Monday, April 18, 2011

Light days, bright future (yawp)

Weekend passed by doing some gardening, feeding kids and dogs and ... well, that was more or less it. Not much gaming, some moments of WoW with some moment of supervising the youngest son playing WoW. He had deserved his couple of hours of overpowered DK in Zangarmarsh by being a real superman in the garden, singlehandedly cutting a huge shrubbery down.

No elderberries. No NI!

What struck me over the one heroic I ran (and another I tried to run...) with my spriest is that the heroics are way more demanding than the normals. So much so that the gearing progression isn't too simple by any means. I know I have stated it earlier in WotLK that there wasn't any real road plan, but that was for the raiding through the heroics. Now the bar is set lower, making the progression not so linear from the normals up.

So either the heroics are too hard or the normals are too easy: there doesn't seem to be a middle ground, which makes the instance grind not so welcome anymore.

Then again, I'm closing the 250k gold again, without the daily stress of updating the sales or anything. I've been updating the AH every other day after the 48 hour limit expires, and I'm still pumping some nice income out of the system.

The big news in Finland was the general election held on Sunday, in which the Nationalist True Finnish party came out as the winner. It shares all the characteristics of all the Nationalist parties in history, being populistic, conservative, right-wing group of people. Add the confusion caused by this to the current problems of EU economics and you can see a nice and warming springtime for everyone. Light days and bright future. What ever the outcome from this is, the initial responses of people threatening to move out of the country due this vote is something I do not condone. Instead, I agree with this blog post linked here that it's time to stay, support the sanity and make sure this doesn't happen again.

Gnomore didn't get any time due to the nice weather, but I have something in store for this feller.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Three on two occasions

Previously on Three Stooges:
After seriously banging their head on the Lost City of Tol'Vir without seeing a single glimpse of hope on General Husam and later Lockmaw, the worrisome threesome decided to tackle on an old nemesis of theirs. The reason to give up the Lost City of Tol'Vir was due to the fact that even though General Husam was put to rest, the fight felt like sheer effort on luck, with no effect based on the way the three were performing. Lockmaw even more so, and the collective intellect suggested that the main reason to this is the lack of survivability of the lowest common denominator, the Tank.

The old nemesis was... Mr. Sunshine himself, The Lich King in Hall of Reflections, into which the three plunged themselves like vaseline to... well, slided in like... /snap Ouch. Entered the instance like a brave group of - undermanned but severely overgeared - adventures.

For the first time ever the instance felt like it had felt in full group at the glory days of WotLK, when the tank was overgearing the content and AoE ruled the world.

Needles to say, the instance was a breeze and the trio decided to fulfill the one instance needed for the Rogue's Northrend Dungeon Hero achievement: the Halls of Stone, in which he was lacking the Maiden of Grief.

In short, the three went wham-bang through these two instances, gained Guild achievement on one of them and lived happily ever after.

Yesterday, current time (check the timestamp, please)
Instead of taking on the Lost City of Tol'Vir, the three decided to go for the Halls of Origination. Wider selection of nice bosses and sidetracking, the instance 'felt' like a good second choice for the undermanned group.

The trash from the beginning, the menace of an unsuspecting PUG even, was just about the right challenge for the three, so much so that it felt like home after the Lost City of Tol'Vir experience. Even though the Temple Guardian Anhuur requires the flick of a switch - two in fact - it was clear from the first try that this boss was doable. The three stated almost in unison after the first wipe that this one is doable, when they were not in unison with the General Husam earlier, which tells quite a lot.

Temple Guardian Anhuur taught the Healer the first usable spot for the Leap of Faith (or HealGrip): as the Tank had flicked both of the switches, the Healer pulled him up with the Leap of Faith and the slaughter would commence. The point was that this provided the Healer a few moments to heal the Tank up before the damage started raining in and get his stuff on the roll before the snakes came into the show.

After four or five tries it was the Healer who got the honors in letting Temple Guardian Anhuur to rest: the Rogue and the Tank came to the conclusion that the Healer had let them die deliberately to get all the honor and recognition to himself. He even made the point to dance on the dead, mutilated bodies of his companions before resurrecting them. The disgrace!

Instead of taking the scenic route to the end, the threesome decided to take the long route instead and started their way to Earthrager Ptah. The road to good intentions - especially in Egyptian themed instance - is always paved with Scarabs, though.

But the way to Earthrager Ptah - the twin brother of ICC's Marrowgar - was easy enough to clear and fun to run around with the camels provided (tell me there isn't a grande reason to have them rideable over there, please!), and as much as we tried we couldn't make this boss feel as ominous as it should have felt.

Boy were we taken. By the hand, by the feet, by the platter and everything that hurts. The encounter is fun and furious, and it's sad how people just 'ignore' this encounter and go through only the mandatory ones.

It took the threesome around fifteen (15) tries, where in the middle of them the Tank had to go to Stormwind and replenish the potions and flasks, after which he learned a lesson, too. Somehow the Tank had missed the memo stating that the cooldown of a potion starts only after the combat ends, and thus he ended up being potionless in the end because he had popped a Earthly Potion (or whatever) in the beginning.

That resolved, the Earthrager Ptah went down on the third try after this revelation. This time the term 'close call' got a whole new meaning, even closer than the one experienced on Tempel Guardian Anhuur. You see, the damage over time effects left on Earthrager Ptah by the Tank and the Rogue killed the boss at the same second the Healer died. The tank followed the dropping health down from 80k to zero from the ground zero, telling the others the status of the boss as they were too busy in (I hoped to say killing the boss) staying alive.

But hey! Earthrager Ptah was put down by merciless effort and good spirits.

Now the question is why would the Threesome bother to take on so many wipes on this one, but gave up on the Lost City of Tol'Vir. The reason is simple: the Tol'Vir combats didn't show even a promise that something was changing from one wipe to another, while the Halls of Origination encounters showed clearly the difference in changed tactics. The effort - reward - ratio was right, and the encounters really responded to changed tactics.

By far this Earthrager Ptah fight has been the most fun I've had with my pants on in Cataclysm. Temple Guard Anhuur felt like a victory with capital v, but Ptah proved that we can change, adapt and persist.

What the Three Stooges wouldn't do for a few deserved - and poorly documented - deaths?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some thoughts on heroics

I've run a couple of heroics with my shadowpriest, and quite honestly it's been a shock to see how much harder they really are from the normals. Add to that the fact that I've been running in PUGs rather than guild runs (only one guild run), the statement that "pugs are the new heroic mode" really shines.

What I have noticed, though, is the tolerance to failure has changed from the Wrath. PUGs in which I have been have been extremely tolerable towards failure and first timer failures. Not saying that I have been faulty of them, but neither saying I haven't. The only kicks from the pugs I've seen so far have been due to someone disconnecting or going afk without a notice.

The difficulty made me think about the Three Stooges and our possibilities to go further on our quest to die undermanned in unimaginable ways in the dungeons where normal pugs go laughing. In Wrath we were in a blissful situation because our tank - which happens to be me - had geared up to raid level gear before we started on the ICC5 man instances. I was overgearing the content on regular basis and my survivability was above the norm back then, even though the rest of the holy trinity - healer and rogue - were not up to the same level.

Now the situation is already the other way around. The tank is the only one who hasn't gotten to level cap, and I sure as can be have no will to start pugging the instances to get geared up. So we go along and seem to have already struck the glass ceiling in the tanks survivability in the Lost City of Tol'Vir. I know there would be an easy remedy to that.

PUG as a tank.

In Wrath I did at least the daily PUG and one or two heroics a day. The instances were quick and - after the first run - passable in a PUG, let alone in a guild group. In Cataclysm... I do not even want to tank in a PUG, knowing how much love tanks get when something goes awry. Like Tobold posted sometime ago, the most stressful positions in a dungeon party are the tank and healer, who have to move and act while the ranged dps just stands in one select position throughout the combat.

How true it is, even in heroics.

The fact that a heroic takes almost double the time of a normal instance (not discussing about the threesome) makes the PUGging even less attractive, even with the additional bag of loot from Call to Arms. The stupid grind for reputation based gear enchantments makes the whole issue even more depressing, making me ask why the Wrath enchantments couldn't have been like heirloom, upgrading along with the level.

There would have been quite a few apparent gold sinks if Blizzard had utilized the upgrading enchantments a bit more. I would much rather fly through Northrend than kill bazillion monsters for a new reputation to be honest.

We'll see when the tank hits the cap. I guess it's time to start digging up those gearing guides.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Good, old remake

Spent last night with a browser game. Sadly it's done more to the remake than the original. I mean of course the Battlestar: Galactica game, which runs on Unity engine.

And quite honestly, I was impressed in a way. Even though the game is a pretty shallow space shooter kind of game, it works nicely, the story progresses nicely and you can go against overwhelming odds against the other faction and make a difference from the beginning. Though of course it's better to go the quest way to gain as much power as possible, but that didn't hinder me at all.

Went in the starter ship into a full out PvP combat over a solar system. Helped down at least one opposing faction frigate and another smaller ship before my meager starter ship was blown to smithereens.

While the game works nice and the improvements on the ships and skills really matter, what surprised me the most was the fact that after I got shot down I received another similar ship with all the improvements and stuff in the hold intact! If this is the case later on in the game, this game may have all the elements of a successful browser shooter MMO.

Then again... the characters were clunky, I couldn't take the cylon from the original series even though as human you could get the original series helmet, uniform and viper... Crap...

But it was fun couple of hours I was supposed to be working on the latest Gnomore episode, which was just an interlude of Gnomore having a mind of his own. That being the explorer one...


Monday, April 11, 2011

Weather takes it's toll (yawp)

Weekend was as uneventful as possible only because of the weather. The sun was shining all the time. And because I ran through all the episodes of The Event which is quite promising both in stories as in building the suspense. Then again, the way it portrays the President and his cohorts is very much the typical paranoid US type, which is quite decently confronted by the pacifistic - but brutal when needed - survivors of the vehicle crash. Not to give any spoilers, that is presented as such: my humble opinion is that you watch the show and try to get past the first three - four chaotic and prolonged episodes. The story starts to open way beyond that point and gives new promising ideas the further the story goes.

On the gameside I've been trying to survive in the Blight of the Immortals, a slow moving but extremely rewarding/annoying/frustrating/infuriating browser RTS, in which zombies are trying to conquer a fantasy continent and players are trying to fight the Blight off. In some settings even each other, but as a support player I've stuck with the co-op play. Lovely little game which shows that a good idea with even a decent presentation leads to a great experience.

I have more or less lost the zest over WoW, now even more than ever. After completing my own goals in the game I'm now only playing (and paying) it for Gnomore and The Three Stooges. I tried to run and have fun with my Shadow Priest, but noticed that its not so fun anymore. The only thing that matters - game wise - is the item level of the gear, and even though you might find a green which is better than you are wearing as blue, the item level of the green is so low that it blocks your progress. Stupid thing is that it's enough to have the higher level gear in your backpack to make your scores high enough.

Also the disparity of the normals versus heroic is daunting. Whereas I was easily in the high end of the damage meters, I'm now at the lowest ones even though I generate more points in dps than earlier. Sure, I'm competing with the people in raid level gear in blues and greens, but that is not the point: this disparity causes the group to force kicks even though I might know the encounter, not stand in the bad and keep on delivering, but not being able to break the magic m&s wall of not exceeding tank dps.

Gnomore project also got a hit in my interest as someone linked a forum post in the US general forums where someone stated that they had levelled a NE druid from naught to cap without killing anything nor doing any quests. All I can say is that the only requirement is to have time and will to sit by the computer, as in everything you can do in WoW. And that druid is the easiest one to go pacifist with, taking into the account the possibility to sneak and gather stuff in travel forms.

But I did get Gnomore into a place where he really shouldn't have gone. More of that later this week.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gnomore, Hinterlands Explorer

Gnomore pictorial 29-31

Deeprun tram to Ironforge and a flight to Dun Morogh for a quest. For some reason or another the griffon takes the turn at the right spot and gives me a chance to take another nice shot of a spot that came pretty familiar to Gnomore in the beginning of his career.

The quest was to find a lost pilot: everyone and their cousins - provided you have ever played a gnome or a dwarf, naturally - knows the location of this miserable wreck. Anyhow, it's just a jump from the questgiver and a stroll down the hill. But why is it so that you are always stealing from the dead?

Another nice thing the game teaches you.

My great big idea was to run to an area where the mining and herbalism could be improved. The initial thought was to run to Arathi Highlands to do the gathering, but on my way I noticed that I have an Archeology site in Dun Morogh area. Off we went, Gnomore on the lead, to the familiar spot.

Here I learned an important lesson about Archeology. You see, the last time I was here, digging for fame and fortune, I couldn't get the third excavation done. Those pesky troggs were at too close a level and caused some real trouble, you see. However, this time I got to dug that one spot only.

Lesson learned: if you leave that one excavation undone, you will have to come and finish it, it doesn't "get old" and reset.

Stupid thing.

You may have noticed that I have a slight problem with Gnomore: he tends to run the way he wants to. Especially when there are possibilities to explore, see new sights and - usually because of the former two - die. So it was this time, too, and only because of this view:

Yes. Uldaman. Badlands.

And there we went, even though I wanted to steer the little gnome to Arathi. Granted, that wouldn't have been a bit safer, but at least a bit.

Long story short...

And off to Arathi it was. Where it became clear that Gnomore has a mind of his own. Instead of wanting to explore the are any further, there was this one nice spot and it's repercussions...

Oh, bugger. Machinery and tunnel. You know gnomes, right? One leads to another and then to another and...

Before you know, something completely unexpected happens.

Gnomore, the Hinterlands Explorer Magnifique. Quite a surprise after all that running around Jintha'Alor and picking bottles and feeding griffons and...

Ok. We didn't... no, I didn't expect to end up in here to begin with:

But in the end, Gnomore is again in Ironforge, on his way to Gnomeregan which is still outpaced and most probably he will be unable to return the quest he was given on the way there.

The phasing sucks, big time, just because you cannot pass the story designed. Why can't it just 'restructure' itself if you pass certain level range above the fundamental change?

Gnomore is at lv31, with a bit over 3k gold and he's already an Artisan in Herbalism. Mining is just a few points short of that. After those skills cap, he will be stuck to picking up grey ores and herbs, forcing me to guide him around the world in search of adventure, exploration and pretty sights to see.

Till next time!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Evil is as evil does

Spinks asked in her blog, "Do you play evil characters in RPG's?" I even responded to this in the comments, but the idea stuck once again. The original idea was to play a character in Sims Medieval as an evil sorceress or warlock and see how the game evolves. However - as one commenter mentioned - if the evil is just skin deep, evil surface of decorations and clothing with no ingame repercussions at all, it's not good or evil, it's just flavour and skin.

You see, I very often start playing a completely rotten and evil character, only to find myself turn into the nice, helping and concerned janitor of all. I just can't cope with the injustice of being evil, nor the suffering an evil character must inflict.

Bullies run the evil in their way: if you can instill the sense of fear to the average person, then you rule by fear and can resort to evil ways. It's the ruler who resorts to unnecessary violence and acts of cruelty who gets to rule that way and really be evil.

But in the end it only takes the one moment of weakness from the evil bully to turn the scales in favor of the weaker party, as we have recently seen in the Northern Africa, where dictatorships have fallen like domino pieces, one by one.

To be able to be evil, you have to be a bully. To make that evil fall and go, the weak and good have to unite.

If we take a sandbox MMO, there usually are not just one bully, but a set of bullies, who carve their power from the weak, "noobs" and not so good players. They seldom - if ever - turn against each other, because if they lost to another player, they would be in the position of their former prey.

It's funny how we make fun about the carebears, who actually are the heroes of the open-PvP worlds: fighting against the injustice and bullies who are causing unnecessary suffering to the players who are not yet geared enough or seasoned enough to stand their ground. Instead of making these brave few a laughing stock, we should in fact remember them as the revered heroes - and heroines - of the day, the ones we would have liked to see in the school yard more often.

The ones we all would like to be: the strong ones fighting against the bullies of the world, making the living just a bit more tolerable on this small planet called Earth.

Evil is as evil does, but is it as good as it gets?


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stonetalon Gnomore

Gnomore pictorial 27-29

The spot where Gnomore was left in the end of the earlier run was excellent. There was both Tin ore node as well as a node of Wild Steelbloom. A great start for a different kind of run it was, really.

The scenery in the South-Western part of Stonetalon has gone through the biggest change (if we do not take into account the new spots and the green, living forest of the Charred Vale).

However, I had already decided that this time I would make it way deeper into the areas in search of good spot for Gnomore's mining and herbalism. That means also going deeper into the areas in which Gnomore has no reason to be.

So it was through this rabbit hole Gnomore had to crawl...

As it happens, there is not much reason to go back to Stonetalon, except to get that exploration achievement. The ores and herbs are pretty meh and do not provide any progress in any way, be it monetary, skill or levelling.

Desolace, however, is completely different story. The area is a bit over Gnomore's level, and thus is both challenging and rewarding. For some reason those two words - and concepts - should always be connected, and tightly so.

To put the record straight, here is challenge to you.

Satyrs everywhere and quest starting point out there. The Sargeron area is full of nice little challenges in forms of 'go there' and 'collect these'.

And invisible mobs. Have to hate them for sure. Because of them I decided to postpone certain quests in that area, and instead took a trip to the seashore. Map tells it all...

The shore adventure proved that there are interesting quests available, even though while you're flying on a mount doing nothing except admiring the view, you tend to forget the reason to this.

Desolace has become much more interesting, at least from the point of view of a small gnome not into martial endeavors. However, there are certain things that will not change, like the animosity of the centaurs. Now I think they are both hostile towards the player character until you take your side after a killing quest. Only to get to kill one tribe of them.

But I can tell they both loved Gnomore the same way.

You can just guess how nice it was to see the terrain change in the following manner...

Ah, Feralas. That would be the best place to learn more of mining and herbalism. Gnomore is still short few points in mining to get to the Artisan level, but after being chased by a yeti

into the soup bowl of a RARE satyr

and some other rares

Gnomore got to get his Herbalism up to Artisan level.

Snap visit to the Priestess in Dalaran ushered him to Stormwind, changing the continent for the next episode. Which was refreshing, as all the running away from the mobs really started to hurt my fingers (I know, I know, Gnomore doesn't run faster even if I push my finger through the keyboard...).

Conclusion: It's more fun to run in the areas in which Gnomore has no reason to be due to his low level and pacifistic view of life. Then again, he has already over levelled the areas in which he can gain anything in his main skills, mining and herbalism, so it's next to boring to just keep picking the grey herbs just for the experience they provide.

I rather dare the game and go where he's not supposed to be. Like Hinterlands or Western Plaguelands...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Never so scared (yawp)

It seems that the nature is doing it's best - and worst - to make sure that my time at the computer, playing games to be more precise, is coming to end. Or at least very restricted. You see, the winter has been very snowy, resulting quite a lot of - now melting - snow. Which has a nice weight to volume ratio as of now, where it earlier was just fluffy lovely thing.

This has caused some nice structural difficulties to out sauna cabin, which has been built at the golden 70's, and has a surprisingly stupid roof construct. You see, the roof is flat. And yes, the drainage pipes are frozen solid. And yes, the water is weighing a ton on a roof where there is also ice tearing through the top material.

In short, it's spring and the roof is leaking. That's going to be my passtime after work from now on...

The games I've played... oh my. Like I reported earlier, I got my first ever love letter hate mail concerned merchant whisper from a 'gem magnate' on the server. The fuzzy tinges passed by right after I had logged in with my spriest and ran through some normals at level cap. Oh, bore. If I score among the best of the dps with less than reasonable gear, then I'm doing it wrong. In just one group out of five I ran I was dumped into the bottom of the roster, but it was redeemed as the rest of the group noticed they had logged into a normal by 'accident' instead of a heroic. My item level was at least 30 points lower than their...

Gnomore has now two sessions of pictorial available for crafting into posts, and I feel I've gotten good winds under him. More to come, for sure

Visited Rift, too, and finished the first part of the World Event. Nothing much to report except that I now remember again how I like the PvP while at the lower part of the level bracket. First you can't even get any damage on the higher ones (despite the 'tuning up') and secondly you are tossed around like a ragdoll. Still I had to run warfronts just for the sake of it. In the first one I got a nice revelation, though. I was wondering why my skills were greyed out on my UI, as I couldn't even get my buffs up. Never the less, I was beating some Guardian scum to dust with the aid of another player when I accidentally pulled up my souls... only to notice that the points had been resetted due to the recent patch!

Note to self: always read the messages which pop on screen after login.

The main attraction (besides Planescape: Torment and Crossfire) was, however, Penumbra: Overture. How on Earth have I been able to dismiss this game?!

More importantly, how on Earth/Telara/Azeroth/Sigil I was introduced to the game by my son!?

In a way, if MMO's are taking up too much time on single session, don't even think about taking up Penumbra or Amnesia from the same company. You either get so scared you don't want to see the games ever again, or you just cannot quit before checking behind the next turn of the tunnel... or the next door... or

oh my god... they found me... THE HAND!!


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Warm fuzzy feeling...

I got my first ever 'hatemail' in WoW this morning as I was checking my dwindling jewel sales. I posted some gems at around 250g price range, while the competition there was at 550g, and I got a 'concerned' whisper from the owner of that bid, that I'm always undercutting so much and ruin his clever operation.

Let me make this straight right here and now. I have only once undercut forcefully, when this particular 'merchant' had outrageous prices for Reckless Ember Topaz. You could purchase the raw Ember Topazes below 35g at that moment, and the prices were over 200g. So I sold mine at the same price range as ever, bit higher, being 65g. Sold all five in minutes, posted five more and so on.

Now I just posted 6 of the gems in question and I was about to cease the AH game altogether. However, this kind of clever merchant conduct incited something at the back of my head, which I try to get rid of...

I may return and ruin that one market. Given the proper push, there may be a shove coming.

We'll see.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just a short note

Have I told you how much I hate April's Fools?

Now you know.