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.

1 comment:

  1. Time is money, friend!