Thursday, 31 October 2013

Hole In My Shoe

Yesterday was reset day in Europe. I had hatched a fiendish plan to make a huge dent in my quest for the Legendary Cloak, of course the best laid plans of mice and men came to nought. As soon as I logged on I was whispered with an invite for Flex raiding, not on my Hunter, but on my Shaman for my healing skills. Incidentally I have discovered that my Healing skills maybe a bit rusty and besides my Shaman is geared mostly in Elemental gear, but even that seem to have a sprinkling of spirit on it.

The Flex raid went Ok, a little ragged in parts, but four bosses in about 90 minutes is not too much of a hardship. The rewards were also very good, with upgrade in off-hand from iLevel 476 (barely epic shield from the Timeless Isle) to the very strange Purehearted Cricket Cage, and a ring. A combined upgrade of 108 iLevels which I believe will make a large difference in my performance.

The side effect of running Flex was that I managed to obtain all the Sigils for the Wrathion Questline. The next step in the quest is Fear Itself, for which I can see a little hole in the Blizzard masterplan. Blizzard is trying to encourage the return of absent players, and in the Timeless Isle have provide a catch up mechanism for alts and returnees alike. These people although relatively far down an expansions worth of quests may be tempted to try to obtain the Legendary cloak. Fear Itself is not difficult, but neither is it current content and to make matters worse the early Raids in MoP are sequential. My poor little Shaman who can heal in Flex but cannot queue directly for the Terrace of Endless Spring because I have not yet finished Heart of Fear.

I have done the first part of Heart of Fear only, so to progress to the Terrace of Endless Spring I will need to queue up for two different LFR's that nobody is running at the moment. It might be fair to say that I missed my chance before patch 5.4 dropped.

One solution would be to remove the prerequisites for the early Raids, or an alternative is to gather the guild together for a 10 man normal, but who are currently busy doing current content. Either way this is not a good scenario for me. My major hope is that there are others in my predicament or a guild that can now obtain an easy achievement now that we massively overgear the Raid.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Perfect Day

I was speaking to a friend at the weekend about World of Warcraft, the game that he quit three years ago. He stated that enough time had gone by that he wanted to come back, but not to the current game, the one that he fell in love with 8 years ago. We talked about stupid things we had done in the game, at a time when it took several months to level from 1 - 60. Of course it was possible to go faster but we were sampling everything the game had to offer, every instance and every quest.

This got me thinking about whether for all the changes do we now have a better game than when we first started?


The original game had a very slow levelling curve. Levelling was as important as the endgame. The endgame was very poor and raiding was introduced in various stages throughout the lifetime of vanilla.

Mists of Pandaria introduce a new class and race. It was possible with the Monk's increased XP gain, heirlooms and various other XP gains to go from 1-85 in only a few days played. The downside is that you are constantly out levelling zones. Doing one instance will normally gain gear and a few levels. This makes the whole process very disjointed. The speed is ideal for old players creating alts and is terrible for the new player. Blizzard believes that the game starts at endgame.


Levelling was too long in the old game and too short in the new version. As a WoW veteran I prefer the new over the old, but that is only because I have already done the old.


Vanilla WoW actively encouraged exploration, and gear improvements in small chunks. We had no idea about iLevel and every new piece of gear was scrutinised in minute detail. We often got it wrong, with Rogues with strength weapons, Hunters with spirit gear. The stats were as whacky and confusing as Diablo III was when I started playing that.

The new game is fairly straight forward, we are told in game which primary stat to concentrate on, we no longer wear the wrong armour type (warriors in leather gear). The crafting game however is less important than ever. Why craft when Blizzard give us loot island? MoP put a squeeze on crafted gear with soulbound Spirits of Harmony. The solution now is the daily craft routine, create one piece of leather, one piece of cloth, one piece of plate and one engineering widget and in 28 days you can craft an awesome piece of armour or an incredible mount.


In vanilla we actively went farming for mats, relentless killing the same mobs for felcloth and elemental bits and pieces. The more effort involved the more rewarding it was. However that pace of game cannot return. The MMO populace is aging and the youth are not filling the vacated spaces left by the out going retiring players. With age comes changes in lifestyle and less of us have whole weekends of playing WoW and eating pizza. We have not the time to scavenge mercilessly for drops and so we are left with a soulless socialist process. Only the raiders can speed up the process of crafting, and we are left with the choice of use or sell, and who can put a price on 28 days worth cooldowns.

The old system was better but it is now totally unworkable and the new system is worse but boring.


Vanilla WoW was a time of discovery, for some gamers it was the first time playing a MMO, and the first time when there was no Game Over screen. A game that never ends. I never actually made it to the endgame, and was about two weeks behind the masses going into The Burning Crusade. My impression of the endgame was that it was lacklustre. The choices being PvP or Raid. Raid was all about gathering 40 bodies and the endless pursuit of resistance gear. There was strict orders of progression and without the gear from the previous raid it was almost impossible to advance to the next. This caused huge bottlenecks in progress and the number of people who entered the original Naxx was probably in the hundreds, unlike the millions that are currently baying for Garrosh's blood.

MoP is a lifestyle choice, play the game that you want to play. Do you want to Raid with 10 or 25 people or anything in between? With guild and friends and across realms? or with 24 strangers who question your parentage and your IQ?

You can still PvP in a host of battlegrounds, or you can compete against premades, or face the elite of the Arena in 2,3 or 5 man groups. Sadly we have lost the pitched battles of Wintersgrasp and Baradin Hold and for an Expansion about Horde v's Alliance this seems like an odd choice. I think that Blizzard ran out of ideas.

Now we can also look after our farms, battle with our pets and find more treasure than you ever imagined existed on one island.


Vanilla does not hold a candle to the latest expansion in terms of activities, levelling as been replaced with reputation grinds, scenarios, 5 man instances, 5 man heroics, and choices for raids. In fact there was so much content that it was alts that suffered. Alts were a concept that players introduced for differences in play style and to fill the gaps in missing content. Only at the end of the expansion are alts being re-established in players rosters.

Talents and Spells

Vanilla introduced the concept of player growth through a series of choices every few levels. The problem with the old system was the continual need to retrain. After several expansions the whole system was added to and tweaked until it got to a stage were it needed to be completely revamped.

The new system is streamlined, easy to understand and with very wrong options. It is preferable to the old system but it feels sanitised and somehow not as rewarding. Theorycrafting is less important and now we only feel the powersurge every 15 levels or so (depending on expansions). One huge advance in the system was the ability to have dual specialisation allowing Dps/Tank or Dps/Healer or Dps/Dps this is a real lifestyle change that nobody would ever want to lose. Many people have even argued for triple spec, but we now know that Blizzard is firmly against such a move in the near future.

Druids now have four distinct specialisations and Warlocks recently received a complete revamp, due to their declining numbers. Not all classes are currently in a good place and further tweaking can be expected for the next expansion. It is not all bad news, Hunters no longer use mana (WTF was that about). Hunters in the past needed Agility, Stamina, Intellect and spirit/Mp5 no wonder there was a joke about all loot being Hunter Loot.


The new system is better than the old tired system, but it seems rather sterile and for a level 90 you only have 6 choices to customise a character. Spell bloat is still a problem for some classes and others have a boring priority system that is more akin to whack-a-mole than an organised rotation. There are several classes in need of some care an attention and Hunters, Warriors and Paladins have been very vocal. Personally I would add Balance Druid as being the most soulless class to play. Rogue specs are starting to look the same with very little character between them.


On entering WoW for the first time, it was rather daunting about the size of the two continents. We had flight points but you needed to walk to them and it was only at level 40 that we finally gave our feet a rest on a standard land mount, providing you could afford the hefty fee for the mount and the training.

Now we get a boost with the land mounts at level 20, and at level 60 you can fly around Azeroth and the Outlands. It is a huge quality of life improvement, when time is precious, but the result is that world seems a much smaller space. Blizzard discovered that allowing flying during the levelling process decreases the experience dramatically. How boring would the Isle of Thunder and the Timeless Isle be if we could fly around them. Ghostcrawler stated that he wishes they had never been introduced, but the horse has well and truly bolted on that one.

One contentious point about the current expansion is the use of portals. It is one aspect that was introduced and then removed or restricted in previous expansion. They still exist but their use is not comprehensive and I believe that Blizzard would rather not have them in the game. The problem is that max level characters would become increasingly scarce in the two capital cities. The other cities have long since died due to the absence of portals.

The addition of portals would spread the load around and no longer would we all live on our farms but we could hang out in Ironforge or whichever city takes our fancy. Nobody wants to go back to the laggy days of Shattrath and Dalaran.


Mounts at level 40 was a complete disaster, we all have tales of long runs through zones we should not have been in. The Wetlands for the Night Elves was a death trap. Running through the zone at level 10 attracted the attention of every Crocolisks within a half a mile. It was painful and horrible and totally unnecessary.

I would like to see more portals in game, I no longer want to make long journeys between Flight Points so I can go and get a drink. Instant travel is the way to go forward., honestly Blizzard we have seen the landscape and just want to get on with it. On the subject have travel, can Blizzard please re-instate "Have Group Will Travel". It really is the same principal as the portals, some of us have played long enough to not need transportation problems in our lives.


Behaviour or in the case of WoW, bad behaviour is something that as always troubled MMO's but especially WoW. The problems in vanilla were very much different than the problems faced by the game today. In the past we had issues with Gold sellers, beggars and the Barrens Chat. Today we have foul mouthed individuals who like to get their kicks from insulting people in LFR.

I have not seen any beggars in a long time and the last one was asking for 100 Gold donations, how times have changed. Gold sellers can still be seen in the form of Calendar entries but the general shoutouts in trade chat have mostly disappeared. The more gold we have the less a problem that Gold Sellers are.

In my opinion the worst behaviour in game was around Cataclysm. Heroics were tough and LFG was an ugly place to be especially during the Zul's. Battlegrounds which is were I spent my expansion was a foul place to be, even when the Alliance was winning. LFR became the new haunt for the badly behaved and it was not just in words but in deeds that these people excelled. The idiot who caused wipes in Spine of Deathwing needs to be shot, and unfortunately BBB probably brought this behaviour into the limelight.

Changes in reporting players and a move away from LFR to the more relaxed atmosphere of Flex raiding have reduced our contact time with the idiots who choose to spoil rather than enjoy our game.


In vanilla we had a player base that was still learning to play the game. A question in General chat would be met with mostly sensible answers. These days nobody has the time to answer or nobody cares anymore. The general feeling is that you need an internet connection to play the game so why not just google it.

Flex as moved the focus back to the Guild, and the Guild is far friendlier place to be. People at least try to be nice, well they do in my Guild and it has been stable environment for more than the three years that I have festered in it. Vanilla was not a terrible place to be, but without LFR, life is sweet.

People were generally nicer, friendly and more helpful during vanilla, and they needed to be. Group content was everywhere in the beginning, with help often needed for Hogger, Bellygrub, Stitches and Mor'ladim.


The game has seen many changes in the difficulty levels. It would have been almost inconceivable to do the Ironman Challenge in vanilla. Deaths were frequent (Wetlands) and often unexpected (Mor'ladim), instances needed care and attention, or being of a higher level helped. Multiple mobs were hard to handle on some classes, and sprint, vanish and bubbles were at a premium.

The Burning Crusades racked up this difficulty another notch, and with the introduction of Heroics, Blizzard reached new heights in torture. We learned to co-ordinate our runs and use multiple forms of crowd control, we did it slow and methodically.

Wrath of the Lich King was the crash bang whallop expansion and people shot through Heroics, completed Raids on 4 different settings, and generally did things at high velocity. Heroics that lasted less than 15 minutes became the norm, and we loved our gearscore.

Cataclysm was a return to TBC days, and it turned out that people did not want TBC they wanted Lich King style action. Random groups did not like to take things slowly and use CC, and healers did not to go OoM. and deaths and wipes became the new norm.


MoP is different from anything before and it will be the template for all future content. Make the general content medium difficulty, and let the Hardcore bang their heads against a scaled up version. We can now play the same game as though it has difficulty settings. Run your challenge modes, your Heroic raids, the majority are going to take the middle of the road. The funny thing is that, Blizzard have finally struck the right balance.

World of Warcraft means more to us when everything was shiny and new. The game is tainted by our memories of discovery and exploration. We look back fondly at a time when we believe that we enjoyed the game the most. The current expansion is still being played out in bedrooms and computer rooms across the globe. We have not yet had time to evaluate and compare the expansion and place it in a rank of our favourite expansion.

The point I am trying to make is that in general we have a better game than at any point, and although Blizzard are still making errors of judgement they still have the ability to assess the weaknesses of the game and steer it in the right direction.

Endgame content will feature dailies and reputation in the future, what Blizzard will not do is gate a faction behind another faction, or spread gear far and wide across multiple factions. The likelihood is that factions will only have vanity items in the future and that Valor and Justice will become more important than they are today for gearing characters. Scenarios and cutscenes will be used for storytelling purposes within reputation grinds, commendation for alts rep may or may not exist depending on the vanity/gear rewards. There is no point being exalted on multiple characters with a faction that sells mounts and pets. Blizzard have used four very distinct and different content patches, and whilst we might feel like lab rats, the results will guide future expansions.

The current patch as overcompensated for previous issues in the expansion, and right now it is possible to any of  the following:
  • To level an alt quickly
  • Gear an alt quickly
  • Go end game raiding at four different levels
  • Go raiding with any number of friends between 10 and 25
  • Defeat a faction leader
  • Catch up on reputation grinds
  • Create a very good item of gear every month
  • Level cooking and blacksmithing in one location
  • Live on a farm
  • Collect three of every vanity pet
  • Have battles with your pets
  • PvP in PvE gear (sort of)
  • PvE in PvP gear
  • Join a fight club
  • Run timed Heroics in scaled down gear
  • Fish to impress Nat Pagle
  • Change the stats on our gear (within reason)
  • Change the look of our gear
The past is not always better than the present.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Walk On The Wild Side

The Wrathion Questline for my legendary cloak is slowly taking shape. I have 40 Trillium Bars and 8 Secrets of the Empire for the quest Secrets of the First Empire. The progress is slow and it means running a mixture of SoO and ToT, but I know I have already completed some of the stages further down the quest chain. I am so far behind on the Legendary quests that I really do not want to know what lies ahead, otherwise I will just pick up my ball and go home now.

I might be a self confessed Altoholic, but we still favour one class and one class over all others. My Hunter, Bobflintston (shock horror) is my main, and lately he has seen a lot of action. Patch 5.4 dropped nearly 7 weeks ago and I have devoted much time and effort to explore, eradicate, skin and write about the Timeless Isle. I have plundered the Isle for all of its many riches and have decided to retire my Hunter from the daily grind. I started this patch with an iLevel in the low 500's and over a very rich lucky streak have amassed an average iLevel of 539, this places just below the gear drops off SoO Flex:

  • 535 - Burdens of Eternity
  • 540 - SoO Flex
  • 541 - Heroic Thunderforged
  • 553 - SoO Normal
  • 553 - Crafted (Legs and Belt)
  • 566 - SoO Heroic

I have used all the Burdens of Eternity I can physically use with the exception of my ever expanding waist. This I intend to decorate with the Crafted Belt in the next 10 days with its 553 iLevel and multitude of available Red Gem Slots. I am sure that I do not need to tell you which slot I am currently lagging behind on, yes of course its the weapon slot. I issued an open letter to Blizzard two weeks ago and I was willing to uphold my side of the bargain, but sadly there was no communication from Irvine, CA.

Why the hell are Blizzard hiding weapons in this expansion?

The crafting gear ranges from iLevel 450 Blues to Epic iLevel 476 but only on some professions. Loot Island offers iLevel 496 for every single slot with the exception of Weapon which you can but iLevel 476 Epic for the cost of 20,000 Timeless Coins. All other weapon upgrades are in the lap of the Gods. The RNG which gives you two chances each week off 4 Bosses:

  • Malkorak
  • Galakras
  • Sun Tenderheart
  • Garrosh Hellscream
It is possible that one Legendary Cloak and one weapon are the only two things keeping my Hunter out of expansion retirement. I am unlikely to ever complete SoO in Normal or Heroic modes, my lifestyle is changing, my children are getting older and the possibility of working shifts in the near future will destroy the slim chance of ever raiding with my Guild. The Guild is a casual raiding guild, but the team operates a tight 10 man raiding, and I have never had the inclination to try to break into the team in the last two expansions.

My only motivation on my main is to keep running LFR (ToT and SoO) and Flex, mostly for Secrets but also in the vain hope of finding a weapon. After that it is pretty much Game Over until the next expansion.

There is of course still plenty to do on my other characters, so I will not be cancelling my subscription in the near future. It will be interesting to see how far Blizzard have managed to progress towards releasing a new expansion and all new expansion usually get announced in Q4 and come out a year later. 9-12 months will be way too long without any new content and Blizzard know this. It is an important 12 months for Blizzard with a declining numbers in its flagship cash cow, and a feature film on the horizon. Can they make it happen? we will get some idea in less than a fortnight.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Whiskey In The Jar

Way back in the mists of time, I started playing World of  Warcraft. On the character creation screen was an option to join a realm, greeted by choices like PvE, PvP, and RP, not knowing what to do I chose the recommended PvE server and so was born a WoW addict. That all important decision which Realm you end up on was taking out of my hands, I had no idea what I was doing but that one decision could have changed my entire gaming experience.

Tonight I have friends coming round to sample my culinary skills, we met playing WoW, so that one click culminated in years of friendship, who could have known at the time. I could have chosen PvP and been ganked within an inch of my life that I quit playing, or alternatively ended up on one of those adult only Roleplaying guilds.

The realm was recommended because of it was still a growing server, but within 18 months it was more than a little full and waiting times to login got ridiculous. A free server move prompted a wholesale evacuation and I have played on Anachronos (EU) ever since. It has a reputation for not being hardcore raiding or PvP, but I have no idea if that is true or not, it is simply a medium population home for my characters.

I never really thought much about my choices until Blizzard implemented Cross Realm Zones (CRZ). CRZ was designed to fix the problem of underpopulated areas, levelling zones long since discarded by the max level characters. It was now possible to level with other people, real people on other realms doing the same quests as you. The result was glitchy to say the least, with zones effectively having vertical walls between them, go one pace forward and you would appear on one server and one pace back you ended up on another server. This was not a seemless transition which requires the WoW servers to send a raft of new information about your new position in the game. Everytime I take the Darkmoon portal from Stormwind to Elwynn Forest there is a 3 or 4 second delay for the ground rendering then a further gap whilst the other feature appear. It is slightly annoying but not as bad as the Flying glitch which would cause a dismount when flying between zones. There was also the annoying text that would appear multiple times which made Hellfire into the spam centre of the universe.

One side effect of the increased number of people in zones was the competition for resources. With the increase in levelling speeds through reduced XP, more ways to gain XP (through professions) and heirloom gear, it became very difficult to keep professions current. Fights over mining nodes, high level characters plundering resources on flying mounts due to the scarcity of items on the Auction House pushing up prices. The gains from making the zones come alive again had to be weighed up against the problems it was causing. This was not a win-win for Blizzard and many commentators were very vocal about the issues.

Overtime we have simply grown to ignore the old world and concentrate yet again on the max level content. The number of people levelling 1-60 is probably back to the handful of lost souls who are out-levelling the zones after 20 quests.

Blizzard then got very excited about a new feature which would allow merging of realms to reduce the number of servers required due to falling subscriptions. It would make the Realms full again and would not result in the media catastrophe of announcing Realm closures, uprooting players and forcing name changes for players without unique character names.

The Blogosphere went mad again would Virtual Realms (Connected Realms was finally chosen), create more of the same issues that CRZ did. What was the criteria for connection? What was the ultimate goal in terms of Realm numbers? Blizzard gave general answers but never the specifics. People tried to guess what the Connected Realms would like, would it be 2 or 3 or 4 medium servers to make one Connected Realm, we did not know.

Several US Realms have now been connected, the results have been relatively quiet so the assumption is they have been successful, and now Blizzard are starting on the EU Realms. From a Blue post and report in WoW Insider, it appears that Blizzards intentions are on a modest scale. Connected two low population PvP Realms will at best make a medium populated PvP Connected Realm. Vaneras also hints that the concurrent number of users did not change from the early days Cataclysm, which is the last time that I needed to queue to logon at peak times.

"The primary purpose of the connected realms feature is indeed to improve the situation on low population realms, to reinvigorate said realms. Currently that means that some of the highest population realms will not be connected with other realms, but it is a possibility that this may change in the future."

Whether some medium population Realms can be connected remains to be seen, but it appears that Blizzard is merely closing a handful of small PvP servers, and too be honest who can blame them.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Dancing In The Dark

One of the biggest problems with group content as always been, people standing in the bad. The pressure to try to be competitive in the Dps charts sometimes means that our damage dealing companions, especially those with long casting times, often linger longer than they should in the bad stuff.

There was once a simple rule in WoW, "Do not stand in anything on the floor". This was nice and easy, a boss would light up the ground around you and you would move providing you were not too engrossed in your spell rotation to notice.

I notice a change around Cataclysm when doing a Lost City of Tol'vir. The entrance has spellcasters casting Earthquake and the whole place was shoot and run. The interesting change that occurred was that Shaman healers had now got some new spells in their arsenal including a ground AoE healing spell with a large Blue circle on the floor. The result was that everybody immediately ran out of the area to avoid the horrible effects of this blue spell.

The spell we now know is Healing Rain and it was part of a design normalisation process that Blizzard introduced for the new Triage healing system. The idea was that Healing classes would have an AoE healing spell, a quick heal, a medium low mana heal, and a big heal for big mana.

The problem with the ground effect spells, is that there are way too many of them now. We have Offensive spells like Earthquake and Death and Decay, and Healing spells like Healing Rain and Efflorescence (Circle of Healing - maybe). The result is Green, Blue, White and Red circles on the floor, and that is just the crap that your allies put on the floor. Add in the boss spells and it make for one gigantic mess on the floor. God help you if you suffer from colour blindness.

The one saving grace in this pile of confusion is addons (don't rely on Blizzard to save your sorry ass). Deadly Boss Mods or Big Wigs should be installed as default for any endgame player. There is however one other useful addon that does only this one task, and I found it solely because I liked its name GTFO. The description on Curse is as follows:

Stop standing in fire!

GTFO provides an audible alert when you're standing in something you're not supposed to be standing in. In some cases, you'll be warned before you start taking damage. This mod improves your situational awareness and is recommended for dungeon divers and raiders of all skill levels as even the most seasoned veteran sometimes needs a reminder to GTFO.
It's particularly useful for individuals that play with their spell graphics turned down as well as assisting with PvP when you can't tell who's casting the AOE.

Audible alert, is my first problem, I tend to play when the children are asleep, and there is no way I am playing with headphones on for hours at a time,  just to drive myself insane with all the pew pew noises.

From the GTFO description it talks about the issue of spells being turned down, and this issue applies equally to people with older computers with bad graphics cards. If you have a rubbish computer you need an addon and the sound turned on, or you have a decent computer with an addon and sound is optional.

The whole situation is a little on the muddy side and if Blizzard want us all to Raid or at the very least LFR then they should really be looking to clear up the effects or at the very least be incorporating their own raiding addon. So much of this game is player led and the game is so vast and complex that we need to do research to be able to play some of the basics like grouping. It might be second nature to the raiders amongst us but for the new players in an unfriendly environment like LFR, this must be absolute chaos.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Let's Dance

With an apology to those that PvP to a high standard, WoW is all about Raiding. In terms of developer time this is where most of the energies go in any given expansion and nearly every new patch introduces a new raid. The raid size as gone up and down throughout the history of the game and as now settled on a 10 or 25 man raid size before the flex raid version which scales between the two sizes.

Everybody has there favourite Raid over the ages, but what exactly is it that makes a raid good, bad or indifferent? The following is the full listing of Raids:




10 and 25-player


10 and 25-player 


10 and 25-player LFR

Quite a list when you think about it, and the developers have to try to come up with new and varied ways of making the encounters interesting. Some of the Raids are remembered fondly, and others not so. Was it the people you raided with or was it the encounters that made them memorable?

Personal favourites are Karazhan, Naxramas, Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel. Does this mean that Blizzard have failed to produce a decent Raid in the last two expansion? Maybe it is just the mind playing tricks on me, but I feel that the new Raids are perhaps a little too gimmicky.

Karazhan is my personal favourite, once they removed the worst gating ever seen in form of the attunement from hell. The setting of a spooky mansion was simply awesome and although some of the encounters were run of the mill, (Attunmen, Maiden of Virtue and The Curator), there was enough interesting encounters (Moroes, Illhoof, Shade of Aran, Opera and Chess). The other thing that makes a Raid interesting is the quality of the adds. The Grand Ballroom had loads of spectral dancers, and I remember waiting patiently at the bottom of the stairs for the pull to come. The AoE kings of the time Hunters and Mages would often be greasy smears at the end of the fight. Upstairs from these ghostly delights was the "carpet of death", stand in the wrong place, for when they dropped aggro and a the nearest clothie would be in a world of pain.

Naxxramas had some awesome fights and it was unfortunate that Ulduar came out just when the guild was starting to make good progress. The rehashed version of Naxx kept all the fights from the original Vanilla raid, but it was right to reuse the Raid because so few people ever stepped foot in the place. I liked Grobbulus, Gluth, Noth, Heigan and the Four Horsemen. All very different encounters and for anyone who mastered the Dance, never again would you die facing Heigan.

Ulduar had a lot going for it, the difficulty level was a huge step up from Naxx, and it was only when massively outgearing the place did it become easy. The adds hit like a runaway train and the achievements were almost impossible and needed multiple runs to achieve them all. Oddly enough I have one big bugbear with Ulduar, and that was Flame Leviathon. I dislike not being able to use my abilities, it made no difference if you were a Hunter, Mage or Priest on the Motorcycle and the faffing around to get to the boss fight was a joke. If I could have teleported to the other side of the Flamey, I would have run this Raid a hundred times more than I did.

The Icecrown Citadel had everything, the encounters and adds were difficult the encounters were many and varied, and the last boss was one of the toughest encounters I ever saw. The low point for me was the gunship, which was plain annoying, thankfully when it was over you went straight into Deathbringer Saurfang. This boss was a pain in the backside, but it felt like you had achieved something to finally defeat him. No room for slackers on this fight.

I have had a smile on my face whilst writing this post, remembering the hours spent honing skills and making small gains on a weekly basis. I feel none of that love for the new Raids. They lack the panache of previous encounters. They are gimmicky, and clunky requiring you to stand together, on one leg with one finger in your ear and one on your nose.

It is not that the encounters are not difficult, it is just that you want to see the back of them as soon as possible. Singled out for particular distain are:
  • Garalon the Tripod from Heart of Fear,
  • the sheer number of mobs in Throne of Thunder,
  • Horridon
  • Tortos - the pinball wizard
  • Durumu -  Maze from hell
  • Megaera -  Which is just a poor imitation of the Deathwing fight. Long and very boring
I have not included Siege of Ogrimmar because it is too new to have formed an opinion yet.

I appreciate the difficulty of producing new and exciting things for Boss fights, but after creating over a hundred such encounters it feels like the well is running a little dry.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Talk Talk

This morning I was reading an interesting post from Navimie about the name of the loot that drops off Ordos. Being an outcast and not being allowed to visit Ordos, I of course would not know. I really like the fact that Blizzard tips its hat to the community on the odd occasions. The new list appears to be WoW Insider centric, but I for one am not going to argue about that.

The first time I became familiar with the Blizzard practice, was when BRK was awarded the BRK-1000 and its faint smell of raspberries. Frostheim got a cloak, although hairy bracers would have been more suitable. I have a complete set in my bank for the Instance crew Turpster, Scott Johnson, and Dills although by the time I received them I no longer needed them.

This however is not the main topic for today, and I want to focus on what I perceive to be a little joke on Navimie's behalf.

"Olivia's Graceful Gaze

I love the play on this name :)  Olivia Grace from WoWInsider (she writes the PvP column) who also features on's Legendary podcast - she is one busy lady playing her Shay-man!"

The rest of the post is not intended to be a dig or an attempt to ascend to the moral high ground, it is merely the observations of the language used in general and around the World of Warcraft.

In case you are missing the emphasis in Navimie's comment it is on the word Shay-man. I have added the link to the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, the reason being is that I am English, I speak English but I am from the North West of England, were we have our own version of the English language. Sometimes I am forced to doubt my own pronunciation because of the regionalised accents that I hear on a daily basis.

I say Shaman as Shay-man, but the majority of Warcraft players, (vent, mumble, podcasts) tend to use Shar-man. As a Lancastrian we tend to find the imaginary addition of a 'r' after an 'a' somewhat perplexing. The main example of this is in the word 'bath' in which not only is the 'r' added it is often over-exagerated. In the UK it would not be uncommon to hear any of the following 'bath', 'barth' or 'barrth' to mean the same thing.

"Language is the human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication."

In order for communication to be successful all parties need to understand the rules of engagement. Language does not have to be a static set of rules and if anything the English language is moving at a faster pace than at anytime in its history.

Not only is the pronunciation an issue there is a problem with the development of new words. It is probably well known that the UK use the term 'mobile phone' and the rest of the world seems to use the Americanisation of 'cell phone'.

In a recent edition of the Instance, Scott and Dills were laughing at Turpster for his use of the word 'pram' as used in the phrase 'throwing your toys out of the pram'. It took an age to determine that the American word for pram is 'stroller', once the understanding is reached it is no longer that funny.

As WoW players we have the added pressure of Blizzard inventing new words, names, and place names. The number of ways of saying Dalaran or Pandaria are good examples of how a language is developed, we try to apply a common set of rules and we still end up with a different answer. In some ways the European languages are more useful than the 26 characters in the English languages, they use accents and umlauts to distinguish the exact sound of the letter.

The WoW community is made of many nationalities, and many languages and ultimately we are all expected to unison in the English language. If the British and Americans can't agree on a common language, imagine how difficult it is for someone speaking a second or third language.

I personally like to hear the differences in pronunciation, accents and dialect, as long as the message is not lost in translation. Now I just need to teach my spell checker that 'valor' and 'armor' can be spelt without a 'u' as well as with.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Broken Arrow

My children have been away for the weekend and my wife was working nights, so over the weekend I gorged myself on World of Warcraft. I have played on characters that  I have not played on in months, and even did the daily Timeless Quest on seven different characters in one day.

My wife caught me sneaking off to complete a quest when I should have been somewhere else, doing housework. She said, "Get downstairs now!", I replied that I was just killing a mob and would down in a minute. At this point she came into the computer room and stared at the screen. "That is not one mob!" I said it is OK I am a Death Knight, "You are killing five, level 90 Elites at the same time, this game is so broken."

There you go, that is the verdict of my wife who has been away from the game for 3 years. She quit when Blizzard decided that all instances should be rock hard, and that healers should heal with triage. That was one bad move Blizzard, it killed my entire network of friends, when 5 people communicating over Skype could not co-ordinate themselves sufficiently, then the skill level was quite frankly way out of kilter.

Death Knights have always held a special place in the class structure. They are the only class deemed to be hero class, although the only benefit that bestows would appear to be ability of starting at level 55. Death Knights starting zone is about learning skills and gathering a complete Blue set. This made them extremely over powered and despite radical changes to the class the Blood Death Knight remains incredibly difficult to kill, providing it is managed correctly. This unique ability once the preserve of the Paladin class with the multiple survivability techniques, allows Death Knights to solo content that they have no right to be able to defeat.

I have stopped worrying so much when doing the Timeless Isle. The Elder Turtles buffering me along the beach is not a major issue, they do only small amounts of damage. Other classes can be absolutely mauled by the spin ability, three hits and you are dead. Death Knights soak up this damage without really breaking stride. An iLevel of 500 really seems to be the tipping point and the three Timeless buffs  Dew of Eternal Morning, Book of Ages and Singing Crystal. The buffs take a few days to assemble a few of each, but once you do then the Daily quest becomes a matter of routine. I took a Monk and a Druid to the Isle and had a torrid time until I was able to work out a technique and choose my battles with up most care and attention. A little tip to make the best use of the buffs when they are in short supply is to log out on the Isle. Hearthstoning back to Pandria will destroy any Timeless buffs.

The issue of buffs is a strange one, a proc that heals you for 60,000, 8,000 of a useful stat, or 100,000 additional damage. These are huge boosts and all three can be used at the same time. It takes a few days to get started for a new character on the Isle. Would it not have been easier or simpler to not have the buff and to nerf the power of the mobs.

At a time when Blizzard is working hard on scaling issues Flex, Proving Grounds and Challenge mode dungeons, they could have set the island to a specific iLevel. The Isle never gets easier or harder, just a constant level of challenge. At launch I found the Isle difficult on all characters with the possible exception of my Hunter. Gear and buffs means that I can rattle through on 5 characters, and struggle like hell on the other 6. If the Isle never gets easier the challenge will always be there even when the next expansion comes along. The gear rewards are purely to assist in getting into LFR and Flex.

The regular Raiders who arrived in the Timeless Isle at launch must have thought the zone was a joke and would have assumed the huffing and panting from the casuals was because they were rubbish. How are Blizzard supposed to balance open world content when some people have iLevel 450 and others have iLevel 540.

Level the playing field and it will be so much easier to aim the content at people. In general if the rewards are below your current iLevel then the content is not really designed for you.

I am starting to suspect that the majority of players prefer easy to difficult, and Blizzard are making 90% of the content to accommodate. The 10% will have to make do with Heroic Raids, Challenge Modes and Arenas. Only this week I heard the Turpster talking about pining for the short and sweet AoE fest dungeons of the Wrath expansion. The aging WoW population would seem to agree.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Bits And Pieces

5 Posts in a week, no wonder that I am running out of topics. Today I am planning on a roundup and including some the bits that I missed out of previous posts.


Professions are still a hot topic with ideas as far ranging as all characters having all professions, and making the gathering skills secondary professions. I am against the idea of all professions have all professions on the basis of BAG SPACE, and I am not sure it would be any better if we could gather ores, herbs and skins. Just imagining the state of my bags brings me out in hives.

Navimie in a post about Guild finances , would like Spirits of War to more useful:

Turning spirits of war into a valued currency

It is a pretty useless currency IMO.  I think at least with Haunting Spirits people needed to buy them to craft, but these ones aren't REALLY required to make items, just helps to make items faster.  So bring back the hard to get items so you can craft the high end gear. I know that the casual players didn't like that because it meant that only guilds could access the gear (unless you bought the currencies for super high prices) so I am unsure how Blizz would go with this direction.

At present the iLevels seems to be all over the place and it is unclear without a little investigation, so after a little snooping here are my findings:

  • 502 - ToT LFR
  • 528 - Thunderforged
  • 528 - SoO LFR
  • 535 - ToT Heroic
  • 535 - Burdens of Eternity
  • 540 - SoO Flex
  • 541 - Heroic Thunderforged
  • 553 - SoO Normal
  • 553 - Crafted (Legs and Belt)
  • 566 - SoO Heroic
Spirits of War are a made from disenchanting Siege of Ogrimmar items, the question is how many loot items are likely to be disenchanted a month after the patch. One of my Guild Raiding team was already turning his nose up at Burdens of Eternity only a week after the patch dropped, so there is a small chance that SoO Flex loot may end up creating Spirits of War. Unfortunately none of them have appeared on the Undermine Journal for my Realm, so either they are Soulbound, not indicated by WoW Head or that Guilds are still keeping them under lock and key.

Having made Mail Trousers for my Hunter and a Cloth Belt for my Mage, I am keen to be producing more than one a month. Unfortunately I seldom raid and have managed only two LFR's and one flex in a month, I am unlikely to see any Spirits of War in the near future.

It does seem rather crazy that we have gone from 372 Greens in the Jade Forest to Heroic SoO 566 and that is discounting the Legendary cloak. Is it any wonder we are heading for a gear squish for the next expansion.

Profession Idea

I don't often have too many ideas, but it is obvious that Crafting is a little bit disjointed over recent patches. MoP introduced, took away and re-introduced the concept of upgrades paid for with Valor. Personally I would like to see Valor go back to it's status of catch up gear, and the upgrade system be part of the crafting professions. Every patch we learn a new set of PvP gear and a few Epic recipes, why not simply have a few recipes for making upgrades or modifications. These upgrades will take the base recipes up to the required level for the next patch. It would achieve the same result without the messy recipe discovery system that we currently have in place.


There have been a number of hotfixes since patch 5.4 dropped, and recently I stopped reading them. I recently won a Burden of Eternity from killing a rare (woot woot my first drop) and tried to use it on a Timeless Curio. I was absolutely convinced that I had done this previously so I instigated a bit of research. WoW Head states:

How To Use

You can use the Burden of Eternity only on the raw, "unopened" BoA versions of Timeless armors. However, Timeless trinkets cannot be upgraded by Burden of Eternity - but you can buy their ilvl535 version from the vendor next to Emperor Shaohao for 50.000 Timeless Coins

On checking all my characters it would appear that I did convert some rings but never any Trinkets. I guess it makes sense seeing as they sell for 50,000 Timeless Coins.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Stuck In The Middle With You

Once upon a time, Blizzard used to treat every character as individuals, not alts belonging to the same account. This was typified by the loot system, Bind on Pickup (BoP) and Bind on Equip (BoE). BoP items become soulbound as soon as they hit the bagspace making them vendor trash, disenchantment goods, or usable by that character. When in a group or raid, careful consideration had to be made before assigning any loot. BoE on the other hand was Guildbank, Auction House or Alt territory.

As far back as patch 3.0.2 Blizzard introduced a new option Bind to Account (BtA or BoA) which is far snappier than the Binds to (BtBNA - which incidentally nobody uses and I just made it up). The original plan was the distribution of an account wide pets the [Baby Blizzard Bear], and the [Onyxian Whelpling] as a reward for logging in on the WoW anniversary.

The technology was there but it was seldom utilised, but there was a seismic shift in playstyle with the introduction of Mists of Pandaria and the Account Wide Pets and Mounts (achievements). It looked like Blizzard had finally recognised the existence of alts, before giving so much content and significant gating mechanisms as to make playing alts difficult and in some respects painful. Blizzard would eventually concede ground in this area and make rewards for alts and gearing significantly easier, the zenith of this policy is the Timeless Isle with the gear reset to top all gear reset.

The question is, have Blizzard gone far enough? Yesterday the Grumpy Elf discussed Timeless Coins but touched on the subject of Burdens of Eternity. Any main character doing the Shaohao rep grind will be rewarded with a plethora of Timeless Coins and Burdens of Eternity and of course armour drops. Only the armour drops can be posted to alts, leaving the main character with largely useless items that would be useful to another character. Earlier on in the expansion Blizzard had made the same mistake with Spirits of Harmony. How difficult would it have been to let gatherers send their stash of Spirits to the Crafters  that needed them? The reason was clear, Blizzard wanted to stop a flood of iLevel 476 crafted items reaching the Auction House. This policy was so successful that I never saw any of these items until they were already superseded by the Kor'kron gear from the Barrens.

I have decided to write an open letter to Blizzard, seeing as Miley Cyrus and Sinead O'Connor can do it.:

"Blizzard, our allocated time slots are limited, does it really matter which of our characters does the hard work? We still have to spent the hours grinding one way or another. Just a few Burdens of Eternity on top of the Timeless Armour would make all the difference. I have thousands of timeless coins, unfortunately they are separated over 11 characters, please let me trade coins and Burdens of Eternity and let me do something useful with my alts. I promise I will stop going on about the pitiful excuse for weapons that you let us have outside of Raids."

Yours faithfully
Bob (and alts)(we really are the same the person on the same account)