Tuesday, 21 October 2014

We All Stand Together


The last two posts I have made, make reference to the new Group Finder and the custom groups for Frog killing on the Timeless Isle. Original I thought this was a useless usage of a new tool. Grumpy yesterday put me straight and that there is a new reason to Group and murder Timeless Frogs.

Apparently I had all the aspects but I had failed to put them together. With the absence of Valor, we can now collect Lesser Whatsits of Chance to our hearts content. The upshot is that the easiest way is to group into 5 mans and create Frog Genocide on a grand scale.


 The droprate appears to be around one Lesser Whatsits of Chance per Frog, and with a kill rate of around 20 per minute depending on the competition and the group composition. This beats the 5 from the Dailies at Halfhill Market which would take 5-10 minutes. There is no other task that generates Lesser Whatsits of Chance at anything near to that rate. It is possible to do the Daily and Weekly (50 Epochs) at the same time.

Kudos to Grumpy for letting me know about this little secret and if you need some armour upgrades and are running short of Lesser Whatsits then you now know where to go.

Good luck but it is a frustrating place to be if you don't have a nice ranged AoE.

Monday, 20 October 2014

I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More


I was reminded of a fact by Grimmtooth, who questioned whether nostalgia is showing previous pre-expansions in a better light. The obvious facts are that was WoW was better in the past, and Blizzard used to know how to throw a good pre-expansion party.

The reality is that large chunks of the game are vastly superior to the original game and that pre-expansions are always damp squibs, with the exception of the Zombie curse which seems to have a close proximity to what is currently going on in West Africa with the outbreak of Ebola.

The Zombie event rendered the game totally unplayable and Blizzard made light of the event being curtailed by several days. It is of course a memorable event, but it not something than anybody would wish to repeat, and Grimmtooth highlighted the fact that these are normally short introductions into the next expansion. Under normal circumstances the current content plus a holiday event would be enough to keep us busy, but personally I think the lack of content for such a long period might have driven some us a little stir crazy.

I have had a few more days to devour the content and I might have got some things wrong as well as having some more opinions on 6.0.2. The first on my list of errors is the Raid Finder, it is a much better tool than I gave it credit for, and the customisable sections allows like minded people to go around murdering frogs on the Timeless Isle, but I was right that Celestials and Ordos need to be considered as Raids, especially Ordos. Celestials can be ignited by one tank managing to stay alive for 30 seconds without assistance, and a group of 10 people can make short work of these bosses. Ordos could benefit from a meeting stone to take the pressure off the Warlocks. I have also lost track of my characters weekly activities now that Saved Instances addon does not record Celestial kills and is a little suspect about recording Ordos kills too.

The other mistake I made was the tidy up bags button which I did not know existed or maybe it doesn't and it is just on the Bagnon addon. Unfortunately it often causes more problems than it solves. Two steps forward and one step backwards. I am however delighted with the amount of space saved by bigger stacks and the Toy cupboard. It seems very odd crafting with materials that are in the bank. It is one less aspect of realism in the game and a giant plus for convenience.

One thing I have noticed is that with all the changes, this is in fact the Pre-Patch and not the Anniversary and Pre-Patch rolled into one. There will be no PvP in Tarren Mill unless I am doing it on my own and besides with the huge queue times to do the UBRS mini adventure, it will take me 4 weeks to snag all the weapons, and that is if I get very luck indeed.

One other change I would like to discuss is the no more valor points and  upgrades with Lesser Whatsits of Chance. Originally when MoP first dropped I had far too many things to do to concentrate on just one character to get 1000 Valor. Later in the patch with all major activities completed I could rig the Valor of the Ancients and the Deeds of Valor used in-conjunction with the glitch which allowed the Valor of the Ancients to be still active from the week before. This was a perpetual valor stream so much so that it was possible to valor cap on all my level capped characters.
The downside was that you could only earn 1000 on any single character. The new system which is only in place for the next 3 weeks will essentially reward hard work.
 
1 upgrade = 250 valor = 50 Lesser Whatsits of Chance


In any given week you could only manage to generate enough new valor points for 4 upgrades, now you can generate as much as you like. The only downside is that you need to keep doing something in order to generate them. They do drop off everything , but even so when you need to hundreds of them, the droprate is still never enough. The positive in this is that I can do these tasks whilst waiting for UBRS.

Friday, 17 October 2014

What Have I Done To Deserve This?


The Patch 6.0.2 is now firmly deployed, and with the returning Millions it is going to be busy in Azeroth for the next month.

My first impression is just how good the graphics and character artwork upgrades are. Your favourite character is bobbing along with new facial features and the world seems sharp and in focus. I liken the process to renovating a painting, and showing the original painting in all it's glory after having the years of grime stripped off. Unfortunately not all the characters benefit the same. I am still systematically going through all my characters and have so far only done four:
  • Dwarf Male - big improvement, the nose is about half the size, and the hands are no longer the size of shovels. Did Leonardo never invent the Vitruvian Man?
  • Draenai Male - I can't detect too much change. Probably centred around better looking face tentacles
  • Orc Male - What a surprise Blizzard did an excellent job remodelling this class! No more round featureless faces all looking like Shrek or an average plain Peon. "Job Done".
  • Gnome Female - I am still finding the face somewhat disturbing. It is very similar to that strange look of young girls wearing heavy makeup.
Logging in gives the new "What's New?" screen. I know that I have many screens to wade through but in terms of communication this is a step in the right direction and well done Blizzard. The rewards outweigh the inconvenience of having to click a button to remove the screen.

New Dungeons, new PvP, my content of choice is the quest chain. Move the story on and allow me to partake in a few quests.

I follow the breadcrumbs and make my way over to the Blasted Lands. The Fortress is in ruins and the Alliance are gathered on the beach. There are Orcs nearby which I shoot at. It only then I notice that rotation is shot to pieces. No Serpent Sting! This was always one of the first spells in the rotation and unless I switch to Survival it is now gone forever. There are other gaps in my bar, my damage is miniscule and yet the mobs go down as soon as I look at them.

I am curious as to whether the difficulty is pitched correctly. It certainly appears on the low side. It makes a mockery of the whole scenario, if I can multi-shot the entire Iron Horde on my own and come out without a scratch. Even the final boss is laughable and you get help by whichever faction hero sent you there. I don't want difficult, but I don't want a boss to roll over and die, merely because I turned up.

I was curious earlier in the week when I found the loot table for the UBRS 5 man level 90 style. The gear is iLevel 550 Rare not even Purple in colour. Who is it designed for? I have dug out my often used table yet again to highlight the problem:

  • 502 - ToT LFR
  • 528 - Thunderforged
  • 528 - SoO LFR
  • 535 - ToT Heroic
  • 535 - Burdens of Eternity
  • 540 - SoO Flex
  • 541 - Heroic Thunderforged
  • 550 - UBRS (5 Man level 90 - Rare)
  • 550 - PvP Conquest
  • 553 - SoO Normal
  • 553 - Crafted (Legs and Belt)
  • 566 - SoO Heroic

  • Using comparisons with other content it is more than SoO Flex and less than SoO Normal (Don't get started on the new naming conventions). The problem is that UBRS is Rare and not Epic and it is not upgradeable. The others are for four more weeks and the upgrade table looks like this:

  • 510 - ToT LFR
  • 536 - Thunderforged
  • 543 - ToT Heroic
  • 544 - SoO LFR
  • 549 - Heroic Thunderforged
  • 550 - UBRS (5 Man level 90 - Rare)
  • 550 - PvP Conquest
  • 551 - Burdens of Eternity
  • 556 - SoO Flex
  • 569 - SoO Normal
  • 569 - Crafted (Legs and Belt)
  • 582 - SoO Heroic

  • It is essentially a minor upgrade for anybody in LFR SoO gear which is fully upgraded (possibly) or more likely for anybody in Timeless Isle 498 (+16 fully upgraded) gear. This is not designed for the people who have kept a continuous subscription but is aimed at a last chance for gear for the returning masses. Already we know that subscriptions are up and we are still a month away from the WoD release.

    UBRS offers up 4 different weapons:

    Dripping Willow - 2 Handed Strength Mace
    Finkle's Shanker - An Intelligence dagger
    Tharbek's Terrible Charge - 1 Handed Agility Sword
    Tharbek's Horrific Posessor - 1 Handed Strength Sword

    That by my reckoning would give most classes with the exception of one a reasonable boost if they are only in starter or Timeless gear. The missing class? yes of course it is Hunters, with no ranged weapon.

    Weapons and Trinkets are traditionally the hardest items to get your hands on. But MoP has taken this torture to new lengths. It started with the Thunderforged weapons that you could but huge gems as a gift from Wrathion, if only they ever dropped. Then LFR scattered weapons throughout the Siege of Orgrimmar so that after people had failed to acquire the weapon with both chances they would drop from the raid. New people would not stay because they had already missed a chance at the weapon and the queue went on and on. It took six months to get a ranged weapon on my main and only 5 out of 12 characters have got anything better than the 20,000 Timeless Coins version. yet they have average iLevels above 550 and weapons at 484 iLevel. Weapons make the biggest difference to DPS of all the gear slots. So a big thank you from all my Hunters to Blizzard, and at a time were Hunters are doing less damage than the Healers Tanks.

    Apart from the weapons (and exempting Hunters) there is no need to run the content more that once, which it could be argued that Blizzard don't care about because it only lasts for 4 weeks. At this rate it might last less than a week. Thankfully the UBRS is not wasted content because it is already being recycled and will be recycled again come the expansion. Clever of Blizzard to re-use content, no wonder it took so long for the expansion to be created.

    The new Group Finder UI was introduced to make finding groups easier. Unless of course you want to do Ordos and Celestials. The old system may have been hidden and in a stupid place, but at least it was usable. The new system means that no-one knows exactly where to put the custom group. I don't ever create a Random raid group, but judging by the number of Raid groups, people have not embraced this new feature yet, or perhaps it still needs to be modified. Surely Ordos and Celestials should count as Open Raids and not clumped with people farming Emperor Shaohao rep.

    The interface looks so much better and it is now in the right place, but it would not have been tested for current content and only for the Beta and PTR content. That suggests that the grouping for Open World Bosses will be different in Warlords of Draenor than the 5 World bosses that appeared in Pandaria.

    I am liking all the bagspace that we now get by stacking in 200's instead of 20's but it would be nice if we had a button that would automatically do it for us. I am sure with all the programming might at Blizzards fingertips that this would not be a major task.

    Overall I am impressed but the loss of framerate is a real worry 60 FPS down to 30 FPS is making me consider my options. I have a newer PC available but I really need to find a decent SFF Graphics Card that will hit the spot in terms of price and performance, which will mean trawling through benchmark scores again to find the right card. It would be nice to turn up those graphic options to max and see the game in it's true glory.

    Friday, 10 October 2014

    Gimme Something Good


    33 Days to go and I am really hoping that Blizzard going to give us something good. Alternative Chat is delighted about new Garrisons feature but for those of us who have not ventured through the portal (not that one, the new one) we have no idea what to expect. I am sure Garrison will become self evident when we are there with our new plot of land, but until that time it only makes  a modicum sense.

    A number of decent guides and articles have hit the street in the last week, so I have started to compile my WoD Resource Kit, I am of course open to any suggestions, but at the moment it looks very Garrisons top heavy, with only one other topic about Ground Mounts. I only really started populating the MoP version when it went live, but I am guessing the topics are highly likely to appear in live as they are now.

    There are no new races and no new classes and no new professions and from that sentence alone the expansion sounds lightweight. The heavyweight content is Garrisons and the race graphical makeover. The feel is apparently so different that people are referring to it as WoW v2 and with no Titan or any other Blizzard MMO in the near future we are stuck with this rolling behemoth for the next decade.

    The screen is going to be prettier and a new graphics card is on standby, and we are be promised some end game content that is not Raid orientated. Raiding seems to have hit a point were new ideas have long since all been used up, and some of the mechanics were not used for obvious reasons, like a deep purple maze on a dark floor, which was undetectable to the naked eye. Stay out of shit on the floor, stand in shit on the floor, group separate. Alternatively you could "hold a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose, buy a jumbo jet,  and then bury all your clothes, paint your left knee green, then extract your wisdom teeth, form a string quartet, and pretend your name is Keith."

    Why do we still put ourselves through these tasks? can anybody say that the MoP expansion brought any decent boss fights that would sit in the Pantheon of boss fights. Blizzard made big boasts for both Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar comparing them to Ulduar in scope and grandeur, I personally feel that none of the fights are of that standard.

    The Grumpy Elf made a good case for not doing the returning 5 Man Heroics, and with Scenarios consigned to the history books is it case of all Blizzards eggs are nestled in Garrisons being the runaway success. It could be argued that Garrisons could have been a stand alone game, micro managing your base with followers (minions) doing their own missions and crafting etc... Could this have been a tablet game?

    The pre-expansion is due on Tuesday 14th October as predicted by every man, woman and child who have ever played this game. I am assuming that the Europeans will wait an extra day for the patch, but the launch date for WoD will be a Thursday which means that Europeans and Americans will both launch on the same day. It means for once the European realms will be the test bed for the expansion, but the developers who are US based will need to put a shift on when the European realms operating on Central European Time (GMT+1) will open 6 hours before New York hits midnight. Expect bug fixes to be written by bog eyed bleary developers, in those first 24 hours.

    I am really excited about the new expansion but already I seem to know the entire expansion story arc. I am hoping Blizzard can gimme something good but already I am sensing a few cracks in the dam. Only time will tell.

    Tuesday, 7 October 2014

    Happy

     
     
    Yesterday I mentioned that I was unable to find any reference to levelling Mining and Skinning in Jade Forest, so having noticed I have a bag full of Ghost Iron Ore Nuggets, I decided to Google that instead. Of course there is an article from WoW Insider, but where is the in game notice. I vaguely remember the article but if I am expected to research the game in order to play the game then Blizzard have got a real problem on their hands. They have made great strides with the Dungeon Journal but so much more still needs to be done.
     
    The overriding theme of yeterday's post is the happiness at being back in old familiar places, some time in the future it will also be nice to come back to Pandaria but right now we need a new expansion and a fresh background to look at. What I have been doing is going on a nostalgic trip at a time when I am bored with my current confines. I am basically re-energising my 9 year memories of a game that has evolved far from it's humble beginnings. Stormwind might be passé, but when was the last time you were in the Redridge Mountains, or stomping through the Wetlands. These places hold many locked away stories and experiences of people we played with, stupid deaths from falling off things whilst distracted on the phone. Happy times bundled up in a quick trip down memory lane. Even the hard stuff, the long grind can now been seen through rose tinted spectacles.
     
    We no longer need that Timbermaw rep, or the legs from a Glass Spider, which despite having 8 of the buggers never dropped one. Recalling happy memories makes us feel happy, and for most people it is easier to recall happy memories than bad memories, which is why we talk about supressing bad memories.
     
    "Nostalgia seems to act as an antidote to sadness and feelings of loss. It elevates our mood and other research has found that people who tend to get nostalgic easily tend to have higher self esteem, find it easy to trust others, and suffer from depression less." Source
     
    The belief is that the positive feelings from the nostalgia are enhanced because of the social nature of a MMO, shared experiences seem to be easier to recall.
     
    From experience the old computer games elicit a response of wanting to play them, but the addictive quality no longer remains. Who would want to have more than one go at Space Invaders, or spend more than a few minutes shape shifting through a Tetris session? They may make you happy but you realise the visual aesthetics of these games does not exist and it will soon detract from any enjoyment.
     
    I remember digging out my PS2 and playing Gran Turismo and then being appalled by the standard of the graphics and the poor response of the handling. It is similar to a toy train set in that the impulse to play with it is still there way into adulthood, but it takes no time at all to realise that it is simply going round and round in a circle.
     
    Merely travelling to these familiar location will elicit responses of nostalgia, but the in depth play is no longer there or needed. We can simply enjoy the Tourist Nostalgia trip without necessarily understanding why.
     

    Monday, 6 October 2014

    Tell Me Why


    I would like to thank the Grumpy Elf for giving me one suggestion at least. I think that the days of making money cross faction is gone or very soon to be going and that the only benefit is to view the content through new eyes. I have often complained about the Horde/Orc centric storylines and now I have the chance to see it with my own eyes.

    Grumpy suggested that I should sample the storyline in the Wilds, (I assume that is Krasarang) and the Siege of Orgrimmar, which I have now had a chance to run around without people trying to kill me. I am getting too old to be learning the layout of a new city and this is just the first of four. One storyline I would like to see is the Scenario of the Mana Bomb dropping on Theramore. Blizzard did a terrible job conveying this storyline as precursor to the MoP expansion especially from the Alliance point of view.

    The main reason I now have a Horde max level character is the need to tick off another achievement in this case 25 Points for Double Agent. In essence with the free level 90 the only effort involved was the click of a button. I think for now I will leave achievements and the relative value of them in game for another post, but it is safe to say I am now questioning my own sanity.

    I have often stated that Blizzard is very poor at communicating changes and I am somebody who actively seeks out information, changes and news. I am convinced that the 1-90's where getting a special refresher area/training area to teach the skills that they will have missed by missing most of the games content. The official post from Blizzard is

    What happens next

    Your character will be moved to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria and their action bar will be populated with the most essential skills for their class and spec. Your character's quest log will be cleared during the boost and any quest progress will be lost. When the boost is done processing, they will be ready to play immediately.
    If you're a returning player, welcome back! We have guides available for new, returning, and veteran players alike who want to know more about World of Warcraft:


    Now as a new Orc I just appeared at the Horde, Shrine of Two Moons in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Obviously my markers are a mass of yellow exclamation marks, blue question marks etc. There is nothing to say walk this way, and the problem is that this just creates sensory overload.

    In one example I ended up in the Instance "End Time" from the Catclysm expansion with no way to return to Orgrimmar. My exit left me in the middle of the Caverns of Time.

    The one thing I did manage to work out was the invite to the Timeless Isle from Chromie, but without any professions I feel slightly uncomfortable running passed, herbs, ores and skins, when I could be collecting them for money and just as important at this stage Timeless Coins.

    Blizzard stated: Professions
    If the character is at least level 60 before the boost, their primary professions and First Aid will be leveled up to rank 600. Other secondary professions will not be affected. If the character is at least level 60 and doesn't have primary professions, they'll be given class-appropriate professions according to the table on the right.
    If the character you choose to boost is not at least level 60, their professions will not be leveled up.

    In an attempt to level professions I attempted trips to Orgrimmar, Undercity and Thunder Bluff with the aim of finding the easiest city to navigate for a total noob, needing to find profession trainers, Banks and Auction Houses. I finally settled on the combination of Skinner and Miner, which basically means flying around for nodes and shooting any animals that I come into contact (I am starting sound like Sarah Palin). Even with this winning combination it took several hours playing (a couple of days realtime) to get to the start of Cataclysm above 450 Skill level. At this point I raised enough money through the Auction House to progress First Aid and Cooking.

    First Aid is straight forward and I did it in Dalaran using the short walk between the Auction House and First Aid Trainer. There is always someone selling cloth, but that is not always the case with cooking. Thankfully Blizzard streamlined Blacksmithing and Cooking for the MoP expansion. The Cooking trainer is the Valley of the Four Winds and goes by the name of Sungshin Ironpaw. I have had the link in my resource kit for 2 years now so no excuses for not knowing about it. For those of you with an aversion to fishing there is a requirement for 42 Golden Carp. The fishing trainer nearby will give you 10 for minimum effort.

    After completing this exercise to level 525, I decided to fly to Jade Forest to examine the Horde starting area and to take the portal back to Orgrimmar assuming that Alliance have one the Horde must have one too. What I did find was corrupt Tigers and Ghost Iron Ore that would allow skillups for both Mining and Skinning. My skill suggested that I should not be able to do for another 50-75 skill levels when I reach 500 as it always was between expansions. Did I miss the letter from Blizzard, have I stumbled on a coding problem. Google just throws up guides that are just ancient. Maybe I made a fool of myself and could have saved myself a trip down memory lane visiting Azeroth, Outlands and Northrend. I honestly don't know. My guess is that every one reading this will just say, "Of course you can mine from 1-600 in MoP you daft sod". They say that everyday you learn something new that means I can take the rest of the day off.

    What I have discovered is that I like gaining XP, I like levelling my skills and professions, I even used to get a perverse sense of achievement levelling up weapon and pet skills. I am really showing my age now, but I don't miss pet food and Hunter ammo, Warlock Soul Shards or Rogue Poisons or any of the other stupid stacks of resources used in the casting of spells.

    Levelling XP and professions really tick some boxes for people without them really knowing why. A bar or a number that you can keep heading upwards in the required direction is very gratifying especially when you start adding little meta games into the process. The exception to the rule is Fishing and Archaeology take far too long to achieve. There is no shortcuts, no way of buying your way to the top like I did with First Aid and Cooking. I enjoyed spending the money on those tasks, and I enjoyed flying around Winterspring looking for Thorium Ore.

    A grind is only a grind if you don't like what you are doing. Doing multiple circuits, then killing wolves, dragons and crocodiles broke up the task into small chunks and in Northrend I was able to utilise the quest chain in Sholazar Basin which incorporates killing 60+ animals plus helping myself to the skins lying on the ground.

    Fishing is terribly tedious when you need to cast and catch 10 times for a solitary Fishing skill. What I also found slightly annoying was the introduction of Fishing dailies that did not require any fishing, what is that about?

    I will hopefully revisit the psychology of levelling and achievements later this week.

    Thursday, 2 October 2014

    Romeo And Juliet


    On the dividing line between good and bad, light and dark, Horde and Alliance, I am firmly entrenched on the Alliance side and have more than once unfurled my battle standard for the blue side. Somebody needs to stand up for the Alliance, otherwise we are like vegetarians who are too weak to stand never mind fight for their rights.

    There is an achievement for having both a max level Alliance and Horde character called "Double Agent"


    I have thought about it for a long time but I have a full roster on my main Realm Anachronos-EU. Yesterday Blizzard did some additional maintenance on my Realm but I naturally assumed it was in preparation for Warlords of Draenor. I was of course very wrong and there was no Anne Stickney update to warn me from WoW Insider like the hundreds of connections before that merited a message.

    In hindsight it is of course easy to find the missing info which was buried in the Forums.

     
    
    It is a big welcome to Alonsus and Kul Tiras. I was waiting for this moment for a more vibrant busy realm and a much more competitive Auction House. The additional bonus for me is that I can add more characters to my Guild if I so wish, and I had a free Pass Go and collect £200 or a boost to 90 from my recently acquired expansion.

    I logged on to the Character creation and chose the Realm Alonsus but I couldn't decide if I wanted an Alliance Priest, Horde Priest, Horde Death Knight, Horde Hunter. Like so many times before I turned my back on the Priesthood and chose an Undead Death Knight and an Orc Hunter.

    Which one was going to become my new level 90? I played for 30 minutes with the DK with the idea of progressing to 60 and then promoting to level 90, but eventually settled on the immediacy of an instant Level 90 Orc Hunter with the highly original name of "Boborc"

    Boborc
    With the exception of the 25 Achievement points I am not totally sure what to do with a Level 90 Orc Hunter. The first thing is to change the action bar so that I can play using memory muscle and not have to work out the current location of the spells. I am completely lost on the Timeless without any professions so a few trips to some low level zones is very likely.

    Now the big thing I was hoping to manipulate is the Horde pets and the Auction House in general before they get merged together in the very near future. I could of course start doing PvP and camp the Silvershard Mines, but there will be nobody going through that Battleground when the Legendary quest is finally pulled.

    In fact I am starting to run out rapidly in the benefits of having characters on both factions. Blizzard is due to neuter all of them in the next 2-6 weeks. So if you have any idea please let me know before I run out of time.