Get back on the horse

March 11, 2010

I’ll be getting back into the saddle in a few weeks’ time. Some time after my last post, I cancelled my WoW subscription and haven’t been near an MMO since.

That said, I’ve kept my ear to the ground, listening to podcasts and reading WoW.com to keep up to date on the news.

It will be interesting, going back into the game, not having played in almost a year. Not that I expect the basic tenets of WoW, or the game mechanics to have changed in my abscence – that would be foolish. As much as Blizzard have tweaked, updated and upgraded their baby, that’s ll they’ll have done. Real, sweeping change must be almost unthinkable at this point.

That said, the upcoming changes to the stats system with Cataclysm pique my curiosity. You could argue that they are indeed ‘real, sweeping change’, but I’d disagree. We will still stack certain stats, only the kind of stats will change. Certain stats will still be significantly more useful for each class, etc.

It comes down to how you want to define change, or where you draw the line for what constitutes real change versus simply upgrading. If I recall correctly, when The Burning Crusade came out, there were concerns regarding the fact that Blizzard were not making any changes to the stats system, and that they were simply pouring more of the same stats onto weapons and gear, resulting in ‘mudflation’. Tobold has – as usual – a very good post about mudflation. It’s from back in 2007, and talking about mudflation in TBC, but the argument stays the same.

The Runs

November 9, 2009

Strange how things can get away from you – real life sneaks up behind you and before you know it, it’s been nearly two weeks since you posted anything on your new blog.

With all the coverage lately of the new LFG system and the random daily dungeon mechanic coming to WoW, I got to thinking about the many, many dungeon runs I’d been on, both premade and PuG’d. I realised that I tended to break each down into one of a few types in my head.

At the most basic, obviously, you have Good Runs and Bad Runs. But you can narrow things down further from there. Good runs might be chatty, where you’re in constant communication with your group. Maybe it’s a premade, and you’re running with your guildies – you may get to chatting about drama in your guild, or sharing thoughts on a movie or show you’ve all watched lately, simply conversing in other words. I’ve had PuG runs which were extremely chatty – I can remember two runs from ‘classic’ WoW, one in BRD and the other in Scholomance, where the five of us were talking with each almost right the way through about all manner of subjects. Those of you with memories of trying to run BRD from start to finish will, I’m sure, sympathise with the need for conversation to distract you from the amount of time you’ve spent there. Bot of those groups were with complete strangers – it was only late on in the BRD run that I realised the other four players were Dutch, and had been conversing in fluent English for nearly two hours. The Scholomance run was filled with random quotes from various zombie and horror movies, as we tried to out-geek one another. Good times.

Perhaps the reason those two runs stick out in my mind is that so many of my dungeon runs in WoW have been painfully, unremittingly bad, that two instances of human companionship and conversation are like shining beacons.

Bad runs, by their nature, can be broken down into many, many more sub-types simply because of the amount of reasons there are for them to be bad. Are they bad because the tank insists on marking out a kill order that makes no sense or is simply ignored by the rest of the group? Are they bad because the groups has one or more hyper-active teenager who doesn’t understand that jumping around like Zebedee might be a little distracting for the rest of the group? Or is it a bad group for the classic reason – someone turned out to be a ninja?

Hopefully you see my point. If not, I probably just need to learn to write better. Or you need to read better. Maybe a bit of both.

Too many classes

October 27, 2009

How many classes is too many? I keep trying to get my head around my Druid again and again, but I just cannot get the hang of it.

It’s not like it’s a difficult class to play, hell, it’s not like any of the classes in WoW are difficult to play, particularly solo.

I wonder if it’s a comfort zone kind of effect. Subconsciously, part of us doesn’t want to play another class, something is pushing us to stay with class X? I’m playing my Death Knight at the same time just now, and I don’t seem to have a problem with her. Granted, the DK and Warrior are close in that they’re both plate-wearing, tanking type classes, but the Druid, when Feral, doesn’t really play any differently. Different abilities, but still going toe-to-toe.

Maybe it’s the movement. As a Feral Druid in cat form, stunning mobs and running behind them to drop big sneaky crits on them is part and parcel of your skill rotation. DKs and Warriors have much less movement in a one-on-one fight.

Maybe it goes back to that old discussion about what class you are at heart – maybe I’m just not a Druid. I don’t accept that. Tornik was my first character, and we made it right through to level 70 together – I’m pretty sure I’d have noticed a problem with him before now.

For some reason, the fact that I’m hitting the same handful of abilities again and again is just much more apparent with Tornik than it is with any of my other characters, and I simply can’t figure out why.

Great expectations

October 21, 2009

I remember quite clearly what my expectations were of WoW when I first installed it.

I can remember sitting there, leafing through the instruction manual while the game installed, reading about the Tauren’s Plainstriding ability – which had been removed even before I bought the game – picturing my character pounding across the plains of Mulgore, tracking prey carefully and cautiously.

On thing in particular I remember is a section taking about inns, and rested experience. The manual spoke about finding towns and villages, hidden away in the wilds, places where there may not even be an inn, and where logging out would leave you at a disadvantage, due to the lack of rested XP.

In my mind’s eye, I saw myself trekking my way over rolling hills, chasing down quests and exploring the new world I had found. I was excited at the prospect of finding these tiny villages and hamlets, little gatherings of houses sheltering their owners from the elements. They might be places giving shelter to renowned craftsmen, or house tradesmen who sold fantastically rare items needed for crafting. I saw myself having to throw together a campfire and pitch up for the night in those places where an inn wouldn’t be forthcoming.

In short, I let my imagination get away with me. Now, don’t get me wrong, WoW did not disappoint me. Once I realised that it wasn’t the game I’d hyped it up to be in my head, everything was fine, but I still remember quite clearly the images I had in my head of I thought the world of Warcraft would look like.

Tanking and responsibility

October 17, 2009

As tanks, we sometimes find ourselves with more responsibility than we might have first thought.

Traditionally, tanks are made group leaders, the better to slap marks down on mobs to mark kill order. Is it because we’re drawn to tanking because of the responsibility? Do we tank in-game because we tank in real life, or is that far too simple an explanation?

Under my real name, elsewhere on the internet, I’ve written in the past about how tanking draws certain personalities. At the time I suggested that we tank in-game because our personalities are drawn to the mechanics of tanking. I real life, we like to ‘take one for the team’, that we like to protect other people or maybe even enjoy being the center of attention a little bit. I’m getting round to changing my mind though.

I guess you could go down that route if wanted, or it might simply be that you enjoy the class. Tanking is cool. Anyone can be DPS, every class has a DPS spec, but less than a handful have a tanking spec. Healing is much the same. It’s a given in WoW, and probably a lot of other MMOs that tanks and healers are always in demand. Even if they’re not actually in short supply going by the population numbers, it will almost always seem like they are.

Putting aside the whys and wherefores behind the choice to be a tank, actually being a tank does come with some responsibility. As with healing, the onus is on you to be aware of what’s going on an awful lot more than the DPS in the group. You need to manage your aggro, watch everyone else’s aggro, and keep an eye on the mob or mobs you’re targeting. It can be a lot of work.

Finding a tank is usually pretty easy, finding a good tank however, can be a challenge. It’s been remarked before that in WoW you can level right the way to 60/70/80, without ever having to group up or step in an instance once, leaving you clueless as to your class’ role in said group. Tanking in a group is like healing a group, depending on the group makeup and the fight you’re in at any given moment, it can range from really easy to insanely complicated. Standard tank n’ spank fights are at one end, with weird bosses who move around a lot or spawn strange adds at at the other.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that tanking comes with responsibility. When you’re up front, taking the big hits, maybe marking kill order, you need to be on the ball, you need to know what you’re doing and you need to be capable. I’ve yet to have a group fall apart because of my tanking, but that’s because I know my class, I know how to play it, and I play it well. That’s not just because I really enjoy tanking, but because if I’m grouping up with 4 other people, I like to make sure I’m not wasting their time by being an idiot. While I’ve not broken up groups, I’ve had plenty of groups break up because of other people being idiots.

I just wish more people would realise it.

Death Knight Tradeskills

October 8, 2009

Before I start, I’d like to say thanks to WoW.com for linking to me yesterday, the publicity is much appreciated.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about Death Knights and tradeskills yesterday, before I got sidetracked. I realise I’m a little late to the party here, having only just now started leveling up my DK in earnest, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Or not. Your choice.

For those not in the know, when you create a DK, you start at level 55 with neither of your two major professions chosen or trained, and only First Aid from your minor professions trained at all. Throughout the DK starting zone, there’s no way to train in any professions, major or minor. Only when you get to Stormwind or Orgrimmar at the end can you pick up professions. When you do finally pick them up, you start right at the bottom, with 1 skill point.

Why?

The first answer is usually that it wouldn’t be fair for new characters to have a leg-up in their tradeskills. But wait! To roll a DK you need to already have at least one character at level 55, which would suggest that you’d probably spent some time skilling up with that character. So what? Regardless of how many characters you have, when you roll up another ‘normal’ character you don’t get a bonus to their tradeskills, do you?

Maybe the reason is to prevent cheating. A few gold farmers or industrious hackers could group up, hammer through the starting quests and be able to farm some relatively high-level ore, herbs or leather if they wanted to. Launder those out to a few handfuls of alts and you could conceivably corner the market if you wanted to.

There’s lore reason to consider as well. The reason Death Knights start at 55 is because when they were raised into undeath, they were imbued with a portion of the Lich King’s power. While some of the big bad DKs like Morgraine and Thassarian, were originally heroes or knights with years of experience below their belts, not everyone was the same. Just because you’ve been raised as an uber-powerful killy machine of undeath, does not mean that you know how to stitch a pair of trousers together, or forge plate mail armour, or pick flowers really, really well. I guess that example kind of falls apart at teh end their, but you get my point, I’m sure.

At the end of the day, leveling up professions in WoW is not difficult. Time-consuming maybe, but certainly not difficult. While it’s fun being able to just about jump right into Outland, having to run around Dun Morogh or Silverpine Forest to level up a profession is much less so.

I’m not sure there’s a viable alternative to having DKs start off with their professions at 0 though. Having them start off at a higher value leaves the game open to being exploited, and how do you decide how many points to give them? A flat 5 points per level? A little less, to make things even a little bit challenging? I don’t see it changing any time soon, as Blizzard appear to have made their minds up, but then could be wrong – who’d have thought we’d see the day that you could get XP in PvP or that you’d be able to buy mounts at level 20 for 5 gold?

The Light of Dawn

October 6, 2009

I’ve been spending more time with my Death Knight alt in the past few days. I find her easier to pick up than Tornik, my Druid. I also played my Forsaken Priest as well, which was fun and easy, but I missed my guildies, so back to my DK.

I’d rolled her up shortly after Wrath came out just to see what all the fuss was about, but only really played her for a couple of levels. I went back and had another look, and decided to at least push her through to the end of the DK starter zone and watch the showdown at Light’s Hope Chapel, which I was a little underwhelmed with actually.

It’s probably partly due to the whole thing being hyped up so much by so many people, that the chances were it couldn’t help but fail to live up to my expectations. It also feels like Blizzard tried to shoehorn a dramatic, emotional moment and fundamental altering of (or at least addition to) in-game lore. The voice acting is superb, and I love the voice of guy who does Tirion Fordring, but for all the weight behind the events, it’s simply not carried over to the models of the in-game characters.

There’s no dynamism, no movement and no sense of emotion from the characters. There’s a point where Darion Mograine (or the shade of his past) hugs his father, and the only reason we know this is because of the emote in chat, “Darion hugs his father.” Woah. Feeling the love there, srsly.

Compare that with the cinematic for the Wrathgate. That event is arguably no more or less important than the Death Knights freeing themselves from the Lich King and adding their weight to the fight, and yet it’s handled much better. I can understand that it’s an event Blizzard may not have wanted to ruin somehow by unforseen bugs, so they took it right of the players hands and essentially faded to black as you finish the quest – but to do that for one and not both feels like a bit of a misfire to me.

Once the cut-scene at Light’s Hope kicks in, you’re pretty much stuck watching events unfold in front of you anyway, so why not go the whole hog and do a cinematic? Fade to black, play the scene, then dump the PC back in Acherus – it’s not like you can interact with the NPCs at Light’s Hope afterwards anyway.

Maybe Blizzard felt that players didn’t deserve something that cool so early in their character’s career, maybe they felt that to hand out something as epic as that, then have the player just carry on levelling would be jarring or a bit of a letdown. I don’t know. What I do know is that, for as good as the showdown with Arthas was, I cant help but be left with the feeling that it could have been done better.

Damn, and this post was supposed to be about levelling up DK trade skills.

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