Farewell Mists of Pandaria, Hello Iron Horde!

October 14, 2014

A Paladin in her Glory.

With the 6.0 patch a day away it seems appropriate to reminisce about what I have enjoyed and disliked about Mists of Pandaria.

The good

  • Launch was pretty smooth, I had an enjoyable week off work, levelling my paladin to 90 on the first day and getting stuck into 5 mans the following day
  • The Halfhill farm was fun, its quests were interesting, and the ability to farm pretty much all the main trade resources was insanely profitable (if tedious to do on all your alts every day)
  • Learning to tank, incredibly stressful at times, but ultimately rewarding to become the go to person in guild to solo tank raid content. I still have a lot to learn in terms of being proactive about fight direction (still too much attention taken up just in ability use) and in communication with the raid group (being vocal about taunts for example)
  • Professions seemed reasonable, JC and enchanting continued to dominate the Auction House, but crafters had reasonable access to new patterns with each new tier, Scribe was underwhelming after the first tier and Engineering was its traditional gold sink. I made over a million gold, and then proceeded to give most of it away.
  • Flex raiding, a late introduction, this has become my preferred casual play with alts and mains, its provided a social guild experience, and means we can completely avoid LFR
  • Throne of Thunder, I found the zone to be fun, but the lack of resource nodes meant I stopped going there once I had hit exalted reputation, it was an interesting insight into how much fun being a miner is for my main toon
  • Timeless Isle, I think my main complaint here, is that the island felt too small to me, and some parts of the island were simply too dangerous for solo play. It was hilarious watching the Alliance kill each other when PvP flagged. Weekly quests certainly worked better for me than dailies, make some progress, get bored, go do other stuff and come back later.

The bad

  • PvP was awful, chain CC and zero health in a few GCDs, I did the bare minimum required for the legendary quest line, and never went back. I used to enjoy battleground PvP in TBC, but the proliferation of “kill the healer first” addons has changed the game experience to be a negative one for me. On the plus side, we didn’t lose an entire zone to world PvP, or have a raid boss gated behind PvP victory requirements.
  • Daily burn out at launch, there were too many factions, and you needed revered reputation with just about all of them to access raiding gear, I shudder to think of the agonies that some people went through grinding this out on multiple toons.
  • Failing to heal, I struggled to heal at raiding level with my Paladin, and I couldn’t find guidance from my traditional sources (many older advice blogs simply died off or deliberately stopped covering Holy Paladins)
  • Failing to DPS, like healing, I simply couldn’t put out the DPS required to be competitive in a raid, the gap between any DPS character I tried to play and the better players in my raid group was simply too big to warrant me investing time
  • LFR, simply too much of an unpleasant environment, filled with trolls, for me to put effort into gearing alts or mains through it
  • Black Market Auction House, after the first week, when I picked up a gear upgrade, I never saw anything else worth buying again.
  • BOAs not dropping off Garrosh, I have only had the tanking sword drop (twice) when what I really wanted was the shield.

The ugly

  • Burn out … I stopped raiding for several months, because I simply could not cope with the mechanics in Heart of Fear. The raiding environment as a whole is one almost unrecognisable from Vanilla/TBC raids, the Dungeon Journal is incredibly intimidating with the sheer number of mechanics to master in each fight, the amount of blue/purple death crap on the screen, against dark blue/grey backgrounds, the shrieking and wailing of addon alerts…
  • the legendary quest line was something you couldn’t not do as a raider, and it had large choke points that were not fun to work through, for me the PvP requirement was what killed any enthusiasm for trying to get this item on alts
  • the fate of Garrosh, after all the build-up, after 150+ wipes learning the fight, to have him taken prisoner and escape was a major let down
  • Watching raiders quit the guild due to lack of progression, which accelerated as the introduction of mythic raiding drew closer. The officers were in the position of either (a) not raiding at all or (b) accepting below par performance. While we put a lot of work into standards and expectations going into the expansion, we simply didn’t live up to them.
  • Going in to the next expansion without enough players to form a 10 man raid team. With a November release date, many people in guild will not be in a position to raid until January. While we have a pool of casual players who can be carried through normal mode difficulty, we have lost half of the heavy lifters in our guild.
  • Server population faction balance continues to worsen with every expansion.

Tier 14

  • Most liked boss: Elegon, after mastering the elevator boss this was an excellent fight for tank swaps and picking up adds.
  • Most disliked boss: Garralon, crap everywhere on the ground and a fight that was hard to see and hard to control. Heart of Fear as a whole was my most disliked raid instance of the entire expansion. My guild found it weird that it was the gate to Terrace of Endless Springs, when all the fights in TOES were easier than most of those in HOF.

Tier 15

  • Most liked boss: Jin-Rokh, one of the few fights my guild did on HM during this tier, I have often liked fights where the raid group has to split into two teams for part of the fight.
  • Most disliked boss: hard choice between Durumu and Dark Animus, with Dark Animus winning due to the sheer confusion and brutality of its opening sequence.

Tier 16

  • Most liked boss: Paragons, I liked the Klaxxi and this is a fight were I managed to solo tank the last third of the fight with most of the raid group dead on our first progression kill, so a good memory.
  • Most disliked boss: Garrosh, this fight was harder on normal mode for my guild than HM Spine of Deathwing was in Cataclysm.

Looking to the future

I am excited for the Warlords of Dreanor expansion. I am happy that there are no new classes or races, as I have long passed the point of diminishing returns from alts. It has been eight years, but I still love playing my Paladin. My list of things I am most looking forward to include:

  • more options for flexible raiding, while my guild has lost the option to do the hardest raiding content in the game, we are gaining more flexibility for raid group size and cross-server recruitment for all the other content types
  • the new approach to world zones, and the player housing garrisons, will give me the freedom to choose the content I want to engage in each night after work
  • Asharan, a world PvP zone incorporating cross-server population balancing is one where I won’t feel like a constant victim of Alliance numerical superiority
  • lots of small quality of life improvements (bag space, simpler gearing, being able to avoid accidental PvP flagging)
  • Ability pruning – I would love to take a task bar or two off my raid frames, especially after enjoying the 5-6 action limit in TESO. While I am losing some iconic abilities, I accept its good for the game, as you cannot keep adding to the ability list with every new expansion.

This time around I am only taking two days leave for the launch, but that gives me a four day weekend. The big decision facing me is this – do I just concentrate on playing one character as well as possible, or do I play all my current max level characters again for the economic synergy that will arise from having multiple Garrisons?

I will miss having a million HP on my tank. Yes, it was a bit silly, but it was a nice reaching the top of the mountain benchmark.

Some thoughts on the competition

No one else has been able to launch a subscription based AAA theme park MMO and maintain anything close to WoW’s player base. I am not sure anyone can while WoW continues to be what it is, as the major growth has been in free-to-play games and games focusing on smaller teams with a PvP focus. Blizzard’s cancellation of Titan is interesting, while done because the ideas didn’t pan out for fun, I don’t think they could actually expand the market with a second MMO without cannibalising the WoW player base. MMOs expand to fill available time and I have struggled to play more than one at a time with any degree of skill.

I now think that the 200+ hour levelling game, which must be completed prior to accessing the end game, is a trap for new MMOs.  I simply lose interest in the levelling game, fail to engage in social groups (it is difficult to find a group of adults from the same time zone as me), and then cancel my subscription after a few months. When a game is launched with significant errors (e.g. social chat does not work, or its impossible to log in for a month) it is hard to sustain interest even that long. The shift to arena format games like LOL and WOT is interesting, but ultimately for me they just don’t have the social aspect that WoW has given to my life.


Cliff notes for Warlords of Draenor Professions

October 12, 2014

These are the notes I cribbed from reading the http://wod.wowhead.com/guide=2506

Both gathering and crafting are integrated into the new Garrison system. Its worth taking the time to read up on the Garrison system, as mistakes can take a bit of gold and time to reverse. A few things I noted:

  • old choke points in skill levelling can be bypassed in WoD, so overpriced low level enchanting mats and the like will soon be a fading memory
  • levelling is much easier, most crafting professions have a handful of blue patterns, not the mess of greens built for instant sharding
  • don’t worry about training in a city before launching into the expansion, mobs and quests will give you what you need
  • Garrisons have their own resource currency, professions often require mats from multiple gathering professions, this added with the Work Order system, means there are more steps in producing most craft items and room for confusion and mistakes
  • the crafting professions look evenly matched, the traditional dominance of the modification professions (Enchanting, Jewelcrafting) looks to be over.

Blacksmith

TLDR, the easy stuff is easy to get, the hard stuff is a long grind.

(1) It will take about two months to learn all the patterns (the upgrade weapon/armour patterns take 15 days each to learn).
(2) There are no 2-handed weapons that can be crafted (so far, might be something like the ToT weapons down the track).
(3) There is a limit of “Unique Equipped: Warlords Crafted (3)”, so while there are eight epic armours, no one will want more than three of them.
(4) Learn Chest, Helm, Greaves, these three items provide the biggest stat boost for the same mats.
(5) Can learn how to make a pet “Soul of the Forge”.
(6) You learn the skill and get a few patterns just from the initial questing, plus the Forge building for your garrison.
(7) Its possible to level BS from 1 to 600 in four hours of frenzied slaughter of NPCs (and trading in scrap items looted from their bodies). Rinse and repeat for other professions as needed.
(8) No sign of crafted PVP gear. PVE gear will automatically scale up towards PVP stat levels, just not quite as good as dedicated PVP gear, so no real need for PVP specific crafting items.

Mining

(1) True Iron Ore, Blackrock Ore, and Draenic Stone (which can be traded for ore)
(2) Fragments skill levelling extended to all ore types (and similar mechanics for other gathering professions)
(3) Ore nodes can spawn a hostile Goren when mined
(4) Level 2 Garrison plus a quest gets you a mine for your Garrison
(5) “Ore Eater” Battle pet
(6) Peon’s Mining Pick (not sure if this a limited spawn like the Ancient Mining Pick, or if everyone can grab it). Worth farming, it will save hours of your life if you like flying in circles looking for gold dots on the mini-map.

Alchemy

(1) There are WoD versions of classic, hard to get spells, including Invisibility, Free Action, Water Walking, Water breathing, and Swiftness.
(2) Better level fishing, a lot of the potions require fishing mats for Crescent Oil
(3) Alchemy followers in an Alchemy lab will give you a stack of potions/day
(4) Transmorphic Tincture: changes gender for a short time
(5) For standard flasks and potions, your garrison can provide everything you need
(6) Only Alchemists can make “Greater Flasks”, possible +250 stat rather than +200 stat gain (and its primary stats not secondary stats)
(7) A greater flask requires 5 of the ordinary flasks, plus some stuff, to make, so I think you can imagine what the Greater Flask cost is going to be like…
(8) iLvl 620 Alchemist Trinket for xmuting.

The Chameleon Lotus

TLDR: Pick ALL the herbs!

The way this new lotus is implemented is a little bit different from the Pandaria ones: In MoP, Golden Lotus nodes are a rare spawn replacing a regular herb node. Apparently in WoD the Chameleon Lotus mimics a local herb, meaning you don’t know it is a lotus until you gather it. Essentially, instead of being a rare node spawn, it becomes a rare herb drop from a regular node.

Can be picked from Garrison herb garden.

Archaeology

Mostly like Mists, some BOA 620 gear, and some jumping puzzles for people who like platform games.

Cooking

A bit simpler, +50 and +75 stat food … except for the +100 stat feast which requires a Level 2+ Barn in your Garrison to get the materials. But in general you just want lots of meat/fish.

Jewelcrafting

JC used to be the Queen of Professions, the one anyone could make a million gold with. Its had some pretty massive changes:

(1) No more meta gems, primary stat gems, socket bonuses, or gem colours. No more prospecting!
(2) The number of sockets on gear is being reduced significantly, I estimate to around 10% of the current number of sockets (so demand for gems will be greatly reduced)
(3) There is emphasis on crafting neck and ring items, with levelling patterns good for L92, 95 and 98. You can build epics too, but remember the 3 crafted item limit – its probable that other armour slots offer more item points than mere bling.
(4) Probably looking at a couple of months to pick up all the patterns, like BS there are some 15 day upgrade patterns to boost neck/ring iLevel.
(5) Gems now come in two exciting flavours, vanilla and “greater”. Regular gems are +35, greater are +50.
(6) You need to be a JC to get greater gems and the best upgrades.
(7) The supply chokepoint, regular gems are going to be CHEAP, like the green gems today. A greater gem requires 50 times as many work order/daily CD resources as a regular gem. If you did nothing but play WoW all day, forgoing sleep, you can probably make two greater gems per Gem Boutique per day. If you just do some work orders at the start of the evening, and again when you log off four hours later, you can probably make one every second day. Getting one of those epic blings or upgrading it is going to consume more like a week’s JC resources (x100-200 the resources of a regular gem).
(8) Note the daily CD for making crystals is shared with the daily CD for learning patterns.

In case you hadn’t figured it out already, you can’t make Draenic gold by sitting in Orgrimmar at Level 90. You will have to do the starting quests up to around Level 92 and you will need to get the garrison up and running.

Engineering

The red-headed step child of professions, filled with useless toys you can’t offload onto unsuspecting customers, traditionally a way to spend gold rather than a serious gold earner.

(1) A lot of the odd little Engineer items are now available to anyone through the Engineering Works. The loot-a-rang may be useful in raids, when you have run past a mountain of corpses, and now wonder which one has you 30 silvers on it. The one use glider, stealth, shield, and attack toys may be a source of income. I’m hoping these things don’t become essential for raids, otherwise we will all be writing macros to include their use.
(2) You need to be an engineer to make armour upgrades, or use the Blingtron 5000, or the Wormhole generator.
(3) The Ultimate Gnomish Army Knife, the version for engineers only, has a 10 minute CD resurrection. Wording suggests it is always successful. We’ll need to test this in the field because science!
(4) You can make Fireworks, including Everlasting Horde Firework (which had a 0.5% drop rate in the week it was available).
(5) One epic weapon – an agility gun. And you can make scopes for ranged weapons as usual.
(6) Four epic goggles/helmets – in cloth, leather, mail and plate varieties. Statwise they seem equal to those produced by the other crafting systems in the game … but they’re Mechshades, and they’re bind-on-equip. Did you know transmog rhymes with ka-ching!? Your engineer alt could be busy making a pair of these while your other crafter toon is busy working on chest or legs, so some potential for faster gearing by paying attention to your Engineer.
(7) Yes, there are pets. Three crafted, one from the Blingtron.

Fishing

Fishing has been made more complicated.

(1) Fish comes in different sizes (bigger = more meat)
(2) Savage Savory Delight = orc pirate/ninja costumes.
(3) Each zone has different fish, and a unique bait to increase the chance of catching that fish.
(4) Crescent sabrefish is essential to many alchemical products.
(5) Rubber Duck pet
(6) Social fish – new ways to annoy your raiding comrades by throwing fish at them
(7) Pretty Draenor Pearl
(8) Your garrison gets a fishing shack at L94. Nat Pagle will turn up, and will annoy you endlessly.
(9) A pet land shark and water strider mount await those willing to grind and grind and grind…

Inscription

Inscription is the boom/bust profession of WoW. One day your stuff sells for a fortune, three days later you have to pay people to take it off your hands.

(1) The fact that a key byproduct of your scribe followers is a “merchant order” that is cashed in for gold tells you something about the lack of goods that scribes have to offer other players. Still 75-225g is not too shabby.
(2) Ability consolidation means there are few new glyphs, existing glyphs have been repurposed. Large numbers of glyphs are now learned automatically.
(3) BOE levelling trinkets at L91, 95 and 98.
(4) Can craft some weapons and off-hands for casters – wowhead has contradictory information about there ability to be upgraded, I’d lean towards them being capable of being fully upgraded.
(5) Darkmoon faire cards, Trinkets are generally +primary stat (or armour) with a crit or spirit proc. There are new Joker cards which can be used to fill in a missing card in a near complete deck. Trinket decks can be upgraded. NB: first DMC post launch starts 7 December. Edit 10 Warpaints to make, and not locked behind a CD, these are going to be pretty easy to make! Unlike the weapons, these don’t seem to be upgradeable.
(6) Card of Omens, for gambling with, or arranging movement of vast hoards of gold between servers. 1-6,000g.
(7) You still have to mill herbs. When the JC has knocked off for the day and is enjoying a beer, you will still be grinding…

Tailoring

(1) Hexweave Cloth, requires fur and herbs to make. Remember how you used to farm humanoids for cloth? Well, get used to killing furry animals. Or just doing lots of work orders.
(2) You get the standard WoD set of armours, stat rerolls and upgrades.
(3) No more leg embroidery.
(4) Tailor only “creeping carpet” mount and plushie toy (for Masochist Pet Battle owners only).
(5) The Hexweave bag has 30 slots and requires 100 Hexcloth (500 Sumptous fur plus herbs through work orders), so maybe you can make one every 2-3 days or so. If it is this fast, then there is not much point making the older big bags from Mists/Cataclysm as they take much longer to make and the mats are pretty expensive. You need to be a tailor to make these.
(6) Epic BOE cloaks. Do not appear to be subject to the 3-crafted item limit. These will be in demand.

Tailoring looks to be in a good place for making gold. Unlike the other gear crafters, you have a lot of options for your mats when the demand for crafted gear falls off. You will always sell bags. But, the price of the bags is probably going to crash a few months into the expansion because everyone else will be shifting their production into bags as well.

Leatherworking

I don’t have a leatherworker toon, but as there do not seem to be specialistions for pots, flasks and elixirs for WoD alchemy, I may as well convert one of my alchemists into a leatherworker/skinner.

(1) Can make armour, drums, profession bags (e.g. for mining). The bags are 36 slots, which is a slight improvement over the 30 slot tailoring bags, and no bigger than the 36 slot bags you can already build.
(2) Leatherworking only mount (Dustmane Direwolf).
(3) BOA Garrison tents, 10 second rest for +10 stat boost for an hour. Consumable.
(4) BOE epic cloaks, like the tailoring cloaks do not appear to be subject to 3-crafted item limit.

So, its okay, but nothing super exciting.

Double-gathering

Q. If almost everyone can make everything, should I just drop my professions and gather raw materials?
A. While most things can be made without great difficulty through your garrison, the very best items and upgrades are going to be locked behind long acquisition times for the patterns and long farming times for the consumables.


Trillium Bars

January 24, 2013

If you follow the legendary quest chain in Patch 5.2 for World of Warcraft, you will hit “Secrets of the Empire”, which requires 20 Secrets of the Empire from the Throne of Thunder raid instance, and 40 Trillium Bars.

While the raid drop will be the more time consuming item to acquire, the Trillium Bars are likely to cost a fair whack of gold.  40 Bars is a lot, my server Auction House had 113 bars listed this morning for around 80g each.  So just three raiders would clean the AH out.  So I predict that the price for Trillium Ore will go up a bit, possibly some very spiky bursts, as will the price of Trillium Bars.  If Trillium Bar prices stay high, then ghost iron ore, bars and living steel go up as well.

So its a good time to grab any cheap Mists ore you see on the AH (I’m snaffling trillium ore <10g and ghost iron ore at <2g), and if you are a raider it would not hurt to stockpile the 40 Bars early.  I’m pretty sure I could make the bars for around 40g each at the moment, so that’s half the current AH price and a potential saving of 1,600+ gold when the patch goes live.

Caveat: its the PTR, everything could change.


How I quit raiding and learned to enjoy playing World of Warcraft again

January 22, 2013

On my mother’s deathbed I promised her that I would learn to drive, buy my own house, and be happy.

Before Christmas I started adding up the hours required to achieve all the things I wanted to do in 2013.  It became obvious that my weekly World of Warcraft rotation was taking way too much time.  A rough tabulation of activities:

  • Mobile app AH play for 5-10 minutes each workday morning
  • On getting home, relist expired auctions and use daily cooldowns for Alchemy, Enchanting, Inscription, and Tailoring
  • Make buckles, BOE blue weapons and other plate gear/shields for AH sale
  • Sigh in frustration as no one buys my raw gems, cut gems, or metagems
  • Run through the Tillers farm on three-four alts, with Tillers quests on whichever toon just hit 90
  • Run a scenario for VP, run a 5 man if the tank bag appears
  • Bang out the required dailies on my raiding main, getting some mining in en route
  • Hit the AH again
  • Start running LFR for the week, continue running LFR, keep running LFR until I hit VP cap
  • Two three hour sessions of raiding, plus half hour+ of raid prep
  • Hit the AH again
  • Maybe … spend a couple of hours at the weekend levelling an alt
  • Maybe … heal a random Battleground
  • Maybe … do a xmog run of old content with guildies.

So World of Warcraft was easily eating three hours a night of my time, plus more in the weekends.  For what its worth I currently have 1.927 million gold, despite spending over 250,000 gold after the expansion launched.

I was feeling frustrated with guild progression in the current tier (6/6 MV, 3/6 HOF, nothing in TOES).  I was personally finding the fights difficult to execute, every boss was just more fucking mechanics layered on top of new fucking mechanics.  I read a blog where an experienced tank was cackling with glee over how hard and refreshing Vaults was to run.  I hated it.  Almost every damn fight, but especially the first one. I couldn’t believe that was an introductory fight in an introductory tier of raiding.  Watch energy build up, while kiting out of bad stuff, but not so far as to break the chains … hated it.  Will of the Emperor, I’m supposed to know which way to dodge based on how the boss is standing. This is a case where martial arts experience was useless, as I dodged into the blow every single fucking time.  In the end I just gave up, stood still and mitigated the damage as best I could.

Healing was less fun than it used to be. Holy Paladin healing is now based around free heals. The moment you start to use heals that cost mana, the mana bar collapses. I found that using my Guardian required me to keep 40-50% of my mana bar, or else it was a waste of time dropping the guardian because I would go OOM before the 4th or 5th heal went off.  This makes the healing rotation easy, but boring. Holy Shock on cooldown, Holy Light in between  then Word of Glory or Light of Dawn as a finisher.  Repeat, for 6+ minutes.  Through 5.0 and 5.1 I was decidedly behind the Monk and Priest healer on all the metrics that count.  While my raid position was in no danger, I no longer felt awesome as a healer … for progression kills with two healers, it felt like I was healing mainly because I was the worst tank available.

So one morning at work I decided to stop.  After work I still felt good about that call.  Posted to the guild forums. Went on a last raid.

The last thing I expected to happen when I stopped raiding was that I would actually really enjoy playing World of Warcraft again in short one hour bursts.  I no longer log in every day, but when I do I have a good time.  I run one LFR each week, and then play either my Fire Mage, Healer Monk, or Warrior Tank for an hour.  Its fun, and the moment it feels grindy, I stop and log out of the game. When I play the AH, I just do belt buckles, plus junk I found while questing.  One thing I foresee for 5.2, having a legendary metagem will further depress prices in a market saturated with sellers and few buyers.

One bonus of stopping raiding is more time for content creation.  So I am looking forward to more time spent on roleplaying games, boardgames, and the Grand Strategy game for Buckets of Dice.  Plus a few more blog posts here from time to time.

In World of Tanks news, I reached Tier X in the Soviet Tree with an IS-7, which immediately proved frustrating in play. After 50+ matches I’m on a 20% win rate.  Despite being a fast tank, the armour is pitiful and the reload time on the gun is agonizingly slow.  So I am back to concentrating on Soviet TDs, with both the SU-100M1 and SU-152 in play each evening. Of the two I find the SU-152 more fun, the higher mobility of the SU-100M1 does not influence play very often, but its weaker armour and gun does.  The SU-122-44 also gets a run each night, often resulting in a blitz in assault destroyer mode as the game enters endgame – damn its fun sneaking up behind a heavy and one shotting them in the engine.

At the lower tiers the main regular tanks I play with are the H35, which I play like a TD with the Sixth Sense skill, the Renault UE57, KV-1 and last of all, the KV-2 loaded with “electrum rounds” (gold rounds purchased with silver).  I did exceptionally well with the KV-2 in a Tier VI-VIII match last night, managing to get three kills on Tier VIII tanks with the 152mm Howitzer over medium ranges in Redridge by sneaking up through the village and pumping 700+ damage in through side armour or engine covers.  Two weeks back I took the Hetzer out for a rare spin, and drew Highway map and three artillery per side.  Myself and two medium tanks went to town, while seven enemy tanks went to town.  Things looked bad when my two medium escorts were destroyed.  Then three enemy tanks come around the corner one at a time, and I destroyed them one at a time.  I drove up to the corner, spotted an enemy TD around the corner.  I looked at the strategic map – the rest of my team was almost on the enemy flag, having swept the open field clear.  So I hooned around the corner, lost half my health, but was not tracked.  Turned, killed the TD, BOOM, reload, BOUNCE, target medium tank, BOOM, reload, BOUNCE, BOUNCE, target medium tank BOOM, reload, BOUNCE, target medium tank BOOM!  So I ended up with a seven run Reaper Award which was nice.

I am also mucking around in Skyrim again, restarting from the beginning and following the Imperial and Mage story lines.  Same principle as WoW, play in one hour bursts then do something else with my time.  Its pretty, but I miss the MMO aspect of MMO games, no matter how well down the RPG is.

 


Mists of Grindaria

November 25, 2012

I’m drowning in content.  So much so that I have had more than one moment of reflection where I considered deleting my characters, cancelling my account, and smashing my authenticator.

In the last two expansions for World of Warcraft I have not had major trouble finishing the pre-raid grind.  For Mists, however, Blizzard decided to slow down the rate at which some elements, notably faction reputation and the cooking skill, of the pre-raid grind can be finished.  Other elements, such as 5 man instance gear and standard professions (Blacksmithing, Alchemy etc), were trivialised (it takes about three hours to gather the materials to maxamise a profession).  For a progression raider, it feels like you have to finish the reputation grinds in order to gain the raid quality rewards that they drop.  But then you find four hours a night, every night, for months, as you slowly finish off the reputations.

When Blizzard announced that in patch 5.1 they were doubling the rate of reputation gains once you hit Revered status, I immediately stopped doing all non-enjoyable dailies.  That pretty much left just some of the August Celestial daily hubs, and the Tillers.  Even then that is two hours of my life every night.  Its hard to find time to do anything other than World of Warcraft, and although I find the game fun, I do actually want to do other things with my life.

So far the grind has cost my raid group two members, as they have found they simply don’t have time to play the game at the level they would like to play it.

Lucky Charms

Lucky Charms are a new currency for Mists.  Complete  a daily and you get a Lesser Lucky Charm.  Get 90 Lesser Charms and you can, once per week, get three Lucky Charms from a quest-giver in your faction city in the Valley of Eternal Blossoms.  These charms can be used for a chance at a bonus loot item (or bag of gold) each time you kill a Boss in LFR or a Raid.  Extra loot is cool, but the chance is low, so its often frustrating to use a charm and get just a bag of gold.  The charms take note of your spec when selecting what bonus loot you might gain, so f you want tank gear, you have to go tank the fight.

Charms have a cap of 10.  One thing I see happening prior to future content patches, is that raiders will have a choice between using charms now for upgrades, or stockpiling to ten for the new content.  I prefer stockpiling.  In a new tier of content, your first few upgrades are usually going to be the most important in terms of survivability and throughput increase.

Charms are democratic, in that any raider can acquire them.  They are not, however, transparent.  No one can force you to grind out the charms, and no one can require you to use them.  Well, they could ask, but short of requiring you to video all your fights, they have no way of proving whether you used a charm or not.

Remember the grind?  Well, a raider will be doing 13+ dailies every day, forever, in order to make sure they always get their three bonus rolls each week.

Here are some basic strategies for using charms:

  • if you can only kill three bosses a week, use your charms on those fights
  • if you kill a boss for the first time, use a charm, as this is when you are least likely to get a duplicate of an item you already have
  • if the boss drops a weapon upgrade, use a charm because weapons are always the biggest throughput increase for damage/healing
  • as the tier progresses, you will have gear gaps, so use the charms for an extra chance on the boss that has been holding out on the item you want
  • for a new tier, save ten charms, spend three charms, hand in the weekly quest … now you can spend a total of 13 charms in the first week of raiding.

Lucky Charms favour pure DPS classes.  Its always easier to gear up with only one spec, but a pure DPS class gets three charms for one spec, while the hybrid gets three charms for 2+ types of gear.  Nothing new about that scenario.

Valor Points – The Reputation Grind That Never Ends

In Patch 5.1 people will be able to spend 750 Valor Points to upgrade an items iLevel by +4, purchasable twice for a maximum of +8.  While I would like the cost to be cheaper, that would undermine the value of the VP gear from vendors (which cost 1250-2250 VP for what is usually a +26 ilevel boost over 5 man gear) to the point where no one would want to waste VP on it.

This means that Raiders will feel obliged to grind 1,000 VP every week, forever.  The chances of a character not having an item that could be worth upgrading are vanishingly small.  While the grind will get easier over time, right now that is a commitment of 10+ hours a week.  While you can make a judgement call, that for you as a player that is asking too much, if everyone in your raid group makes the same choice, then your progression is going to be slower than it is in guilds where people do make that commitment.  AT least with faction reputation grinds, the grind does end.  Once you are exalted, that is all you need, especially now that most titles and mounts are shared across characters.

Most characters have 17-18 items that could be upgraded, each requiring 1500 VP.  That will cost 27,000 VP for one gear set, 54,000 VP for a hybrid.  Even if there is a year long gap between content tiers, I don’t actually imagine anyone will finish fully upgrading multiple gear sets.

While I will enjoy making my gear better, I’m not going to like the obligation to cap my VP each week.  I used to enjoy the lulls between raid patches, where I had time to explore old content, level alts, or go do other stuff with my life.  Now I’m going to be struggling on Tuesday nights to muster the enthusiasm to grind out the last couple of hundred VP for the week.

My strategy for VP upgrades is similar to Lucky Charms:

  • first upgrade is for BIS gear (like my 509 boots)
  • next priority upgrade is a Sha Touched weapon, could be a while before I get one of those
  • trinkets are upgraded next
  • tier gear is upgraded after that

While charms help mitigate bad luck with gear, VP upgrades will help too if you get unlucky with raid drops.  If I had not purchased the Ward of the Red Widow shield on the AH, I would have used a crafted 359 shield all the way into Dragon Soul.  Even there I was using the LFR shield until Mists was released.

Current Progression

4/6 MV 10, yet to enter any other raid instance.  Elegon is a progression block for us right now, the fight hinges too much on execution for us to power through.  I’m not enjoying it at all as a tank, its okay as a healer, just completely and utterly unforgiving of errors.  If we don’t actually get the fight down soon, there is going to be trouble, in that neither Elegon nor the Will of the Emperor encounter have useful gear for some squishy DPS characters, and they will want to move on to Heart of Fear for its tier gear and weapon drops.  I can’t say I blame them either.  Wiping on normal mode content when you think you could be getting upgrades elsewhere is a demoralising feeling.

Legendaries for almost Everyone!

The Black Prince’s quest chain will be continuing in patch 5.1.  One part of the quest chain that caught my eye was a requirement for ten Battleground victories.  I’m not fond of PvP content in WoW, but this means I’ll have to do some at least.  On the plus side, it looks like you wont have to PvP flag for most of the quests in the Karasang Wilds, and I’ll eat a loss in reputation rate of gain if it means I can avoid the 5:1 open world pvp battles that occur on my home server.  While I have crafted some PvP gear and done a few random BGs, its reminded me just how much I dislike the running/capture the flag style games of Warsong Gulch and Twin Peaks.  I far prefer just plain capture the flag games.


Stuff to look forward to

March 14, 2012

Mechwarrior MMO … looks like its going the free to play, fixed arena map route, so if its like World of Tanks its going to be fun.  My favourite mech of all time was the Marauder.

Mass Effect 3 … despite poor reviews of the ending, I’ll probably pick this up after the dust settled down.  Femshep voice actor is the same for the feamle Trooper class in SWTOR.

Guild Wars 2, pre-orders start on April 10.  I’m interested to see how a bunch of mechanics work in this: active dodging, no holy trinity, and a whole bar of mechanics for when you are ‘dying’ on the ground.

Mists of Pandaria for WoW, press exposure week this week, next week the deluge of information begins.

World of Tanks, patch 7.2 will rebalance the economy, and reduce the cost of mountable gear, so I am saving my silvers for bigger, faster guns.  Just researched the Tier VII Josef Stalin tank … and so far its annoyingly fragile.

Dragon Age RPG, set 3 is in open playtest, so hopefully only a few months away.  Recent sessions have reinforced my thoughts that you could do an entire gaming expansion based purely on a fantasy shopping experience.

SWTOR, patch 1.2 will fix a few things that annoy me.  I’m having more fun now I’m back playing a healer, but I’m still not sold long-term on the game.