Monday, December 3, 2012

Changing Yet Again....Spec #3

So here I am again. I was running Demonology until my first raid. With another Lock in my raid running Affliction I couldn't help but be impressed by the numbers he was generating. Nearly twice what I was doing. That could mean I just sucked but who knows.

After serious consideration I have changed yet again. If you listen to Twisted Nether you'll know that I was talking to Hydra about it and had respecced while she was in town here in Orlando.

I decided no holds barred I was going to just close my eyes and jump. I changed everything. My Destro is now gone (/mourn). It has been replaced with full-fledged, totally committed, Affliction. I have reforged, regemmed and torn apart my bars to move items into their correct rotational situational position (hehe). I have modified macro's and learned new skills.

After running it now for 2 weeks I am still not sure if I feel like it's me yet but I'm working on it. I am still figuring the more subtle things such as when to use Drain Soul to get the most damage. Those sorts of small things that mean more than just hitting buttons.

What I do know is this:
I enjoy the dot juggling, it's very similar to what I was doing with destro except the filler is different. Instead of Incinerate I'm channeling Malefic Grasp
I miss having something to hurl at the enemy. With Affliction there is no Chaos Bolt or Shadow Bolt. It is totally dot dot dot dash(channel). I can throw the occasional Haunt which is a lot of fun but doesn't feel as ominous to me. It's not the I'm gonna blast your ass away, it's more the I'm gonna sneak up on you and cut it off when you're not looking kinda thing. Surprise! You're dead! That works for me.
When I can get the Soulburn & Soul Swap going whew boy! Now THAT is good times. If you manage it right you can take a mob down in a hot second. It works beautifully for two or three at once.

I plan to keep working on this and playing with the glyphs and talents as I go. I'll try to keep you posted since I've started talking about this more, and let you all know how it's going.

Indulging in Chocolate Bar - A Bar Broker Add-On

I was thinking the other day that a lot of people talk about add-ons. What they like, what they use, and what they recommend. Rarely if ever do I discuss my UI because I think I'm a bit cluttered.

That being said I do try to pare it down as much as possible and I would like to share with you one of my favorite anti-cluttering add-ons. One that I realized recently I nearly never think about, but use every single time I log in.

If you couldn't guess from the title it's called Chocolate Bar. It is a UI bar broker add-on. A broker is an add-on that you use to handle or manage other add-ons.
First, here is a picture for you. This bar sits along the very top of my screen and pushes everything down slightly so it fits neatly.

Chocolate bar can be configured into multiple bars anywhere on your screen. The most common are top and bottom, but you can create many small bars and locate them around your screen if you're so inclined. I changed to Chocolate bar from Titan Panel when Titan Panel became too difficult to manage. This particular broker allows you to drag and drop items around on the bar if you don't like where they're located. When I found this add-on I was only looking for something to put across the top of my screen and this fits the bill wonderfully.

I chose this particular type of add-on because of the over abundance of add-on buttons that began to surround my mini map. I needed to get them off and into a manageable state. So in the top right hand corner you will see all my add-ons that used to be around my mini-map. They are still available to open on one click. 
Just to the left of those is my volume control and next to that is my actual time. Since my realm time is different from my actual time I leave the clock on the mini map for realm and the one on the bar is local time.

On the left hand side are the other random brokers. There is a gold broker which when moused over drops down and tells me how much gold is on each toon. It will also tell me how much I've made and can be configured to show daily weekly or monthly income. It can also be configured to include other types of currency such as  JP.  Next to that I have my current repair status. 

In the center where you see the latency and frames per second information, when I mouse over that it becomes the mini bar drop down. That is where I select my dungeons, customer service, mounts and pets. Generally anything that you'd find in that box that used to be at the bottom of the screen by the bags. Right next to that is my location coordinates. The coordinates can be expanded to show the name of the location (city) and the zone you are in.

Once I started using this type of add-on I began to explore other features. Any add-on that says its a broker can be used with Chocolate Bar as well as many other add-ons can be managed with it. 

 I have seen many UI's that are very minimalistic. I don't like things where I can't see them so I have chosen this route. It keeps everything there and one click away but it keeps it manageable.

If you like to have things handy but need to de-clutter I would seriously recommend a bar broker add-on. 

Chocolate Bar can be found at Curse. Click here to check it out.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Are You REALLY That Good? Impressions of High End Raiding

Hello there, it's been a while. I've been crazy at work and sick and busy with random events, not to mention trying to get in a bit of WoW time.

I was listening to Convert To Raid, I believe it was episode #67, and they were talking about what high end raid guilds do to remain on top. Guilds such as Paragon. I have to preface this by saying I have no first hand knowledge and am only going by what I heard on this podcast. From what the guys on Convert to Raid said these folks raid 10-16 hrs per day with breaks for sleep, food etc. It sounds like 3-5 days per week.

I must admit I was surprised at first to hear that someone could spend that much time raiding. Not would mind you, but could. If I had the time I think I would as well. I knew they received sponsorship and such but had no idea that these folks didn't actually have a job. That raiding is indeed their job.

So that's cool I get it. I think if you can make a living that way that is pretty freakin' awesome. However, I began to think that if these guys are putting in this much time what makes them any different from me. I can no longer say they are better players. They are just more persistent. In no way do I want to downplay what they do. Like I said, if I had that opportunity I would take it. It seems that they spend the same amount of time as the rest of us getting through the content, they just do it all at once. I have to ask then, does that make them better at the game then the rest of us?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lock Options - Changing Spec for Mists

I have been a die-hard destro lock since I began playing WoW. I have always found the spec challenging and have enjoyed blowing things up.
 For those of you who might retort I'm a fire mage in warlocks clothing, I say you must have never played them. I find warlocks quite different from mages so don't go there. 
For those of you who might ask why play destro when there were many times over the past 7 years where they were just the pits in dps. Even compared to other warlock specs. In fact most of the time compared to other warlock specs. Yes, trust me I know.
As I said. Die-hard destro.

This expansion has forced me to branch out. I was incredibly disappointed with destro this time around. It feels as if it has been reduced to 3 buttons with a couple of CD's. I have to have a little complication. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to the lock in the first place. There is a lot to track. Or was. I was usually tracking several cool-downs at one time, I believe it was about 8 all together. Now those 8 have been drastically changed and reduced.

Since I wasn't enjoying it very much I thought this would be a perfect time to explore all the other specs for the first time in my WoW history. I rolled a 2nd warlock to level just before Mists dropped and between my main and my alt I am running all three specs regularly. I have to say I'm having a great time. I'm learning something new, learning more about my class, and becoming a more well rounded warlock in general.

So which spec have I gravitated to you might ask? Demonology! I really like the wild imps and REALLY like running around with an army of minions. It is just so much fun! I think that is also one of the reasons I'm very attracted to DK's as well. Love the unholy thing, the pets, the bad-ass spells and evil intent and the minions. I think I'm in love with warlocks now more than I have ever been. If you don't have one you should get one. I highly recommend. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Impressions of MoP

I have to say....I LOVE this game!

My favorite expansion before this one is Wrath of the Lich King. Mainly because it had a substance to it that I enjoyed. All around story, visually, and questing was fun and immersive.

Pandaria has that same thing. A vast continuous land mass with lots of stuff to do and see.

So here is my brief review.

The story is OK. I don't find it compelling, especially for Alliance. Searching for Varian's boy doesn't really give me a great reason to invade another country. 
The world I find really interesting. Every zone has it's own feel to it (at least the ones I've seen so far), and are rich with good and bad factions. Generally the vista's and the buildings are really beautiful and I find the lighting really awesome, especially inside of buildings and dungeons.
The quests have been good. There are some new unique quest types that I have seen that involve moving you to another location and having you follow someone and do things with a vehicle bar. Not new mechanics per se but they appear to be presented in a different format. At least they feel original to me. I can't think of anything to compare them to in previous expansions. Other than that you have the usual quest types.
The use of phasing has been subtle and well placed.

 I spent the first two levels questing with a friend the entire time and I do have a couple of con's I'd like to share. The duo questing worked really well for the most part but we did find that we got stuck in certain situations. We had one experience in Valley of the Four Winds where we were stuck in combat until we both logged out and rebooted our computers. We had a few experiences where we would go to turn in a quest or begin a quest and all of a sudden find ourselves split up or running after an NPC. I am not sure how Blizzard could make those better except to give you some sort of notice that you will be moving as soon as you start this quest, or give you the "speak to so-and-so when you're ready to go". Those seem to work well. 

So far I am enjoying this expansion immensely. One week in and I am 5 bubbles from 90. Which for me is a new record. Normally I enjoy meandering through quests, but feel compelled this time around to jump in and hit the ground running. I hope you all are enjoying it as much as I am. :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Updated to 64 bit - How To

I finally decided to go ahead and install the 64 bit WoW client. I hadn't paid much attention when the 64 bit first came out so I had to go back and figure out how to do it. I didn't have very good luck until I found this post.

I have linked it here:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Living in Azeroth - Why We Feel for the Game

I sometimes stop and wonder who else has tread on the ground I now occupy. 5 years ago, 50 years ago, 300 years ago? Was there a battle here from a war? Did a Native American once set up their wigwam where I now reside? Who else has been here? What did they do? How did they live? What did they think? What people have walked this path and how did it look to them? Did they stop and look around and wonder too?
It is an amazing thought and can put your life into perspective. The same way seeing a night sky spread out into infinity can make you feel so small and yet a part of everything.

WoW does this for me somehow. I find myself stopping and looking around in the world. Examining it. Feeling like a part of it.
I've never had a "feeling" about a game before this one. I've never felt emotionally attached to a game as much as I am to WoW, the characters in it, and the people I play with.

I can speculate. It could be the zones, the terrain, or the scenes you run across. While the pixels are not perfect, and the trees may seem rather symmetrical, the arrangements can be provoking. A lamp along a path. A conversation between NPC's you might happen upon in a small town. A fire in a hearth. Sometimes moving from one zone to another. One of my favorite transitions is from Dun Morogh into Loch Modan and into the Wetlands. Coming down out of the mountains.
It could be the music. Blizzard has put a lot into making their lands sound right. I work in a theme park and I relate it to what we call "site sound". Locational soundtracks. As you move around the park where I work you will hear music to evoke that time period or a feeling that you may have associated with a motion picture. It conjures memories and attaches you to the location. In most cases without you even noticing. Blizzard utilizes the same mechanic. The music solidifies the area and the feeling for you. And they are very good it.
It could be the lore and the stories. This world has a history. A long and rich history that involves all sorts of humanoids and their families and offspring. Their wars and their loves. Their hopes and heartbreaks. Why else would we be so occupied with why Jaine Proudmore looks like she's had a really bad day in MoP, and speculate to the nth degree of what that means to us and how we feel about it.
Blizzard has done a fan-tabulous job of creating characters we can relate to. They are not heroes yet they are heroic. They have been imbued with all the characteristics that we can relate to and associate to those trying to act as best they can. Vulnerable yet strong personalities. What we would believe ourselves or our true life heroes to be. Not perfect but with good intent; at least as far as their personalities will allow (and ours).

There are several psychological terms that go along with the concept of attaching feelings to the game. Anthropomorphism, the idea of giving inanimate objects feelings and/or human characteristics, and animism, which is generally the same term but attributes consciousness or spirituality to an object. Animism is used more in terms of natural objects, such as a tree, than inanimate objects like a computer. The theory I have seen a bit more recently is that is it part of our human makeup and falls into the essentialist category. Meaning that is it essential or part of our nature. In other words, we are predisposed to name inanimate objects like our car or our first blankie, and attribute feelings to them. I am including a bunch of links at the bottom for where some of this information can be found on the web and where I looked up the specific definitions.
I saw this idea most recently in an episode of Through the Wormhole on The Science Channel and was immediately struck by how often I do this. Personally I am very apt to attribute human characteristics to an object and I think that's why I tend to be a pack rat. I not only want to keep that piece of string because I may be able to use it later, but I hate the idea of that piece of string sitting in the garbage can all by itself. Don't get me wrong, I still throw it out. I just have to not think about how the string will feel about it. It may sound silly but since reading a little more on this it is a trait that many humans share.

Feelings. I think that is the key. Somehow, through good storytelling and persistent imagery, Blizzard has managed to engage our feelings. We are very easy creatures indeed.
I find it really interesting that I call Azeroth a home and my guild part of my family. I don't find it surprising, and I embrace it. I believe it is part of how and why I enjoy the world and the game so much, and why the social aspect is so compelling to so many people.  Season 3 Did We Invent God?

Friday, September 7, 2012

5 Things I Loved and Hated About Cataclysm - #1 Dungeon Difficulty

5 man dungeon difficulty took a different tack at the beginning of Cataclysm as compared to Wrath that left some people feeling frustrated and angry. Perhaps it was a case of ask and ye shall receive? Or maybe a little throwback to the old days of WoW. Either way it was something that left me feeling unsure about what I really want from a 5 man dungeon in the future.

It's hard, or maybe way too easy, to compare the end of one expansion to the beginning of another and make judgement calls on what feels difficult to do, but that's exactly what we did at the beginning of Cataclysm.

Way back in the day....World of Warcraft was difficult. I hear a lot of folks talking these days about how those of us that have been around for a while are waxing poetic about the old days of vanilla. The talk has been that what we think back then was awesome, we really would not want to return to. Such as all the grind that WoW once was. I think they are very right and very wrong.

So let's stick with the 5 man content for the moment or I'll get all sidetracked.

And let's start with something more relate-able to the current player base then vanilla.

At the end of Wrath dungeons were EASY. Not just kinda easy, but really SUPER easy. I could breeze through a Wrath heroic dungeon in 15 to 20 minutes. No stopping. No CC. In fact, there was quite a lot of 'pull the whole room!' going on.  From what I understand this happened because the gear in Wrath was on overdrive and jumped way too fast. Pretty soon we had outgeared the dungeons in the expansion.
I have tried to remember how difficult the dungeons were when we first started Wrath and honestly I have a hard time recalling them. Either is was so long ago or it was inconsequential. I know they were.
As I wrack my brain I remember wiping on heroic Utgarde Pinnacle forever. All the Halls dungeons in Storm Peaks drove me crazy. You really had to get some of those pulls right or you would have the entire room. Back when you didn't want it. The fire room in Halls of Lightning where you had to run through the room then AoE them all down without dying or pulling the next mob on the stairs. And all the Vrykul statues. Do you remember those? Some of those pulls really sucked. Yet toward the end we were flying through these dungeons like a hot knife. I remember hardly having to think about what was going on. Just AoE, AoE, aoe.....
SEEEEED !!!!!!

It was great watching all those things explode everywhere.

And then...Cataclysm. Wow, boy were we in for a shock.

They were hard. They were long! They required CC. Oh noes!

Mostly they were time consuming. Time that people had not previously allotted for 5 mans. Many ran in thinking it would be the same old song and dance. Pull. Kill. Loot. Move on. We were wrong. Some of us knew it was coming from people in the beta or blue posts telling us what to expect. Yet still we didn't really believe it until we got in, and then all the QQ started. And I laughed. Truly.

The reason I laughed is because I actually enjoyed them. I wanted to put that much time and effort into a dungeon again. I felt that we hadn't seen anything like this since Burning Crusade 5 mans. I remember (see here we go) how much fun I had in BC 5 mans. I think it was mostly because of my guild though. We did guild runs all the time and most of the time had a blast. We also cursed a lot.

I didn't laugh very long. Yes even I got tired of it. Heaven forbid you get Grim Batol, even now it's long and annoying. I enjoyed the dungeons but found I did not enjoy the people. So many expected them to be easy or short. And many expected that everyone would just remember how to trap, sheep or fear. Not the case. After the first initial months Cata 5 mans became full of rage. In fact there was a time where I just didn't want to do them. It was either too time consuming or too frustrating to waste my time on.

What would I like to see in 5 mans? The last group of dungeons (Hour of Twilight) seem spot on for me. 3-5 bosses with different mechanics. Small groups of mobs. I would enjoy something once in a while that requires thought but not every mob. Something with CC and pull tactics. I think 30-45 minutes is good. I think 20 is too short. I want to wipe once in a while. I want it to be difficult. I want it to be challenging, but not all the time, and not every pull. I want to have to think about it but not so much my brain hurts by the end of it where it makes me feel like I'm glad it's over.

I also wonder if what I'm asking for is not possible. With the gear ever moving upwards is this something that we should come to expect from our expansion dungeons? It starts off challenging and then at some point it becomes really easy?
Perhaps with the challenge modes coming out and the gear normalization they come with, we will actually have a dungeon that will keep our attention throughout the entire expansion. Where we don't whine it's too hard or whine it's too easy. No, that would be too much to ask for lol. We will always find something to whine about. That is the one thing I'm sure of.

So that's it. That's my top 5. Originally I started with 5 I loved and 5 I hated but found that they were pretty much the same things.

As we move into the new frontier of Pandaria what is your favorite or least favorite thing from Cataclysm?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 Things I Love and Hated About Cataclysm - #2 Raid Finder (LFR)

In my opinion LFR has been both a blessing and a curse to this last WoW expansion. I have polarized and rather strong feelings on this one so lets jump right in.

It allows everyone to get in and see the content.
It allows those people with time constraints or RL commitments to see something in one hour that may take 2-4 hours normally.
It allows people who are in a smaller guilds, casual guilds, or some other guild configuration that they are happy with, to raid in an otherwise non-raiding environment.

That is awesome. There have been many times in my WoW life that I was not in a position to be able to raid. There were many times I wish I had been able to see a raid while it was current content. That being said, I am a nice person. I will give people loot that need or deserve it over taking it myself. I think that the content is first and foremost there to enjoy, and secondly to advance my character. I believe in teaching others how to play.
I think I am in the minority.

It allows people to be assholes to a larger population.  Some of which may not be aware they are being stepped on.
It allows people to yell at others instead of helping them. 
It does not allow people to understand the correct mechanics of the specific raid they are in. It in no way preps someone to be a better raider or to understand the fundamentals of raiding.

It seems to me this content is designed for casual players, yet there is high expectation that those people NOT be casual. This, above all else, floors me.

I think it's fine that harder core folks use this as a tool to advance their gear. It makes sense, the content is there and it's easier/faster, and provides a solid jumping off point for moving into regular raid content.

They cannot, however, come in and expect that everyone has the same knowledge. I see people that expect that the non-raiding players be familiar with how to move and how to follow raid-type directions. It's as if the big kids have invaded the kiddie pool and are bullying the little kids out.
Understandably Blizzard cannot teach people how to play. The tutorials provided for general game-play are very helpful but cannot move your minds or your fingers for you. There will always be a group of people in LFR that just don't know what to do, or what to expect. I would believe that over time, as people get into the system more, they will learn the techniques and skills they would need for that level of raiding. I hope in the mean time they don't get scared or frustrated and never return.

Both the pros and cons of the LFR system is why I have avoided it for the most part. I have been through both parts of the DS LFR once, and the first just a couple of times. I find I have a high level of anxiety with it. I don't want to worry about people who don't know, or worry about giving people who don't know a fight bad information. I don't want to be yelled at by others if I forget to do something. In my opinion I have raided DS so little that both those scenarios are enough to keep me out of the Raid Finder.

Unfortunately there is just no way to solve this issue. The content is there and it's open to anyone that meets the criteria. There is no 'how to raid for beginners' tutorial unless you are someone who knows that there is information out there on the web. I hate to break it to you, but I don't think most people know that. There is also no 'how to be a decent human being while raiding with others' tutorial.

So buyer beware. If you go in, be prepared for the uninitiated as well as the total jerks.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

5 Things I Loved and Hated About Cataclysm - #3 Molten Front

For me Molten Front is very akin to Quel'Danas from back in BC but with a new twist. This daily hub had plenty of quests and plenty of choices up front but the drudgery got to me really fast.

I really enjoyed the Isle of Quel'Danas. When it first came out my guild and I rushed over to do dailies and build up the island's resources for the server. On many occasions we wound up running the quests together in groups of 3-5 people and just rushed through them. With the quests being related to the server there was fast and furious progression in the area which made it especially compelling to complete every day when the area first opened up. In contrast Molten Front was very personal. You could run the dailies with others or in a group, but the changes to the area occurred only for you and the people you ran with needed to be at the same point you were or you would have fewer or greater quests than they did. At least that is my assumption. I only ran Molten Front alone unfortunately. I was a bit late to the party due to my personal circumstances at the time.

In the beginning I found Molten Front's bevy of quests refreshing. First there was sequence. You started in Mount Hyjal's Sanctuary of Malorne and then progressed into the front itself. Each week or so (depending on how often you went) would bring a new area to open. Each day a possible new set of quests for each area. You could do the entire sequence every day or, once the front opened up, you could do just that portion. I enjoyed the choices and the number of different quests. I liked the change of scenery as you progressed through the quest sequence of events. I particularly liked the achievements for the area and had fun figuring out how to get them accomplished and setting goals for myself.

Then....the tedious nature of the daily set in. In many respects the nature of my boredom with Molten Front was my own circumstances. I was late to get them started. Much later than the rest of my guild. I felt behind and alone and there was no rush for me to get in there and get in the fray and get anything completed. Needless to say I am still one achievement off from completing the series and it drives me crazy. Every time I log in I have to trek all the way out there to see if this boss is up so I can get this done. If the boss is up then I have to go through the Front sequence of quests to get to that last guy and hope I don't screw it up. I have done that twice now. After the first time I went to look this one up. The second time I just forgot I needed to jump and this boss just doesn't freakin' spawn very often and god dammit I'm over it and want to finish this for god's sake!! Ready for Raiding II
I just need Devout Harbinger, and she's driving me crazy now. I don't log on enough, I don't think to check enough and when I do I have to go through everything to get her. /sigh

Truly, I thought the idea of the personalized daily zone like this was cool at first. Then everyone has the opportunity to see the transition of the area. In hindsight, it would have been really cool to see another server built area. To feel that I was actually working with a large group of people to make something happen. In my opinion this was another way that Blizzard took the community out of the game and I feel that is a loss.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tick Tock Time - Time between patches and releases

Now that Mists of Pandaria has been officially announced for release it has sparked in me a curiosity. When have all the patches occurred in WoW, what were they for, and how long did we wait for them?

Searching for Patch Notes
Thus began the research. I wasn't able to find any previous patch notes at Blizzard, and I remember when they posted patch notes that there was always a link to old patch notes. With the current iteration of their "blog" I was unable to find them. Somewhat distressing considering that info is their own history. I guess they turned it internal. I was bummed. It reminded me of how much information is just not on the website anymore, or perhaps its just more difficult to find. I don't know.

Off to my old friend Google where I searched patch releases. I found the best collection at WoW Wiki. It is very cool, they have patch info dating back to pre-launch vanilla, and they did a pretty decent job of compiling everything. It is really fun to trip down memory lane and pinpoint exactly when I began playing in the sequence of events. Then to remember what was happening and how I was feeling as certain things were brought on line in-game. My plan is to try and keep track of releases and patches going forward, and have my own notes and timeline about what was launched when.

So I took all this information and plopped it into an excel spreadsheet for my own reference. I briefly thought about putting it up as a page here but it seems too long and not as complete as I'd like it to be to post it.

What I Found
Not surprising, as the cycle of expansions has gone on, the time between patches has increased. That is a good sign actually. That means there is less Blizz is fixing, and that the game is more stable than it's ever been. Though that also means that the time between new stuff is longer as well. Both the time between patches and the time between patch and expansion.
From the last big installment in vanilla (Naxx release) to the pre-launch BC events there was 6 months. (Jun-Dec 2006). I do remember the wait for BC seemed forever. I think because I was so excited to be a part of everything going on.
From the last BC event (Sunwell) to the pre-launch Lich King events was 7 months (March-Nov 2008). This was surprising to me. It seemed like we had so much to do, and I wasn't even raiding any of the larger raids. This was also when we saw the biggest influx of dailies with the Isle of Quel'Danas. Before that the dailies were rather insignificant and many were zone pvp related (Hellfire nodes, Nagrand's Halaa etc.). We had new ways to spend our time.
From the last Wrath big patch (Ruby Sanctum) to the Cata pre-launch events was only 4 months (June-Oct 2010). I think most people would count from when ICC launched though. In that case we're talking 10 months (Dec 09-Oct 10). It did indeed feel that long, even though I was raiding ICC from probably 3 months after it came out until right around 4.0 dropped. I had things to do and my guild was relatively vibrant. Everyone was still logging in regularly. As you can probably deduce from that sentence, it is not that way right now. I did level a large range of alts. More than ever before. I believe I raised 7 toons to 80 before Lich King was done.
Well, here we are waiting for the next launch. So when was the last big patch? I'm sure you all know it was DragonSoul but when did that come out exactly? I was surprised that DS was launched back in Nov 2011. If we use that as the last big infusion of content then we are looking at 9 months. Assuming that we'll start getting pre-launch events in August, or early September. This was only surprising in that it has been just shy of how long we waited for Cataclysm to drop, and yet this time around it feels like this has been the longest one yet. I fully expected there to be more of a difference. It certainly feels like more of a difference.

Patch Content
That being said I thought another point was really interesting. The number of patches we've seen over the last two expansions has decreased. Again a good sign and something we would expect to see over time. It's just not something at the forefront of my mind as the months roll by.
Vanilla hit version 1.12 before it was done, with around 38 total patches. BC was at 2.4 but it had a lot of versions, approximately 28 in all. Wrath went to 3.3 with its own passel of versions, about 22 total. Cataclysm is also at 4.3 but has only seen around 14 patch releases. In fact, I was incredibly surprised to find our last patch was in late February. We've had nearly 6 months of patch free time. Very unlike all the last expansions we've been through. That means we haven't even seen anything new in 6 months.
A lot of speculation has gone on about why we are so bored this time around. Looking at both Cata and Wrath timelines we've spent about the same length of time waiting for things to happen. We've had a little less dropping in between than previously but it just seems like we have less to do this time around. Perhaps its the number of zones, or that we only had 5 levels as opposed to 10. It may be that 1/2 the expansion was dedicated to 1-60 leveling which left less content for the 85's. We had a lot of end-game content up front this time around and the dungeons seemed strangely spaced throughout Cataclysm to me. Whatever the reason we are all hitting the top end of boredom.

Regardless of the reasons I thought the information I got from this data was rather interesting and strangely relevant as we wait for our next big WoW fix.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 Things I Loved and Hated about Cataclysm - #4 Quests

I have always enjoyed questing. It is one of the things that has always drawn me into the game, and it allows me to be apart of the world that Blizzard has created.

Cataclysm gave us a new questing format. The linear quest type that began in Wrath has continued into Cataclysm, but in a more structured way. The quests are obviously designed to take you through each theme and storyline of each zone as an individual area. There are also overarching themes and stories that carry you from one zone to another or through a group of zones or continents such as the story-lines through the first 4 zones of the Horde-side Forsaken 1-30 areas comprising Deathknell, Brill, Silverpine and Hillsbrad. And of course we can't forget the main baddie; the Cataclysm zones and the story lines involving Deathwing and his many minions and cults that can be found in the new 80-85 zones.

What I most enjoyed about the linear questing is that you participated in the story as it unfolded. You were a part of everything that was happening and affecting the areas around you. This was a great idea that continued on from Wrath. It became more about the story and less about the out and backs and the search and destroys that encompassed so many of the old vanilla quests. Cataclysm integrated these quest types into a story that made it not so mundane. The story-lines are very laid out for you and it is obvious what is going on. For those of us who feel compelled to do every quest in the zone this was awesome. I never felt like I was going to miss something because the quest chains wouldn't let me.

In the revamped 1-60 zones I found this refreshing. I remember having to search all the nooks and crannies of some of the original areas looking for quests that I might have missed; and I remember being frustrated and having to resort to wowhead and add on's to find everything. It was also a bit harder to figure out the story-lines. When I was new to WoW I fell in love with the lore, but it still amazes me how people pull interesting lore facts out of quests. For some reason I never noticed this stuff when I did them. The disconnected story lines in the original game left me wondering what was going on at times. I still don't understand the whole Ashbringer thing and I wish I did, but I guess that quest story line is gone forever now. 

As for the new zones I found this questing experience interesting and engaging. The stories were well laid out and made sense. I knew I would experience every area of each zone, I just had to wait for the story to take me there. I could quest without wondering where should I go next, or worrying I might miss something. I didn't have to have a plan on how to tackle a zone and the story unfurled for me as I went along.

What I found is there is also a down side to this type of format.

While I enjoyed the hassle-free questing I found it boring after the first go through. Uldum, even the first time around, with all the cut-scenes, was annoying. Being the completionist I am I just couldn't bring myself to hit escape and blow by them. That left me feeling uncomfortable for most of the zone. This was also the one place where it was possible to lose the quest chain, which I did. And once lost it was really hard to find again. Thank god for Wowhead or I don't think I would ever have finished this area. 
The stories are great the first time through but if you have alts this becomes unbearable. After traversing Vashj'ir or Hyjal for the 6th time I really think I'm really over it. And believe me, it takes a lot to get me to "over it". 
Ok, so not that all the vanilla questing was all that great to go through over and over but I felt like I had choices and could vary my questing experience. There are still revamped vanilla zones I haven't gone through, such as Swamp of Sorrows, that I'd still like to see. The BC and Wrath expansions offer so many lands that you could kinda pick each time you went through where you wanted to go. Hellfire and Zangarmarsh? Zangar then Nagrand with some Netherstorm? Lots to choose from and even more in Wrath. You start in Borean or Howling Fjord, but then once you started leveling you can go to any of 4 other choices from there, and from there 4 other choices. Here, with only 5 zones in this expansion, there is just not the number of choices we have seen previously. Even more limiting is the absolute linear quest chains. You cannot simply go into a zone and pick an area you'd like to do over on an alt. You HAVE to progress through the quests as they are presented to you. There is absolutely no other way to do it. Did you like the Dwarven wedding in Twilight Highlands? You won't have far to go but you will have to go through ALL the quests from the landing port to get there. If you are interested in the Twilight Cultist quest chain you have even further to go. Good luck. It can be grueling and boring and will take you nearly a full day of questing to get there. Hope you enjoy it once you arrive. 
And don't get me started about Vashj'ir. This zone was really new and innovative when it came out, and presented an interesting and new experience for all us long time questers.  But man! After the first time through if you go back you're crazy! I have been back twice with alts, no maybe 3 times.... (ok, I'm a little crazy) Usually every 4 months or so I get the itch to see something different and take another toon through. By the time I hit the battle-maiden quests I'm wondering what got into me.

The linear questing in Cataclysm gave us a new albeit structured experience, that had both pros and cons. What I most regret about these changes is the lack of choice that came with this expansion when it comes to questing. It allowed me to get bored fast with the game and forced me to find new things to do. I raid but it does not encompass a ton of my WoW time. Finding new things to do this expansion has been difficult, and I found for the first time I'm not logging in more than once or twice a week right now. Hell, I even took up archeology. I truly consider that a last resort.

That alone makes me concerned about what Blizz has in store for us with upcoming expansions. I know MoP is supposed to offer more end-game options. I certainly hope it lives up to this promise.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

5 Things I Loved and Hated about Cataclysm - #5 Exploration

Exploration is one of my favorite things to do in WoW. Especially new expansions. Discovering new areas or little vignettes. Finding NPC's out lost in the wilderness or happening upon them in conversation, either way I find it fascinating. The small stories and episodes that Blizzard has put into their game is very neat and I have a great bit of respect for the detail that goes into World of Warcraft.

With Cataclysm I really loved the re-exploration of the old content, specifically the 1-60 areas. My guild and I all took off as soon as 4.0 dropped and went out to explore the world. From the new flora in Desolace to the water falls in Stranglethorn, it was very cool to see the world we had "grown up in" turned around and changed, in some cases, in such a drastic way.

There were a couple of areas that struck me particularly. Auberdine; the loss of Auberdine was very heartfelt. I took a worgen through the quests in Darkshore as well as my main and I truly felt the devastation of losing this portside town. The quests to find all the survivors mixed with the new music in the area can pull at your heartstrings.

Along the same vein the areas in Ashenvale where the Horde have encroached, coupled with changes to Stonetalon Mountains and the Northern and Southern Barrens made quite an impression on my Alliance tendencies. 

The changes to the land and the changes to each factions land holdings is just awesome. It was quite a feat I would say, and it leaves me not surprised that the expansion lands of Cataclysm were not as awesome as they could be.

I enjoyed each of the new zones and found them quite expansive and enjoyable in story and for the general exploration factor however the problem is I didn't have to find them.

What I really disliked about Cataclysm in terms of exploration is twofold. One, that it was not really explorable. I had no "place" to go aside from a portal in my home faction city. Wow that takes thought. I enjoy the journey. With portals there is no journey. My exploration seemed to consist of figuring out the best way to port to my bank and get back to where I was in the zone so I could continue questing. I was so excited when I figured out I could fly to Vashj'ir instead of take a portal. Or that Hyjal was just a hop skip and a jump from Darnassus. I know, that seems crazy right? But really when you get ported in, you don't have to think about where the zone is located in relation to everything else...except the portal.
Two; As far as the old content goes, I like the changes but I'm ready for it to go back now. I find I'm missing the old zones and the old quests. Not everywhere. But there are a small handful of zones that I find I'm missing the quests that used to be there. Or the NPC's that used to be there. Perhaps what I am looking for is resolution to some of the conflicts in those zones, I'm not sure. Either way it feels incomplete now. Change is hard for me I guess, and I don't like it one bit!

I think Cataclysm was mostly a success in regards to exploration . I just get nostalgic for the old ways now and again.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Accidental Tourist - Beta Exploration in Error & a bit of Warlockery

I had just finished my second panda in the starter zone when I decided I wasn't quite done with my beta testing for the evening. I still had some time before bed so I went to play around with the current iteration of level 85 warlock spells and found myself wandering around.

The reason I chose to limit my testing in the beta to the Panda starting zone is because I LOVE exploration. I especially love exploration on launch. This habit came from the first expansion launch for Burning Crusade. Where Hellfire Peninsula was so overcrowded and stupid you couldn't complete a quest without being an asshole to everyone else simply because everyone else was being an asshole. Not on purpose but out of close quarters and frustration. So I simply went off on an excursion those first few days. I was probably one of the first on my server to get to Shattrath and wander around, and I dragged along some of my guildies as well. Since then it has become a kind of ritual for me. I go off by myself, or with one or two people, and spend the first few days just wandering around zones trying not to die. It is always exciting, and I have found that those are my best, and some of my most memorable and treasured moments in WoW. There is something about the newness and the anticipation. Not knowing what is around the next corner. The thrill of discovery!

So this is what happened....
It all started innocently enough. "I'll just go see if the new warlock pets are better or worse when using the single more powerful pet or the multiple warlock pets talent". La-de-da and ho-hum off we go. I had rolled a level 85 pre-made warlock to take a look at the spells and talents a while ago, and she was still sitting there. I had taken her through the first quest from Varian to get to the Isle of Pandaria, and then I had just stood there looking over and picking talents. When I was done messing around I had just left her there. So back to her I went. I looked over the talents and skills and decided that I should really understand this burning embers mechanic. I went out into the field there by the landing area and just started killing things to see how these spells worked.  Wow! I was quite affected by the new destro warlock spells. They are so much fun! Blowing up stuff and setting myself on fire and.... let's just say I was hooting, and giggling and then finally laughing maniacally. It was a lot of fun, and I have to say I cannot wait.
I was drunk with my new found power and so elated I got on my horse and started galloping down the road. I'm sure I was thinking I'd just find a few other things to kill where I'm not interfering with people questing. 
Next thing I know I'm looking around and wondering whats around this corner...and that corner...and running from mobs...and seeing mountains and streams and houses and houses on top of mountains I can't get to and OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING!!
I had to make myself stop. I told myself all about how I'd ruin my first few days of launch. I forced myself to take her back to the starting field, and made myself log off. It's like a drug! I want to go back just thinking about it. I want to go back and PLAY! Run around and smack things with my new spells. Level up and explore!!

I hate beta. It is like chocolate cake in the house when there is no one else around. You have one piece, and know you shouldn't but you just HAVE to have another. Then you think...well there's no one around to know, I can have the whole thing!
I heard Matt Rossi from WoW Insider share that he always does beta testing in the opposite faction from what he intends to play in game. I have to say that's a good tip I will have to remember. Right now I'm better off abstaining, or sticking to little Panda's. Or maybe rolling an undead warlock? No. I think I'd rather wait and enjoy it when it gets here. Kinda like Christmas!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Nothin' Doin'

This is what I've been up to lately.

Basically finishing up achievements and doing a lot of PVP. You know its the end of an expansion when my guild starts hitting the PVP hard. I enjoy it and it's fun to play with others. It's unfortunate that most of my guildies don't seem to get into it until the end of an expansion like this, but I take advantage of it when I can.

I am working on one last achievement from Firelands Ready for Raiding II. I have one more of these guys to kill and it seems like he's never up when I look for him.

I'm working on the rares for both Bloody Rare and Frostbitten. I have finished the majority of them, but am having problems with the hunter pet ones such as Loque'nahak. He is apparently very popular ;).
I have a guildie that has spurred me into searching for the rare mounts in the various raids and instances, but I have not yet motivated myself to really get into this one and hit the instances every day. 
I am also finally doing Archeology. Yes indeed. It seems to be something to do while looking for the rares and it works, especially since I'm in Outlands with it at the moment, and I have no gathering professions on my main. At least I feel like I'm accomplishing more at one time while flying around.

On the other side I am playing Diablo3. Like a nub I might add. I have only dabbled in Diablo before so it is new to me. It's fun and different. I enjoy the choice of spells and abilities. It makes your character quite customizable. I have found I can use abilities that are more in tune with my play style. I am also dragging out the XBox. I am finally catching up on my podcasts and Ladies of Leet has really motivated me to go back to other games when I have time. I am finishing up Call of Duty Black Ops single player campaign. I had to learn the controller all over again. I think it's been over a year since I played.

On a personal note I quit smoking last week. Today is day 7. I'm a bit hectic and crazy. Just when I was feeling like I was getting things on the right track I've gone off the deep end. lol

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I am a Beta Tester?

So yes, I am a beta tester. I didn't really honestly think that I'd be a good beta tester. For the most part I lollygag around WoW as it is. I have always just, well, played WoW. I have never really looked for bugs, I don't generally complain and usually when the rules change I just follow along. In my mind I am not really good at ferreting out problems or issues. I don't believe I think outside the box when it comes to software or games. All those people who find loopholes in boss fights amaze me. I just never know where or how to look at those things.

Case in point, recently as mentioned before, my company changed to a new software program. I was part of the testing crew for it, but honestly I wasn't sure what I was trying to do. They told me I was supposed to try and break it, but I had spent so little time in the program I wasn't sure how to do that. Personally I thought the testing process for that sucked so perhaps it's not me. It's not me, it's you...ha ha.

When I received the beta invite I thought at least I have a chance to see and play which made me think twice. For the past 3 expansions I have not wanted to be involved in the beta. I really enjoy the initial ooo and ahhh from exploring the new zones on the first few days of release. It is one of my favorite times in WoW actually. While everyone is ninja'ing each other in the expansion starting areas I am usually 2 or 3 zones away running from monsters far above my level and enjoying the scenery. Usually with a few guildies in tow. It's like walking out into new fallen snow and putting down your footprints before anyone else gets up in the morning and messes it all up. Anyway I tangent....

That being said I set out on my beta experience anyway. Determined to find all the bugs I could and squash them. First I armed myself with information. What is Blizz looking for in beta testers? I listened closely to podcasts that talked about it and read a few articles. I found the best information to be at WoW Insider. Both the site and the podcast covered this topic. Then I thought about what I was interested in testing and what I was not. I settled on testing the Pandarian starting area. I had already seen at least half of it at Blizzcon so it would not be new, and I would not be seeing something that I didn't want to see. I have decided to stay away from the 85-90 areas and save that for my exploration once the game releases.

I grabbed a pad of paper and a pen and I set off. I rolled a female monk panda. The first few days were horrendous and I could hardly move. Even after I have gone through some computer upgrades I still haven't been able to get my frames to a reasonable place in heavily crowded areas. Albeit the server was EXTREMELY crowded. A few days and computer settings later...I set off. I explored areas, tried emotes, read all quest text, did all quests, ignored as much of the general chat as possible (rolling eyes), and wrote down everything I saw that I thought was a bug. I looked at what my character was doing from different camera angles while running, rolling, punching and kicking. I walked forwards and backwards and jumped around. :) And I took notes. I had minimal time and only played about an hour a week. Every week I took my notes and went to the forums and looked up the bugs I had found to see if they had already been reported. In all cases items I had found had already been submitted. I was a little bummed, but honestly I didn't expect that I would find a game breaker or anything.

After all that, the best thing I found is that I am a beta tester! I am excited to report that even me, the non-rule breaker-just play the game-player, can look and find and help in a beta environment. My plan now is to roll more pandas of different classes and models and go through the zone a few more times and see what has changed and what else I might find.

For those of you who feel like me and think they may not have the knowledge or the insight to contribute you're wrong. Pick something you're interested in and go. Take notes and pay attention and have fun. By doing that you are contributing, and that is what it's all about. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012