I came, I saw, I explored!

I am an Explorer! Finally. Ok, it’s taken a while but now Erinys has another new and shiny title which she won’t use.

I have a bit of an allergy to titles. The whole concept seems a little odd to me, plus they make it harder to hide behind stuff in PvP. Then there is the stereotyping I’ve seen attached to certain ones. For example in my Battle-group at least both Jenkins and The Patient seem to come with negative connotations.  If you turn up in a dungeon or battleground displaying either, at least one person will try to make something of it. Whilst I wouldn’t use either (can’t imagine a Night Elf being called Jenkins and I’m most certainly not patient), I don’t like something as frivolous (in the sense that it’s intended to be fun) as a title being used to bully people.

On top of that, the majority of titles really don’t mix with the personalities I think my characters  have. When I close my eyes, I imagine my Night Elf priest to be some what lacking in the sense of humour department. I can’t help but think she’s cold, austere and terribly sensible, not the sort of person to be running around with The Love Fool displayed over her head (bet she wouldn’t approve of bright pink ink either). In fact she probably thinks that wearing that one in public  is a smiting offence. Now if there was a Priestess of Elune perhaps, but the current options leave her cold.

I would really like to see the implementation of class related stuff. The Benediction chain was amazing as was the Druid swift flight form quest, why can’t we have more stuff like that, ending possibly with a class and race related title amongst other things. These chains could be like the modern Quel’delar one, where everything is either soloable or done in 5 mans to make it accessible to all.

On the other hand, my shaman still uses her Hand of A’dal, probably because she’s a Draenei and my Undead priest wears her General with pride (I farmed the vast majority of it through PuGs and I still get numb thinking about it). All my other characters, despite having access to at least one title each display nothing. Having said that, if Nest manages to do all the Winter’s Veil stuff this year, she may become the Merrymaker. I think it may go with her sprout hairstyle, plus the gnomish giggle.

So which titles do your characters and why? If like me you don’t partake, what titles if any could be added to make you change your mind?

Why did I do the explorer if not for the title? A couple of reasons really, the first being I can’t stand a list with everything bar one last little trivial item ticked off and the second, well Azeroth baring a few little blips like the Searing Gorge is a beautiful place. We should all explore it at least once.

Midsummer Screenshot Madness

Today’s screenshots are all influenced in some way by the Midsummer Fire Festival.

Midsummer is one of my favourite festivals, combining as it does faster levelling for alts and a reason to visit far flung locations. Running around picking up flames on all my characters has given me lots of chances to visit old familiar places, taking pictures as I went.

Winterspring –  looking tranquil as always. The Midsummer Fire Festival always seems out of place amongst the snowy landscapes though. Bet Ahune would prefer it here to that damp cavern he currently spawns in. The Ice Stone wouldn’t melt in Winterspring, bad planning on his part really.

Feathermoon Stronghold – looking mysterious and moody.

Terokkar Forest – Really they should light the bonfire on the bone wastes. I guess someone likes to live dangerously.

Grizzly Hills –  a certain outhouse that any Alliance who have completed the Amberseed quest chain will remember with mixed emotions. Nice to see they dress it up for the festival though.

Wonder if the blossom hides the smell?

Given the fiery nature of this festival we decided to visit the hottest place on Azeroth, Molten Core itself. I haven’t really been back since Vanilla (a small trip 18 months ago to kill two bosses hardly counts) and the first thing I noticed is how small it seems these days. The second and perhaps scariest thing was that a disc priest and a feral druid now do the same dps as a 40 man raid did back then. Anyway, insects we may be, but it was too soon for Ragneros and down he went. He still didn’t drop my tier 2 pants though.

You just can't get the minions these days

The hardest boss for us was Sulfuron Harbringer. We were struggling on the dps front (stupid healers)  until I remembered I had mana burn and then it suddenly became trivial. We did however both get the achievement which was fair enough for Tabby, after all that druid has only existed since March but my priest farmed Ragnaros for a 9 month period.. grrr. In which time I think my guild saw one pair of tier 2 pants drop, about as many priest pants as we got priest dresses from Nef in fact – random loot maybe random but it sure doesn’t feel like it when you get hunter/warlock loot for the 10th week in a row. Unless of course, you are a hunter or a warlock in which case, it’s random and well deserved.

Finally, we have a spot of Dark Iron art. This beauty can be found hanging on the walls of Blackrock Depths.

Happy Midsummer Fire Festival and may your loot bags drop scythes and mini-pets!

Why “Smiling Jim” brings a tear to my eye

I seem to be drawn to the sadder quests in-game. Just as I can guarantee finding a matinee movie to cry to (regardless of when I turn the tv on), I have a knack for finding quests involving murdered families and broken hearts. One of these quest chains that every single one of my Alliance characters has to do whilst levelling is the “Shady Rest” chain.

We first learn of James Hyal from breadcrumb quests in the Eastern Kingdoms. Friends and family are understandably worried about him.

My brother James went with Lady Proudmoore across the sea. Last I heard, the fighting had settled down over there, and James was setting up an inn somewhere on the continent. Wherever he is, I’m sure he’s doing good business. Damn fine cook he was.

I haven’t heard from him for a while now–too busy with his inn, I’d wager–but the clerk in Theramore could probably point you to him. Look for him on the top floor of that keep near the middle of the city. What’s it called… Foothold Citadel, that’s it.

On arrival in Theramore we learn that James isn’t doing the “good business” his brother was hoping for. In fact, quite the opposite. He sits outside the Theramore Inn singing to himself, his mind broken by the terrible events at the Shady Rest Inn.

From speaking to the Captain of the Guard, we learn that when the Inn was burnt down, Mr Hyal’s wife and son died but that the people responsible have yet to be caught. Now we can’t have that, so off into the Marsh we go on a hunt for clues.

After a fair bit of fighting, a spot of arson and some amazing Nancy Drew like detective skills, the mystery is solved.

The Captain of the Guard asks one final task of you, laying a wreath on the Hyal family grave.  Naturally, the dead don’t rest peacefully in these parts and their ghosts pop up for a quick conversion.

How are you meant to tell a murdered wife and son that their husband and father is now a broken shadow of the man he once was. That having brought his family to a new frontier and having failed to protect them, he spends his days singing to himself. No wonder she couldn’t find a way to talk to Jim.

However what makes this chain extra sad in my eyes is the fact that nothing changes. James is still insane and his wife and son are still dead. They aren’t together and neither can “Smiling Jim” derive comfort from the fact that you found those responsible, simply because he can’t understand (although technically no one tries to tell him). Compare that to Darrowshire, another epic and tragic quest chain. Little Pamela eventually gets both her dolly and her daddy back thanks to Chromie’s meddling in the time line. Sure, they are both still dead but at least given the circumstances it’s a happier ending.

I hope that come Cataclysm Jim will find a reason to smile again.

Hearts and Flowers

If this is the new Horde, can we have the old one back please.

Someone  needs to tell the Orcs that big flower filled garlands really don’t go with extra large metal spikes. They send mixed messages really and that’s never a good look.

Heads, hearts and other gooey bits look fine skewered on your steel plated Keep, plants (unless poisonous) are a definite no no. It’s time to hang the Interior Designer from one of those currently empty pointy bits.

Bonfires on the other hand are good.  They could be better if you were at least burning someone in effigy (Varian for example) or just plain burning someone but at least they seem a bit more in keeping with the building. Why go to the hassle of making something which looks aggressive, bad tempered and quite frankly dangerous and then spoil the whole effect with flowers.

Go straight to Alterac Valley

I’m back. I logged today for the first time in almost 5 weeks. What did I do… I went straight to AV (yes I worry about my sanity sometimes too). Well I had to find out whether or not anything had changed in my short absence from the game. So off to Stonehearth bunker we went. The  Horde scenting a wounded Moonkin still flock to the slaughter, lining up to be thrown out of the window. The Alliance, well, we still can’t spell. Lots of variations on the theme of “Lol aLLiance sux” which was surprising since we were winning. To conclude, it’s like I never left.

On a slightly different theme, have to say I “LOVE” the new festival boss queuing thingie. Less than a minute waiting time even when we queued as double dps. It’s a little sad you can’t two man them any more, but the lack of waiting for randoms, people lying about summons and generally being annoying is amazing. Thank you Blizzard.

Cataclysm? That’s just another word for Disaster right

I have to admit, I’m worried already. Not about the “lol smite” direction of the Priest class or by the removal of the Path of the Titans but by the way raiding seems to be going.

I didn’t like the idea of only being able to run an instance on 10 man or 25 man when it was announced. I like the ability to help out friends by running 10 man Onyxia even though I’ve already killed her on 25 man and I believe that removing that ability come Cataclysm takes a way a bit of the “multi-player” aspect. Now it seems to firmly put the emphasis on alts, which is fine if like me you have lots of them, but I know plenty of raiders who only have one character. Oddly enough, it’s nearly always a rogue (they must be a strangely addictive class).

Then comes the news that you will be able to divide 25 mans into up to 3 10 mans. No no no no. The potential for chaos this could cause is worse than the zombie plague of 08. To illustrate my point, let me tell you a story.

Back when Ulduar was cutting edge content, we were working on Freya plus three. Now for some reason people just kept doing all sorts of stupid things, not controlling their aoe, standing in beams, hugging the person exploding and the like. The raid got more and more mutinous. Half the team kept whining that we were obviously undergeared and that we should just kill one add, kill her and move on. The other half were determined to keep going and since the officers were in the latter group, we eventually succeeded.

Now had that been Cataclysm, no doubt the officer led group would been clamouring to divide the raid and conquer. Sure, we would have got that kill a lot faster but it’s hardly fair on those that get left out. There is always the risk that whoever is making the groups cherry picks the best players (which makes sense if you want first kills) but that can destroy the harmony of the guild as a whole. No one likes feeling left out.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth remembering Karazhan and trying to divide the guild equally into two teams each week. In fact I have at least four separate screenshots of people accusing me of bias and generally being a bitch because of their perceptions of the team I put them in. The thought of doing it on the fly, in the middle of a raid where people are already frustrated and pissed off is a nightmare.

When you couple that with the words of Ghostcrawler himself..

Remember that in LK the 10s were specifically designed to be easier (with a couple of exceptions where we messed up) and many players ran them with the loot they earned from their 25s, further exacerbating the problem. Given the complexities of some encounters, realistically it’s probably not possible for every single battle to be of exactly the same difficulty in both 10 and 25, but we have a lot of room to bring them closer together.

and my heart sinks even further. It’s likely that some content will be harder on 10 man and some on 25 man. Now if you’re pushing for server firsts or even just to beat the guild closest to you on the progression list, taking the path of least resistance is the way to do it. For the sake of argument lets go with the first two bosses being easier on 25 man, you clear them and then the third boss is considerably easier if done on 10 man. So you divide the team up into three, getting over the logistical problems like turning two tanks in your 25 man into 6 tanks for three ten mans and dividing seven healers into little pieces. Now A and B manage to kill the boss no problem, but C struggles. Drama ensues. Someone gquits after having a screaming row with three officers and comes back two days later after their tantrum wears off.

To further add to the drama, lets assume that the guild closest to you on the progression list is a 10 man only guild. They are behind because they don’t have the luxury to scale up to tackle the first two fights which are easier on 25 man. Because they are behind, a couple of their crucial players apply to a guild they perceive as being better. So much for a level playing field.

On top of that, I don’t believe that content which is “not equal” should generate the same rewards. Obviously the problem here lies in the fact that whichever is easiest will probably come on a boss by boss basis, but the hardest stuff should always yield the best reward. Otherwise it’s like handing out gold medals to everyone who enters a race even if they come 15th (a primary school I briefly attended did just that –  my father almost had a fit when he discovered the kid who crossed the finishing line about 4 minutes after I did, got the same reward).

Yes, I’m horribly cynical but I swear I didn’t start out this way. Being an officer in two raiding guilds over the last 5 years has shown me all sorts of depressing things the dregs of humanity will do for gear. Raiding for a lot of people is about loot, how fast you can obtain said loot, what sort of loot it is and so on. I’ve experienced guild life from the most casual to the server first level and the people in those guilds behaved very similarly to each other, whether we were talking Naxx or AQ40.

I suppose I don’t like the idea that Blizzard are trying to sell a level playing field, when it’s obvious that there will be a myriad of pitfalls for raiding guilds to fall into.

Personally I prefer 25 man raiding. 10 people is family and friends around a barbecue on a Saturday night. It doesn’t feel epic or exciting to me. I like my raids to be as multi-player as possible. However, I realise and accept that not everyone thinks like me but I don’t believe that Blizzard’s solution will keep many people happy in the long run.

25 mans assuming you have secure leadership, could potentially still have the upper hand because they will be able to always take the fastest path to first kills. That won’t make 10 man guilds who have been sold a promise of equality happy for long. 10 mans could possibly work out as being more challenging that 25 mans across the board, that would force people like me who want a challenge to move to a format I don’t particularly enjoy. Not sure how long that would sustain my interest. Are there enough raid leaders and competent tanks for a massive shift to 10 mans? My guess would be no, but selfishly if push comes to shove, I have a pet raidleader who also doubles as a pet tank.

Yes, it’s still the alpha and a lot could happen between now and Cataclysm going live, but I have to admit I’m losing excitement on a day by day basis. Yes, we coped with shrinking raid size in the Burning Crusade, we coped with running ToC four times per character in one reset and I’m sure we’ll cope what ever happens in Cataclysm but…..

The Calm before the Storm

Fear the attack of four headed Pre-expansion Slumpiness Monster, it has tentacles and lots of pointy teeth. Yes, this is last week’s Blog Azeroth shared topic which I failed to post in time (also my anti virus has broken my linking temporarily). Summer with football, work and sunshine is getting in the way of my WoW time. It’s screenshot heavy because pictures say more than words, not because sticking pictures up is easier than typing.

I’m attacking the doldrums in a couple of ways:

Firstly, exploring. We know that the Cataclysm is going to reshape the world as we know it. Therefore I want to make sure I’ve see everything there is as it currently stands. Not just completing the Explorer achievement, because I still haven’t finished that but going off the beaten track as well. As part of this, I’m also revisiting all the old instances, especially old favourites like Stratholme, Scholomance and Dire Maul.

Nest and her orphan planning an attack on Sun Rock Retreat

I only just realised that this path skirts the whole of the town and lets little Alliance take a short cut to the Charred Vale without having to run through town.

Secondly, achievements. When presented with a list, I have this instinctive need to tick off all it’s components. Therefore I’m working through all the achievements I have yet to complete.

I really thought this guy didn’t exist. I’ve run Razorfen Kraul so many times on so many alt hunters and I’ve never seen him. Then there I was ticking the place off for my Priest’s Classic Dungeonmaster… and what do I spot but the Blind Hunter. Unfortunately the Nightstalker bow he drops isn’t much use for her.

Then there is PvP. Unlike raid instances and five mans, battlegrounding never gets boring. It might be frustrating, annoying and the res timer is always at 30 seconds but it’s never dull. Each new group of people you play with will do different things. In one Arathi Basin you might have a massive fight at the farm, in the next some random guy might be quoting Shakespeare whilst sitting on the stables roof. Whether you win or lose, each game is unique.

Joining /worlddefense is also good for keeping your PvP hand in. No the skeleton is not mine, it’s that of a very bad (in both senses of the word) rogue who didn’t realise that killing innocent little levellers is a very naughty thing to do.

Finally my last method for dealing with WoW ennui is to find the fun, quirky and often downright odd things to do in-game. Whether it’s jumping off the Twin Colossals or white water rafting in Grizzly Hills, there are lots of weird things to play around with. Can we 2 person that boss or this one, what happens if you climb up this mountain or how far can you kite Gamon? From challenges set by other bloggers to the random ideas you get at 4 am after several bottles of beer, the list of things to play around with are endless.

Getting stuck in weird and interesting places is always good too. This is the inside of the top of the Horde base on the Isle of Conquest. The moral here, watch where you leap.

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