Saturday, January 11, 2014

Alternative Chat :: Episode 12

A day late, but there's a reason provided. Trust me, it was worth the wait, if only for our new and AWESOME Theme tune. Welcome to 2014 and an entirely new year of Alternative Chat!

This week, I will be mostly chatting about:
  • My new podcast, Azeroth in 5.
  • A difficult week for my brane.
  • Enjoy yourself, that's what the game's all about.
  • When will we be getting a Beta Client for Warlords.
  • Pronouncing Blizzard Employees names correctly, Take One.
  • Next week is Accidental Goldmaker Week

If you have any comments or thoughts on this week's Podcast, or you'd like to abuse me for not having a clue as to what the Hell I'm talking about, please send your mail to:

alternativegodmother (all one word) AT gmail DOT com



Here, have a Faff Banner :D

We'll be back next Friday 18th with the next episode of Alternative Chat. If you can't wait until then, the next episode of Azeroth in 5 will be available on the 15th.

Communications Breakdown

Nice jumper, Albert :D

This week's been a bit hard going on the communication front.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday practising being concise for the newscast and a lot of the rest of the week struggling to make myself understood by... well, far more people than usual. In fact, the last seven days has given me considerable pause for thought on how we make ourselves clear to the World, and how we react when people either don't, or indeed won't try and make sense of your rambling, because undoubtedly that is an issue when you're online. Being wilfully or deliberately obstreperous is considerably easier when the person you're speaking to can't see your reaction and vice versa, and undoubtedly there are those people out there who will gain a measure of enjoyment by doing just that. I believe this is referred to as 'trolling.' Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of those who take enjoyment from my inability to occasionally form coherent sentences.

It does however make an important point about how communicating in-game is possibly THE biggest roadblock to progress behind actually being able to play. Albert, as always, makes a great deal of sense.
What do you mean, not that kind of Vent chat?

Once upon a time, I used to lead all our Guild Raids just using text chat. It was hard, complex and ultimately horrible. I have one particular TeamSpeak nightmare story that still makes me feel sick when I recall it, and so no, you don't get it today, but the fact remains that if you want to get a boss fight done well, and you want the best chance of explaining it to as many people as possible, you do need to grasp it for yourself. In fact, greater understanding leads to better communication generally, until emotion gets in the way, and then things can go South with surprising speed. A lot of THAT will be wrapped up in what you as a person are expecting from the discussion, and how you feel at any one point. All that inherent annoyance or frustration that your character's not got the item you want yet or your class has been stripped of utility or simply that the game you used to love has now become something you hate and don't want to play? All that's ready to affect the way you communicate with your Raid Leader, the Guild and ultimately the community. Sometimes that can be unpleasant to be on the receiving end of, and as a GM that's something I've had a huge amount of uncomfortable first-hand experience with.

If you so desire, it is quite easy to play most of the game and never speak to anyone at all.

We have a rule in-Guild: we ask people to say Hello when they arrive and Goodbye when they leave to establish that common courtesy matters to us. I will admit that this has slipped a few times for me, a fact for which I perennially apologise, because I tend to get so wrapped up in what I'm doing on certain days that I forget there are people to talk to. Then there are those days when I actually don't feel like talking to anyone either, which is a different problem all of it's own, and quite hard when you're the GM. Fortunately the people I play with are a decent and accommodating bunch in that regard and so I can potter about without worrying about being overtly verbose. I can also ask other people to organise stuff when I'm not up to it, if I can remember to tell people I'm feeling that way to begin with. Half the problem is asking for help to begin with, and if you've played most games as a single player, coming into a complex community with many rules can be quite the eye opener. I think it can be easy to forget, especially for younger players, that talking in game isn't simply a case of emulating their favourite You Tube video. You'll not get marks for buzz phrases or as much swearing as possible in your opening sentence. Effective communication requires a measure of actual finesse and effort.

There's good and there's GOOOOOOOOD....

Some days, try as you might, you just can't communicate well with anyone. Often the fault can be found at your own door, and pretending it's not your problem isn't actually the smartest of ideas, especially if you keep having the same issues time and again. A smart person leans their failings and will (ideally) work on them, and as I KNOW I have my difficulties some days with the medium of text I've sat down yesterday and looked at what happened in the week and realise that stress is probably my issue. In situations like that I'd be wise in future just not to start certain conversations at all until I could be sure I'm making myself understood effectively: that way there can be no confusion, and by definition no hurt. The fact remains however I know when I'm being manipulated, and I'm never best pleased by anyone who thinks that pulling my chain is a source of entertainment. If you want to understand me well, look to my work as a guide, it's pretty much all here. If you want to communicate, you need to meet halfway, and that's true of pretty much anyone you meet in game. Respect, decency and understanding should come as standard, and if they don't, don't be surprised if people don't hang around for long.

If you want to effectively learn to play, understanding your character's abilities is only one part of the equation.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Pack Up

The important thing is none of the items are being removed. If an item doesn't make it into the Toybox tab, the item will remain as it always has.

The net effect will still be more inventory space for you.

In possibly the most comprehensive response to a topic that I've seen by a blue for some time, Rygarious yesterday set out the stall on what we can expect to see being removed from our bags and being transferred into the new 'Toybox' Feature that will launch in Warlords. What's become more apparent from all of this is what this feature is capable of... and what it can't do. There are likely to be a great many items that by their very design won't fit into the system being proposed... and if you take the time to read the entire thread, we're talking about a remarkable back catalogue of completely useless items that they need to consider. Yes I typed that deliberately: most of the stuff we're talking about really is cosmetic only. I need only to look at my own bags to know how much of their contents is there to faff around with during Raid Night...

Much crap. Many useless. Very fun.

My biggest personal concern for this was the old guy there with the hat: Archmage Vargoth's been the Guild Mascot since he appeared in TBC and there were some real concerns he might vanish, but he's there in the post so I know the Blizz guys have his best interests at heart. Burgy Blackheart's Handsome Hat also gets a namecheck (got that by accident at the start of Cata :D) as does the Orb of Deception (which it'll be great to be able not to have to equip to actually use.) There is also the suggestion that many of these items might end up as BoA as well, which would be fabulous news for the transformation items allowing you to FAFF OVER MANY ACCOUNTS SIMULTANEOUSLY. There's still some grey areas: will my C'Thun Tentacle find its way into the Toybox as it is an item of armour with a comedy on-use effect? What about the items I deleted because there simply wasn't any bag-space left? Will I be able to get them back at all?

Might be hope for your quest items... ^^

As Rygarious says in his post, it is early days for this feature, and there's a fairly sizeable back-catalogue of items the Devs will have to file through in the weeks to come: a lot will depend on what on-use abilities an item has, or if simply activates whilst being in your bags (as is the case with the Haunted Memento.) Needless to say, at a time where smart people would be clearing out bag-space to anticipate an Expansion arrival, it looks like it might be a smart idea to preserve ANYTHING that you want as a vanity item and survive with reduced space until Warlords arrives. There's also a quite significant financial implication woven into this for goldmakers if lots of items end up as BOA (I'm thinking of the Orb of Deception as a biggie) and if the Haunted Memento goes the same way... well, time to start watching the news from Blizzard as it develops.

Fortunately for you, we have a Podcast for that :D

Thursday, January 09, 2014

That Man

Ah, we were so forward thinking in Victorian times ^^

A while ago, I had a discussion on Twitter with @FeyMercurial about how certain people seem to be really good at criticising other people in LFR. In fact, one could almost be forgiven for thinking that certain people in LFR turn up just to chip in on any number of subjects. These can include, in no particular order:

  • Abusing the Raid generally for being below par in dps, healing or tanking abilities
  • Abusing individuals for the above, normally when said individuals are even less effective
  • Having done the Raid in Heroic mode, abusing people for not understanding mechanics
  • Having done the Raid in heroic mode on an alt, abusing everyone who doesn't know what the abuser's main can do in their sleep
  • Anyone looking like they're making no effort
  • Anyone looking like they're making too much effort
  • Any combination of the above
  • People being afk and therefore failing

I could go on actually, I've heard some fabulous abuse in my time, and if all else fails WTF NOOBS MOST FAIL LFR EU is always a good shout if you're just looking for a great way to instantly annoy at least a fifth of your compatriots. If we employ Playground Psychology Rules to this behaviour (Rule 12: They who smelt it dealt it) then these shouty people are doing this to cover the fact they are rubbish, and to hopefully divert attention away from themselves to avoid being found out. However, Fey made a very good point in our conversation: if you have the time to stop what you're doing and type into Raid Chat that people are being rubbish, you must by definition have stopped actually playing your class to the best of your ability. Therefore, you are bound to fail. It's not hard to extrapolate from this that if you don't say anything in LFR, you're far less likely to be criticised, because you're already doing the best you can by focussing on the matter in hand.

This is probably true, but only to a point. If your gear far outreaches those people around you at current levels, and this is most definitely the case in certain instances I have frequented, you can pretty much do what you want in certain situations and still out dps everyone else... but if these people are truly heroically geared, what do they gain from telling the rest of their fellow fighters how inadequate they are? Is it really the notion that this being the Internet no-one's ever going to pop around to their house and ask them to sit down and explain their behaviour, thus allowing them to act without consequence? Is this the equivalent of sticking your Yeti into a questgiver and attempting to prevent anyone else from interacting with it? Why even bother? These are the questions we consider when we look at how to deal with bad player behaviour, and which could all be sorted quite simply were we all still restricted to a far smaller player base as we were back in Vanilla. Yes, the days when your reputation actually mattered and if you pissed off enough people on your server, nobody would play with you any more.

Going back to that situation is something I often think should be an option.

Layer Cake. Guilty Pleasure #7

It's not about tuning these people out any more, either. Pretending it's someone else's problem only works to a point. We've discussed these issues at length on the Blog, and I know people like @Liores on her blog, Herding Cats will tell you that if Guilds worked the way they should, these issues could be eliminated by decent mentoring and education, and she's spot on. The problem becomes that there are a vast number of people who play this game and who will never ascribe to the notion that rules apply to them. In fact, the above GIF is relevant in two ways, because it isn't simply the mouthy guy who won't shut up that's the problem. You can ignore stuff, but there comes a point where you might actually miss something not simply helpful, but important. Many people simply use LFR to bolster their Valor score... until this point in an Expansion, where many switch to alts in an attempt to gear to a decent standard to level when the time comes. Maybe some believe if you're on an alt you can mouth off without consequence, but there's still a Guild name above your head. If more people took the time to write down those names and report the persistent miscreants, stuff might actually change, but many more just can't see the point.

And that, I suspect, is actually the bigger issue at play. Back when it was your backyard, your server only, you did the legwork because if you didn't you were excluded. Now all you do is drop your group and queue for the next one. Convenience has superseded responsibility, and people can afford to be lazy because there are no consequences, just another queue. That's why I doubt we'll see the end of LFR any time soon and why a part of me would be really happy to have it removed tomorrow for just that reason. If the people who complain they need it to play because they have no Guilds or odd times that they play, could this not be catered for with Guilds that do just that, but that exist cross-server?. The problem now that by removing the convenience Blizzard have no method to allow pretty much consequence free experience of raid content, and that is something they're hoping more people pick up, and not less... because the responsibility then goes to the individual to learn how to play so they can do other versions.

This is the Azeroth where no-one is left out, where everyone can experience all the content with no penalty, wherever they play. I think therefore it is high time Guilds reflected this, and were able to cater not simply for the people on one server, but them all. I think Blizzard need to go back to the Guild ethos sooner rather than later... and I think it is time for the Cross Realm Guild to accommodate this. There'll be more on this tomorrow, but for now I'm off to consider where the notion of responsibility should begin and end... because something does need to give somewhere.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Money's Too Tight To Mention

After my appearance on the podcast he co-presents with Nev from Auction House Addict. Marcus Ty was good enough to present me with some more permanent tips for gold making. Marcus has been playing World of Warcraft for nearly ten years and has written numerous articles and guides on the art and craft of making Warcraft gold. You can contact him on Twitter @MarcusTy and via his blog: WoW Gold Journal.

Without further ado, I'll let Marcus take the reins. The words are his, I'll be providing the pictures.


What advice could you possibly give to a ten year Warcraft veteran on the making of gold in-game?

This was the challenge that I faced when I invited the Godmother of the blog Alt:ernative Chat to the Journal of Marcus Ty Podcast to talk about her new project 'The Accidental Goldmaker'. It turns out that the answer was both surprising to those of us gold makers and instructive to established players who may not have considered some of the gold making hints and tips that were dished out on the show. It's not every day that you get the chance to interview a ten year Warcraft veteran like the Godmother and ask about her gold making. So, I jumped at the chance when she tweeted that she was up for a chat about her new project called 'The Accidental Goldmaker'. Without too much delay my co-host, Nev of the blog Auction House Addict, and I invited Godmother into the Pig & Whistle recording studio and quizzed her about her Warcraft experience over the years and her new project.

Now, like many other players in the game, Godmother is not what Nev and I would call a gold maker; that is, she doesn't systematically set out to make gold with the aim of achieving some in-game financial goal. However, over her years of questing, grinding, leveling and vendoring her spoils she has, nevertheless, accumulated wealth and, in the Godmother's case, amassed a goodly fortune of 500,000g. She is, like many other players in the game, a casual or incidental gold maker. Let me explain. Most players don't set out to just play the Auction House - they generally want to hang out with their mates and enjoy the game in it's entirety. Like Godmother they have absorbed a few Auction House skills but it's never been an integral part of their game. After a night of Raiding or questing they sling their spoils up on the Auction House and make a little gold. Godmother even admitted that she used to Bark her wares which is something that most gold makers don't do.

The bankalt who does all the Godmother's dirty work :D

So what's the problem? Well, there is no problem really. There is nothing in the game that says you have to make a million gold, or you have somehow failed in your virtual life if you have less gold than your guild mates. Most players want enough gold to repair or buy the gear they need for their style of game-play or perhaps add to their stable of epic mounts. I believe Godmother has close to two hundred! The problem that Godmother seemed to be having was that she wasn't making gold as efficiently as she would like. She was indeed a casual maker of gold. So what gold making advice can we give someone like the Godmother? Unlike new players to the game, Godmother has several enormous advantages when it comes to making gold in Azeroth:

  • Experience - Godmother is familiar with many of the traditional markets.
  • Professions - Godmother has many alts with maxed-out professions.
  • Capital - Godmother has a large stash of gold (capital) to work with.
However, she is not making the most of her assets. To improve her gold making efficiency, Godmother needs to be a little more systematic in her approach to the Auction House and a little more focused on the way she utilizes her markets. When it comes to the Auction House, Godmother surprised us. Until very recently, she hadn't been using any Auction House addon. Fortunately Nev sorted her out. Without an addon, it can be very time consuming to collate the necessary market information needed to traded effectively. It's also laborious to list items on the Auction House and as we know Time's Money Friend. It also became clear when talking to Godmother that she wasn't really using any of her professions in a traditional gold making sense. So right there is a missed opportunity. Given the full array of maxed-out professions that her alts possess she could even exploit what we gold makers call the 'shuffle' - moving material between profession alts to make a profit. But that might be a tip too far.

Large Piles of Skinnable mobs are good money.

For now, my advice would be to focus on one profession that she likes the most and work with related markets. In Godmothers case this turned out to be Leatherworking. Now like many players not used to working the Auction House, Godmother's first response was that, given her vast experience of skinning locations, she would farm leather and slap it up on the Auction House. Job done. Well, not quite. As Nev and I pointed out to her, this is fine for players in their early levels with little gold capital, but for someone with Godmother's experience it's a waste of her time and not the most efficient way to make gold. Better to make use of her maxed-out Leatherworker and craft gear from the hard-to-find patterns she has sourced over the years of game-play. She has enough gold capital to easily buy cheap mats from the Auction House using shopping lists with her Auction House Addon.

Another idea that I put to Godmother was that, given her love of the leather market, she should try making gold by flipping leather transmog gear. I pointer her to my article Making Gold With Transmogrification. It's important that Godmother enjoy her crafting and gold making and not turn it into another job. I suggested spending no more than 15-20mins a playing session on her Auction House listings.   So there you have it. I guess there are some gold making hints that you can give to a ten year Warcraft veteran after all.

In summary :

  • Efficiently use the Auction House by installing common Auction House Addons.
  • Maximize the use of professions by crafting desirable gear.
  • Utilize existing gold capital by sourcing cheap mats from the Auction House.
  • Utilize her leather experience of the leather market to exploit the transmog market.
  • Be systematic in the use of Auction House making it part of every game-play.

TWIWBM :: Run To The Hills

HOW much work is five minutes of audio???

So, I have an apology to make. I'm late with my Wednesday post, and it's all my own fault.

For those of you who don't know, I launched the first episode of my new project this morning, Azeroth in 5. The plan is simple: the previous week's news about Warcraft, in podcast format, in five minutes. However, actually making this takes considerably more than five minutes, especially when Blizzard change their mind about something overnight and you make a pretty significant mistake and go off-script. As a result there has been considerable flailing of arms and much panicking, plus the issues of having to run two browsers to accommodate different versions of Google simultaneously. It may be difficult to do all this on a zero budget, but it teaches you tons about logistics and how the Internet works. On that score, this morning has indeed been a huge success.

As a result of all this other net palaver, I've not had much time to dedicate to faffing in game, apart from getting a couple of alts sorted with Battle Pet Teams to level. However, the chances for alt levelling are definitely looking up, as is further material mass production using farming. This week I hope to start preparing for the January edition of The Accidental Goldmaker: on the back of this I'll have a guest post to debut later today by Marcus Ty, who was good enough to invite me onto the weekly podcast he does with my good Twitter chum @NevAHAddict. You can find my appearance from the weekend here at the Journal of Marcus Ty Podcast site. There's also an appearance on the Girls Gone WoW podcast from Sunday (warning, contains a fair deal of not suitable for kids discussion, and possibly not appropriate for some grown ups too ^^)

As you can see, been quite busy around these parts, which inevitably leaves very little time for actual game playing, but I must take this opportunity to congratulate my Guild who, on Saturday, cleared the entire second wing of Siege on Flex pretty in an evening as a series of seamless (and one shot) pulls. I'm really proud of everyone and I'm looking forward to starting in Wing 2 on Saturday evening with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Garrosh may yet be attainable before the Expansion hits... so at some point too this week there must be some making of raid consumables. I've already scraped together all the odds and ends I had for a full stack of Full On +300 Noodle carts, just need to sort out flasks...

Oh, and amongst last week's subsidiary faffs, I finally learnt all the daily Transmute Leatherworking recipes. GO ME.

Oh yeah, and cheers, Nat :D

There's a load to do, and I think just for this week we might revisit this feature on Friday morning when I finally have my life in order...

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Learning to Fly

There's a question.

Occasionally, an idea comes along that is almost inevitably brilliant, yet doomed before it ever becomes practical. I had a very lively discussion on Twitter as a result of that first Tweet above, and was able to sum up my initial thoughts (I thought) quite well in 140 characters:

Here's an answer ^^

Aggronaut and Dobablo both have given their thoughts on the same subject in the last 24 hours, and on further reading I see Syl tackled the problem all the way back in 2012 which should give some indication that this issue isn't actually new at all. In fact, I've dealt with this subject on and off over the last year: how do you ensure that your player base understands that playing your game isn't just simply a case of turning up, taking what they want and wandering off when satisfied? How can you prove they are capable of actually playing?

I remember quite vividly an incident that happened all the way back in TBC, which involved, of all people, my (only at the time recently ex) GM and Guild Founder. He'd gone into a random five man Blood Furnace with a bunch of people from the Server (way before the days of LFG) and had rolled need on everything from the last boss, been lucky enough to win both items, and then immediately logged off because of an argument in group. Suffice it to say, nothing that he'd won had actually been relevant to the Lock he'd been playing, and this left me as new to the GM job with the task of appeasing the other four people of the same Guild that he wasn't always a ninja (although he clearly was in this case) and that this did not reflect as the way the rest of the Guild worked. Back in the days when your Server was your only pool of available players this kind of stupidity mattered, and it was important as a GM to keep on top of what your players did and how those actions could reflect badly on all of your players.

That reputation should still matter, of course, but I digress.

I'm still chatting to the GM of that other Guild after all these years, so in the end it wasn't ever that bad, but the actions of my ex-Boss shocked me considerably. You see, even the most trustworthy of people have bad days, the decent folks can turn ninja without warning. No matter of gating or 'entry requirements' are ever going to protect you from that, and so asking people to provide 'evidence'' that they're capable and worthy enough to enter your group is all well and good, but it's never going to be 100% foolproof, or indeed accurate. In those cases, an iLevel's probably just as effective and consistent as a means of showing you've done a certain level of work, and is a compelling argument for reducing the amount of high level craftable gear in game. 'What's that you say?' I can hear certain people muttering in amazement: 'surely gear isn't an indicator of ability? Don't you keep banging on about how it's the person that matters, not what they wear?' Well, that is true, until you look at exactly WHERE that gear is obtainable from, and how it can be used to fool the current entry level algorithms.

Could it actually be that the best way to ensure people are able to play and to make sure individuals aren't skipping content altogether to just get to End Game is to remove ALL crafted items altogether and ensure the ONLY way to increase your iLevel is via actually playing the game?

It works. Yes it does.

When you look at it in its simplest terms, iLevel is both a blessing and a curse, but to obtain it on your first character when an Expansion begins is always a bit of a faff. Mostly that comes down to knowing where stuff drops and what levels you need to obtain to enter places, but there's no doubting the system is effective at separating the noobs from the nots. Like it or not, this arbitrary gating is effective, especially if you know where your content is pitched. If the Devs are capable of seeding Warlords with the right mix of gear only via the medium of drops and dungeon items for the trip from 90-100, they will know what is the maximum iLevel possible simply using these and existing gear... and there's a gating mechanic right there that NOBODY can avoid. Forget proving you need to be able to heal or tank in a Scenario situation, you've got ten levels to pick up the basics on a spec that may (or may not) allow you to heal/tank/dps as you see fit with the same set of gear. If you then try and get into end-game using as spec where the mechanics dictate you'll need to understand what to do and don't, this is where the iLevel breaks down but individual responsibility picks up.

It's not set in stone, but our current plan is to allow group leaders to set their own restrictions (such as ilevel) when using the Group Finder tool. We'd rather allow players to be upfront about such things than create a situation where an undergeared player is joining groups just to be immediately kicked as soon as the leader inspects them.

Edit for clarity: That also means that we're not planning on having any pre-set restrictions, though again, plans could change.

You will be able to set therefore not simply restrictions on how much work a player has done, but where they obtained their gear, and how much work they did to do so. Then your individual Raid Leader, using this new tool, can start making informed decisions about who comes and when... and why the concept of work of mouth and making friendships in game becomes increasingly vital. tapping into the Old Skool Server Reputation mentality really should undergo a bit of a renaissance. If Blizzard were to remove all crafted items from the game that affected iLevel, they could also effectively remove people's ability to cheese the system and effectively force everyone into having to level conventionally as a means to ensure not only does the player get their spec, they've played it long enough to demonstrate its been grasped. However, I can hear legions of alt-players screaming how unfair this is and how being able to but gear off the AH is a vital part of the process once you've done more than one levelling grind.

That's where the Timeless Model comes in.

Replace 'Crafting' with LOOT ISLAND.

The Timeless Isle has shown a brilliantly simplistic method of how to gate your content with the minimum of fuss, that doesn't require you to own a boatload of cash in able to max your character to the right iLevel. All you need to be is 90, and if you persist in this one place you can, quite quickly, gear just about anyone for entry to all the current content. So, once we've had a couple of patches in Warlords and Blizzard can see people are not playing mains as much as they were, we get a 'Loot Island' appear: a zone where everyone can pick up BOA gear (that point is bolded deliberately) to use as they see fit, to the current iLevel of the content at that time. So you can cheese your entry requirements on a character by character basis for that family of fresh 100's, but Blizzard control who gets into the instances and when, by effectively controlling the flow of equipment people are provided with. Plus, no helping out mates who want a quick in for upgrades. BOA means you're on your own, and the responsibility is on YOU to do the work.

The only problem with all this comes with PvP gear, and I think it's time that none of that was craftable at all. Remove the lot, and make it so the ONLY way you can improve your character's iLevel and therefore ability to take part in End Game is VIA ACTUAL PARTICIPATION. Yes, you're gonna die a lot in PvP at the start but if you don't remove anything pre-L90 to do this, everyone starts on the same page using the old gear. If you get to 100 and decide you want to start PvP-ing, allow people to buy those items using Valor or Justice instead. Remove all the crafting items and set a clear indicator that if you really want to be seen as being a decent player, you have to get your hands dirty. No more buying your way to entry requirements, get out there and learn how to play.

The problem with imposing any kind of 'arbitrary' restriction on players is that you can never be 100% certain it will be effective, or indeed that you'll be any better off than you would if you just picked X number of other random people to play with, as is adequately demonstrated every time you use a 'Looking For' mechanic. However, if you take it back down to the numbers, and just the numbers, it could end up as pretty damning indeed. I know it won't be a popular choice for many, especially those who felt Gear Score was a demeaning and depressing label, but the fact remains stark and simple. If you want to know people can play the game, make what they wear an indicator of what they have achieved, both how and where. It may not be pretty or seem fair, but it is a solid and consistent indicator of what they are, if Blizzard can get the distribution right.

It may not be popular, but it could work.

Monday, January 06, 2014

To Build a Home :: 23 Degrees and South

In Good News...

You know I said last week that if we didn't get any news this week this feature was in trouble? Well, thanks to Blizzard, we do in fact have something new to talk about:

Glad it's not just me, then :D

If I read this correctly, therefore, depending on WHERE you build will have consequences on WHAT you're able to do. Yeah, that makes a reasonable amount of sense. What we'll then need is a map of Draenor to consider those consequences in more detail:

2014's Top Holiday Destination...

Assuming the PvP Island and the other Island whose name escapes me aren't included in this entire shebang, that's seven *potential* zones we have to choose from when we place the Garrison. However, it is reasonable to assume that initially you won't be able to begin building in an area you've not previously explored, so that will further restrict your choices. In fact, that might reasonably tie everyone to the same starting area assuming that's the plan... but what if there's a choice there too? We know that Horde and Alliance will have capitols in separate areas... but as yet there's only been quests seen in Shadowmoon. I think that trying to work out where we begin is fairly pointless until there's more information available: what we can do however is consider the makeup of the zones themselves, and what relevance this may have not simply to how your Garrison is constructed, but as to the impact this could have for your Professions in the long term.

There was some discussion last week in my branch of Social Media as to the possibility that a Garrison could become a 'passive' gathering mechanic, where actions undertaken in the zone could directly affect your ability to produce certain items via Professions. We know that everyone starts with a Mine and (presumably) access to a Miner, but my understanding of the mechanic initially was that this provides you with stone to construct your Garrison't buildings and not to craft with. However, we are aware a range of Secondary Professions buildings exist in this model: I think it might be fair to reasonably assume that these would benefit from the local geography. Therefore, if you want specialist leathers, you'll be looking to place your home in a place like Nagrand, assuming it's still as full of skinnable wildlife as it was in TBC. Conversely, if you were looking for medicinal herbs, I'm betting that the Tanaan Jungle might be the spot to set up a Garrison with an Alchemy speciality. It's not hard to work out options on these basic principles.

There's a lot of crap out there, you know.

Part of the problem with professions as they stand is the sheer range of materials currently available that are utilised by them. If you're a hoarder like me, you'll know that even having a stack of everything is all well and good unless one of your raw materials no longer exists in game (and there's a few of those that spring to mind.) The more I think about it, the more I find myself thinking that professions are going to rely in Warlords on you having a Garrison, and it providing some key raw materials you'll need to level. There's also going to need to be some method for all those pre-made L90's that are Profession-free to level their skills... I can also see that our new home could be furnished with the means to make that happen.It will all depend on how generous Blizzard decide to be to the returning players, because they cannot be seen to favour them over the experienced crafters or I suspect there will be trouble. However the fact remains that if you're creating a new 90 out of the box, they'll be at a distinct tactical advantage if also preloaded with a skill boost, particularly if the Garrison is being tailored to assist players in their levelling progress with particular items or abilities.

I'll have to say at this point that simply reading that there's work going on is exciting... the next stage then becomes when we can get our hands on it. Blizzard are back in the office full time starting today, let's hope that this week sees some information sooner rather than later... :D

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Love the One You're With

Hunters were my first love
And they will be my last
Hunters of the future
and Hunters of the paaaaaaaast....

Change is a good thing.

I've read a couple of posts in the past few weeks about how people have altered the way they play the game by switching classes, most notably this by Mr B. Bear Butt on how Warlocks helped him get his Groove back. Ultimately how you play is determined by a shedload of factors: who you do it with, where, at what level... but the buck always stops with you. If it is no longer enjoyable, then there's really no point. I for one feel the World of Warcraft would be a lesser place without BBB in it: I'm really glad he's found a place where he can be happy, and I hope people don't look at his name and his webpage and are disappointed that he's no longer a Bear, because if you take the time to get to know him you know that John is a person, and the pixels he plays behind used to be shaped as a bear, now they're shaped as a dastardly agent of destruction. When people shift their stance like this it doesn't mean their significance in the Community has changed, or what they say suddenly has less value because the person began their 'life' as a different class to the one they inhabit now. In fact, if you want a brilliant example of how the game helps people be what they want to be, this is a fabulous example of someone who plays to their style, regardless.

I, however, realised a long time ago I'm a creature of habit. Hunters are what I do best, and regardless of the changes that have been wrought on the class over the years I have strayed only occasionally. This is what I do best, though ironically I still need to tell this to people when they don't know me. I don't sell myself as being a Hunter, which actually is a good thing in the long term... because what I love isn't necessarily the one class, its the whole game. I was hooked on the concept a long time ago, after all: I've done everything in one form or another, with the exception of Hardcore Raiding (even though that's just a  title, a misnomer and would require me to have no other commitments at all to be able to undertake.) The thing about me is that there is ALWAYS something I could be doing, and I am constantly amazed when someone in Guild or on Twitter pronounces they are bored of the game. How is this even POSSIBLE? I suppose this only goes to prove that, like it or not, this is a love affair that still hasn't lost it's sparkle for me. That's really not bad going after a decade.

Still digging it after two expansions. Still digging it :D

I was talking to someone yesterday who remarked they were amazed that I can continue to be so prolific in writing about the game, even when we find ourselves in what is by everyone's standards a fallow period. I think, when you love something as much as I know I do this entire immersive experience and the people playing it, that even the quiet times are inspirational. Take last night, for instance, when my Guild went to the Siege without me and cleared four new bosses in an evening, including an impressive one shot on the Iron Juggernaut. Clearly I was the issue holding them back, and it was fabulous to watch from another screen AND NOT BE THERE when they succeeded. Some people would find that maddening, ultimately soul-destroying, but this is my family and I celebrate their successes as my own. I don't need to be there, it's not like that, because my tiny notion of Community is just that. One person wins, we all do. It doesn't have to be about anything except people being happy. Sure, we have competition and rivalry but it's never malicious or detrimental. The game still holds massive amounts of potential: it is the people who drive us forward, and it always has been.

If the people in your community matter more than the thing that binds you, that means there's always a second chance. The class you played that disappointed you doesn't have to be the reason you leave. The grinds and pressure shouldn't become a focus for your ire if you can still sit and chat to friends, but for many people there is a long walk from the real world to the virtual one, and a distinct reticence to allow yourself to be embraced in both the same way. For many youngsters the need for those kind of relationships isn't an issue to begin with, and for others it can have dangerous consequences. Finding your balance is vital, but perhaps more important it being able to admit to yourself that just because everyone knows you as a Druid, or a Mage, or a Paladin that doesn't mean you're bound to that choice for 'life.' Being able to stick at one job is brilliant, but in the modern world flexibility is the key, being able to grasp many things and not just one. If you're sitting here reading this and wanting to change the way you play your game but are worried what other people will think when you do... just do it. Make your change. Start something new.

If it makes you happy, frankly that's the only thing that matters. Life is about enjoying yourself, and so is the game. At least here you can start again without too many consequences.

You might be surprised how happy it makes you when you do.