Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Scary Monsters

It's that time of year again! Children adore Halloween, and adults hate it. The festival has grown in Britain over the last forty years and now closely resembles the American version, with the use of Pumpkins and Trick or Treat.

All Hallows Eve is the night before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day). The origins of the festival have become shrouded over the millennia, but it is essentially a Christian festival which as with most festivals borrowed the best bits from the existing Pagan festivals. Who would want to convert to a new religion if it meant losing your favourite festivals.

The Pagan Festival marked the end of Summer and the beginning of the darker days of Winter. It would coincide with the end of the Harvest period and would signify scarcity of food and less hours of daylight to work the land.

The Christian version was based around the concept of the dead souls crossing over from purgatory to the other side. Wikipedia states the following,

"It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world."

The jack-o'-lanterns were originally made from turnips and were designed to represent the tormented souls trapped in purgatory trying to escape. The Americans with their much more suitable local produce of squashes and pumpkins now provide the most defining aspect of the whole festival.

My children are geared and ready with my son planning to go Trick or Treat in his skeleton costume, and my daughter stays at home to answer the door to the trick or treaters.

In Azeroth the Hallow's End Holiday is coming to an end and will provide one last chance to permanently seperate the Headless Horseman head from his body. He also has some nice rings, a plate Helm and my favourite mount in the game.

Personally I have yet to take on Nearly Headless Nick this year, due to my vacation and having some bad gear (the embarrassment of being bottom of the DPS table on your main).

Enjoy your night and don't eat too many sweets.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango.
Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Seasons In The Sun

I have recently returned from a late dash to get some sun on my back before the dark winter nights draw in, just in case you were wondering where I have been for the last 11 days.

The family holiday was to the Greek island of Zakynthos (Zante) in the Ionian Sea.


It was a slightly bold attempt to get some good weather in Europe in late October. In hindsight a safer option would have been to go to the Canary Islands which are off the coast of West Africa. In fact we had 5 good days of sun bathing and swimming before the tropical storms swept through the island (It made for an interesting take off). The sea was much warmer than the hotel swimming pools, and I always find it useful to consider that the sea temperatures are 3 months behind the land temperatures.

The upshot is that I have not played WoW for some considerable time and was way behind everybody on the curve already. Whenever I take time off from work, I can guarantee that it will several weeks to catch up on the work that as accumulated for me in my absence.

My wife is also getting panicky that the TiVo box will hit full capacity and explode, so I can guarantee that there is plenty of pressure on me to watch Homeland, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Grimm, Merlin and the hundreds of programmes that have just started with the Autumn schedule.

My body is still getting use to the drop in temperature from 26°C to 6°C in Britain. I am expecting to get the man flu any day now. My house is currently re-adjusting from the refrigerator temperatures to the tropical temperatures of the constantly churning Central Heating system firing up for the first time in 6 months.

In the process of writing the last paragraph I noticed the use of the metric system to denote temperature. The British were supposed to have changed from Imperial to Metric many years ago, but some of the old Imperial measurements are still in existence. Milk and Beer is bought in pints but Petrol and Cola is delivered in litres. All modern British school children are taught that water freezes at 0°C and that water boils at 100°C, and that a nice British summer is between 70-80°F. One day in the future the British might finally make a full switch to the Metric system but for now we still cling to our pints, miles, and pounds and ounces.

Whilst on Holiday I had a tendency to wear my sunglasses for most of the day. The end result is that I achieved a sun tanned face and white Panda eyes. Unfortunately that is the closest I will get to discussing Mists of Pandaria for at least a few days.

Wishing I was still there

Friday, 19 October 2012

Do Ya Think I'm Sexy

Was there ever a greater sin against the English Language than Rod Stewart's 1978 "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy". It looks like the title was written by the Leet generation, no doubt they can convey the same message in 4 or 5 characters today.

Today's topic is Reputation and mandatory content as discussed in WoW Insider. The same messages seem to pop up all the time, "It's only a game", "I need that item so that I can Raid". As always it is about instant and excessive consumption (does anybody remember LFR Dragon Soul - I beat Deathwing what is next?). The Godmother yesterday argued that she wants the Reputation Grind to take longer, and for anybody who attempted the original Timbermaw or Wintersaber rep grinds you will appreciate the true dedication that this game used to attract.

The Hard Core Raiders, could argue that they were forced to endure 5 levels of questing and grinding to get to the next tier of end game content. PvPers have the choice to twink or move up 5 levels to where the lambs will be available for the slaughter.

XP and questing is the main object of the game, and Raiding, PvP, Crafting, Farming, Dailies and Pet Battles are the things to keep us occupied before they can progress the story further in another 2 years time.

In Cataclysm the reputation grinds allowed us to purchase Head and Shoulder Enchants, Blue entry level Dungeon gear and some mounts and vanity pets. Most people would have outgeared the rewards before they achieved exalted status. In my opinion the same is likely to happen again. The answer is to have short reputation grinds for lower level gear or longer reputation grinds for higher level gear. Gated content and rewards, will always result in people choosing the easiest path.

Blizzard's main aim is to allow you to do the content that you want to do. This resulted in Valor points being available for doing Daily quests, but counter to this argument was the removal of Tabard rep gains for doing Heroic Dungeons.  The obvious answer is to continue the rep gains from instances but reduce the amount of rep for each Boss kill, making the time and effort similar for comparable rewards. If there is no quick or easy solution to gaining rep, then people will do the game play that they want to, unless there is a restriction to amount they can earn in a day or week, if there is not a limit then a lot of people will do both.

Blizzard has adopted different parenting schemes during the life cycle of World of Warcraft, sometimes they allow the player to play as much as they want, and other times they tighten up the amount of access to the content a player can achieve and how quickly they can consume it. Weekly Valor caps are one method and raid locks is another way to provide parental controls, without these safeguards some people would raid 7 days a week and grind dailies in between. When dailies where first introduced during TBC, there was originally a cap on the number of dailies that could be completed, which was originally set at 10 then 25 and recently removed completely. I don't think I have ever managed 25 dailies and so to me it is slightly alien concept of why Blizzard needed to remove it. I personally think it might eventually lead to early burnout and daily fatigue. Rohan at Blessing of Kings, discusses the principle of optional, and states that raiders will view aspects of the game as being necessary or useless. Necessary items must be gained immediately to gain any additional benefit to their core activity of Raiding.

Getting ready for Mists of Pandaria, I spent hours preparing my characters for the expansion, that when it finally arrived I had no additional time or energy to devote to marathon levelling sessions, not that my family situation allows for that kind of behaviour. I spent 3 weeks levelling to 90 and felt completely in the slow lane, I was embarrassed as a blogger but not as a gamer. Speeding through content will merely hastened the disappointment and fatigue at some point during the expansion. Each raid tier leads to gear and stat inflation, and that all important item today, will be vendor trash tomorrow.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

All Along The Watchtower

Not intending to logon to my only level 90, I had the best of intentions of levelling my Death Knight instead. I thought I will just logon get my flying skill up-to-date and logoff.

For starters I had a noob moment and flew to the wrong Flight Point in Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and ended up on the wall at the far left of the map, instead of being at the far right (so that I could learn flying). The idea was to unload some of my Archaeological finds with Lorewalker Cho and clear some space in my rather full bags. The worse thing was I didn't even know that I was in the wrong place. I clicked on some quests with the zeal of a man faced by a plethora of yellow exclamation marks, and then scaled down a rope without a second thought. It was only at this point, did I fully understood the stupidity of what I had just done. I was rewarded by finding an abundance of dead animals to skin and ended up far longer on the wrong side of the wall than intended. Also I could not find anyway to get back to the right side of the wall without Hearthstoning back to Stormwind and making my way back by kite.

I eventually found myself at the Shrine of Seven Stars, and for the life of me could not remember where I had seen the Flight Trainer. Having run past the trainer about seven times I finally managed to get my flying skill and wandered over to see Lorewalker Cho. I handed in 3 perfect Artifacts by placing them in the Lorewalker museum at the Mogu'shan Palace. I even tidied up a bookcase and handed in a newly completed artifact, and still Lorewalker Cho is unimpressed. Not a single reputation point I have earned from my activity.

I have earned more reputation with the Black Prince, for having a drink with him whilst he explained his plans for world domination, with his white cat in hand (No, I expect you die Mr Bond). Not sure I trust that one an inch, but if he wants to give me a Legendary who am I to complain.

Next up was the Tillers, who are finally warming up to me. I had no idea what I was doing on the quests, and no doubt they will change again before I work out the quickest way to complete these dailies.

Being able to fly now, certainly improved my ability to get to the Archaeology digsites. Now I am not sure if this is intentional or not, but you currently get 1 skill up for every fragment. That is 6 skill ups per digsite plus the 3 for completing an artifact. No excuses not to level now it is super fast. This is only confirmed for level 525+ in Pandaria.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Livin' On A Prayer

"Whooah, we're half way there
Livin on a prayer
Take my hand and we'll make it - I swear
Livin on a prayer"
Bon Jovi
Ding! yes, I finally made it and yes, I am very embarrassed that it took so long. Hitting the level cap is not half way there, it is really just the beginning and to be brutally honest I am not sure what to do next. I tried to carry on doing quests in the Townlong Steppes, but my heart was not in.
I logged onto my Elemental Shaman and did not have the heart to do more than a handful of quests. I really wanted to level my Death Knight. Death Knights have always been a good levelling quest and I have been able to level through WotLK and Cata by facerolling across my keyboard, but now I am started to feel the love, they are tough, resilient and able to dole out the damage.
I deliberately made my Death Knight and Paladin herbalists. The idea of these butch plate wearing classes stomping around Azeroth, and then stooping down to pick wild flowers really tickles me. I currently need to gather tons of herbs for Inscription and Alchemy, and in particular I am looking for Golden Lotus to use in the transmutation process to get my Jewelcrafting research completed. My characters create a symbiotic relationship, which is why I need to level them all at the same time.
Options for my level 90 Hunter are Tillers, and completing all zones. I have yet to get my flying ability re-instated and I will probably complete the Lorewalker Reputation because this can be done in less than an hour and then I can stop worrying about it. It is the idea of nibbling away at the reputation and not going at it like a bull in a china shop. The Godmother explained it way better than I can, and with so much content to consume I am amazed that the next patch content is on the PTR. Do we really need more content so soon after an expansion? Knowing Blizzard it could still be months before it is completely tested and ready for release.
I am planning to streamline my levelling experience by incorporating some of the recommendations by The Grumpy Elf. I agree that Krasarang Wilds, adds nothing to the levelling process, and if anything you should be trying to get to the Kun-Lai Summit as soon as possible. My levelling slowed down and I became weaker as a consequence of out levelling the Krasarang Wilds. Kun-Lai offers more bang for your buck and the gear rewards are suddenly worth swapping your epic raiding gear for.

Elunamakata made a good point about questing to level and then questing for gear and questing for Dailies, it all seems to be a little daunting at this stage. Eluna also talks about questing courtesy, and I met one of these idiots last night. He was determined to beat me to all the quest items in Townlong Steppes, and after starting one of the totems to raise the strange Mist Creeper dudes (they look like one of the disguises used by the bad guys in Scooby Doo), he decide to let me do all the work killing the adds. I have no problem doing the quest solo but don't sponge off my efforts.

If it wasn't for you pesky kids....

Monday, 15 October 2012

Top Of The World

I was originally going to choose The Carpenters, but I found this instead, which oddly caught my eye.

Professions now need research. Traditionally this has been the preserve of Alchemy and Inscription, but it is now firmly in place in Jewelcrafting, instead of the usual daily grind to purchase all the gem cuts. between 3 and 5 days to get a gem cut. It was a long and winding grind for the Jewelcrafters, and to be quite honest they deserved the profits that they made in the last 2 expansions.

At present I have a maxed out scribe with plenty of glyphs to discover and a maxed out jewelcrafter. These two mark out my daily midnight routine of research and discover, and over the weekend they ran out of materials for doing their daily research. I could of course have bought some ore off the Auction House but I am far too cheap for that. My Shaman found stacks of Ghost Iron Ore in Jade Forest in the process of exploring all 4 Archaeology digsites. Every time I completed a digsite it put the next one in Jade Forest. Being the completionist that I am, I was forced against my will to continue until the digsites had moved to a different zone. 3 hours, 15 Digsites and a lot of bags filled to the brim with Ghost Iron Ore, I decided to stop. Now you would hope that might fill my research needs for some considerable time but I think that is only going to last a few days with a cost of 3 rares each day, that is going to require a fair amount of feeding.

I did send the uncommon gems to my alchemist but the reagent required for the transmute is 2x Golden Lotus. I have not had much luck finding this herb, and I am guessing that with large amounts of people able to gather by flying around, I am going to be all out of luck. The cost is prohibitively expensive at 200 gold per herb on my server. The obvious answer to my predicament is to start levelling my gatherers so that I can fly around looking for rare herbs.

The game is now moving away from the easily found ores and herbs, and the race is now on for the high end materials.

I did however get  a nice reward for doing Archaeology in the form of a very feminine looking umbrella, which goes well with my butch Draenei Shaman. It is bind on account so my Gnome Mage and Warlock can all make good use of it when levelling.


Grinding for ores distracted me once again from levelling my Hunter to level 90, so Saturday and Sunday where designated as Levelling my Hunter nights. After Friday's post, I was keen to move out of Krasarang Wilds, and into a new zone more suited to my level. I also decided to finish the area but was rushing the zone. I have managed so far to remain spoiler free in term of what to expect from each zone and was delighted with the climax returning to The Valley of the Four Winds and the attack of the Ik'thallick on Stoneplow. The saving Stoneplow storyline is epic and congratulations should go to the team that worked on these quests.

The Ik'thallick attack on Stoneplow

Moving onwards to the Kun-Lai Summit, I started to replace gear. I have moved from iLevel 397 to iLevel 404 and suddenly the relative power is starting to return. At level 89, I feel stronger than I did at level 86, and this only going to get better.

Kun-Lai Summit is a definite slow burner and after the standard fare of the Alliance advanced post, we move into much better questing areas in the form of the Kota Basecamp, One Keg, and Zouchin Village.

I enjoyed jumping on the Hozen with a giant Yeti so much that I did the daily afterwards so that I could stop at One Keg without finding some other convoluted passage to pickup the flight point.

The real classic piece of storyline comes in the guise of Lorewalker Cho and the Raising the Thunder King storyline. This is how Harrison Jones should been without the cutscenes and stupid Nazi humour that Blizzard used in Cataclysm.

I am poised at Level 89 with only 30% left to go, and have been amazed at how quickly it is possible to level when you are in the groove. Cataclysm was easy to level from and 80-82 and then got longer and longer until you wanted to destroy the Wildhammer Clan with a Mana Bomb.

5 Levels for an expansion, seems to be perfectly judged in terms of levels and zones. I can now concentrate on levelling the next character or choosing to do a mound of dailies, or even questing right up to the final zone to get my gear upgrades. Expect a ding tonight, the first of many.

Friday, 12 October 2012


There comes a point in the levelling process when you are not as strong as you were in the previous expansion. I believe that I am currently hitting that point on my level 88 Hunter.

At the end of Cataclysm I was sporting an average iLevel of around 390. In the course of questing and more importantly crafting I have changed a few items:

  1. Chest
  2. Crossbow
  3. Ring
  4. 2x Trinkets
The trinkets are green and the rest are blue and the current average iLevel is now 397. Each level I achieve I need to increase my stats to effectively stay in the same place. The problem is that I am above my current levelling zone, Krasarang Wilds is the sister zone to The Valley of Four Winds which are both 86-87 zones. The problem is my green quests rewards are still below my current gear.

The result is that Hit and Expertise which tend not to feature heavily on levelling gear means that you start missing shots and spells. The upside is that I am also not fighting Bosses that are 3 levels above me.

I expect things to ease off after moving from Krasarang Wilds and I start replacing the Tier sets with much better gear. I am not saying it is currently difficult it is just incrementally taking longer to level.

Levelling as also taken a backseat this week with the Darkmoon Faire in town. I have used this as an excuse to prepare all my characters for the task of moving to Pandaria. This takes considerably longer than planned. The list of activities for each character are as follows:

  1. Logon Character
  2. Learn the Primary Zen Professions
  3. Learn Zen Cooking
  4. Learn Zen Fishing (if appropriate)
  5. Learn Zen Archaeology
  6. Start the Pandaria Questline
  7. Go to Pandaria
  8. Fly around in Gyrocopter
  9. Work my way down the quest chain to get to Paw'don Village
  10. Pick any mining nodes and herbs en route
  11. Learn Zen First Aid
  12. Return to Stormwind
  13. Go to Darkmoon Faire
  14. Do the Monthly quests to get the +5 skillup (especially Archaeology, Fishing and Cooking)
  15. Return to Stormwind
  16. Rinse and repeat x10
This process has taken from Sunday to Thursday to complete, so it is only now I can turn my attention back to questing. The good thing about this, is that I don't have do this shuffling around again for another 2 years.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Wrecking Ball

Into week 3 and still no Level 90 characters on my roster, this is very bad form and I deserve to be stripped of my ability to write about World of Warcraft. The upshot of taking it easy and smelling the flowers is that I have witnessed the playability and levelling skills of several different classes. I have not swapped specs to compare or anything daft like that is purely my observations of the class specs as named below:

Beast Master Hunter

Welcome home Beast Master the king of levelling. I wish this was the case, because for a long time BM Hunter, the class has become very different than in previous expansions. Suddenly we have gone from the pet being a faithful companion to being the full thrust of the spec, and it feels slightly odd.

If I want to kill something fast I have been using Lynx Rush not Bestial Wrath, this saddens me greatly that Big Red Kitty is not the signature spell of this spec anymore.

I have not played around Stampede but you can read plenty about it over at Grumpy's place. It would appear that BM Hunter is the new Ret Paladin, simply hit the flashing lights when they appear and activate the emergency buttons if you have attracted too many mobs with your bouncing pet. This is the new Whack-A-Mole spec.

Hunters are still one of the best gathering classes with their ability to leave the pet to the job of killing whilst you mine, herb and skin to a vast fortune. Everything seems too easy but the pets are definitely not as tough as they used to be, so if you are a bit lax it may make sense to use your pet in Tenacity mode and spend less time healing your pet, but more effort killing the mobs.

Elemental Shaman

I normally play Resto so the idea of chucking out offensive spells is like playing a different character. I have not noticed too much different about the class, but there is definitely a reduced complexity from some of the other classes. The Totem system is a bit of a mess these days, and I must say I preferred the old system. I have never made much use of Totems in the levelling process, but now Searing Totem is almost part of the rotation. Mobs seem to spend far too long in your face unless you have one of the 2 Elementals raining death and destruction on all your enemies.

In general unless I am missing something this seems like business as usual.

Frost Mage

Like BM Hunter, the Frost Mage is being given a chance to shine. When I first read the changes to Mages I thought it was going to be 3 specs with identical spells just in different colours. In fact I haven't noticed any major changes. I have just checked with the MMO Melting Pot guides and appears that I need to throwing in some spells that are non standard Frost spells like Arcane Explosion and Flamestrike for AoE.

Single target still seems to be building up the big hitting freeze - Fingers of Frost - Ice Lance, with Brain Freeze - Frostfire Bolt, so no change there. It is still based on not standing toe to toe with your foe and freeze and hose down. The design of building up the big hits seems quite contived, but I guess they don't want the old style Aimed Shot (Head Shot instant death mechanic).

Retribution Paladin

The Cockroach of Warcraft, I cannot advise how best to play, but I usually just use Judgment and then whatever Icon lights up, most of the icons are either lit up like a Christmas Tree or unavailable or on cooldown. Easy to level and difficult to maximise, most enemies don't last long enough to experiment with.

Unholy Death Knight

This is the class that has inspired this post. Death Knights seem to be able to soak up the pain, regenerate and dish out the damage at the same time, this unique combination makes them the new Cockroach of choice. I was able to round up most of Jade Forest and survive. If this is the new face of DPS DK's, then I do not want to face a Blood Death Knight in PvP.


All my characters are below max level and I have not incorporated any of the new abilities and talents that they gain at 87 or 90, but so far the number one levelling class is Death Knight, and I normally hate melee classes. Shaman, Mage and Paladin seem to have changed too much, but BM Hunter is oddly not what I was looking for. Death Knights on the other hand appear very unbalanced in their damage output, single and AoE, and their survivability is second to none. It would appear that they have returned to the OP days of WotLK.

I recommend dusting off your DK and smashing your way around the Jade Forest. You are in for a real treat, and don't forget to use the best spell Blizzard ever invented Corpse Explosion.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Into The Valley

Continuing the series started here, I would like to present the second instalment of Mist of Pandaria storytelling without reading the quests. The story has moved to the Valley of the Four Winds, leaving the anger and destruction seeping out of the Jade Forest.

  1. Meet Chen Stormstout who wants to make some beer.
  2. The area is the "breadbasket of Pandaria", full of farmers who have a large lagomorph problem.
  3. Chen wants you to collect some brewing items which include bungee jumping into a cave and fighting lots more Rabbit People.
  4. The Stormstout Brewery is overrun by Monkey People and mischievous water sprites.
  5. The Tillers are here to teach you farming and Zen cooking, "The way of the Panda".
  6. Hemet Nessingwary is in town. Is it a coincidence that the worst expansion to date did not contain Nessingwary in any shape whatsoever?
  7. The Sha have taken over the Western section of the land.
  8. The Hidden Master will teach you how to break blocks of wood with your bare hands.
In summary the zone does not take long to complete and is relatively repetitive, the landscape is stunning and Nagrandesque, but the general feeling is it that is portal to all the other zones, with the Tiller hub in the middle for the vast majority of the action. Speaking of which, I want to link the following WoW Insider cooking guide which tackles the best way to approach Levelling the Way and the mats required.

I really must get my resources in order, because there are a lot of good guides coming out, but I am so far behind on the levelling curve that I do not need them yet. I have stopped levelling for a few days whilst I sort out First Aid and Archaeology and get all my characters through the Darkmoon Faire. It looks like the Brewfest is going to pass me by this year.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Thank You

Last Monday I had a little gripe with the difficulty of levelling Archaeology from 500 - 525. This did not fit in with the new Blizzard design ethos, in particular the Levelling cooking from 1 to Zen and various other moves to make professions more accessible, none more so than the sheer number of Herbs and Ores in Pandaria. I had previously raised a ticket and there are forum posts as previously mentioned. The biggest issue is that this problem must only impact a few thousand people at any given time and so would warrant a low priority with Blizzard.

This weekend in preparation for the Darkmoon Faire 5 skillup bonanza, I was working on collecting Fossils, when I noticed that for the completion of Azeroth Relics ie. Dwarf, Troll, Night Elf, and Fossil, that it is now awarding 5 points per completion every time. This is absolutely perfect and just what I wanted, with minimum effort (5 visits to different digsites it is possible to complete the levelling process).

Blizzard have obviously hotfixed this issue and so far I have seen no public acknowledgement of the original problem or the hotfix to solve the problem. So 1 out of 10 for communication and 10 out of 10 for actually fixing the problem. Thank you very much Blizzard.


"Completing Rare and normal Cataclysm archaeology projects will now correctly grant skill increases."

Patch 5.0.5 Hotfixes as per WoW Insider 6th October.


If you have never levelled Archaeology and you have not yet hit level 90, then I have some interesting news. You may remember several months ago the furore over Ghostcrawler's blog on Stat Inflation. Now the topic has died down and the approach that won the day would appear to be Mega Damage, but there is another stat inflation that nobody seems to have mentioned and that is XP Inflation. The current design seems to be 5 new levels at a rate of 4 Hours or 4 Weeks depending on how you play the game. There are some hefty numbers to be had from levelling Archaeology, for instance:

At Level 85 digging up a fragment will earn 38170 XP per dig. (Nothing for completing Relics)

On it's own this means very little, but if you work out the maths for the complete levelling 1 - 525 process it comes out at approximately 19 Million XP with an additional 3 Million XP for completing up to Zen. When considered that the amount needed to level from 85 to 86 is currently 13 Million, it is a nice sizeable chunk. Obviously it is not a super efficient way to level but that is nearly 2 additional levels with having to do any questing.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Getting Better

Listening to the Instance Podcast this week, I was struck by how delighted with the game all three of them were. None of them are currently at level cap and by virtue are still levelling. This got me thinking, "What is it about Mists of Pandaria that is creating the happy vibe?"

I am currently unable to find out a single reason, so here is my list of possible suspects:

  1. Important - It is not Cataclysm.
  2. Scenery - Pandaria is absolutely stunning.
  3. Technology - Blizzard have improved the engine, this resulted in a more vibrant picture quality, and improved the efficiency and framerate for the high end users, but caused issues for the low end and Mac users, with excessive heat being generated in some machines and poor performance.
  4. Location - MoP is on one continent. Blizzard accepted that this was one of the biggest failings of Cataclysm and have rectified the situation by creating a new continent, just like every other expansion except Cataclysm.
  5. Cinematics - Sensible usage of cutscenes. Uldum and the Harrison Jones questline was the pinnacle of excessive usage. Everytime you completed a quest Harrison would swing into action, many of these scenes could not be stopped, and ultimately spoiled a decent storyline.
  6. Objectives - Fighting with the opposite faction. This not just a PvP thing, there is plenty chances to kill Horde and Alliance NPC's. I will never tire of killing a mountain of Orcs.
  7. Questing - Quests have been streamlined again, and this time they have got it down to a fine art. The main type of quests will always be "kill 10 rats" or "collect 12 hens teeth", but these are interspersed with the situational quests using a new cog system and speech bubbles which makes identifying the correct place to go to so much easier. (People complained originally about map markings showing people where to go, in WotLK at a time when everybody was installing addons like quest helper).
  8. Scenario - The storyline is flowing, without running the zone on rails. New quest hubs are appearing as small ! exclamation marks on the map. These allow you to follow the option storylines without requiring the lead in quest - "Speak to Colonel Sanders at the Chicken Coop" or "Deliver this note to Queen Liz at Buck House".
  9. Choices - Options, Options, Options. At endgame we are now given choices including mini games, scenarios, hundreds of dailies, challenge modes, LFR, LFD, normal and heroic raids and dungeons. You can cap your Valor points in a variety of ways, raise your reputation without burning out by shotgunning instances.
  10. Entertainment - The fun seems to be back into the game, and Blizzard has re-found the sense of humour that was missing from Cataclysm.
  11. New Class and Race - The Monk class and Pandaran race are great additions. Although I have not finished the Monk starter zone, (is this a Pandaran starter zone? because it feels like a monk zone) I have heard the storyline is excellent and leaves you with the tantalising choice of Horde or Alliance.
  12. Multi-Mob Looting -  AoE Looting when levelling is an absolute godsend - so no excuses for not picking the loot of those dead beasts, somebody may want to skin them. I know this was not a Blizzard original idea, but they saw the quality of life improvement and implemented.
  13. Shared Quest Kills - When a Skull appears on the map, it normally indicates a mini boss. If you assist with the kill you will awarded quest completion. The only exception is when you need to summon the boss or need to talk to them, either way it saves on the griefing that was a familiar part of questing.
  14. Pet Battles - The general consensus is that this is a great addition to the game, and there are certainly enough column inches written about this mini game. I have yet to dabble, mostly because that would be one distraction too many.
  15. World Bosses - Tough as old boots and apparently taking some co-ordination to get the required number of people. I have not seen one yet but look forward to trying and dying some time soon.
  16. Challenge Mode - This is a niche function, which has been described as PvP Raiding, due to the league tables that are available. This is not about gear but based on planning and execution.
  17. Scenarios - This is one addition to WoW that  is currently not setting the players hearts racing. They are currently taking longer than 5 man Heroics, which makes them inefficient and not behaving as predicted by Ghostcrawler (Complete a scenario in your Lunch) bite sized offerings. This will of course get easier with gear upgrades.
  18. Glyphs and Talent Trees - The simplification of Talent Trees means that everybody can now pick a customisation to fit in with their playstyle without gimping their performances (no wrong choices - although the theorycrafters are already proving this is an incorrect assumption. Glyphs are now for the cosmetic changes, like turning yourself into a Stag and changing the Hunter's Mark to a Cross hair.
  19. Rare Elites (Pandaren Champions) -  When was the last time that people actively short out Rare spawns, unless it was for mounts and hunters pets? The new Rare Elites are tough little troupers with interesting loot. These are best running into when prepared, rather than in the middle of fighting several mobs, they hit hard and you need to move and use your cooldowns wisely.
  20. Shared Pets and Mounts - For the altoholics amongst us this is a welcome addition. For those of us with RNG issues the ability to get the right mount on the right character is simply brilliant.
  21. Shared Achievements - Perhaps this is not as well received as I was expecting. There are still a few things that need to be addressed, but sharing Honor Kills is a big bonus for me.
  22. Ground Questing - Questing with the aid of flight is cheating and it spoils the effect of working your way into a crowded area and then clearing the area for stray mobs before taking on the mini boss. Exploring by flying in the near vicinity of an area, does not counting as exploring. Only Cata had flight form available from the start, and we know how that argument goes.
  23. Improvements to Professions - There have been a number of improvements in the professions, some of these I have detailed previously like , Fishing without a pole, Archaeology 6 fragments at a digsite, Discovery system for learning new recipes (existed previously in different forms like Alchemy and Inscription), Cooking complexity increased.
  24. Casual Friendly - The player base is allegedly getting older and the game is changing to meet those requirements of shorter activities, with more things that can be squeezed into 30 minute slots.
  25. Easy Heroics - 5 Man dungeons are no longer the way to gain reputation or the main way to gain Justice and Valor. These are quick time sinks to have a laugh and kill a few bosses, interspersed with a few dailies. Less pressure and a way of gaining entry level raiding gear for normal raids and LFR.
  26. Looking For Raid - This is will be the first full expansion with LFR involved. LFR suffered with few problems with people unable to follow basic raid instructions, and idiots who deliberately wiped raids by attacking non active mobs. The loot distribution system as been modified and the jury is still out on this functionality.
Blizzard is still refining the whole process and changes have been announced to help people with alts on the reputation grind.

This expansion is shaping up to be the best expansion ever even though we are still in the honeymoon period. The reason is not any single one of the 26 reasons above, but somehow it transcends that, and it is far greater than the sum of the parts.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Now And Zen

Oh no! Real Life got in the way of my Panda Time. Work just got really hectic and my wife wanted to spend some time with her husband. I can report that I am still levelling several characters at the sametime and the results are Level 87 Hunter, Level 86 Shaman, and the rest are all off the mark and growing vegetables to please the Tillers.

On Monday, I had a little rant at a few things, mostly archaeology and the grind from 500 - 525. It must be stressed that the route from 525 to Zen is a breeze and when including the mining and herbing and the rested XP I should be flying through the levels, if I wasn't getting distracted by all the shinnies. I was just calming down about archaeology when I read the article in WoW Insider about Leveling cooking from 1 to Zen. For the sum of 300 - 350 Gold you can level up to the 525 in a matter of minutes.

It is not as if cooking is hard to level, most of the mats are obtained in the process of levelling so unless you have super levelled by Recruit a Friend, why would you need this? If you do it for one secondary profession then why not the others. The answer is that Pandas are about Food and Beer, and this is a flavour addition. Just out of curiosity are Pandas renowned for eating and getting drunk? My knowledge of Pandas extends to the following:

  1. Sit around eating bamboo all day,
  2. Forced to live in less hospitable lands because the farmers prefer valleys to hills
  3. Having problems with reproduction hence their endangered species tag.
  4. Red Pandas are more like foxes than pandas

Last night I discovered a new bug, it is intermittent but quite annoying. Whilst fishing in the Valley of the Four Winds, using the new stick and string technique, I noticed that after every catch, my character would turn to the right 45 Degrees, causing the next cast to miss by landing in shallow water. The next pool the same results but this time 180 degrees. My personal feeling is that it is similar to travelling via the Flight Master, and after disembarkation you are always facing North. It's kind of funny and very annoying at the same time. I raised a ticket but it just vanished, perhaps I have used up my quota of tickets for the quarter or thinking about it I might have logged a bug and not a ticket.


The Grumpy Elf on Monday, pointed out the major issue of bag space with this expansion. Normal levelling will soon fill your bags, but the biggest problem appears to be all the food mats if you are trying to level the "The Way of" cooking levels. The Farm will create seeds and vegetables that will soon get out of hand. I think that we need a shared silo or refrigerator for all the alts to share which can be located near Farmer Yoon. It would be a hell of a lot more useful than Void Storage.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Bed Of Roses

Mists of Pandaria is proving to be a very well received expansion, with plenty for everyone to get involved in. I have heard of people spending most of their time playing Pet Battles, or tending to their farm. A reasonable proportion of the player base are hitting level 90 and taking part in Heroic 5 man dungeons, Brewfest is live and the Darkmoon Faire is available at the weekend.

To be honest I am delighted with the new expansion, however a couple of things have started to nag at me. The issues in no particular are:
  1. Not all professions are created equally, some are more equal than others.
  2. Alcohol and the excessive consumption of in game.
  3. Storytelling for the casual gamer.


The gathering professions are just very easy to level up to max, but one of these does not benefit from XP. Poor old skinning which also only supplies to one crafting profession.

Of the crafting professions from 1-600, I have compiled my list of easiest to hardest:

  1. Herbalism
  2. Inscription
  3. Tailoring
  4. Leatherworking
  5. Jewelcrafting
  6. Blacksmithing
  7. Enchanting
  8. Engineering
All I am saying is that I bet there was a world first Herbalist before an Enchanter. In terms of the moneymaking potential over all the expansions, the list looks something like this:

  1. Inscription
  2. Jewelcrafting
  3. Enchanting
  4. Herbalism
  5. Tailoring
  6. Blacksmithing
  7. Leatherworking
  8. Engineering
Engineering has always got a raw deal, but makes up for its difficulties in fun aspects and time saving equipment in particular the repair bots and portable mailbox. Inscription has had several periods of frantic sales (Glyphmas) and for that reason is a better performer than the steady income from Jewelcrafting.

The secondary professions Fishing, Cooking, First Aid and Archaeology suffer from different issues. Cooking and First Aid can be power leveled with the aid of the Auction House. Fishing is a hell of a lot easier than the original incarnation, and anybody who did the 225 level quest will tell you the hell of leveling that little quest chain.

Archaeology recently got a big boost from 1-500 with the increase in digs per site being raised from 3 to 6 which almost guarantees that you get a Artifact every digsite. In Pandaria I have also noticed that the radius of the digsite are vastly reduced from the earlier digsites which is all good news. The only current drawback is the leveling process from 500-525. I believe that all the other professions get a handover period between 500-525 so that you can level with both current and previous materials. Archaeology does not get this advantage and that whilst you can learn the Zen Master Archaeology you cannot see any digsites on Pandaria until you hit 525. Unfortunately this is further compounded that the skillups between 500-525 are RNG and it can take several Artifacts to get 1 or 3 skillups. Even the 100+ Artifacts do not guarantee a skillup and neither does completing a Tol'vir artifacts. This means flying around Azeroth at a time when you want to be meeting and greeting the Panda folk.

I raised a ticket at the weekend after finding several forum posts here and here. The answer I got was that Archaeology was working as intended, and that I should raise a forum post or submit an improvement suggestion to the Devs. I believe that this is low priority due to the number of people affected is quite small, but it is still a problem and one that should be relatively easy to fix.


For the record I am not teetotal but neither do I drink very much alcohol these days. The World of Warcraft is full of alcholic drinks, they now have 2 races that are dependant on the consumpution of alcohol (Dwarfs and Pandaren) and even have a holiday (Brewfest) about the drinking of copious amounts of beer. A new quest in the Jade Forest, Monastery area, sees your character drink too much and pass out under the table.

I might just be in a minority of 1, but I feel that the glamourising of alcohol in game and in Real Life is one of the contributing factors to the amount of alcoholics (estimated at 5% of the UK adult population). A very sobering thought indeed.


I have now completed all the quests in the Jade Forest, and so was looking forward to reading the Friday post from the Godmother. What I suddenly realised was how little of the story I had actually taken in. It must be stated that at this point I do not read the quest text, and in an interview with Cory Stockton on the Instance Podcast, Cory stated that most people do not read the quest text.
The following is my story of Jade Forest:

  1. Alliance fleet sank.
  2. Anduin is missing.
  3. Get onboard Gunship to rescue the prince.
  4. Blowup lots of Orcs.
  5. Kill lots of Orcs in coldblood.
  6. Get attacked by Slimer and his friends (Sorry I meant the Sha)
  7. Fight the Monkey People
  8. Help the Fish People fight the Monkey People
  9. Get Drunk
  10. Help find Jade to build a statue
  11. Find 4 flying worms (they may even be wyrms) in the Jade Temple
  12. Go to War against the Orcs and Monkey People
  13. Destroy the statue by summoning the Sha
  14. The End
I am sure there is a storyline in there somewhere, but right now I have not yet pieced it together. Maybe it doesn't really matter if I understand or not, it is not like Blizzard have build in consequences to our actions like Dragon's Lair (1983).