February 7, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Both of my regular readers will be fully aware of my ongoing attempts to get Shaman Herewerd raiding in World of Warcraft.  There was leveling through Cataclysm’s new high level zones, followed by heroic instancing, followed by binges on the Auction House, followed by gemming and enchanting and all sorts of min-max-tweaky-loveliness.

Then there were the first few attempts where I attempted to get back up to raiding speed, followed by rising up through Recount’s damage meter.

There was also the joy of being present at a number of first kills for the guild, and that was the source of some very good feelings.  It might have taken some hours at times, but it’s a lovely change from just turning up at the farming stage and hoovering up the goodies.

Through this time, I’ve been a trialist with the guild.  I can understand having a trial policy; before letting someone onto the full roster, the guild wants to know if any given player (me, in this instance) is going to be someone who enhances the team, or if they play like a howler monkey with an itchy groin.  And the guild I am with is a nice, welcoming place.  Trialists get as fair a deal as the rest of the guild when it comes to opportunities to go raiding, and trez, and support from the other members.

Last night, after the raid, I was involved in a chat with one of the raid leaders, and whilst it was never (in the end) asked, I’d like to think I was going to be asked if I wanted to join the roster.

I was not asked because, before I could be asked, I asked to not be considered for the roster at this particular time.

Yeesh.  Even as I write that, my headbrain keeps shouting; “Thicky Hawley!  You’ve been working towards this since Cataclysm launched!  Thicky thicky thicky!”  Headbrain is also tempted to add some head/desk interfacing at speed in there.

But despite my feeling-stupidness (the Germans probably have a long and cool-sounding word for “feeling-stupidness”.  Being completely inept with other languages, I shall just have to stick with the generally rubbish-sounding English version), I felt it only fair to inform my guild that I couldn’t devote the time that World of Warcraft raiding requires.

At the moment, the raid team is selected about an hour before the raid start, from the available signups.  It’s largely because margins are so tight between success and failure that gear analysis is a necessary part of team selection, and because gear is changing so rapidly (even between raids, due to the myriad methods of gaining gear), it’s difficult to put together the best raid team with more warning.

It’s a system that is working for the raid as a whole, and I’m not going to challenge it.

But right now, I could really do with a couple of days notice.  My lovely lady has a *lot* of relatives, and they’re all coming to visit her parents recently.  Seeing as most of them are traveling some considerable distance, it’s only fair that I put some effort into going to see them.  And whilst my lovely lady is aware of high-pressure geekery such as MMO raiding, and is willing to accept; “Sorry dearest, need to go and kill stuff with fellow geeks online” as an excuse, she loses tolerance when I’m sat in front of the pc idly clicking because I’m not needed for the raid that night.

Whilst my lovely lady will acknowledge that my hobbies are important to me, she can also tell the difference between me raiding and me farming, and has every right to get tetchy because I’m not doing what I said I’d be doing, and she’s stuck at home not meeting relatives or going out for a lovely meal with them because I said I’d be busy.

It’s also a busy period at work, which usually means being more tired than usual and more likely to get in late.  This impacts both opportunities for and desire to go farming to get all those raid supplies that are needed.

It got so that, even after a few short weeks, I was on the verge of becoming resentful about *having* to raid, and that’s not a place I particularly want to go.  I was enjoying the raiding, even the multiple wipes bit, but the logistical side of gaming was causing all the problems, all the hassle.

In the end, all I could do was ask to be a last minute substitute; if they need an extra body to make up the numbers, or if they need a particular skill-set, give me a shout.  I know when the raid times are, so if I’m on I can most probably cover, if not give me a shout and if I can come on, I will.  For my part, I’ll try and keep Herewerd raid-ready as much as possible.

It might mean I never get asked again, but that’s better than having to state I’ll definately have to drop out.

Big fat sigh.

There is a part of the headbrain that is quite happy at this state of affairs, though.  It’s the part that knows that hobbies are fun, but no substitute for a busy and fulfilling social life.  We have visitors, we go out, and we are able to be a part of a wider community.  Since the earliest of my Everquest playing days, I’ve never allowed MMO gaming to take precedence over going out into the real world to be social, and I refuse to start now.  The fact that I have to make that choice is a sign that, from a social standpoint, my life is win right now.

The unfortunate side-effect of me standing down as an active raid-wannabe is taking a step back, looking at World of Warcraft, and asking (in a rather accusing tone); “What are you *for*?”

I suppose I shall find out the answer to that over the next few weeks.



[Stood In The Fire]

January 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Posted in General | 7 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Just this weekend, I became the recipient of the achievement: Stood In The Fire.  My window into the World of Warcraft gained that sort of special tinge of red that screams; “Your video card is borked!” and just as my headbrain was processing the concept of borked video card, the screen turned orange and I was given the opportunity to press the “Release” button.

I also gained the aforementioned achievement.

Well, at least it meant no requirement for a new video card, but a few things were put into stark relief for me, enough to warrant a rambling post.  One that looks and reads exactly like this one, in fact.

Let me lead off with this; I did not feel like I’d achieved anything.  I didn’t know what was going on, and only found out once the achievement had hit.  Subsequent research at WoWWiki did not make me feel any more like an achiever.  I had just happened to be in the zone when an appropriate number of 1s and 0s hit the appropriate combination.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The random nature of the event didn’t make me feel special, or lucky, or even particularly grateful.  I didn’t feel the need to run out and buy a lottery ticket, and being the sort that’s still somewhat bemused by achievements I’m still somewhat wondering about it.

Why is it an achievement?  All I achieved was having to release and then res.  I was actually in the Twilight Highlands, in the process of killing Warlord Halthor, so it’s not like I was aiming to get it.

If it has achieved anything, I suppose it’s defined “Hubris” for me.  Whilst killing Warlord Halthor is required for the daily rep-quest, I’d actually completed that quest about half an hour before.  And, having solo’d the big elite blokey once, decided to show off and kill him again (as well as all of his mates).  Then, during my third solo attempt, the drrrrrrrrrrrrrrragin struck.

So it’s not as if I could have escaped, by perhaps hearthing out.  I was in combat.  By the way, *is* there an achievement for *avoiding* getting ganked by the random event?

After ressing, I got to spend a few minutes ho-humming  whilst waiting for all the flames to disappear and the mobs to return so I could finish my dailies and move on.  At which point, zone life continued as normal, and as if nothing had happened.

In fact, the only thing that had changed was me being slightly disappointed about the nature of the whole thing.

When I first saw the links as they appeared in Guild Chat, I thought it might be an achievement as the result of a the culmination of a quest chain.  Follow the quest through, see Deathwing at the end, have him kill you.  The achievement equivalent of “My parents went to Azeroth and all I got was this damn t-shirt”.  That sort of thing.  I didn’t realise it was *just* a random event.

Having discovered how the achievement is gained, I’m at a loss about the name.  “Stood in the Fire” implies that I had a choice; that there were places where the fire was not, and that I had made the wrong, or unlucky, choice.  I shall chalk it down to me not having the same sense of humour as Blizzard developers (again).

And most of all, I didn’t feel like my game had been enriched by the whole experience.  I hadn’t done anything special, and there was nothing I could do about it.

It had all just happened to me.  There was no rhyme nor reason.  There was no opportunity to participate, no choice of what to do.  It just was, in the same way that volcanoes erupt, or that tornadoes strike.

And afterwards, there was nothing.  No opportunity for revenge, no opportunity to partake in something.  It was as if a volcano appeared, erupted, and then disappeared taking the disaster with it.  Five minutes after the event had occurred, it was as if it had never happened, and I didn’t do a thing apart from sit there and wait.

You might be wondering about the “thrown into stark relief” comment I made earlier?

Well, that would be with regard to Rift.  Rift is all about the rifts, one might say.  Random events that spawn mobs, whole gangs of them.  Invasion-level gangs, one could say.

They open at random, and even (according to the marketing) can even happen on top of a player-character if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And the difference between Stood in the Fire and a rift opening is?

Well, that’s the stark relief bit.  I didn’t enjoy it in World of Warcraft, so what’s going to make me enjoy it in Rift?

I would hope that rifts in Rift have a bit more warning, allowing the player the chance to decide whether or not to get involved, even if it’s just the sound of stampeding hordes approaching; an opportunity to hitch skirts and run, if you will.  I’m also hoping that Rift will allow me something that my encounter with Deathwing did not; some revenge.

If my game time is going to be arbitrarily and summarily affected, then I want to be able to get involved in the aftermath.  I want to be able to get in there and smack something in the face about it.  I want to be able to turn that negative moment into *good game*.  Because the game is based around such things, I’m hoping that Rift has ensured that its random encounters are filled to brimming with good game goo.

That hope for Rift is mirrored by wonder at Blizzard.  Are they attempting to patch into some sort of retro-based MMO cool, with their own Sleeper?

Well, whatever the reason, I think I’ll be looking forward to seeing how Trion have implemented random events more than I will be looking forward to participating in one of Blizzard’s.


Raid Ready

January 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Having beaten various rep-vendors with the stick of give-me-your-honoured-and-revered-gear-now, and then beaten the resulting set of melee damage gear with the gems-and-enchants stick to try and eke out every last droplet of damage, I was about as raid ready as Shaman Herewerd could be.

I even decided to put Avalanche on the two blue axes that Shaman Herewerd uses.  It was a tad expensive for something that will hopefully be replaced soon enough, but at the end of the day, damage is damage and plenty is needed.  (Even if the most obvious effect is looking like a small, spherical snowstorm with hooves and tentacles.  Yes, as soon as I can find a way to switch off the enchantment’s effects, I will.  My screen is covered in swirling snowflakes.  It’s embarrassing.)

Keeping a close eye on Recount showed that my damage per second had jumped by about 1,500 points, which in practical terms means normal, surface-world mobs of the same level are easy meat.  Them and all their adds…

In a way, it’s a shame when the outside world becomes less of a challenge, more of a larder.

Anyhoo, I was about as raid-ready as I could get, without extensive Heroic PUG runs for drops and points.

A couple of the community’s officers had also stood up for me, both in helping me to get gems and enchantments sorted, general advice regarding gearing and stats, and then making sure that the rest of the officers didn’t forget that I was now at the point where I could commence raiding.  Which, when you see the callous disregard evinced by so many of the inhabitants of the World that is Warcraft, is really nice; being a part of a community.

Even so, I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the more compelling reasons for why I was chosen was because, in ‘Clysm, it seems that interrupts are the new black; not only was I the only Shaman player who could make it, but no Rogues could make it either.  Hey, I’m not complaining about that.  I wanted to go raiding, and if the random intersection caused by class/ability requirements with the vagaries of player signups is the only reason I get to go gives me the opportunity, I won’t spurn it.  A winning personality and a sunny disposition can only take me so far, especially in a progressive raid team.

It was still nice to go raiding, and it was a reminder about how different raiding in World of Warcraft is to instancing.  Or should that be wake-up call?

The raid team is still working its way through Blackrock Descent, and I got to join in with the process of learning how to take down Maloriak.

Of course, my role was simple; deal damage, and interrupt his Arcane Storm channelled ability, as it seems designed to eat raids.

Well, it was messy, for quite a few attempts.  In all, we spent just shy of 4 hours trying to drop Maloriak, although that wasn’t all one attempt.  There were many.  Many, many attempts.  Some were failures due to wipes, some were intentionally reset by ourselves, some were resets due to us running out of time and hitting the enrage timer.

I also think it’s fair to say that the first attempt’s failure was my mistake.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those disgusting individuals that learns by doing and experiencing, rather than from watching videos or reading notes.  But the upshot is that I do learn quickly, and as a result the first few attempts saw me diligently (on the whole) interrupting, whilst learning what was going on well enough to be able to start doing some damage.

Damage was, admittedly, poor to begin with.  Despite raid buffs, flask and fud it was barely higher than it is unbuffed and unfed.  However, repeated attempts meant that I was able to grow more comfortable with the interrupting, and being more comfortable with one role, I was able to devote more attention to the other.

Slowly, as the raid got further along the fight, my dps rose, until our final attempt saw me at an almost respectable level of damage output.  All that, and interruptions too…

All in all, it was a fun night, and one I had enjoyed regardless of the number of attempts to bring down one boss.  Yes, even when it was all going wrong and it was wipe after wipe, I was still enjoying it.  For me, gaming has always been about the challenge, not about success or failure.

The icing on the cake was that, with time running out, Maloriak was downed.  Even sweeter, out of two items he dropped one was a mail chest ideal for melee dps, so that was me, emerging from the depths of the raid instance, clutching some shiny trez in my sweaty palms.


The Tyranny of Dailies

January 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft when Daily Quests were introduced.

I was in the middle of one of my frequent breaks from the game, but many of my friends were playing, and they all told me that Dailies were fantastic; they were lucrative, fun, and a great thing to occupy the time between instances and raids.

Gone was meaningless grinding or farming; Dailies were the way of the future.

I felt like such a party pooper when I restarted World of Warcraft, saw my first dailies, tried a few of them, grunted in a similar way to my “I’ve probably just woken up, so until I’ve had a lovely cup of tea I’m not going to be impressed by anything to do with you” sort of way, and then went back to farming nodes and having fun my own way.

Yes, they’re useful for farming rep and cash, but there’s something about the fact that you can only do so many of them per day, and you can only do them once each per day, that really annoys me.  If I want to get something done, I want to get it done now; if I’m going to pull a plaster off, I’ll rip it off in one move, rather than a quarter of an inch a day, every day for 3 months.

And they’re so disgustingly “hardcore” in nature.  I think this is one of the few things that really, really annoys me about them so much.

To get anything from dailies, you *have* to log in each day and do them.  Even if that’s *all* you do when logged in.  They punish the weak and feeble who choose to do something else, because usually the main rewards, those sexy, big, pant-tightening rewards from any chosen rep faction can only be achieved through that daily grind.  Every day missed is another two days waiting, and there is no catching up.

At the moment, I’m trying to limit myself to the Cooking daily.  Whilst I can applaud the use of wearing Tabards to gain rep when in instances and dungeons for most of the rep factions in ‘Clysm, I find it really disheartening that I have to do the daily cooking quests to be able gain the cooking currency to buy recipes to first of all level up, and then to allow me to go raiding without handing over a honking great pile of cash on the auction house.

Ach, it’s a minor gripe at best but I suppose that, to me, they’re one of those things where the game really feels like a grind, and my dislike of repetition doesn’t help.  To me, each instance or raid run feels different, whereas each time I do a daily, it feels just the same as yesterday…


Money Money Money

January 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I drafted a post yesterday, and was very close to publishing it.  Then, like all true slackers, I decided to get a quick bit of daily questing done before the massing hoi-poloi logged on, and it was whilst I was logged on that I realised yesterday’s post was just a bit too woolly.

Cue the decision for a re-write, and a bit more effort in thought, with the addition of a downsizing of potential slack (don’t you just love management-speak?).

In yesterday’s proto-post, I had decided that in-game cash was not something I cared about enough, when compared to the potential for in-game experience.

The catalyst was the purchase from the auction house of a Dragonkiller Tunic.  Recently, they’ve been available for approximately 10,000 gold on the alliance auction house.  I’m pretty sure that there are a couple of reasons for this:

  • They’re a useful item for getting geared up for heroics or raiding,
  • They require three Chaos Orbs, which are Bind on Pickup and can only be rolled on by crafters, and only drop in instances.

This means that they’re highly desirable, and a bit of a seller’s market as it’s not like I can collect the Chaos Orbs myself, or even buy them from the auction house.  Add in the usual hike in inflation that comes with a new expansion, and there we go; 10,000 gold for the asking.

I saw one for less than 8,000 gold on Sunday, and that was what got me thinking.  First of all, I’ve made well over 8,000 gold since ‘Clysm’s launch, most of that being me selling what I’ve farmed on the auction house.  At first it was silly amounts, but those prices have dropped over time.

At the same time, I’ve been wondering what it is that I’m actually saving this money for.  It means alts can get an easier ride, but alts can make their own money whilst levelling, easily enough to get them all the skills they’ll need to get to level 85.

Now, I could have asked a guildmember to make a Dragonkiller Tunic for me, with me providing all the materials to get there, but that leaves me waiting for them to get lucky enough to get all three Chaos Orbs, and them having to run enough PUGs to get them.  Which might well not be much fun for them.  Even so, I’d have preferred to throw the golds at them, and part of me feels bad for that.

Simple question time: Is in-game cash better or worse than the potential for in-game experiences?

That Dragonkiller Tunic is the potential for in-game experiences, as it will get me much closer to raid-ready.  Add in the fact that throwing the in-game cash at the problem means getting raid-ready now, as opposed to waiting a few weeks, and then still being behind the rest of the guild due to them hitting newer content.

So, with the flood-gate opened, I blew more cash on those enchantments I couldn’t blag from the guild bank.  And then tidied gear up with gems and what-have-you.  All in all, it was quite cathartic really, and I ended up very close to the point where I was raid-ready.

Wow Heroes, in its impersonal and arbitrary way, says I only need a little more to get me going, as I joked to a mate last night.

I suppose what really made the decision for me was wondering what, exactly, was I going to need all that cash for.

The amount of in-game cash I’ve been making more than covers repair costs, and because I don’t have any crafting characters, it’s not like I need to pay for any materials.  All my characters do is gather materials, so they make money rather nicely.  All of the big cash-sink skills have been bought by Shaman Herewerd, barring super-speedy mount riding, and that’s because Shaman Herewerd doesn’t have a super-speedy mount to ride (and I’ve kept that much cash ready in case I find one).

The guild I’m in has potion makers enough to keep me in raiding flasks, and I can gather everything needed for them.  Cooking has been maxed out, and I’ve got all the recipes I need for now.

So, after gearing up to a raid-ready standard, I don’t have much need for cash.  I think.

Of course, I could be missing plenty of uses for cash, but apart from vanity, I can’t think of much else.

And whilst I can be just as vain as the next player, it seems that vanity purchases are now the domain of the cash-store.  Well, it makes quite a lot of sense; selling items which give an in-game advantage gives too much of an impression that application of money is more important than application of skill when it comes to success.

But satisfying the needs of vanity?  It seems perfectly acceptable to charge real money when a player wants to stand out from among his peers.  So what used to be an in-game cash sink is now an opportunity to sell a fancy mount, a pet, or a set of cool duds to wear in game.

Scratch one more way to blow all that in-game cash.  There are still vanity items to be bought, but there just isn’t the same level of choice in most games any more.

There we go.  Slightly more thought through than yesterday, and I hope a bit more interesting as a result.



January 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Rift has a lot to answer for.

Since it pinged on my gamedar, something has been percolating in the back of that strange thing I like to think of as my headbrain, and it’s only been poked and prodded by various blogs I’ve read and conversations that I’ve had regarding Rift.

Much of what I’ve read on blogs has boiled down to the author advising the reader to play Rift, or to avoid it like the plague.

Similarly, conversations I’ve had with people regarding Rift have been, at their most basic and pared down, statements of “Rift is made of Win and Kittens”, and “I think Rift smells of poo and wee”.

The same could be said of The Secret World, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  When they get closer to release, I’m sure there will be similar posts, and similar conversations.

Now, it might have taken a good few weeks for the accidental collision of neurons to knock into each other enough for it to get to the cognital spark stage, and a good few more to even get close to that hallowed state of being known to most as *an idea*, but I think I am finally getting a clue.

Of course, what makes the slow, almost tectonic drift of consciousness all the more entertaining is the fact that part of my job deals with overcoming inertia.  No, I don’t mean overcoming inertia in a really cool Scientific Breakthroughs in Perpetual Motion sort of way, but in overcoming the sedentary nature of people, and training them in Something New.

Something New can quite often seem to be The Worst Thing In The World.  Part of that is drummed into us with the normally sensible statement; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Amongst sage pieces of advice, that is one of my favourites, and usually one I try to live by.  However, if someone hadn’t decided that the abacus could do with a bit of fixing, neither of us (that would mean me, the author, and you, dear reader, of this blog) would be here right now.  We’d probably be poring over the cool new abacus you’d have bought with teflon-coated rods and tungsten beads.

Or something.

So I suppose the statement would better be served by adding the phrase “if you happen to be congenitally stupid” to the end.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it if you happen to be congenitally stupid”.  See, that’s working for me right now.

After all, every three years or so, I decide to *fix* my perfectly working pc by upgrading it a lot.  And, being only *mostly* stupid, it generally goes fine.  Without me *fixing* it, I’d still be using my first pc, and wondering why everyone else gets to play the cool new games whilst I’m still playing Gunship and Commander Keen.

According to the hype, it’s wanting to fix the current crop of MMO games that has brought rise to Rift.  From the Rift FAQ:

“Who is Trion Worlds?

Trion Worlds is the publisher and developer of server-based dynamic online games and original entertainment for the connected world. With a mission to revolutionize interactive entertainment by combining the best elements of online, gaming, and traditional media, Trion has built a technology platform that provides groundbreaking new capabilities and is currently focused on developing and publishing compelling content.”

I’m not sure about you, but that sounds like “It’s broke; we’re fixing it” to me.  I don’t have a problem with that, but others might.

Because most MMO players are only going to have the time, the inclination, or the money to play just one MMO.

Add into the mix that *any* fantasy-based MMO with a graphical user interface (or GOOEY, as the cool techie kids call it) and the possibility to *chat* to other players through a text interface is going to be immediately declared/dismissed as a WoW-clone, there’s going to be a lot of inertia that Trion have to overcome.

I’m going to use World of Warcraft as my indicator here, but I’m pretty sure that you could use the name of any existing MMO in its place.

World of Warcraft (or game of choice) is easy.  It’s comfortable.  It’s where all our friends are.  It’s where all life is.

It’s easy because we know how the game thinks, because we know how the skills work, what the classes do, what the mobs are like, how the combat and crafting works, and on the off-chance that we need or want a bit of help there’s an Imperial Internet’s (it’s a way of measuring information, similar to an Imperial Mile, but with more URLs) worth of websites just waiting for us.

It’s comfortable because anywhere up to the last six years have been spent playing it.  We’re used to that GOOEY thing, and how it responds.  Of course it’s the most responsive, or the best engineered; it’s the one we’re most used to and therefore we can react to its little vagaries and pecadillos best.  But then again, it’s also had six years of work on it, so of course it’s going to be better than anything used by the new kid.

It’s social.  All our mates play, and they’re quite possibly friends we’ve only ever known through the game.  Leaving the game might well mean losing them as friends, and starting a new game means having to make new friends.  World of Warcraft players are all in a gang.  When two meet, there is instant conversation without having to resort to the weather.  Will that happen with any Johnny-Come-Lately MMO?

It’s where all life is.  For six years, off and on, World of Warcraft has welcomed us in.  That’s six years of nostalgia, war stories, boasting, and memories.  Leaving all of that behind is hard; so hard, that most of us will have bounced back in after a period away because we bumped into a mate who was still playing, and all that history just yoinked us back in.

That’s the Inertia, and it calls to us, soothes us, and keeps us all snuggly and warm in the embrace of our favourite games.  Trion worlds need to overcome that inertia, and I really wish them luck.

When I decided that I’d only get Rift if my mates did, I was letting that same inertia dictate my actions.  However, I’m ornery, so as soon as that accidental collision had fully achieved its potential by becoming *an idea*, I pre-ordered Rift.

It will cost me the price of admission to see if Trion really have created something better, but if they have then I’ve not lost much.

Those friendships, those memories; I won’t be throwing them away, they’ll always be there.  And if Rift is being developed by the congenitally stupid?  Well, I’ll be a little bit poorer, but also a little bit wiser.  And I’ll just appreciate my MMOs just that little bit more as a result.


Sisyphean Gearing

January 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I currently feel like a one-man farming machine.

The answer to why is simple; it’s all part of getting everything ready to start raiding.

Of course, the important part of that last statement is the use of the word; “start”.  Sometimes it really feels like the mountain that Yawning Angel refers to in his latest post.  At other times, it feels like the part of Sisyphus will be played by Mr Hawley Poppet for this expansion.

Why Sisyphus?  Well, as our erstwhile rock-roller is pushing his boulder to the top of the hill only to have it slip and roll down, so it feels with getting raiding gear.  You struggle to the gear requirement to enter a raiding tier, only to find that the raid group has already moved on, and you need to gear to the next tier.  Or suddenly the mountain has changed completely, in the case of a new expansion.

It also feels like gearing up for raids is the new levelling (which was the new purple, before it became the new black which was the old black, but now the new black).  Levelling is not the beast it used to be, and without wishing to immediately leap for the term “devalued”, it’s hard to find a term that encompasses what has happened to the levelling game.

It’s a lot quicker, for a start.  With xp requirements being slashed, with quest rewards (in terms of xp gain and materiel) being improved, there is no longer the requirement to spend months levelling a character to maximum level.  It’s now weeks, and that’s if you’re a slacker like me.

Nothing you gain while levelling means anything, either; none of the rep, none of the gear, none of it.  It’s only what you gain after attaining that maximum level that matters, because that’s the rep that allows you to get the gear that allows you to go first into Heroics, then into raids.

Even the money you gain whilst levelling means little.  The amount is paltry compared to the sums that can be made whilst at maximum level, from the gold substituted for xp in quest rewards, to selling phat purple lewts on the auction house.

So if levelling has been lessened in importance, where is the game that *was* levelling?

It’s simple.  It’s now gearing for raid.

I admit that I’ve not been attempting to gear up in the same way that I gorged on levelling from 80 to 85, but that’s largely because levelling solo is an awful lot easier and quicker than attempting to gear up from jumping in and out of Heroics.  It’s also a lot more gratifying; without having to rely on the vagaries of PUGs and randomised loot tables, I am relying on my own skill and gaming time.

But it’s taking a longer time for me to get my gear to a point where I won’t embarrass myself in a raid environment than it did for me to level through 4 zones and 5 levels.  And I’m a slooooow leveller.

I suppose that’s a symptom of the modern MMO.  Gone are the days where it was as important to have a good and fun levelling game as it was to have something to do when the levelling was over.  Levelling used to be a part of the social side of gaming; now, it’s something done as quickly as possible, and alone because levelling with someone else is only going to be slower.

It’s even got to the stage where Blizzard have removed the requirement to group whilst levelling.  The only times I grouped during ‘Clysm’s open play was when a named mob needed doing over, and there was a queue.  The grouping wasn’t a necessity due to the challenge of the mob.  It was to cut down on having to queue for respawns, and the truth was revealed in how fast the group disbanded after the mob’s messy demise.

Once we’ve started to gear up, suddenly we’re outstripping same- and similar-levelled mobs.  Shaman Herewerd has gone from having to actively fight mobs, to pressing five (maybe six, if the mob is particularly recalcitrant) keys in a particular order before the mob is dead.

A few week’s time, it will probably be down to two or three key-presses.

It does make it easier to go farming.  I don’t have to worry about having to slow down much between herb and ore resource nodes, but there is a little part of me that feels saddened that the world outside Heroic and Raid Instances becomes a hazy shadow, compared to the bright, vivid world of challenge within.

At the same time, there’s always that lure of more exciting gameplay to keep me going.  It’s the challenges that make me want to continue playing, and without that I’d probably get bored.  Stagnant game-play is not fun, and logging on to do the same set of things by rote is the surest way to get me logging off, for good.


Finding My Own Lemons

January 6, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

It’s good to have a hobby.  It’s an excuse to do something that isn’t necessarily relevant to the world we live in, and an escape from the daily grind of modern living.  It can be relaxing or exhilarating, cheap or ruinously expensive, it can be what makes us more interesting as a person.  Or deathly boring, dependant on your point of view.

As a geek, I have plenty of geeky hobbies; so much so, that it’s actually quite difficult for me to actually be bored because there’s *always* something fun and hobby-related for me to be doing.

Of course, it also means I’m poor.  Many hobbies are cheap to start, but get progressively more and more expensive.  I like to think that the most expensive part of my hobbies is the pressing need to buy a new house to fit all of them in…

The Vial of the Sands.  That’s a WoWhead link for anyone wondering.  Yes, it’s the alchemical Vial that allows a character to turn into a drrrrrrrragin and fly around as their own mount.  They can even give other characters a lift, although there are supposed to be safeguards in place for anyone who wants to be naughty, and drop someone from a very, very great height.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t particularly feel the urgent need to have any of my characters turn into a drrrrrragin.  It’s not going to help me with my rrrrrrrole-playing characterisation of being a half-drrrrrrragin, and to be perfectly honest I can live without being a drrrrrrrragin-shaped taxi for the rest of the server.

If I was to be interested in anything of that ilk, it would be some sort of entertaining wand, which would allow me to ZAP! any random passer-by into being my drrrrrrrrrrrrrragin-taxi.  Mmmm.  Yeeeeeeeees.

Anyhoo, it takes a quite surprisingly silly amount of crafting materials, *as well as* an amount of gold roughly equivalent to the gross product of several small countries.  Unless you are a goblin, at which point I can only commend you on your wise choice of racial perk: Well done, I commend you.

I saw one (a Vial of the Sands, not a goblin) the other day in the auction house, and it was on for a 75,000 gold buyout.

No, I’m not after trying to sell a Vial of the Sands either.  I’m not sure any amount of virtual cash could be worth the time and effort to gather all of those materials.  Besides, what would I spend it on?  A Vial of the Sands?

No, I’m thinking of collecting together the materials for a Vial of the Sands as a bit of a hobby.  Yes, you heard right; a hobby, within a hobby.  Yes, my madness does not know any bounds.  And I appreciate that logic such as this might very well break the universe, it being anti-logic (and we all know what happens when logic and anti-logic meet.  Yes, you get really, really annoyed logical people who shout at very confused anti-logical people, and make them cry).

I like having something to do during the quiet periods of gaming.  I also am freely honest about my inability to pass a harvest node in any game without having to harvest it.  In the quiet periods, between instances, or questing, or just when fancying a bit of gaming whilst watching the tellyovision, it’s nice to farm herbs and ore, or farm a few monsties for their lovely drops.

The absurdly stupid amount of raw materials required for the Vial of the Sands means I can have something to work towards which will take a bit longer than a couple of days.  And it’s ideal for doing between points of interest, because it doesn’t matter if I have to drop it at a moment’s notice to go off and do something fun; those nodes will wait, after all.

You might be wondering at how much actually needs to be gathered.  Well, according to WoWhead again, here is a list of raw materials that seems accurate enough for me to work from:

• 29,000g
• 72 Pyrium Ore
• 120 Volatile Air
• 120 Volatile Fire
• 120 Volatile Water
• 96 Volatile Life
• 96 Azshara’s Veil
• 96 Cinderbloom
• 192 Whiptail
• 16 Crystal Vial
• 8 Albino Cavefish

Part of me is amazed at the size of that shopping list.  It’s just obscene, especially when there are mounts that are far, far cheaper that do the same thing; get you from one place to another quicker than walking.

Yet some players will do anything to be part of the bleeding edge, and Blizzard are more than aware of that fact.


Mr Hawley Goes to PUGgington

January 5, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There is a part of me that longs for the harsh, blasted wastelands of Fallen Earth, that dreams of the vast emptinesses of Eve Online, that yearns nostalgically for Lord of the Rings Online.

But the realist in me realises that without putting some time in on World of Warcraft, I’m not likely to get the “most” out of the game over the coming months.  Levelling and gearing up so that I can get into raiding before it’s old, rote, and lacking in challenge is something that I want to do.

Focussing in one direction means a lack of direction in another, hence a lack of apocalyptic, space, hobbity action.

What it has meant is me making more of an effort to get into instances, because of World of Warcrafts heavily laddered/tiered progression.  Normal instances to Heroic Instances to Raid Instances to Bleeding Edge Raid Instances; jumping a tier is much more difficult at the start of an expansion than it is later on.

However, whilst it’s more likely that a guild run on an instance is likely to happen (more members on due to newer content, more interest in seeing the instances, more need to get gear from those newer instances) there are still the same issues when it comes to putting a group together.  Largely the need for tank, healer, dps, in their necessary ratio amongst 5 people.

This has meant, in many situations, utilising the LFD tool.  Now, anyone who isn’t new here will know that I am not a natural PUGger.  I have certain gaming sensibilities, which seem to be inimicable to the average PUGger.

And whilst I might not utilise various arcane technomagically-powered bits of software to work out the best rotations, I have at least the glimmerings of how MMOs work, how aggro mechanisms work, how AI tends to behave, and I have good enough situational awareness to realise when to shift role in order to survive an encounter.

Yet I’m also a Darwinist when it comes to MMOs; Evolve Or Die is something I’ve blathered on at length about before, and will no doubt blather on about again.  Getting geared up for raiding fun and frolics has meant evolving as a player, and the necessary evolution has been to allow the fact that I can’t rely on full guild groups, and that I am going to have to PUG-up in order to gear-up, and get into instances.

So, in an homage to Spinksville’s “It came from the Pug” series, here is a small selection of the joys I’ve experienced as an evolving PUGger:

There was the fantastic Mage – let’s call him Sage-Mage – in my return to the Deadmines, who sagely advised that if I watched my aggro, I would die less.  I’d died once, to a random monkey-poo-thrower.  This was, of course, before we realised how the random monkey-poo-throwers worked.  Sage-Mage also advised our healer to heal more, and was most put out when he kept dying, to the point of initiating a kick vote to get rid of the healer.

Now, not only is that a little mean when the healer is having a hard time keeping a tank up as well as an aggro-whoring Sage-Mage, but it’s also a little stupid when the party comprises of Sage-Mage and four players *from the same guild*.

Cue an immediate response from the party tank, wherein Sage-Mage was booted unceremoniously from the party.

Personally, I liked Sage-Mage.  He made me laugh, and I wanted to keep him as a sort of mascot.  Regimental Goat, and all that.  But I also realise that he needed kicking as a sort of wake-up call or at least a lesson in guild loyalty.

There was also Warrior-In-A-Rush, who dropped in to the Halls of Origination when the party healer had to go, and the paladin tank moved to healing.  The paladin was a fellow guild-member, and the group was going for a full run.

Warrior-In-A-Rush, however, was not.  There was a surprising amount of grumbling, as he just cared about getting to the final boss as fast as possible.  He even used the ultimate argument (and I quote); “this isnt WotLK”.

Huwah?  The boy wants a speed run, then tells us that we’re not playing Wrath of the Liche King, official Home of the Speed Run?  I laughed.  I didn’t want to keep him as he wasn’t as much fun as Sage-Mage, but he jumped on his own when we weren’t going fast enough for him, requiring a second tank to jump in just before the last boss.

No, I didn’t get it either.

Now, as well as the funny, there has been the sobering; realising my healing gear just wasn’t good enough to keep a pug together after a couple of attempts at the first boss in Heroic Grim Batol meant me holding up my hands, reporting that I just didn’t have the oomph to get us through it, and dropping out with no hard feelings on either side.

That sort of knocked the wind out of my healing sails, so I’m quietly and calmly raising the quality of my healing gear, and will catch the wind again when I’m better equipped (and hopefully tanks are too).

I have also found that the atmosphere in pugs has generally tended to be much better than I remember from instancing in Northrend.  For a start, there is much more communication, especially where tactics are concerned.  Sometimes, during Wrath of the Liche King’s later days, it felt that communication beyond “gogogo” was for the weak and noobish.

Instance runs were also all about the speed, rather than the fun of the experience.  Because most players were over-geared for the instance, and it was just an exercise in collecting tokens, all that was required was to run in, kill everything as fast as possible, and rely on the healer to keep everyone up.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy that sort of play.  I do, however, enjoy the better atmosphere of ‘Clysm.  Oh, I’m sure it will all change soon enough, but right now it seems that PUGgers are far more willing to explore all of an instance, to drop all of the bosses, even to chat, rather than just do what’s required to get the tokens/points.

Warrior-In-A-Rush notwithstanding, of course.

The natural order will probably be restored as we revert to speed-running through instances for Valour/Justice points, but that won’t be for the next couple of weeks at least, and I for one am happy for that.


Have Mount, Will Travel (Part 2)

January 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Stupid admission time.

I have a Draenai paladin.  He was created shortly after The Burning Crusade was released, and over the years has slowly crept up the levels as I fancied a bit of hot paladin action, finally attaining the grand level of 43.

By the way, that’s not the stupid admission bit, it’s just a regular admission of my own inability to concentrate on an alt, much of the time.

The stupid admission bit starts about now, when I state that I decided to check him out now that ‘Clysm has hit, and the levelling bit has changed, and is quicker, yadda-yadda-you-know-the-rest-of-it.

I log into the character, start poking around to see what’s changed, decide to check out the trainers, decide that running is for losers, summon my lovely Paladin warhorse with the fancy blue curtain (yeah, I know it’s called a caparison, but, well, y’know.  It’s a gag) ‘round it, and an elephant appeared.

Confused, I did what any normal, sane person would do.  I blanked, dismissed the elephant mount, resummoned the lovely blue curtained horse.

And found myself staring (again) at a draenai paladin sat on an elephant.

Now imagine this scene repeating itself, yet getting increasingly frantic, over the course of the next 5 or so minutes.

The lovely horse was gone.

Let me provide a little more background here, which will hopefully shed a little more light on the situation.

I like the Draenai model.  It’s big, it’s blue, it’s sort of like a big blue demon thing.  Only it’s a happy, cuddly, big blue demon thing.

I don’t like the racial mount.  That elephantal monstrosity is the down side of playing a draenai, as far as I’m concerned.  Admittedly, many others like it, and I don’t wish to state that they are wrong, wronger, wrongest about it.  But I really, really don’t like that elephant mount.

After some investigation, it appears that Draenai paladins now have a particularly un-paladiney elephant as a summoned mount, rather than a lovely blue-curtained horse.  Big fat sigh.

Maybe, if I were less oblivious, I’d have known about the change to a more ‘racial’ style of mount.  Maybe, if I were less forgetful, I’d remember that I *did* find out about this change, but discounted it as the patch notes of a crazy person, and consigned that nugget of information to the “Crazy Stuff: To Delete” portion of my headbrain.

Whatever the true state of affairs is, it does not change the fact that I was completely blind-sided by this change, and it made me cry real human tears.  Only on the inside though, as I am a man, and real men are only supposed to cry on the inside.

I now look at that poor unfortunate Paladin, and wonder if he’ll ever get to do anything ever again.  Unlike Shaman Herewerd, who got to grind up his Stormwind rep so that he could have a horse mount, that Paladin never had to worry.  Until now, of course.

And whilst it’s a lot easier to grind rep with the four base cultures than it ever has been, it’s still a bit of an @rse.  Besides, I really, really liked that horse.  I mean, *really* liked it.  I may joke about the curtains, but I really, really like them.

It’s that bad, that I’m very much considering deleting the character, and recreating it as a dwarf or human, just to get a mount that isn’t a stupid elephant.

For those of you tempted to get out the cheese-board so that I can have something to go with my whine, there is a reason to this ramble.

There’s very little that we, as players, can influence within our chosen games.  There’s surprisingly little choice, so when I choose a character, and invest in a race and a class, that’s the biggest, most influential, most important choice I will make for the entirety of a game.

Part of the choice of Paladin was, for me, the mount.  It sounds really shallow to say it, but there we go.  Big blue demon on a horsey.  It was one of the things that sold the package to me.  The multi-role nature of the class was part of it, the available races influenced it, and the exclusive mount were all part of what sold me on creating a paladin.

And now part of that package has been changed, and suddenly it’s not my choice any more.  That stings, it really does.


Option: Suck It Up.
Yeah, man up, it’s only a game.  Get used to the elephant, idiot.

Option: Apply Cash.
Most things can be sorted with the handy application of cash, and this is no exception.  I could just throw money at Blizzard until they change the race of the character to a human or dwarf.

Option: Grind Rep.
As it says.  Get the rep sorted, get a racial mount such as a big cat, or a ram, or whatever.  Anything but a (shudder) stupid elephant.

Option: Slash And Burn.
Delete the character, start a new dwarf or human.  Levelling is so easy nowadays, anyway.

Option: Do Nothing.
The true slacker option.  In the course of *entire years* he’s got to level 43.  That’s not slacking, that’s sheer, unadulterated laziness.  I’ve ignored the character so much, the lovely horse probably died of boredom.

I shall probably ponder what to do over an obscenely large mug of tea, bearing in mind how much of a slacker I am, and that I might just go for Option: Do Nothing purely because making a decision would probably occupy more brain power than it’s worth.

At least, until I get a hankering for playing a paladin again.


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