and remake. What gold-making possibilities might there be for our Garrison...?

You know, I'd not be surprised if there's none at all. I really hope that's the case to boot.

The thing about the Garrison, you see, is that it allows you to play offline, and that could potentially mean significant paydays for people without the need to lift a finger... and as a result, I feel that Blizzard will be doing their best to minimise the gold-making potential. I sense that the powers that be don't have a problem with those who want to play the gold game as a priority, as long as Blizzard can make their money from them effectively. Allowing people therefore to make lots of cash offline isn't going to be the best idea in the world as a result. You want your players active and having to work for the rewards, not sitting back and watching it pour in without the need to be online... although you could argue that happens anyway with Auction House sales. However, I hope the point is sufficiently well-made. This shouldn't be about the money.

We've already discussed the longevity of Garrisons, and I'd like to think that if they are as successful as Battle Pets have been that will mean we'll see them for longer than a year and a half. If that is the case, then there will already be moneymakers looking at the possibilities with critical eyes. Personally, I'd like this to be one place where you CAN'T make a fortune, and that it will be simply an exercise in management, that the only benefit will be to characters and not your bank balance. That might upset some gold makers but I already think they have the lion's share of the options available simply by logging on. I'd like to see something that's a genuine challenge, that doesn't mean you profit in anything other than satisfaction... oh and possibly the occasional BOA undisenchantable Epic for your Account.

Everybody cross everything that by this time next week we have some progress on the Beta :D

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Up the Hill Backwards

The End of the World is... oh, never mind...

We're in that sticky bit between Christmas and New Year, when increasing numbers of people begin to grasp the unavoidable truth that, like it or not, we've run out of content.

'Now hang on,' I hear some of you say 'but only YESTERDAY you were telling us how Old Stuff (TM) is content and that we can do that if we get bored!' Why yes, yes you can, but the problem there is that you've got to WANT to do it to begin with, and that's a bigger issue... there's knowing what you can do but being able to reconcile that with playtime. The biggest single issue with a game that is no longer 'current' is the desire for the people who have made it to go back and change things, especially when said people have gone on record as stating all their effort is being directed in another area (NEW EXPANSION PLEASE DON'T STOP.) That means you make your decisions based on some very clear understandings, and when you do, you choose to take on board the consequences... except a lot has changed in this game in a year, perhaps more than many people recall, because of the sheer speed stuff was implemented.

Here is a perfect example of how Stuff Changed (TM)

Back in 5.0, grinding for the Royal Satchel recipe was horrendous. There were one set of quests a day and that was it. Yup, just a trip to one of three random spots and you had no other choice, and frankly we've all decided just how stupid this was in hindsight, including (as it usefully transpired) the Devs. It was, however, MOST EXCELLENT CONTENT GATING. If you want to hold people up when you're beginning a game, there is nothing more robust that sticking the item people want behind a daily timer, which in essence is what this still remains. However, as Anne quite rightly points out, a year down the line this now sucks, which is why the quests are no longer the only way to pick up the rep:

The speed at which people gathered around Anne's Tweet yesterday and provided this advice is also testament to what is undoubtedly most useful at this stage in the game, especially if you're coming to things late: logistical understanding. It is no longer enough to simply know that to get X in the past you needed Y: so many new wrinkles and additions have appeared in Pandaria in reference to how one gains rep and how one can obtain it faster, it can be difficult to keep on top of all the possibilities. Having friends who also play therefore is an absolute lifesaver, saving you hours of wasted effort by the simple expedient of a larger knowledge base. After all all, all the Guides in the world are one thing, but if you don't know things have changed, you'll be none the wiser.

No, we don't mean THAT kind of logistics, UPS ^^

It's also a great deal about knowing how the game works: take Mr Alt as a perfect example of this. Only ten minutes ago he asks me why he can't catch the Piranha he needs for the Anger's Fishing daily he's on:  I ask him if he's in the right place for the quest, if he's fishing in pools or open water... and then I discover he's simply using his twine and thread. These quests are dependant on a certain skill to catch the fish quicker, so as soon as he makes the effort to equip his proper rod and hat, the fish magically appear. There is a depth of knowledge that spans far more than simply Pandaria, that extends back to Vanilla, but that is also tempered with the understanding that not everything works the same way, that certain places are their own quirks and exceptions... and suddenly having been here a while give you an advantage that really can give you the edge in certain circumstances. Yes, you can read a Guide, but there really is no substitute for having learnt your trade in the wild. Having people like @wowcynwise on your Twitter feed is arguably better than a Guide: after all, there is no substitute for human knowledge. If you're not using Twitter as a game companion, you really ought to, you know.

To all of you who spend hours on your farms, we salute you. We need more people prepared to break the game down to is nuts and bolts, to provide the vital nuggets of information that often get lost when you only have a couple of hours a week to play. Information is power, especially at this stage in the game, and being able to do stuff quickly and easily makes everyone's lives better and ultimately keeps everyone happy. It's not the end of the world if you can't do something instantly: coming in late does give you an edge, too. The chances are someone's already done the work for you... all you need to do is ask.