Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Rock 'n' Roll

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

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

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

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

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

Timeless Isle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legendary Cloak

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

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

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

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

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

Looking For Raid

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

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


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

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 22 November 2013

Holding Out For A Hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 18 November 2013

Hey Stoopid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Time Warp

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia defines Time Travel as:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

One Way Or Another

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


I have played computer games for as long as I can remember. Never in all that time have I ever had an inkling as to who is in the team behind the software, with the possible exception of Sid Meier. Blizzard have many public faces, and of the World of Warcraft team you could probably name 5-10 people without having to think too hard.

The first name that I think of in connection with World of Warcraft is Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, a man who seems to have as many fans as haters. Ghostcrawler at Blizzcon appeared on the panel of the Instance Podcast, along with the usual team and Russell Brower (Sound Designer). Ghostcrawler was in fine form and was pretty much off the leash without the PR handlers that often follow him around. If you have not listened already then I heartily recommend that you do whilst playing.

What I find impressive about Ghostcrawler is his vast knowledge of the game. It would be easy to say that is what he is paid for, but in my opinion he is involved or has knowledge of all aspects and decisions affecting the game. It would appear that every suggestion that players come up with, Blizzard have discussed, considered, rejected or are considering implementing. In theory I tend to agree with everything that Blizzard sees as wrong with the game. The problem is not even the implementation it is often how the player base abuses the changes.

Since the implementation of the Timeless Isle, I have grown to resent the endless stream of gear modifications that need to take place.

Gem - Enchant - Reforge - Valor Upgrade (Transmog)

It was not a problem when you only upgrade on average one item a week. After levelling my Warlock I changed every single item of gear. The professions needed are ridiculous:

Gem -  Jewelcrafter
Enchants - Scribe, Enchanter, Leatherworker, Tailor
Reforge - Vendor
Upgrade - Vendor

Balancing Hit and Expertise became a monstrous undertaking, and the only sensible solution was to use an addon or consult a 3rd party site. If min - maxing involves so much faffing around that we need an external source then there is a serious problem. The result is can't be bothered or large amounts of faffing. Just remember the "can't be arsed" will appear in a LFR near you in the very near future.

By extension Dodge, Parry, Spirit will also go the way of the dodo, and gear will become more class specific but will change depending on spec. Special abilities will appear on gear and that will leave the same strange decision making process that I faced when playing Diablo. This of course will lead to min-maxing of a different sort and some abilities will more definitely be BiS. Theorycrafting is far from dead it will simply take a different route.

The three remaining stats, have been a strange mix over the last two expansions. Haste and Crit have been around for a long time and we instinctively know what each of these will do if we stack them. Mastery was supposed to be a fine tuning stat, for when a spec was outperforming the other two specs (on a pure DpS). In practice we have seen very little fine tuning  otherwise how can you explain why Beast Mastery was so much better than Marksman for a whole expansion or Fire Mages have been rocking the charts for so long it is untrue.

With the removal of so many secondary stats, there is no need for the reforger, it was an ugly solution to a bad situation, and for most it will not be missed.

I am guessing the new system will either be gem or enchant not both, and this will result in a speedy gear change but the professions associated will lose an income stream. It can be argued that Jewlecrafters and Enchanters have already been very well recompensed over the years, but it will not stop the moaning in the forums. Ghostcrawler has already intimated that they are reviewing other income streams for those poor souls with either of these professions, I suggest that Blizzard look at Leatherworking and Engineering if they want to help impoverished professions.

The removal of the so called "Intellect Plate" problem is another clever solution to an age old problem. The most persecuted classes by the old system are Paladin and Shaman, three specs with three different sets of armour to contend with. Druids have had four specs but can just about manage with two sets of armour. The new system will be much crisper and cleaner, but what are they going to do will Trinkets. Are trinkets going to be role based or class based? Clearly some questions still need to be ironed out.

Blizzard have seen the problems, and have acted to fix the issues. The question is what will they do to replace it, because we all know they can't help but go full tilt in the opposite direction until that also becomes a problem.

In theory I am totally behind the change but we need to see the implementation and exactly how the player base abuses the new system. For now it is a good start.

Monday, 11 November 2013


Blizzcon is now officially over, but if you are anything like me, you are still wandering around in a state of shock. This is going to take several days to digest the information and formulate opinions. As a backup plan I am going to review my own prediction and compare to what the new expansion is going to introduce to the game:

1. The new expansion is Warlords of Draenor.
Yay, one to Bob, this was almost a given, although I was toying with the "Dark Warlords form Below Draenor".

2. No new expansion for at least 9 months.
Not confirmed how long it take or even how far developed they are. A patch 5.5 would delay the release of  new expansion. (eg if Patch 5.5 took 4 months to implement, Warlords of Draenor would be pushed back 4 months) with no parallel gains to be made by splitting teams to work on separate projects.

3. Heroic 5 man instances will be re-introduced.
Not sure whether they will return to adding extra 5 Man Heroics in future patches, but like MoP they will start with Heroic instances

4. Scenarios of multiple sizes will continue to be used to compliment and advance storyline.
A fairly safe bet that scenarios will become entrenched into the game

5. A major change to LFR either using flex technology or content that needs only one Tank or fewer healers.
I think I called this correctly, with LFR having a little more room to wriggle in terms of overall composition of the raid team.

6. Dailies and Weeklies will be used for content and reputation, but not as the only source of reputation gain.
The noises emanating from Blizzard are that the Daily Quest is now dead. The jury is still out on this one, and expect to see Dailies and Weeklies but not as common as the last two expansions. They will definitely be used sparingly on Reputation grinds

7. Gear will not be available only through the medium of Valor and Justice, Factions will once again require gold.
This is a wait and see, but there are changes to come for Valor and Justice. Justice was less than useless for the entire expansion.

8. Commendations will continue to be used for Alt reputation gains.
Nobody stated anything to contrary, and it is doubtful they will want to leave alts so isolated again, so I expect this feature to remain.

9. The next expansion is for 5 Levels only.
Congratulations to R for calling me out on this one. The main reason is that 100 levels sounds more Epic than 95. Apparently the maths makes it an easier transition without the big loss in power we encountered between levels 88-89 as crit and haste drop significantly below the gain in gear.

10.The squish is coming, and certain unintended items will become BiS. Some levels will becoming difficult and others ridiculously easy, especially around the old level caps.
Yes, the squish is coming, but glitches in the system will be more difficult to determine at lower levels. It affects the whole game and not just the last 10 levels.

11. I anticipate no new class, but possibly a new race (available to both side)
Partially correct, I had a feeling that this would be the first expansion without new Races, Classes or Professions.

12. New character models for all, with PC upgrades for many
An easy one to predict and I stand by the PC upgrade aspect of the prediction

13. New improved levelling for Tailoring, Leatherworking, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Fishing.
Easy levelling paths are planned for every profession with the exception of Blacksmithing and Cookery which have already been updated.

14. Jewelcrafting to return to a discovery method for all gem cuts except for PvP.
No news on this one yet

15. No new professions.
It is becoming more difficult to backward integrate professions into 90 levels of existing game. There is unlikely to be any new professions in any future expansion.

16. Radical changes for Warriors, Hunters and Rogues.
I have seen no special mention of class changes but this is normally a later development in deployment.

17. Normal 10 and 25 man Raiding to be replaced by Flex.
Oddly enough I called this one correctly. It is not a complete replacement more of a shuffling of Raid progression. Flex has become universally loved for its flexible approach and is easier than LFR even with more Raid features being included. Kurn highlighted the four tiers of raiding.

Looking for Raid/Raid Finder: Same as LFR today, only flexible, meaning that if you’re waiting for six people to fill your LFR group after a wipe, you don’t actually need to wait — the encounter will have changed dynamically and you can just go with your 19 people.
Normal Raiding: This is what is currently known as “Flex” raiding, in terms of difficulty, it looks like. The size for this raid will be 10-25 people and will be flexible and dynamic. This is why they’re removing “flex” as a difficulty. Instead, they’re applying flexible raid technology to all difficulties of raiding. (Well, except one.)
Heroic Raiding: This is what is currently known as “normal” raiding, in terms of difficulty. Again, this raid size will be 10-25 people and will scale dynamically.
Mythic Raiding: Currently known as “heroic” raiding, Mythic raiding will be the “elite” raiding level. The raids will be tuned for 20 people and will not scale up or down, instead of the 25-man size raiders have been using since Burning Crusade.

18. No replacement for Wintersgrasp and Tol Barad
I well and truly misread this one. The reason was that if any expansion needed an Orc v's Human, world battleground it should have been Mists of Pandaria. Obviously the feature was missed and Blizzard have got some new ideas to implement.

19. Legendary to continue to be a questline available to all and achieved by the few.
This was a much better implementation of a Legendary than the previous implementations. Kudos to those that achieved the Cloak of Strange Effect, and I hope to have mine before the expansion ends.

20. No major change to the Talent tree, 1 new level added at 95.
Slight modifications expected to eliminate any Talents that are still perceived to be mandatory, New Talents are not expected to add to the Button bloat so expect to see imaginative use of procs and combining with other spells.

21. Valor upgrade vendors to stay.
Still up for debate. I am unsure whether I like this facility or not.

22. Scribes will be able to make coloured Gear Ink to assist in the Transmog process.
Too early to tell, but Transmog is an important meta game for many.

23. PvP vendors will be hidden in a cave with no indication where to find them.
"Where are the PvP vendors?" "In the cave at 23,72" "I don't know what to do with coordinates" "..."

24. No new farm or upgrade to existing farm.
Boy did I not see this one coming. Player housing is not something that particularly floated my boat, but a Garrison filled with lackeys, now you are talking. I think this is the number one new feature of Warlords of Draenor.

25. No revamp of Outlands, expect a new continent.
This one I missed off the original list, but I have discussed before. This is not a new planet/continent that has recently been discovered this is Draenor as found in a "Time Bubble". For those that did not get the Dr Who reference from Dave Kosak:

"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect, but actually, from a non-linier, non subjective point of view it is more like a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey...stuff "
Doctor Who (Blink)

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Black Hole Sun

All eyes are on Blizzcon. This is of course the slowest of all news weeks, but one thing that I have read this week (Source unknown) that there will be no additional patches for Mists of Pandaria. Much as been made of the speed of the patches for the current expansion but in reality if a new expansion is announced as expected at Blizzcon, then it is likely to take 12 months to release. All expansions I believe have been released in Autumn / early Winter, and there is no reason to believe that the next expansion will arrive any sooner. This will make a 2 year expansion which also is not unusual, so in fact the only patch that came out quicker than expected is probably 5.1 and that was only to distract people from the pain of the Golden Lotus.

The assumption of most commentators is that we can expect a pre-expansion launch to tidy up the loose ends with the Sha and Garrosh storylines. I am guessing from the disjointed storyline and the addition of one scenario, that Blizzard will not make the same mistakes as last time.

Patch 5.4 is not quite 2 months old, and already I am guessing that people are becoming bored with the current content. The raid still feels fresh and flex is absolute joy, to raid with guild members and friends in a relaxed environment, but Timeless is starting to grate with the endless grind, considering this is an area with infinite possibilities, why are we still doing the same two weeklies and a daily quest?

Cataclysm left the player with only Dragon Soul for consolation and the difficulty settings were quite low, so a lot of people had killed Deathwing on the day of release in LFR and on normal after a few weeks. The Lich King was a much more hardy opponent and needed several buffs/nerfs before the average Joe even had a chance to defeat him.

The only thing in our favour is the re-deployment of the Titan Team, this means spare resources can be used to provide more content in patch 5.5 and the rest of the team can concentrate on the new expansion. We will only know how far advanced the expansion is during Blizzcon and the inevitable playable demo.

On the subject of the expansion and the Warlords of Draenor, I am thinking that we might be visiting a new set of zones, rather than a rehash of the Outlands. People who claim to be Lore Nerds suggest that Draenor was blown asunder and the bit that we have found so far is the Outland. This leads Blizzard to yet again pull a rabbit from it's ass, and find a new continent floating in space.

The refresh of Azeroth during Cataclysm was not a huge success, even though everybody acknowledges that it needed to be done. The result was that resources were taken away from the endgame and the results speak for themselves.

As this is the season for predictions, I will attempt a few of my own:

  1. The new expansion is Warlords of Draenor.
  2. No new expansion for at least 9 months.
  3. Heroics 5 man instances will be re-introduced.
  4. Scenarios of multiple sizes will continue to be used to compliment and advance storyline.
  5. A major change to LFR either using flex technology or content that needs only one Tank or fewer healers.
  6. Dailies and Weeklies will be used for content and reputation, but not as the only source of reputation gain.
  7. Gear will not be available only through the medium of Valor and Justice, Factions will once again require gold.
  8. Commendations will continue to be used for Alt reputation gains.
  9. The next expansion is for 5 Levels only.
  10. The squish is coming, and certain unintended items will become BiS. Some levels will becoming difficult and others ridiculously easy, especially around the old level caps
  11. I anticipate no new class, but possibly a new race (available to both side)
  12. New character models for all, with PC upgrades for many
  13. New improved levelling for Tailoring, Leatherworking, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Fishing.
  14. Jewelcrafting to return to a discovery method for all gem cuts except for PvP
  15. No new professions
  16. Radical changes for Warriors, Hunters and Rogues.
  17. Normal 10 and 25 man Raiding to be replaced by Flex.
  18. No replacement for Wintersgrasp and Tol Barad
  19. Legendary to continue to be a questline available to all and achieved by the few.
  20. No major change to the Talent tree, 1 new level added at 95.
  21. Valor upgrade vendors to stay.
  22. Scribes will be able to make coloured Gear Ink to assist in the Transmog process.
  23. PvP vendors will be hidden in a cave with no indication where to find them.
  24. No new farm or upgrade to existing farm.
Mists of Pandaria was a solid base to launch the next expansion, and with a movie on the horizon, Blizzard need to provide a little more than nothing for the next 9-12 months.

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.