Monday, February 28, 2011

The Siren Calls

There's quite a bit of buzz out there about Rift these days.

Some people I know in WoW have been seriously considering letting their subscription lapse in favor of Rift, and others are planning on playing both games concurrently.  That a decent subset of the WoW community seems to be grumbling over the current state of WoW only heightens the call of Rift.

I can attest to the allure of the "shiny!" that Rift provides; I spent several days poking around the last open Beta and was impressed with what I found.  The story seems very interesting, particularly the aspect of the Rifts themselves.  Imagine the Elemental Invasion Cata event, but with the Elementals moving in and taking over world areas if you don't beat them back.  Throw into this the faction conflicts of religion vs. technology and insiders vs. outsiders, and you've got a very entertaining backstory.  Of course, the story starts out with the bleakest of outcomes, and your job is to prevent that disaster from occurring.

The concept of selecting three souls (talent trees) from a large pool of available souls is a customizer's dream, and a theorycrafter's nightmare.  From what I've seen online, there are theorycrafters working on optimal builds for each class (naturally), but it may take a long time before things are hammered out.  FWIW, I found the array of choices almost too much, and I can see where a noob would be overwhelmed.

As for the introductory quests, I found them straightforward enough.  If you've done intro quests before, there's no real surprise here.  What did surprise me was that once you got out into the regular game world, you're thrown to the wolves.  Imagine an entire world where your low level areas are mixed with the high level ones --like Scarlet Monastery in Tirisfal Glades-- and you end up getting thwacked by high level NPCs before you knew what was happening.  Well, that's what the Rift world is like.  You don't mess around in this world, that's for certain.

What do I think of Rift?

Well, Rift is not a world for beginners.  Although Trion does take pains to lead people along throughout the intro quest line, the overall player customization and world design implies that their target audience is the experienced MMO player who is dissatisfied with their current game.  If you came into the game cold, you'd be lost.

Rift is also following the WoW model with raiding as endgame.  For those who were hoping for more of a sandbox environment, this has to be disheartening.  As for the non-raider, it gets a big /shrug out of me.

Rift also takes pains to level the playing field.  There is no customization for the UI beyond what the game is currently capable of.  All of those nifty third-party addons you have in WoW will have to hit the road.  And from what I can tell, that's causing no small bit of angst in the message boards.  Of course, I leveled Q to L80 with the original UI largely intact, so I don't think it that big a deal.

Will I switch to Rift?  Not right now, no.  I can only afford one pay-per-month MMO, and WoW is the one for me.  Given that I'm still leveling my main and my two primary alts to L85, I haven't exhausted my interest in the game yet.*  That said, I can see it's appeal.  There's potentially a great story to work with, and an entirely new world worth exploring.  I doubt Rift will be a WoW-killer --I suspect an MMO based on Bioware's Dragon Age would be that game-- but it will find a niche market.  I wish Trion luck, and if Rift succeeds, so much the better.

*That's one small side bonus in taking it nice and slow in the leveling, there's no "is that all there is?" feeling with 4.1 hitting the PTR servers.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Habitually Speaking

Back when I first started playing WoW, I developed a lot of bad habits while leveling. 

My first 45 levels or so, Quintalan was Holy Spec, but since I rarely went into instances at that time all I knew how to do was quest --and kill things-- using my weak Holy Spec capabilities.  To compound the problem, I looked at gear the way I would in my pencil and paper RPGs:  a little bit of Intellect and a little bit of Strength never hurt, and look --something with Agility!  It never occurred to me that maybe I ought to concentrate on one stat and let the other gear fall by the wayside.

After I switched to Ret --at Soul's suggestion-- I developed another set of bad habits.  For example, I'd use tanking abilities in my attacks, which really don't go over well when you get into an instance.  And when leveling, I didn't have a concept of a rotation.  Sure, you could argue that Ret Spec in Wrath didn't have a rotation --and I'd not disagree with you either-- but the basic understanding behind a rotation escaped me.

Oh yeah, I was a noob.  I had my share of "HEY STOOPID!" moments out there in WoW.

It wasn't until I started pugging and got serious about understanding how a Ret Pally works that I finally broke out of these habits.  I tinkered with key bindings and how much you could load onto one button until I realized I needed more granularity than that.  (Such as saving Avenging Wrath for Bosses; you don't need it for trash.  Therefore, don't try to bind it on any of my attacks but leave it on a separate button.) 

Even when 4.0.1 dropped I didn't have moments quite like those first few months of playing WoW, and for that I can thank Tomakan.  He was mired somewhere in the 40s when 4.0.1 was released, and so I had plenty of time to work out how the new Ret rotations ought to work without all the clutter of higher level Ret capabilities.

But now, after having spent time leveling in the Cata zones, I've kind of backslid a bit.  I slack off on my rotations because I can, unless I'm dealing with multiple enemies at once (or an elite).  I've got some nice new skills on both Neve and the Pallys, but I haven't really adjusted my key bindings.*  I know that the Cata instances are harder than Wrath, but I haven't tested the limits of how quickly I can go through my rotation without pulling aggro.

WoW is still a learning process.  Maybe if you work at it hours a day for most days of the week, yeah, you can top out at a high level.  But most of us don't have that amount of spare time.  To get competent at your class, you need to dedicate some time, but nowhere near the levels seen by the elite raiding guilds. 

Unlike my noob experiences, I know what I need to do to get back on track.  I need to get into more Cata instances.

Am I worried about getting into Cata pugs?  Not really.  I like to be prepared, and if I can't be prepared, at least be overpowered.  What's killing me is the time factor.  I don't have the time to set aside two hours to cover a pug right now.  I can run BGs more quickly than what I've discovered via the Cata pugs I've been in, so I end up queuing for them instead.  (When Alterac Valley is looking to be quicker than a Cata pug, you know you've got time issues.)

So for the time being, I'm going to continue to quest and accumulate a punch sheet of things I need to do.  I'll get around to it.  Someday.  Maybe. 

*I instead lust after a Naga Razr, thinking about adding buttons there rather than upset my current balance.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Checking in

Hello everyone!

It's been a while since I've posted.  I've been busying playing the game lately, instead of writing about it.  There's so much to do with a new expansion and I've reached a pretty comfortable spot.

I've gotten all of my Cata reps up to exalted, even as of last night, with my own guild.  I've managed to get a decent number of epics and I'm alllllmost happy with my character appearance - gotta replace the shoulders and get a new helmet and weapon.

I've also had the task of building up a somewhat reliable offspec and gear for those situations where we encounter a one tank fight. Which, to be honest, I'm not all that happy about. I really do love tanking and dps is so foreign to me that I end up watching my hotbar instead of raid warnings / bad don't stand here stuff. I'm getting better at it though.

And in the guild, we've managed to down the first 5 bosses in Blackwing Descent.  I'm so happy about all of that.  My GM has done a little research and found out that we're in the top 60 some odd number of guilds on our server, and that makes me pretty happy considering we spend 6 hours a week raiding.  And most of the other guils that have the same numbers of bosses down that we do, have one or two bosses in each raid, not all 5 in one raid.

Also, we've had an interesting twist internally.  In wrath, we were loaded to the gills with strength dps classes and only had a few agility based melee.  This time around, we haven't had a single strength dps class with us (except for me when I need to offspec), and we're full up on agility characters.  And worse yet, we're struggling to get enough ranged classes.  We've currently got no warlocks or mages that raid.  Argh...

Balancing that sort of raid is pretty challenging, and sometimes proves nearly impossible.  For instance, dealing with the worms on the Magmaw fight with any less than three ranged really, really stinks.

For as much as I'm not fond of dpsing, we've had to have one of our bear tanks go boom for the majority of the fights.  He says he doesn't mind too much, but still...  I'm not sure why the raid design this time around is a bit funky.

Monday, February 14, 2011

There's DPS, and then there's DPS

When I go through new content on one of my toons, I have a habit of evaluating the content with an eye toward the other toons.

Take for example the Ragnaros fight, which is the climax of the Hyjal quest chain.

Q completed that quest last week, which is an "assist XXX in defeating YYY" type of quest.  I know some bloggers kind of pooh-pooh those quests because they feel they have no impact on the result, but I enjoy them.  In this quest, you're not the focus, but that's okay.  After all, you're not Warchief, but someone else is*.

In the quest The Firelord, you're providing support in Cenarius' fight against Ragnaros, along with Malfurion and Hamuul, the two Arch Druids.  Basically, you're there to keep the adds off of Hamuul and Malfurion while they blast Mr. By-Fire-Be-Purged with massive debuffs.  Not a hard thing there to do if you're a Ret Spec Pally, but when I saw the healing requests go by, my first thought was "Holy crap!  There's no way in hell Neve could do that!"

From what I've read online, I think that the heal requests will only show if your class can actually heal.  Otherwise, your job is straight DPS.  After finding that out, I let out a huge sigh of relief.

On the flip side, when I was questing on Neve through Vashj'ir, I thought that the zone was ideally suited to ranged DPS.  She could stand back and hit from distance, and so long as she obeyed the cardinal rule of engaging in one enemy at a time, she could handle Vashj'ir quite well.  I was certain that melee DPS would not only get hit harder, but have a more difficult time of surviving through the first several sections of Vashj.  Melee DPS would be under-armored as well as under-powered, while ranged DPS could reduce the enemy's health significantly before the enemy could close.

As it turns out, the result was a wash.  Whether ranged or melee, each DPS had could handle what was thrown at them. 


One thing I've never been able to figure out is why some people take such perverse delight in griefing and corpse camping on PvE servers. It's not like they're not going to get caught, because all it takes is someone with the fortitude to hang around long enough, luring the griefer on, while one of two things happens:  the toon being griefed gets friends and/or guildies to show up, or an Admin responds to the ticket request.  Either way, the griefer loses.

So why bother?  What do you get out of thwacking toons in Goldshire or Tranquillien that you can't settle in a Battleground or an Arena?


Having completed three of the Cataclysm zones so far --Vashj'ir, Hyjal, and Deepholm-- I have a set of likes and dislikes.  Vashj is the zone with the biggest downer, leading straight into the Throne of the Tides instance.  (The other two instances, Blackrock Caverns and Stonecore, are more of a sidelight on the main quest chain.)  The Hyjal zone has the happiest ending, with Deepholm close behind.

As for the quest chains themselves...  For a quest whore like myself, I really did enjoy them.  And yes, I did go through Vashj'ir twice, so the undersea environment didn't bother me at all.

Having now seen both Ysera and Alexstrasza, I guess the formal uniform of a female Dragon Aspect includes a bikini.  I'm not exactly sure why, but then again, I'm not planning on asking either of them.  I guess it goes to prove the answer to the old question as to what a dragon wears:  anything they want.

The Earthen Ring and the Guardians of Hyjal (and the Cenarion Circle) are this expansion's version of the Argent Crusade:  a cross faction organization that brings all of Azeroth together to fight the enemy.  With all of that going on, it makes me wonder why there isn't more emphasis placed upon the attitude of the grunts who fight alongside their "enemies" on the other faction.  Perhaps I'll find more of that later on, but so far I haven't seen anything to demonstrate otherwise.

I've read some posts out there in the WoW blogosphere about how Therazane is a great character, and I can't disagree.  She is a strong female character who isn't clad in a skimpy outfit, she has her own agenda that has nothing to do with any other faction, and she's just as likely to kill you as welcome you to her throne room.  The strange thing is that I want to check out the quest line for Maraudon again, just to see if there have been any tweaks to accomodate Therazane's presence in Deepholm.


And before I forget, Happy Valentine's Day to all of you out in the blogosphere!

Convoy to 85 Update
Tomakan:  L84 in Uldum
Nevelanthana:  L83 in Deepholm
Quintalan:  L82 in Deepholm

*Although if you could toss Garrosh out of the Warchief's seat, I'd bet boatloads of Hordies would do so in an instant.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Puppies Want Dungeon!

There seems to be one bug coming out of the 4.0.6 patch:  race changed Worgen are unable to queue for any Cataclysm instances.  The Worgen started from scratch are having no problems, but the ones who wanted to swap out their toon for a Worgen are currently puttering around Stormwind, chasing Druids in cat form.

EtA:  Looks like hotfixes are being rolled out.  Your favorite puppy may soon be able to run around in an instance shortly!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hyjal vs. Vashj'ir - Brief Thoughts

Okay, Quintalan isn't exactly undergeared going into his first Cata zone, so I was prepared for an easier time.

I wasn't prepared for the Elites stuck in the middle of those burning areas when you're searching for the staff parts.

Q was wading in, taking 2 of those non-elites at a time, when Holy Wrath pulled another piece of "trash" over.

"Man," I thought, "that one's hitting hard."

The other two trash disposed of, Q turned his attention to that new elemental and... 

"Elite.  Oops."

During the corpse run, I reminded myself that I should still take a page from Neve and Tom's playbook and go easy on the trash pulling.


When I got to the portion of the quest chain where you had to escort Fandral Staghelm through the Emerald Dream, I was amused.  "Well, well, well.  Both he and Magatha are on the outs.  Good."


While I know I'm only partway through the zone, one thing that strikes me from the drops so far is the abundance of tanking gear.  Most of the Plate drops in Vashj'ir were DPS and/or Healing related, so I got used to gearing up quickly.  Hyjal, however, is more tank friendly.

Great news for tanks, but not so great news for melee DPS.  I'm not big on reforging Cata green gear --I'd rather save my money when I know the next zone will have gear to replace it-- but let's just say I'm glad that Q started with better gear than Tomakan did.


Convoy to L85 Update
Tomakan:  L83 in Deepholm
Nevelanthana:  L83 in Deepholm
Quintalan:  L81 in Hyjal