Saturday, October 22, 2011

WoW goes Kung-Fu Panda

By now I suppose all WoW fans have read the news about the new expansion, so no need to paste here details. I feel Blizzard is hammering the nails on WoW's coffin, at least in the western market. Pandarens were always a little joke in WoW universe, and now become a playable race and theme for a expansion. Very, very disappointing.
You've been running around Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, then Outland and Northrend, thwarting the plans of the big baddies, following a good chained history and then... everything goes to a halt and something new is introduced, disrupting totally the chain. By that time Deathwing will be just a dead husk, but what about of the threats still looming around? Old Gods, Burning Legion... they aren't going to kick back and relax while we're in Pandaria learning kung-fu!
WoW subscribers have been going down since Cata was released. Almost everyone felt the expansion didn't bring anything really new that was worth to keep playing the game and went away looking for greener pastures. In this case it seems Blizzard considers american and european markets dry and looks to attract a raising market like the asian and specially the chinese, focusing the entire expansion on chinese lore. Will it work there? Probably. Previous expansions, specially Wrath of the Lich King were hard to be introduced there. Chinese specially find undead and skeletons very disgusting, a taboo. So an entire expansion based on creatures they dislike wasn't going to work (Blizzard had to change several mob models for the chinese version). So they're now fully betting on the chinese market with something they like. I wouldn't be surprised if after Mists of Pandaria we get Sands of Arabia or Snows of Caucasus as the new expansion.
But at least, one good new (and also a good hook to keep playing): if you commit to one year of WoW gameplay you get Diablo III for free. A good marketing trick to secure player base.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Facing the end of Cataclysm?

Things start to catch speed. In two days we've had some news that will impact the game heavily.
Yesterday was turning threat into a non-issue for tanks. Hit hard from the begining and don't fear to lose aggro as the fight goes on. On one hand it's a good idea: dps usually outgear tanks quickly, or if not, the dps ramps up faster than threat. That makes a lesser geared tank struggle to keep mobs on him and end loathing the tanking role (as it happened with my warrior duign WotLK). While this means tanking will be easier (and hope more people decides to queue as tanks) we still have to see what Blizzard intends to do. They want tanks to be more active without having to worry about losing aggro, or "more fun" as they say. Right now as tank you have to take care of: aggro, moving mobs, interrupts (or at least be in the interrupt rotation), catching adds or perform special actions (like intercepting some beam, activate any machinery, etc). Even decursing yourself is in your to-do list. Taking aggro management out of the list already leaves tanks with several thigs to perform or take care of. Adding more things may end backfiring and make tanks life more miserable.
The second thing has been announced not long ago: next expansion will bring the Deathwing raid. The aquatic raid of the Abyssal Maw has been discarded because they say wasn't convincing enough and story wasn't fitting. There are two big implications here: first is this will leave a big unfinished story: after all the struggle in Vashj'ir and the Throne of the Tides we won't know how things will end for Neptulon and Ozumat. Again Blizz will be the king of unfinished plots. The second and most important is this can mark the end of the Cataclysm expansion. By october/november this patch will be most likely out in the streets, so the Cataclysm expansion will be done in just one year instead of the typical two years lifespan. Of course some extra patches can be released after (like Ruby Sanctuary on WotLK) but the expansion plot will be finished. Now there are two ways: either we'll be one year grinding old content/extra patches with no determining content or Cataclysm will be the shortest lived expnsion with just one year + the time it takes to get next expansion finished. There's a third way also, let me get my tin foil hat: Cataclysm is finishes after a year and then we get the expansion 4B: Mists of Pandaria. After the storm that created the announcement of the trademarking of the name within the videogame category and all the speculation wether this would be the next expansion or just a stand-alone videogame, today's announcement of the Deathwing raid could mean we get done with Cataclysm and then we move to Pandaria until the next "official" expansion (I think next one was the Emerald Dream one) is relased next year. This would also address the only 5 new levels that Cata brought, so we can set foot on the Emerald Dream (or whatever is next) as level 90.
Anyway, ditching out the Abyssal Maw so fast and with that vague explanation and announcing the final showdown with Deathwing is worrying. Another sign of the end was hinted by Shintar some days ago when she wrote about how disappointing were the Molten Front story-wise. I felt the same, after that long and boring grind you expect some epic ending and you just get a letter with a mount. Maybe they ditched the grand finale due to the same reasons they did with Abyssal Maw: Cataclysm is facing its end and they have no time to add other content.
WoW is showing his age and Blizzard acknowledged also that they've lost almost one million subscribers in the last 6 months. Adding more content is not enough anymore to retain people, specially when you've been playing since first days. No matter how many dungeons, raids or dailies you add. It's all the same. Bigger weapons, shinier armours, different colour cloaks, but it's the same. If WoW really wants to keep being MMO #1 needs to add something entirely new.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Little bits of awesomeness

Usually when you talk about some epics moments in WoW people expects to be about downing some complicated raid boss. But even in lesser grade runs some people may shine very brightly. Allow me then brag a bit about my druid, Lorathiel, who proved to be the star on yesterday's Throne of the Tides heroic PUG run.
Since Cata the druid hasn't been one of my most played chars, even I really like druids due to their versatility. After doing the Hyjal/Molten Front quests I went to Deepholm to get exalted with Therazane, only to find out I was 100 rep points short, so I decided to join a PUG as dps, as usually.
The run was ok but there where two times where we faced a sure wipe if it hadn't been by my awesome druid (boldly bragging here).
First and most important was the Erunak fight. It's been a long time since I saw a PUG go for this boss without anyone asking for it (and usually people demanded a fast run and avoided him). I don't know what went wrong but suddenly the tank (a dk) died. And I don't know what happened to me but I hit automatically bear form and took on the boss, who was still controlled by the Evil One. Let me say you something first: I've never played bear tank, aside in solo quests where I needed it, and my feral spec doesn't include the needed tank skills. And on top of that the abilities buttons somewhat confuse me. I can't tell the difference of Bash from Swipe, or the taunt from the demoralizing roar (I also play with tooltips disabled during combat), so I just went bear and aggroed the boss, pressing whatever was available (ok, I know the Lacerate and Mangle buttons, and that one that autoheals you based on your rage). The thing is I was doing ok and until the octopus didn't detach from Erunak I didn't remember a key ability in druids: battle ress. So when I remembered I could ress the tank and the situation was safe enough I get him up and the healer (who did a superb job keeping me alive) put him in shape to continue the tanking, although boss was almost dead. I really felt proud of my actuation.
The second time wasn't so spectacular. On the mini-gauntlet to Neptulon, towards the end when the door was already open everybody starting blowing up and died except me. Even the hunter who ran in with me died in the end due to the tiny elementals who were still alive. And thinking they were already dead I was in caster form ready to ress people, when they came after me. Luckily they were finished quickly and could start ressing the party.
Things like that make me love the game again when I think all it's back to the boring daily grind of dailies/pug runs.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The counterattack!

So Rage of the Firelands is here (for those who're not aware it's the official name of the patch 4.2), but I don't want to comment about the goodies and nerfs of the patch. Since the release day (for us europeans was yesterday wednesday) I've seen this upon opening the Curse client to update my addons:

You may say... what's wrong with it? We've seen Rift anounces on Curse client before. The thing is since yesterday the Curse client only plays the Rift ad, at least for me. No matter when I launch the client, looking for more updates (still missing some important ones), the ad is always the same. And never before I've seen this with the embedded ads. I'm tired of seeing these tables/stools for laptops, that wave/current generator... but when launching the client several times at different times the ad usually changed. Not now.
So... what's the fuzz about, you may ask. Right, there're no laws against it and I'm pretty sure Rift creators have spent a huge and obscene quantity of money to place this ad during the days when Curse client is most launched, the patch days, specially if it brings new content. Expect to still see that ad in the coming days. But I'd like to ask your (and hence the reason of the post)... do you think it's a clever strategy to place your product during the days where tons of people are going to use the competence's product?  Of course it's an opportunity to reach a bigger audience, but I'd say anyone "pro" enough to use addons (and specially an addon manager) has heard before about Rift or any other MMO that tries to get its piece of the cake.
Doers it really pay back? The people who launches the Curse client today wants to play WoW and dedicate enough time and efforts to taste the Firelands as deep as possible, They won't dedicate that time to test another MMO... and I'd dare to add, one that's so simmilar to WoW.
In our days, commercials (in all kind of media) must stand out in order for people to pay enough attention to them. And that attention doesn't fully translate into success (read they sell more than before). I'm pretty sure you all remember tv commercials of any product that were really innovative, different, funny or beautiful enough (otherwise you wouldn't remember them) but that didn't compel you to buy the product announced.
And the last point... insistence usually ends in backslash. I don't know you, but I'm tired of seeing always the same animation. And this is working heavily against testing Rift or become a regular player. If at least they offered different animations everytime I launch the Curse client...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fresh blood

Our guild has always been small. Since the start people prefered a small guild where everybody knew each other and could playing in good company. Keeping a friendly and nice atmosphere was the key.
This also was the guild's weakest point. Replacing people who stopped playing or moved to other more active guilds was always hard. And when we thought we had some good people they either got tired of the game or worse: once they got enough epics hopped to other guilds, where they wouldn't be accepted unless they had that gear. So tired of being a trampoline for guild-hoppers we decided to shut down recruiting.
Also allying ourselves with other guilds didn't went well. Our alliance with Sempher Fi was good, but once they did a very active recruit campaign no longer needed our help (and also most of the active raiders moved there too. Even I was wondering to move at least one char there at the begining of Wrath). We tried with other guilds during TBC and things were horrible. First runs were great, then suddenly started sending unprepared people, alts lacking gear... so relation was cut.
All of this made us shun the idea of recruiting openly, but the guild was really dying. When you don't even have enough people online to make a full-guild dungeon run, you're in trouble. Action was needed, action that required to take risks and face again possible guild-hoppers or getting troublesome members. With the implantation of the Looking For Guild tool we decided to give it a shoot and test our luck.
I wasn't expecting much from this. First because our reputation as a solid raiding guild was gone and I didn't know if the reputation of a nice guild to stay was still up, since old players in Hellscream are longer gone or already settled in their guilds. We had a decent guild level (15 when we started the LFG experience, 16 right now and soon 17) so this was a good point for us, but I also thought it could bring more bad experiences than good ones, since all unguilded people would be looking for the highest level guild possible just for the perks. So I was expecting to get a lot of low level chars petitions, just for the perks.
So far I'm surprised the exprience has been very positive. Yes, most of the people requesting an invitation are low-mid level. But we've had several requests from 70+ and 80+ players. And the best thing is that people invited is behaving well (so far!). A good portion of them are either alts of experienced players, who are trying a new class or old time players that have returned to WoW and felt lost in a world that has changed completely, not only physically, but also the char specs, the guilds they knew... everything. While most of them are very silent (usually they say hi when logging in and few words more), others have started being very active, talking to old guild members, bringing other alts, running battlegrounds and dungeons. The Guild breathes again, with new blood pumping through its veins, and it's very refreshing to log in and see more than the 3 or 4 habitual players you could find before. It's very nice to see now more than 10 people online at the same time, even if only 3 or 4 are 85s. It's just a matter of time to get enough people ready for high-end instances... and who knows, even raids again.
So thumbs up for the LFG tool. But it still needs several improvements imho. Some of them may be achieved right now by using a plugin called Recruitment Enhancement, but they should be implemented by Blizz:
- Show if the petitioner is online or not. This is very important. I'm tired of going through the list of requesters, clicking the Invite button just to get the message "char not found".
- Add checkboxes to perform mass invitations. Select the desired players and click Invite. Voilà!
- Add a button to send a mail to the character. The Send a Message only sends a whisper, and if the player isn't online (something you don't know unless you check it previously) it's useless.
- Add filters to recruitment, like minimum level, specific achievements, minimum gear level, specific spec (i.e: you need a disco healer, a blood dk, a survival hunter, etc), minimum resilience or honor points, etc. This will help hardcore guilds who look for specfic and experienced players.
I'm sure we'll see some improvements like these soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Improving heroic PUG quality

I know I'm probably late to the discussion, but since the Call to Arms was announced (and I think everybody agrees this won't solve anything) I've been thinking on how to improve the quality of PUGs in heroic mode without reverting to the Wrath style (AoE whacking). It's not easy since the problem is not located in the instance per se, but the players running it. Most people still steps into dungeons (even in normal mode) with the Wrath mentality: tank should grab half the instance and dps burn them down with AoE.
Let's face it: it's very easy for a frehsly dinged 85 to reach the 329 gear level required for the heroic modes. Using quest blues (ilevel 325 and 333), rep gear (333 and 346) and crafted gear (339, it's pvp gear) you can reach the magic number. I'm betting most of annoying players haven't set up foot in a normal dungeon before going for the heroics "for phat lewt". So here're some ideas that would help getting more prepared players:
- You can't run an heroic unless you've completed it in normal mode. This will teach you at least the basics of the instance: pulls, cc, strats... you can even further strengthen this requeriment: if you're healer you need to complete the normal one as healer, if you're tank you must complete it first as tank. This will avoid dps people signing up as tanks to speed up queues. And you can even restrict it more, by demanding running it a certain amount of times in normal mode so you really catch it. Lesser instances (like BRC or TotT) would require to be completed 3 times while higher ones (like GB) 5 times. This will also benefit players in the way of more chances for getting loot, more reputation and more justice points to spend.
- More craftable gear. This was proposed by Tobold. And I think it's only viable if you apply the previous rule, otherwise you'll have the same problem as now: clueless people in heroics. Also more gear means tanks would require less runs to gear up and queues would grow even more. So the idea is to provide key gear at certain ilevel without "trampling" the gear you can get in normal runs (that ranges from ilevel 308 to 333 iirc). Craftable gear should sit at ilevel 325 and be PVE gear, not the ilevel 339 PVP gear we can craft right now. While this helps PVP players not to die in a battleground when an opposing player sneezes, it causes a lot of trouble in PVE, since it helps people reach the 329 gear level easily and then you get players with a lot of stamina but lacking other key stats. While reforging can help a bit, you can't reforge resilience to turn it into something useful for your class.
- Change gear level requeriment and make it progressive. Why ask for 329 to run any heroic when a place like Grim Batol is harder than Black Rock Caverns? Start with 329 or even a bit more for the easiest ones and require 340 for the harder ones.
- Improve the LFD algorhythm so you get some dps class with proper cc. Running an heroic with limited cc may be doable, but not good for the healer's mental health.
These ideas wouldn't only help improve the quality of players in heroics. It would reduce queue times too since all the unprepared people queueing for heroics would be gone, forced to queue for normals. Yet still we need a way to motivate tanks into running PUGs, specially normal , otherwise we could have a tank shortage in normal queues only, as they progress into heroics. And tanking isn't that hard, as pointed out by several of you. The problem is leading, as Calli nailed it. And again, leading isn't difficult, but very frustrating if the people is not willing to follow you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy $#&@!!!

After seeing this video, you take a look at the current PUG issues and you can only cry in a corner and think about leaving WoW and dedicate your free time to a simpler game.

Hats off to Raegwyn.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Warlock pets with sex: really necessary?

I've been trying to write for some days something about the current Call to Arms discussion, but so far I haven't got any valid proposal to increase the number of tanks specially in PUG runs, when I saw this announce.
While it says it's something set in the long run, is it really worth dedicating resources to a cosmetic issue when there's a big nasty problem right now in WoW and the proposed solution is clearly not fixing anything?
Well, with a company the size of Blizzard it's doable without hurting other more important developments, but why not dedicate efforts to other cosmetic issues (after all, the gender of a demon pet it's only a cosmetic issue) that would affect all classes and not only warlocks? Several come to my mind:
- Update graphic motor to a newer one, allowing better performance or more details. The new water and sunshafts look great, but WoW appearance feels still the same as 6 years before
- Update old character models (read neither worgen nor goblins) to higher polygon count, making them more detailed
- Update textures to higher definition ones (as an example, check how Elementium Girdle of Pain looks on your character selection screen. It's really a pain of big square pixels)
- Allow models for some height and weight customization, so not every race looks the same
- Allow crafter gear to use different colours (I'm tired of the old Green Iron Shoulders, I want a red or a black version)
- Add the frequently asked Appearance Outfit, so you can have any look (ie, the T3 armour set) while wearing your current gear

Things like that would benefit all players, not just a part. But I must say I'm intrigued how a female voidwalker will look like (a blue blob with boobs? or maybe same model as current but pink coloured?), or a female Infernal (something like Therazane?).
The only things I ever wanted to change in warlock pets are the Felhound (these extra upper arms/tentacles look horrible) and the Felguard (they should equip different weapons and not always the same boring Arcanite Reaper plus also get different colour versions of the demon, they're already ingame).

Thursday, March 31, 2011

And I tanked

It's been a while since my last entry. Not much to comment, most of the important WoW news happened outside my game. I've been mainly raising the alts and leveling reputation (got 8 85s at the moment, missing only warlock at 83 and rogue at 81), which is kind of boring, but given the actual PUG status, even going as dps has been a pain and I've shunned pugging heroics. The worst of all is the guild status, with very few people active at the moment and they're also raising alts. A vicious circle, but sometimes we get the chance to break it. Like yesterday.
Finally we got some 85s and decided to try doing an heroic guild run. Our best tank had been AFK for a long time and decided to tank if the run was an all-guildies party. First because I don't have experience tanking heroics (I think I've tanked only BRC normal) so I needed to learn who to cc and the boss strats, so having puggeers whinning and kicking me out. And second because the healer also felt it lacked enough power to keep us alive, so same history. I got my prot pally, the druid went resto and we got an elemental shaman and two hunters ( no idea about the spec :D).
Lady RNG flipped the bird at us with Lost City of the Tol'vir, a place I've done maybe 3 times, one as normal and two as heroic, always as dps. Things started chaotically as we zoned in I informed I got a phone call and one of the hunters pulled the first pack, so as I returned to my chair I got into panic mode directly. Luckily I managed to grab all the mobs. After this start things went pretty smooth and we downed General Husam on first try without much problems.
The first wipe came on the pygmies near the corridor to Lockmaw/Augh, when suddenly a flamebreather appeared of seemingly nowhere and torched the healer. And I was pulling them carefully because I knew it was easy to get extra mobs in that place, but to no avail. At least it was soemthing easily fixable and next time we dealt with the pygmies easily.
Then came the big problem. Lockmaw proved to be very hard for our group. First it was the healer not confident in his role (he compalined about his gear, but I didn't feel he was underpowered), second the low dps, specially from one of the hunters who was pulling very low numbers for an heroic. And the third problem was the crockolisks munching the rest of the party, despite me using all taunts and bubbles to keep them alive and grab the crocs. I felt like a healer watching the party bars, finding who was being attacked and using Righteous Defense, Hand of Reckoning, whatever... even using Word of Glory on who was low on hps.
So we wiped and wiped and wiped, with Lockmaw at 18 or 15%. Finally the shaman decided to go resto and the druid went cat and after a pair more of wipes we managed to kill that damned beast. Unluckily it got late so we didn't have much time left. We reached High Prophet Barim, probably the boss I hate more in this instance and only had a try, that ended after reaching phase two when the healer died.
So even what it seems a poor performance (and by today' standards probably is) at least it gave us some fun (until the repetitive wipes on Lockmaw) and a great dose of experience, at least for me in the tanking business. Even the low dps hunter got a new shiny polearm to help him improve.
Now I hope we get more guild runs so we can keep improving and not having to depend on pugs, even if the first runs are a wipefest.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sometimes WoWlife is good

Since my last entry I was thinking about a new post showing more discontent with the actual expansion. Several things weren't feeling quite right. Maybe we were too used to Wrath and its various loot-farms, the possibility to carry an undergeared char into heroics so he could get some decent gear, the possibility to get decent gear crafted thanks to Frozen Orbs... I hadn't feel this way before, even during Bruning Crusade. But I couldn't find a solid point to blame at all. Everytime I thought "oh, but X sucks" I saw that maybe that wasn't right and there was another thing that made me feel that X was sucking but that wasn't really true. And that other thing wasn't sucking too per-se. So everything looked like a vicious circle while I was feeling more tired of the game every day that passed. Maybe I was reaching the endlife of WoW, I've been playing almost since it was released and during this time I've seen a ton of people leaving because the game wasn't fun anymore for them.
Since Cata was released I've been busy mainly leveling my chars. Right now I've seven chars at 85, so the leveling process is boring as hell. Been there, done that... seven times before, and will do at least three times more. Not what I'd call exciting.
Dungeons were mainly a problem. In normal mode I've done all of them except Grim Batol at least once, mostly as dps except one BRC tanking and one VP healing. At level 85 the gear you may get there is mostly useless compared to your quest and crafted blues, and after experiencing how stressing healing can be I refused to pug as healer or even tank. I could go as dps at least, but having to wait 20 minutes for it? No way. So I did some dailies with two or three chars and dedicated some time to leveling or completing quests in Twilight Highlands and Baradin Peninsula with these main characters (warrior, paladin, mage). Heroics were totally out of scope. I only tried one, was a semipug and we couldn't get the second boss down and it took a long time to get there. And reading the horror stories in posts and comments (nab tanks not using cc, gogogoers, dps standing in fire, 3 hours to complete an heroic...) well, that didn't help much to cheer me up. To make things worse our guild has returned to the usual few people logged in, maybe even less than normal, so getting a guild run was as difficult as winning the Euromillions. Things weren't looking good...
But sometimes you get pleasant surprises and life performs a 180º turn, making you love the game again.
It started in Twilight Highlands while I was doing the dailies with my warrior. A retri paladin asked me to join forces to down Warlord Halthar (whom I can down easily with the warrior and paladin alone) and asked me why I wasn't wearing the Crucible of Carnage sword, better that the weapons I was using (the Axe of Earthly Sundering and the Obsidium Executioner). I told him that I didn't like pugging right now and prefered to get some guildies to do it. As we finished the dailies someone was asking for people for CoC and he encouraged me to join them. Oh well... I could try...
I asked and got the invite, they told me they needed just a random, so I thought I'd stay as fury. In fact I ended being the tank after some role-changing before starting. Warrior tank.. something I hadn't played for quite a long time (I think last time was an ICC rep run) and a role I never found comfortable with, due to weak aoe-aggro generation. But we weren't in Wrath anymore and this was a Ring of Blood style fight, so it should be ok. I only had seen some fights from afar, so I was mostly clueless, but mobs weren't that complicated. Mostly tank and spank. Kite the cadaver like Grobbulus, grab the adds on the worgen boss and be careful with fire on the ground on the last boss. My aggro generation was a bit short sometimes, but nothing a good old taunt couldn't fix. We finished the bosses and I got a shiny new sword and two achievements.
Then a pally guildie logged in and asked for some heroics. Since he was tanking (and he's good at it and has good gear) I joined as dps, ready to cope with any wipe-fest. It was now or never.
We good a group pretty fast (having a tank on your side ensures an instant run) and Lady RNG assigned us Blackrock Caverns. One frost dk, one balance druid and a healer priest... suspiciously in shadowform. Before we couldn't finish greeting eachother the priest dropped the group. Surely a smartass trying to get a free ride as dps. Bon voyage. We got a replacement immediately, a resto druid. Looking at the group I was fearing the worst since our cc was limited. Druids could use entangling roots, but we didn't have anything to put a caster out of play. That meant we had to deal with them first and quickly before the melee freed from the roots. The dark shadow of wipefest was looming upon us...
How wrong I was. The group ended being awesome. The best pug in a very long time, even on Wrath times where you could thrash an heroic in 10 minutes or less. Not even we finished the random dungeon and the next one (Halls of Origination) but we managed to score several achievements. I think we wiped only 3 times, one of them at the hands of BRC last boss and was a mutual kill. Not even we had to do things a bit Wrath-style due to the limited cc but we also managed to get some impressive performance in dire situations. At Karsh Steelbender my colleague pulled the boss while pulling the first fire elemental. A wipe was called but the group pressed the pedal on and decided to kill the add while the boss was being tanked too. During the fight I died and was battleressed. First elemental was downed and we pulled the second one while the healer did wonders to keep everybody alive, specially the tank. We dispatched the second elemental and then proceeded to kill the boss and also get the achievement for having more than 15 stacks of Superheated Quicksilver Armor. On the last boss, Ascendant Lord Obsidius, we also decided to complicate our lives to get the Ascendant Descending achievement. The balance druid kited the adds while the frost dk and me made all we could to slow them down and dps the boss. I never thought we'd made it but we managed to kill the boss (and he killed us too at the same time) and get the achievement.
Excited by the triumphs earned in BRC we queued again and got Halls of Origination, where we also got some achievements despite our non-ideal composition. But as someone in the group said, "brains > gear". Couldn't agree more. If getting the runs done in a reasonable time was already a great goal for me, pulling all these achievements: Too Hot to Handle, Ascendant Descending, I HateThat Song, Straw That Broke the Camel's Back, Sun of a.... was totally awesome. Knowing your class and how can interact with others was the key (aside some good gear worn by the healer and the tank :) ), and I was happy again and enjoying my main character. The only downside was the loot. A lot of leather and caster gear dropped, making the balance and the resto druid very happy (and they truly deserved it!). I ended with a shield for my offspec and a Chaos Orb, but the joy was better than any loot.
If all heroic runs were half the good these were, I'd be more than happy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vashj'ir? No, thanks!

After bringing my 6th character to 85 one thing I can say for sure: Vashj'ir contains several flaws that affect people who are leveling and decided to choose that area as starting zone. And it's not because it's an underwater area with a full 3D environment (the so-called Oculus-effect). Let's get to the points!

1. Excesive long intrduction/arrival quest. If you want to start in Hyjal you just speak to a Hyjal Guardian who teleports you to Moonglade and there you take a short flight to the starting point, witnessing the return of Ragnaros meanwhile. To go to Vashj'ir you talk to a shaman that tells you te get on a boat. And here starts the problem. The boat is located in the same dock as the Northrend boat, so the instroduction is phased. But instead of arriving at the dock and finding the boat waiting for you, you have to wait for it to arrive. And it's a long time until the phased action begins (with the soldiers gathering up and talking) and then the whole boat trip, which is not that long, but after all the time listening to the soldiers while waiting for the boat you are already fed up with all that inactivity.
Didn't Trial of the Crusader teach anything to Blizzard? Longs introductions containing lore are ok the first time. But when you're leveling your second or third alt you wish you could skip it. By the fourth you're totally fed up with it. Could we avoid at least the soldiers gabbing and just find the boat once we head to the dock?

2. Huge area. I get the sensation Vashj'ir was the first designed starting area and looks it got a little out of their hands. Instead of just a single area it consists of 3 areas, not as big as a the rest of Cataclysm areas but still there's a lot of space out there! And much of it it's empty! At least the seahorse has a good speed so moving down there is not a pain in the ass (anyone remembers the Thorim questchain when normal flying was 60%? How I loathed Thorim's tall mountain!).
Also while the rest of Cataclysm areas get it's own diferenciated subzones (even Deepholm!), all Vashj'ir looks the same, except for Scalding Chasm and the Throne of the Tides vortex.

3. Reputation. Right now this is the most painful point for me. If you do all the quests in the area you'll end Friendly with Earthen Ring, while other areas leave you at Revered with its faction. I can't understand why Blizzard puts the Earthen Ring quartermaster in Silver Tide Hollow when most of the Earthen Ring reputation is won in Deephom. Well, the only answer I can find is to avoid having two queartermasters (ER and Therazane) in the same area, but the result is very lame. And it's even worse when you want to get some ER rewards and you started in Mount Hyjal. You must endure all the starting introduction plus several quests until you get the seahorse and can move around (getting only Sea Legs may be good for druids but for the rest is too slow due to Vashj'ir size) and locate the quartermaster. Big design fail, Blizzard!

4. Dungeon. Same as before, getting to the Throne of the Tides is not trivial, like locating Blackrock Caverns and you must do a big amount of quests until you get the quest to go there. Even worse, once there and you start heading to the center of the vortex you'll see the Fatigue bar appearing on screen. First time I saw it I thought I shouldn't go there and maybe the entrance was located elsewhere, so I moved back and let the quest gather dust in the Quest Book.

5. Azshara's veil. This plant only grows in the area. While other "low level" plants like Cinderbloom and Stormvine can be found (specially Cinderbloom) in other areas, alchemists must go to Vashj'ir yes or yes. Even if it's an underwater plant there're places with water out there (Mount Hyjal pool where Tortolla's eggs are located, Twilight Highlands coast...) I have no problem with exclusive area herbs as long as they're not starting herbs. And if you add the grinding madness things are even worse. While the initial madness has rushed off, now comes the daily grind ninjaing. Same as for ore, but at least you can get obsidium ore in several places. So if you really need Azshara Veil to level up your skill or to produce specific pots you're screwed. Go back to point number 2.

6. Poor lore. While in Mount Hyjal you get tons of info about the Ancients, Vashj'ir only offers some bits of naga lore and how they teamed up with the Old Gods minions. The battlemaiden quests are good, but until you get them you must do a ton of quests before.

Basically these are the points why I don't recommend leveling your char in Vashj'ir. But don't get me wrong, I think the area is beautiful (I'm scuba-diver, so I enjoy it specially) although a bit repetitive, the quests are good (the Jaws hunt quest is a laugh, Nespirah and its twin creature have good quests too, etc), offers good leveling loot (as Mount Hyjal), but these design problems are a ballast preventing you from getting a pleasant experience. Solving the long introduction would be a big step, also adding more Earthen Ring rep (it would be ok to reduce it on Deepholm as a counter) would make wonders.

Monday, January 3, 2011


The *urnaks family continues leveling up, with 4 chars already at top level (warrior, paladin, priest, mage) and another that will hit it this week (hunter). Professions are also over 500, with Blacksmithing and Alchemy at 525 (plus others like Mining, Herbalism and Cooking). I've also started doing some instances (on normal mode to learn them), mainly as dps (tanked BRC with the paladin and wasn't that bad). But yesterday decided to try healing.
I think next time I'll try shooting myself in the foot. I think it will be less painful.
Other great bloggers have already mentioned healing in instances, like Tam or Shintar and yes, it's that bad. At least right now. The most appropiate word I can find to describe healing dungeons is panic. It won't matter if your level is above the required, or your gear. Or the tank's. You're going to panic from the very first moment. And you'll continue panicking all along the whole run. Welcome to Panic Heals Word. Please don't forget to take your stress pills.
It was supposed to be a Vortex Pinnacle guild run and I decided to switch from dps to healer, but ended being a semi-pug (so no guild rep). Still I decided it was about time to try healing. I brought my disco priest since healing with a disco priest was always kinda relaxed. You shield the tank and you have time to prepare for the worst if tank is starting to get bitch-slapped. That was how it worked. But that's over, baby...
You shield the tank, PoM it, even add a Renew just in case and the tank is prepared to pull. Tank pulls first trash pack, shield lasts 1 second, he gets a magical debuff and his life bar goes from full to 20% in a blink after that first second where the shield lasted. Then comes the Panic and your mind starts to block. If you start casting fast heals you'll run oom and the amount of healing won't bring the tank over 25%. If you cast a powerful and slow heal the tank surely won't survive at that hitpoints level. Panic flows in even greater quantities. In your mind Deathwing's laughs while he tells you with his deep voice "you're f*cked!". Using the right heal at the right time, Blizzard's motto for Cataclysm healing. My hairy balls in a leopard skin thong, I say.
Of course we wipe... on first thrash pull on normal dungeon. Great man, great job! Pugs ask wtf happened. I wish I knew, because I was unleashing all my arsenal and couldn't save the tank (Save the Tank, Save the PUG). I wonder if I could ask a refund for my dualspec and just leave the priest as Shadow...
Take two. Tank pulls again, his life bar plunders but this time I manage to keep him alive... but only for some time, after downing one or two mobs (I couldn't check since I was focused on the tank's damn green bar) he dies again. Panic just bursts out of my ears, flooding my room. Now the dps are also taking damage in big quantities but I manage to keep them up (don't ask me how) and the tank runs back and takes all mobs off the dpsers, saving this pull.
The rest of the run was strangely smooth. Looks like first pull in instances (other people in guild also said the same) are tougher than the rest as a kind of sieve, because it's not normal that first pull just makes you fail as a healer while healing bosses (remember, it's normal dungeon) is almost a laugh, specially the last boss, Asaad.
If finding a tank was hard in Wrath I foresee finding a healer will be even harder in Cataclysm. Or at least find a healer that hasn't gone insane chanting "panic, panic, panic..."