Thursday, December 17, 2009

Feature or fault?

Yesterday was the time for few hours of low level static grouping: only our rogue couldn't join us this time. The four of us took the WSG first because it was the daily BG. As we are using the ingame voice chat due to a)convenience and b) being lazy, I was a bit surprised that the group chat settings worked inside the battle party and it seems that they override the BG party settings. Which means that our petty troupe chatted the battles away, either disturbing others or not: no one commented on our chatting in any form or function.

The other thing was our run in Ragefire Chasm (we had to take set dungeon, as the LFD complained about one of us "not meeting the dungeon requirements" in random): the voice chat doesn't work there at all it seems. At least it doesn't work when we have a substitute to fill the group up. Which in fact complies with the information Blizzard is giving about the LFD: the communication and trade between different realms is restricted.

However, the thing which was disturbing was something I dismissed the last time. As we came out of the dungeon, we couldn't get out of the LFD until we left the group completely. So we had to assemble our party anew after the dungeon. This doesn't make any sense: we join the system in a party, and after doing the dungeon we have to disassemble and form the party again to go to another dungeon.

This is the feature I hope Blizz could tweak out. It should be possible to run several dungeons with the same party, I my honest opinion, so that you could group with even the same random dungeon group for several dungeons in a row. Someone else has written about the same, too, but I forget who it was.

So the question is, is this must to break even pre-formed group before going for a new random dungeon a feature or a fault in the system?

A letter to home

Dear Mom and Paps

It's incredible how time flies in this business of being a hero: it feels like I just left home at Dun Morogh, but it has taken me several weeks already. Sorry that I haven't taken time to write, but being a hero is very, very busy thing!

First of all, I have to take care of my henchmen, who want to travel with me. I just cannot neglect their needs and requirements, so we're pretty constantly having breaks either to skin the animals our hunter kills (partly for food, too), collect herbs for our herbalist and such. What I wonder the most is the uncanny need of the warro warol the funny guy with this demon type: he has to keep drinking, else he becomes sober. Or that's what I've come to expect, as he's not very sensible when he hasn't been drinking in a while. Also my healer does the same, but she's just so prissy that she does it more discreetly.

We ventured quite fast to Kharanos, the nearest dwarven settlement on our way to Ironforge. I have met - and killed like a good hero - several troggs and even some trolls, and even visited the entrance to our beloved home, Gnomeregan! That area is infested with the sickly creatures you described as Leper Gnomes, but I have this feeling in my tummy that they are not the worst we'll see when I enter the town of our forefathers. Already I have gathered some information that there may be something very wrong in Gnomeregan as whole.

I have met some wonderful people already, some from the pages of the adventure collections I read from the Dun Morogh library. Can you believe, I have discussed with King Varian Wrynn and Ms. Jaina Proudmoore! King Wrynn was quite a grumpy fellow for a human even, but he stated that he had not heard about Uncle Bickers who left with Prince Menthil's army to high norths. And Ms. Proudmoore: She promised to have a discussion with me later on, and boy am I waiting for that.

But the life of a hero isn't all walk on roses. Just yesterday me and my party went and helped the Alliance forces in the Warsong Gulch, where the Horde tries to hinder the local forestry operations. We fought hard and evenly for the demo dima owning the area, only to be called back right after the last battle had been fought. It seems that I'm more capable of taking hits from the enemy without hurting myself than the rest of my group, but I'm also the one who sees the enemy go down right into the face!

The other day we also found out that there is a way to get teleported to another part of the world and fight the demons and beasts described in the fairy tales and old crones' stories! We went and found ourselves in a cavern which was obviously beneath a strange city: I can only guess that the librarian (the funny gnome with his blue demon) was right when he stated that we were underneath the Horde capital, Orgirir O r g r i m m a r. (I had to ask him to tell me how to spell it, it's hard enough to porn pron say it right). 

But the place was partly the dream of a dwarf due to the lava and warmth, but it was full of troggs, some lava-stone men and evil orcs. And one huge and scary Demon, which I killed after a looong fight. It's strange how such a huge thing can have such small stuff that I, your little boy, can easily wear. You see, I found a nice pair of wrist bracers from it, which make me feel myself very, very agile.

But there are good days in being a hero. We saved earlier the town of Thelsamar from Horde invasion with my henchmen and an odd help from a strange warrior coming from afar. Well, there was only one Horde, but he was killing our troops like flies, and we also died several times. But being a hero benefits from your motto, paps: never give up even if it takes your life. So the spirit healer was very much occupied during that fight, until this strange cold warrior came with it's undead friend and banished the Horde longear. I wonder if she came from where Bickers went? She said though, that she hadn't seen Bickers anywhere, so I'll have to keep looking for him.

Anyhow, I'm now resting in Ironforge, which is just as big -or even a bit bigger- than I remember from our Winter Veil trips of old. As Winter Veil is here, I wish you have a warm and secure one there by the hearth.

Take care and I'll write you again, hopefully sooner than later.

Your third son


PS. Thank you for the woolly socks, they fit nicely into my boots. However, I'm not sure how long we'll be in Ironforge after this, as it seems we have to go to the Human areas soon. So don't bother to send me anything: instead, I'll send you a part of the treasures I find while being a Hero. It is so fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To aspiring tanks

Two links to help all you tanks not sure about yourself as leaders or your skills in tanking heroics. Worth reading and acting upon:

Tank Hard post On Being A Tank.

Spinks in Welcome to Spinksville on Overcoming the Fear of Tanking.

In short: Get a grip of yourself, grab your sword and shield and just tank it.

There isn't really a shortcut to great tanking. Or leading a group.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leading or not

It seems that 3.3 patch has incited the blogosphere to a new rage again, with most of the posts being very enthusiastic about two things in the patch: LFD and Icecrown.

Naturally, as those were the main things the patch introduced.

I'm going to delve on the LFD tool a bit more. Tarsus of Tanking for Dummies wrote about the tanking in LFD and listed things why majority of the people do not want to tank in LFD tool. He based this on the fact that tanks get grouped in seconds, while even healers have to wait for a while, at least. The list was as follows:

  1. Playing a tank is more expensive in terms of gold than other roles.
  2. The learning curve on tanking is steeper.
  3. There are less “slots” open for tanks doing the end-game.
  4. Encounter Design makes you feel “fragile”.
  5. No one wants to failknight tank or look at the big bear butt. 
And I have to agree on almost all of them. On the last one I'm not as sure, but then again, being a tank mainly I don't have the luxury to evaluate other tanking classes except our own guildies and by far the big butted gear IS the tank I will refer to in my performance. Granted, our experience both in game and in tanking differs quite a lot... 

But then again RJK from The Savage Coast wrote a nice recap on his experience as a tank in LFG and as it happens, his 3rd point strikes a chord in me: I am a careful tank, too. Or at least I try to make sure things work and everyone is prepared. Of course, there are deviations from the rule, like the wipe I caused in PoS by charging without checking the healer's mana... but most of the time I am way too careful, to the point of frustration especially in LFD PUGs. However, I'd rather be safe than sorry and I have to refer to one phrase that has stuck into my mind from a blog post sometime ago. I don't remember what blog it was, but it had this rule on fast:
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. Slow is fast.
So if I prepare and move one step at a time, I will end my job faster than hurrying and fumbling from the beginning. And boy is this hard to understand in some PUG's.

Due to my (in)experience as a tank -overall- I don't trust my judgement in heroics I've run once or twice with vastly over geared guildies. This tends to lead into problems in PUGs in which the leadership is bestowed on my shoulders: I don't want to lead if I'm not confident on what I'm doing. This leads to the post Larísa from The Pink Pigtail Inn wrote about taking leadership in a PUG. Especially this I find both familiar and very comforting (to know I'm not the only one thinking like this):
I rarely try to take the leadership when I’m doing group activities in WoW. It isn’t because I’m afraid of leading other people; I think it’s rather because of my lack of deep knowledge in other classes and game mechanics. I’ve always thought I would make a poor instructor to tanks and healers what to do, whom to heal or which mob to charge, taunt, whatever, so I’ve happily left those decisions to others, more experienced players.
Instead of asking the question Larísa is asking about how to take leadership, I would like to ask how to politely decline from leading? I've stated directly in the PUG's that I'm in this dungeon for the first, second or even third time just to make the rest of the team to understand that I really don't know the instance so well. But how about the new ones? Is it reasonable to have a group in which healer and/or dps have ran through the dungeon and the tank hasn't, and the leadership is put on the inexperienced tank?

And why does it always have to be the tank leading? Wasn't the marking capability given to all in the party?

But for me the best part of the LFD system has been the fact that I get to work with different kinds of groups: some work, some not. The wiping is a monster to me, which I try to avoid the best I can, so I'm learning new things from my class and my play style. I learn from one challenging run more than several too easy ones.

The badges are an additional bonus as long as I can do my job. Not as a leader, but as a warrior.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hits and blunders (YAWP)

LFD is a wonderfull tool, which connects total strangers across the battleground to fight either select or -more often- completely random Wrath of the Lich King dungeon. It works like a clockwork, is simple, fast and very entertaining, most of the time.

And with that prelude I'm off to my weekend.

All well and fine in the world of Azeroth. I met both exceptionally working groups as well as one or two obnoxiously intolerable dps divas, mainly from the DK persuasion: I wonder if DK's have somehow replaced the most obnoxious group of all times -that being the Huntards- as the most self-centered players in the game? Then again, lets not let the few rotten apples to spoil the whole basket: there were also excellent DK's with whom I ran the Random Dungeons. Too bad they were guildies, but what can you expect? :P

The total anonymity of the LFD tool is yet to surface, for people are very polite and nice to each other. Only in few of the random groups I found people eager to chat, the most vocal was this one mage who's main phrase was "gogogogogo" after any and all encounters. But then again, that run through Drak'Tharon was very smooth and fast.

There are few annoying things about the LFD tool, too. The first, which started to pick me the first time I ran it, is the fact that a) you can be 'denied' from a group before it launches and b) of someone declines the group invite for a reason or another the whole group is returned to the queue. The first one I cannot explain because I haven't tried to be a leader yet, but the second is annoying example on how dumb the piece of program is. It makes a selection from the set population, but cannot make a reserve list from which to amend if any of the individuals rejects the invitation. Probably this can -and hopefully will- be tweaked in latter versions.

One nice thing, though, for the DPS classes over there. As I grouped with a guildie, a DK, we got a random group running within seconds. So in a way he was riding along with me being a tank and in constant need from the system. All in all, it pays to stick with a tank in this sense, too. As we found out, we saved each other's butts more than once, and the groups we ran from wipe more than once. Imagine that tank and DPS save the day after a triggerhappy paladin -the healer- decides to tank a miniboss and few adds... It was fun and furious and all the cooldowns were used, but we prevailed. And were the only ones alive when the dust settled.

The only thing that didn't go as well as I thought was the finale of the weekend, in which I decided to go with guildies into the IC hc 5mans chain. Forge of Souls was a blast and went so fast I didn't even know what happened. Really, I had to ask before we entered the portal to Pit of Saron what just happened. I was just keeping the mobs and bosses on me and trying to keep them hitting me, mostly without a problem. Old rules of not standing in anything and avoiding the blasts applied, FoS was surprisingly easy. For the group, that is.

Pit of Saron was something else, though. At least for me, as I have this problem with moving and tanking at the same time. Add to that multiple mobs and I'm having really hard time.

Forgemaster Garfrost was already somewhat hard on us, as the healer got eaten alive by the cold stacking on him on the first try. This was the first wipe in the whole run, but not the last... sadly.

Ick was the second, and I'm not sure as of yet, why. Maybe it was me, not moving the boss enough to help the dps to be in a spot without the toxic sludge, or something, because on the second run it went smoothly. The ramp up to the passageway proved to be problematic. My computer had frozen earlier due to some UI issue, but now I got DC'd. Luckily before a pull, but never the less. Something's wrong with my 'puter, as this wasn't the first nor the last case of freezes and odd behaviour. But up we went to the Scourgelord Tyrannus.

Which was the wipefest. First pull: I didn't know what hit me, but it hit well over 17k overkill. Second pull: it hit even faster and harder. Third pull: my screen froze just as Tyrannus jumped off of his mount. I came back to witness a wipe.

So. It left a very sour taste in my mouth.

Things to be happy about. New shiny shoulders for Laiskajaakko: it cost 45 Triumphs, but was worth it. Pupunen left Outlands and is now capable of Cold Weather Flight in Northrend: she'll next start running the random dungeons, too.

To do: find a good DPS gear set for Laiskajaakko's Arms build. He's lacking a decent dps set for runs in which the tank is better, which are usually guild runs. But it would be nice to see the instances from the dps point of view and to see how other tanks do the job, especially in the instances I have trouble with mobs.

All in all, a good solid weekend of fun.

How about yours?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Teaser within the game

Last post was about the wonderfull new LFG tool, which works across Battlegroup servers. No more waiting and queuing for group to complete the one you are missing or having a group quest for: just plug in and you're done!

But what has gone unnoticed, in a way, is the Weekly Raid: Daily 5man instances were replaced with the Weekly Raid. Which is even more goodies for someone like me, who has been complaining how Blizzard has forgotten and voided the older content in favour of the new one.Why?

The Weekly Raid is one boss from Naxx, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader or Malygos or Sartharion. Only doable once a week, resetting on Tuesdays.

It's a teaser of the full raid instance! It's a way for us who have never seen the places to visit it and see if we want to trek any further, and if we can make it in there. Another excellent move from Blizzard to make the game even more casual friendly and cater the people with restricted playing time.

As the group for weekly heroics will be aimed to do that one boss only, the LFG tool will come to help. Or the Looking For Raid (LFR) part of it: if you notice in the teaser Weekly that you can do it, you have already at least that one boss achievement under you to prove that you have at least seen the instance.

And another killer of old WoW. No more tedious planning and scheduling, just pop in to LFR, make your preparations and off you go. Got 2-3 hours to spare? Go for it!

Loving it even though I haven't done it yet. For our guild the current plan is to run the Weekly on Sundays, and it will replace our former weekly Ony run. Guess am I signing up on that one?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

WoW is dead, long live the new WoW

Bold statement, I know, but as far as I see it the WoW we have grown to know for the last 5 years died with the 3.3 patch and the changes it brought.

Take a moment to reflect on that.

As everyone and their mother-in-law are charging through Icecrown Citadel's first wing in all possible group sizes and both difficulties, my interest is in the 'minor' tweaking which seems to have gone almost unnoticed in the blogging: the new, improved LFG tool.

I have told earlier that I have a low level warrior on pvp server. He's actually a tank to be in a static group I started with some old pen and paper RP friends, and we're -coincidentally- playing on Wednesdays. Yea, the patch day.

So the Icecrown madness and the high end gaming was off of my list when I learned the basics of the LFG system:

  • you can enter as a group
  • random instance system works on all levels
  • the system is battleground wide instead of the earlier server wide system
  • you get teleported to the instance from within the system.
So we, at our tender teens, decided to roll in. Four characters, so not a full group. As I know that Ragefire Chasm is the lowest in level requirements, we decided to try that one out. One of the major interests in there was the fact that two of our group -being hardcore Alliance players for the last 5 years or so- had never visited the place, this provided the excellent opportunity to do so.

The tool is fast and easy to use, quite unlike the earlier one. The group was filled with the much needed dps (human warrior from another server) and the group balance was excellent. Despite the fact that warrior at low levels is a pushover and not much of a tank, yet.

Why I claim that the WoW we have learned to know is dead? And that WoW is going to live long and prosper due to these changes?

First of all, the tool opens up all the instances and dungeons at their appropriate levels to both factions.We teleported directly to the Ragefire and directly back to where we left from. And you could do that while in instance, so you can go and empty bags, repair and all while in the instance group!

This feature alone brings all the instances to the easier reach of the players, and the battlegroup as the player base makes sure you will find your group in no time, around the clock. This makes the grouping  easier and more available to the casuals and un-guilded people!

As I mentioned in the Attention Span post, people are looking for faster content and in smaller chunks at a time. Preferably meaningfull and fun experience. Now the easy to reach instances provide this possibility to everyone in the game, not only those in guilds and raiding. Blizzard brought the content to the players and took away the toil to get to the content.

World of Warcraft is now much more casual friendly than ever.

I'm prone to the doom and gloom thinking, and I see some problems with this system. One is the fact that this alienates us players from the server/faction community even further: you group up with people you may never meet again and if they behave badly there is nothing to do about it. If you leave from the group, you get the 15 minute debuff keeping you out of the LFG system for that time. Voting someone out requires the rest of the group to agree. Ninjas are not dead, they will come in with the system.

The other thing is in the RP servers: this may be a boon or doom. You see, in roleplaying and fantasy literature the actual travel may be even more important than the destination. Think about The Lord of the Rings: Dropping the ring into the chasm was pretty simple thing, but Tolkien spent three huge volumes describing what happened on the way there. As the system takes away the need to travel anymore (how do you explain the instant teleportation in RP server? Beats me!), the travel to there loses it's meaning. People tend to take the route of least resistance, as we have noticed. If you have direct tap to closer to the leet loot, you are bound to take it. If you have faster way of gaining better gear you take it.

Which leads to the next thing: questing will get a punch in the gut from this. The WoW we have learned to love, the questing game which it evolves around, is dead as the most efficient means of levelling up. This is pretty strong and harsh, but in our group we witnessed almost two levels in one Ragefire Chasm run, my toon being 1/3 in lv15 when starting and 1 bar below lv17 when we logged out: way faster than questing in group at that level, at least in our group. It took us few seconds to put the LFG up, few more to select the ready check roles and a bit more than a half an hour to complete the dungeon. Not probable in questing, IMO.

And the loot was better, at least 3 blues for the group.

In a way this means the questing is -if not quite- dead, but received a strong competition from the people instancing their toons up. Which is great in a way it provides variability.

But it kills the story.

So, all in all, Blizzard surprised me completely with my pants down. I love the change due to the fact that it brings all the instances to my reach to run.

Thank you. I'm a happy camper for now!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Incredible find within the sea of WoW blogs

Defeat Dragons

Just incredible.

I started looking for blogs about strategies on Naxx, Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel to ease this dumbfoundingly numb day, but instead I found Defeat Dragons blog. Which incidentally combines two things that cross my life nicely: WoW and people management. Work and Joy. Or the other way around.

I know what I'm reading for the coming days. You see, those posts are not something you read once and never return: they keep giving because leadership, teambuilding and management are skills which have to be trained.

So, off you go. Remember to subscribe for the RSS on your way.

EDIT: Thanks to Kadomi I found out that this blog hasn't been updated since June. However, the posts and their ideas are very much relevant even after years, as they are focused on general management, leadership and teambuilding both in WoW and in RL. I will stay tuned to this blog, even though it isn't updated.

Off the comfort zone

Everyone is prone to living in the comfort zone. It's human, and in a way it's also a good explanation on the route of least resistance. Like going to the easiest way to gain proper loot for the next tier raiding.

My steps outside of my comfort zone have included such incredible things as starting a toon on a pvp server, getting my main into the battlegrounds (more pvp) and the last one -yesterday- pugging just for the sake of pugging.

Like I have stated earlier, I have been on the LFG tool as an automation ever since I've thought my gear is good enough to tackle the heroics, but without success. This has excluded, however, the daily heroic, which I have reserved for guild runs for simplicity's sake. And for the fact that there is no name calling in guild runs, but constructive and helpful commentary. If at all.

Now I changed this a bit. I put the daily hc into the lfg and pugged it. As you might expect, the daily hc was an instance I had never visited before, Azjol-Nerub. There is still one instance in the roll I haven't visited (barring Icecrown which launches today), and that's the Anh'kahet.

Needles to say, the run was a disaster and without the extremely over geared group it would have been worse. However, the impact was lower due to the fact I informed them right away I had never been in the instance. Normal pulls: no problem. My threat generation: no problem. Keeping the threat and taking adds: no problem.

The problem was not knowing the encounters, aggro areas and add spawns. Hadronox was my total blunder, as I ventured too far and initiated the boss encounter before we had cleared the web from trash. My wipe.

But then came the relieve: the mage of the group, who formed the party, whispered me how (s)he has done it before, helping me to understand what should have been done. No problemo after that.

And Anub'arak... Pushover in it's own instance. Got three Achievements from it, including Gotta Go, which is way too easy with the current item level being the norm.

Out of there and out of whim I put the Anh'kahet and Obsidian Sanctum 10 to the LFG.

This is the part in which I can say that I met with a group full of the attention span problem players. First of all, the group I was invited to was going for OS10. Namely the party leader stated Sarth+1 to begin with. I informed right away that it's my first time to really tank the instance, second time in there even. But the achievement with 9 players obviously convinced him to go this route, as he checked everyone's gear at one point for the possibility to do the Sarth+3... and I passed the check. Not bad, me thinks.

But the forming of the group took about a half an hour. During which at least three toons were replaced. In the instance the gear and dps checks were quite uneventfull: I had no problem in keeping the aggro of the trash and of the two drakes we took down for the actual event were total pushovers. Granted, I got dc'd before we hit the first one, so I cannot say about my part in that, but the second I was tanking in full and the aggro threshold wasn't even warning in my Omen: I was fully on top of the threat list on the drake without even panicking... something I was expecting from this.

But then it started. Checking, strat and off. First of all, I didn't pull Sarth far enough to help the group dps it: my bad, I was playing the encounter with different strat than the rest of them. My positioning was according to what the raid leader had told, which was different I had learned from strats I have read. No problem, though, I could keep Sarth on me easily and avoid the walls and all. Most of the group did that, too, until the drake came into the picture. And fire elementals.

And that's when the wipe started. Blew my panic button, pot, the lot. Lost two members from the group right at this point, one being the main dps.

"Do you tanks know at all what you are doing?", asked the raid leader. The honest me responed: "Obviously not if you have to ask that question".

New strat, back to the basics of facing Sarth to the side of the area, back to the lava. Now this was starting to sound like something familiar, I thought and went along.

However, there were three new toons in the group, including a DK who seemed to be pretty a)triggerhappy and b)knowing it all better than anyone.

Needles to say it went all down the drain from the pull onwards. Taunt, Heroic Throw, Charge and pull back to the tanking spot. Except that right after the throw the DK took aggro and despite of furious Taunt-spam with Thunderclaps, Shouts and all I couldn't get the aggro back.

Result: one of the fastest wipes I've witnessed.
Result2: one of the fastest group dissipations I've seen.

The party leader and former left right away, followed by half of the group. Thank you, goodbye and so long.

The party leader had the stamina to form the group, have the objective and the second wipe -after introducing new members to the group- caused him to quit on trying. Proves my point: fast and easy gains instead of having to work for it. This guy will do the same again but with extremely over geared group and feels great about it.

What I learned about yesterday's ordeal was:
- My gear stands the comparison in the end game before Icecrown. Of course I wouldn't stand the snowball's chance in Hell in heroic Ulduar or ToC10/25, but I would make it in normals any day.
- In the Sarth group I was the third warrior, and I had almost 5k more hp than the other tank with buffs. That's better than I expected and I'm still lacking some sweet gear, especially my lousy blue shoulders have to be changed.
- Practise makes perfect, but what can you learn from PUG? To endure selfish conduct, some automation on your keybinds and the instances you haven't visited yet.

To be honest, neither run was fun. The Daily because it was so darn serious and the second because it was even more so. The only thing I enjoyed in both of them was the fact that I wasn't the behind the rest of the groups in gear, only in information and instance experience.

Maybe I just have to PUG more. From what I've seen earlier, yesterday was one of the 'good PUG days'...

But it surely was far off from my comfort zone.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Attention span issue

During the weekend I watched my youngest son play on computer. He started off with his DK, with whom he tackled the trolls in Stranglethorn. Due to the fact he doesn't understand English, I had to help with the quests and stuff, only to find out that the only thing he had gripes with was the fact that he couldn't summon his ghoul... And that was only because he didn't understand that he should have gotten some Corpse Dust from the vendor: the warning was also in English and didn't mean a thing to him.

That solved, he switched to Spore, which is in Finnish, so he can read and -most of the time- understand the instructions. He had earlier advanced to the tribal game, which he ran through pretty easily. And created his buildings and vehicles for the civilization game.

That done he had had enough with the Spore and turned to Oblivion. Only to switch to some Club Penguin after killing some cultists and stuff from behind the Oblivion gates.

After he quit on the computer.

All in all, the whole cycle took him three hours and he got bored to the computer gaming as entertainment.

This made me think about my own gaming and the way my kids are playing. For the kids, there has to be action, instant, constant and in fast cycles. Even our oldest son does require this, and he gets that from the BG's in WoW. Levelling isn't constant action enough and it seems that it's not as rewarding as the BG combats in personal level for him.

While levelling I was very content with the fact I could choose my own pace in playing. The furious action parts came in good moderation and almost when I wanted them to come. It wasn't like war in any way, it was a trek through the forests with some chores to do. It wasn't 99% waiting for the 1% furious, brutal, confusing chaos war is described to be.

What BG's are to me, anyhow.

Now as I think of the playing in the cap, it's the same, actually. 99% of time I've spent in the level cap has been waiting for the Heroic, doing repetitive dailies and reputation quests, and 1% running the heroics and instances. Main reason to this is of course me, myself and I for not being able to come up with anything else to do.

I have a pretty good attention span to things I'm doing, unlike my kids: but they are kids and they shouldn't have the same ability as I have. But I've noticed that the main complaints about WoW -especially it's content- comes from the issue of making the game more 'casual friendly', making the game playable in small chunks. Good example of this is the fact that the Trial of the Crusader is actually playable in very short time, as well as good old Onyxia.

Is this trend going to continue over to the Cataclysm content?

Are the MMO's and online games changing to cater the shorter attention span, much alike music videos?

I mean, DDO is excellent in that sense that the dungeons are very short and fast to complete and they are always readily available. And they are scaling easily from solo to epic content, making them cater to all kinds of compositions.

I know this may sound funny from me, after all the rants about not having time to allocate for raiding or committing to the game, but I don't want to see this happen. I don't want to see a MMORPG to be split and cut into music videos with fast cuts from action to action without anything in between. What is lacking from the game -WoW in this case- is the lore content in the cap. Sure there is the gearing content to prepare you for the more difficult content, but there is no lore to support that grind-killing of heroic instance bosses.

The levelling game has the story of the character -growth story- to support, even if you are speed levelling through it all. Your character develops and picks up things from here and there, even if you are not paying attention to it. At the cap all this comes to halt and suddenly you are depending on other people. I know it's possible to live with 6 hour friday gaming -and raid- like a certain Gnomeaggeddon successfully does at least according to the lates Twisted Nether Blogcast. He does, however, confirm that his raiding in addition to PUGging quite a lot comes also from friends asking him to raids they cannot fill up, which brings out the other people into the equation, too. But for me that doesn't make a story or create a need to make myself miserable in a PUG.

So in a sense the game for short attention span people serves its purpose, but for me it works only if there is a reason for the short, small chunks of action at a time. Say a large compound of dungeons/instances which you can work out in as long or short sequences as you like sounds perfect: current raids are like this, so why not the up and coming ones, too.

To answer my earlier question myself, yes, Cataclysm will continue trend, because it has to. It can be done well and it can be done poorly. Either way, Blizzard is going to do it the Blizzard way.

Polished to the max. Either for good or bad.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What is real and what is not?

This week has been for pondering over the status of WoW in the MMO genre as whole. Sure it's big, it's beautifull and it's blogged about a lot, but at the same time its the initial touching ground on MMO's for a huge amount of people. Year in and year out there are new players joining the game which has grown to be an institution and phenomenon rather than just another MMO in that particular gaming niche.

While reading the blogroll I have -and some sidesteps from the posts I read-, I came to a revelation. Again, you might say, as the posts of this week have been more or less the same: notes and realizations of different things in the game and it's relations to other MMOs.

That is, how real are the concerns and opinions we in the blogosphere bring out to the 'average player' of WoW?

Or how closely our thoughts and thinking correspond with the ones of a player who has never played any other MMO than WoW?

And of course this leads to the question, to whom are we really writing and bringing out thoughts out to comment...

The class specific blogs, which serve that certain audience serve their own function, but how many of those are read by the -supposed- millions of possible players of that particular class? How many of the readers are as well versed in their class as the one who is putting down her/his thoughts about how the class should be played and how it works in theorycraft?

And how many newcomers to the game really find the blog which would help them onwards to advance the game the way it was 'meant' to be progressed?

Not many I suppose. Like I have stated earlier, it's hard for me to find time to read the websites and guides on how to enhance my playing and gear and how to tackle the instance bosses. As if that wasn't enough, I know that it's neigh impossible to remember the strategies at the moment of truth, when encountering the boss for the first (ten) time. I learn by doing, not by reading.

I seriously doubt the concerns the blogosphere voices out are of any concern to the average WoW player. The Joe or Jane Doe, casual hardcore occasionally raiding daily quester is happy and content with the content Blizzard hands out and when it is handed out only because they are not in a rush to experience it all and play for fun only. Sometimes the newest movie or the TV-show is more fun, so they do not play. So what.

WoW is just entertainment. More that than a game.

So why bother?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is there a comparison?

Made a funny (?) note for myself today: there are no blogged responses to my yesterday's plea for features and aspects of WoW which make it so much better than, say, EQ2. I made that remark to Twitter and got my eyes opened by Stargrace and Kadomi: as the two launched at around the same time, most of the WoW players have never even tried EQ2.

Now I'm not saying that it's a fact or the truth to void all other truths, but this may be the case. Dechion mentioned that he wouldn't know if (quote)"EQ2 would come to my front door singing christmas carols"(end quote).

Also a good note was that WoW players don't seem to have a reason to defend their choice of game in the same extent as the ones playing the underdog EQ2. As it was mentioned in the comments of the post, EQ2 started with no backing from the previous IP (being EQ) while WoW had strong backing of Warcraft-series and especially the Frozen Throne expansion. EQ2 was also very resource heavy on the then current computers compared to WoW which still would run on a (pretty high end) toaster.

But the idea or note which struck my fancy was the fact that if majority of the WoW players have never tried EQ2 or any other MMO so far, how can they say that WoW is the best MMO or the best for them? Considering the current selection of active and devoid MMO's available, there has been a lot from where to select the daily medicine dose. EQ2, Warhammer Online, EQ, Age of Conan, Aion to mention some on the fantasy side.

Thinking of this it's no wonder why the term "wow tourists" has been coined and from where it brews from. The players who have entered MMO's with WoW as their first ever who have tried the competing one only to notice that the game cannot deliver the same playability, stability and content from the start as their first choice after (currently) five years of honing and tweaking, patching and nerfing casual friendliness.

The point of comparison is scewed and thus makes the appearance of a single WoW killer impossible. Everytime a new MMO launches, it will be compared with the updated, upgraded WoW, even though everyone should know that any MMO launches incomplete. So did WoW, but that truth is lost in time already.

So what are we to expect from the future. Small baby steps from different companies slowly gnawing the player base of WoW? "WoW2" or similar from Blizzard to make the doors of Azeroth close once and for all? (IMO Cataclysm is this)

Or that one game that comes from the left and takes the whole MMO population off guard?

But the only thing I'm sure of is that the current games have a comparison point which is not on level with the launching games at all.

Too bad: so much wasted effort only because people want more of the same.

We are so lazy, comfort seeking and selfish after all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turning the table: Calling out WoWers!

Syp from excellent Bio Break called for all EQ2 players blogging to list "features or aspects that were better in EQ2 than in World of Warcraft".

I want to turn the table around: I'm calling on all WoW players/bloggers to come up with as wonderfull lists of features, aspects or things which make WoW so much better than EQ2!

If the stars had been differently, or the phase of the moon the other way, could this current situation be the other way around? That we'd be asking why EQ2 was better than WoW, and that EQ2 had more subscribers, still?

The launch, as far as I have come to understand, was a disaster for EQ2, but afaik it wasn't smooth on WoW either. Could this disparity in 'fame' come from the long living IP of Warcraft RTS compared to the EQ's earlier success in MMO genre?

So I challenge thee: come up with features or aspects that make WoW better than EQ2, explaining why EQ2 could not replace WoW even over time.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll do this with other games later on. Who knows?


Logged in to my main -prot warrior- yesterday after almost two weeks of real life induced hiatus from the toon.

I was shocked.

There he was, standing outside Dalaran bank, all geared up for action, and I didn't have a clue on what to do!

Really. I was shocked by the fact that there was nothing which a)interested me, b)called me to do it or c)no-one asking for a group. Granted, it was kind of early for guild activity, but still.

The guys in Channel Massive gave this thing a name, sort of, when they described how WoW changes from 'lore-content' to 'raid-content' (or it might have been even 'grind-content' in some context) and the whole concept of the game changes at the level cap. I wholly, totally sign this definition: as there was no 'lore' reason to go about, I felt this character had nothing to do! Sure I could quest the greyed out quests just for the fun of it, but at the level cap those quests provide no challenge, their rewards are questionable (apart from the gold part) and -because of the fact that the quests are designed for levelling up- they do not further the lore for this character anymore.

So -encouraged by my recent low level PvP experiences- I did the unimaginable. I went for BG's. But, due to my nature, I changed by basic keybinds before that, to accommodate more of my important buttons around my moving keys. So whereas the 'old' movement was in WASD, I switched that to ESDF, freeing QAZ for more action packed fun. I also got around to create macro for my panic button (Shield Wall, Last Stand, Frenzied Regeneration combo), which got a perfect place to reside besides my little finger.

So off I went.

I have some old Arathi Basin quest pending, so I decided to go for that first. What a mess. The first round we got around to possess only one area and lost fabulously to the more organized horde group. The next round we were faster and capped all the control points right from the beginning. Only to lose them one by one to the -obviously more organized and clever- horde.

Note that I stated at the beginning of the former paragraph that I have a quest in AB. I still have, because we just couldn't win the game in the two tries I got myself into. I just couldn't continue watching the mindless running around of the alliance troops when horde was working in pretty organized groups of three. In the first match we got to keep that one control point only because I and two other players stayed to protect it (paladin and hunter): the rest of the 'team' just went on from flag to another with no mind on defending the points.

In the second match it became even more evident that the alliance troops just ran from one flag to another with no idea of defending.

So I decided to see what it would be in some other bg. And I went for one I hadn't seen before.

The Strand of the Ancients.

Honestly speaking, I didn't have a clue what to expect. Heck, I didn't even know what I was supposed to do, but thankfully there were enough people to fight for and against, so it didn't matter. It seems that I entered the first SoA pretty late in the game, as it was lost pretty soon after I joined. Still I made myself into the middle of the roster, which is amazing considering my button smashing tactics.

The second run was better: I got in from the beginning. It proved to be more fun than the AB, mostly because everyone seemed to know the objective. Then again, the alliance people split up to strike both sides at the -approximately- same time, and that cost time. Horde, however, pushed to the same gate with all their force, disregarding the other, and were able to push faster to the final gate.

Needless to say that we lost.

What I learned from the foray was really that it's complete chaotic mess.

And that my new keybinds didn't help at all, as I was more or less at a loss with the keys to push as soon as something started to happen. In PvE encounter I still have some time to think, but in PvP environment the buttons should be hardwired to the nerves so deep that you do not have to think.

I made it to the top half of the rosters, though, so this experiment didn't go too bad. Considering that I was in my PvE tanking gear and protection spec, I might even say that it was a good show.

Now I have even more reason to hope for my schedule to clear up and that I can get into guild run events. They suit me better, for sure.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Questions, questions...

How do you break the routine that you login to your AH mule first and soon find out you spent all your time in AH?

How can you plan your weekly gaming time, if your RL commitments come up with evening activities within 2 days warning time?

How come the blogosphere is contemplating on quitting and restarting WoW just now, when the next content patch is at the door?

Which is better: to have an active development team tweaking the game time and again and -more or less- regularily, or to have a team which comes up bigger patches at slower pace, which are to be patched time and again, furiously after the big patch?

Why cannot it be Christmas already?

And why can't I win in the national lottery for once?

Darn it!