Saturday, June 21, 2014

#WCOW14 ::

Apologies (again) for the lack of games for the Tournament yesterday (technology failure), but we are back again with SIX games for you to take part in.

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) Twitter and Facebook will link to this page, and Voting will be open until 9am TOMORROW MORNING to give people more time to support their favourites :D


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

Underneath each game is a link to a Poll. Please click on this to cast your vote.

At the end of the Voting period, the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

Results will be added to this post after each game has been concluded. Remember to vote for your team!


ALPHA :: Could it be Magic


A new Alpha Build is upon us (18443 for the number-conscious) and my interest was immediately piqued by these items, not simply for the return of the TBC graphic (which I suspect is deliberate and will change.) The key here is that phrase 'magical byproduct' because it means I wager that you won't be gathering these as was the case back in Outland. These, I predict, will be produced as you use the Professions Buildings in your Garrison, and we'll finally see a way for players to become truly self-sufficient without the need for spending hours in the wild gathering materials for production. What will this mean in the long term? Well, until we have every Profession live and available for testing, and have an idea of the numbers of items we might produce, it isn't entirely sure, but the fact these items ARE VERY CLEARLY MARKED as being required in certain recipes should give certain people some things to think about.

Professions Theorycrafting, after all, is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

L100 Starter Epics = 620

There'll be no playing over the weekend as the Build that was briefly up last night was unstable enough to be taken down shortly afterwards. However there appears to be enough to pick over in the intervening period, including the inclusion of an increasing number of Inscription items (see above) I also see, for the reckless gamblers amongst you, the Mysterious Fortune Cards have returned but are now known as Cards of Omens. Top 'prize' for the Blood Card appears to be 6000g:

7 War Paints, for the curious.

There's also a large number of Professions buildings added in the game files to 'place' on your Plots menu, which seems to be indicating that we may yet have something to do in our Alliance 'home' apart from learning Alchemy *again*. Keep everything crossed.

Although there will be those people who are unhappy that Professions are appearing to become more homogenised and will have less reliance on 'odd' ingredients to make money, what is apparent is that standardisation will make the process considerably simpler to pick up, and may encourage more people to use Professions for the items they produce. What this will mean for Professions as an income stream is less clear, until those of us with extensive recipe catalogues can see what, if anything, has changed in the development process.

That reminds me, I must see if I can get P copied onto the Test Server...

Friday, June 20, 2014

ALPHA :: Until the End

Looks nothing like Oz Clarke. Discuss.

The days of Alpha for Frostfire Ridge may now have passed, at least in their current form.

It is hard to tell at this point if the Server will return as it was or whether Blizzard will push ahead with giving us the Alliance experience, but what we need to remember is that THE CLOCK IS TICKING. It's almost the end of June and we've not seen what happens past 92 yet, and that is going to continue to be a concern for the Developers because, you know, THEY NEED A WORKING EXPANSION. Let us take a moment therefore to look back on what we've learnt in the last couple of weeks.

1. Garrisons ARE AWESOME.


I know I go on about this quite a bit, and there will be those of you who will argue that I am intentionally biased and all, but really, Garrisons are awesome. The killer now is whether they can work with everything else in the time-scales available, and if there will in fact be anyone left to play them when they launch. I'll still be here, whatever happens, and I'll continue to report on how integration stops your journey to 100 from being more of the same and transforms life into something considerably more interesting. Of course there are inevitably going to be those people who won't care either way because you never did to begin with, and you're life's not worth living without SOMETHING TO MOAN AT. It's okay, it's been that way for ten years, I'd be amazed if things changed now. For the rest of us? Time to sing along: take the 'Everything is Awesome' song from The Lego Movie and AWAY WE GO:

If I just earwormed you? YOU'RE WELCOME \o/

2. Questing is Very Engaging.

Precedent. IT IS.

I've done a decent amount of quest pokeage, both related to Garrisons and otherwise, and I think it is fair to say that I wasn't discouraged or put off by anything, despite having to spend large portions of my time without a pet to help out. I killed things, I gathered stuff but it wasn't the same: not just because its a new world, but because mobs behave differently. There are options to distract you and simply completing the tasks you are given is not the only option. The opening zone really is HUGE and it is quite easy to wander off the beaten track. The only thing I didn't get to have a poke at were the Bonus Objectives but I'll be making sure those get ticked off the list when we change sides.

I also include this screenie quite deliberately: there will be those who might complain about a wife staying at home to defend the town, but speaking as a woman whose Grandmother did just that during World War Two there is a fair lump of precedent here that means the 'past' (as this is) is probably quite accurate. Anyway, it's almost the weekend and I really don't want to bring that argument back up here. We all know Blizzard need to do better. I'm going to wait until I've seen the ENTIRE Expansion before I start making any kind of judgement call on social content.

3. More Rares than you could Shake a Stick At.

That's ONE BIG Basilisk.

They are everywhere, no really, you can't move for new experiences that have nothing to do with the questing 'norm.' The choice is yours: you can do the straight run to level and ignore them or take them all in, and they're no longer all static fights. Some, like the Canyon Icemother here are 'vignettes': as hard (at least IMO) as a dungeon bossfight, with as many different abilities to learn and counter. The rewards aren't too shabby either at level, and form part of a 'palette' of different items you can mix and match to gear yourself, as a suitable alternative to Dungeons or running PvP.

Even if you don't do it on the first character you choose to level to 100 I strongly suggest you spend time with an alt doing the Grand Tour in a different way. I'm also really glad that Blizzard are sticking to the 'no flying' rule because with zones this size it is very easy to see just how that would negate an awful lot of the content's longevity. Oh and before people jump on me again about there are ways to involve flying that need not impact on such things, I go back to thinking how different life would have been if at 70 you didn't recieve a Flying Mount, and how part of me wished it had now never happened.

4. It all looks SUITABLY EPIC.

Riding Away from Home.

This zone really does look spectacular from the air, and if we're meant to be reminded of Outland there are prompts everywhere, quite apart from the fact that this zone is what Blade's Edge Mountains finally ends up as (NOT A SPOILER.) I am aware that many people will get the hump on the Horde side about ICY WASTELAND but actually, it's not all it seems and you will need to explore to really understand what's going on. There are countless nooks and crannies too, odd places in the Hills that hint of interesting potential future use. It was kinda nice to be able to just wander around for a bit, frankly, while everyone else was off doing the boring stuff like testing abilities and running 5 mans. Yes, I KNOW that stuff matters, but SO DOES FAFFING, because the measure of a game's longevity is what the good people do when they run out of current content to keep them occupied.

Needless to say I feel there's plenty not simply to do, but also to look at, and that matters in equal measure.

5. Stuff changes REALLY Fast.

Rare, not rare? LOOK AT THE DROP ^^

It is also REALLY important at this point to refer you good people to the Post-It note I now have stuck to the corner of my PC Monitor which states, simply: THIS IS ONLY ALPHA. Many, MANY things have the likelihood of change written on them depending on what players say in testing. For instance, Materials were not specific enough for players to understand they are connected to the Garrison, so they got a redo (see yesterday.) It is entirely possible some of the stuff I have catalogued here may never see the light of day and will be consigned to my memory as history. The trick in all of this, especially to those who lament not having the Alpha to play with currently, is that what stays and what goes is still very much in flux. Therefore, robust testing may not take away your enjoyment of the final product because not all of it could remain.

My rare 'friend' up here wasn't completely done either, at least that's how I felt when I killed him. I just gotta remember where everyone is when it comes to Live so I can make a beeline for the places I know have goodies in them :D


Needless to say, as soon as there's a working Client up, wherever we end up, you'll see me there. I'll also do my best this weekend to put together some of my Twitch footage from the last couple of weeks so people can get a sense of what I've encountered in my journeys thus far.

To Build a Home :: No Milk Today

So, the thing is...

I'd woken up this morning fully expecting to be streaming new Alpha content. Instead:

There's a 'problem' with the new Build...

... and I'll bet this small yet sizeable bag of Gold it will be Garrisons that are causing the problem. This build was trailed as the one that would allow players into Shadowmoon Valley as Alliance, and give us a chance to test the starting experience on the other side of the coin. Heck, Blizzard even gave us a blog post on Shadowmoon yesterday as a way to prepare us for what to expect. What this post gives us at least is the geographical location of our Garrison:

You are here.

This does indeed confirm what I thought yesterday that when the Horde get Bladespire to take as their base, we'll have Karabor to assault and that is probably the best place to approach when I start constructing the Garrison (whenever that may be, hopefully late today.) What else we can expect? Well, that's still very much TBC, but as soon as I have concrete details of ANYTHING new, you can be sure I will report it here.

I am looking forward to having some new information to share with people very soon...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

#WCOW14 :: Today's Fixtures, June 19th

We are back to our schedule today, with three games in today's fixtures.

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) Twitter and Facebook will link to this page, and voting will be open until 9am TOMORROW MORNING to give people more time to support their favourites :D


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

Underneath each game is a link to a Poll. Please click on this to cast your vote.

At the end of the Voting period, the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

Results will be added to this post after each game has been concluded. Remember to vote for your favourite team!

ALPHA :: All You Want


And so, finally, I had a couple of free hours this morning to dive back into the Alpha. I was there under a pretext, as always: checking up on whether the basic Garrison Starting Experience has changed or not (bit more flavour text, a loss of some animation, but basically the same) but this time I finally managed to finish what is the first significant encounter in the Horde Starting Area: Bladespire Fortress.

I have to be honest with you: from a purely storyline and progression-based standpoint, I'm pretty impressed with what I saw.

Big canvases, personal stories.

One of the biggest overriding issues with questing is the notion of you being 'on rails': that there is no way of varying what you do in any given area, because to progress in any MMO there needs to be a distinct element of 'show and tell': here's your story, try and understand your significance in it. Bladespire doesn't deviate from this, let's be honest, but what it does to is break up a bigger story into smaller stages and allows the player a chance to adjust to what they're being asked to do. As I suspect will be the case with the Temple of Karabor (which will, I assume be the Alliance equivalent of this) Bladespire is HUGE: I came across it first time when in Alpha from its rear entrance and the sense of scale you have is considerable. Doing the questline 'properly' for the first time made me understand how all these pieces fit into place, how the wider 'story' is made up of smaller, significant sections. It also made me realise just how buggy the whole thing is and that this is most definitely not a game that's ready for a wider audience.


I did the entire section with no pet, unable to summon one in phasing as the game thought I still had a pet which wasn't there ^^ It's been a while since I've played a Melee Hunter but the sequences are untuned enough at present for me to be able to work my way through the lot without death at 91. There is a rolling boulder sequence that's going to piss off a few people (Zul'Gurub anyone?) but in the main movement and combat are intuitive, make sense and shouldn't vex anyone. In fact, I can see some players complaining of this being *too* easy, especially (as we see above) the 'reward' for this hard work is an Epic Item. However, the colour is slightly deceptive:

As you can see, there's only a nine iLevel difference between what a L90 rare drops and what this Quest furnishes as a reward, and stats could be considered as comparable as a Hunter. It could well be that secondaries will come into their own when levelling as a result, and I'll be watching the theorycrafting on this with some interest. With my incentive hat on, I'd also put a small sum of gold on the possibility that offering Epic rewards from quests is only one way Blizzard are going to try and encourage you to quest rather than simply grind mobs to max... because let's face it, who doesn't want Epics when levelling? :P

For those of you here with a Garrisons hat on, I discovered the benefit of completing a zone objective to boot.

You receive INCENTIVES.

This flask is inside a chest you receive as 'payment' for your efforts after the opening quest chain is completed: I'm going to assume that because I am automatically an Alchemist (thanks to the way premades are created and the Garrison is set up for testing) that this is the 'official' quest track into the entire 'build yourself an Alchemy lab' sequence (which I've never yet managed to complete.) That means I'll also assume that, once this game goes live, you'll be given an item on completion that kick starts your own professions depending on what you are currently using on that particular toon. Of course there is no way to tell, but it seems logical that quests will push you back to your Garrison and conversely Garrisons will encourage you out to quest. Needless to say, I got 100 Garrison Resources from that chest as well, so frankly you should probably be questing if only for the stockpile of materials you could potentially gain.

Look for the Funky Crates!

I'll be streaming again later in an attempt to get a better feel for the Garrison quest chain. What is apparent, at least from my limited adventures in Alpha, is that you do not to complete things in a particular order to unlock stuff inside your Garrison. This should allow a freedom of flexibility for players once basic tasks are fulfilled, and means FAFFING while levelling could yet be a genuine possibility. What I'd really like now is a chance to see some other professions working in the Garrison setup APART from Alchemy...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#WCOW14 ::

Apologies for the lack of games for the Tournament yesterday, we are back today with SIX games and a slight change to our playing structure.

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) Twitter and Facebook will link to this page, and Voting will be open until 9am TOMORROW MORNING to give people more time to support their favourites :D


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

Underneath each game is a link to a Poll. Please click on this to cast your vote.

At the end of the Voting period, the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

Results will be added to this post after each game has been concluded. Remember to vote for your team!


ALPHA: Friends like These

That all depends on the definition :P

There may have been a fair deal of lamenting the lack of actual content in game of late, but there's plenty of new experiences to be had in the Warlords Alpha, and this week another wave of 'family and friends' got the nod for entry. I've seen more than a few people complaining about their lack of access, for whatever reason, and it has made me consider the meaning not simply of the word 'friend' (I recommend this article for a brief overview of how that term has evolved since the advent of social media) but of the reasoning behind exactly who it is that gets the nod to test in these early rounds of content (because yes, it still is very early days.) The Holy Grail for Blizzard must be, inevitably, to pick the right combination of players who will provide the most useful range of feedback. What was abundantly apparent from their experiment with the last round of Beta Tests in Pandaria was that sometimes, quantity is never a substitute for quality.

A LOT has changed in 3 years.

Blizzard have learnt a lot about selection processes in three years. A cursory glance at the people currently streaming or writing about the Alpha will show a clear move toward those who aren't simply here because they paid for the privilege, or that it was part of an agreement. Targeting information at the right people has become a massive growth industry (/looks at social media again) and this inevitably results in getting feedback that helps designers poke the games in the right places. Blizzard also enjoy the use of the targeted survey: I've completed one in the last three months that put a lot of emphasis on features for the new Expansion, and what I was interested in as a focus. It also asked some fairly pointed questions about my gaming habits, because it isn't simply about the Blizzard titles I favour, after all. However, in all of this, sample sizes don't give the whole picture. You just have to look at the various female characters in gaming discussions going on to know that sometimes, the people you ought to be targeting aren't the people your data says you should be.

Often the people you want to target are never the ones making the biggest noise.

Not just the ones you hear.

As I have discovered with my World Cup of Warcraft, sometimes it takes a while for people to complain about something they don't like, but there inevitably will be those who won't complain at all, they'll simply leave. Ironically, when you unsub from Warcraft you'll be given a fairly comprehensive list of reasons to complete as to why, but nobody is expecting you to pick any of them. There is a world of difference between being given an option and actually taking it. How do Blizzard know that they are actually getting the right messages? I assume ultimately they assume that people who are given surveys and respond to them care enough to want to change things they don't like. Players who push for Alpha access (for whatever reason) feel a need to play because they want to understand what has changed. Anyone who makes an effort to take the time to write a Blog or open a Forum post clearly wants to gain *something* from the action: then you have to decide the relevance. Is this person simply wanting to take part because it means they now posses a unique manner to improve their visibility as a 'personality' or are they genuinely here to help the efforts to produce a better game?

Either way, it is free publicity for Blizzard's products, so in the end it really doesn't matter. Everyone still 'wins.'

Fel Reaver Redux.

The next couple of months will be crucial for the game, because if Blizzard want to hit that Q4 deadline for release, some major stuff will have to drop fairly soon. We'll need a couple of months to get used to the new ability squish in the Old World, for starters, which is already pushing us very close to Blizzcon time. I also suspect this is the calm before the storm, which is why when I get back from Real Life today I'll be running the Horde Garrison experience one last time before I (suspect) it could get switched off for a while and we end up in Shadomoon Valley. I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure this time I deliver decent feedback and make my choice as a tester mean something. Not just for the game, but for me, because I have begun to realise that doing the right thing regardless of the situation is actually more important to me in the long run than being part of the experience.

It is, as always, a case of priorities.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Wondrous Stories


I first told this story back in 2009, on this very Blog. I feel that today is a good time to revisit it.


Zul'Gurub launched in Patch 1.7, back in September 2005. For someone who was at that point supremely casual, completely in blue and in no position to get anywhere near 40 man raiding, ZG was a very attractive possibility. The problem of course was getting there, and finding a group of people in our Guild Back Then was a tough prospect. There weren't even 20 people online on a good night.

One night in late 2005 my husband was asked by someone on his Friends List (a lovely dwarf pally who was for many years a permanent fixture in Stormwind when I was there) if he'd like to come along and heal (because back in those days there was only one spec and for Mr Alt's Pally that meant Holy) for a ZG run. They had a space for a dps too, and I was asked if I'd like to take part. As we congregated outside the instance with the other people I felt more than a little inadequate: these people were better geared and clearly all knew each other very well, if the chat in Raid was any indicator. I could only hope I'd be able to do my best. We despatched the first two bosses (Bat, Snake) with a surprising measure of ease: I learnt later they'd never killed both in the same evening. I scored points for doing as I was told and throwing out decent dps, and made myself generally both useful and unobtrusive simultaneously. Loot drops were all handled by rolling: there was no obvious bias towards anyone, if you needed something you rolled. This seemed a great deal fairer than all the various loot systems I'd read about, far more preferable than DKP. Those three letters scared me.

Mostly I just stood at the back and kept quiet.

Then we arrived at Bloodlord Mandokir. This boss was tough. We wiped several times and it got close to the scheduled finish time. I learnt via a whisper that the group hadn't as yet pulled this boss down. We ended up exploiting the spears in the boss area (which of course they subsequently removed) and he died on the last pull. There was much rejoicing, as this was a significant kill for the majority.

When they cracked open the boss for loot, they found Mandokir's Sting.

End Boss Vanilla Edition.

I can still even now remember how excited that piece of loot made me feel. It was my first ever chance at an Epic Item in an Instance. I'd had Blue items drop before I'd felt the same way about as well, but this was different. This was actual proper Hunter Loot. There was only one other Hunter in the raid, a Night Elf, and I sat patiently and waited to be told when to roll. And I waited. When the call went out, I shut my eyes and pressed my macro button.

I won.

It was only after I was given the item that I realised summat was up. The hunter stopped talking to me. There were some awkward silences. I decided that I was just being silly, and looked forward to going back to Ironforge to make a quiver for the arrows I'd now be using instead of my normal bullets. There was a great deal of internal squeeing too of course... It was only when I'd left the raid and was selling stuff in Ironforge that I found out what the problem was.

'You won MY item :( '

The hunter whispered me and decided she'd tell me how it was. Apparently the bow 'was promised' to her should it drop, and I shouldn't even have been given a chance to roll on it. I was a Dwarf, my Racial was guns, why on earth had I even rolled? I explained as politely as I could that I'd been told what the loot system was, I'd done as I'd been instructed and I'd rolled higher. Therefore, the item was mine. She kept at me for nearly an hour until I logged in desperation. I'd never experienced Loot Rage before, but I knew now at first hand just how mind-blowingly destructive it could be.

In the end, the hunter got us both thrown out of that group. We raided for a few months (with some fun times when AQ opened in 2006) , I picked up a couple more items from ZG and AQ, but as a result of what happened the leaders introduced a 'Wish List' system where you had to say what item you wanted from the instance before you went again and you were only allowed to take items that no-one else wanted... it was a bad idea. In the end, their fairness to just let people /roll failed to take into account you need everyone to be prepared to be fair in the first place. If people won't, no loot system will ever work properly. It actually helped me begin my journey into 20 and 40 man raiding on a note of caution: make sure you know and understand ALL the rules before you go. I'd see the Hunter wandering around in game from time to time, but I was on /ignore.

Needless to say, I moved on.

Up North.

Fast forward to Wrath of the Lich King: I was up at the Tournament, LFG Chillmaw (as was my normal daily routine for some time) when I was invited to a group by a mage. As I joined I watched as my bow-coveting Hunter register my presence and promptly leave. Thirty seconds later the mage made a lameassed excuse about being needed somewhere else and disbanded the group (as both were in the same Guild, something I'd not even realised.) I thought long and hard and then whispered him, telling him that three years to hold a grudge really was a bit pointless, and he should say hi to the hunter from me. I found another group for Chillmaw, and went on my way.

Thirty minutes later, the hunter whispered me as I farmed in the Fjord for leather.

We spent the next hour or so chatting: about how she was sorry about the loot drama, how she'd left that group as well and gone to a Guild with a bunch of people who are now part of our Guild, how that had subsequently  fallen apart and she'd gone to a third Guild and then back to where she was. She spoke about how she missed people who had left, and how things have changed over the years. She seemed to be running 10 mans on her own (which I didn't envy, I know how tough that is) and also seemed genuinely grateful to be able to talk to me about anything and everything. The fact she apologised speaks a lot for me: there's really not much point in life if you don't learn from your mistakes, and it was very satisfying to have someone be that honest and upfront. I also learnt that a lot of those people from that first alliance have gone: burnout, abuse, general lack of interest in a game that still makes me want to play it every day. It just goes to show that people play this game for a huge number of reasons.

It also proves the point that it's never too late to say you're sorry.

It isn't just the game that changes over time, it is the people too. The same things may drive us and motivate, but in the end it is only pixels and it doesn't matter as much as the way you deal with them.

Monday, June 16, 2014

#WCOW14 :: Today's Fixtures, June 16th

These are Today's Fixtures for the 2014 World Cup of Warcraft:

Each 'game' of the Campaign will play in 'real time' to coincide with events outside Azeroth (you know what I'm talking about :D) A Poll will appear at the top of this webpage, and will be linked to on Twitter and Facebook.


Vote for the Team you would like to win. 

At the end of 90 minutes the team with the most votes will be awarded the three points for a win. If votes, when tallied, are within 5% of each other, the game will be declared a draw and each team will be awarded one point each.

Results will be added to this post after each game has been concluded. Remember to vote for your team!

This Week, I Will be Mostly :: Who Are You?

BACK OF THE NET! *cough*

It has been a pretty odd week, all told. There has been very little actual game, not nearly enough Alpha and quite possibly TOO MUCH FOOTBALL (yes I KNOW I said I wouldn't mention it again and I won't, you're okay, that's it done now.) This means that this week there should probably be a fair bit of catching up done, but tempered with the fact I need to actually do some stuff to look after myself. I have a health check next week and I feel obliged as a result to at least attempt to be a bit more healthy. Add to this that at the weekend I'm doing a Charity Bike Ride and, well, it's time for the old PRIORITY SWITCHAROO.

Because ultimately, you can't play games if you're not well.

I've also promised a Podcast Guide this week on Garrisons, which means I ought to think about getting around to organising myself for that (think it is going to need to be scripted for obvious reasons.)

This is my Home.

The Website generally could really do with a cleanup, if truth be told. I still have two pieces of Fiction outstanding to complete, quite apart from my personal Novel project which WILL GET FINISHED this week. There is undoubtedly a bit of a lull in game interest generally, but people still like a bit of news and discussion, so you won't have to worry about content, it will still happen. I'd anticipate we may well see a new Alpha Build late this week to boot and if we do, that's an entire new starting zone (mush go copy P to the Test Realm, DO NOT FORGET.) Then I think it high time to write a new bit of the Guide for Between Expansions and to start putting some of my toons to bed.

WHAT did she just say?

This is one of those weeks where, frankly, anything could happen (and probably will) so I'd just keep your eyes on the site. Or on the GIF above, either works :D

[PS: Someone remind me to go rewatch Firefly. Thank you.]