Rolling in the Deep

One of the great attractions of WoW to me at least has always been the little things, the pop culture references, the jokes and the interactions between NPCs so when I saw this, I couldn’t stop myself smiling and singing away.

Yep, that’s a Panda called Adele and she’s rolling in the deep, the Widening Deep to be precise.

We could have had it all

Rolling in the deep

You had my heart inside your hand

And you played it to the beat

Hoplings

I’ve been a bit of a vermling fan ever since I first encountered them on the beta and so when I discovered that they would also be available as cute little pets I knew I had to have one. (Yes, I fully understand that cuteness might be in the eye of the beholder).

Acquiring one of your very own is simple. First of all make sure that you have friendly name plates key bound on something, it defaults to shift – v but if you’re using that for something else (like me) bind it elsewhere.

Next queue up for Stormstout Brewery and speak to Auntie Stormstout who is in the alcove as you enter. You need to purchase Ling Ting’s favourite tea which gives the ability to see small golden vermling dotted around the brewery. There are thirty of them in total and you need to find all of them. You can only carry five teas at once and but each application lasts five minutes.

This is what you’re looking for. They are quite small but with the name plates up are easily spotted. You can also clear the dungeon first and then work your way back finding the little fellows. They’re usually hidden up against the sides of the room or beside crates and barrels.

The achievement which rewards the pet is very group friendly as one person can click on say five vermling, another fifteen and someone else ten and yet everyone in the party will still be rewarded with the achievement and pet. You don’t even need to have the tea buff when someone clicks on a vermling, but it will still count.

Now I just need to finish battling my way to 250 pets so little Bean can have another vermling to play with.

Falling in love all over again.

First impressions are so important. We make snap judgements all the time based on nothing more than the experiences of a few minutes, sometimes even less. If I’m being a hundred percent honest, I have to admit that my initial reaction to MoP was a bit less than positive. After twenty minutes or so of this:

I was starting to get a little grumpy, especially since Mr Harpy was stuck in limbo somewhere and couldn’t even log on. However the more I played, the more I got drawn in. Not only is the landscape stunningly beautiful but in many regards, MoP ticks all my mental boxes. The quest chains range from the fun to the serious as do the rewards. Both Theramore and Southshore get mentioned by the NPCs in the first ten minutes and there is a real sense of a world at war (at least from the Alliance perspective). The Sha, the bad guys of the piece are introduced in act one and have their nasty nature spelt out for us just to make sure there will be no misunderstandings later. The little details are important and I feel that Blizzard have nailed most of them spot on, from the voice acting for a lot of the quests which really helps bring them to life to the little scenes being played out by the NPCs.

I also think I’m in love with Sky Admiral Rogers, not only is she clearly a ganker at heart but the moment when she told Admiral Taylor to “put his big boy pants on” was jaw-droppingly perfect. A few more like her and the Horde won’t stand a chance.

So far I’ve only run the first two dungeons but again, I have nothing negative to say about either of them. I loved the idea of Temple of the Jade Serpent with it’s library of possessed scrolls from the beta but having now run through the Brewery, I’m not sure I could pick a favourite.

Stories coming to life versus the adorable Vermling, it’s a hard one to call.

In short, I’m basically back to vanilla. The little wide eyed girl in a candy shop trying to do everything at once because there is so much to see, to listen to and to play with. In the Cataclysm drought I found myself questioning why I was playing WoW and whether I wanted to continue but now two days into MoP, I’m rather glad I chose to continue.

The Destruction of Theramore: How I would have designed it.

I know I and quite a few others have been pretty critical of the Theramore event so I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and describe how I would played out the destruction had I been in charge of the design team. On the plus side it would have been epic but on the negative, MoP might have had half the budget but omelette/broken eggs and all that.

There will be some spoilers for the Tides of War so if you haven’t read the book feel free to look away now.

An event as momentous as the destruction of Theramore should be available to more than just those players at the level cap, therefore I would have made the first stages available to everyone of a level high enough to play in Dustwallow Marsh. Hitting level 35 especially after the changes they made to the level sizes would be easily within reach of everyone. The final “world event” bits would be available to everyone regardless of level.

So in the Beginning (Phase 1): This would have started around five weeks before the expansion start date.

Horde: Start with a spot of bullying in Orgrimmar helping Malkorok  (if you haven’t read the book lets just say he’s a really nasty Orc) weed out some of the more “misguided” of it’s citizens. After all, Garrosh needs to know he can trust you and what better way of discovering if you’re made of the right stuff by sending you out to do his dirty work. Once Garrosh felt you were loyal to the cause, you would be despatched to Dalaran to pass on a secret message to certain Bloodelf.

Alliance: Theramore is in danger and the heroes of the Alliance are once again called to Stormwind. Despite being battle hardened, you know little about spycraft and spend a few hours learning from the master himself, Mattias Shaw. From sneaking around the Palace learning a few dubious facts about Harrison Jones (I always knew he was a bad man!) to weeding out a Horde spy in the basement of the Blue Recluse you have to prove your mettle to the best S1: 7 has to offer.

Rewards:

Horde - Mind-forg’d Manacles (five hour cooldown, not usable in combat): A vanity item equipped in the bracer slot which allows the wearer to disappear in a cloud of smoke a la vanish. A must for all good spies and anyone fancying a career in the circus. Unfortunately where you reappear can’t always be relied on, 98.3 percent of the time it’s twenty yards away, other times it might be on a different continent. Wearer beware and all that.

Alliance – Binded Briars (five hour cooldown, not usable in combat): Basically the same as the Horde version only with a more flowery name.

Phase 2: Around three weeks before the expansion start date.

Would have seen both sides head towards Dustwallow Marsh. The Alliance to Theramore itself and the Horde to  a zeppelin parked in the hills between the Barrens and Theramore. This phase would involve a daily style hub, one for each faction with a range of quests involving both subtle spying and actual skirmishes. Everything from aerial missions to try and discover what the opposing faction are actually up to, a spot of deep sea diving to plant mines/defuse them depending on your faction and collecting ingredients to weave magic spells to either weaken or strengthen the city walls. If you were Alliance that might involve going out alongside Shandris Feathermoon or General Marcus Jonathan or as Horde you might find yourself standing next to Baine in the battle lines.

In general though, there would be an increase in troop movements with the Alliance and Horde armies amassing ready for battle. In the cities, even those of the Eastern Kingdoms there would have a been a larger martial presence than normal too as both factions geared up for full out war.

Phase 3: A week before the expansion start date.

For the Alliance the actual explosion would come as the end of a daily. Players would complete the quest as normal but at the end would be shown a cut scene of the zeppelin flying over Theramore, Kalecgos trying to fight it off and then the huge purple glow as what was once a thriving city became nothing but a few burnt out buildings and a massive flickering crater.

At this point the Scenario would become available for characters in their 85th season.

On the Horde side, things would be slightly different. On the completion of your daily if you were 85, you would be offered the chance to queue for the Scenario and when that was over, you’d see the same cut scene as the Alliance. Players lower than 85 would just see the cutscene, the same as the Alliance.

Scenario: Basically as is currently is, rewarding the mini mana bomb and the tabard respectively.

Phase 4: The aftermath. Starting one day after the Scenario became available.

This would be a bit of a world event. It and it’s rewards would be available to everyone regardless of level and regardless of whether or not they’d completed the scenario. So for example lev 1s could take part and get involved.

In Orgrimmar the Horde would be celebrating the destruction of Theramore with victory marches, fireworks and speeches. Tables laden with food, roasted clefthoof imported from Outland and other expensive and delicious foods transported from the far reaches of Azeroth. Baine and Vol’jin would be noticeably absent. Just like with the Wickerman festival, things would kick off with a speech from Garrosh every night at 7.00pm server time. During the day, drunken celebrating soldiers would be sprawled around their benches sleeping off the excesses of the night before or talking up their part in the war effort.

In Stormwind the civilian population of Theramore (at least those who were safely evacuated) would be set up in a small refugee camp within the city walls. A new statue would be erected in the graveyard to give remembrance to those that died bravely defending their home. Instead of a victory march, there would be a vigil in the cemetery with candles and speeches from Jaina and Varian, remembering the dead and spurring on the living into seeking justice for their friends and loved ones. Again, things would begin at 7.00 pm only this time the event would start with the refugees moving slowly from their camp to the graveyard, in single file with their candles in hand.

Once players had witnessed these events, they would receive a “reward package” containing various vanity items.

Rewards:

Alliance:

  • A wand which is usable by everyone which conjures the smokey golden image of little giggling Gnome girl. At night if you’re by any street lamps which aren’t currently lit, as she floats past, they would automatically light. A permanent version of the one mentioned in the book which made me cry so much.
  • A trinket which allows you to summon a blue haired Nightelf warrior to fight alongside you for five minutes.

Horde:

  • A wand which summons the image of a blackrock Orc, despite him only being there as a shadow any NPC Horde characters in the vicinity will immediately start talking about their allegiance to Garrosh and how he’s ten times the Warchief that Thrall was.
  • A trinket which allows you to summon a Bloodelf Mage in a Sunreaver outfit to fight alongside you for five minutes.

When all four fade into nothingness, the last thing they would say is “Remember Theramore”.

Basically I’d want the scenario to feel like a chapter from the story rather than just a random event dropped into the game. I also think that the game world working more closely with the book would have the added and extra benefit of then making people who perhaps wouldn’t normally buy tie in books decide that yes, they would like to read the whole story to help put things completely into context.

How would you have done it?

Slumming in the Sunwell

As anyone who has read my scribbles for any length of time is probably aware, two gnoming (two personing doesn’t sound right and two manning is not particularly accurate) dungeons is something that my husband and I have done a lot of. Not only is it a challenge but it makes for interesting game play as we try and navigate around sticking points and compensate for the lack of other party members.

I’m not sure why the Sunwell came up in conversation but it did and I have to admit that my original Sunwell memories are not the happiest but somehow I found myself talked into giving it a try. Back when it was fresh content, our then guild was locked in battle of wills with another guild on the server. We’d won the race to Illidan simply by staying up half the night but with the release of new content, the whole can of worms spilled open with a vengeance once more. The forums ignited and our GM became more and more bad tempered. Every time someone made a mistake, even if it was as small as pulling a trash pack by accident he erupted into screams of abuse directed not only at those responsible but the entire guild.

However, by the time we stood here, I was looking forward to rewriting those painful memories with some happier ones. Dear old Kalecgos provided a bit of a challenge simply because Mr Harpy on his rogue was struggling to stay alive whilst I was in the portal. After a few attempts, I popped back to Stormwind and exchanged my Disc spec for a Shadow one which made it far easier.

I’m surprised at just how much I’ve been enjoying Shadow, seeing tiny shadowy Gnomes with fabulous hair wander towards targets is wonderfully cute and macabre at the same plus I’m rather amazed at how big my numbers are. So once we’d saved the blue dragon, we found ourselves faced with this little guy,

To say he was a challenge would be an understatement, bearing in mind we were attempting him as a Holy Priest and a Rogue. I have to say Power Word: Solace is amazing on fights like this, where you need to conserve mana for high damage phases but also need to dps. In the end we had the last laugh, he died just after I did.

Aren’t Gnome corpses so pathetically cute?

Felmyst was amazingly easy in comparison, I went back to shadow and we just dodged nasty green clouds and nuked her. The twins were a bit more of a challenge but not by a huge amount. This time I stayed holy and bounced around spamming Power Word: Solace and blowing kisses. The poor Naaru wasn’t particularly hard either and before we knew it, we were clearing trash up towards the big bad guy himself.

I wish Blizzard would make these dogs tameable by Hunters, of all the demon dog models this has always been my favourite with Chromaggus a close second.

Compared to the first two encounters, Mr Demon was a walk in the park. I think that’s partly why I enjoy trying fights with less people than they’re designed for. The Kalecgos fight for example was at the time, perhaps the easiest fight in the dungeon but when there is only two of you, one wearing leather and one wearing cloth trying to tank demons and angry dragons it’s suddenly far more “interesting”.

Next up, Sarth 3D. Now I know that the fight is definitely two mannable but whether it’s doable without a proper tank remains to be seen but I feel if a rogue can tank Brutullus he should be able to manage a whole bunch of angry dragons.

Theramore: The Aftermath

99 red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells it’s red alert
There’s something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky as 99 red balloons go by

From ’99 Luftballons

Much has already been written about Theramore and I suspect the deluge is far from over.

Scenarios: In principle I love the concept of scenarios, quick little bites which you and two others can run through picking up shinies and having fun and when looked at purely in that light, Theramore is fine. You kill some Orcs, blow up a few ships and help Jaina, great I had a blast as Mr Harpy and a random hunter competed to pull as many mobs as possible. In practise, I agree with those who have already stated that Theramore was the wrong story for a scenario.  Without having read the book, there is a huge crater sized hole in your knowledge (and yes, my book “review” with Victorian overtones will be coming soon) and that to me is wrong. Too much of the plot recently has taken place in pages rather than in pixels, Deathwing destroying Auberdine for example or the Forsaken overrunning Southshore. We as players who are invested in this world, in these characters are powerless to do anything as some deus ex machina wrecks havoc on all we hold dear. That is a hard pill to swallow time and time again.

On the destruction of a much loved city: I am still grumpy about this. Theramore was always a home from home for many of my characters, in part because of it’s outstanding sunsets and sunrises. I’m also disappointed with Jaina’s character development as seen through the Tides of War (something I will cover in later post). However that I find myself wondering whether perhaps it was necessary.

You see, despite thinking I had lost the hunger to raid, thinking that I was happy running around collecting pets and pvping, I find Theramore has created a shift in that perception. Now I want to march on Orgrimmar, I want to see Garrosh fall and then I want to spit on his corpse and plant my Theramore banner on it. I want to dance on his face with my cute little Gnome feet and I want to see him burn just like Theramore did. Do I rate the book, no not really and do I like the scenario, no but it’s had a physical and emotional effect on me. I didn’t want to kill Deathwing even though he destroyed a plethora of my favourite places, but Garrosh….. oh he’s going down. In the end, that’s all storytelling is meant to do isn’t it.

The Darkmoon Dolly

My fascination for the Darkmoon Faire is well known and documented. Even though I don’t particularly need anything from it’s stalls any more, I still venture there every month to wander around soaking up the creepiness. One of my favourite items has to be these dolls and if Blizzard ever added one as a mini pet which levitated around after you my happiness would be complete. As I’m not convinced that will ever happen, I thought I’d have a go at making a version of my own.

One quick doodle later, I was ready to go.

I was a little concerned as to how I would manage to make her bonnet look three dimensional but so far so good.

She then had a brief stint as a hand puppet. Oh the indignity!

Before finally finding her hat:

There is a spring lurking underneath her but it’s rather hard to make out in the picture. Should I make her a sister at some point there are a few things I would do differently, mostly to do with her face shape but all in all I’m rather happy with the way she’s turned out. I’m going to call her Olimpia as a reference to one of those horrible tales which helped frame my childhood. There is definitely something of the uncanny about this particular doll.

Next on the creative list is to finally get around to making a cushion sized version of this:

So whenever a Druid annoys me, I can jump up and down a cuddly representation of one.

On the subject of crafting things, you should also check out Veroicone’s WoW charms. I particularly love the boomkins.

The Sinner in Me: A Blog Azeroth Shared Topic

The shared topic this week was suggested by Noahdeer of Be MoP.

We all know of the Seven deadly sins (Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy and Gluttony) and we all succumb to aspects of them at one time or another, but is there one particular sin that affects you more than the others when you play World of Warcraft? 
Are you a bit too prideful about your armor set? or Do you look upon someone with envy when they have a piece of armor that you don’t have yet? 

My downfall has to be Pride (and not just because I happen to love this picture):

Pride by Erte from his series on the Seven Deadly Sins

If you’ve never seen his work before, it’s definitely worth a look.

In both pleasure and business I have a driving need to be good at whatever I do. Partly perhaps because in WoW, I tend to play healers and in the real world, mistakes at work could have horrific consequences for those I’m supposed to be helping. It’s not that I think I’m better than everyone else but more that I’ve built my own mental barriers around not making mistakes and around being a fast learner. I find it hard to cope with failure or with not hitting my own admittedly high standards. After all, what’s the point of doing something if you can’t be proud of whatever you achieve at the end.

On the other hand, Sprout’s greatest sin has to be Wrath… usually brought on by people who spam “Lol let’s lose fast” or turn up to pvp in the equivalent of a lovely red dress and then whine about the healing. It makes her see red very fast and everyone who has ever played on a pvp server knows that red=dead. It’s just a shame you can’t always apply that to your team mates. This ties back in with Pride, because I (through Sprout) get angry that my team aren’t even attempting to play properly and are effectively making me look bad. I know that’s a slightly screwed way of looking at things but the habits of a lifetime are hard to break, especially when they help get you promoted.

A few of my favourite things: First loves and endearing stories

This close to the end of an expansion, my mind always starts roaming back over things I’ve enjoyed in the current and previous incarnations of the game so today I want to talk about my favourite five man vanilla and TBC dungeons. It’s a combination of things, the atmosphere (scenary and any storylines/quest chains) and the mechanics of the fights which draw me to specific dungeons over and  over again.

Vanilla

The Deadmines

You never forget your first, whether that was your first kiss, first shot of horseradish vodka, first lover or first ever WoW dungeon. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter, it was your first and that makes it special. It will colour your views of everything which comes afterwards.

We got lost finding the instance and then spent ages wandering around the tunnels before the dungeon proper thinking we were awesome because stuff was dying. When we finally made it through the loading screen there was this sense of WOW…. and that was before we even got close to the the whole boat in a cave bit. The fights were varied and fun, the loot was the best we’d see up until that point and the fact that you could get a rolling pin and two mini-pets made it even better.

The story line behind the instance has always struck me as a fairly poignant one too. I spent much of my childhood not far from Hamelin, the town immortalised in the tale of the Pied Piper and there are definite similarities between that and the story of the Defias, one which could serve as a warning to anyone planning on not paying for services rendered.

The Scarlet Monastery

When I rolled my first Priest, we were levelling as a threesome. Me, the now Mr Harpy on a Druid and a friend playing a Rogue. We had picked a server at random and so were levelling quite happily by ourselves. This involved ganking as many fellow questers as possible (If a Troll Shaman called Ada is reading this.. sorry) and seeing if we could three man most of the levelling dungeons at an appropriate level. This worked like a charm until we encountered the final wing of the Monastery, where Whitemane and co really didn’t want to go down easily.

Whitemane has remained one of my favourite dungeon bosses and I’m really glad that the revamp didn’t see her replaced with a pale imitation. There is something endearing about her fanaticism, her eye makeup and her love for Mograine that makes me feel slightly bad every time I kill her.

Plus she has a Benediction which clearly makes her awesome! Also every time I cast resurrection, a gleeful little voice in my head yells “Arise my champion”.

Scholomance

I love horror movies despite the fact that I have an over-active imagination and am prone to nightmares even if I’m not watching people being slaughtered in inventive ways by homicidal maniacs in haunted houses, thus Scholomance and I were always going to be a match made in heaven. Again it’s an instance I encountered fairly early on because I needed the mana potion recipe which was only obtainable by completing the quest chains there. Then it became a staple of my pre Molten Core farm as I and my guildmates worked on collecting our dungeon sets.  The arguments as the warlock in the party always wanted to do Jandice and the tank didn’t, people getting locked out of the Kirtonos fight and the yell of “Schools in session” which always sent a frisson of excitement down my spine as I prayed I wouldn’t be the one getting portaled into a room full of skeletons.

I wrote about my love affair with Scholomance back in 2009 and reading back over that post, my feelings haven’t changed at all. In fact whilst I like the re-make (although it’s bit like beloved films, a part of me is yelling “WHY WHY WHY!!!!”), I feel the spirit of the place has gone. The Eva Sarkhoff quest chain was both chilling and heartbreakingly sad at the same time and I feel it’s removal lessens the Scholomance experience.

The Burning Crusade

Caverns of Time: Old Hillsbrad

Saving Thrall and wandering about in the past, what’s not to love about Old Hillsbrad. Now that Southshore is destroyed, I make pilgrimages to the dungeon to sit in the Inn and mingle amongst the villagers listening to their chatter. I watch little Sally Whitemane running around, carefree and happy not knowing what the future will bring. I’d also love to make a human character who looked like this:

The story is a good one too, trying to stop someone messing with the time line and of course, I love the “disguise” element of the dungeon, seeing my Nightelves and Draenei turning into humans. Thrall versus the armourer never fails to make me smile either even though I know it’s coming.

Shadow Labs

My favourite board game when I was small was called Labyrinth and of course, I loved the the David Bowie movie too (he was my second ever crush after Daley Thomson) so my excitement towards Shadow Labs was building long before TBC was actually released. The first actual run was a little disappointing but as I healed run after run helping my guild attune themselves to Karazhan it grew on me. I particularly enjoyed the second boss, Mr Mindcontrol because of the chaotic nature of the fight. It was like a smaller scale precursor of the Faction Champions. Shadow Labs was also the source of one of my greatest triumphs when myself, Mr Harpy on his warrior and a warlock guildmate managed to three man most of the instance in the first few weeks of the Burning Crusade (at a time when most people were complaining about the difficulty of the instance and the randomness and nastiness of the 2nd boss in particular.

Next time I’ll be explaining why my favourite picks of Wrath and Cataclysm probably aren’t everyone else’s cup of tea.

Blue and White: Frozen Delight

I’ve been looking for an outfit for my Mage’s frost spec for a quite a while now. I keep finding items that I love by themselves but just don’t seem to work when slotted into an outfit.

Then I picked up that new robe from the Scarlet Monastery and had the beginnings of an idea.

This was followed by a touch of experimenting with the new version of MogIt, which proved my suspicions about a certain hat, shoulders and belt correct.

Then, flicking forward into the MoP section of MogIt I came across this amazing looking weapon. It just seemed to tie the whole outfit together and with it’s huge globe of water on the end, it’s the perfect choice for a Frost Mage.

The weapon will definitely have to be a work in progress but then there are plenty of other off-hand/main hand and staves which would fit the bill in the mean time.

 

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