Saturday, April 05, 2014

SPOILERS :: Take Me To the River

As promised, if I have a Spoiler post on Warlords, this is how it's going to go down. To make sure you have plenty of warning I won't post them directly: instead, they're up on my associated sister site, Alternative Spoilers. Therefore, if you want to know what I found in the Alpha Files that I think is worth sticking there:

To give you a bit more context, it involves potential details for the Pre-Expansion Event.

To Build a Home :: All Will be Revealed

Yeah. About the Alpha...

Thursday night into Friday morning was Madness. Pure, unadulterated lunacy, with the Alpha Notes stretching to 33 pages of brain-bending alterations to the very fabric of the game we play. Near the top, you'll find this:

See! You need to 'build your own army'

In the blaze of  publicity that accompanied the reveal, it was all about the characters and the parts they play. There was scant regard given to the backdrops or sets, the quests and zones, even professions and pet battles don't exist yet in this Alpha 'client' which is a shame, because of all the things I was most looking forward to hearing about the Garrisons were at the top of the list. They're too busy trying to make sure the players all work, and there's a real sense, for the first time, that the Garrison may look great but its contents are a LONG way from being complete.

Bigger than just one blog post.

I've mentioned before the potential significance of the phrase 'build an army of your own', how this feature could infact be the backbone of the entire Expansion, holding everything together on the narrative side. If we're going to get a SERIES of Blogs on how it all works, I'm beginning to think some of that thought might be justified. It is also likely to explain why NONE of the quest side of things has even made an appearance in the notes thus far, because if everything is linked to everything else.... this could also be something Blizzard actually wants to keep as close to its chest as possible until it's time to test. The complete absence of any data unless it's coming from Mumper also makes me think that the latter of those two assumptions could hold some credence. We learnt before the Alpha Notes were released that fishing quests were being included into the Garrison 'setup' which is a telling admission in itself. If this 'home' is being setup with any kind of hub with professions stuff attached, you'll be spending quite some time there, despite earlier assertions that without an AH or Bank it won't be a place to idle. The next question then becomes how long we have to wait for the Blogs...

With only the scantest of nods to Professions in the Alpha, there is an awful lot missing from our picture of Draenor. Until someone is prepared to provide the answers, all we can really do is wait.

ALPHA :: Gone Fishing


So, that will be the Data-mining from the Alpha Client that popped up like magic last night. I see that people are already picking over the data and providing commentators like my good self with a metric crapton of stuff to consider. The most excellent El at El's Extreme Angling has very thoughtfully provided me with some excellent initial data on Warlords Fishing Patterns, and I think looking at this data it may provide some interesting clues as to what all gatherers can expect from this Expansion in light of the changes we have seen confirmed in the Alpha Patch Notes. Firstly, and more importantly, we have different 'versions' of the same fish. I'm going to use El's text verbatim here for speed:

  • Flesh - caught when using the appropriate bait.
  • Small - "requires little skill to catch."
  • Large - presumably the default catch.
  • Enormous - "only caught by experienced anglers."

If, for the sake of argument, these four 'tiers' correspond to a Fisherperson's skill (and you can reasonably assume this will be the case as it will be for mining and herbalism) then a L1 skilled Angler will be pulling up (presumably) a selection of Junk plus Small Fish of the appropriate 'type' dependant on the zone they are fishing in. We also have names for the fish, too:

  • Trash - Crescent Saberfish - "Silvery eel with many, many sharp little teeth."
  • Coastal - Sea Scorpion - "Careful. It could take off one of your fingers with its pincers."
  • Frostfire Ridge (lava) - Fire Ammonite - "A magical 'fish' that lives in lava and looks like a squid in a cone shaped shell."
  • Gorgrond - Jawless Skulker - "A strange fish with no mouth and an unforked tail. Subsists on the life energy of plants."
  • Nagrand (Draenor) - Fat Sleeper - "Ugly and slimy. Surprisingly delicious when cooked."
  • Shadowmoon Valley (Draenor) - Blind Lake Sturgeon - "Lacking eyes, it 'sees' with its long whiskers."
  • Spires of Arak - Abyssal Gulper Eel - "With a ridiculously oversized head and mouth, it can swallow prey bigger than itself."
  • Talador - Blackwater Whiptail - "Has a powerful tail, which it uses to stun its prey."

This means that there's going to be THIRTY TWO types of Fish (potentially) to catch in Draenor: what is not yet apparent is whether all four 'tiers' of fish quality are available to the max skill fisherperson, and (more importantly) if said fish will all have a distinct and (as a result) unique use in Cookery. Then there is the issue of what each type of fish will contribute to the fishing 'model' overall. Frankly it's a ton of speculation that will only be answered when the Client is live. It'd also mean an awful lot of thumbnail artwork ^^

Will animations change to match new character models?

Looking at the fish types themselves, I'm willing to make some initial speculation:

  • You will require a certain number of items of 'flesh' to craft Cookery recipes. Small fish will combine together to give flesh (so you'll need more to make a recipe but it will still be doable), Large will still be less Flesh than the 'Flesh' version, but will still require you to combine items. The 'Flesh' version of the fish will be the optimal item required for Cookery recipes. The Enormous Fish will give multiple 'Flesh' as a default and mean that those with high skill take the least time to catch and cook as a result. So there will be rewards for being skilled before you begin your journey in Draenor.

  • Enormous Fish might well act as carriers for multiple items of use, in the same way as crates currently do in game. So, the Fish effectively acts as a 'container' for other items, as is the case with certain low-level fish already in game.
  • Yields of Fish will Not Matter. If you are only cooking with flesh, and the number of flesh items are randomised on the larger catches, you will require far less fishing time to complete recipes than you do normally with the standardised multiples of five, because (presumably) the number of pieces of flesh per fish will be randomised. Recipes will take progressively longer to complete depending on your skill, so as you become more skilled the time to catch the right fish decreases.

Needless to say, if this is the 'gathering model' for herbalism and mining, I am genuinely very impressed at what Blizzard have come up with to solve the 'problem' of materials for recipes. If this is what rolls out across the board for all Professions, I'd be very, VERY happy indeed :D

WARLORDS :: In Your Eyes

Some people just never get it.

At least two people turned up on the site yesterday to find out what I thought of the Alpha Patch notes. With the benefit of some sleep and due consideration, I reckon I'm in a position to share my current position with the room.

Knock yourself out, Haters.

I watched a huge amount of debate yesterday. I saw more than a few people in shock. Some appeared genuinely happy, others were confused. Needless to say, as we have discussed before, these are all common reactions when given massive upheaval to deal with and frankly, this is pretty major stuff. Quite apart from the changes to the major stats and conventions, many classes (Hunters included) have seen entire specs redesigned. The key, quite obviously, is to move away from a homogeneous feel for a class and to give them genuine choice with specs that are clearly distinctive and separate from each other. Using Warlocks as a template, to have three unique choices is clearly the aim, so that your decisions have a significant impact on playstyle. There's a problem with this, however, and it will come from the players who were already doing this themselves with the entire palette of spells and abilities that were at their disposal. With spells effectively 'locked out' of particular specs and placed deliberately in others to give them a sense of uniqueness, players have lost important choices they could make themselves, and are forced into compromises that they may not want simply to maintain the illusion of three unique playstyles by class.

This is a potentially dangerous precedent to set.

However, the increase in popularity of the Warlock class based on their redesign has set the tone that Blizzard are clearly keen to capitalise on. The problem will come, in the early months, in persuading players who have for years made their own choices to adapt to the more 'modular' playstyle they have been presented with. If we are to assume that all classes will do comparable damage to each other there should be none of the issues with one class being less represented than the other either... which must at least be in the minds of the designers. If the ultimate aim, at least at this stage in the day, is to get everyone on an equal footing, then this is as good a start as I reckon Blizzard could expect to have. You need to persuade your detractors, and those who chose to make their own 'unique' class from the colours that they were given, that simply being a Beastmaster in the shades provided is as good as painting your class with the full spectrum of possibilities available.

You take away the choice, and things are supposed to be better. That remains to be seen in practice.

I'm in the purples, a bit to the blue side.

There are also large sections of this 'presentation' very obviously missing. There's no quest details, no zones to look at, no battle pets, no professions, no currency changes... and if I'm honest, those are all of the things I'm really interested in seeing and learning about BEFORE I start playing the game. My character is only a part my life, simply the bread and butter of my gaming experience, and without all the other meals and snacks I can't ever make an objective judgement on the feast we're being served. If this is a taste of what is to come, however, it is clear we're in for very different menu choices from times past. I don't have a problem with this, as long as the serving staff don't end up depositing my main course in my lap. It's always a possibility, after all, your experiences will vary. Sometimes however being too clever can have unexpected side effects, when all it really needed was simple presentation and a choice of fries or a jacket potato.

For those of you expecting me to pass judgement, I'll say only this: the jury's not even been sworn in yet. This is part of a very large and particularly complex story, and we've only seen the opening credits. So, until I've got the Bluray version with all the possible endings in my hot sweaty mitts, you'll just have to wait.

Friday, April 04, 2014

WARLORDS :: Do, Ray, Me

When is a Perk NOT a Perk?

The dust is beginning to settle. I have my Podcast done, and may be only working on three hours sleep... but I still have the ability to grasp the fundamental shift the Alpha Client is about to instigate. This isn't about less is more. This is SIMPLER writ large, and for someone who's never really felt comfortable with losing anything in game, there are some real kicks to the soft issue in what we've been given here. People are already chastising me for not looking at the bigger picture, reminding me the sky is NOT falling. I know this. Change is inevitable, we've all been on that page for some time. But when you get down to the nitty gritty, the actual details, I find myself wondering if all those people who asked for ability bloat to be addressed really thought through the consequences of their desire. When your tower is so delicately balanced, you can't just take things away without some fairly serious consequences. That means lots of things vanish. Many, MANY things.

Ultimately, everyone misses out on something. Except Rogues [*]

Visual representation for the win.

So if you consider the Jenga Tower of Class Abilities, to keep this whole thing resplendent and stable means those with the most utility are pretty likely to come out of the exercise a lot worse off than the classes who have less. It's also apparent that by the process of better distinguishing specs from each other, it has been necessary to restrict access to a lot of spells that were previously universal for all, locking them together in new (and often radical) ways. While this is all well and good people will look at these notes and without something to reassure them (i.e. the ability to actually play their class right now) will rightly feel slightly nervous. That's the risk Blizzard have clearly decided to take by letting this information out now. There will be those who will argue the timing is deliberate for whatever reason, but the fact remains that with the scale of change were being presented with, the longer people have to adapt to their circumstances the better it is for everyone concerned.

This means the sooner people have their hands on the Client the better.

There is one particular issue I would like to take issue with, however, and that's nothing to do with the actual changes and a bit more of an objection to a term.

That's what Google sez :D

So these 'Perks' we get from 1-99 for our Specs: I assume they are offered every level and are the same for everyone. So, they're not a benefit because that implies that only some people get them and others don't. If EVERYONE gets them in every spec and they only change when you switch Specialisations, giving them a name is ultimately pointless. This is making people *think* they're being rewarded something when all Blizzard are doing is improving everyone's power IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY, because they're not going to imbalance ANYONE by giving them a Perk over anyone else. Please don't try and fool me into thinking this is something cool and clever, Blizzard, that each level awards anything else other than a HIGHER RANKED SPELL I ALREADY HAVE, that is the same for EVERYONE who plays my Spec. This is Alpha, just drop the name and stop making people feel they're being made more powerful when really they're just getting more of what they already have.

If you are going to strip this down, then do just that. Rewards aren't really rewards if everyone has them.

Until I'm playing the game to which these Patch Notes are attached, pretty much anything else I'd want to discuss is utterly moot, and therefore pointless, which makes me rather pleased I'm not writing Class Guides today, because if I was, I could see myself getting quite emotional.

However, I cannot now complain there is no actual Warlords News, which suits me just fine.


Rogues got off really rather lightly :P


And so it begins...

At 5.30 PST (which is 1.30am BST and yes, I'm still up) We finally got out first look at what Blizzard intends to do with Warcraft in the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Needless to say, it's pretty brutal, extremely complicated, and runs to 33 pagers, and that's just class changes and the amendments to stats, crowd control, racials and healing. In Unsurprising News, Professions get barely a look-in and Garrisons... well, they're not ready yet.

For everyone else, this stuff is going to take a fair bit of getting used to.

Fortunately you can already go play with Talents on Wowhead (use this handy link) to try and understand what you'll miss and what you'll get instead. Whilst you're doing that, I'll be attempting to condense all of this into an Azeroth in 5 Podcast for lunchtime tomorrow. I must be crazy.

Talking briefly with my Minority Interests hat on, Professions are looking like they may not resemble anything close to where they stand now come Warlords. Glyph markets are going to be severely hit by the automatic learning of certain abilities as players level. The news that Professions no longer have combat benefit perks tied to them will be a disappointment too for many, but the news that you will be able to gather anywhere in Azeroth, regardless of skill is an extremely welcome addition to the game (your yield will be determined by your skill instead.) Will it work with skinning? We are yet to hear...

Needless to say, I would love to stay up all night and cry about what I skim read about Hunters, but I'll need to be up in 5 hours to do an Azeroth in 5 SPECIAL ALPHA PODCAST. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed, and I'll see where everyone is in the morning.

Just remember folks. THIS IS ONLY ALPHA, and MANY THINGS will change. Just you watch.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

WARLORDS :: Start!


Ladies and Gentlemen, we are hauling the mail!

As you're reading this, there is OFFICIAL confirmation from Blizzard that an ALPHA CLIENT is ready to roll. You can find all the details here.


What this means in the short term is the following:

  • Twitter and Other forms of Social Media effectively melt [*]
  • Many, many people (myself included) start frantically refreshing their Gmail Inboxes.
  • Data Mining Sites such as MMO Champion cancel all holidays.

After that, WHO KNOWS, but for now this specially pre-prepared post goes live and I look as if I'm far more organised than I actually am, which isn't likely to be the case for the next X Months (where X is how long it'll take for the game to be done and for us to ACTUALLY HAVE AN EXPANSION.)

If you'll excuse me, I'll be off round the house now with my shirt over my head celebrating WE HAVE A CLIENT :D

[*] We all know Twitter beats all, right? :D

BETA :: At Last

This is a good way to begin this post:D

Yesterday, amongst an awful lot of noise and stupidity, the first real signs we could be about to move into Beta appeared with the minimum of fuss.

Devs and CM's living together? Who's the Keymaster?

Celestalon and Zarhym will be doing press at the weekend. LIVE press at that, and this normally means only one thing: invasion summat big is on the way. I suspect the choice of venues for interviews is also very deliberate, allowing for the 'right' questions to get answered. There's also the WoW Source 'project' which Morgan Webb will be chairing, and although the announcement didn't come with a set ETA, it will inevitably be chock full of the right type of questions about the Expansion. If I were going to drop a Beta I'd want to accompany it with as much news coverage as possible, after all. This is beginning to look an awful lot like foreshadowing to me.

Oh, and then there's that game that releases tomorrow.

Yeah, that one.

I KNOW Blizzard will never knowingly acknowledge their competition as motivation: Hell, no major company ever will in the modern world, and we can all secretly nod and understand that, like it or not, stealing thunder is what companies like to do from each other. So, this particular title launches tomorrow. That means we could still see something today. I'd say it is a distinct possibility, especially as all I'm seeing in certain timelines is ESO news.

Of course, all of this is idle speculation, as it has been for months now. However, it is undeniable that slowly, inexorably, the fates ARE aligning, and if Blizzard really wants to have this game on the table before Christmas 2014, we need TO ACTUALLY SEE IT SOON. So, whether it be just the PTR for the pre-Expansion event, or the World of Draenor itself, something will eventually have to give. The press at the weekend actually pushes me to believe it is likely to be next week and not this (as Blizzard traditionally like to do stuff BEFORE launches and not after) but after the success of Skyrim I'd say it might even be in Blizzard's best interest to hijack another company's publicity bandwagon too.

Yes, the Beta IS coming. Could it be sooner rather than later?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

Ask any Comedian how they make their audience laugh, and I suspect you'll get a fairly wide range of responses. After all, there's all sorts of flavours to choose from these days, from the surreal brilliance of the Eddie Izzards to the Tim Vines of this world who make the one liner sublime both in construction and execution. However, many (including myself) would argue that the best kind of comedy is visual, which has the ability to cross both language and cultural boundaries. It's why Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean character is still a HUGE draw worldwide many years after the last show was made. It can also provoke unexpected feelings too. Take Mr C. Chaplin's brush with the Lion above, for instance, which begins funny but has distinct moments of both fear and discomfort, especially when you realise there was no stuntman and Chaplin himself was inside the cage for every take where the Lion appeared. This brand of comedy is a rare thing, because its not simply hitting the humour target, it makes the audience realise that laughing at fear can also be funny when it isn't us that is in peril.

However, not all visual comedy is either universal or indeed amusing.

Oh look, it's an overprivileged teenage goat.

Yesterday's 'April Fools' gags from Blizzard were the standard range of pokes and prods at not simply the company itself, but the people who play the games. A look at the 6.0 Patch notes shows a group of designers who clearly knows exactly where the majority of its audience sits, and the one liners it could tell as a result to their demographic to break the ice at any party. However, what is continuing to be apparent, at least over here where I sit, is that Blizzard still don't really know how to target a good joke for a sector of their audience. Yeah, they can use the Draenai female as a way to poke fun at what they do, and for most people that's going to get a smile and maybe an acknowledgement that they can take the mickey out of themselves. But when people on my Twitter feed yesterday saw this 'joke' for the first time and the response wasn't laughter but that people would be offended, then I knew what was coming. You see, people tell blonde jokes or fat jokes or YOUR MOMMA jokes off the cuff, and you know what you're getting. It's a fine line between what is acceptable in a group of your mates and what you'd tell to someone you hardly know. However, as soon as you add a massive audience to the equation, the rules change, like it or not. Blizzard shouldn't be pedalling potentially provocative material, however clever or accurate it might be in what they consider as their context. They really shouldn't try to be controversial, because it's not good for the image.

Somewhere inside Blizzard HQ, someone again needs to be reminded exactly who makes up their audience.

The moment I make this assertion, and it was the case on Twitter yesterday, someone is going to pop up and throw a word at me, and I know EXACTLY what it is. Because I am clearly implying that Blizzard are being offensive to women with this image, and I am a woman, I have A FEMINIST AGENDA [gasp!]. Let's just stop you right there, shall we? Yes, I do indeed have an Agenda here, and it's very simple. But it's not the one you want it to be so you can in turn make fun of me and what you mistakenly believe this is all about. There is only one rule here, and until everyone can actually follow it, I'm not even going to try and talk about any other issues.

Treat everyone with respect, regardless of whether they actually exist or not. 

Yup, that's it. Take whatever prejudice you're wielding and leave it outside. I'm not here to further any cause other than decency and common sense. That means no mocking those who believe in God, or equal rights for ANYONE, or using people's ideals as a way to have a cheap laugh at their expense. You do not need to mock the afflicted to be funny, although it does often make for searingly good comedy. The reason people laugh? Relief that it's not them that's being mocked, mostly. It's the same reason why you don't need to swear to be funny or clever, but that doesn't stop people using that for a cheap laugh either. The thing is, I know full well the power of words, how as little as 140 characters can be more than enough to stomp all over someone's genuinely interested opinion. Words are genuinely dangerous weapons. Use them well, and you can achieve anything you want.

Lesson One. Observational Comedy.

So, Blizzard. Yesterday's 'jokes' were great. You were clearly happy with them, or else they'd have never made the light of day to begin with. The one that was a real group effort? The Patch Notes? Yeah, that worked. Whoever decided the Artcraft was acceptable for your entire audience needs to understand that what might seem funny for some people isn't funny for everyone when you'e making fun of body shapes or mental acuity. Please note I make NO reference to sexuality here at all. Just to be clear, that's not the issue for those of you still attempting to slap a label on me. PUT IT AWAY. This isn't about race, sex or gender, it is about common decency, and making your product acceptable to a broad-brush audience. I doubt it will ever change. So, for next time, I'd stick with the universal appeal and play it safe, because everyone likes a joke you can laugh about years after the fact and not feel embarrassed about because it highlighted an inability to accurately judge the range and sensibilities of your target audience after a decade.

Feel free to release some actual genuine Warlords of Draenor news any time now.

The Space Between :: The Bucket

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin...

An online game should be no place for management speak; for most of us its the place we go to escape the issues of real life and organisation and all of those horrible, yukky things that we're forced to deal with thanks to Reality. However, what Pandaria has taught me (and many others) is that managing your online time effectively is actually a skill from the real world we could do a lot worse than grasp to complete our gaming goals too. I'm not going to tell you what to pick here as actual Bucket List options, by the way. That's your part of the deal, and you'll need to bring your specific goals to the table. If you're stuck for ideas in that department, you'll need to see the next part of the Guide, where I'll be happy to offer you some of the more obscure things in game to achieve before Warlords arrives

For now therefore we will consider our Bucket Lists with some caveats, and begin to grasp some basic fundamentals of Online Time Management [TM]


1. Organise your Priorities. 

Most people's Bucket Lists start as vague, indistinct entities: I'd like to finish that, and I could grind this... what you need is to decide WHAT MATTERS THE MOST. In my case, I'm going to complete the Mogs on my characters, then I'm going to level my priest and my other 85's to 90. I also have Dungeon Achievements I can do, plus grinding for the Alani Mount in the Vale. I don't want to commit myself to any more than that at this stage either, I just need to be clear in my own mind what there is to do that is realistically achievable in the time I have available. Once you have a clear grasp of your priorities it becomes far easier to organise your time effectively.

Nothing to see here, move along... ^^

2. Make a DAILY Bucket List.

This may sound odd, but this is why you were asked to bring a pad and paper with you. Every day, when you sit down to play, you need to write out what you want to do. This helps to reinforce the desire to get things done in your brain, and to encourage you to keep trying to complete what you've started. If you can TRY to cross at least one item off your list per day that is fabulous, but with bigger goals that might not be feasible, so try breaking those goals down into smaller, more manageable sections. For instance, you could write:

  • Finish Quests for Loremaster of Pandaria.

as your ultimate aim or, to make yourself feel like you're making progress, you could do it as follows:

Loremaster of Pandaria:

  • Finish Dread Wastes Quests
  • Finish Karasarang Wilds Quests
  • Finish Townlong Steppes Quests

as you're far more likely to tick at least *something* off in a session with those goals broken down even further. De-constructing items into manageable segments is the key, and remember to cross them off when you've done them.


3. Don't be Rigid in Your Thinking.

If one of your Bucket List items is grabbing the Time Lost Proto Drake, you'll need to know about picking your moments. Sometimes it is true, simply camping a spot and waiting is all you can reasonably do in the game to get what you want. However, the *smart* camper knows the best spawn point, knows to look for Vyragosa's spawn first... and to be patient beyond words. Yes, if you're lucky this will eventually get your reward for you but in 95% of cases in game, you'll also get bored stupid and lose all focus. So, this bullet point suggests that actually, if one of the items in your list is unrealistic, move on to another.

If someone else is clearly camping spawns for Glorious! this is probably the time to go pick something else from your list to do, because this will maintain momentum and stop you ending your time on line with that 'I got nothing done because everything was camped' feeling. Goals are moveable, if you have enough of them and you are prepared to be flexible. Insisting you cannot start one thing until you have finished another is good in principle, but can be disappointing in reality, especially in Azeroth. Don't find excuses for why you can't complete something: make things happen with your own impetus and enthusiasm.

It's a fair kop, guv.

4. Don't Let You Be the Issue.

Yeah, that last point above. Half the problem with getting stuff done is you. It's not the guy camping your spawn, or the quest item that won't drop, IT IS YOUR ATTITUDE to these things that matters more. If you want to complete your goals you will need to commit to the endeavour. Make the time to let this happen, take yourself away from distractions like Facebook and Twitter and really concentrate on what needs to be done. If you only have limited time, pick a sensible timescale and only use that as your start point. I will deliberately farm in one hour blocks, for instance, knowing I must maximise every minute I have as a result. It is amazing what you can achieve if you know you are on a timer that you won't extend.

The other factor here is knowing if it is a good time to play to begin with. If you are unhappy or uncomfortable in Azeroth, stop and walk away. You will do far more damage to your long term plans if you force yourself into playing because you feel obliged to complete a task. Unlike work, this is supposed to be fun, so make sure you feel that way when you begin. Otherwise, fun will begin to feel like a job.

I think the Cat from the graphic above's looking at me funny...

5. There is a Better Way.

Even the most brilliant of players can sometimes benefit from the concept of the strategic rethink. The same goes for the way you farm, or the routes you take to look for spawns. A quick glance on Wowhead for instance and installing an addon like TomTom or Handy Notes can make the process of finding spawns considerably simpler, for the use of a few minutes of time to plan. The smart Bucket Lister will use the tools available to them to improve not simply their quality of life, but to save time they can then utilise finishing another item on their schedule.

Never think there is one way to farm a rare. There are always alternatives to simply camping a spot and waiting.


6. Aaaand BREATHE.

Finally, and most importantly, DON'T STRESS. It's only a game, it doesn't matter, and if it all goes wrong today there is always tomorrow. Yes, I KNOW how trite and cheesy that sounds but guess what? 100% accurate. Do what you can. Be realistic. Most importantly of all, if it all gets to you, go find a bucket of tea and something nice to eat and just take a moment. It'll all still be there when you come back to it.


So, with this in mind, I suggest you go make your List whilst in the next part of the Guide I suggest to those with no idea of what to do some possible options. After that, we'll meet back here after Lunch and then it's down to the nitty gritty.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Small Change

Still chicken.

Today, I changed the name of the Guild I've been GM of for over eight years.

There was no consultation period for members. There was no poll to choose an 'alternate' name. There was no attempt to 'persuade' anyone outside of the Officer Channel of this change, but it was ANYTHING but 'imposed.' As the Guildie who used that word once learning the news is more than likely reading this, the following is at least for his benefit. There is a thread on the Website for those who have a legitimate concern as to the name change, where they can register their issues. Should the entire membership subsequently turn around and berate me for this drama-inducing shift of direction, that would at least be progress, because the Guild Website's been pretty much a wasteland for the last year. A lot of this inactivity could be laid at my door because as GM I have been singularly lacking in my motivation for a long time. I should have pushed for this change a year ago, when we lost a number of key influencial players.

As it stands, making a symbolic change like this seemed a good way to reboot the Guild.

Many people have just stopped playing and not said why, while even more have publicly gone to other servers. There are those who have vanished, or those who will simply pop in from time to time, not say or do very much, and pop out again. All of this does not make for a conducive Guild environment. Then there is Raiding, and that has become hugely dependant on a number of people being available not simply to lead raids, but fill the key roles. However, it is never what the Guild was truly about. The fact remains that while there is raiding, there is momentum and interest in the Guild generally. Without raiding there is stagnation and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Officers, in the main, want at least some form of progression. You cannot have progress however without the motivation. This will be the first expansion for many, many years where we have not kept pace with raid content even in its most casual format.

I suspect, in this regard, we're not unlike a lot of Guilds in game right now.

Still Petroleum.

A change like this, at least for me, is academic. Clearly that will not be the same for everyone else. I will also freely admit at this point that I hated the old name because it held associations with the old GM's original plan to make a Guild full of female toons, as a cover for meeting the opposite sex in-game. The plan worked for him, eventually; he's now happily married to someone he met in the Guild. As a result, I didn't have much of an issue picking a new name which matters frankly not one iota to myself. It could have been any of a dozen names, I suppose, it wouldn't have made any difference at all. I'm well aware that the objection that was made this morning was on the point that this looks like nobody was asked and people weren't involved in the process, something that the Guild has always done in the past on such points of 'contention.' In that regard it is perfectly justified, and I'll apologise publicly to anyone who feels I've somehow devalued them or their Guild experience by what might appear to be a coup d'etat but really is just a way to start again.

Just because you weren't consulted doesn't mean you opinion doesn't matter or is irrelevant. Yes, as GM I *could* have set a month long discussion process, and then a month to choose a new name but by then it's June and frankly, we don't have those kinds of timescales anymore if you want to get people motivated. So, a decision was made and nobody objected amongst the Officers, in fact people thought it was a great idea to kickstart enthusiasm and motivation in a period of inactivity that might have spelled the deathknell for the Guild anyway if we didn't start getting some new people in to interact and to return us to the vibrant environment we had during Cataclysm. So, the GM makes the choice, the Officers agreed and we went for it. I paid £15 and we're now Renamed. No, that's that Guild name. Because that's still a nod to the old Guild that was Cotton Candy, but it's a statement of intent. That's why I'm publicly doing this post too. Things change. I know some people don't like it, but I for one am learning to embrace it.

Temporary logo. Still my Guild.

So, this is me standing up for the first time and saying that I'm GM of Renamed, a Smart Casual Raiding/Social Guild on Shadowsong EU, and if you'd like to spend the time before the Expansion hanging with a fabulous bunch of cool and committed individuals, and maybe (but only if you want) killing Garrosh on Flex Mode in the process, we'd love to hear from you. You'll find our Application Form here and hopefully we might see some of you in our ranks as we head into the Summer.

I will also say: if enough people object to the name change, I will pay the £15 to change it back. Watch this Space.

Monday, March 31, 2014

This Week, I Will Be Mostly :: One Step Beyond


It has taken fourteen of your English Days but *finally* I don't go absolutely everywhere and cough my lungs out when I arrive, so I think we can officially class myself as 'better.' Last week was all about other games too (and it is official, both Wildstar and Landmark are on the Roster at least for the foreseeable future.) However, where was I last night? I was in UBRS, farming blue scales for Transmog, so if any proof were needed I'm still in Warcraft away from the Guilde I've now committed myself to writing about surviving BEFORE Warlords, here we have it. Plus, I'm now the Minority Interests Correspondent for Sentry Totem.

This week, therefore, is going above and beyond the Call of Faffing to get some basic goals attained.

Levitating Large Objects a Speciality.

Picking the right goal to focus on is almost as important as setting them to begin with. In this case, I've decided to take just two from the pile: finishing mogs and levelling alts. It will be the ones closest to 90 who get the love as a result: the Priest above (currently 88) then the Druid at 86 and finally my Male Dwarf Hunter at 85. When I'm not doing this there will be collecting materials for Mogs (which will need the Priest and the Shaman running through the ICC 5 mans) and the creation of Dragonscale pieces, which netted me over 5000g at the weekend, which isn't at all bad for something I'm doing as a mogging project. There are also other advantages from running UBRS repeatedly, and although I won't make my fortune overnight this way, there's more than an eye towards speculation in my efforts. It's why all those Terrible Turnips are being put quietly away: they may not sell now, but give it a year... assuming, of course, the game is here in that time. That's the thing, you never know. That's how speculation works.

Worth more when it vanishes? We will see...

In the last month or so I've not pushed myself into doing anything with any focus, but this isn't going to be the case starting today I am well aware that the time I have in the next few months is going to be limited by Real Life concerns quite apart from any other games/events that might turn up to perplex me. The time to get organised, as a result, really is right no, and doubly so as there's not that many people about to be getting in the way of my farming spots and achievement mobs/requirements. Therefore, it is time to stop talking the talk and actually get on with the walking. Expect progress reports daily on Twitter.

Serious Stuff Just Got Serious.

The Space Between :: An Introduction

Hasty Logo, Thoughtful Post :D

Before I get down to my normally scheduled Weekly Roundup, I'm slipping this idea in because people have asked me for it, and when you get more than one person enquiring 'How do you intend to survive in-game until Warlords?' I reckon that's a clue that there's mileage in a series. The thing is, I suspect most people will simply wander off and do something else, having bought their pre-order 90 [*] and then quickly losing interest, because Old Content is STILL Old Content, however much you try and dress it up otherwise. I, however, have NOT bought a Pre-Order, because I am aware, deep down, I'm not done in Pandaria yet. Therefore this series has been conceived as a recycling not simply of the Pandaran Preparation Guide I did last time, but of other elements of game knowledge, underpinned with one key fact that many people forget when their interest is simply in gaming as diversion.

The absolute BEST TIME to play in Azeroth is when no-one else is. 

In the weeks leading up to Warlords I'll be peppering the Blog with not simply suggestions of what to do whilst you wait, but tips to get your characters ready to go as soon as the Expansion finally drops, plus tips on picking up Achievements, finishing Professions and generally Mucking About In Game With a Purpose. For those of you not aware of the technical term for this, we refer to this process as FAFFING. It can be quite productive on servers where everyone else has popped off for a bit of a game break too, not simply in helping you farm for the gaps in your Achievement Lists or to pick up that hard-to-find Battle Pet. The absolute key to all of this however is learning to maximise the time you have Online, and to that end I'm going to ask you to do some homework before we start things off properly on Wednesday morning. Go find yourself a pencil and pad: doesn't need to be fancy, but does need to be you NOT writing into a spreadsheet or using a word processing programme. The key here is making something you can interact with yourself, that you can put a line through when it is complete, to give an additional sense of achievement and progress.

My Dungeon List.

We're going to talk about Bucket Lists therefore on Wednesday, but with some caveats and additions.. and after that, well it will be part Guide, part suggestion board with a healthy dose of 'lets make some money' to boot, because the one thing I can GUARANTEE you'll need come the Expansion is a bit of extra gold. What I DON'T want to do however is push people back into the game if they've decided to take a break, because making that decision is an important one. Because no two people are the same, encouraging everyone back won't have the same benefits anyway. Beside which, we WANT people to go and play Wildstar or Elder Scrolls because while they're doing that we can be sneaking in and snaffling all the good stuff they've forgotten exists in game regardless of whether they are playing it or not.

So, go get yourself some writing implements and give yourself a couple of days to consider what you'd like to do in Warcraft (or what you have left to do) and I'll see you on Wednesday morning ready to begin. Remember, nobody's forcing you to do anything, and I PROMISE I'll make this as fun as possible along the way...


[*] Still not done it. Holding out for Beta :D

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Affair

I love you more than Dungeon Master.

Dungeon Master was the game that first introduced to me the concept of gaming 'addiction.' It was 1987, I was living with Mr Alt in our first house, and the Amiga was the gaming 'console' of choice. This was 'real time' playing, spell crafting, and 'farming' for the first time. Screamer Slices. Oh the continued destruction of those to level up your character. We still talk fondly about our first adventures in joint gaming, staying up sometimes all night for progress... except I was already being unfaithful. Yes, even in those early days there was another game, something else that occupied my time. Sim City. You were my secret pleasure, the diversion I'd return to when Mr Alt finally went to bed. I know all about being a many-game girl. I've been practising that talent for three decades now.

When people start talking about WOW Killers and there only being one MMO in their life, I always find this idea mildly amusing as a result.

Must investigate Offline mode this week.

There is an incredible amount of choice for gamers in the 2010's, often dizzying when it comes to sharing an experience with other people. It is ironic therefore that so many seem to spend so much time complaining about the other individuals they play with, or lamenting the fact they can only 'manage' one major MMO title at a time. I suspect a lot of this is one of the remaining hangovers from the early days of Warcraft when, if you wanted to complete anything with a bunch of people, it would take all day. Literally. You'd have to commit yourself to vast swathes of time just to make a small amount of progress. The first Raid Alliance I belonged to, for instance, would raid on Sundays from 3pm until 9pm and, if we were lucky, we'd get a half clear of Molten Core. Pulling a PuG Group to kill the Quest Spawn mob in Silithus would take between two to three hours just to get the numbers together. A UBRS Group was 90 minutes on a good day.

The major benefit of progress in Gaming generally has been the ability to do what you want a lot faster than you were ever able to do before. However, the most effective and consistent form of gating content remained as it did back in the days of the the first grid-based 3D realtime action role-playing video games. If you wanted to level, you needed to put in the hours... until Warcraft changed the landscape. One of the most enduring legacies of this game, like it or not, was the concept of paying someone else to level your character whilst you went away and did something else. My first ever encounter with Gold Farming and 'power levelling' was via a player we'd recruited in a PuG Group. He told us he was going to leave the Guild for a week because he was off to Cornwall, and immediately the alarm bells rang. I searched for his character the following day and there he was online at 8am, and he didn't log off for the entire week. The Virtual Economy isn't exclusive to Warcraft, and the fact that Blizzard has finally caved and offered people (effectively) their own levelling service really isn't a surprise after a decade. What still persists however is the assertion that the only way to 'beat' this MMO is to find a game that finally destroys its domination of the market.

The thing is, there will never be a WoW Killer. The only people who have the opportunity to do that are Blizzard themselves.

It's not you, it's them :D

I've reviewed betas of two non-Blizzard games this week and the response from my readers has been very interesting. There appears to be a clear divide between those who think that if you talk about Warcraft you shouldn't discuss anything else and those who are happy to embrace all of the possibilities. As a writer I've always been told that the best way to improve my own work is to read as much as I can of other people's, and I think the same must be true of game designers. I really can't see Blizzard staff only playing their own games either, and although it is rarely spoken about I have seen at least one member of staff state they do indulge in other pleasures. However, I doubt you'll ever see mention of anything considered as direct competition, but somewhere in Blizzard HQ someone ought to have both Wildstar and Landmark on their machines if only to see what the other guys are up to. Gaming is a constantly evolving process, after all.

Needless to say, in this quiet time whilst there is no news, I'm still in-game. I Flexed last night and my Guild's about to undergo some changes next week in an attempt to get more people involved in the quiet time before the new Expansion which normally involves people leaving and not arriving. We're hoping to buck the trend and have a constant flow of participation all the way up to Warlords, something that's not really happened at any point previously. In the meantime, I'll freely admit I'm seeing other MMO's, but my heart still steadfastly remains the property of Azeroth and it's dependencies. I'll be here until they turn off the Servers, and long may the game be the focus of my efforts...