Saturday, 26 December 2009

We're almost in our 30s now!

On leveling instances, that is. The first two parts are here and here. However, the time of playing like a noob is almost over. And it’s almost time to move on to the serious instances. Well soon anyway. Before we go there, two more silly little things: The Stockades, and the first of the Razorfen instances – Razorfen Kraul.

To go by order of level, we’ll start in the Razorfen Kraul.

6 Bosses with shiny blue loot (and a possible 2 more rare ones – we’ll get to that later), 2 quests available to both sides (one from Ratchet, one from inside the instance), 2 for the alliance and 2 for the horde. A grand total of 13.250 experience for the mighty horde (or 13.750 for the glorious alliance). That’s ... oooh... wow... 13250/38800 (at level 30) a third of a level. More than I had expected to be honest. I’ll give it a C in the usual rating, mainly because I think I have not done so this far.

Of course, this is an old world instance, so one of the quests comes from each continent for both sides; the quest in ratchet actually requires you to pick up three items at once. A good lot of travelling involved.

The instance entrance is still reasonably easy to find – but be prepared to dodge a few stealthy monsters on the way to it. For the horde who have played in the barrens this should not be new – Alliance might be surprised. The dungeon is a total mess. Especially if you brought a warrior in need of his warrior-quest-item (If you did: Go forward until you can turn left/right. Turn left. Follow the patch until you get to a trench crossable on a spiky bramble. Cross the brambles. Pull very very carefully from around the cauldron (there might be two patrols in this room – it’s been a while), turn right again as soon as you can for the warrior-quest-boss. There is no point at all in going further than the quest boss – you cannot go over the hedge here).

Best bet is probably an old dungeon-explorer classic: Stick to the right-hand wall and pray for no teleporters or moving walls (I haven’t found any yet, but it pays to stay suspicious). This path will also take you past all the bosses in the right order of difficulty. You’ll learn to hate the hunters than run out of range of melee, the stealthed ones and the all-time favourite: mobs that fear. You’ll also meet bosses that drop no loot at all, if you are unlucky (I’m looking at you Aggem, and you Death Speaker Jargba).

If you are really lucky, you’ll run into one of the rare elite bosses. Those are something starting here, I think. As with all rares, they share a spawn point and timer with a normal monster. This means, if you see the Blind Hunter there will be one bat less around. This also greatly speeds up looking for them later (I’m looking at you, Bannok Grimaxe) – just check all the spots they can spawn in, then reset the instance once you are sure only normal mobs are in their place. To be fair: not worth the effort at this level – but ah well.

I rambled on and on and forgot to award marks again... I’ll give it a C for location (horde)/ a D for location (alliance) and a C for instance design. I would complain more precisely, but it is just a muddy hole in the ground and deserves no more detail.

Which leave only the mysterious marker for time requirement. It’s lengthy, but not horribly so. I’d plan for two to three hours in a proper group (who actually know how to get there). Give it a B, so it doesn’t end up all that bland.

Grand total: C + C + C/D + B for a total of C. Sounds right. A muddy hole in the ground overall.

And then there are the Stockades. Now, of course, the stockades were designed to be similar in effort to Ragefire Chasm. You do a few prerequisites and slowly collect instance quests. Back in the olden days, when questing in Westfall and Redridge and the Wetlands was required to even stand a chance to level, this sort of made sense – even though the questlogs filled up horribly quick. Nowadays ... not so nice any more.

There are a total of 6 quests – one of those is available at level 16, the rest has a minimum level of 22 (way to go, design wise...). The highest level quest is 29, so we’ll base everything on that, of course. Total experience 19.350. This number is misleading, as there are lots and lots of prerequisite steps, as pointed out above. That’s 54% of level 29. I’ll give it a B, and the Deadmines will feel cheated now. However, I’ll make up for it in the “Time required” category – promise.

The instance design itself actually is quite good. The instance feels like a prison (not a very good one, granted – there are no toilets or bathrooms, no water supply, no sequentially opening door, slowing down intruders or prison breaks, no laser traps, no alarms, no speaker systems ... and maybe I should not have watched a modern day prison movie just before writing this). The guards are at the entrance behind a proper barricade (and occasionally there is a breakout or a push – I just can’t seem to figure out the timers and take screenshots – outside the entrance). The sensible thing would obviously to starve the prisoners to death – but being heroes we’ll push in for a bit of good old-fashioned assassination work gladly and with a song on our lips!

Also – one of the bosses can spawn in up to four different locations, which is a first at this level. Of course no one has the quest for him any more (see above), but that is beside the point. I’ll give it a B for instance design, as there needs to be room for improvement.

Time required... well. The instance is short. Half an hour will see a proper group through it after entrance. The prerequisite gathering is ridiculous, though. To have all the quests in your log after coming out of Azuremyst Isle, you’ll be bus for a good four hours. Possibly more. A solid F for this one – it desperately needs streamlining. Accessibility is good, with the thing located in the middle of Stormwind city – and as there are no horde quests we don’t need to worry about them finding a way in (just in case: Grom’Gol Basecamp in Stranglethorn Vale, ride north on the road into Duskwood, head to the graveyard, turn north, swim through the river into Elwynn forest then ride like the wind through Goldshire, over the bridge past the guards, turn left when you approach the first crossroads inside Stormwind, right again before you barge into the inn, left through the arch, over the bridge, turn right along the river and ride into the squat tower in front of you and over the barricade into the instance. Good luck!). A mark of A (as pointless as this is now, since patch 3.3 with the teleport features).

Total for those: B + B + F + A for a total of C. Yeah ... totally do not bother. Go in for the wool cloth an achievement if you have to.

There is one more thing. Lessons learnt is something I tend to neglect here. But there is one – and a rather nasty one at that. Some of the mobs in here use a special attack (kick) that interrupts spell casting. There are a lot of them that do it. This makes it entirely possible for a level 80 character to die in here, if you are not prepared for it. Granted, pulling the whole instance as a warlock might not have been the best plan, but it’s only a level 29ish instance. Or so I thought.

And this concludes today’s tour. Nothing fancy this week. Check back soon for the next part – and the Gnomeish home city.

*cue trumpets and fanfares and nuclear inferno*

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Holidays! And a foreign keyboard... oh my!

Righto. Hello everyone. For the first time in the last three zyears I feel like I vaguelzy got enough sleep. We've been on holidays for a week now, joining my parents-in-law over christmas. Of course, there are minor drawbacks - like us not being able to plazy for a whole of three weeks. Personallzy I think it's doing me good, but mzy wife seems to suffer a bit from withdrawal. This might have something to do with the violet proto-drake. I have a proper 'main' and thus got my merrzymaker last zyear, but her current paladin was not even born then.

Of course... if we ever find a computer able to run WoW over our holidazys, I'll be prettzy much out of luck. She did not forget to bring her authenticator.

Second minor annozyance - the english kezyboard. I've gotten used to mine bzy now - which has the Y's and Z's in a sensible place. This messes up mzy writing more than I thought possible.

But there is finally enough time to work on the things that were seriously neglected last year. I managed a whole of two rather good books by now: Graceling, Wrath of the Lemming Men (third in a series after this and this). I am also in the process of reading a third and there might be time for more!
To put this into proper perspective: I love to read. It's great, but I haven't found anywhere near enough time for it since the baby demands time now and then. How dare he... and why are his reflexes not up to taking my warrior to a 2200 arena rating yet?

We also managed to see a few good films - and I was really impressed by Avatar3D (official trailer behind that link for those like me who can't see videos at work). I had it pegged as another christmas time grand release of little value - what with it coinciding with the release of the computer and console games, the game giveaway on the McDonalds monopoly thing and so on and so forth. It was only after our fearless raid leader and his girlfriend recommended it that we decided to give it a go! And it was so worth it. I mean... yes... the grandparents had the baby and we got three hours in peace and quiet with our own bag of sweets, but the film was also blimmin' entertaining. Complete with explosions and a sex scene and everything!

Soo ... I'll be around, thinking about all the gearing that I miss and hoping for the latest bugs to be stamped out before I get back home in January.

1) I want raidwarnings to work in party. It drives me mental that I have no audio-clue for the party and healer any more when I charge the next group of enemies.
2) I want readychecks to be available to me as the tank. When I sign up as tank, I want the tool. I do not need to be leader (although... I've been a tank for a long time. I wouldn't mind, you know? Just make me leader already.)
3) I want the game difficulty balanced the way Blizzard thinks it's right. No more messing around with it when I am back. We wiped for 6 or 7 times on Marrowgar and took only three attempts on Lady Death-something. I read the same on Blogs that raided on day one of the patch. Apparently there was a patch to reduce Marrowgars difficulty on day 2. Ah well... but finally settle down on something, eh? And while you are looking at difficulty - please make it so that I am not able to outrun the stupid icewalls in the third new instance, trapping myself out of reach of the ghoulish horde to see Jaina die for being a silly wuss. You saw us run, get a jiggle on your royal highness!

Note: This keyboard hates me. Any spelling mistakes you find now are yours to keep and treasure. It's christmas after all.

Monday, 14 December 2009

You would not believe how easy it is to catch Syphilis!

So Tamarind from Righteous Orbs had a christmas wish. He wanted to be entertained - in private. He even promised all sorts of unspeakable things just for his entertainment - and he was not picky in who he allowed to perform. So naturally, I wanted some fun, too. And got my little christmas task - somewhere in there.

What is your most favourite 5-man instance?

This is really a difficult question (and completely rips apart the ongoing series about leveling instances). I thought about going through all of them and rating them properly. I thought about my history with instances and which ones I really enjoyed. And then I decided to go ahead in the spirit this was meant in and just use my gut-feeling.

So my favourite instance is: Trial of Champions.

There. I said it. You may hate me now, but I think I can offer an explanation as well. Or try to.

See ... when we got to the argent tournament grounds I originally had some trouble jousting. It was a nice thing to do, though. I played a warrior mostly, a paladin part-time and a deathknight when I felt like doing some damage. All of the plate-classes made perfect sense to put on a horse and arm with a lance - backed by half a ton of charging horse the damage against other platewearers seemed like a good idea.

Now pretend for a moment that there were a helmet on there. A fierce looking one - not this oversized sex-toy they hand out at the moment. With the shield and the barding on the horse it looks almost like something that should have been present on a medieval battlefield - unlike a certain golf caddy, for instance.

Where was I? Ah yes... jousting. Now see .. the jousting in itself was nice, but not entirely fun. The argent aspirants proved quite good practise targets, however. By the time I had my Crusader title (one of 26 at the moment ... don't ask), I think I had gotten decently competent. And then the fun started - back in the day we got to go to the Icecrown Citadel and beat up undead. Flying things and mounted things ... and best of all: skeletal footmen. There was no need (technically) to actually attack them. Blizzard had recognized that a half-ton of muscle in plate armour (no .. not me .. the horse! It's the lack of vertical stripes that makes me look wide!) can just run over those flimsy bone constructs and trample them.

Trampling damage!

Comeon! Could there be anything more cool?

Well technically yes - I was hoping for Icecrown citadel to have an entry level that used horses (not unlike Ulduar) to beat down a marching army of the undead. Think 10 (or 25 - even better) mounted knights riding side by side, driving a wedge of trampled, crushed and totally broken bones into the ground before charging up to the entrance.

Well yes, I see how that would probably annoy people terribly after about week one - and I did appreciate the argument that it would not be a good idea to set a clothy on a horse and give them a lance - but it did never occur to me when I first saw horses! Honest! (I probably play plate-wearers too much).

Sooo .. to get back to why I like ToC: We not only get to joust champions - we get to trample them in the ground. And keep running over them before they get a chance to rearm. I would have preferred if the Arms Warrior had pulled forth a polearm and actually made a difference against the horses (which would give that silly weapon class some justification) - but this is quite good.

I also seriously enjoy the tanking challenge it proved to be. The solutions against the three phases of black knight were different on warrior, druid, deathknight and paladin. The "turn around to avoid a stun" mechanic was new and different - and it is always a pleasure to see a reflective damage shield in place on a boss for impatient and not-very-perceptive DPS.

Well ... and quick gearing up (while breaking immersion and being generally horrid for all those who did it properly) helped my druid gain respectable gear levels and actually be able to tank the new and interesting heroics quickly. I did it all once the slow way on Koch - you know... when we wiped in Utgarde Pinnacle (normal) because the fights were actually tough. Back in November 2008 for those that don't remember the days.

And which do you hate most?

That one might not be a big surprise. I'll stick with Uldaman on the count of hate-beyond-all-normal-reason. This is partly based on historic reasons - the instance was redesigned recently and now misses of few of the hitches it once had. I shall pretend those fixes do not exist - for general amusement (not so much mine at the time).

You see... Uldaman was an instance appropriate for the level range of 35 to 50.

Read that again.

15 levels worth of an instance.

Back in the old days, instances were different. Longer - for one. More difficult (seriously - especially because no one really knew what they were doing. It was until late in 2004 until people discovered what this mysterious "Defense" stat was all about.

Uldaman was one of the worst. The entrance are was populated by elite dwarves and trogs. Two quests could be completed there. One of them probably had a followup that took you inside. However - now that the path to the entrance had been cleared properly by your well-armed group you were best off leaving and leveling a few times before coming back.

Of course only to clear everything again - and because the mobs were elite they were still hard - but gave no more experience. So you could wipe on stuff that did not actually benefit you in killing. At all.

Once inside you started with finding some dwarves, killing more trogs and generally making a mess of the place - so far so good. Nothing different from todays instances. You also were after two drops that were white: the medallion and the staff. Remember how pissy people can get these days about epic drops they deem "theirs"? It was pretty much the same with those two items back then - and for a good reason. The level you got those items was not appropriate for useing them. And besides - you had to return to Ironforge before then to hand a quest in and get a followup. If you were not lucky enough to have both mage and warlock - and incredibly good coordination - you would not finish that without clearing the entrance area again. Did I mention that those mobs were grey and could still kill groups? It was gruelling.

After you got to the Iron Girl Golem with PMS you recieved a silly reward - a two-handed axe or an off-hand item. My rogue was not well rewarded with either (the idea of supplying four quest rewards so that almost all classes had something sensible only happened with TBC).

And then had to slug your way through another hour (at least) of pointless trash - scorpions and more dark-iron dwarves and more trogs. To find some bosses in a hidden side corridor.

Ohh! Almost forgot. The only enchanting trainer above level 225 was in there. You had to go to an instance every single time you wanted to pick up a new recipe. Even if you were a rogue or druid at level 60 you still had to clear one trash pack before she would even spawn.

Where was this rambling going? Ah yes... the final bit of the instance is pretty much the precursor to Ulduar and the Halls of Stone. There is a great deal of Lore hidden back there. Guarded by a level 50 elite giant. Sure... you could try this at the same level 37 you entered in the first place - but it would be futile and hard and silly and wipefest inducing and not worth the time. Especially as you pretty much needed the experience of the quests when you actually were level 48.

The "good old times" were not so very good at times.

Oh yes - and you needed three people to actually get to the last boss. No cheating and going there at level 59 with your wife and just picking up quick quest experience. Noooo.

In total: Uldaman was an incredible time sink. It was designed that way. It's not even the worst one, probably - I suppose Blackrock Depths wins there. However Blackrock Mountain has a bar and a succubus in love and a charmed princess to make up for the length of it. And was prerequisite for the Onyxia entrance attunement - so if nothing else, you did it because you had to. It (for me) describes all that was bad about the original World of Warcraft design.

Boy am I glad some things changed.

I suppose I'll go into the new LFG tool - set myself as tank - wait my 10 seconds and hop into something with a few friendly players from other servers to beat up something. I'm even guaranteed a few useful rewards. Not just grind out time in a game doing something I don't enjoy because it needs doing for progress.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

2009 - The whole year in one single post!

Oooh.. this is starting to be like a bad television program. Aired in the early evening, when decent people don't watch yet. You know.. the hour between prime time and the end of later afternoon talkshows. It all started with a post on Righteous Orbs for me: the one where Tamarind does participate in another one of those not-quite-memes. Which still has me confused - being elderly and not well educated and thus having to look up new-fangled things like Meme.

But alas... it's a good idea for a post. I always wanted a BTD anyway and besides, the questions are quite nifty. I don't quite feel like tagging anyone, though - except for the druid who was killed last night in a live-lich king accident and thus didn't get the achievement. And she only gets a link if she asks for one, knowing she'd want her privacy respected and all.

What did you do in 2009 in WoW that you'd never done before?

Good start. Easy to answer as well. I actually tried healing an instance. Twice, as far as I remember. It has confirmed what I thought I'd known before: healing is hard, tanking is easy. I am still debating if I want to do it again. Maybe on my shaman? Apparently they have very few healing buttons - how hard can it be?

What was your favourite new place you visited?

This is difficult. I wanted to say "Northrend" first, but I think we got there before 2009, so it doesn't technically count. I think I'll cheat my way around this one: The place I found most impressive was the end of Black Temple. In particular the area just before Mother Shahraz. Some instances were really quite well designed. I also really enjoyed finally being able to defeat some old raid bosses that had forever eluded our guild: Tempest Keep, Serpentshrine Caverns and Mt. Hyjal in particular - the ones where we made progress but which we could never finish for lack of time.

What would you like to have in 2010 that you missed in 2009?

Fights that require more than one tank. I have to say that I loved A'lar back in Tempest Keep. Three platforms manned were safe enough - four would probably have been overkill. Two was just not enough. I don't want to push for fights like in the days of old, where about 23 tanks were required for the four horsemen, but I rolled a tank to tank - not to switch to DPS every second day.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I really would have liked to put "Obsidian Sanctum with three drakes - done properly" here. However, we're still not done and haven't managed to get enough people only to try for ages. I personally found that a very challenging fight - even more so as the adds tank than as anything else, really.
My replacement will have to be a silly "Flame Leviathan +4". It was better even than the glory of the hero reward. Even though... the letter was quite nice, so it'll come in a close second.

What was your biggest failure?

I never admit to mistakes. It detracts from the tanking business. I am invulnerable, invincible and perfect in all things, obviously. However, if you promise not to tell anyone, I might let you in on a little secret. The first Ulduar raiding group we joined was plagued by a bad choice of personalities. The raid leader had handpicked them for percieved ability in the time of old 25-man raids. Some did not live up to expectations, some just never got used to the new game that WotLK proved to be. Too many had personalities that did not handle repeated wiping well (me included). The raid group fell apart in the end - and I was looking forward to cancelled raids as it was better for my mental health.

I think the failure there was two-fold. Knowing the people involved I think we could have cost the raid less people by speaking up (Basically saying: the shamans DPS is total rubbish and the deathknight is performing way below his ability). If the raid leader had kicked those two, three more would have stayed around (me being one of them). The other option, of course, would have been to not be an idiot and actually work with the people involved. Help them not suck. I mean.. my deathknight was already better so it might have been possible - with a bit of diplomacy.

Ah well.. the difficulties of a social game. I'm just glad we stick to 10-man sometimes.

What did you get really, really excited about?

I'm dragging the same dead horse out into the light again, aren't I? I'd still say Obsidian Sanctum with three drakes up. It's such an awesome fight - the group we tried it with was perfect - we actually learnt and got better on each and every failure.

He still proved to be too hard for us. And is listed as the most lethal boss for me. I somehow had throught we'd got more attempts in. But damn, I am excited whenever I hear someone is willing to give it a new go.

What do you wish you'd done less of?

I'll let my anti-social streak shine through for once. I wish I had the heart to give up sooner and tell people they are crap. I tend to think they might actually take notice and try and change something - saving me and my group a load of unneccessary trouble. I somehow doubt it, though - and I would just come over as an ass.

What is your favourite WoW podcast or blog?

I don't have time to listen to podcasts - especially as I drive to work and can't listen there, unlike some people I know. My favourite blogs - after a bit of reading around - are still Egotistical Priest and Righteous Orbs. Really a shame Ego stopped writing a while ago.

I hope both of the authors will forgive me if I say that their blogs are content-light. I mostly read them because they are truly enjoyable to read. If I want serious game information I'll wade through the elitistjerks forums, not read blogposts (usually).

Tell us a valuable WoW lesson learnt in 2009!

I did learn that the social cohesion of a raid group is more important than percieved skill. Skill can be learnt - by practise, reading up or hints. If the people like each other they are willing to listen, though, and will work even on unusual suggestions. That is worth so much more than the ideal DPS at the start of the raid.

The most amazing thing we had was basically our "Mage of Crap DPS". Raid leader as well.. so he attempted to explain his lack of DPS with the added stress of marking targets and such. However - he has since progressed to the top of the DPS meters (with figures around 6k in a 10man environment - and we don't even have the magic damage increasing buff in our raid). I mean.. we'll still call him Crap DPS all day, but that has certainly changed.

All done (I think) - time to play! I will need to find a way to get my revenge on the stinky lich king.

Hit me for 876800 damage again, will you?

Thursday, 10 December 2009

It was patch day (to 3.3 if anyone reads this in years to come).

First impressions?

Yeah … they sort of can make a relationship fail or something, but in case of a patch day I tend to think: Let’s wait for another day before I settle on a grade.

However, in a cunning drive to post more recent content to the blog, I’m not above rambling about whatever I saw last night.

First: A new pet. Sorry. It was the first thing I saw, because my little bank alt used for testing add-on stability had mail. And she never has mail. So yes… apparently all those paranoid people owning an authenticator got a cute little core-hound pup as a pet. And it’s really rather on the cute side.

Second: My loot window now opens where my mouse is. That is … odd. It was somewhere else before, I am sure, and I will probably find a new option to lock it or something. It feels wrong at the moment, though. Especially odd when disenchanting a load of stuff for shiny dusts with a macro while moving your mouse all over the screen. Hey… that was not here before. And why is it there now? Creepy.

Third: New maps. I like them. I think I’ll probably need to sort through all my map-related add-ons soonish and see if they are still all required. I am not sure how I feel about the “go here to complete your quest” feature, but to be fair – the location is rather rough and you still sort of vaguely have to know what you are doing. Also… with now six level 80s I’ve done all the quests. I even got the Loremaster to prove it. It doesn’t affect my playing – and if it means less questions about Mankriks wife in the Barrens it is probably a good thing.

Fourth: New /LFR and /LFG tools. LFR is brilliant. I can sign up for any raid – even old ones. That’s something I missed sorely in the previous incarnation. Now the only thing missing is a sign-up for “For the Alliance” and I’d be perfectly content. And well… LFG looks confusing and needs testing. Can I sign up a whole group for a random daily and get the badges with people I like? Can I sign up for the normal instance and do it on heroic? How does this teleporting thing work? There was just not enough time because of …

Fifth: The weekly Raid and Icecrown Citadel. We have our weekly raid day on Wednesdays. Our raid group was ready and prepared (and mostly on time, even). We checked the weekly raid and it was Anub’Rekan. Err… the one in Naxx? The one that is probably one of the easiest bosses in Naxx? And he was worth 5 badges of frost and 5 of triumph? For 10 minutes of our time? Hell yes! It was good fun to actually see him die before the first locust swarm. This may not be a great achievement for high-powered raiders, but for us it’s still quite an achievement.

Moving from there to Icecrown Citadel brought us the usual patching day trouble. We could not get an instance for ourselves. “Too many instances are open – please try again later”. I think we saw that message continuously for almost 30 minutes before one of us finally managed to sneak in.

Spoilers ahead about the new raid.

I mean it.

The trash starting us out was interesting. It reminded me strongly of the first steps we took into Ulduar back in the day. It was exciting and dangerous (and the permanent respawn until you beat up the first group was interesting). We wiped when one of the big skeletons stumbled into our group near the end of the pull. We wiped when we got two groups at once. I think in total we took three attempts to clear all the way to the  first boss.

And he looks rather awesome.

I have not been as impressed with a boss since the Ulduar days again. He looks new and fresh and dangerous. He also proved to be quite a bit of a problem for us. We had decided beforehand not to read up on any tactics and thus it took us several attempts to get him down.

His cold fire of freezing flames caught us by surprise. His impaling spike/spine of “I stole this from Warlord Naj’entus” killed people (and we are only 10 – we feel the loss of each healer and dps instantly). His whirlwind killed no one – but it managed to drive the two tanks apart and his subsequent saber-lash killed us HARD. He did feel like a good mix of Halazzi in Zul Aman and the Warlord Naj’entus with more damage for everyone thrown in.

And wheee… he dropped my new tanking mace. A mace. With tank stats. For a dwarf. I love it.

Clearing to the next boss took a little time as well. The two priests managed to wipe us twice. On trash! Glorious! It took us a bit to figure out that they drain life. From everyone around the affected target. In nifty little chunks of 15.000 damage per person.

The second boss-girl was a little easier in the end. We only wiped two or three times. Her adds hurt, but the rest of the fight is rather manageable. I think the last wipe was just due to an inconvenient coincidence of “new add spawn” with “boss comes live and proceeds to deal more damage now that all her mana is gone”. Raid time up and all of us pretty happy, I think. It was hard, but not too badly so. It was plagued by crashes and delays, but that’s just patch day. It was new and sparkly and I like it. Can’t wait to try and push for some more.

Bedtime then … but not bad for a first day after a major patch.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Levelling instances rated again. I mean: More of them rated. Yes, that's it!

It seems almost time to have a second part. More instances rated for their levelling value. Which is not solely based on experience or even experience per hour. There are numerous factors that all weigh into how much I hate Uldaman an instance can be rated.

Last time we (that is the royal we again, by the way) decided to visit the low level instances of Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines. Today we move on to the mid-20s range. Not only in our choice of travelling companion, but also in the level range of the instance. A certain amount of experience coupled with a relaxed attitude and beautiful rewards are expected at this level. Again – in both the companion and the instance.

We shall try for a threesome today. Due to the dirty looks of my wife we’ll limit this experience to the dungeons only! Shadowfang Keep, Wailing Caverns, and the ever horrible Blackfathom Deeps.

Shadowfang Keep:

Quick introduction for those not blessed with a bloodelf chick horde character: Shadowfang Keep is located in Silverpine Forest, somewhere halfway down the road to hillsbrad. It’s a proper keep, overlooking a small settlement where the friendly population turns into bloodthirsty werewolves worgen at night. Pretty much the same happened in the keep, except that there are also the undead remains of the previous owners about – and some bats – and a mad mage.

Let’s start with the quests question. There are a measly total of three quests. The total experience for all those comes up to a ridiculously low 9500 experience. At level 27 (the highest level quest in this instance) 32.200 experience are required to advance. Not even 30% of a level. We’ll give this a D. Because Alliance players get exactly nothing – and for hordelings the amount is probably quicker gained by doing a few more quests outside.

Not a good start, however there is always point 2. Instance design. Now not only does Shadowfang Keep offer a rather nice walk-up, complete with drawbridge and portcullis, it also feels like a proper little keep should be designed. There are stables and locked doors, an inner courtyard crawling with defenders, armed guards on the walls, a dining hall with an attached kitchen and finally a towering tower with guards and bosses and the final mage. It feels as if the actual last few rooms should not fit into any of the towers seen from outside, but we shall gloss over minor inconsistencies like that and mention the rather nifty music instead. We like the Keep and grant it a princely A. Apparently we (that is me and my mid-20s companion) are not alone – as there are rumours about of Shadowfang Keep being rebuilt as a heroic dungeon in the Cataclysm expansion.

Accessibility and Time requirements go a bit hand in hand here. It’s a suitable instance for undead and blood elf players – especially as they have a good chance of actually picking up the quests in the turn of their normal gaming. It’s a bit out of the way for orcs, trolls and cows and it is in the middle of a horde levelling area for anyone alliancey. For the sake of continuity I’m going to award a B – because the deadmines got the same. It never took all that long to clear and is a pretty linear instance (with only a few twists and turns around the courtyard) so we’re awarding a B for time as well… I don’t remember anything remarkable, so it can’t deserve anything better or worse.

Total count for Shadowfang Keep comes up to D + A + B + B. A solid B (and I could have copied this straight from the Deadmines). Don’t do it for the quests and otherwise enjoy a well designed castle. Keep. Whatever.

It’s also the first instance I remember that had nasty patrols. Patrols that are worth waiting for and pulling safely into a corner. And an endboss that keeps his aggro list through a teleport but is then mainly available to ranged DPS. And a mindcontrol that requires CCing some of your party members. A good many things that’ll return later and in force.

Next up (or rather: down) the Wailing Caverns. Located in the Barrens (nowhere near Mankriks wife, just in case you found her) this instance is a bit of an oddity. There are neutral and horde quests in here. The good ones are all horde only – and the leather set was designed with shamans in mind, back in a time when only the mighty horde had those.

Quests start all over the place as well. Thunder Bluff (as far as I can remember), Ratchet and in the left eyesocket of the skull that makes up the entrance of the Wailing Caverns complex. Not all of the quests are elite – some of them are finished outside. I can truly not say if this was different back in the day (you know.. when men were men and dwarves were stout) – probably all the harmless critters populating the cave were elites back then.

There are a lot of quests, though. I count nine for a total experience value of 15.310. Highest level is a 22 (dungeon) – so based on the 24.000 experience required this comes to 64% of a level (if you’re a bloodelf chick hordeling). Not bad at all. We’re going to grant it a generous B, because picking up all of those quests will take you up approximately three levels from exploration experience alone.

Which leads to instance design. Much like most of the old world instances, the actual entrance is hidden inside a cave. The cave has side corridors, deep pits and carnivorous creatures – along with the usual mould and spiders and such. The annoyance factor of this entrance is downgraded a lot by the currently non-elite monsters. There even lives a rare thing in the pool in the centre (just in case you manage to slip on a slime patch and plummet into the … let’s just pretend it never happened, okay?).

Inside, the instance is split into three separate branches – all of them will be visited eventually due to the quest progression, but there is no indication which direction to head to first. Personally I think this is a great feature, giving more flexibility to exploration and happy dungeon-delving. Current instances do not really follow this design any more – and tend to be circular rooms with an entrance and a spawnpoint in the worst case. The three separate arms contain all sorts of mad druids, waterfalls, a spot where you actually need to jump to clear a ledge for progress, an angry tortoise, tin nodes and all sorts of snakes. Oh yes – and a giant murloc.

I’ll give it a B for instance design. I like it, but it is easy to get lost – and if you don’t get lost yourself you can bet on someone else doing just that and requiring backtracking and slow progress and markers and best a ball of string.

The time requirement is comparatively large. The instance itself is certainly not longer than the Deadmines, but the time spent travelling around the whole place adds up. Especially as the final quest only becomes available once all bosses are dead – and it requires you to go back to the entrance of the instance. If you are doing this in a proper group, trash will probably have respawned by now. I’d probably plan for a whole evening – certainly more than two hours - if you want to do the whole thing in one go. Note that there really is not much of an option to skip parts – the wings are not equal in length. I’ll give it a rating of C – this is one of the examples where maybe too much time is spent in comparison to the rewards.

Accessibility again depends on the faction – Horde have it a good bit easier than Alliance with a flightpoint at the Crossroads. Both are in for an overland walk, a weird path up a mountain and through the nose of a stone skull and down a spiralling path to the proper instance entrance. I’ll give it a C, too. This could be improved – but there is worse to come (maybe it’s too much of a spoiler if I mention that there will be worse in this very post?).

Total? B + B + C + C turns into a C in my math. Definitely so if you are an Alliance player. The quest rewards are so good that this might actually be a B for bloodelf chicks Hordelings.

And you’ll learn that instance quests take you to each and every boss and make you explore each and every corner of an instance. Which is a horrible lie in several of the instances to come, but prepares new players perfectly for the Outlands and Northrend.

And then there are the Blackfathom Deeps in this level range. My first instance, I think. Back in the day. As a rogue I was expected to tank and dps and heal with bandages. Nothing much changed since then, really.

Let’s get to the experience stuff first: Ten quests in total (if I didn’t mix up some alliance and horde ones) for 24.840 experience. At level 21 only 22.400 would be required, so you will level in this instance. Which is nice. The quests are also all available in a very limited area – this was originally intended as a night elf dungeon and they don’t have very many tree-huts settlements. Some of them are picked up inside the instance again – much like Wailing Caverns. Part of the quests are again completed outside the actual instance – and there might be a class quest there as well (paladin, or some such). I do have horrible memories about those quests taking forever and not being worth it, but the numbers here force me to give it an A. So there. Have an A.

The instance design is a good bit more linear again. Entrance (once you found it in the tunnel system outside) leads to puddles, leads to swimming around, leads to corridor, leads to area with Twilight Cultists, leads to Cult Leader, leads to opening sliding door, leads to endboss. There is some added bonus here – a few caves branch off, there are patrolling naga under water, the first puddle can be jumped across properly (if you can move) or a mountain scaled and slid down and there are the first stealthing mobs I can remember. A true pain if you are not prepared for slow and steady progress. It isn’t bad – as such – but it’s also not exactly and outstanding instance. I presume bad past experiences colour my perception here – and it’s gloomy and underground and below sea-level and there is dripping water and demons and such. I’ll give it a C. Because it feels bad – and that has to be reason enough.

The time requirement and accessibility are the true killers of this instance, however. It’s located as far away from any elven flightpoint as they could manage. Honestly! The graveyard is in a different zone! Yes I know there is a short path that takes you back to the entrance but COMEON! The quests usually have a prerequisite that is done inside the instance entrance area – which requires you to return to the questgiver for the next step thus making absolutely sure you will be fighting spawns again when you come back. Luckily everyone can have a mount at level 20 by now, but it is still faaaar faaar out there for travel time. I won’t even mention that the amount of twilight cultists is not enough to give everyone their quest drops in a 5-man group. You’d better do it twice, if you intend to do it properly. GOODNESS!

I’ll give it a double F for these two factors. Horrible, horrible placement.

Which comes up to a total of A + C + F + F. A nice average of D. Yep. That’s right. The one instance in the low level segment where the designers got the quest rewards right and it is completely spoilt by the location. Do yourself a favour and skip this one. And it doesn’t bloody help that the quest reward is either a wand or a shield and I did this on a rogue. Not at all!

This concludes post two of the fabulous series about rating dungeons for a better levelling experience. I hope you will tune in again when we return with more refreshing news about places everyone skips these days. Time to return to those mid-20s blonde bloodelf twins from the Silvermoon Beach Volleyball team levelling. Leveling, yes.

Monday, 7 December 2009

So how long does it take to 80?

Not that long, apparently. I got my Shaman up (as mentioned elsewhere) - mainly to help my wife with her Less-Rabi achievement. I did waste a little time playing around with leatherworking - those basilisks in Zangarmarsh cost me easily an hour of my playtime.

And I have to say.. I enjoy leveling now and then. There is something wonderfully satisfying about learning a new ability/spell. Preferrably truly new - not Fireball (Rank 124322).

The leveling game seems to be weirdly limited, though. I mean.. it accounts for only a tiny tiny amount of the total game.

How tiny?


I suppose running after achievements and doing raids takes a bit longer after all.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Nuked from Orbit

I had no idea going for hard modes could be that much fun. No wait.. that's not actually true. I always enjoyed Sartharion 3D attempts in the guild - but we have been slacking a bit lately.

Yesterday, however, we found the time to play around a bit in Ulduar again. Entered with a full group and decided to kill 100 of the little dwarves for a warm-up. We had already decided to go for a Flameleviathan kill with Turrets up, but I think we were just mostly happy to arrive at his starting point in the end. Hundreds of dead dwarves clinging to our bumbers, windshield wipers working madly and long since run out of wiper fluid.

Last week we had managed to get a FL+2 done - and we sort of expected a slight increase in difficulty - but hey.. nothing a team of professionals cannot handle, right?

So the big bad golf cart comes charging at us and we notice it has a few more hit-points. Quite a few more. Oh god, it's gone up to more than 80 million.

Combat starts, people start driving around and doing their thing, there is flaming fire on the golf cart and some burning oil on the ground and a voice in the background does exactly the same thing as on Branns Tribulations in the Halls of Stone. Ramble on and on and on with a droning voice that I tune out as soon as it appears. No usable information at all.
At first, it all just looks nice. There is shining beacons all over the place. Red and blue and blue and green. I wonder what those mean. Long persistance in this game has taught us one thing, however (No ... not that thing about Silvermoon and a horny tauren) - standing in shining stuff is usually bad! (Maybe this explains why we don't do so well on Yoggy).

It certainly looks shiny. No wait.. that does not do it justice. It's bloody awesome! That's better.

Comeon... how often do you get to race around on a motorbike, followed by agressive plants, running from thunderbolts and lightning and dropping burning patches of tar! It's that fantastic!

Of course.. it also is rather hard. We lost people - fast. After a few tens of percents we were a tank down, then a demolisher, then someone decided to cunningly throw themselves upwards on the leviathan to power it down - and got killed. Not without turning it off, though - and when the plants got me, there was only around 40 million health left and I had my trusty sword!

Nevvah give up! Nevvah surrender!

For some reason the thing came awake again before I had scratched the last few million points of paint off the side. And hit back. It hurt - briefly. But I always have to think of the pearl of chinese wisdom: "It hurts to admit you made a mistake - but if the mistake is big enough, the pain only lasts a second". Soooo very true.

We got it in the end... and even managed to snatch a nifty achievement screenshot for the blog collection.

I loved it!

And because the above was a bit content-light I'll even throw in some free hints.

1) The demolishers are going to be your main source of damage. 10 stacks of flaming pyrite are the way to go at all times. There will be the occasional dodging of a flame leviathan charge, but the top priority should be setting fire to the damn thing.

2) The motorcycles are actually your second source of damage - and about the only way to keep those plants mostly under control. Burning patches of sticky tar are the best way to control Freyas spawn. Shoot them once with the sonic cone, then run them into a patch. Always always always prioritize dropping more flaming pitch in the things path over anything else.

3) The tanks are pretty useless it seems. Interrupting the flame vents is only sensible if there is actually someone important on top of the boss, trying to shut down turrets. In our case it was just a warlock, so we decided to let him burn and instead kept one more target alive for the boss to pick on. Distance over all else - the paltry damage of the ramming maneuver pales in comparison to keeping the demolishers safe for one more turn.

4) Anything shiny is bad. Except, possibly, for shiny flaming tar when you are pursued by plants.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

My horse is too wide sometimes!

It's an interesting story, really. The size of my horse has more gameplay implications than I thought possible. I mean... I play a dwarf. We own rams (and everyone knows that a swift ram is always a good thing) and as such the problems of large mounts didn't really hit me. Unlike my shaman for instance, who - as an elephant riding draenei - managed to basically smash her face in on the door to the Stormwind Bank.

However .. that's not actually all. Of course there is occasionally a house I cannot get into while mounted. Usually they are the remote and unneccessary buildings anyway (like Stormwind Bank. I mean... pffft.. who'd want to go there). There also is the jousting at the Argent Tournament. I personally find the easiest fights to be on a small mount against another small mount.

I prefer to ride a ram and fight the mechano-walker-thing, the horses (both alive and dead), the raptor, the chicken and the wolf. The tiger is too long and the elephant and kodo are just too wide. How does this matter? Well.. in my jousting style I charge the enemy in the back as soon as I am able to (in a knightly fashion ... that is.. while yelling a warcry or some such. Not in a cowardly manner like those rouges and mascaras do). I then use the momentum to gain some distance from the enemy, use the jump-turn maneuver (which completely ignores the momentum of vehicles and thus allows me to turn on the spot) and throw something nasty in their face. Tadaa! Two shields gone (for about a second).

However... against the elephant, kodo and tiger this maneuver requires me to ride away further. So far, in fact, that I cannot close the distance before they get a spear-throw of their own off. It throws off my whole fighting.

And finally... the area where I currently have most problems:

Zul Gurub. The entrance to Bloodlord Mandokirs little playpen. Why would anyone go there? For the Blue Dragonhawk mount eventually, and the Swift Razzashi Raptor before then.

The area up to the entrance is pretty easily traversed as a level 80. Inside the playpen are around three groups of trolls or so (only one of which I kill - and them only for safety reasons) and three groups of ferocious raptors. Who drop this little cutie, as a side. And the bloodlord with his buddy Oggy, of course.

The trolls in this area come in the variety healer (called Priest, surprisingly), oddity (called Blooddrinker - and they drain their buddies health to replenish their own?), and DPS (called Guardian - complete with a knockback that sends ya flying all over the place). The entrance is thus a little bit of a tight spot. I marked the four guards up in this picture so it's easier to spot. In theory, a level 80 can ride through the centre two (star and triangle for those too lazy to look up). However - this fails on several of my mounts. The Rivendare Deathcharger is too fat. As is the Black Battlestrider. And the normal tigers and horses. Of course the bloody elephants are too wide.

So basically - I can squeeze past only on a ram. Any ram. A swift ram, a swift brew-induced ram. They just seem to like rams.

Oh yes.. so did I. It's good to be a dwarf, sometimes.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Leveling Dungeons - Rated for your Convenience - Part 1

So Tamarind has started the rather nifty dragon rating system. And thus proven that a rating system can be entertaining, no matter how much people agree or disagree to some points (to point out the comments on cross-dressing Chromie is probably not necessary at this point).

So … I think I’ll blatantly steal his idea and rate levelling instances. Not those Northrend ones – they are done to death by every level 80 in the epic badge farm (“LF2M tank healer badge farm, going UK, UP, AN, OK, VH, TOC pst whisper stats, epic achie.”) The good stuff starts somewhere completely different after all.

Of course, I’ll need a rating system. Something that manages to show my complete contempt for Uldaman bad instances. Something that handles the Stairs well and shows off their glory. Even if you are just levelling an alt decked out in seven heirloom items and twinked beyond belief.

So let’s see. There will be marks for Quests (we are talking about levelling instances, so something with lots of quests for lots of experience is good. Then it also doesn’t matter that your wife’s level 80 dragged you through and you gained only 3 experience per mob kill. Not that I’ve ever done something like that.), Instance Design (because I hate Uldaman some instances and love others), Accessibility and Time Requirements. And probably something else, if I can think of it. No need to really nail things down now – we’ll stay flexible. Oh yes... and I pretend to tank a lot, so we’ll throw in “Important Lessons” for your later raiding career that can be learnt here. Well… as long as your wife’s level 80 is not dragging you through.

Now technically I mostly play Alliance. Well… I only play Alliance since about halfway through Karazhan but that shan’t stop me from talking about the lowest level instance I can remember. Ragefire Chasm! Bane of many a level 80 night elf in search of the elusive Classic Dungeon Master achievement – not so much by virtue of it’s tough bosses, more by the three selling points in real estate.

Located in the middle of Orgrimmar this instance is aimed at roughly level 15 or so. People at level 13 do reasonably well and only recently the Goblin two-manned it at level 18.

There are a rather nice five (or six, if you count the follwup) quests for it. Picking them up can be a bit of a pain (as always with old world content) – one of them starts in Thunder Bluff, one in Undercity, two in Orgrimmar and one of those has an especially annoying series of prerequisites from Thrall. Total reward: 9475 experience (without the use of heirloom items) for quests available at level 9 and rated as level 15 to 16. For comparison: 13.600 experience is required to advance from level 15 to 16. Cunning math places that at almost 70% of a level.

We’ll give it a quest rating of B – mainly because there always needs to be room for improvement and because some of the prequests are a tad on the tedious side.

The instance design was apparently considered so good that it was reused. In particular – the Maw of Neltharion in Dragonblight uses the same layout over large stretches of the area. Some bits are inaccessible, and there was a cave added at the beginning, but otherwise identical. Now … I’m not sure I entirely agree, but it’s not a horrible layout. It is pretty straightforward, but not completely linear. In the room of the first boss there are actually three different paths you could take! Well sure... you can see them all from the beginning, but it does vaguely resemble a big spiderweb with a … hmm… flaming demon of fire in the middle. Maybe I need to find better analogies.

We’ll give it a C for instance design. It’s suitably dark and gloomy, but there are much, much better examples in the bright levelling future.

The accessibility question is a bit of a giveaway thanks to my grand introduction (need to work on that as well, it seems). It’s located in the middle of a capital city. Surrounded by level 75 elite guards. So if you are a low level hordeling on the way to learning how to tank on your shaman (or some such) it has great infrastructure. Zeppelin connections, flightpath, bank, auctionhouse and a spa in the Valley of Wisdom (of course not in Honour, silly). It doesn’t get any better, so here you are... have you first grade A.

That leaves only timeframe and things to be learnt here. There are three bosses, a good sized amount of trash and it’s an instance full of elite mobs. I’d plan on a bit more than an hour if everyone knows vaguely what they are doing. The amount of patrols near the first boss can lead to unfortunate wipes, and the Orgrimmar graveyard used to be a bit too far away.

A generous B for it … just because it’s nothing outstanding, really.

And if you do this properly then you’ll learn at least two interesting things: knockbacks can and will take you over the edge of a fighting area if you’re not careful – and lava really hurts. Especially if there is no way out of it. And you’re trapped. And on fire. And burning!

B, C, A, B … seems to come out a total of B overall. Hmm. That sounds too good really. I think I’d rather complete a few quests outside to level quicker. And linen cloth can be farmed better elsewere. We’ll use the arbitrary mitigation factor and downgrade Ragefire Chasm to a C total. Because we can. Ha!

Now on the other side of the ocean (and the war) there is an entirely different starting instance. Located in the charming foothills of Westfall the fabled Deadmines await intrepid alliance questers and horde twinks.

I aim for a much better introduction this time round, without giving away everything right at the start. There are a total of 5 quests for the Deadmines, available from Stormwind and Westfall. No need to fly all around the world here! The rewards are a respectable, but not impressive, 9750 exp total. As a minimum level of 15 is required and the quests are ranged as 17 to 22, we’ll use the level 21 requirements: 22.400 experience to reach 22. A measly 44%.

This number is off by quite a bit, however, as the most rewarding quest (both in terms of experience and quest reward) has a few precursor steps. Six, really. While you’re there, it makes perfect sense to pick up every other quest in Sentinel Hill, as you will be killing all of Westfall twice. Let me put an exclamation mark after that and try again: You will be killing all of Westfall twice! With a dull spoon if you have to! And to start of the chain that eventually leads into the Deadmines you first get sent to Redridge. Because you have no mount yet and it’s the longest straight distance in World of Warcraft.

So we shall give it a… say… D. It’s incredibly stupid to do all those quests when you could instead be in the Draenei starting area, but they do provide a good bunch of experience.

Next up, the saving grace of the Deadmines. Instance design. Here… have an A, let’s move on.

Not enough explanation you say? Oh well… if I have to. The instance itself is located in a hideout dug under a building in Moonbrook. The caves themselves follow the usually three-dimensional layout using a two-dimensional map – or in other words, they are a nightmare to navigate if you don’t know where you are going. Once inside the instance, it gets a whole lot more linear, though. There usually is only one path, sometimes it forks out for very short distances. This alone should qualify for a bad ranking, however the design is actually made fun. There is a mining tunnel full of ore at the beginning – the extension of the outside area. There are goblin lumberjacks crafting something wooden with a ginormous chopping robot. There is a smeltery with a foreman and fire and patrols and engineering loot. There are mages overseeing a mining operation with explosives deeper inside. And once you grab the gunpowder left lying around carelessly (under heavy guard, in a side tunnel) and blow up the big brass doors you get to the main piece.

Slight spoiler coming up now – just in case you never have seen any posts about the Deadmines, have somehow never managed to go there and don’t want to be told about what’s happening: don’t continue reading. Then again – what are you doing in this post anyway….

An underground harbour. Complete with pirate ship, shipwrights, parrots, more cannons than you could shake a Salt Shaker at and a first mate. There also is a murloc cook and a captain and all sorts – the main loot sorry.. the main event is, of course, Edwin vanCleef. He’s a bit of a mix of revolutionary and union representative – as he would be depicted by the governor of California.

As I said: a straight A.

That leaves accessibility: The westfall flightpoint is a bit of a walk and it’s a total pain for the horde to reach. The entrance is also located inside a town swarming with enemy spellcasters – usually sniping from within doorways. And then buried under a mountain in a maze of epic proportions with twisting corridors – and some of us even manage to get lost in a straight corridor like… say… Archavons.

I can’t help but give it a B, for the pure amusement factor of getting there. Always lovely in a new group – or with people who forgot just how annoying the entrance area actually is.

Time involved: Make no mistake – Deadmines is a long instance if played with a proper group. Discounting all the “LF1M Tank, DM” time I’d guess you’d need about half an hour to reach the instance entrance, another half hour to the smeltery, another hour to the boat and then a stunning hour to clear the whole place and spike the guns and throw their powder into the lake. Three hours? Sounds about right. Give it a B.

D + A + B + B comes out a solid B. Yeah.. why not. Basically you’re in for a better experience if you skip the quests.

And do we learn something in there? Well.. this is the first instance I know where people technically have to learn where to walk (“Left side down the smeltery or you pull the whole room”) and that patrols will be triggered from behind on each and every door you open. Not bad, but nothing life-changing.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Money Making for Fun and (mostly) Profit!

Vanity moment yesterday – I finally bought my Tundra Travellers Mammoth. That’s been on the “To Do” list for a bit, mostly because I want the two vendors and wanted to show off in guild a bit (yes – I’m vain like that).

Picked my moment perfectly, too – my wife was just having a discussion with one of our members on how he could get his hands on more than his current 400 gold. The bantering went back and forth after that for a while with the general consensus being “I am too lazy to make money” and “Making money detracts from my normal play time, so I try to avoid it”.

Both are perfectly valid excuses, I think. I didn’t make any money on the auction house until about a year ago, and I remember distinctly a slight amount of jealousy over seeing people with 10k gold back when I was struggling to buy my very first epic flying mount. On the other hand – I usually sold everything I looted through a sensible channel, had my professions up to date and had enough gathering alts to never really struggle for anything. Gold can be of very little importance even for raiders.

It is, however, a lot quicker to just make money by trading and as such probably worth a few very basic ideas. There are tons of moneymaking blogs about – and if you read those, you’ll probably get better and more specific ideas (or weirder and more confusing tales if you read a lot of Greedy Goblin).

Moneymaking idea no. 1: Do quests. Although daily quests are counted into this statistic, the tab on my “main” currently shows around 16.000 gold earned from quests. That’s not bad at all. I always level by questing and found mindless grinds incredibly tedious since the days of Ultima Online finally ended. Quests are more fun and comparatively lucrative, it seems. The main bonus: quest income is fixed. While grinding out two levels on skeletons in the Western Plaguelands might give you that epic drop that finances your flying mount, you just as well might end up with mainly cloth and grey loot.

Moneymaking idea no. 2: Sell grey loot. One of the first steps on any new character of mine is to upgrade bag space. As much as I can afford it. Grey loot does add up to rather surprising amounts rather quickly – especially in Northrend and the Outlands, where a single grey weapon drop can be worth several gold pieces. Not bad for a single bagspace at all. Current tracking: Apparently around 4500 gold made from selling grey stuff.

Moneymaking idea no. 3: Sell non-grey stuff on the auction house – but think about what you sell. This is beginning to require a bit more thought than the other two tips. If you have ever browsed the auction house for a quest item (like Murloc Eyes) before, didn’t you hate having to buy 17 when you only needed 3?
If there is something that is useful for a quest, sell it in quest appropriate amounts. If you don’t have enough to fill the quest (say .. only 2 murloc eyes or only 7 blue pearls), sell them in singles. That way they can be used to fill out uneven amounts.
Any leftover cloth, ore, stone and such should be collected in my opinion. Make some room in your bank and pile them all up until you get a nice 20, then drop them on the Auction House on a weekend. Undercut or fit in the middle – it doesn’t really matter with low amounts.
Be careful with green items – especially the now “outdated” equipment does not always increase in value on disenchanting. This is especially true of weapons. Outlands and “Vanilla” weapons often sell for more to the NPCs than they are worth as essences. In this case it’s worth tracking the value and selling the shiny blue to your local blacksmith sometimes.

Moneymaking idea no. 4: Gathering. Those gathering professions are called money-makers for a reason. Many characters ran with two gathering professions even when the crafting ones had cool BoP items (that would be back in TBC times). This is especially true if you are levelling a new alt. The low level ores/herbs/leathers are surprisingly tedious to farm, as the lack of flying mounts gives higher level characters no significant speed increase. The old lands are also notoriously annoying for finding the nodes you want (Rich Thorium in Winterspring? Yuck!). If you want to actually _use_ your profession for making money consider checking the auction house and farming what sells for most. For miners this is often mithril and thorium over saronite.

Moneymaking idea no. 5: Items that are gained from cooldowns. Those are nice, because even on large populations servers there is a limited supply of those. Items like Titansteel bars, epic gems, spellweave, etc. When you have the ability to make one of those – do it. It’s usually worth buying the raw materials (I have seen a few cases where the cost of raw materials momentarily was higher than the final product). Even if you only make a 50 silver profit this is probably something you should do on all your characters (I’m often too lazy on the titansteel and can’t be bothered flying around on the cloth – I’m working on stamping out the bad habits).

Moneymaking idea no. 6: Actual Crafting. The more steps are required in the manufacturing of an item, the higher (usually) the end gain. This does not necessarily increase your money per hour (as crafting the prerequisites, crafting the main item, enchanting and gemming the item and then posting it on the auction house) can take a surprising amount of time. If, however, you already have the crafting professions, it seems like a waste not to get the last extra 10gold per item. Don’t just sell your transmuted gem – cut it into something even more profitable.
This is the moneymaking that requires the least travel, usually. Buy some unfinished product and refine it. As long as there is a profit left after auction house fees, you will always benefit here. Case in point: Raw Ametrine cut into (whatever) Ametrine usually results in a 20 gold increase in auction house price. Deduct the fees and the occasional deposit (for items that do not sell) and you are looking at a profit of maybe 10 gold per gem. Need more money? Sell more gems!

Note: A wider variety of crafting professions (as gained from having several alts) does _not_ increase your money per hour. It only grants you more options to try for making money. Some professions are better, some are worse – but in the end each profession so far has allowed me to make gold on the auction house.

Tailoring: Bags and Cooldown Cloth (Ebonweave, Spellweave) always sell.
Blacksmithing: Eternal Belt Buckles and Titansteel weapons work.
Engineering: Tinkered Minipets (Yeti, Lifelike Mechanical Toad and Lifelike Squirrel) and the Epic Guns seem to be okay.
Alchemy: Transmutes are the main source of income for me. Flasks and potions might work, if they are not flooded by levelling alchemists at low prices.
Jewelcrafting: Titanium Jewelry sells for newly dinged level 80s. If you are unsure of which gems are a good choice – get the ones you would use on your class first. You know your class and can spot a good gem.

Enchanting, Mining, Herbalism, Skinning: Gathering professions. Sell something gathered. Enchanting usually works well with something cheaply crafted (Low raw material cost crafts).

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I always get asked for my Sartharion 3D achievement!

So after happily prancing along and telling the world (and my seven okay three readers not including myself) how great achievements are: The Downside (with a capital downside!). Pick up things.

It doesn't matter any more if I'm any good at playing my class - I will get asked to prove my knowledge of tactics, positioning, optimal movement patterns, spell rotations, tanking priorities and healing assignments along with a general grasp of equipping and correctly enchanting and gemming my class before I am allowed to join a PUG. The words are usually "LF1M VoA25, tank, pref. warrior or paladin, link achievement and stats" (possibly with a few creative spelling errors).

Not to complain or anything, but those demands are most often made by those who do not, in fact, have the achievement - and by lazy raid leader who do not want to put in the 30 seconds before each fight having to explain what to actually do. Not entirely surprising either - to get into any PUGs themselves, they need the achievement.

Or not.

Originally posted in April there are two script commands that allow the creative player to fake any achievement into a chat link.

/script ChatFrame1:AddMessage(UnitGUID("PLAYER"))

This is the first one and practically a neccessity. It grants the enterprising bank alt the player ID as a chat line. Looks something like this, then:

That last line, written in fine white print on the carpet of the weapontrainers in Stormwind is the unique player-ID of my bank alt. I presume it's serverspecific - after all the same name cannot occur on the same server but quite happily on a number of other servers. Oh look - there are apparently 77 people with my name. And that's only counting those above level 10, it seems. Wheee.

The second script command is the real deal:

ChatFrame1:AddMessage("\124cffffff00\124Hachievement:2054:00000000004488AE:1:4:5:8:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295\124h[The Twilight Zone (25 Player)]\124h\124r")

Now this is a tad more complex. Let me see if I can break it down.

"/script Chatframe1:AddMessage" <-- This tells your script to post a clickable link into your chatframe 1. If you are a lazy person like me, you probably only have chatframe 1. Might want it somewhere else, if you insist.

":AddMessage("\124cffffff00\124H" <-- Weird stuff that I don't understand, but it seems to be required.

"achievement:2054" <-- This is the number of the achievement you want to fake. Straight as taken from WoWhead. Click on the achievement you want, check your webbrowser and take the number from there.

":0000000004488AE" <-- This is the player ID I rambled on about earlier. It seems important to get the number of zeroes right. Or so I am told - never tried entering the wrong one for fear of creating 10.000 gold in my inventory by accident. Hmmmmm. Be right back.



No .. just doesn't work then.

":1:4:5:8:" This is the date the achievement was completed on. Well.. the first 1 means you completed it. The 4 is the day of the month, the 5 is the month and the 8 is the year. So apparently my bank alt became a twilight vanquisher on the 4th of May 2008. Not bad for a level 32.

"4294967295:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295\124h" <-- More stuff I don't understand. I'm sure it means something. Oh yes. Like Fnord.

"[The Twilight Zone (25 Player)]\124h\124r")" <-- The title displayed in your clickable link and more weird stuff. The title has to match the real name of the achievement you are about to fake, or the link will be clickable by you, but not by anyone else you link it to. In my case: the old "Heroic: The Twilight Zone" does no longer work, as the achievement is now called "The Twilight Zone (25 player)".

So there you go. Easy peasy. A little bit of clicking and /macro editing and anyone can be a scarab lord.

/script ChatFrame1:AddMessage("\124cffffff00\124Hachievement:2054:00000000004488AE:1:4:5:8:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295\124h[The Twilight Zone (25 Player)]\124h\124r")

Achievement Number from WoWhead

Player ID


Name of the Achievement

And this is so much more precise than just using Underachiever - an addon that does the same thing, but assigns a random date to your achievement. Eep! I might have been on holiday that time!

Edit: Erm. Of course this only links an achievement into chat. It does not actually change your armoury profile. Or even the "Compare Achievement" results when someone is standing next to you. Your new achievement will pop up in all it's glory after you really kill Sartharion 3D. I suppose it would be best to be alive and at the top of the damage meters at that time. Even - or rather especially - when you are a healer!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Them Achievements

Are you a fan of achievements? Hate them with a passion?

Interestingly enough, we have both sides in the guild. The two sides formed shortly after the introduction of achievements – and to be fair, I can understand my opposite number (*waves* Hey Tigs, that’s you!).

The argument for achievements (here, in this context, this is not a summary or somesuch) goes something like this: Some of the achievements show that the player has done something truly outstanding. Better than everyone else on the server (Realmfirsts come to mind, or the Gladiator ones). Some of them show a certain perseverance and dedication to a certain style of play (100.000 Honourable Kills – Say what? I got 1200 or so).

Some of them send people to actually have a look at old content that was quite nice: Outland Raider, Old World Raider. Those are the ones that actually keep the old content alive. Be fair – how many groups have you seen forming for Blackwing Lair before the introduction of the achievement system (Yes, I know, one every two weeks. Shush! We’re ignoring those for the sake of the argument)? That’s right! A big fat zero! (I said ignore, now shush!) And how many have formed since? That’s right, several every weekend – and it’s not completely unheard of to have a Thursday night “Black Temple” party going on either.

I’m all for something that grants me a short-to-mid-term goal and keeps me interested in the game. There isn’t even a large amount of reward required – of course there is the occasional tabard or drake, but that’s not why we follow them.

The opposite view is quite simple to grasp as well. Suddenly you have hundreds of guildmembers leaping off cliffs like lemmings aiming for an achievement. The achievement spam in the first weeks was truly horrendous. When the 25-man groups get another Realm First! the spam is everywhere. No content whatsoever was added (that is a blatant lie as well, as there was other content in the same patch, like this trifling Wrath of the Lich King thing, but it’s true – the achievements don’t specifically do anything).

The guild armoury page reflects the different views as well. A select few players have not logged in since the patch (should I name it? I think it was 3.0, but might be wrong there) – they manage to hang on to an achievement point rating of 0. That’ll obviously change as soon as they log in with the points for every 10 levels and the quests completed and such. A very very large majority has achievement points somewhere in the “few-thousands” range. It can’t be helped, once you are level 80, to get some of those. Especially because some of the achievements are handed out for basically “not doing it right” (tm).

Example needed? A Void Dance and Snakes! The first one assumes your party has not grasped the concept of the debuff and managed to change target, the second does pretty much the same, except there is no debuff. Sure … more and more people get those achievements now that they overgear heroic instances – but if you got one of those in the early days, you were doing the fight wrong.

A minority of players have gone past the 5000 achievement points mark. I’m there at the moment (with a comfortable lead, I might add) and working on breaking the 7k next. And I seriously enjoy the whole thing. Some even come with shiny titles!

But why the whole work? Well … the post of my wife made me remember why, basically. It’s all about the rare glorious moments when a goal is reached. Of course some goals are shared by a large majority of the guild – reach level 80, raid successfully and kill the end boss of an instance, buy a flying mount. However, even though those are indeed rewarded by an achievement, those goals are not something I value very highly. There are other achievements. Those that provided a challenge for the participants (in whatever way) that result in the cheering and real sense of accomplishment that is completely different.

Examples of good achievements? Glory of the Hero for one. People who complain about the game being too easy really need to try that one. There are a few in there that are actually rather on the hardish side – especially those where no amount of gear will make the game easy.

I wanted to post examples here. In fact, I had written several paragraphs about the fights that I remembered for being especially impressive and memorable and great and inspiring. I took it all out. I’m quite sure that I will post some of them at another time because they were actually quite great on their own – but it didn’t feel right in lumping them all together. And the one my girl wrote about was much better on its own anyway.

*reads back*

Euhh… Didn’t manage to say anything again, did I?

Ah well… that’s another achievement then.

[Mad Rambler] Has done x posts in a blog without talking about achievement content.