Saturday, February 01, 2014

Vogue :: New Beginning

A metaphor for the Campaign.

I have discussed my character mogs in passing over time, but I've never devoted a significant amount of time to them, mostly because it's such a small part of what I do... except I realised a while back that's not actually true. What my characters wear is probably more important than I was initially prepared to acknowledge. It is my way of giving life to the lives I see within each set of pixels, and nowhere is that more obvious than my Hunter. As soon as I knew the Helmet of the Shado-Pan was moggable, the die was cast. I would create a mog for P to reflect the campaign she'd undertaken, her respect of the Shado Pan and their work in Pandaria, and to show the people of that land that she was committed to protect them. By taking the distinctive signature of the Island's sworn protectors, she also hoped to assuage some of her own guilt over what had happened in the Jade Forest, and the subsequent ransacking of the land by Garrosh. She is still not sure how well her plan succeeded, but as she packs her things to return to her home in Loch Moden she cannot escape that this land has affected her more than any other campaign she has fought in. This is armour she will carefully pack away as a necessary souvenir, the reminder of a War she should never have had to fight.

It also stands as a testament to the honour and beauty of the land she has left behind.

Just the hat is current. Everything else is the past.

From a dress point of view, these trousers are possibly the most important item I ever farmed. They are no longer available in game either (as is the case with the unique boots), which gives this outfit an aura of distinction I'm quite pleased to have. I have no doubt they'll be used again at some point in the future, but I'm already farming an outfit to say goodbye to Pandaria and hello to Draenor. That one will uncover my face and let the new character model take front and centre stage. All I can hope is that I'll get similar 'specialist' mogging items from various places in Draenor to continue my love affair with dressing up pixels. I've even managed to get my 13 year old son on the slippery slope to co-ordination this week. I am such a bad parent, but it does mean a lot of old instances in my future. For now there's the little bit of work left to redress myself, about 1000 words of fiction, a commemorative picture of P in this outfit from my favourite Warcraft Fan Artist, and it is time to move on.

The beauty of a well-crafted weapon.

Full list of Transmog Items is as follows:

I always wanted the Grasp of the Fallen Emperor as the belt to accompany the gauntlets but I could never get the damn thing to drop. Maybe one day... ^^

Friday, January 31, 2014

Love What You Do :: Part One

Many things. Some no longer exist.

On Sunday I celebrate Five Years of Warcraft Blogging.

I'd tried to start a blog three years prior to that but there just hadn't been the time with two young kids to get everything in, but Wrath saw me realise that there was so much I wanted to write and a couple of hours a week when my youngest was at Nursery to FINALLY put some time aside for writing. It wasn't exactly inspiring stuff to begin with, just a lot about the characters I played and what I did on any given day, but it was a start, and an important step forward in a journey that shows no sign yet of either slowing down or becoming any less enjoyable.. This weekend my Podcast and the Blog will be looking back on the last five years, and looking forward to what is to come. Both my Podcasts will be featured as I'm interviewed in Tuesday's upcoming Realm Maintenance. I have articles coming up this week in The Azerothian and am already featured in Meta Gamer. I've never been terribly good at self-promotion either, so you will have to forgive the next couple of days, but I think five years of ANYTHING is a big deal.

I can't give you an Onyxia Whelpling for my birthday, but if you hang around on Sunday there are giveaways, and a Contest, because giving stuff back to the people who read me is becoming increasingly more important. Without you guys and the support and publicity you give me... well, I'd still be in the dark, and I like the light you bring every day, illuminating the stories I tell and the subjects I discuss. That matters and is important, and as a result you deserve some reward. But as I seem to do quite well I am digressing. I'm here to talk about what's changed since 2009. Just a look at my quest list from mid Wrath up there is enough to bring on a full-on bout of nostalgia. The Argent Tournament, the weekly Dungeon Quest, PvP Quests too (I miss the Isle.) Add to that the fact I was midway through the AQ40 Sceptre quest and faffing about for the first time solo in old Raid Instances and... this was the birth of my Faffing Days, when the stuff I'd never done of old finally became something I could experience, when collecting stopped being just a whim and became a full-time hobby. If I'm honest, not that much has changed in five years.

My first selfie, atop my then brand new bear. Nothing changes :D

Back then Dalaran was my home, the Daily Fishing and Cookery quests the first things I'd do when I logged. I farmed a lot of leather in the Fjord, as I recall, and the Tournament was a source of utter frustration. Jousting was REALLY hard for me, I just couldn't get my head around the mechanics. There were far less alts too, but the basic family were still there. Everyone got a play, but ultimately my love for P was where I began and ended. This was the point, I realise now, that she'd stopped simply being a bunch of pixels on a screen and had become a part of what I was. That year was significant for many reasons, on reflection, but I still don't regret any of the time I have spent in game. The people I have met and the experiences that have come and gone are a part of what I am and have made me the person I have now become. This is the happiest and most confident I have ever been, but most significantly this is the truest I feel I have ever been to the person I believe I am. My words tend to fail me at moments like this, which is odd because those words are what have ultimately contributed to this transformation. Sometimes, feeling is more important than saying or doing. I think this is probably one of those moments.

I should probably stop becoming overly emotional and get to the point.


There really is very little difference between then and now in terms of what this blog is all about. The only major change is that I relaxed at some point and stopped worrying so much about what I said, and more people came along to read. Despite how some other people might view social media I do my utmost to try and get to know everyone who appears on my radar, to learn what I can about them and how they play, and ultimately this makes me a better player. I'm grateful to everyone who has passed by and commented on my Blog over the years, from the regular Guildies to the new people in the US, Australia, New Zealand and all over Europe. Every comment is read and (apart from one horrible loss that wasn't actually of my doing) I've never needed to delete a comment in all that time. I reckon that means I'm doing something right . After all, without the feedback, this would be a very lonely place to play, and there isn't a day that I'm not grateful for having found such a wonderful community to be a part of.

So, that's the gushy self-promotion over. The next couple of days will have some Anniversary Gubbins pinned to it: if you're just here for the free stuff, that happens on Sunday, so feel free to loiter until then and help yourself to the Complimentary Buffet. Oh, and if you want to buy me something... keep your cash. Despite all of this, I'm still quite happy just to be over here, quietly faffing, not bothering anyone in the process.

In that regard I understand that I've not really changed at all.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fight the Power

In any case we are continuing toward a goal of a PvP on/off toggle for players on PvE realms to be added in Warlords of Draenor, which would absolutely and in all situations allow someone to refrain from becoming flagged regardless of their actions. Heals toward flagged players would fail, coalescing to PvP realms wouldn't be possible, misclicks and AoE's would never damage a flagged opponent, etc. It's actually quite a bit of work because of all the systems involved, but it's still something we think PvE players should have, and how the game should work for them.

I grew up on a PvP Realm, on Southshore/Tarran Mill runs, in the days before battlegrounds even existed. I have the 50,000 Honor Kills Achievement. I even did Arena for nearly two years when it was introduced. PvP is not a problem for me. I'm on a PvE Realm because when my husband first rolled his Paladin, he was very specific in his desire. No PvP.  He wasn't playing to die every five minutes in a levelling zone He didn't want griefing. His concern was simply to play without hindrance. Ironically, that's never truly been possible on our PvE realm, but if the above statement is to be taken at face value, that may well change with Warlords.

This is actually quite a big deal after a decade.

Does this mean therefore that I can stroll into Orgrimmar the next time a Festival rolls around on my PvE Realm and steal/extinguish/chat to whoever I need without the worry of being attacked? I really hope it doesn't, because that would negate such a basic and fundamental part of the game for me it wouldn't be funny. The Enemy become pretty much toothless with the 'always off' button in place, and fear is almost totally negated. There actually NEEDS to be a way for people to accidentally die like this once in a while, I'd argue, as it's an essential part of the learning process for every player who interacts with the opposing faction. If we are to be given a toggle it needs to be useless in Enemy Cities to simply remain the illusion of lore, and people need to learn that there are places you simply don't go, and there is no Invulnerability mode.

Because honestly, this is the World Of WARCRAFT, people. Even I get that bit.

Old picture. Still fun

I do understand the rationale behind giving people the ability to ignore certain players, which is what this is, in essence. Take the guy who was griefing my son in Hellfire Peninsula last night for an hour: he just wanted to quest, but this DK decided he was going to kill every questgiver in sight, making this impossible. For a lot of players who choose PvE as their default this is something they hope to avoid when rolling to begin with, and making this kind of interaction impossible does have a measure of merit. However, when you consider the amount of PvP content placed over the last four expansions, it becomes in some places quite difficult to simply set the slider to OFF and leave it at that. There's also the possibility of missing events that could, quite conceivably, make you a better player. YES I SAID IT. PvP can improve your ability to play or, more significantly, it can expose your inability to do the same, and this is where there's a big hole that Blizzard know they can cover, and perhaps gain subscribers in the process. The title of the thread that original quote came from?!!!

It does seem like that sometimes especially when PvE abilities get screwed because of it, and even I'm prepared to admit that maybe it is time for a bit of distance between the adventure game and the combat side.

If I have screenies of this, it used to matter :D

If you are no good at something it can be really rather difficult to take the first steps towards self-improvement. Often, as this is a GAME we're talking about, there's no desire to try anyway, you just go and play somewhere else, and this is another part of the same hole I suspect Blizzard have identified as needing filling on PvE realms. However, bringing up two kids I find myself not wanting to be the parent who tells them not to try something because they may not succeed, but to do so PRECISELY because that could happen. This is the Bruce Wayne Mantra: we fail, so we can pick ourselves up and try again. That life skill is absolutely crucial for any child making their way in the world, that failure is not to be walked away from unless you KNOW you've tried the best you can. Having a PvE toggle means, at least for me that the world around me may be far better defined, more black and white indeed, but it is a lot less fun as a result. It also means there could be no need to try and be better either.

I'm really quite sad about that, at this moment.

However, as is becoming increasingly apparent as time goes on, I'm not the Target Audience [TM], and if the focus groups and the surveys say this is what people want... well, I can only assume many people will be very happy about this change. Look, there's one of them now. The fact remains, I think the key to a successful game isn't simply giving players what they ask for, it's educating them in the process, enlightening them and expanding their abilities, often without them even realising. However, as I read the stream of responses to no new content and paid toons on the PTR I see on some of the news sites I frequent, I think that maybe people just aren't happy unless there's something to moan about. Maybe if Blizzard takes this complaint away, those people might be happier. Who am I kidding.

Sometimes, you shouldn't get what you wish for. This might be one of those moments.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Week I Will be Mostly :: Date Stamp

The clock is ticking!

Every day is a day closer to the Expansion.

This has become my mantra, as I realise that, at some point, Blizzard HAVE TO DO A BETA. That means a finite timescale, a limited number of days. The sooner I get everything I want done, the more time I'll have to sit back and relax, so I'm taking these days as necessary effort for long-term reward. As it stands, things are going remarkably well, almost too much so. I keep expecting spanners in the works but I've not as yet found any. Fingers crossed this continues to be the case.

Finally sorted :D

I knocked off the achievement with the Vanity Guild Boomkin, who has proven a real joy to play and surprisingly robust on the Timeless Isle. She'll be grinding the 20k coins required for a weapon upgrade as a first priority (especially as this will be upgraded in the next content patch) and then will farm and collect glods, and possibly get the Vanity Guild to Level Three, because, you know, GOING FASTER. There's a lot of cash to be gathered from old quests should we have a longer than anticipated wait for Beta, so I won't be at a loss (like that would ever actually happen.) Anyway, that's 90 Number Five. Time to sort some new ones, then!

Small but brilliant.

The Lock is 89, and if I grind for an hour once I've done this post she'll be 90. This was my second ever 'serious' character too, and it is highly satisfying to finally have her ready to max. She'll go get the Cloud Serpent rep as a matter of urgency and then I'll spend the next week throwing her into Heroics in an attempt to get Jewelcrafting/Alchemy recipes to drop. This is also the mog outfit I think I'm most proud of, which is likely to stay until the new models arrive so I can see just how awesome it looks then :D Again, I predict a 20k point farm for a weapon and then an inordinate amount of faffing, because I can.

Some Druid that I used to know...

I dragged Main Guild Druid around for a couple of hours last night on the back of the Rocket, and she's four bars away from 87. As a result she'll be the next one playing Pet Battles this week until we can get her to 89 and she can begin the Island Adventure. This mog also probably needs a bit of work. That reminds me, I ought to do a massive post on all my outfits at some point. Consider me adding this to the ever-growing 'To Do' List.

And  finally...

I didn't realise until I did this that both Priest and Lock are rocking the same hairstyle, I'll need to change that as a matter of urgency. This one's halfway through 86 too, so some swift dragging around to collect Treasures of Pandaria is in order. I don't need the minimap icons any more to locate the things either, I'm doing it by memory, which may or may not be a bad thing, but it does mean a lot of quick and hassle free XP when you're being towed around by a 90. Also, many things to auction and use from Small Bags of Goods. As this one is also an enchanter I can recycle all the Rare Drop armour to boot.

I'm hoping that by the time you come back to me next week all three of these ladies will be 90. That then leaves the Bloke Hunter, the Palalalaladin and the Monk who are above 70 to deal with... and after that it's just lowbies to consider. it will mean I've managed to deal with and level everyone to 90 in just under a month. Not bad going, and proves that if you put your mind to something, pretty much anything is doable with realistic goals. Of course, should the beta drop before the weekend... ^^

With that in mind I'd better get on with it! LESS TALKING MOAR LEVELLING...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Turn, Turn, Turn

Appeasement? Or understanding?

There are a few of us here who bemoan the state of the Virtual World with some regularity, who were particularly disappointed when it became clear that Draenor was being presented as our 'new world', in the past, when the 'present' version in game was ripe for potential change. There's been a rolling argument for dynamic content since Blizzard altered the world view in Cataclysm: as Anne Stickney explains in her response to this Tweet,  it would be fabulous to have a gaming world where things aren't simply on a small and predictable loop, where the kids in Stormwing don't run around at 3am but are firmly tucked up in bed, where the houses in cities aren't simply populated, they're homes.

This would be a significant step forward in our gaming world, and hints at a myriad of possibilities.

This could allow for different Dungeon setups during Festivals, for instance. Seasonal NPC's could be introduced into normal 5 mans with quests specific to the time of year. As is the case with the Wanderer's Festival every Sunday in Karasarang you could see people arrive, setup their stalls and leave rather than vanish as the Darkmoon Faire does every month. You could track progress of NPC's across zones, knowing if it was a Tuesday you'd find them in Arathi, and each day they could be doing something different. It would present a brilliant illusion of progression of linear time without the need for major zonal upheaval, which has to be a major goal for creating a living, breathing world.

Just think what that could do to an area like Dalaran, which needs to remain intact inside the Expansion timeline it inhabits, but exists in a number of different places on the timeline in different states. If you paired this with phasing technology, the potential is significant.

A world that changes when you do? YES PLEASE :D

The technical issues however that this could throw up would be considerable, especially if, as I've been finding with dragging two people around the same place a lot of late, you're in different stages of the same journey. There are parts of the Jade Forest, for instance, that I can't fly through with two people because the sub-90 has not done the quests that allow it to be open to them when the 90 is cleared for passage. It would be quite easy, I wager, to make parts of the World different for two separate characters to travel through: the problem comes when you want to pair them up to do so. If those areas are then dynamically seeded with NPC's that are appropriate to the phased events, the bottom layer of 'set' need never have to change at all, the changes can be stuck on top of the base level inside the phasing itself. Think of it like a static background with layers of transparent plastic stuck on top, to make what is the World in basic form into something very different indeed.

Part of me thinks that might have been what they've been doing all this time in Karazhan, you know.


As Anne points out in her article, even if nothing comes of this, it is encouraging to see that Blizzard know this is an issue. Immersion in any medium is determined by an individual's ability to forget they're doing so to begin with: the best games aren't just compelling, they're diverting and entertaining to boot. This kind of dynamic technology would allow a measure of freedom we've seen hinted at previously in Blizzard's endeavours but never fully realised because of the limitations in technology, but as I suspect I'll be saying a lot in 2014, much has changed since this game was first released. To give us another dimension to the nuts and bolts of the daily world is enough to get at least two Bloggers excited enough to write articles on even the possibility. I know we wouldn't be alone.

I reckon Blizzard grasp that too.

Monday, January 27, 2014

To Build A Home :: Show Me

Time for some consideration...

Last week was an embarrassment of riches, let's be honest. There wasn't much chance to consider the consequences either, as so much information got dumped in our laps so quickly. So, this week we will be sitting back and thinking a little more about what we got told, and what that might mean in the longer term for anyone in a Garrison. There is one tweet in particular I want to look at in reference to this:

A major change. Or is it?

Actually, this *is* the same system we have right now, if you have Exalted status with the Tillers. As a skinner I can gather herbs, cloth AND ore without the need to have any of those skills at my disposal, using my 16 plots on the farm. This has given me the opportunity to capitalise on Auction House markets I wouldn't normally be able to touch, and it's meant on lean days when I don't have time to gather there's been enough materials to make up items for transmute. If this is the system that the Garrisons will employ then I'm more than happy, assuming of course that gathering works in the same fashion... and that means you can't actually do it until you're a) maximum level and b) you're at maximum reputation.

If that's NOT the case... well, I might be a bit concerned.

What we don't know as yet is what kind of yield we can expect from the Garrison: one assumes that this will not be a substitute for gathering, and that there will also be some kind of once a day cooldown in operation... then there's the issue of whether every 90 gets this feature or whether it will be once a server... and there's at least some indicator on that:

That's saying everybody to me.

I think we could have a situation as is the case now, that every 90 will have the potential to run a Garrison in synch with their levelling experience, and that this will mean you'll have multiple opportunities to 'farm' gathering mats should you choose to do so. In effect, the Tillers Farm is it's own mini-game in terms of micromanagement of resources, as I know many people who read this Blog are more than aware of. Mr Alt, for instance, is a great player of the herb market (especially with Golden Loti) whilst I've been using my Farms to stockpile vegetables so I can level Cookery on alts once I've maxxed everyone to 90. What you do with your plots is pretty flexible as a result and I have no doubt Blizzard will be looking at the Tillers numbers and making decisions based on those as to what we get and the timers that are attached to them.

Being able to plan ahead is often vital in knowing how to succeed in the early months of an Expansion. I doubt we'll be given anything really valuable during the levelling process anyway, perhaps it will be as it has been this time around and these 'plots' may provide other items to level skills like cookery. Yet again, we're back to the question I seem to ask rather a lot when we start discussing Garrisons on a Monday...

Is it time for a Beta yet?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Silence is Golden

I've posted every day here, without fail, since last May.

At some point I was going to need to take a break, and today was the day. Rest assured, I'll be back tomorrow.

Have a great rest of your Sunday.