Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Just Like Old World Azshara

Back in April, I compared Burning Crusade with Cataclysm and hit upon what I felt was a weakness with Cata:  the lack of a continuing story for Goblins and Worgen.  I've spent the months since then exploring the Old World under the guise of leveling herbalism, and stopping for quest lines along the way.  The more I've explored the Old World, the more I've become convinced that those new races have been my biggest disappointment with the expansion.

The starting zones held so much promise, as did Silverpine and Azshara.  But outside of those zones, there's the occasional bone but nothing really meaty to dig into. 

From the starter zone, the next logical location for a newly minted Worgen was Darkshore.  And there was nothing there for the Worgen.  Oh, there was plenty going on --hey there, Malfurion-- but nothing much Worgen-centric.  Ashenvale, the center of so much old Worgen lore, only has a couple of Worgen present, who are completely interchangeable with any other race.  If you make it all the way down to Feralas, for a few brief moments it looks like the Worgen are going to have a lot to do with zone.  But the three Worgen there, just like in Ashenvale, could be substituted for Night Elves or another race entirely.  The fight with Cho'gall?  That was all Night Elf.

Ironically enough, if you want Worgen lore in Alliance heavy zones, you have to go to Duskwood and Raven Hill.  Or you could visit the contested Blasted Lands, where there's a Worgen encampment in the butt-end of the Azerothian universe.

The Goblins fare little better, but that's also due to having to share Azeroth with the Steamwheedle Cartel.  There's only so many places you can stick more goblins, although Blizz's love of Trolls seems to dispute that phenomenon.  Blizz seems to have solved some of the Bilgewater Cartel Goblin issues by getting rid of some of the Venture Company spots and replacing them with Bilgewater Cartel instead (like, say, Stonetalon).  But the Horde Goblins end up with only a few bones, and they get the "they're the Horde's Gnomes" treatment instead.

Both races have such great and complete beginnings that it's a real shame to see them so utterly forgotten once you leave the starting zones.  It's like seeing the Draenei and Blood Elves' treatment in the Old World (pre-Cata) only to reach Outland and....  there's nothing for them there.  Can you imagine Burning Crusade without those two races at the forefront of Outland, or the Death Knights (and Knights of the Ebon Blade) missing from Wrath?  Well, I can sure imagine Cata without either Worgen or Goblins, and it wouldn't be very different from what we have now at all.

Cata was ambitious, no doubt about it.  Reworking the Old World, adding two new races, incorporating new zones/storylines, and hefty rewrites of a lot of the class mechanics were a tall order.  And I'm not even counting the things that were left on the cutting room floor, such as releveling (aka grouping with lower level toons), the Path of the Titans, and Arathi Highlands.  But the Goblins and Worgen are a lot like the post-Cata Arathi Highlands; they're incomplete. 

New races are one of those core features of an expansion that once announced, you can't back out of.  While Path of the Titans and some other areas (flying in the BC starting areas) were on the optional side of things, once you say "we're going to have two new playable races!" you can't really backtrack without a sizable portion of the player base revolting.  A playable race becomes --by its very nature-- a core feature of an expansion. 

The least Blizz could have done is add more Worgen/Goblin content in the expansions to continue the story.  They certainly seem to have no trouble doing that with Trolls, so why not with the pride and joy of Cataclysm?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Note to Self...

...when a BG pops and you've just finished fending off the Dark Iron Dwarves at the Brewfest Grounds, you might want to take a pass on that BG.  Unless you like trying to run WSG completely smashed, that is.

"There'sh four in their basesh wif the efcsh ...hic!"

(It was entertaining right up until I died that first time, which gets rid of the "drunk" debuff.)


Some people are never satisfied.

This morning, I finished up a Strand of the Ancients run wherein we didn't lose a single demo, but people were still yelling "fail!" in BG chat right up until we finished.

As was traditional, I checked the stats at the end, and those people were the ones at the bottom who weren't healers.


Rades over at Orcish Army Knife had a brilliant idea for the Naked Dungeon Challenge, which got me to thinking.  Now that you can run wargames, why not have a naked BG run between two teams?

It sounded like a great idea, until I realized what it might end up like:  The Lingerie Football League

(Yes, it appears to exist.  No, it's not like the Women's Football Alliance, which is regular full contact American Football.  My sister-in-law played for a year on the Kentucky Karma as a WR, and she'll tell you that the women who play in that league don't mess around.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Humor Alert: The Oatmeal

An LJ friend (and MMO player) pointed me to this entry by the online comic The Oatmeal.  Given my playing habits, I can appreciate the humor:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Miscellaneous PvP Musings

The long slog through leveling an Affliction Warlock via battlegrounds has hit a turning point.

I finally reached L44 and gained access to Howl of Terror.

While it's not an immediate panacea, it does give me two instant cast fear spells in my arsenal, which you almost certainly need given that Kitty Druids and Rogues can down you in two strikes.  But being able to actually protect a flag carrier by scattering enemies for a brief moment in time is a wonderful feeling.

It's almost as much fun as that first time I reached out from beyond the grave and took out that Hunter who failed to shed my DoTs after he killed me.

Believe me, after having seen tons of losing fights in WSG, I'm happy for just about anything right now.


You can put the Paladin on the shelf, but you can't take the Paladin out of the player.

By now, you'd think that I'd have weaned myself off of my tendency to wade into the thick of a melee and blast everyone from point blank range.  On a plate wearer, that works great.  A clothie, not so much. 

But in extreme moments of "get the EFC! get the EFC!" or "zerg inc BS omg" my rationality goes out the window.

I've found the life of a Frost Mage can get very... entertaining... when you're running around like a nut using Cone of Cold and Frost Nova (and Deep Freeze) to cc everything in sight.  And at max level with a decent amount of PvP gear, you can drive the opposing faction batty.  I've had a Prot Warrior, a Priest, and a Rogue beating on Neve, yet I was still able to take out that Disco Priest before I bit it.  In a small BG such as Warsong Gulch, keeping 1/3 of the opposing faction occupied while your flag carrier zips on by is a great thing.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can hang in there a bit longer on my Lock, so I'm not just a glorified pin cushion.


I don't know what it was about today, but the 'bots were all over the place in the early morning BGs.

For example, I was on Neve in Eye of the Storm, holding down the Fel Reaver area.  I'd watch as the Spirit Healer timer popped, and two Tauren on kodos would ride up, keyboard turn around where the buff was, and head straight for the middle area.  A few minutes later, they'd be back.

Just when I was about to say something, a Night Elf Resto Druid rode up and attacked FR.  She laid down a healing circle and, well, not much else.  I quickly DPSed her down before any more Alliance showed up, and three minutes later she was back again.  After a while, I just shrugged.  At least nobody was yelling and screaming in BG chat, and the fight ended up being a very close one with the Alliance pulling it out in the end.
 I guess you could say that their 'bots beat our 'bots.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where's a Tourniquet When you Need One?

Rohan over at Blessing of Kings has been pondering the differences in WoW's endgame between extended players (dedicated raiders) and transient players (occasional raiders and non-raiders).  While I acknowledge the differences between the groups, Rohan's suggestion to use the LFR tool --and make those fights easier-- doesn't sit well with me.  I couldn't put my finger on why until I saw the WoW login screen mentioning the Diablo 3 beta and I read Spink's post on the Diablo 3 Character Builds.

Blizz is losing some of its subscriber base, and I suspect it is the transients that are leaving in greater numbers.  Why?  Because of the changes Blizz has come out with lately:  the Call to Arms feature and the upcoming Looking for Raid tool.

Who benefits the most from Call to Arms?  The people who run instances.  Who are the majority of people running instances not named Zul these days?  Not the extended players; they've moved on.

Likewise, the LFR tool is targeted at a very specific group:  the transient who wants to be an extended player but can't due to other issues (can't raid when their guild has raid times, etc.)  It allows these transients to become extended by bypassing the old raid pugging mechanism with a minimal amount of fuss.

But what about those transients who want an endgame of their own, separate from extended-style raids?

That's where Diablo 3 comes in.

Diablo 3 is geared toward transient players, while WoW is designed for extended players.  Trying to create a separate endgame for transient players in WoW is like the proverbial square peg in a round hole, it just won't happen because the design philosophy is different.  In WoW, the entire point of endgame is the raid, and anything else is just not happening.  If you want to have a transient endgame, Blizzard has a nice software product just for you:  Diablo 3.

Sure, extended players will play Diablo 3 too, but the main target for the game are those transient players who want an endgame, something that WoW won't satisfy.

If Blizz can keep departing transient players within the Blizzard product line by selling them on Diablo 3, then Blizz'll be fine with that.  It all comes down to money, and as long as the money stays within the family, then things are good.  Blizz won't have to worry about declining subscriptions with WoW if Diablo 3 is a smashing success and people pay gobs of real money for items to use in the game.

Besides, there's always Titan.

EtA: Corrected a grammar issue in paragraph seven.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's All in the Mindset

The LOTRO experiment seems to have fizzled out.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but I am a bit disappointed.  The kids seemed to like interacting with Middle-earth well enough, but once they started the F2P version of LOTRO I started hearing the same complaints:
  • "I can't find the quest giver!"
  • "The buttons are too hard!"
  • "I can't see where I'm going!" [aka "I can't adjust the camera!"]
  • "My friends aren't on here.  I keep hearing about [fill in the blank] instead!"
Fixing those first three come with experience.  After all, I should know about the learning curve for an MMO.  Now that last one...

The Mash-up of Genres called Wizard 101

This was the first game I began hearing about from my kids, about how their friends are on it, it's free to play, and that it's a lot of fun.

What I heard was "blah blah blah KIDS ONLY blah blah blah," which set off alarm bells in my head.

Any place that advertises itself as a "safe place for kids" you have to be extra diligent with, because that's the sort of place that predators gravitate toward.  Are there predators on WoW?  Sure, but they have a harder time identifying their prey there.*  A place that is "kid friendly" is almost too good to be true from a predator's point of view, so as a parent you have to be extra vigilant to make sure that things remain (relatively) safe.

Wizard 101 addresses these issues by restricting what players can say via chat.  If your account identifies you as being below a certain age cutoff, for instance, you are limited to only some standard phrases.  You can still friend people and connect with them, but communication is minimal.  Above a certain age, you can chat normally, but certain phrases are replaced with a "..." if you are the incorrect age to read it.  Some words, as you can imagine, are completely off limits and won't appear at all in a chat session (they're marked red when you type).

This is all well and good, I suppose, until your kid creates an account and deliberately changes the age to be older than he or she really is.  That's when things can get a bit hairy, and adult supervision is needed to ensure that your kid isn't trying to subvert the system.  What was it that Winston Churchill once said about it being impossible to make something foolproof because fools were so ingenious?

These concerns aside, if you thought that toons looked pretty generic in WoW, you ain't seen nothing yet.

In Wizard 101, you enter a rather suspiciously Harry Potter-esque world as a young wizard --and yes, variation between toons is kept to a minimum as far as boy/girl tweaks.  So if you've seen one wizard, you've almost literally seen them all.  Your gear will change over the course of your time spent in Wizard 101, so if you want to look at least a little bit different, the gear is the way to go.

The game world has a feel of Harry Potter Meets Anime, with a dash of Technicolor brightness thrown in for good measure, so make of that what you will.

The gameplay is a bit of a weird combo between a regular MMO and Magic the Gathering.  You can pick up quests, run around the game area using the mouse, and do all sorts of generic things you're used to in an MMO.  The one major difference, however, is the combat system.  You initiate combat by running into an enemy (or dueling with a fellow player) and then you enter a magic circle.  Multiple allies and enemies can join the circle, so be careful how close you are to enemies before engaging.  When you fight, however, you fight using a deck of magic cards (hmm, sound familiar?) in which you play a different card each round to attack an opponent, buff yourself, heal yourself/others, or debuff an opponent.  The card's power is dictated by the land cards markers on the side of your dueling circle location.  You fight until one of you is defeated or retreats.

The game is F2P, but does have a subscription option which allows you access to a lot more of the game world.

Taking a page from WoW, the quest titles have a lot of quips in them.  Additionally, certain characters from some old fantasy novels (such as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of OZ) are present in the game.

When I tried this MMO out, I kept wondering how on earth this company hasn't found itself sued by multiple groups yet, but time will tell.  The kids seem to find the game interesting enough, and they have schoolmates who play, so we'll see how long this lasts.

How to Ignore your Mouse in a few Easy Steps -- LEGO Universe

LEGO Universe recently jumped on the F2P model, opening up a limited section of its game to people with lego.com accounts.

Considering that the kids have quite a few of the LEGO PC games, it didn't shock me in the least that they wanted to try this game out.  What did surprise me was that you used an actual keyboard to maneuver around LEGO Universe instead of a gamepad.

Or a mouse, for that matter.

Whomever came up with the idea of using keyboard-only commands for LEGO Universe needs to get a swift kick in the butt.  Even my kids had major issues with that before they acclimatized themselves to using the keyboard commands.

You also don't have a lot of control over the camera, either.  You can tweak a few things, but like most of the regular LEGO games you're at the mercy of the camera's zoom capability.  The LEGO games give me a headache for that reason, and LEGO Universe was no exception.**

While I popped a couple of ibuprofen, I studied the game and the chat system.  Or lack thereof, in the case of the latter.

If you're taking advantage of F2P, you can't use chat.  Period.  Just get used to the idea that you can do a few basic emotes and that's it.  Supposedly LEGO Universe has active mods to act as police officers, but since you can't really do much in the F2P version of LEGO Universe, I'd not worry about that.

You also are very restricted in your name creation, although the LEGO minifig configuration is much better than what you get out of Wizard 101.

Okay, the LEGO minifigs are cute.  And the gameplay is a bit like what you find when you cross an MMO with one of the LEGO video games.  But can't these people just throw gamepad support on this game?  Or at least mouse support?

But what do I know; the kids find it fun enough.  And that the camera is on automatic seems to be fine with them too.

*Unless you get on Vent, of course.

**No, seriously.  I can't play FPS's either for that reason.  Dramamine helps, but it's not a panacea.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Thursday Fun

After enough deep posts, I figured something lighter was in order.

I don't often crack open the search entries that send people to our blog, but when I did for the past month, it was an eye opening experience.

"Lady Liadrin" -- Seems that most of these searches are looking for pics of the Blood Elf Matriarch.  Curious, I tried searching for "Lady Liadrin" via Google, and yeah, my screenshot found in "About Redbeard" is there.  To be honest, it's one of the few G or PG rated images out there of her.  Some of the fan art made me feel like I had to shower after seeing just the search results.

"orc warrior tank tier 12" and "forsaken rogue" -- I'm sorry, but Soul turned traitor faction changed to the Alliance, and he doesn't have any Orcs or Forsaken in his stable of toons.

"can i play the wee" -- Um, I suppose so.  I think you ought to ask your folks first.

"fear of saying something in the wrong context" -- Oh, right, you're asking me about that?  And people wonder why I'm not on Twitter.

"adult world of warcraft graphics" -- Maybe you ought to try "Lady Liadrin" or "Thrall and Jaina".  Or maybe you don't want to know, because I sure didn't.  And no, it's definitely not work safe.

"f2p adult mmorpg" -- Haven't these people heard of Goldshire?  Sheesh.

"how to apply retardin desensitizing cream" -- Oh no, not this again.  Make one post --just one post!-- about retardins and you pay for it forever.


Heard around Azeroth:

In Warsong Gulch:
(After the flag carrier --a Resto Shaman-- and Neve got jumped and wiped by two Kitty Druids)
Shaman: Of course I died, all I had was an undergeared Mage protecting me.

(15 mins later after the two of us DPSed down the Alliance's FC and got our flag back)
Shaman:  Two 20k Ice Lances and 40k Frostbolt FTW!

Amazing how good you look when you're not stunned, your trinkets aren't on CD, and you get crits on your attacks.

In Isle of Conquest:
DK:  We'd all better look good, cause I'm streaming this right now.
DK dies.
Shadow Priest: Was that good enough for ya?

In Warsong Gulch:
Warrior:  These have to be the worst rogues ever.
Paladin:  Yeah, I've zapped them about 4 times already.
Mage (while rezzing):  Nice to know, cause the Lock and I have been getting one shotted by them the entire BG.
Warlock (me, while rezzing):  I feel like they should be turning me on a spit.

In Isle of Conquest:
Human Paladin:  I wanna be a Goblin, cause they get to ride tricycles!
Me (as Tomakan):  and Gnomes are any better?
Kitty Druid:  I like my Gnomes fried.  Goblins are better roasted.


Oldie But Goodie:

Back when we were on Stormscale (US-PVP), Soul and I were cruising near Hellfire Citadel when we got jumped by an L80 Rogue and his buddy, who ganked us.  As we ran back, Soul cautioned me that we're probably being corpse camped so I should be ready to move.  We rezzed and I mounted just as the Rogue emerged from hiding and got me from behind.  Amazingly enough, his attack neither killed me outright nor dismounted me, so I leapt up to the skies aboard my wind rider.

"I thought you were dead," Soul told me.

"So did I," I replied, and cackled.

The Rogue, however, wasn't going to give up so easily.  He mounted, flew up to us, and tried to gank me as he dismounted.

He missed and plummeted to the ground.

I still smirk at that moment to this day.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Great Equalizer

In the two years since we've been running this blog, ol' Redbeard has started to turn into Greybeard.  Although I'm sure that my family has had something to do with it, streaks of gray can now be seen on the sides of my facial hair, extending up into my sideburns.  Every morning, I peer into the mirror and see evidence of my mortality staring back at me.*  All the crueler, I suppose, in that my toons never seem to age or show any evidence of previous wounds.

A toon's appearance is the great equalizer in WoW.  Until you get on Vent or Mumble, you never know who is actually running the toon.  The players in your pug could be grandparents or tweens, male or female, gay or straight, and unless they make it obvious, you'll be none the wiser.

In a very real sense, this is how it should be.  We can gripe about racial design or (lack) of armor, but in the end, the toon is an idealized artistic version of an arbitrary race in a virtual game.  The toon isn't us; it is merely the vehicle in which we play.

And yet there's so much wrapped up in them.

If you don't think so, I point to the rejoicing at the vanity armor announcement for Patch 4.3.  Or how some people refuse to play certain races and/or classes, based on how they look. 

We invest so much time in these toons, it's only natural that we look at them as an extension of ourselves.  I suppose I'll always look at Q or Neve as Sindorei, Q with his Blood Knight tabard and polearm (evoking the Blood Tempered Ranseur) and Neve with her Kirin Tor tabard** and refusing to wear a helm.  Tom seems to have that Ramkahen tabard permanently stapled onto his chest, and will favor a 2H sword over anything else. 

Even when we aren't really roleplaying, we notice when things just aren't right with our toons.  Whether some gear makes sense or looks halfway decent does matter.  It's kind of hard to take a Dwarf or Gnome tank seriously with the Ulduar horned helm that looks like a giant codpiece.  Or the people who wield a specific weapon because that was what they leveled back in the pre-4.0.1 era when you had to level individual weapon skills.  Or whether your toon prefers to hang around Dal or Shat in the Cataclysm era.

I'll freely admit that one of my toons --Neve-- came out of a long running D&D campaign I was in.  She died in one of those freakish rolls of three '20' results on a d20 in a row, not more than 7-8 sessions after I'd spent all the time and effort to get her into the campaign.***  I'd been thinking about trying out a mage in WoW, so I went with Neve's name, hoping that she'd last a wee bit longer than her D&D counterpart.  In a sense the name was perfect, because I'd played her as a snarky, academically oriented Elf who thought she knew more than she really did, and that overall attitude is what the Blood Elves exude in spades.  At the same time, I don't play on an RP server, so I never really play Neve 'in character'; she's just, well, 'me as Mage'.  But I never forgot where she came from, and that kind of influences my attitude toward her.

Maybe we are all roleplaying, albeit unconsciously. 

*Unlike, say, my knees, which haven't been really right since college.  Yeah, I know, I could lose some weight, but three years of running hurdles in high school haven't exactly been kind to my knees either.

**She's not too proud to use her Illustrious Guild tabard to get rep with her guild, however.

***Our game group had no Wizards or Sorcerers --no magic wielders at all, really-- so I campaigned to take on a second character just so we could have some magic to round out the party.  I don't think I'd have minded her dying so much as the manner in which she bit it: killed by a fellow party member who'd been mind controlled by a Harpy.