Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Catathoughts

Two weeks have passed since the launch of Cata. The *urnaks family has been busy leveling both character and professions, mainly via questing. So far I've only done Blackrock Caverns twice, first as dps and then as tank. And only because they were guildruns with just one pug. I'm not going to go pug-happy, specially with tank and healers until I get the grasp of all the bosses mechanics.
So how have been these two weeks for me? Busy, very busy exploring all the areas and doing all the quests possible (I haven't completed Twilight Highlands quests yet, I tend to reach 85 before finishing all questlines in Uldum). The first days were a nightmare, but that's nothing new. All the world rushing to the same spots, trying to get any ore, herb or quest mob over the rest of people swarming the area. Blizz tweaked some quests so other players could finish the quest even if they didn't kill the mob (Lord Incendius' chest comes to mind), but I think these fixes came late. Right now the amount of zerging has decreased enough to be able to play without much problems. Still some quests are a pain when you're not the one who hits the mob first (Resonating Crystal, a perfect example), but with some patience they're doable.
I have confronted feelings on the new quests. Some are fun and you get enough variety of them not to get bored after 30 minutes of playing. But as a lot of people has pointed out, new areas' quests are too lineal. There's no choice on which questhub you want to do because they're linked. You get only two choices, two questlines that tend to end mixing at the end (Earthen Ring and Therazane lines in Deepholm, Ramkahen and Harrison Jones in Uldum...) so you lose the sensation of an open world and you feel like being back in an old adventure game where you couldn't progress in the game until you solve present puzzle. I don't want to repeat myself, so you can read more about this on a comment I left on this Righteous Orbs post. Blizzard has gone from "this is the world, do as you wish as long as you have the proper level" to "potatoes or salad as first course and you don't get the second until you finish it". Then second course comes and it's only "meat or fish" again.
Speaking about quests, I want to highlight two as the funniest and worst ones:
- Gnomebliteration. Who wouldn't like riding a big ball of fire trampling leper gnomes? Even the amount of gnomes to be killed is a bit high (1000 gnomes!) and takes some time when there're other players doing the same quest, it's just a laugh. And not only that, the preceeding quest has a nice geek reference: Hacking the Wibson refers to the film Hackers where a bunch of computer hackers try to break into a mainframe called Gibson that controls oil carriers. The film is totally forgetable and anyone who knows a bit about computers would point out the amount of mistakes when talking about computers. Any serious hacker just gets mad at it. The only good thing I'd point out is a very young and sexy Angelina Jolie in one of her first films.
- The flapping quests in the second Fire Gate in Hyjal Mount. Just f*cking horrible. Why make a flying control system this way instead of using the everyday flying mechanics. It's ok if they want to make things more interesting by adding inertia to the flight, but controlling the hippogryph can be a real nightmare and hitting the vulture riders very frustrating. Also just makes hitting the only action availble kind of retarded. Flap flap flap... miss! flap flap flap... oh shit! I got into a lava stream falling from one of the floating rocks. And after all you get to choose between two pets who have the same model and just colour schema is different.
A remarkable mention to the final Fire Gate quest in Hyjal, where you get to face old Raggy again, although it's a "weakened" version and not the real final instance boss. Even original Ragnaros is harder than this soloable quest. But hey, it's the Firelord! And I love engaging this quest with my Lil'Ragnaros pet out and saying "look! it's daddy!". Old "MC friends" are also there in Hyjal, with Baron Geddon as part of one of the initial quests and Charr as a rare spawn 5man boss. Will we ever see a resurrected version of Majordomo Executus?
Well, I think I'll go back to the game to get the rest of *urnaks into shape (so far 2 85s, 1 82, 3 81s), so probably won't be posting much.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A brave new world

With the release of the Shattering patch the world we used to know has changed forever. Some areas have been almost 100% revamped (Hillsbrad Hills, Loch Modan come to mind) while others are pretty much the same with just some tweaks (Elwynn Forest, Redridge Mountains). Some seem to remain as before everything went tits up. Yet in these almost-unchanged areas you can feel as it's a new place to discover. I warn you there will be some spoilers.

We have now a TON of new quests, all of them grouped in quest hubs. Some of them are just the same quests as before (Shintar already wrote about this) and it feels weird to do them again. In some special cases you get an explanation about this repetition. So far I've found this in The Third Fleet quest (Wetlands), where after completing the quest chain you're told the cursed Eye of Paleth was removed time ago and First mate Fitzsimmons died time ago too, so you've been talking to his ghost without knowing his condition. And when you exit the inn you see he's really gone.
Some of the new quests are continuations of old questchains but others just revamp the whole questchain, like the Stalvan Mistmantle serie. And it feels weird. You already killed Stalvan before, so when his brother asks you for aid (first quest) you expect to be a continuation and you just need to prove him his brother was a true evil beign. Instead of this you get to fight him again, but this time you get a nice surprise from his brother. Did you know the Stalvan family came from Gilneas? :)
Another change related to quests is the addition of questgivers inside instances. The first time I did the "CSI" questchain in Westfall I didn't complete all the outside quests, since there's a point where the chain seems to stop. So when I went inside Deadmines I missed the animation where you get a flashback of Edwin's VanCleef death. If you keep questing in Westfall (hint: do the Westfall Stwe questchain) you'll finally get to see what happened after Edwin was killed by a party of adventurers and who's the shadowy figure that appears in some quests.
The addition of several flightpoints is something I don't know how to rank it. In one hand will make lowbie players life much easy. Almost every quest hub has his flight point. The problem I see is there're too many. Some of them are the best thing since sliced bread: the one in Raven Hill (Duskwood) and Eastvale Logging Camp (Elwynn Forest) were as needed as rain in a desertic landscape. Back then you didn't get to ride a horse until level 40, so you had to run back and forth all the time from east to west in Duskwood to deliver quests, get the continuation and then complete them again and repeat the operation. Doing these quests at level 40 was meaningless. You didn't even got hardly any reputation (yes, back then reputation gain was tied to the level difference between your character and the quest) and even with a 60% horse it took enough time to grow bored of the place. Right now once you get one of these strategic flightpoints life has a new meaning.
On the other hand some flightpoints seem meaningless and just clutter the map. Are you sure Goldshire needed a flightpoint? Stormwind is just there! Same for Wetlands, where Alliance gained several flightpoints, when formerly there was just one (and it was also booooring to run from Menethil to Welgar's Excavation Site or the Dragonmaw Encampment) now whe have several scattered through all the map. What before was a pain it's now so trivial it loses almost all its value.

I've just visited a small part of the revamped Azeroth so far. Western Plaguelands should change its name and recover the Lordaeron designation. Only one Plague Cauldron remains and the rest of the land has recovered. Uther's Tomb is one of the most beautiful places, with so much green around. Stormwind is full of quiet and bautiful corners where you can relax or develop your RP skills, alone or with your mates. And if you're Alliance like me you'll rage and fume when you see how Southshore and most of the Hillsbrad Hills ended. Now I'm just starting to explore Kalimdor. Darkshore is one of the saddest places with the destruction of Auberdine.

My recommendation is: go out there, explore the old-new lands. Check out the quests, even if you're an old  grumpy  80, check out the old-new lore you'll get from them. In a week most of us will be busy leveling our chars to 85, so there won't be much time to rejoice in this old-new world (specially when you're out of slots!).

Post soundtrack:
Brave New World - Iron Maiden (Brave New World, 2000)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The misty frontier

So the day has arrived! Deathwing decided to take a tour and create the biggest barbequeue ever seen in Azeroth, ripping the world apart in the process. The foretold End of the World (copyright The Twilight Hammer) is here...the Cataclysm has arrived!
But wait! How come we are in Cata when the Cata expansion hasn't launched yet? It's not december the 7th yet! Well, for the first time Blizzard has changed the way th new expansions are delivered. When Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King were launched we had to wait to get our hands on a copy of the game and install it. You were in vanilla WoW, installed BC and voilà! You can now go through the Dark Portal and visit that strange continent made of different lands stitched together. Same for Wrath... you install the game and then you can take a ship or zeppelin to the frigid lands of the north. But not this time.
Blizzard has taken a progressive approach to the Cataclysm launch. Instead of waiting for release day to deliver all in one shot they've decided to do some major releases before launch date. First we had the new talent trees and abilities in 4.0.1 (note the change in the number version, no longer 3.x.x), then 4.0.3 brought the elemental invasion. Now we have 4.0.3a where the world has gone tits up. But while we're using v4 of the game (the Cataclysm version), we still don't have the Cataclysm game in our hands. We'are not in Wrath anymore, yet we're not fully in Cata. We're in a difuse border between the two expansions, although our foot in Cata land is placed more firmly and the foot in Wrath land is begining to raise and move to join its companion.
In one hand I'm a bit disappointed by this, because I get the feeling it strips a lot of content out of the release. Changing the world entirely is no piece of cake and I think it should have been reserved for that special date. On the other hand I'm happy to see this already without having to wait for december the 7th (even is not that far). The way we get our updates on the world of Azeroth is more dynamic, no more waiting for that milestone that's release day. If things keep going this way we could get patches (specially bugfixes or talents finetuning) on almost everyday, in a smooth way that wouldn't disrupt gameplay (breaking addons, avoiding respeccing, etc), leaving big stuff for special release days, like adding a new dungeon or raid zone. Technically is challenging, but a big software company like Blizzard should be able to cope with it.
I look back to the Burning Crusade release time. A lot of people gathered at the Dark Portal, waiting for midnight. Everybody held his breath when the hands of the clock came together. And then nothing happened. Not even a simple activation effect on the portal. Thinhs have changed a lot nowadays. The elemental invasion has been a good prelude to the Cataclysm launch, amking the content transition smoother.
Come Deathwing! My sword thirsts for your corrupt blood!

Friday, October 29, 2010

So far... so good?

Several days have passed since the release of the 4.0.1 patch and still I haven't finished tuning all my chars. While specs and glyphs are in place I still lack some gem change here and there and only a few chars have their gear reforged. Also the amount of bugs that have plagued this release made playing too painful sometimes, specially when getting random disconnections for no reason (no /cast or cogwheel icon used) and then taking ages to log back in.

Only one of my main chars have switched specs. Durnak is now Unholy dps/blood tank when formerly was blood dps/frost tank, When deciding which of the two dps specs to use I thought unholy would be funnier thanks to the Dark Transformation talent. I've been doing mainly Headless Horseman runs and so far I haven't been impressed by the numbers or the playstyle, but at least it gives you something to watch (the Shadow Infusion charges). On the other hand I have a humble level 66 deathknight that formerly was unholy and I changed it to frost and it's chugging out 5k obliterates on Killing Machine procs, oneshotting whatever gets in his way. It just needs some hit rating to avoid missing blows, but for a level 66 it's pretty crazy. The downside of the spec is that's just "boring". Hit with whatever is available until Killing Machine procs and unleash a powerful Obliterate.


Priests are a class with new mechanics in all specs. While I haven't rolled any holy spec priests, both discipline healing and shadow dps are cool specs to play. Disc allows plenty of "free time" (while your party is shielded) to stack Evangelism charges using Smite so you can then activate Archangel and get some wings and boost your healing. Just like drinking Red Bull. Shadow (which I haven't played much since healers are scarce) just changes the way you aoe. Instead of using Mind Sear, a spell that does now pretty weak damage, the new way of dealing with groups is to debuff each target with Shadow Word: Pain and start moving around so you increase the probabilities of creating a Shadowy Apparition. It's really fun to see copies of you walking towards their targets and autoimmolate (just lacks a good shadow explosion animation when they hit their goal). While mana isn't an issue in disc spec, shadow consumes a lot of it, so the new replenishment mechanic using Masochism has to be introduced in the rotation while being careful not to kill yourself, aside from using the shadow beast minion on cooldown, both for recovery and for dps boost.

Another heavily changed class are paladins, thanks to the introduction of the Holy Power combo points. Pre-patch tanking with a paladin was just a faceroll: Avenger's Shield, Consecration, Hammer of the Righteous and you got a huge aoe threat that kept everybody on you without problems. Right now, after doing some Horseman and Heroics runs I see it hasn't changed much except for some details: Consecration can't be cast now and then since it's larger cooldown (no matter it's also more mana expensive, I haven't find any mana issues yet) and Shield of the Righteous has changed, so you now need to stack 3 points of Holy Power and then slam your current target to get a big threat boost. Healing as holy is also influenced by the amount of Holy Power you have and also the spells used have changed. Previously it was mainly Flash Heal and Holy Light spam, with the occasional Holy Shock for emergencies. Now Holy Shock is your bread and butter since the cooldown has been reduced and also awards Holy Power points. Also you can do a bit of dps, since Crusader Strike is now a base ability for all pladins and rewards Holy Power. This brings the paladin class closer to the typical image of a warrior monk who stays in the line of scrimmage instead of sitting at the back healing. Again I haven't found mana issues so far, even with the Divine Plea nerf, but nowadays people is overgeared and healing isn't as critical as it used to be. As for Retribution spec I haven't had a lot of chances to try it, but seems more fluid now that you have more buttons to push instead of Crusader Strike, Divine Storm and waiting for Exorcism to come out of cooldown so you can use it again on Art of War proc.

The rest of the classes haven't changed much in mechanics, even with changes like focus for hunters, rage normalisation for warriors (and the enrage procs in fury). Melee classes have lost a ton of dps (due to armor penetration going away) while spell classes look like they're on steroids (specially arcane mages. Vurnak has turned into a fearful terminator), but this looks like it's going to be addressed in a future patch (so enjoy it while you can before the nerf bat slams you). The game has changed, but it looks like it hasn't been as dramatic as people expected. And it's a good thing, since re-learning how to play a class from the beggining is not easy nor fun. Old habits still pop up but at least these mistakes aren't fatal.


The last thing i want to comment is regarding gearing up. Thanks to the Frost and Triumph emblems conversion into Justice Points it's been easier to get T10 gear (in most cases I had several Triumph emblems I didn't need, while I was short on Frost). And another big change is the removal of the Arena Rating requeriment on pvp gear, so you just need Honor Points. While I try to stay away from pvp as much as possible some pvp gear is worth getting, specially if you aren't into raids. Ilevel 270 shields are dirty cheap, requiring only 70 HPs. Other itmes like off-hand librams, wands or necklaces are very cheap too. I also managed to get the healing mace (Wrathful Galdiator's Gavel) for my priest, paladin and druid. Finally I found some use for these Honor Points I had collecting dust in the Currency tab.

Now if Blizzard fixes all the bugs it will be great. This wednesday we have a mini-patch that solves some issues, like the cogwheel disconnection that's been plaguing the Headless Horseman fight (thanks to the author of CogFix, that allowed me to click the pumpkin without problems) but still there are several issues pending that cause a lot of unhappiness, like the slow ghost gryphon or the lagged sound and they haven't been included in this mini-patch.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's going to be hard

So finally patch 4.0.1 hit the streets. This time we don't only have to sort headaches caused by non-working addons, but all chars need to respecc, check the gems and glyphs, sort out icons on action bars... this week is going to be very interesting.
If you think fixing a char is a pain, multiply that by 26 (ok, I don't play these 26 always, only 12 or 13 regularly). Grimbol, my inscriber, is threatening to go on strike. And Turnak the jewelcrafter is supporting him.
Ok, so after finally downloading the last 1,2 Gb patch file (that didn't show in the background downloader!) I started fixing things. Only some chars have been specced so far (warrior, paladin, druid, priest, hunter) but still they lack some correct glyphs and gems (specially for the relics, now they have sockets). To spec them I used my own designs but I also used WoWPopular to confirm if some talents were mandatory or good enough to invest points on them (btw I find crazy the most voted disco priest build is not investing a single point in Improved Power Word: Shield when this is the cornerstone of the class!, so take the info with a pinch of salt until things settle down a bit).
Addons aren't causing much ruckus at the moment, either they're up to date or old versions aren't giving much problems. As usual, after some days most of them will be up to date or I'll be used to the errors they yield.
The real test will begin once I start doing some heroics. I don't want to take a char to a PUG run unless it's completely fixed, specially if it's a tank or a healer, so my first impressions of some classes come only from dummy tests.
Paladins look like a new class introduced in this patch with the Holy Power combo point and the new talent trees. I've always found frustrating that they changed holy and prot because ret was "broken". Damn it! Pally tanking might be ultra-boring, but was damn comfortable, like your favourite old pair of shoes. And holy wasn't bad, just lacking some AoE healing. Well, it wil take some time to get used to this, specially for tanking.
Shadow priests seem to run out of mana pretty fast. After unleashing the full debuff pack, some mind flays and mind blasts will deplete your mana bar very quick. Maybe something is wrong with my spec or maybe it's a matter of handling rotations/procs correctly. Or could be that I need to use Shadow Word: Death more to trigger the Masochism mana regain. On the other hand, disco priests seem pretty solid and mana doesn't seem to be a problem. In this spec I have the new Evangelism / Archangel combo and looks nice, although you need to use Smite to trigger it. I see mandatory some kind of tracking system for the Evangelism charges, either as combo points or placing the number in the icon on the action bar, since having to check the buff icon may be distracting. Same for the Shadow Orbs you get as shadow priest.
Not much to say yet about the other classes I specced, since I didn't try them much. Only the resto druid, that seems it works correctly as before, unleashing the full pack of HoTs and then using Nourish (instead of the crappy Heal) when needed.
When I logged in it was 21:00 or so. When I went to bed it was 3:00 in the morning and I still think I didn't do much. Today I'm falling asleep at the office, but I know tonight will be the same again and friday will be harder. But thanks goodness it will be friday :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Braaaaains... I'm coming!

In the TBC days we got a Simon game set into the game. You may remember the apexis crystals near Ogri'la, where you had to reproduce the sequence of colours played by the crystals. If you liked the idea of placing mini-games into WoW then you'll love the addition of Peaceblooms vs. Ghouls that will be added in Cataclysm.

Uh... what versus who?
Well, if you haven't heard of the game called Plants vs. Zombies then you probably have been locked in some dark cellroom for the last year. The idea is quite simple: there's a zombie invasion in your neighbourhood and you're locked in your home. You must fend off the zombies that think you're their next lunch. But this time you don't have any conventional weapons to get them down. No shotguns, no chainsaws... you just have some plant seeds.
While it sounds weird (yes, it is!) the game is just a tower defense type where your weapons are a wide array of plants: plants that shoot peas, bushes that act as shields, plants that generate extra solar power (you need solar power to sow more plants and get power-ups), so they never reach your home. Zombies in turn have also different abilities: from the standard brain-eater to the armoured zombie (using a bucket as helmet), a pole jumper that avoids shields... The action turns frantic and the cute graphics and great sounds make it an excellent game. And you can play a big bunch of levels for free. Just give it a try, it will hook you.

Need more peacebloms!
So yes, we're having the game ported to Azeroth as a mini game, renamed to Peaceblooms vs. Ghouls. If you're tired of grinding or the wait time in LFD is too big you can always plant some seeds to get some fun. Totalbiscuit from Blue Plz! has released a video of the game so you can see how it looks like:



I want moar!
Yes, there're some plugins that let you play games while still playing WoW, but this and the previous Simon games are different because they're part of WoW. I wonder why other simple games haven't been added yet, like a Dynablaster/Bomberman game (easy to make since we already have the needed items), a Tetris (this may require extra coding like P vs. G, a PacMan or even another classic like Space Invaders (evil draenei?). Which game would you love to see included in the game?

Post soundtrack:
Endgame - Megadeth (Endgame, 2009)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gnomes, trolls and flying around

While this entry was going to be dedicated to the operation: Gnomeregan and Zalazane's Fall events, a blue post this morning about flying in Azeroth has stirred me up and I'll be ranting again about crappy design decissions.
First of all, if you haven't done Operation: Gnomeregan and/or Zalazane's Fall you might want to skip this part, since it will contain spoilers. Just head to the last part where I'll be talking about flying in Cataclysm. You've been warned.

Comparing the events
I won't describe deeply the events. Shintar already did it today and probably better than me. I want to focus on comparing the last part of the event (the only you can only do if you're level 75+) that will reward you a feature of strength and a cool overcloak a shitty cloak (more about this in my previous entry).
In the gnome version there's a bigger sense of epicness. During the battle you're given targets to take down: rocket launchers first, then wait for bombers to destroy the shields on tanks, then enter Gnomeregan properly, battling a giant trogg to the climax where the place is blown up with an atomic bomb. All very martial, with a "Scotty, beam me up!" scene before the bomb fires off. Bravo!
On the other hand the troll version seems less epic because you're not given any specific objectives and the finals is somewhat... disappointing. You start by asking the spirit of Bwonsamdi for help (hint: that name is inspired by the voodoo Loa of the Dead, the Baron Samedi), you battle him to prove you're worthy and then you're off to kill Zalazane, taking down whatever gets in your way (you even battle a miniboss, but not as remarkable as the giant trogg). In the end, Zalazane's blown to pieces by Bwonsamdi and everybody's happy. The owrk is done, but I feel it lacks the epic finale you see in the gnome version. By the way, during Operation: Gnomeregan you never face Thermaplugg. He communicates through a brag-bot from the depths of the instace. I suppose they did it so they could keep the instance unchanged, since the bomb explodes in the train station (the upper level, out of the instance) while Thermaplugg is in the depths of th instance and protected by at least two heavy doors, so the blast or radiation won't reach him.
Both events are fun (until you do them by the third time), but I enjoyed the gnome version more. After all, Thermaplugg is an instance end-boss and Zalazane justa low level mob, not even rare or elite :) But while we know Tehrmaplugg will be still alive (so instance remains unchanged)... can we afirm Zalazane's dead for sure? We're told the low level mob was just a brain-washed troll infussed with Zaazane's powers, so are we sure we've killed the right one now? *grin* I expect a comeback... even if the real one's really dead, resurrected like Arugal.

Flying in old Azeroth
Ok, rant time now... again! The detonator now is this blue post:
We’ve added a new flying skill called Azerothian Navigation. When World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is released, players who purchase the expansion will see this skill available from flight trainers once they reach level 60. This new skill is required for flying around all Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms zones, including the new level 80-85 zones.
The cost for this is 250 gold. The name has also changed. I've updated my original post with the new information. :)
So... after paying 250g for normal flying in Outlands (anyone can confirm if formerly was more expensive? I have the sensation it costed more), most probably having paid for the epic flight (between 4000 and 5000g depending on your reputation), another 1000g for flying in Northrend... they want us to pay more just to fly in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms? What's this, we're purchasing a GPS device or subscription to be able to fly over the lands we've ran across hundreads of times before, walking or riding? Not to mention if you want the 310% flying speed: more gold to the sink (5000g).
But the second part of the message just made my eyes roll. 250g is nothing nowadays, not even for a level 60 toon. Heck, I have a level 32 tauren druid that has over 300g, thanks to auctioning stuff from my level 80 main. What's Blizzard's goal? To keep chars under 60 flying around instead of walking/riding? This is already done. You need to be level 60 and head to Outlands to train the flying skill already. A skill that formerly was only available at level 70! So why this double payment for the flying skill? Are they planning to eliminate the Outlands flying skill or allow you to fly there after purchasing this one? If so then all makes sense, but I haven't seen any post about this. Also the skill only refers to Azeroth and Outlands isn't Azeroth. You'll hit 60 and you'll pay twice. If we already can fly in Northrend and we know the lands of Kalimdor and Eastern kingdoms since we've been playing here since the early vanilla days it makes no sense: you know how to fly, you know the place and you even can fly in harsh condtions like in Northrend. So again... what's behind this decission? Can I get a total discount since I've already the Outlands and Northrend's flying licenses?

Post soundtrack:
Revolution Calling - Queensrÿche (Operation: Mindcrime, 1988)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Everybody looks the same

So finally we have the much announced Operation: Gnomeregan and Zalazane's Fall events on live servers. They're fun to play (until you repeat it for the 3rd time in a row), using the same phasing technology as the Wrathgate event and the Battle for Undercity. So far is almost the same as Battle for the Undercity (at least Operation: Gnomeregan, I still haven't played Zalazane's fall with my belf but I expect a simmilar event): after some minor quests you participate in a massive battle with huge buffs so you hit hard and you never die (unless you stray far away from Mekkatorque and lose the healingbuff). There's a lot of pew pew and everything blows up in the end. You get the feature of strength and everybody's happy.
Everybody? Sure? Well, not me, at least completely happy. If you check your bags you'll see a blue object that transforms you into a Gnomeregan Infantry soldier (that you get from a previous quest, this object is available to everybody from level 5 up)... and a white cloak. Yes, a cloak, not an overcloak as it was announced and present in the test servers.
Dude, where's my overcloak?
No trace of it, just a white quality cape with the Gnomeregan crest (if you're Horde you'll get the Darkspear Troll version). What's going on here? We have the answer in this blue post:
It is true that the cloak rewards had overcloak functionality when these events were up on the public test realms some months back. In the end we decided that implementing the cloaks in such a way that players could aesthetically change the cloak they're wearing could set a bad precedent. We like customization and flavor items, but we don't want to start implementing aesthetic items in the game which allow players to look however they want while keeping all the stats they want. We felt the overcloaks were breaking that barrier a little too much. 
Excuse me?In a game like WoW, the way you look sometimes is as important as the stats on your gear, even more if you're in an RP server. Not only that, when it came out, it promised you to customize the way you look beyond the typical hari color and facial hair. Even when reforging was announced I expected you could also alter the colours aside the stats. So again people asked why in the same thread and this was the answer:
We've been tossing around some other ideas with regard to gear customization, but we still want to make sure there are appropriate limitations on a system like this. The limited buff timer on the overcloak just wasn't enough considering it would mask any cloak of any level. We'll continue to explore ideas for fun aesthetic gear customization, but we didn't feel this was the proper introduction of this kind of system. 
Two words in one: bullshit. What's the problem with masking the cloak you're wearing in a game where you can hide it and where everybody (even opposite faction) can inspect you? It's like you're trying to hide that blue cloak to enter an ICC raid?. Simply you can't, you're going to be inspected or worse: passed through GearScore. And what's wrong with displaying an altered version of the cloak you're wearing? I understand there can be some minor technical issues since not all cloaks have the same length or even use the same rectangular model, but that shouldn't be hard to fix.
Something I've commented before in this blog: it would be great you could at least decide colours in the gear you craft. Remember the green iron gear? Why green? Why don't allow people to buy whatever dye they like and use it to craft pink iron bracers or black iron helm? Technical limitations? Not really, we have the same item model in quite an array of colours already. Just an example: Green Iron Helm. Now click in the "Same model as" tab. Forty-five items. Forty-five frickin' items from green to epic quality, all in different colours: yellow, red, black, blue... Even items from an expansion with a particular model have made comebacks in next expansion with a different texture/colour pattern. So why don't allow people dress as they like? One of the best things games like Quake have is that you can use any model for your character. As long as the opposite players had the same model stored in their harddisk they would see you as you decided (otherwise the default player model is shown). This wouldn't be a problem with WoW since everybody has the same item models in their harddisk.
Now what?
Blizz says they're exploring ideas for customization, but to me that sounds they will develop this if they can get some cash like they did with the pets and pony. If people is willing to pay for a mount and they already pay for a racial change (that lets you customize your character's image from start), adding the "Azeroth Paint Shop: We Pimp Ya Epicz Up" looks like the next step. And we can thank the barber only costs in-game gold.
This may seem a rant too big for such a minor issue and probably you're right, but what really ticked me off was the poor excuses given and this sensation that they don't want us to stray out of a line everybody must follow so we all look the same. If you're an old player just compare how people looked at level 60 and how people looks now at level 80.
Also if they didn't want to implement overcloaks a better reward would be a tabard (like they did with the Dark Portal opening event, even if they used the same existing Argent Dawn tabard, but they added that holy nova-like effect) than just a shitty white cloak nobody's going to wear.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

New trees aren't that new

Good neeeews everyone! I've finally killed Professor Putricide. Since our guild raiding stopped time ago I haven't been in a raid group for a long time, and not being very keen to raid pugs I hadn't put a foot on Icecrown Citadel for long. But last saturday I was asked to join two pugs by fellow guildies. The first one was a complete fail. We got to Marrowgar, wiped and pug disintegrated. Typical. But in the evening I was asked to bring my shammy healer. The raid had already 6 bosses down, so we went to down the Professor, the last boss of the Plagueworks wing I was missing. It was hard, we wiped a lot of times, but we finally made it (including a desperate failed attempt where we brought him to 3% and the whole room was covered in green goo). We then went to kill the Vampire Council, but after several wipes (we got to 10%) the raid began to crumble since it was a bit late and people decided to try Halion, another started raid with only the big dragon alive, but we couldn't down him after several attempts where people (specially the shadow realm tank)  started dying on p3. A pity, since the group was very competent. Oh well, I didn't get any loot but it was refreshing to raid again.
Now, on the subject of the post, the upcoming talent trees are mostly set. They are still not complete and we see changes from week to week, but the core and major part of them is in place. And my rant is: one of the explanations Blizzard gave for this change, aside of removing passive buff talents, was to allow people to have more choices when speccing, so we could see more diverse specs than the cookie-cutter or the highly specialized raid tree (where you avoid some must-have talents because that buff/advantage is brought by another player). After playing with all the classes for the specs I am playing or I've played (which are all but holy priest, survival hunter, elemental shaman and sublety rogue) I don't see that diversity Blizzard claimed. Sure you make some choices inside a same tree to advance to the next tier (should I pick a talent that reduces pushback when damaged or that one that reduces certain spell cast time), but almost all of them are very situational, like only helpful while leveling or in certain situations, or when doing pvp, but the few points you get to put in the secondary trees (between 10 and 7 points depending on your class) don't offer really a choice. If you're a resto druid you'll put these in the balance tree in talents that buff your healing, a fury warrior will invest in the arms tree to bost damage and a shadow priest won't put a single point in the holy tree. So in the end we all going to have very simmilar trees,s pecially when people hits 85 and gets into raiding again. the only change I see it's a negative one: hybrid specs are gone. They might not be viable for raiding mostly, but a lot of people found them enjoyable to play.
Picking the right talents wasn't an easy task in the old days. There weren't theorycrafting sites offering information about the most effective trees and you usually picked a talent if you liked it. Right now choices (the right choice) is more obvious, but there's not enough room for experimentation. And once talent trees are finished, I expect even less. If mana is going to matter again, optional talents that allowed mana regeneration will become mandatory, so we'll have less points to expend in other trees or skills that  might be useful in certain situations (to reduce stuns, silences and so).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Moar design fails: cloaks

While a big part of the WoW bloggers seem trapped in the healing addons discussion I want to write about cloaks. Yes, this started with Larísa's post about cloaks. And as I commented int hat post, they usually are too anodine or plainly ugly. Few cloaks are really good looking in game, and taking into consideration is the part of our toon we see most of the time (if you have it enabled) it's strange Blizzard hasn't put more effort into making some good designs.
Technically it's the easiest object to apply a texture mapping. Most of the cloaks are rectangular or trapezoidal, with some bending here and there, but the core object remains a low-polygon rectangle type. Since the form is so simple applying a texture is quite easy and doesn't need much preproduction work so when it's applied to the object it looks correct (you need to stretch the texture to adapt it to the form of the object. Rounder objects like heads need more work so when the skin texture is applied it doesn't look kinky).

So we start playing our level one character, cloakless. By killing the first mobs we'll get some grey-quality items to equip and one of them will be a "cloak". Sorry but that barely can be called a cloak. Maybe a neckerchief or napkin tied on your back.
As your character progresses you'll start getting longer cloaks, capes or mantles. First ones, white-quality and still without any stat are still too short to be called cloaks. Again it seems you have a handtowel tied on your back. The first greens you'll get will also be still short and simple in design.
As time passes your character will get longer cloaks but unfortunately not better in design. Vanilla WoW have simple designs, almost patternless. Some cases are really painful, like getting a blue quality cloak named Tigerstrike Mantle... that even doesn't has tiger stripes on it so you can't avoid feeling deceived when you get it.

During TBC things didn't get much better and only in endgame we can see some elaborated patterns like the Shroud of the Highborne, but the design, as the major part of TBC gear is somewhat... too colorful. I wonder sometimes if TBC designers were thinking on the Acid House times. The only cloaks orth mention are the blue rewards from the Death Knight's questline. And even these don't make cloaks look like they're made of cloth.
And then we reach the Wrath of the Lich King expansion were things haven't improved much. First endgame cloaks from Naxxramas are hideous. Aged Winter Cloak? Horrible colour combination. Cloak of Armed Strife? Come on! Not only has again a more than arguably colour choice but that "skull" motiff on it like Superman's cloak it's just a big design fail. And after all the patches few cloaks are worth mentioning, like Aetha's Intensity. That's a cool looking cloak! Maybe too ellaborate, but at least is worth displaying it in your character.

So we have two expansions and several content patches but still the major part of cloaks look poor. Then you see cloaks from other games like LOTRO, just like these ones and then you can't help but start wishing the designers get banged in the head with a mallet. Because seeing what happened with swords and other gear I don't expect things to improve. Even with the overcloaks: it's like adding an old short cloak over the current one, applying the motiff to the upper part of your current cloak. So if you're not really into tabards (aside from the reputation gain) overcloaks won't be your game too.
So here's my calls to Blizzard designers: please improve cloak designs. Forms are ok (you can add more complexity like how it bends and moves), but patterns need more work. And you don't really need to add complex designs like the Drape of the Violet Tower. Check animal hides and create a good tigerskin cloak, not that Tigerstrike Mantle.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New trees preview

After announcing a big change in the talents trees, we finally get to test them. While they're just a beta version I don't find Blizzard has accomplished what he's been announcing.
- Eliminating "boring" talents that just buff existing spells or skills. There're still plenty of them in all classes: Incite for warriors, Improved Shadow Word. Pain for priests... they're still here
- Adding more "flavours". Not true at the moment. After picking a specific tree and putting the mandatory 31 talent points in the core talents you're not left with much choices for a given class. I've tried several classes and if you want to improve let's say Fury, your best choice is to spend points in Arms tree, not Protection. Some classes even need more than 31 points in the main tree (33 or even 35) to get full advantage, so that leaves very few "free" points to place on abilities that will give you some "fun" skill. Placing 31 points in your main tree doesn't mean you have still 10 points to place freely. You'll need to invest between 5 and 10 (that's all of them) in a secondary (or in the third too) tree to get talents you'll need for your spec, like it happens now. I think in the best cases I managed to get 3 talent points I could really plae wherever I want to get one talent or another that wouldn't really cripple my main output (be it dpsing, tanking or healing) so I could choose between getting an extra talent that's not really mandatory for my spec but may help in some situations or enhance other stats like mana return/regen, increase healing effects on me, etc
- Very few new talents added. Since the big pruning there's not many points left so you can spend them on new talents. Some of them look very nice, like Blood and Thunder (protection warrior), but others are just "more of the same boring talents", like Even the Odds (fury warrior), that just increases damage on certain abilities
So as I said in my previous post the idea is good, but we still have too many "boring" talents around that are also still mandatory for your class, leaving little or no option to get other talents that differentiate your from any other player of the same class and spec. Let's wait for more tuning and hope next version has trees that allow more customisation and possibilities.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Bye bye real names!

It couldn't end in any other way. After the HUGE shitstorm unleashed over the internet, Blizzard is dropping the use of real names in forum posts. Even all players did a great noise on forums, social media and anywhere you can think of, I'm pretty sure it was the legal implications rather than our complains. Anyway, it worked.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Trimming the trees

No, I'm not talking about pruning session or suggesting that resto druids are too fat and need to get fit. I'm talking about the last Blizzard announce about talent trees. While the fires started by the real name appearing on forums are still raging all over the internet Blizzard has made a new announce that will impact gameplay (and I hope this time it's for good)

The fun stuff
For some time Blizzard has been stating they want to get rid of "boring" talents that just pump up your dps/healing/avoidance/etc and just keep what's "fun" in a spec. The problem I saw was what they consider "fun", because most "fun" talents in fact are dps/healing/etc boosters, the only difference is they have a limited time span and add some animation (like Slow for arcane mages). Then they're on cooldown for some minutes until you can use them again. Knowing when to use these skills/spells is the key here, but I don't see how this makes somethign "fun", specially hen you face a given fight for the second or third time. Once you know a boss fight (I'm leaving out leveling and questing on purpouse) using that special talent just turns into something automatic for most of the times,s o I don't see much "fun" in that.

The big pruning
But Blizzard surprised everyone with the announce: taking a lot of talents from every tree, leaving only the core ones and these that add some extra spice to the class, reducing from typical 51 point talent trees to 31, locking the other two trees until you spend 31 points in the main tree and giving a lvel 10 character that just spent the first point in the talent that will become his spec a signature skill/spell (Mortal Strike for arms warriors, Divine Storm for retribution paladins, Shield Bash for protection warriors, etc). While I was skeptic of the "leaving only the funzors" I really like this change. Getting a good spec has turned harder and harder as new levels, talents and skill/spells have been added. Also minimal changes in a talent could mean having to respec so you could have the optimal talent tree for your class, specially if you're a raider. Spotting the core talents you really need for your class must be easier now with this change.

On with the chainsaw!
But I'm wondering... why stop here? If all prot warriors are going to have the same core talents, why bother us in having to spend points on them? I suggest Blizzard reduces trees even more and take out the core talents, making them into learnable skills/spells you'll be able to train as you level up, leaving the trees with side skills that will affect the way you play but not your role effectivity. Of course tat would mean trees aren't anymore a sign of class specialization but as specific class diversity. This way you could have prot warriors that prefer to invest in shield skills while others may prefer other talents that will help them in the tanking job, like shouts, ways of dodging/parrying a blow, mocking the target... so not all prot warriors play the same way, the same way a prot warrior and a prot paladin have different playstyles. Both do the tanking, but paladins excel at aoe aggro and dealing good damage, while warriors generate better single target aggro and have more survivality tricks. Now imagine a warrior that relies more on using the shield while another prefers different defensive stances (kung-fu style) so he can dodge or parry more, while a third warrior prefers to invest in toughness and resilience so the blows he receives do less damage.

The forest
Anyway, the new changes look good if well executed or if they aren't dropped like the Path of the Titans. We'll end having lots of different spec trees instead of what we have nowadays: either a specific tree 98% of the players use or a cookie-cutter where you have like 5 or 7 points to spend where you want, so there's hardly any difference between players. Maybe it will be harder for us to choose which secondary skills suit best our gameplay or are funnier, but at least we'll have different flavours for a given spec on a given class.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

1984 is coming

The reaction by my fellow bloggers to the Blizzard announce about using the real name and surname in forum posts has been unanimous (see here, here, here and here). And I want to join them because I also think it's a very bad idea to put your real name on the internet without even asking first. Some may say "but you accepted the EULA!". So what? Did we have an alternative? Do you want to play WoW? then you're forced to use RealID. I already said in fellow bloggers' posts that they're messing with privacy issues beyond what's acceptable. It's ok for me that a RealID friend sees my real name. After all it's me who chooses that person to be a friend in battle.net. But it's very wrong that friends of my friend (who don't need to be my friends too) see my name, status, etc. I haven't chosen them, so who the hell is Blizzard to give MY name to people I don't know? Same with the forum posts. It's fine if my (and only the ones I've chosen) friends see my posts with my real name. But the rest of the whole world? No way, José.
So why is Blizzard acting in this way? What do they expect? It's to stop spamming, trolling or to sue offensive/inappropiate posts? If you use a credit card to pay they already have your real data. If you have a game card and you recharge it (I think you can only do it by credit card payment) they also have your data. Do Blizzard wants us to switch from credit card to game card and buy a shiny new one each month with cash so our real name doesn't appear anywhere and all players appear in battle.net as John and Jean Doe? If that's the only way to protect our privacity while still enjoying such a great game, then it will be.
Other social networks already had to roll back on their ambitious plans about letting everyone see everything (Blizzard should take a closer look to Facebook and how they were forced to change the default privacy settings not long ago), so I hope this happens too in battle.net. Until then, as other fellow bloggers have said, don't expect any posts in the forums from us. Not that I post usually in official forums, but when there's some big technical problem I like to help people there. Now I'll remain silent and post elsewhere, like this blog, even if no one is reading me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Beta is coming

The closed beta has been finally announced and the NDA ban has been lifted from Friends & Family alpha, so a ton of information is now available on the net. Yet again I won't apply for the beta. In the last expansions I was still busy running current content, but now I'm not doing much: some dailies, some alt leveling, raising my fishing skill on some characters, but my gameplay level has decreased. As commented before I'm burned out. If my guild was still raiding I'd be more active. And yes, I know it's a vicious circle: if I'm not there other people will also consider not showing up, but raiding has been scarcer and scarcer (we don't even place sign ups in calendar since we don't even have enough active members). Still the other day we were asked to help our friend guild with an alt run into ICC and I brought Valaak, my enha/resto shaman there, since they needed an offhealer, and managed to kill Festergut (something I already had done with my pally Turnak) and Rotface (first time for me). We also had a pair of attempts at Vampire Council. I really enjoyed being in the fray again and this time without the responsability of leading the raid. I wish I could do more raid runs without heavy responsabilities, either leading or tanking (even tanking isn't very complicated nowadays to be honest), even on known bosses like ICC's first wing it's great to be there and help others to get some gear (or even better, get some ICC gear for me too :D). Heck, I even would like to go back to Ulduar, possibly the best raid zone thanks to its diversity on boss strategies and go past Hodir.
Going back on track: I won't be applying to the beta to avoid being burned with the new expansion. I'm ok with reading about new areas, changes, skills, etc and seeing videos, but I prefer to reserve the real experience for when the expansion hits the streets, just like I did with TBC and WotLK. Having so much alts (already 11 at amx level) means I'll be visiting the same places and doing the same quests again and again and again... so I already have an "alt burn factor" I must consider. Wether the expansion will have enough power to hook me up like TBC and WotLK, only time will tell, but I fear it will be less than WotLK, but that can be due to several reasons: with each expansion you've been around for longer and it's harder to get any interesting surprises on each expansion or patch. Also I think Blizz did several mistakes in the way of delivering content, specially the Trial of the Crusader, the abuse of LFD for badge farming... intentions were good, and necessary, but execution has been somewhat deceiving.
By the way, I will try the new races, that's for sure. I've already tried or have characters (even if they're low level alts) with the existing ones, so I'm looking forward for worgens (specially) and goblins. I'm still wondering which class will fit better each one. Worgens look savage, so feral druids look appropiate for them. I'm not sure about goblins... typically in fantasy realms they're usually cannon fodder in the hands of bigger greenskins, but in the Warcraft world they've been (until now) a neutral race dedicated to commerce (or should I say to gather tons of gold). Warlock may fit well the goblin race, since shaman is not available (so I could create some kind of Warhammer Night Goblin Shaman), but rogues also look good for such a sneaky race.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Your nightmare class as healer

In my previous entry I commented (poorly I must admit, so thanks to Failadin for pointing it out) about how the class I feared most as a healer, the retri paladin,  wasn't because all of them I've found until now were playing carelesssly, without putting much attention on the situation. Long story short: I always found retri paladins were taking too much damage and I thought they didn't care much about playing correctly. Then I got to try the class and even I was playing like I've always done with any other melee class (attack from behind, be quick to move out of fire, cleanse your own debuffs if possible) I was still getting too much damage. Maybe having a poor dps gear (Verech is a tank who just dualed retri and has a very poor dps set) made things worse, but I still don't know why this specifc class is my "black beast" as a healer, just that I always have to put special attention on them, more than on rogues or elemental shamans. Warriors and DKs usually don't need much attention (unless they do things in the complete wrong way). If I'm on my holy pally, Beacon of Light is always set on them.
So aside why retris are getting this damage, which is the class you fear most as a healer? Do you think there's a logic explanation why that class needs extra care?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Here we go again

So the intrepid Verech reached level 80 past sunday. That's my eleventh character to reach that magic number. But as everybody knows, that's just the begining. Now starts the hard part: gearing up, getting rep for the different factions, farm some gold for the epic flight... The big problem is all these activities rely mainly on running dungeons. While you can get reputation with some factions by doing dailies (Wyrmrest Accord, Sons of Hodir, some Kirin Tor with the daily cooking), the only way of gearing up and getting reputation with factions without dailies is the old dungeon grinding. And this is the dreadest phase because of pugs... or to be more accurate: the amount of failpugs you can get into.
I almost stopped palying my main characters in Hellscream because I grew tired of the wild fauna you can find in heroics, so now compare the seasoned Turnak, clad in full epic gear (ICC, T10, etc) with the frehsly dinged Verech, wearing mainly crafted and quest blues. Cold sweat runs down my back everytime I hit the LFD. I even dualed him retribution so I could do some runs without the responsability of tanking or healing the place. Just good ole no-brainer dps, simple and plain.
With such a poor gear for today' standards I'm just running normal instances in the hope of building some decent gear even if it's slowly. Yet Lady Luck hates me. First random I got was no other than Forge of Souls. At least was as dps, but my dps gear is totally laughable. I ended the last in dps with 1200 but at luckily nobody complained. And not happy with that we ran the place again. And Pit of Saron too. The party was fairly competent and I managed to survive (I thank the kind healer who kept me alive) without much problems, but this experience showed one thing: why retri paladins tend to get so much damage. This got me wondering in the past. They weren't supposed to get so much damage (unless standing in fire, stealing aggro or in front of the mobs). And still I don't know how could I get damage when I was dpsing the mobs from behind, but my health bar couldn't stay still for long. On any group pull I was getting more damage than the rest (and my pathetic gear made things look even worse). Again nobody said anything but I'm sure the healer was cursing me in silence for needing more heals than the tank.
Anyway, knowing what to do and not being a dickhead is a great step in randoms. You don't screw it when Devourer of Souls has Mirrored Soul up, you hide behind saronite chunks when Garfrost is swapping weapons, you move out of green shit and explosive mines on Ick & Krick, you let the tank grab aggro in the tunnel before Tyrannus and you stop dpsing him when you get Overlord's Brand. Isn't that complicated. And nobody died. Why the hell then some idiots can't do any of these simple tasks right?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Going deep underwater

Some days ago Blizzard announced they're working on what can be the most exciting or deceiving of the Catalysm zones: underwater areas. Some screenshots were shown too. As a scuba-diver I'm thrilled to see how this is going to be handled.

What we have until now is not very friendly: you can swim in lakes, sea, etc and you have a limited amount of air (amount that was highly increased with the launch of Wrtah from 30s to 3 minutes, much more realistic) that lets you stay underwater until it runs out and you begin to die. There're also zones that cause fatigue (and your death if you don't get away from there very fast) but these are only there to keep people away. While swimming your movement speed is reduced, even if you swim mounted (something you couldn't do until a later Wrath patch). Underwater zones haven't been very used since playing there is quite limiting. Until now we've had some quests (to recover several objects or kill aquatic mobs), access some dungeons (the Coilfang Reservoir) or even get a good fishing pole in old vanilla Wow.
Almost no information has been disclosed, only that they're working on a new way of moving around and fighting in these zones. And they better do a good job here. If you plan to use underwater mounts, please no more mounted fights unless you can use your own skills (we've had enough jousting in ToC). The second problem I see coming is the 3D environment. Yes folks, expect a new batch of Oculus 2.0 whining. Diving is very simmilar to floating (why do you think all astronaut training is done underwater?) and you have to take into account the three dimensions when moving down there. It's a great sensation in real life, but you must be careful with reference points or you can get a little confused. If it was easy to get lost in Oculus (until you got the grip of the place) I don't want to imagine what can be playing in an underwater zone where your only reference points are some rocks, seaweed or sunken objects. Was it that rock the same I saw 10 minutes ago while trying to get out of here? At least we have the compass and minimap to help. Getting lost or disoriented in real life while diving is quite dangerous. There're places where there're no reference points and this can mislead you to dive deeper instead of heading for the surface, exposing you to the dangers of nitrogen narcosis and other gas accidents. While the nitrogen narcosis (something I've experienced and I don't want to repeat) may be dangerous in real life, would be fun to see it implemented in deep water areas. This sickness is also known as "the rapture of the deep", as Jacques Costeau himself described it. Now imagine being drunk underwater... weee!

Another point to take into account, something already reflected in current game, is water being 800 times denser than air, so that's why you move slowly down there. And the more you go down, the denser it gets. Of course battles in slow-motion are not fun (add an arcane mage casting Slow to make things worse) so here they better do something. I'm pretty sure nobody imagines playing an underwater dungeon at snail speed.

I can't also forget to mention one of the worse accidents you can suffer while underwater: decompression sickness. Dives are not only limited by the amount of air we can carry, but by the amount of nitrogen our body can absorb.
Basically the more you stay at certain depth, the more nitrogen your body absorbs until it reaches maximum saturation and forms bubbles. Now imagine gas bubbles in your tissues, bones... painful? yes, specially if you ascend: gas expands, and so do bubbles, increasing the pain in your body. This can even cause worse accidents like lung or arterial embolisms (which are almost deadly). But let's not get that negative, this is a game. I don't think they will limit the amount of time we can stay in underwater zones while using that new method of moving/fightning (we have magic in Azeroth, remember!), but I'm curious to see if they add some kind of limitation or debuff (in real life you can't perform repeated dives until you eliminate enough nitrogen from your body)
Yep, that's me diving in the Red Sea, visiting the SS Thistlegorm wreck. Where' re the murlocs?

So, as a diver this new underwater area will be watched closely by me. Not because I will whine and complain if it doesn't reflects the real underwater world, but because I find underwater to be a fascinating place.

Post soundtrack: Underwater Love - Faith No More

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The incoming changes

So all the class previews have already been posted, being the Paladin the last one. And the most dreaded possibly.
In several blogs I've already expressed some of my thoughts: the rune regeneration for death knights, maybe too radical and giving me the feeling the class will be harder to play, the priest healing, really needed another healing spell and that "Chakra" skill? Pure dps classes seem to get all benefits (hunter, rogue, mage). Warriors look a bit uncertain, with the changes to tanking, the buffing of arms... so seems fury is being left behind. Shamans have some gaining and some losing, so seem compensated (although resto seems very buffed despite losing the Cleansing Totem).
Last one has been the paladin. Aoe tanking gets some nerfing but will gain a much needed interrupt. Retri starts with Crusader Strike so is not so painful to level. And holy gains a new healing spell (really needed like priests?) and the spell I love more: Healing Hands. Aoe healing like the paladin is the healing totem. While we have yest to see if the amount of aoe healing is effective, the short range will force the paladin to go near the targets that need that healing. And this links with one of my latests posts: the paladin healer should be in the line of scrimmage, not hiding behind. Still the mobility may reduce effective healing, but we still need to see how all the changes will work.
Anyway, one thing seems to be a downfall is the homogenization of classes, specially tanks, with healers coming close. Why give all tools to tanks? As long as they aren't mandatory in fights there's no need to turn them all into the same class with different looking. Paladins have great aoe aggro but no interrupts and the survivavility is limited (the Ardebt Defender "cheat"), while warriors need more work for keeping the aoe threat but they got better survivality tricks they can use when they feel the need (Shield Wall, Last Man Standing). Until now I haven't found any fight where a certain tank class gets some significal advantage, so why this now?

Anyway it's still too soon and everything are just guessings. Some changes may don't even make it on production servers, others can be totally different. Time will tell.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Old sensations

Leveling the new chars in SAN has brought back old memories. Usually painful ones since I was used to the comfort that a level 80 armed to the teeth gives you. Good gear, all the class skills available, fast mounts (including flying ones), big bags, plenty of money... all of that disappears when you start leveling a new character in a new realm (although you can cheat a bit by making a deathknight to get some starting gear and money easily)

- Sills. Until level 20 or so your skills won't matter much. You can play any role if you go into a dungeon. Verech tanked RFC at level 12 or so... without any aggro generating skills and using Arcane Torrent to pull groups
- Walking. You'll spend a lot of time walking from one side to another. Nowadays things are much easier since you can get a mount at level 20 (and won't cost you a small fortune like in the old times) Still the lack of "quest-hub design" will make you visit the same place several times. Yesterday night Verech had to cross Arathi Highlands from one side (Hammerfall) to another (Stromgarde) three frigging times! in order to complete the sigil questline. Horse helped, but I couldn't help but feel angry since everytime had to clear the way of mobs I just killed some minutes ago to get to the new target
- Fleeing mobs. This is one of the worst ones. I had almost forgot mobs could flee from you. At low levels almost all humanoids flee from you when theyreach 20% health. And it's a pain chasing them to avoid they call some friends to dance on your face. Some classes like paladin got some good tools to prevent the cowards from getting away (Judgement of Justice, Hammer of Justice) but other ones aren't so lucky
- Survivality. An hybrid class with mail armour is easier to keep alive and level than a pure dps wearing cloth. Thanks to several nerfs introduced in the game (eliminating almost all elites outside instances, better hp & mana recovery, tanking classes doing more damage, etc) some quests can be easily facerolled by some classes. In the old vanilla WoW I would have never been able to kill elites with 2 or 3 levels above me or normal mobs with 5 levels above me unless I'd be very lucky (I'm talking about soloing btw) with a prot paladin. Now it's maybe too easy. Other classes, specially ranged ones who don't have a "tank" will suffer more (mage, balance druid) to achieve it even if you're good at kiting due to the lack of skills and spells at these levels
- Reputation. I still remember my first exalted reputation took ages. Back in the days your rep gain depnded on your level, so completing low level quests for reputation yielded very feew reputation and runecloth grinding was th eonly stable way of getting rep with major cities. Although this was changed long ago (giving now a fixed rep quantity) I find it amusing I got my first one before level 30
- Leveling. this is also an old change but with every expansion it has been modified. In the old vanilla days getting to 40 required a good investment in time play. Now in 3 weeks dedicating some time will get you there. Not a bad change but can't help to feel sad seeing how much took me to get to 40 my mains.
- Gear. Wrath finally hit the nail on the head with quest rewards in form of gear. Now you get an object that will suit your class/role most of the times, but in vanilla WoW, until Cataclysm comes, you're still presented with very poor rewards (unless it's some former elite quest), both in number (two options max to choose from) and usefulness (plate with agi and spirit and things like that)

It's good to do all the journey from start, but as I level I think it's going too fast. On one hand I prefer it this way. Low levels (specially when soloing) can be a pain when lacking so many skills and spells and travelling back and forth to the same place again and again (not to mention those pesky quests that make you travel all around the world, hopping from one continent to the other and back thousandfold). On the other hand I feel I'm maybe losing many things behind... but I won't complain, I can always level another toon :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Standing at the back wearing plate

Any The Order of the Stick fans out there? If not, go and check the last page posted here (since I'm late again posting it's no longer the last one, seesh!).
Even it's not WoW-webcomic (in fact it's based in D&D rpg) you'll sure chuckle about the definition Tsukiko (one of the evil ones) gives about paladins. Then I remembered this post in MMO-Champion about letting the healers do some dps (something they already do when overgearing content) and what some colleagues said about how paladins were played in Warhammer Online (sorry, never tried it, was too hooked on WoW): they had to be in the line of scrimmage in order to get power to cast heals. And I like this idea. Protection and Retribution paladins are already in the middle of the fray, but Holy just stands in the back like any priest in sissy robe (hello Tam! ;) ). It just doesn't feel right. As Tsukiko says a paladin should be bossing around, yelling "don't tell me how to heal boy! I was already healing dungeons when you were crapping your pants in Northshire Abbey!" (add here an image of a veteran paladin with a grey moustache and a deep rough voice). We're the only healing class wearing plate, so why don't take advantage of this? I don't think Holy should change so radically that you only get mana when smitting your foes with the powers of the Light, but some more action, now that Cataclysm will (or at least they say) avoid getting these terrible damage spikes, would be nice. It would also fit the class better.
For the Light!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Regaining some SANity

Lately my beloved *urnaks have been placed on a sort of holidays. I'm tired of the daily routine and since we've had several raids cancelled in a row that means nothing new or exciting to do, just grind heroics endlessly. And after three runs one also gets tired of this, specially when pugging. I still have several chars who need tons of emblems for either main spec's gear or secondary also. But unless I'm lucky to join an all or almost-all guild run, joining the Dungeon Finder it's a pain to me. First because unless I'm bringing a tank or a healer I have to wait a ridiculous amount of time doing nothing more than grinding mats or twiddling my thumbs. But the second reason is still more important: I have zero patience for dickheads nowadays. After waiting 18 minutes to get my dps on an heroic run where unless it's one of the new dungeons I won't get anything useful but emblems, the last thing I need it's a failpug run. Thanks but no.
Under these circumstances I'd surely retire from WoW until Cataclysm, but luckily that won't happen. And all thanks to Single Abstract Noun, the bloggers' guild created by Tamarind. A place to relax, level your char at your own pace without any pressure, enjoying the social atmosphere of a guild full of helpful people. People from all Europe (SAN has also US and Oceanic versions if you're interested in joining and don't belong to the EU region), always ready to talk about anything, be it game related or not.
Also since the european SAN guild belongs to the Horde I have the chance to see places where before I could only get near for a second and then run away with a pvp flag on my head and several angry guards and players on my heels. "The Explorer" was the first title I ever got on WoW, but now I can explore Horde areas in a more relaxed way. Quests are also new to me, since after leveling 10 Alliance characters to 80 you already know the drill. The server is also a RP server, but that's something I haven't sunk my fingers on.
So if you have a blog or are just a reader you'll be welcome to join Single Abstract Noun on any of the regions. Your SANity will thank you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A great place to be

If you read my blog then surely you're a reader of Righteous Orbs. If not, then you shall go and read it, it's an order! Tam and Chas really catch you with their posts and it's impossible to resist the urge to jump in and drop some lines. Ok, if you're a Righteous Orbs reader then you probably know about the incident Tamarind had with his guild and how this lead him to gquit. But Tam is a special person and this incident brought a good idea to his mind: to create a guild where bloggers and readers could meet, play together, discuss, whatever they felt like. Go to Tam's post about the Single Abstract Noun guild and read it, he's much better than me at writing down words :)
So I've decided to join too the Single Abstract Noun. Currently I'm playing a belf mage called Seredar, but I'm planning to bring a belf paladin tank too, since there's a shortage of them in the guild, named Verech.
Since I always liked leveling chars it's a breath of fresh air since playing at level 80 has become a tad bit boring: randoms, dailies, more randoms... only some ICC raiding really motivates me, but we keep hitting the Festergut and Rotface brickwalls, even with the new buff. So SAN is a place where I feel free of these game frustrations and also have the joy of leveling with people I've been reading and sharing thoughts.
Meet you there!

PS: Verech is already in, competing with the one and only, Tamarind himself, to be the sexiest belf tank of SAN. He has advantage though, he wears heirlooms! But at least I got a little revenge: he mocked my pants... but he's now wearing the same, the copycat! Seems I'm leading on this season' style! Yeah! Pretty Points for Verech!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Enjoying the fail

Sometimes a failpug can turn into something better even it's a painful wipefest. I logged my mage to do the daily random since I haven't been playing him much (it's a pain to get into pugs with a dps and mages seem to have to wait even more than other classes) and to my surprise I didn't have to wait more than 8 minutes. The party was composed of a protection warrior, a balance druid, an unholy deathknight and a discipline priest. We got into Halls of Lightning and I was expecting a fluid run. How wrong was I...

 
I'm not dropping aggro, I'm just chillin'
 
The party had two big problems. First and most important was the tank. He had good gear (over 38k hp) but was terrible at aggro generation. He almost never charged in, just ran to the mobs like he was doing a walk in the park, used few aoe aggro skills (just some demo shout and thunderclap at start and much later a shockwave, but nothing else during the fight). I didn't check what other skills he was using since I had very tough times trying to drop aggro. No matter if I waited to start dpsing, I always snapped aggro off him at the first or second cast. The slacker even never released after a wipe and just waited for the druid or priest to ress him. The druid was also running around trying to get mobs off him. He was the second problem. Before the tank started his minimal aggro building he already had started the fight pulling some mobs with Moonfire. So if the tank was bad at aggro generation the boomkin just made things worse. The deathknight was poorly equipped (green quest items and some blues) but he made all he could to save our asses. At one point he even asked if somebody had Recount. The boomkin asked "Are you sure you want to see it?", "Yes!" he replied. I was first with over 3.5k dps (and I was restraining myself to hit with full force to avoid more deaths). The boomkin was secod with 2.6k and the dk was third with only 1.6k or so. No surprise with that gear but the chap merrily replied "it's just my first heroic, sorry". The poor priest... well, she was going mad because everybody was taking damage with so many rampant mobs running around and disc spec isn't good for aoe healing, so she was casting bubbles and Penance like mad and discovered the wonders of Divine Hymn.
I was expecting to see the druid quitting after the first wipe but nobody quit during the whole run. And to my surprise nobody complained or bullied the tank for being so terrible (and I was tempted to shout at him, trust me!) If you've read previous posts from me you'll know I don't feel comfortable tanking with the warrior because I feel the aoe aggro generation isn't that good, specially when you have people covered in T9/T10/ICC gear chucking out damage like there's no tomorrow, so my biggest concern is to generate as much aoe aggro I can to keep all mobs on me. I use thunderclap, demo shout, shockwave and cleave as much as I can, switch targets to use shield slam... and despite all that I feel I'm terrible at tanking with the warrior, but the dude we had wasn't even trying. With all the ingredients of the recipe for insanity on the table people still carried on without a single word. Neither a single complain for the tank not releasing after dying like the rest did. And this way what it was a damn wipefest on trash subtletly transformed into a pleasant run because everybody (even the slacking tank) keep pressing forward to get it all done. First I was just wondering who'd be first to take the deserter debuff. Then who'd be the first to shout "L2Play!"... then how many wipes we would take until next boss... and finally, after an indecent amount of deaths and wipes we managed to oneshot Loken without problems.
For me the run was a good practice of evasive skills, reminding me a lot of the Faction Champions fight where you try by all means to avoid getting ganked, immobilising foes, dropping aggro... and do some dps meanwhile.

PS: I just had a simmilar case yesterday with my warrior, but at least the tank was competent and nobody was ninja-pulling, just everytime I hitted whirlwind I snapped aggro off the tank. When the run ended I checked Recount and found I had done 45% of the total damage, with over 3.3k dps, while the rest was at or below 1.5k So I blame the Finder for putting me in that group. They weren't undergeared, I was overgeared.

Post soundtrack: Addicted to Chaos - Megadeth

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Back to Dickheadland

I check WoW news on a daily basis, sometimes more than one time per day, specially when new releases are coming. And the other day I saw a pair of news on MMO-Champion thatI'd like to highlight here in my humble blog. Both are connected also.
First thing is the frost lotus droprate. I've been complaining about the low rate in the last weeks with my guildmates. I remember some months ago you could farm Scholazar Basin and in one hour maybe get a stack of 20 lotuses. Those were the good old times. Then the drop rate was severly nerfed to 1% and all the alchemists started craving for them. And while Blizz made other professions that needed high level materials easier (no longer cooldown on titanium transmuting, purchaseable arctic fur and snowfall ink) it let Alchemy in the cold dark alley. I never understood why it offered the option to purchase an item like arctic fur (rare quality) and not the frost lotus (uncommon quality) when you have more need for lotuses than furs. You'll be quaffing potions and flasks on a daily basis (specially if you're raiding), but you're not using the furs to craft gear or enchant yours on a daily basis, so why not offering the option of purchasing the lotuses as they did with the snowfall ink? After all both rely on Herbalism and either they could ask for a stack of icethorn (since herbalism level required to gather is higher than lichbloom) or create a new skill simmilar to milling where you "transmute" X icethorn/lichblooms into a lotus. But no, nothing was done and getting these damn flowers was a nightmare that demanded a lot of time grinding an area.
Then I saw this info where the drop rate was being incremented by 50%. "About f*cking time!" I thought first. And seemed to work because the first two herbs I gathered dropped a lotus each one. But then as I continued getting herbs no more lotuses dropped. Then I saw the base drop rate was 1%, so an increase of 50% means the drop rate is now 1.5%. Ridiculous to say the least.

The second notification (see at the end) again made me cheer: finally frost lotus was available for purchase ("about f*cking time!" again), and eternal elementals too (and a new flying carpet design plus required mats reduced in high level tailoring/leatherworking/blacksmithing recipes). And all I needed for it was a humble frozen orb, those that were gathering dust in my bank after Jurnak reached 450 in leatherworking (yep, as I said before wouldn't take long).
Oh wait a minute! Frozen orbs?? No... it can't... be!! OMFG! They're back! No, not the orbs... the dickheads who click Need on frozen orbs in random pugs! You thought they were almost gone? Nooooo!! Frozen orbs are no longer these useless items you'd probably be putting into AH after winning one in a pug. So expect everybody to go Need on them. I'll change my way of rolling and let the orb the last one (they always appear on top, so it was the first to be clicked Greed). If everybody goes G then fine, no problem here. But as soon as someone goes Need I'll be needing too, and I won't give a damn shit about what the others say.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No love for the fallen

I decided to take the dust off my DK, the last char created in the Hellscream realm (but can't remember if he was the last to hit 80, I think not...) and bring him into some heroics. But to save my sanity I decided to go only as dps and not as tank. First of all he's not that well geared for today's current standards (even he'd be able to tank whole Naxx). And second it really piss me off those players who just want you to pull half the instance in one go so they can continue grinding emblems at a fast pace.
So there I was, hitting the Finder as dps and doing long forgotten quests meanwhile: the Sons of Hodir rep (although I don't need it since I have at least two or three exalted chars with them and shoulder enchants are now BoA), the Frostborn questline (for rep and the Bronzebeard reunion scene). Luckily didn't have to wait much (Finder said around 12 minutes but usually you got into the dungeon in 6 or 7 minutes), so the combo questing-emblems grinding worked perfectly. And then I saw two things that reflect the post's title:
- Few DKs can be seen now in instances. While before it was very common to get two or even three in a same run, the amount of DKs getting into PUGs seem to have dwindled a lot. This could be due two factors, the first one being the class isn't anything new and exciting any longer, but I suspect the second one is the main cause: the Finder tries to avoid having more than one class in the same group, unless they play different roles. You can see one bear and one tree, or even one cat and one boomkin, but you'll rarely see two cats or two furbies in the same group, not even one cat and one boomkin. Which is very ok since the chances to get loot (does people still needs loot from 5man unless recently dinged 80?) are more fair. But even without playing my DK I rarely get them on the PUGs I join, either as dps or tanks. Maybe it's only my battlegroup, but looks like people is tired of them and prefer good old chars.
- The second one really struck me since I experienced it several times this weekend while doing hardcores: the amount of healing I received was much below the healing other dps were receiving. Several times I went with only half health bar, without receiving any humble healing spell. Do healers really despise DKs that much? Being "heroic class" and plate wearers doesn't mean we're invulnerable or immortal (well, we already died once at least...). Luckily my dps spec is Blood so I could regenerate my hitpoints without much problems. I can understand other more squishy classes get over us in the healing priority, but even after finishing a group and heading for the next one I didn't receive any heals too. And no, the healer wasn't oom neither I was overaggroing or pulling mobs randomly.
Right now, Durnak the walking corpse in plate armour (hey Calli!) looks much better than before (3/5 T9 and a great 2-hander) and had the skills (got rid of Vampiric Blood) and glyphs tweaked, but still needs more work on the tanking set (2/5 T9 and a decent 2-hander, but still wearing some blues). I'll take a look at the current frost tanking builds and see if mine needs a revamp. Also even I like tanking on the DK (but not as much as on the pally) I prefer to keep it for guild runs if no one else is available. I could get into the Finder much faster by selecting that shield-shaped icon, but I prefer to save my sanity even if that means it takes longer to get into an instance.

Post soundtrack: Rise from your grave - Glamour of the kill