Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?



Sorry, big apologies all round, the real life patch that dropped last year, caused a huge change in my mood, lifestyle and my willingness to read and write about the World of Warcraft. In the 5 months since I last wrote anything sensible on this blog, not a lot as happened in game. There is no new content and a lot of hot air. I even stopped reading other peoples blogs so in reality I have no idea what is going on, but I get the feeling I have not missed much. My only sources of information have been the Godmother, The Instance Podcast and occasionally WoW Insider.

The good news is that I am back in employment after suffering an enforced vacation over the month of December. This was not a good time for me and the people around me. I might have been rather unpleasant to live with for a period of 6 weeks and the effect of not being able to provide a good Christmas for my wife and children.

After several months of attending terrible interviews, I was asked to go and have a chat with a local company, situated about 10 minutes walking distance from my house. I was late Friday afternoon and started work on the following Monday morning. Not only is work very close to home, but there is talk of Business trips to exotic European locations including Paris, Madrid and Milan, it sounds like a fashion show, but in reality the company makes rivets

In my absence I have mentally written hundreds of posts, but I have not had the time or the focus to give them the attention they require, but I am hoping that recent changes in circumstances will allow for resumption of usual service.

The low point in between expansions is a strange to start writing but that is exactly the point that I picked up my keyboard 2 years ago. There is still much to discuss and I wanted to pickup the baton laid down by the Godmother and her faffing campaign.

Faff means - "To spend time in ineffectual activity". It is an English word derived from the North of England and is commonly used only in the UK. There is a time when I would have described the bulk of my game time in Azeroth to be "faffing about". I would love to support the Godmother but I have made a discovery that on the surface our activities may appear to be ineffectual, but in reality the opposite is true.

With additional time on my hands in December I decided to organise my game time so as to make optimum usage of short periods of play between job applications. The result was a spreadsheet to monitor my key goals and routines, and I remembered in the process that the Godmother had already created The Ultimate Form of Faffing. The result is the antithesis of faffing and results in huge improvements in the attainment of objectives. The activities might be inconsequential to anyone else but this is anything but faffing.

In my own form I highlight the following key activities:

  1. Darkmoon Faire - Monthly activity for 5 points of fishing skill.
  2. Weekly Timeless Isle Quest - Collect 50 Epochs for 200 Valor
  3. Celestial Bosses - Leg and Gloves (Now dropping 550 PvP gear)
  4. LFR Siege of Orgrimmar - Just in case they drop secrets and titan runestones for the Legendary Quest.
  5. Warforged Seals - Pickup 3 bonus Seals or 40+ Gold not a lot of effort (weekly)
The matrix was ultimately a tick box of which characters needed what activities in any given week. I can quickly logon to any alt if I find a Celestial Boss has been attacked without wasting any time. 90% of Celestial Boss kills occur on reset day and armed with this information it is possible to chain kill for between 5 and 11 characters in a two hour period. Prior to having a spreadsheet I would logon to the wrong character and miss the end of the fight on far too many occasions.

The idea that end game is all about Heroic Raiding, Maximising Honor Kills and the accumulation of gear is only partially right. Every player has their own agenda, and with a lack of new content we are left to do achievements, clear out our bags, and put our characters into stasis waiting for a date sometime between September and December when we can experience something new again.

The development time for Warlords of Draenor is not a surprise that is would take around 12 months from Blizzcon to a release date. The only surprise in the MoP expansion was the time of expansion dropping to the first major patch. Everything else is firmly in Blizzard timelines of 2 year expansions. The time from last patch to new expansion is bad for both player and Blizzard. Killing Deathwing for 12 months was not fun, and the same is going to be true of Garrosh. What makes matters worse is that he is going to escape (oops spoiler).

Recently I started to do Pet Battles, fundamentally because I could not face another night of waiting around for a LFR. LFR is set so damn low in terms of gear that the only reward possible is the dropping of bits for the Legendary Quest. The RNG for these items is sickening low, leaving me doing something I don't want to do, for a very slim chance of a 8% advancement in one quest. Fully flexible raiding cannot come round quick enough in my opinion. In case you think I am over doing my sob story, I have killed 60+ bosses in Siege of Orgrimmar in various Raid types for 5 Titan Runestones. I would prefer to know that I am required to do 4 Raids a week to achieve one Runestone than a random system that can churn out 4 rewards in a row and then nothing for 3 months. Random is useful for some aspects of the game, but for others we need to see definitive rewards for our toils.

For all the talk of a welfare Legendary, I respect anybody with one cloak, never mind multiple cloaks on alts (Kudos to Grumpy).

***Update***
Catching up my reading I found How to get a Legendary on a Boosted Alt. Apparently I have been doing it wrong for months.

Anyway back to Pet Battles, when does something stop being fun and turns into just another grind?

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Rock 'n' Roll


It's been a long time since I rock and rolled,
It's been a long time since I did the Stroll.
Ooh, let me get it back, let me get it back,
Let me get it back, baby, where I come from.
It's been a long time, been a long time,
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time. Yes it has.
 
Led Zeppelin

"I am back. Back in Black I hit the sack It's been too long and I am glad to be back". Ok musical rendition over, I have missed the whole of December due to a change in circumstances. I hope you all had a good Christmas and enjoy the upcoming New Year by drinking sensibly. What am I saying, let your hair down and do what ever you want to do as long as it does not hurt someone else.

My absence is due to being out of work, for the last 4 weeks and whilst it is nice to take a break, I also need to start worrying about mortgages, car loans and putting food on the table. I have not published any posts because, why write when I could be playing instead?

The result of my absence is that I have lots of ideas for a blog post, so excuse me if my thoughts just come out in a incoherent jumble.

With it being the end of the year today, I wanted to talk about the current status of the game. Many bloggers have had their head turned towards what may come to pass as the next expansion, but right now I am only interested in the game that we are stuck with for at least another 6 months.

Timeless Isle

I predicted that the Timeless Isle would only be current and relevant to players for a short time. If my memory serves me well I put a figure of 6-8 weeks, due to the ease and amount of loot available. For people that are loot centric the Timeless Isle offers a multitude of layers that keeps players coming back day after day. If I was Shrek I would probably describe it as being like an onion.

My original forecast was based on the premise that people would take their iLevel 496 and spend the rest of the expansion beating Garrosh over the head with a wet fish until such a time that Blizzard gets round to giving us a new expansion.

The reality is that people have seen the rewards from Siege of Orgrimmar LFR (iLevel 528) and decided that it is more beneficial to farm for Timeless Coins, and hunt for Rares in the hope of getting those all elusive Burden of Eternity (iLevel 535). Elusive is a relative term, because when you have all the gear you require, they seem to drop like candy and when you need on a particular character then the Vegas casino chests are well and truly stacked against you. Back in November several people suggested that Burdens of Eternity that are purchased could be BoA and the random drops Soulbound. I still maintain that all Burdens of Eternity should be account bound.

The Timeless Isle also allows a quick exercise in the obtaining of valor points, which only have one purpose these days and that is for upgrading your gear by the grand total of 4 iLevel for every 250 valor.

The biggest issue with all these people crowding in a small area is that they all want the same things. The Daily quest is to kill 20 Elites, and as a side benefit collecting 50 Epoch Stones in the process for the weekly quest. WoW players will almost always find the path of least resistance, and in this case it involves a strict pecking order.
  • Brilliant Windfeather
  • Ironfur Great Bull
  • Great Turtle
  • Death Adder
  • Ancient Spineclaw
  • Anything Else
The general canon fodder are the Great Turtles which can be found on Turtle beach between the two flight points. One well geared person can clear the area easily on their own, but if there are two well geared people then the result is a waiting time for respawn. Respawn times are based on the number of the people in an area so the result of having two well geared people in the area is slow respawn times for anybody else. With a Blood spec Death Knight, there is no point doing solo mobs so it is relatively easy to take on five Great Turtles and a host of hatchlings. This is unfair on anybody else in the area, but it is understandable why players take on so many mobs.

The Cats with their ponce ability are a pain in the neck, and the Gulp Frogs are second only to being swallowed whole by a Gastropod.

Legendary Cloak

I like many others am still engaged in the Wrathion questline, I have now got three characters at various stages, and I am undertaking the double edge process of weapon finding. Weapons have been the bane of this expansion, and I having a weapon that is 40 iLevel less than the rest of the gear is not a fun mechanic. I am forced to run LFR and sometimes get invited on a flex run. LFR is in a bad state at the moment with people dropping out after a weapon dropping boss. There is a reason that Blizzard used to put weapons on the last boss of a wing, and not the first, they also seemed to have forgotten about their own logic.

For those you with your 10% increase cloaks, you might have forgotten that you even had to do two PvP battlegrounds. For the Alliance this spells pain and misery. My first venture through the PvP pain barrier was on my Hunter, who did both battlegrounds with a 100% win ratio. My Resto Shaman, was faced with a much tougher challenge. The Temple of Kotmogu was one win from three, the stumbling block is the Silvershard Mines.

The Horde have worked out that there is easy Honor to be gained by mowing down the Alliance PvE noobs who are only there to do the Legendary quest. In my opinion the Horde have a natural bias towards PvP and the more tactical the Battleground, the better they excel. Silvershard Mines is every day a Horde Christmas. After 10 such horrible defeats I begged in guild for some assistance.

My prayers were answers by the resident guild Warlock, who besides knocking out impressive figures in PvE also likes to kick butt in PvP. Having invited a fellow Guildie and DPS monster, I thought it was only fitting to act as a personal healer. The result was a crushing Victory for the Alliance, and proof that one player can make a big difference in a battleground.

My thoughts on PvP are that CC is totally out of whack. On a bad day my Shaman was never out of CC, whether it was Fear, Sap, Silence or trap, it was shockingly bad. My own CC is the Toad which seems to be on the longest cooldown in the game. Chain CC is very bad for the game.

Looking For Raid

I have discussed before that LFR gear is just too damn low. The only items worth having are weapons and possibly trinkets. The only people in there are usually doing valor runs or collect Secrets for the Legendary quest. I know there is a problem when I am topping the charts from start to finish, and only 2-5 can manage to get over 100K DPS. If I was to step into normal or Flex I would expect to be last or next to bottom on the charts, so I do not expect to top the meters.

In Raiding the Golden rules seem to be take out the adds and stay out of the bad. Why is it that so many people seem incapable of doing things. Also why do some ranged Dps'ers insist on standing outside of the AoE healing. Do they think that they are special little snowflakes?

Miscellany

Have a good New Year and I hope to get back in the groove in 2014.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Superstition


I might be a casual gamer, who incidentally clocks up a few hours in front of a computer screen, but I do play a lot of classes. This gives me a fairly unique view of how the classes stack up against each other. I am not talking about cutting edge top iLevel gear and the raiding experience, I am talking about the ease of being able to use a certain class.

We all have our favourite playstyle, some like to go to go toe-to-toe, others like to stab their prey from behind, others like to hurl fireballs for a safe distance. From the point of view of a casual altoholic I want ease of use, many refer to Hunter as, "easy to play difficult to master". This is the kind of design that I am looking for. I struggle with my Blood Death Knight when I have not played her for a few weeks, but a Mage or Hunter I can knock out the damage without thinking about it. It might be muscle memory or just ease of use.

Traditionally I have always struggled with melee, in particular Rogue and Warrior, and for some reason I have never got on with my Warlock. Warlocks got into a right state in Cataclysm and the decline in popularity was so marked that Blizzard made it a priority to overhaul the class and all 3 specs, which had lost their definitions. If you have forgotten what state Warlocks got themselves into I have included a link to the excellent work provided by Cynwise.

When you play 10 classes and several specs, it is difficult to spend the time learning an additional one. The result is that always play BM Hunter and Frost Mage. I have tried but the results are terrible. The thought of having to relearn a new spec when levelling my Warlock filled me with dread. In the end this was the last character I levelled, and for solo play I was amazed at the ease and the power of the newly designed Warlock. I traditionally played as Demonology, but on researching the specs I chose Destruction. I cannot even remember the reason why, but I think it was based on a comment from R.

Out of curiosity I found the comment from R on the 7th August 2013, in summary it looks like this:

"Warlock - Go Destro for leveling, use the Void Lord (Supremacy talent) for a tank pet and think Elemental Shammy for rotation. Immolate instead of Flame Shock, Combustion (Conflagrate) instead of Lava Burst and Incinerate instead of Lightning Bolt. That'll get you most of the way to an end-game rotation and will blow up quest mobs quite impressively."

The key was Elemental Shammy rotation, that was something concrete and tangible that I could work with. No need to learn new rotation, simply substitute the ideas of playing Elemental directly to my setup for Destruction and voila, easy peasy.

My Warlock was a little late to the Timeless Isle party, but I am now sporting iLevel 495 and in comparison my Druid is iLevel 508. The Gnomey Warlock can blast a Great Turtle before the spin cycle and my Druid needs to turn and flee. I believe I am playing both classes reasonably well, and one of them is significantly better geared, but I do not feel connected to the druid class anymore. It used to be so overpowered and now it appears to be a joke, with it's stupid swinging barometer between night and day.

The Warlock on the otherhand is an absolute joy to play. If you have not played one for a few expansions, I can heartily recommend. A class canon with a pet, what could be better. Now I just need to that green fire questline.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Holding Out For A Hero


Just in case any of you are still treading the boards doing the Timeless Isle, I have noticed a slightly worrying trend. The trend is for random invites, with no message. The usual response is simply to ignore and move on.

On this occasion I was being stalked by a bear that would hit everything I was hitting. After a little while I get a message, "Can I group with you?". For once I decided to see where this one was going.

I was a Ret Pally and he was a Bear Druid, nice combination for melee slaughterfest. Not quite the mobs went down no quicker, but I wasn't getting hit so that was a plus. After about 10 minutes something piqued my interest and I decided to check his gear. I was confronted by Blues and Greens, how was this possible? Timeless Isle gives gear away how can this be?

I decided to lead him to where I knew there was chests and had to persuade him to open them. Using this logic I dragged him up the hill towards the Yaungol and one of the big chests, which yielded 2 pieces of leather gear. I have checked his character today and he is at a more respectable iLevel 471 with 6 pieces of Timeless Gear.

Hopefully I have saved a poor lost soul and propelled them into a life of queueing up for LFR. Ok so it's not entirely salvation but this is my good deed for the day.

All this ties in with the requirement that the Godmother thinks that some of us need a little bit more in game guidance. I am not sure how much more you can help people by having sparkling treasure chests all over an island that provide huge gear increases.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Hey Stoopid


Blizzcon provided a large amount of information, and for those that did not attend or watch the virtual event, it is safe to say we are finally catching up. One small item that slipped my attention is about the Warcraft film, due to my interest being solely based around the game and not the various multi-media surrounding the game.

I was first alerted by the Instance Podcast, when Scott Johnson was disappointed by the Blizzcon panel and the lack of definite details being released. The film is still under tight control, but it appears that the storyline according to Wowpedia is:

"BlizzCon 2013 featured an entire panel on the movie. They revealed that the story was going to be around the time of Warcraft 1, and that the focus was going to be on Anduin Lothar and Durotan, as they felt it was important to portray both the Alliance and Horde. Concept art was shown of Dalaran, Stormwind, Ironforge, and Draenor."

The penny final drops that the reason for the convoluted time travel/time bubble storyline is a complete tie in with the film. The storyline for WoD looks very sloppy and is shoehorned into the game to make the film look more palatable. If you want to see exactly how flimsy the storyline is then I suggest that you read Anne Stickney over at WoW Insider.

I have borrowed the diagram drawn by Anne to emphasize the point.



Is this the biggest load of bunkum storytelling you have seen for some time? Not only do they go back in time, they change history and then somehow move the entire alternate world to a different timeline. Even Stephen King would not be so bold.

We have already dallied with time in the Caverns of Time, and the Cataclysm heroics, End Time, Well of Eternity and Hour of Twilight. Blizzard have given up with the idea of an entire continent that can be shrouded by mist, or an Island that comes and goes as it fancies. We are left with the most inconceivable plot line because it ties in with the future release of a film. Quite frankly I am a little appalled at this.

Will it affect the game and will I stop playing? No of course not, but this is nothing more than rampant commercialism. I have heard people saying that the subscriptions will rocket in the face of the new expansion. I think the answer is that nothing will ultimately stop the game sliding into obscurity. At the end of the day nobody would ever have anticipated peak figures of 11 million or that the game would last more than 10 years but it will continue to decline unless the film is a huge commercial success, the new expansion is simply paving the way for the film.

The plotline might be transparent in the extreme, but personally I am interested to see how the lessons of the current expansion are improved upon, and the long awaited Garrisons feature will more than keep me occupied.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Time Warp


There is nothing more incendiary on the internet than discussing a hypothetical subject like Time Travel. The new expansion is going to take us 30+ years into the past and before people start going on about "Bubbles of Time", "Alternative Realities" and "Parallel Universes" lets first examine the subject we are faced with. I do not claim to an expert on the subject, which is the very reason that I feel qualified to write about it with eyes wide open.

The number one source for all things time related is of course Albert Einstein, with the Theory of Relativity, which claims that time is an illusion, and can vary for different observers depending on your speed through space. To Einstein time is the "fourth dimension".

"Einstein's theory of special relativity says that time slows down or speeds up depending on how fast you move relative to something else. Approaching the speed of light, a person inside a spaceship would age much slower than his twin at home. Also, under Einstein's theory of general relativity, gravity can bend time."

"Both the general and special relativity theories have been proven with GPS satellite technology that has very accurate timepieces on board. The effects of gravity, as well as the satellites' increased speed above the Earth relative to observers on the ground, make the unadjusted clocks gain 38 microseconds a day."

The general consensus is that it is theoretically possible to go backwards in time if you can get past the small issue of Light speed. The recent example of Navimie travelling to Blizzcon and crossing the international date line, (an imaginary line that is situated in the middle of pacific which runs from pole to pole) does not count. It can be argued that forward Time Travel is what we do every day. When I go to bed at night, and then magically wake up in a brand new day is forward Time Travel, from my relative position time as moved very fast.

Wikipedia defines Time Travel as:

"Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner analogous to moving between different points in space.
Time travel could hypothetically involve moving backward in time to a moment earlier than the starting point, or forward to the future of that point without the need for the traveler to experience the intervening period (at least not at the normal rate). Any technological device – whether fictional, hypothetical or actual – that would be used to achieve time travel is commonly known as a time machine."

In the World of Warcraft we are anticipating some kind of portal device as our Time Machine, but it is being argued that it is not our Azeroth past but a Parallel Universe in the past. Writing such a concept automatically makes me feel uneasy and with my mind about to explode with the consequences of such action. The easiest way to thing about it as a sort of "Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", in which the wardrobe is a portal to another world, but a world where time seems to run faster.

Literature, Film and Television are full of stories involving time travel and time machines. The BBC is currently celebrating 50 years of the Time and Space traveller known as the Doctor. We tend to view time travel as a opportunity to broaden our imagination and to provide unique experiences, but the concepts from one book, film or programme are never constant. The writers use different quirks of the genre for their own means. In Doctor Who they often refer to the problems of "Crossing your Own Timeline" this is in place to stop them going back to the beginning of the story and starting again. In the programme the Doctor constantly crosses his own timeline. In WoD we are going to witness Thrall and Grom meeting their own parents, and yet these action are not going to affect the past events on Azeroth, only the future events.

In the Back to the Future Trilogy we see changes in the past affecting both the Present and the Future. Marty McFly in the first film has the photograph of his brother and sister, and when history starts to change the family starts to fade. It could be argued that the photo would just not exist or it would contain another set of kids. This is used in the film merely as a prop to empathise the change in the time line.

In a film like Looper, Bruce Willis escapes his own death to cause a chain of events that have huge consequences for the rest of the film.

Popular Television programmes from America have included Quantum Leap and Sliders. In Quantum Leap the basic premise is that our lives are like a ball of string and that it is therefore possible to leap from one part to another as long as it is within our own timeline. The time machine in this case is the Quantum Leap Accelerator. Sliders uses a different slant in that they are not using a Time Machine but are merely sliding between parallel worlds. The timeframe is the same but one action will have huge implications and the outcome is a parallel world. The following is the definition from Wikipedia:

"The multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of infinite or finite possible universes (including the historical universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists and can exist: the entirety of space, time, matter, and energy as well as the physical laws and constants that describe them. The term was coined in 1895 by the American philosopher and psychologist William James. The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes."

Blizzard have been careful to use the word Time Bubble but the effect is that they appear to both Time Travel and Slide to a parallel world. The effect of Time Travel is that any storyline will gaping holes and the continuity issues become very important.

If you don't know what I am talking about, then try watching 12 Monkeys by Terry Gilliam. On the first run through you take everything at face value, on a second viewing or to discuss the issues with friends, then you will notice that small things have huge implications.

When watching anything connected with Time Travel it is definitely beneficial to suspend believe and let the story wash over you. If you think about it too hard or for too long you will tie yourself up in knots. In WoW terms, I feel sorry for the Lore nerds who are going to have to live with the consequences and fallout of this expansion.

***EDIT***
The first two articles I read after writing the above post illustrate the point I was trying make. The Godmother and Matthew Rossi fill in the gaps.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

One Way Or Another


There is so much to talk about at the moment it is difficult to know which way to go. BBB wrote an excellent post on Garrisons which negates anybody else writing about it until we have more detail. Rohan at Blessing of Kings, discussed the Orc Centric expansion, which is the point were I put in my two-penneth.

Having never played Horde, and preferring the pretty races (Blood Elves don't count), I have a slightly skewed view of how the factions are treated. Trying to be neutral in my observation it would appear that the vast majority of players are Alliance based. This is only natural because that is what the Fantasy genre as always taught us. We see everything through the "good guys" eyes. The first books in the genre are attributed to JRR Tolkien (Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) set the tone for all future books. The "good guys" are Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits, with humans being weak and fallible and both mighty and strong. Orcs, Worgs, Trolls and Ogres are the "bad guys", and so Blizzard had a uphill struggle to balance the factions.

The original Warcraft franchise like every other Real-Time Strategy game, involved a storytelling through all factions. In the series I remember very little except for 4 storylines.

  1. The Battle of Mount Hyjal
  2. Grom Hellscream drinking the blood of Mannoroth
  3. The Horde helping Cairne Bloodhoof (or the other way round)
  4. Arthas culling Stratholme
Three of these events have been revisited in World of Warcraft, and it would appear we are going to become more acquainted with Grom. Playing through the Real-Time Strategy, gave a unique perspective of the Lore, that people who have only played World of Warcraft and only one faction would not.

Vanilla WoW was heavy in favour of the Alliance due to the aspects that I have mentioned above. The Horde would later flourish when the stereotype of the Alliance as being casual, carebears and kids. The Horde on the other hand was for real Raiders, PvPers and Hardcore. Horde numbers swelled but on the whole the Alliance still holds the larger numbers on most realms.

Blizzard picked up the baton for the underdogs and have on the whole had a slight favouritism towards the Horde (which is perfectly understandable). Not wanting to pick out too many individual acts of favouritism it is easier to look at the expansions.

  1. Vanilla - The Alliance had the lion share of non contested zones
  2. The Burning Crusade - Probably the most Neutral in terms of Storyline
  3. The Wrath of the Lich King -  Alliance centric due to Arthas being the fallen Alliance noble
  4. Cataclysm - The hero in a supposed neutral role was Thrall, and with the Horde making territorial gains in the revamp.
  5. Mists of Pandaria - Garrosh Hellscream (enough said)
  6. Warlords of Draenor - Garrosh, Grom et al. This is completely Horde centric.
Does this matter that we have had three Horde centric expansions in a role? Not really in the big scheme of things. It does however feel that the Alliance are nothing more than lapdogs to the Horde. Hopefully this time the majority of the story is not obscured to the majority of players, and please Blizzard no more storylines that only appear in books and comics.