Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Deathnugget Project about to come to a close

I posted about ... well ... two times about my spellpower deathknight project. The idea was mainly to see how much hostility I'd be subjected to just for wearing spellpower gear on a deathknight. The second part of the project was to see if it ever actually got hard to level.

The second part is easiest to answer: No, it didn't. Even wearing the entirely wrong set of shoulders, chest armour and two trinkets didn't lead to impossible quests, unbeatable mobs and lots of quiet crying. In fact, this was the fastest character I ever leveled to 80.

2 days and 22 hours isn't all bad. Most of the time was taken up by getting mining and flowerpicking to high levels anyway. I don't like moving through the outlands without being able to grab everything harvestable on the floor. Obviously, starting at 55 does give a tad of a boost there.

(image taken from here - just in case you want to buy one now)

Now, how was progress up to 80, though? Pretty much the same as I've posted about before. I got mostly comments on the robe, very occasionally on the matching shoulders. No one in all the leveling ever commented on the "spellpower/restore mana on kill" trinkets. Two of them. Most of the time I didn't really get around to spouting some nonesense about how much I prefered the colour and the cut and a fresh breeze around my undead privates - some other member of the party would usually speak up and say something like "Oh, it's all about the experience bonus". A shame really.

I met some oddities on the way to Northrend as well. Like this druid who, err, apparently had bought his account. Now I'm not about to fling that accusation around randomly, but there are a few hints.

Let me post a picture to clarify:

This is a level 80 druid (and to the best of my knowledge it is not actually possible to level to 80 in the old lands), who has at least some Icecrown Citadel faction and has actually been inside. Yet, the boat to Northrend was a new discovery. Sure, there are a few possible solutions - the player could have leveled entirely through the dungeon finder and always been summoned to ICC. The player could have taken the boat from Menethil Harbour and never actually set foot in Stormwind Harbour. It did all sound very fishy, though. More fishy than the normal harbour smell.

(image taken from here)

Right. Back on topic, though. Hostility even through the Northrend instances was actually low. I didn't once get kicked from a group (although proper dps probably played a role) and there were only two people that were remarkable in the whole experiment. Let me show you the details:

The usual reply to "why are you wearing a robe" apparently prompted a comment on my sexual orientation. I assume this just shows that around 11.12 in the mornings too many teenagers are online. Odd, though.

Note the other party member once again coming to my defence for no good reason at all. Just explaining that this is a perfectly accetable set, apparently. Or maybe that's just Lightbringer *suspicious of the server, suddenly, nodnod*.

More along the lines of what I had expected was this masterpiece of conversation. Here I was in the middle of explaining to him that he didn't even notice the spellpower trinkets and he threatened real life physical violence. Interesting. I have not had that before. And on my very own server, too. With a very cunningly chosen name - although I can hardly complain about that now, can I?

So ... it all came to a close near the end. I did actually reach level 80. I wanted to do one last thing before grabbing a fresh mining pick and settling down to wait for Cataclysm. One Northrend Heroic. Any of them. Really - I wasn't picky.

Unfortunately the problems were not players - it was the bloody game itself.

Apparently my leveling gear was too bad to even try a heroic. Any of them. Utgarde Keep was out. Seriously?

Oh well... a little bit of shopping made it all work out in the end. I had to buy a few green rings of the auctionhouse and craft boots, belt and gloves of the iLevel 187 pvp set.

Upped my Gearscore immensely, too.

Which finally got me an instance. Heroic Drak'tharon Keep - my personal Oculus. I hate the instance and I get it a lot more than anything else.

The party took almost all the way to Trollgore before the commenting started - and it then held on a little. A bit more hostile than previously - but still not really bad. Spinks and Poek (in the comments) had apparently a lot worse happen to them in normal groups.

There were even sensible suggestions on how to improve the gear. Not entirely friendly - and certainly not what a real noob would deserve - but not horrid.

And hey - for the first time since I started this project I was not actually at the top of the epeen-meters.

Look ... just barely above the tank.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The „New Expansion“ Survival Guide

So Cataclysm will be released soonish. We’re all looking forward to it with varying expectations – but to be fair, anyone still reading WoW Blogs this late in the expansion either loves the writing style or is still interested in the game. As you ended up here, I’d like to pretend it is the former, but I’m not that silly.

As the bold survivor of two expansions in WoW and several others in different games I feel uniquely qualified to present a guide to surviving the new expansion. Of course, not actually knowing the date or the design changes they did this time round to solve some of the more common problems isn’t going to help – but I shall not be deterred.

There are a few things to expect that you may or may not have experienced yet, and there are also a few suggestions on what to do (see how I hooked you right there? I should go into used car sales, really).

So… what will happen that affects your playing experience?

1) Queues

Unless you bought a sparkle-pony when they first were released, the last time queues were actually a concern was on Icecrown Citadel release day. 8th of December 2009, with patch 3.3.0. What does it mean? Well… look forward to a lot of people you have not seen in a while logging on. Cities are going to be packed, chat channels will be fuller than usual (any – from trade to guild) and the servers are going to be full of life. The queue times on Icecrown Citadel day were up to one hour on my servers, I’d expect this to be actually longer during primetime for the Cataclysm launch.

Suggestions: Log in early and be prepared to wait. TV, books, drawing with crayons or eating salted peanuts are all acceptable pass-times while you wait for the counter to tick down. Most of us are aware that patience is not a strong virtue for most WoW players – better get used to it, because this’ll not be the only time you are waiting.

2) Crowding

New content is going to be full. This ties in with the point above, obviously, but worse so. Unlike on content patches the amount of people swarming the new content is not going to be limited by some artificial gear restrictions – everyone will be able to go and try out new things.

This applies both to the new starter areas and the new 80-85 leveling zones. Back in the TBC launch people tried to roll a Draenei or Bloodelf to escape the horror of Hellfire Peninsula – with very limited success.

“Kill stealing” for quest relevant mobs is going to happen. If the last two expansions are anything to go by, this’ll continue for weeks, possibly months into the new content.

On the bright side: Blizzard was aware of this and things were improved in WotLK over TBC already – two parallel zones for instance, quest drops that fell on the ground and could be used by anyone on the quest (the Halberd from Kaw the Mammoth Hunter comes to mind), spawn speed depending on the number of players in the area. I am looking forward to the new additions – but basic human idiocy will not be completely deterred.

Suggestion: None really. You’ll have to live with it. There are two possible ways to solve this a little: grouping with anyone that looks like they are on the same quest and “kill-stealing” yourself. The second suggestion is quicker and arguably more efficient; the first might lead to some conversation – the whole point of a multiplayer game. I usually set out on the moral high ground, not wanting to drop to their level, but human behaviour has been known to take its’ toll and I may (possibly) have spammed an insta-attack occasionally.

Keep in mind that the levelling progress of a large number of people follows a bell-curve. Assuming “I’ll log off for half an hour, and then the idiot will be gone” is not going to help. Yes, “that person” is going to be ahead of you, but someone else will take his place.

4) New stuff (tm)

Quests, items, craftables, mounts, achievements… the list is probably endless. This is considered a good thing by many (me included, by the way). It also means old stuff will be old – in almost all cases that means it’s worth less.

Time to start cleaning: My bank has already undergone “periodic maintenance” – two bags are still reserved for mementos, everything else is either sold, going to be sold, going into last minute crafting or is “current gear”. My backpacks are going to suffer the same. Currently I lug around several different armour sets (general tanking, general dps and subsets like “frost resist” and “expertise heavy”). There are also quest-related things like a tournament lance etc.

My plan is to start into Cataclysm with a set of dungeon gear (tanking), a levelling gear (fury dps) with all of the optionals gone. From current reports I’ll have a few potions, but not many – there is bound to be new ones and my current raid gear is better than the average, so I’m less likely to die than average.

New gear will ruthlessly replace old gear. I know my raiding epics are shiny, but if the green drop that turns my carefully assembled set into a clown suit is better, it’ll be used. Note: I am not willing to enchant levelling items, so I will make careful note of all the stats (which lead to a rather large amount of TBC epics still being better than WotLK quest drops at level 80 – they were rapidly replaced by “level 80 blues” with enchants).

4a) Crafting materials old and new

Crafting materials are a special case – personally I’m going to get rid of everything. There are guides around suggesting to stock up on materials now while they are cheap, either to rake in profit from newly levelling goblins and worgen or from materials that retain their value and/or can be used for max level crafting.

It’s a bit of a gamble. Sometimes material lists change for an expansion. I seem to recall plans to level blacksmithing by making eternium rods with very cheap materials which worked in the WotLK beta but were useless in WotLK “the game”. Eternium rods were patched to turn grey at 375 blacksmithing.

Changes like this are quite possible (and I’d consider them likely). More room for new things.

4a-i) The auction house.

This will be changing drastically in price after the expansion. If you are playing it regularly, you’ll just notice changes and live with them. If you are not interested usually, you’ll find that most prices will be amusingly/disgustingly high after the new expansion.

New materials will sell for insane amounts at the beginning (I remember frostweave (at the start of WotLK) and netherweave (at the start of TBC) to be insanely expensive). This means levelling a crafting profession will be very costly at the start. Consider carefully whether you consider investment something you can recover from max level crafting, or if you’d rather spend the time harvesting your own materials.

Harvesting them does not make them free – after all you could sell them on the AH yourself for great amounts of shinies. If you enjoy farming new mats while you level along – this might be for you, though. And I can only recommend Chases guide to gold making in all its forms.

5a-ii-alpha) So … a summary?

It’ll be full. It’ll be freaky. It’ll be a whole new game. Things will have to be learnt again, learnt completely new and there is always the option to just bumble along and see what happens. In all likelihood all of those will work. Blizzard does design the game to be accessible to a wide spread of players. No one will die all the time – even if you just got to level 80 last week and are wearing a lot of greens. You just might have to play more carefully – and possibly learn more about the new game than the overgeared people.

Have fun – and I found that a cup of tea really helps with watching the idiot factor as a bemused spectator instead of as a victim.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Battle for Gnomeregan – Meh!

I hope the title didn’t give it away. I am not too terribly impressed with the Battle for Gnomeregan (week 1?) for the moment. The quests at the start (the ones available to any level) were cute. I liked the gnomish drill sergeant showing us all the valuable skills required of the infantry.

Okay, so maybe they were not the most encouraging lessons, but no matter. The “fly around and throw things at tiny targets” mission was okay – it could have been more Death-Star like if there was some incoming fire, but oh well.

And then there is the motivational speech – brilliance in itself, mostly for being so utterly rubbish. It reminded me strongly of the “40 motivational speeches in under 2 minutes” thing.

The final event of retaking the Gnomer? Not so much.

It seems Blizzard either prepared this a long while ago (hmm… this voter says nay) or didn’t listen to any of the comments about the Wrathgate questline. Basically (and sorry, spoilers ahead here): You join the mechanized army of High Tinkerer Mechatorque, approach a fortified position outside the entrance, blow up some turrets, walk towards the tunnel, destroy waves of adds driven forth by a small nuclear device, jump down into the lift-shaft (without getting specifically told you have a parachute – but you do) and then battle some more things until the High Tinker disarms another nuclear device.

Sure … the dialogue was fun. I really rather enjoyed it (What? You left it on the factory default?...), but once again players get a ridiculous damage buff and are healed by Deus Ex Gnomish-Machina every second for more than they can possibly take damage.

I only played this from a tank perspective, but this is not fun. Sure, it might be okay as dps. I don’t mind seeing big numbers bubbling up above my head, I have to admit. It’s also nice not to actually have to worry about drawing aggro – especially as the wildly random composition of each “expedition group” does not necessarily have a tank. But seriously?

My numbers for shield slam are still pathetically low. I am basically watching a guided movie – and walking behind a bunch of people. On the second try (I had to go afk during the first and was subsequently killed in an un-ressable-position – that was nice as well!) I just didn’t even bother fighting any more.

If this is the case, why not just show me an in-game movie instead. Something with better acting and more drama. Something like the Wrathgate film, which was good, not like the Invasion of Undercity, which was tedious and boring.

Stop bloody taking the game out of the game!

Thank you. And I’d really like to hear a healers comment on this one. Is it just as bad for you?