Cross Faction Conversations

Warning: Bad Language ahead.

The other night I was minding my own business popping on and off different characters when I noticed I had a pending battle net friend request.

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Now previous to logging my latest lowbie Druid I had helped Mr Harpy once in a 2 v 2 against a Mage and Death Knight, both of whom out geared his little Fire Mage and both of whom were in Dun Morogh. I then logged onto another character to continue faffing around with my alt collection.

My issue with this is as follows. Blizzard doesn’t allow us to speak the same languages in an attempt to cut angry communications between the factions and yet this rather upset player just had to click on my character to whisper me this  abusive message. I know I’m especially sensitive at the moment as my depression is staging a rather determined coup d’etat but why should I have to read the rantings of a complete stranger who apparently wished to engage in world pvp and than decided that they didn’t without them having to go through the hassle of making a lv 1 character on my server, logging in, escaping the start video, putting me on ignore to stop any return comments I may wish to make and then typing out an essay on why I suck. Now I know that plenty of pvp heroes do exactly that as illustrated by exhibit A below:

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This charming missive was sent to Mr Harpy by a Lv 90 Deathknight who he encountered killing level 12s in Westfall but why make it easier for everyone to throw their toys out of the pram.

I would much rather that you could indicate that you wished to become “friends” with someone and then they had to accept either out of curiosity or because they knew who you were before chatting was allowed. I’m sure there are lots of friendly messages passed back and forwards this way but it only takes a few people spewing hatred (this is one of the “nicer”messages the two of us have received) to ruin what was meant to be fun pvp and your night playing WoW.

Failing that, let us learn other languages properly. I would imagine a proper epic quest chain with lots of random wandering around Azeroth, collecting of weird ingredients, single person scenarios and much reading of dusty tomes (probably the sort which spawn angry ghosts) before you mysteriously understood what the other faction was saying.

Some Minor Glyphs are more Equal than others

I’ve had a hate hate relationship with minor glyphs ever since the start of MoP. Playing a Holy Priest didn’t exactly leave me with much choice outside the cosmetic and whilst I’ve nothing against cosmetic, when other classes have something useful to fill their slots it’s a little frustrating.

Sure things like being able to sprint over water and fall great distances safely are essentially niches but they take an existing useful spell and add something to it, making it more useful in certain situations with no negatives at all. Perhaps it’s easier for classes like the Rogue who despite having three specs has only one role but Priests have definitely suffered when it comes to fun minor glyphs which give you an edge over the cosmetic ones.

Confession is amusing for about 10 seconds, although if you could edit the confessions to suit the people you cast it on, it could have far more potential (although I can see why Blizzard would never ever allow this). I do like turning into a Val’kyr  but wish it altered the spell somewhat, perhaps you stay “alive” for three quarters of the time the normal Spirit remains for but it allows you to cast smite too. Not having to die to get any use of the glyph would be even better though. There are 10 Priest minor glyphs, four of these are Shadow specific, 1 Disc and 1 Holy. Of the four non spec specific spells, 3 are straight up turn this spell effect into that one and the final one is confessions.

Which brings me to the Monk. Here we see a variety of minor glyphs, ones which completely alter spells giving you variety and extra options. Take the Windwalker glyph Blackout Kick:

Use: Permanently teaches you this glyph.

Your Blackout Kick always deals 20% additional damage over 4 sec regardless of positioning but you’re unable to trigger the healing effect.

For situations where you don’t need to heal yourself, this is a great glyph. I admit my Monk currently rocks the completely cosmetic glyph of Crackling Tiger Lightning but my other 2 slots are filled with mostly practical glyphs and besides pretending I’m a Sith Monk is useful, honest. I fell in love with the glyph of Zen Flight the second I tried it out. Okay it’s not as fast as my mounts but you can cast it whilst falling, always handy especially when you’ve used crackling lightning to punt a mob off a cliff and had a slight accident whilst trying to loot it. You can cast your proper mount whilst smugly sitting on your cloud having not fallen to your death. You can mine on it four foot off the ground as well as complete pesky pick up quests under the noses of aggressive mobs. You can pose on it and chill out on it and perhaps most importantly you don’t need to die to use it.

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In many regards I wish Blizzard would return to the three type model for glyphs. Major spell altering ones, which always do something nice to your abilities, lesser ones which like the Blackout Kick above offer you a situational choice and finally the minor glyphs, always cosmetic and always fun. At the moment it feels like discussing minor glyphs is comparing apples with oranges which is wrong because it should be apples with apples and the Priest ones shouldn’t be windfall, mushy and filled with maggots when compared to other classes with their shiny pink ladys and golden delicious.

Kismet: Luck or Fate

This is a post which was originally going to be a bit of a rant, however much to my surprise, it’s turned out as the opposite. Whether that’s due to luck or fate, you can be the judge.

I recently realised that all my comments on other WordPress blogs were disappearing straight into the spam filters and didn’t take long to figure out the culprit…. Akismet. Experimentation suggested it wasn’t my email address causing the problem but my Blog because if I tried posting with just a name and email address, things worked fine. This was further supported by the fact that google short links would work for around around 12 hours before they too hit the spam folders.

I flicked around on the web and found story after story of woe. In fact after reading my 15th or so negative report, I was actually considering renaming my blog as clearly harpies are frowned upon. However Mr Harpy (the sole voice of reason most of the time in our house) suggested emailing them to explain the issue and so, grudgingly we did. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting a reply and this was definitely supported by the number of people posting about Akismet and the nigh impossibility of getting yourself unbanned.

Which brings me to today, in between people telling me “oh I found a comment of yours sitting in my spam folder”, I got an email from a nice gentleman called Mark.

Hi,
Sorry for that – I believe it is fixed for you now.


Mark  

A spot of random testing later and yes, it seems that it has been fixed and fairly quickly too as it took them less than 48 hours from the issue being raised for them to get in touch to say it was sorted.

So it’s time for Happy Sprout to make an appearance and yes, I’m ever so slightly addicted to this Chibi-maker.

happysprout

Dog eat Dog: or why I’d rather save the Vermling and feed the player base to the Sha

I’ve always been a firm believer in the WoW community, that regardless of the depths some players sink to, that they are the minority but now after levelling and starting the daily grind, I’m starting to wonder.

The sheer number of players who are so focused on achieving their own objectives that they’re happy to step on other people amazes me. You pull mobs next to something you need to pick up and next thing you know four other people are trying to nab it whilst you beat up it’s guardians. Spectral guise has turned out to be priceless in buying enough time to grab pickled vegetables or loot some artefact. I don’t know, perhaps it’s just me but I never go for anything that someone else is fighting next to on the principle that they wouldn’t be fighting some trash mob if they didn’t want whatever it was. I’ve noticed as well people with mobs on them running straight for the nearest player aoeing in the hope that they can shake off a few without having to kill them. It doesn’t matter if the guy aoeing happens to be struggling against his own mobs and might die because helping out would slow them down.

Best of all are those who come running up to something you’re already looting and then turn around and /spit on you because you “ninja’d” THEIR item. Had a couple of hilarious conversations with irate questers who seemed to think that just because they’d set their sights on looting a specific item everyone else who was closer to said item should have read their minds and walked away. When me, Mr Harpy and the Godmother were running some Alterac Valleys for achievements and fun, we encountered perhaps the most amusing example of this to date. So there was Mr Harpy, tagging Snowfall for his graveyard achievement, the last thing standing between him and Master of Alterac Valley when this Gnome Priest uses leap of faith to pull him away and promptly starts tagging itself. Of course I arriving at this point, promptly pull the Priest away in turn who then starts this massive rant in both whispers and chat about how unfair this is. Regardless of how we worded it, he didn’t seem to grasp that I’d basically done the exact same thing that he had, only my timing was ever so slightly better. Had he arrived first and been tagging, I wouldn’t have touched him because it’s the wrong thing to do unless they do it first of course because greedy people don’t deserve to profit from their badness.

I do wonder, especially now most people have hit 90 and are doing the dailies whether Blizzard should have adapted the archaeology model into working with quest items too. So that instead of 1 jar of pickled vegetables spawning and being contested by the fifteen or so people within ten yards of it, jars would spawn and would only be visible by you and your party members. This would make people slightly less aggressive in their looting tactics and perhaps speed up the dailies, which right now could really do with a speed up. I know doing them all is optional and on paper it’s easy to say only do x, y and z today but once you start getting close to certain rewards, it’s not that simple. Factor in pressure from raid guilds and arena teams and the situation gets worse.

 

 

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?

Random Battlegrounds: Blizzard’s own Stanford Experiment

Today I want to talk of many things, primarily the three Gs of PvP, gear, graveyard camping and griefing with a slight focus on community. The PvP community understandably gets a bad press a lot of the time and I want to look at why and perhaps more importantly what we can do about it.

First up,

Graveyard camping. Now Cynwise has started a great series about the maths and logic behind graveyard camping (WSG and AB) which you should definitely go and read if you haven’t already. Now in the games I play, I see three separate but common reasons for graveyard camping occur over and over again.

1. 40 man premades in AV/IoC which are designed purely for this purpose. The idea is to trap as many of the opposing team in one location and farm the reinforcements down that way. They let the other team take the mines as well as any other nodes to keep the reinforcements as high as possible and then set about farming their way to the Bloodthirsty title. Whilst these are beatable,

for the average random team there is nothing they can do but choose not to res, afk or get farmed for fifteen to twenty minutes.

2. The second type occurs primarily in the 10 or 15 mans, when one team is vastly stronger than the other. The first clash goes very one sided very fast and then the bulk of the winning team scenting blood flood towards the graveyard. Keeping them penned in or dead helps you win faster because that way they are demoralised, trapped and not beating up your flag carrier or running/destroying vehicles in SotA.

3. The third type like the first occurs primarily in the 40 mans. Perhaps the other team are doing a far better job of defending than you and so the only the way you can win is by pouring back into your own base, wiping them on the boss and then camping them at the graveyard.

Now I don’t particularly like graveyard camping in which the flag carrier sits in the camping pack nor the premades set up purely for that purpose but in general I’m fine with the concept. If the discrepancy between teams is so great that you’re being camped at your spawn point, then it’s likely you’re going to lose regardless. The opposing team showing pity and moving back thirty yards so you can try and scatter, having buffed up is not going to make much of a difference. In fact from my perspective it’s worse, I don’t want to be zerged by five well geared melee who pitied me first, I’d rather they just squished me like a bug underfoot without first pretending to offer me a chance when we all know the reality is that the only option is die or stop ressing.

I’m sure if you ask many people, graveyard camping would come under the heading of griefing but in PvP, that’s such a massive and inclusive category. I suspect if you asked fifty people for their opinions, you’d get a huge list of things, sure they would have commonalities like cheating and botting but griefing is in the eye of the beholder. For example I class people who saunter in into lev 85 wearing gear that’s two expansions out of date or do less dps than (I am a Disc Priest remember) to be griefing me and I’m sure the DK called “Your Mother” when you translated his name out of their native language felt griefed when I took out my Mummy issues by throwing him off the LM repeatedly whilst giggling at him. The same goes for the guy who hit 85 yesterday and is on the receiving end of a rant from some one in arena gear who is sick of losing. However when you delve a little deeper, the root of the vast majority of issues seems to be a common one. Frustration, anger at losing, tired of playing with randoms when the other side are premading, sick of having no healers when they have three. Rather than accepting that life isn’t unfair, some resort to cheating or botting and others yell, swear and name call.

In many regards, it’s as if Blizzard are setting us up to fail. Random battlegrounds are not just a stepping stone for many, they are something people with gear do for fun and there in lies the rub. I played six games last night, five of those were lost and won by gear and bots (the sixth was AV). When five of your team die to one Ret Paladin in the time it takes to levitate from the Lumber Mill to the Blacksmith, it causes issues. The same for the SotA in which we ended up camping the graveyard because it saved us having to chase vehicles. I wasn’t healing, I didn’t need to, I was staring at my screen pretending I was a proper dpser as these people with no resilience repeatedly splatted. Before the game even started, the result was clear. It didn’t matter how well I played in either of those games, my part didn’t matter and that is annoying. We won half but apart from the AV one side or the other ended up graveyard camping because the overall item level cap was just too big.

At the moment, random battlegrounds are the Azerothian equivalent of the Stanford Prison Experiment staring the geared as the Prison guards, the bullies and the aggressors and those without as the Prisoners. Even with the patience of a saint, it’s hard to keep your tongue when for the fifth or sixth time in a row you end up with people who haven’t gemmed, enchanted or bought any PvP gear at all. Who flop over dead the second someone glares at them and then blame you for not keeping them alive even though according to the combat log that Mage did 120k damage to them in 2 spell rotates. In that AB I referenced earlier, just like Prisoners in that experiment, they turned  on each other in an attempt to prove to the “guards” that they, unlike the others had value. Under pressure, the community devolves at a frightening rate earning us a horrible hateful reputation. In many cases, they don’t even have to be losing to attack others, even a slight setback can cause an outburst. The current battleground system with it’s random teams, premades and gear differences is set up to turn people against each other.

Now I normally try and play the peacekeeper, amongst my own team at any rate. I’m sure the Horde who see a pint sized green haired thing charging at them would find that hard to believe but having done my own fair share of bullying as a bitchy teenager, I grew up into a woman who full well understands the harm that words thrown out so casually can wreck on those they’re aimed at.  Last night however, I found myself close to breaking point. Words of contempt bubbling up like bile in my mouth, I wanted to tell them why we were losing, that no it wasn’t because the Alliance sucked, no it wasn’t because we were facing a German team, it was because we were infested by bots, lazy players and idiots. People who seemed incapable of taking responsibility for themselves, who were too mean to buy gems, enchants and the basic blue pvp set. Who would rather cheat or bot because it’s easier than spending your own time but who find it acceptable to waste the time of others. I ended that game, not only annoyed with them but mad at myself because I’d come close to slipping, to losing my temper.

Now I’m not laying the blame for the toxic community solely on Blizzard’s shoulders but there are a few quick fixes which  go a long way to removing some of the ignition points.

  • Come down on the botters and the cheaters like a ton of bricks. Ban their accounts permanently or at least remove all the honour/conquest points they’ve accrued plus the gear they’ve spent it on.  The punishment for this has to be something which makes doing these things pointless.
  • Improve the matchmaking system so that premades meet premades rather than randoms. I.e. if I queue as part of a 5 man premade, I’ll be matched against a team compromising another premade.
  • Ban the AV preformer, scripts shouldn’t be able to access the battleground queuing system. Not only would you stop teams coming together with Real ID specifically to farm randoms but this would also cut off  one avenue for the bots to exploit.
  • From the second arena season of an expansion onwards, divide the end-game random battlegrounds into two dynamic brackets based on gear. That way you have the first bracket where 100k health meets 100k and a second one where gear beats up gear.

It’s rare in winning games or even closely fought games for one team to turn on each other and this little list would help make all games that little bit more even. Of course we’d still have to deal with bad language, lev 1 whispers from the opposing faction and emotes but it would definitely be a step in the right direction to ironing out some of the issues.

As for what we can do, well next time you hit the level cap on a character please put a bit of effort into a character before setting foot in a battleground. For the rest of us, yes it’s frustrating but it’s hard to fight properly when you’re spamming chat with expletives. At the end of the day, we reap what we sow and one way or another, we’re all in this together. You might not say a word in battleground chat but that still makes you apart of the problem, just as you’re a part of the issue if you turn up naked or sit afk in a corner for the entire duration. Take advantage of that Stanford herd mentality, call the bullies and the bots and cheaters out and more often that not, the majority will support you.

World PvP Powerless: Some are more equal than others.

This is a rant so if you are of a nervous disposition you might wish to look away now.

The only thing that doesn’t work is PvP Power-fueled healing. At the moment, you only gain the healing benefit when in BGs and Arenas. The reason is because that we don’t want PvP gear to be super effective for PvE content (useful is fine, but super effective is not). 

That design goal is easily met for damage dealers, because they won’t benefit from PvP Power when damaging creatures. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple check for us to determine if a healer is healing damage done by PvP or PvE. In an Arena or BG you can make that assumption, but in the outdoor world you may be engaging in world PvP, or you may just be questing. 

Ghostcrawler.

No no no!

The healing component has to work everywhere out in the world because PvP, especially on PvP servers is often just a heartbeat away. Doing dailies is just an excuse for outright war and as a healer under this system you run the risk of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The world should be consistent, the second you start having to have rules within rules it points to bigger issue, highlighting that the PvP Power system is flawed. This is like trying to use a bandaid to stop the Niagara Falls, futile, frustrating and something which will need fixing in the long run.

Group questing is a joke as it is, on the beta I haven’t really come across a quest that we needed more than 2 people for and I’m sure that on most quests a handful of dpsers with zero healers would have managed. As for World Bosses, long term they’ve never been taxing in themselves, the hard part is usually cross faction guild competition, i.e. World PvP. Neither of these is a good reason to start treating healers like second class citizens. The game isn’t balanced around low levels and it shouldn’t be balanced around group quests or the difficulty of a World Boss where you could technically use four separate raids.

We are considering just letting PvP Power affect healing everywhere but dungeons and raids. That would solve world PvP and only risk unbalancing group questing and world bosses. Even the world bosses probably don’t represent a huge game balance risk, given that the option always exists to get tons of players together to zerg them.

Ghostcrawler

Yes please. The other point to note is that by the time we all have enough PvP Power to make a difference, group quests and dailies are hardly going to be relevant content that the game needs any form of balancing around.

Just like Death and Taxes, World PvP will always be with us but group quests come and go. I just two manned the Crucible of Carnage in PvP gear…… oh noes, what an exploiter I am. Oh wait, it’s hardly relevant content and to be honest even if it was, it still wouldn’t make up for me dying to some random dpser who got 100 percent of the benefit of his gear whilst I only got a fraction of mine. Lets take me and Mr Harpy, we PvP a lot but we both put in the same effort in to get that gear and thus should always get the same benefit from it. Stats shouldn’t just turn on and off because you zone (unless it’s a raid/dungeon).

If Blizzard want content to present a challenge then make it hard, don’t penalise healers.

To Bias or not to Bias, that is the question

Whilst flicking through the search engine terms which lure unsuspecting people to my blog, I noticed this:

blizzard horde bias is getting worse

The more I thought about it, I realised I’d seen lots of similar comments littering the forums. So is it true? Do the developers favour one side over the other? I admit I’m not particularly happy about the forthcoming destruction of Theramore but that’s simply because I happen to like the place not because I believe that the developers are out to get “us”. It’s got beautiful sunsets, a handy beach and a lot of memories for me.

The first pawn on the chess board of what is to be the story for Mists of Pandaria is being moved, and you’re angry at whose turn is first? I only offer that maybe there’s a little more to the Horde and Alliance story lines in Mists than an Alliance town being leveled… like the entire expansion story you don’t know about yet. ;)

Quote from here. However you can’t just look at this in vacuum, you have to consider what’s come before. Let’s start by looking at the conflicts/territory the Alliance have already lost. Now I realise that all these losses aren’t just to the Horde but bear with me.

The ruins of Southshore and an absence of closure.

Let’s take Southshore as a starting point. Yes, it had great significance to me because as a vanilla Pvper, I have lots and lots of happy memories of pvping between Southshore and Tarren Mill but I accept that the Alliance having more zones than the Horde for questing purposes was unfair. I also accept that it was a logical territory to lose. Where I start to get annoyed is with the lack of storytelling. What happened to all the townsfolk of Southshore… as Alliance you don’t get any answers what so ever. All those people just wiped out or forced to choose between being turned into a Worgen or a Forsaken and we don’t give a damn. I know that if you play Horde through Silverpine Forest you do get answers (and if you haven’t done that.. then go now and do it!) but that’s not good enough.

Arathi Highlands is still completely underdeveloped and would have been the perfect place to tell Southshore’s story from the Alliance perspective. After all, if Southshore was helpless against Sylvannas’s war machine what chance does the Refuge Camp have. There should be more refugees, proper fortifications and quests to spy on the Forsaken camp in Arathi. Perhaps quests even to fly gryphons into Hillsbrad itself to see the damage for ourselves. It’s touched on briefly with the Quae and Kinelory chain but there should be more. Perhaps a continuation of the Quae/Kinelory chain which has you gathering ingredients for a Mage, get X herbs from the Trolls, Y crystals from the Ogres and some imbued water from Stromgarde crypt. Once you have everything, you get to stare into a crystal ball and view the same cutscene that Horde see, showing you the fate of the Hillsbrad villagers. From there, you could be sent to Stormwind to make sure the proper authorities know what happened.

Then in Stormwind, the NPCs should have dialogue about  the Forsaken attack, perhaps someone bemoaning the loss of a family member or complaining about Varian’s inaction. What about some angry Southshore Worgen, railroaded into a terrible choice, why aren’t they howling from the rooftops. We all know this tentative peace won’t last, the hatred goes too deep and that’s what I find so frustrating. Blizzard have already painted in the background but are holding off on the detail work.

Next up Gilneas.

Now I’ve played through it on three characters now and each time when it’s over I think to myself “that’s it?”. I had to escape MY home town through a tunnel filled with vermin. I had to watch as the Forsaken invaded, used my friends as slave labour and slaughtered people with their plague yet I seem fairly happy on escaping to start running errands for the Night Elves. Why aren’t the inhabitants of that tree in Darnassus demanding justice and revenge? Why aren’t we at least talking of war on the Horde, instead of standing around making polite conversation and no doubt sipping cups of tea. That chapter shouldn’t just end with the Worgen arrival in Teldrassil. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there should be a full out assault on Gilneas or any of the Horde lands. Just that the occasional quests and the random NPC dialogues should mention what the Worgen have lost. Greymane lost his son yet he stands in Stormwind Keep handing out platitudes, “Gilneas will rise again”… “Not if you just stand here it won’t”. Adding a dialogue option in which he says something about his desire for revenge wouldn’t hurt. He and Varian could be warmongering quite happily with Anduin trying to convince them that killing isn’t the answer as an occasional dialogue.

Where is Lorna Crowley and why don’t the Alliance have any quests relating to the Gilneas Liberation Front?

Yes, playing through content on both sides is great but you shouldn’t have to play the opposing faction to find out what happened to characters you spent the first 12-14 levels fighting side by side with. Due to phasing, as Alliance we can’t even go and look for them. Their story just comes to an abrupt end once you destroy the Horde airship, at least as far as we get to see.

The neutering of Night Elves.

Then we come to the Night Elves. Their forests are being systematically destroyed and Elves are being tortured in their own heartlands. The Goblins vandalised Azshara when no one was looking, even though it was ancestral Elven land and that’s before we even touch on the “BOMB”. How patient are these people? Why aren’t there Night Elves coming to Darnassus/Stormwind talking of war, or at least registering their displeasure at what the Horde are doing. Why is the bulk of Sentinel Army parked in Feralas rather than actually fighting something? When you speak to Tyrande all she has to say is “May Elune light your path”, very useful in a time of war that so perhaps Fandral had a point about her ability to lead her people. There are so many opportunities to move the struggle between the factions forward and yet they are the road currently not taken.

The damp squib which was the Battle for Andorhal.

Oh, well, we lost. I’m off to rescue my boyfriend from the clutches of the Banshee Queen, don’t bother telling anyone too important because they won’t do anything and besides it hardly matters because the Forsaken aren’t harassing our farmers thirty feet away from the town they just won. Oh, here have a cool-looking staff as compensation.

Notice  that Sylvanas is hands on, overseeing her battle plans even if it is in disguise yet despite Andorhal surely being a key battle, especially with Southshore lost, we don’t send anyone more senior than Thassarian to co-ordinate the attack. On that note, both Sylvanas and Garrosh show up during a variety of questlines as Horde. The Alliance on the other hand, well Tyrande and Malfurion are clearly making up for lost time. Varian is too busy commissioning statues of himself and the three Dwarves are babysitting or arguing.

On a unrelated note, can we please find out if Thassarian succeeded in rescuing Koltira sometime soon.

Even the Weather and Deathwing play Horde!

I included the lands ravaged by the weather/an angry Dragon as well because I want to highlight the inconsistencies. Auberdine and Feathermoon Stronghold took the brunt of the bad weather yet the the Horde bases on the same coastline were fine. Although Shadowprey Village looks like it would blow away in a strong breeze, it managed to withstand the Cataclysm without the dock breaking up or any of the houses falling down. A whole district in Stormwind was destroyed, killing surprise surprise a bunch of Night Elves and yet no one says anything or has made any move to rebuild it.

The Thousand Needles was flooded yes but other than that what Horde lands suffered due to the Cataclysm? I’d argue that Durotar was improved by the addition of water, after all, now it’s impossible to get stuck down in Thunder Ridge. Whilst Stormwind was being knocked down, Orgrimmar was being built up although we still have an awesome dock and they’ve got a Goblin slum.. so, that’s pretty much equal really I’d say.

A Slaughter of Taurens.

Finally I want to look at the most significant Horde loss of Cataclysm, Camp Taurajo. Like Southshore it was presented as a fait accompli, yet as Horde you have the opportunity to get a kind of closure. It’s the emotive, gut wrenching story-line that Southshore could have been. It gives even the most mild-mannered characters a reason for wanting to fight the Alliance. Like Silverpine Forest, it’s a must play through for all my Horde characters because not only does it re-enforce the bloody pointlessness of war, Camp T makes you want to seek revenge and more importantly the story allows you to do so. Something the Alliance have been denied on front after front but wait a minute, the Taurens lost their faction leader, Cairne Bloodhoof. The flooding of the Thousand Needles hit them the hardest and their mortal enemies the Grimtotem are up to all sorts of mischief both in the Thousand Needles and in Stonetalon (not to mention being armed by the Alliance). Then of course there was the Grimtotem attempt to seize  power in Thunder Bluff, a plan which almost worked and resulted in the deaths of many more Taurens. Yet no one is accusing Blizzard of being anti-Tauren, well not yet anyway.

A conclusion of sorts.

I know they say “Revenge is dish best served cold” but it just feels as Blizzard have ignored so many opportunities to push for conflict in Cataclysm. Compare the way they handled the destruction of Auberdine with the way we lost Southshore. One is brilliant storytelling which jerks at your heartstrings. The other doesn’t exist, at least for the Alliance. So that’s why I’m angry at the thought of losing Theramore. I see a string of missed opportunities to move both sides towards the inevitable and on the Alliance side at least, great gaps in the storytelling. The former I can live with, the latter I find inexcusable. The Destruction of Theramore is not the the “first pawn” on the chessboard, it’s more akin to the last one. Already we have skirmishes going badly across Azeroth, the Horde using “illegal” weapons (the Bomb in Stonetalon/the Plague in Gilneas/Hillsbrad), torture (Ashenvale/Darkshore) and yet we still need more reasons to go to war… really?

Certainly I think Varian Wrynn for the Alliance really needs to be the kind of character that players really look up to and see as a major world figure. And I think if you ask players right now, they don’t quite see him that way yet.

Dave Kosak on Varian Wrynn. This quote from Blizzard’s lead quest designer does suggest that both Jaina and her city are sacrificial pawns in the game of “make Varian more awesome”. I  just wish they weren’t pushing the most “vanilla” of all the faction leaders on us. He’s male, white, heterosexual and bad tempered, how exciting. I just need to go out on a Saturday night and I’ll encounter plenty of men who are exactly the same (only most of them have better hair).

That said, do I cry bias? no I don’t. There will be always be points in the story that people don’t like, perhaps the zones being destroyed had a lot of personal memories, perhaps they don’t like the direction a  particular character is being moved in or perhaps they’re just looking for something to complain about on the forums.  For each piece of personal knee jerk reacting, there is a logical explanation out there. I remember playing one of the Civ games where the further from your capital the harder it was to keep order, now that makes sense so if we apply to that WoW, Azshara is right on the Horde’s doorstep but a long way from Darnasssus. You could also argue that due to the weather/angry Dragon that the Alliance actually got some of the best storytelling in Cataclysm, Darkshore is heartrending for example, especially if you played a Night Elf through the zone as it was before. As for the battle for Andorhal, perhaps we’re looking at wrong. Maybe it’s not purely about the Horde versus the Alliance, perhaps it’s about showing the Alliance that Sylvanas has the Val’kyr under her control or about advancing the relationship between Thassarian and Koltira or a mixture of both. I didn’t like Cairne dying which is strange because I used to participate in his death on a regular basis. I don’t like the fact that Sylvanas attempted suicide but I’m going to wait to pass judgement. Each expansion is merely a chapter and until the last one is written we don’t know who is going to end up on top and more importantly we don’t know the events which bring that victory to pass. Our own history should have taught us that the victors of the first few battles often lose the war.


Footnotes

Here are some of  the previous inhabitants of Southshore, the ones I’ve managed to track down.

  • Henry Maleb, Magistrate: Worgen and imprisoned in Shadowfang Keep. There is no quest line or dialogue options for him.
  • Darla Harris: Ex-Gryphon Master, now Bat-Handler and Forsaken. Not surprisingly doesn’t talk to the Alliance.
  • Caretaker Smithers: Now Worgen, living in Silverpine Forest and as the Horde you get a quest to kill him. As Alliance he has nothing to say to you.
  • Loremaster Dibbs: Makes a brief appearance as a Worgen during the Horde quest chain in Silverpine Forest.
  • Phin Odelic: Fights and dies alongside Loremaster Dibbs during the Horde quest chains in Silverpine Forest.

Random Battleground Ranting

One of my favourite pieces of MoP information is the potential blacklisting of up to two different battleground maps.

I hate the “randomness” of random Battlegrounds. Now I fell down the stairs last night and sprained my ankle so I’m not in the best of tempers but I defy anyone to like a system which thinks five Strand of the Ancients in a row can possibly be ok. My foot is slowly turning that lovely shade of deep purple which looks gorgeous on plants (thinking violets and pansies here) but not so hot on feet. The random Battleground finder is turning my mood the same colour considerably faster.

Why the loathing?

Because there is no choice at all. It’s either use the random queue or don’t PvP. The queue times are considerably longer when you queue to a specific battleground and unreliable too, you may get one in a few minutes and then have to wait hours for the next one or you might just have to wait hours. Compare that to getting a random battleground within 2 minutes of queuing up even at weird times in the middle of the night. Then there is the honour or rather lack of it. For winning a random we get an extra 270 per game winning game, not to mention the conquest points but when you queue for a specific battleground, guess what… no bonus. Now since the honour is an incentive to queue up for randoms, that might seem fair enough until you consider the fact that the bonus honour was implemented to replace the tokens that we used to get.

Now I might be a special little snowflake but there are times when I want to chill out in 40 mans, bullying Horde in Stonehearth bunker or seeing just how many people  I can kill whilst they are attacking Balinda. At those times, the random Battleground finder throws me into WSG or Strand of the Ancients. Then there are times when I just want to work on my Arathi Basin rep, of course then I get everything and anything but Arathi Basin. Sometimes, sure I really don’t mind which battleground I end up in, I just want to kill people. Then of course I wind up in the Isle of Conquest, the blink and you’ll miss it game where tracking down the enemy faction is akin to finding the fox cub mini-pet, i.e. the odds are not in your favour.

Why can’t winning a battleground reward the same honour regardless of how you got there? That way I wouldn’t keep ending up in Strand of the Ancients with a bunch of people who don’t know what they are doing. Blacklisting isn’t necessarily the fix I would have gone for (a system a bit like my old cd player in which it never plays the same song twice in a row would have been my first choice I think) but I have to admit I intend welcoming it with open arms.

The only bit I find a bit odd is the caveat about the battleground weekends.

So If I exclude the Strand of the Ancients when SotA weekend rolls around, it will unblacklist itself and when I queue to random, there is a chance I’ll still wind up on the beach. On their respective weekends, the smaller maps are often crawling with premades so the sensible solo player wants to avoid them more than ever but as things stand when you queue to random at those times, you still find yourself thrown into the weekend battleground. I was hoping that this change would go a long way towards fixing that issue but it seems not. I understand that Blizzard want their Battleground weekends to be a success even when it’s SotA but I do think this devalues the whole point of the blacklisting to a degree. Yes, we’re getting more new maps so the gap between SotA weekends will be increasing but I’d still like to never ever go there again.

So which maps will I be avoiding?

Whilst I think it will vary on a character by character basis, SotA is definitely on the list (no surprise there!). Games of two halves don’t work under Blizzard’s model of Player versus Player. If the team who attacks first doesn’t break through the final wall, more often than not they don’t fight in the second half. They want to obtain their losing honor quickly, after all the best possible outcome at that point is to lose fast. Even if you hold the game to a draw, it’s counted as a loss in your statistics because the armoury doesn’t recognise draws (another reason why I dislike the armoury), so you might as well lose fast and hope you get better luck next time around.

My Druid and my Shaman like it a lot more than my Priest as both have ways of slowing vehicles down or bringing them to halt outside tailoring nets but despite my good win rate in there, I’d be happy never to have to get sand in my shoes ever again.

As for my second choice, I think I’ll wait until I’ve fully tested out all the new maps before committing but Isle of Conquest is a contender. The map is too big for the number of players on it. You can easily go all game without seeing any red name plates and if you do decide to defend in order to get some actual PvP, more often than not it’s you versus 40.

In conclusion.

On the plus side though, outside of the SotA weekends, everyone who ends up there should be there because they want to be. AV will be full of people who want a proper AV game not a quick rush with zero pvp. Hopefully this change will improve the quality of pvp for all of us because each game is full of players who want to be in that map, who aren’t shuddering behind their screen, who aren’t planning on afking half way through but who are actually there to play and to win.

I am curious to see what everyone else goes for avoiding. I know quite a few Horde players who don’t intend ever doing AV or Isle of Conquest again, as well as a few people who hate the two flag carrying 10 mans. Mushan posted about his choices here as well. I think given the size of the pool, this shouldn’t effect queue time apart from perhaps the 40 mans late at night but it will be interesting to see how it all balances out.

On Levelling and my Love Affair with Kreug Oathbreaker

This post was inspired by two things, Tzufit’s wonderful post about Outlands as well as my own recent experiences levelling my rogue.

(The italics belong to C.P Cavafy, taken from his poem Ithaka)

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,

Levelling, you either love it or hate it. We all have to do it and yes, it’s a means to an end but isn’t Warcraft more than just the end-game, more than just the Dragon Soul? When I first started playing reaching 60 was the last thing on my mind, in fact reaching 40 for a mount seemed unlikely. Then I started to fall in love with the landscapes, the lush jungles of STV blurring into the icy reaches of Winterspring. Each quest was a breadcrumb that led me deeper and deeper into the forests of Silverpine, Ashenvale and Elwynn. Like Little Red Riding Hood, I strayed from the path time and time again but my experience was richer for it. Sure, the wolf got me more times than I care to remember but each time I resurrected determined to get stronger and better at the game.

Fast forward to now and everyone seems to be racing to hit 85. Heirlooms, shortened levels, experience from PvP, RAF and guild experience mean that unless you deliberately go out of your way to smell the flowers, you’re 85 before you know it. My Rogue will have taken four days of play from 1 to 85 but since I’ve spent quite a few hours hanging out online not doing things which give experience, I imagine she could have been there a lot faster. If memory serves me correctly, it used to take about seven to nine days to level from 1 to 60 in classic (on average). Given that the game has got bigger, not smaller in terms of content, that seems wrong to me.

full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

Or where have all the elites gone?

Kreug Oathbreaker, my husband and I, we had a thing. A happy little ménage à trois in which he provided the benchmark for each of the pairs we levelled. Could we kill him at 71 with a ret paladin and a (bad) hunter? Yes, it took a few tries but with traps and stuns and my poor pet taking turns at tanking we could. What about with a destruction warlock and disc priest? Turns out they needed another level before the blueberry was up to the task but again, we managed. Now, he’s a sorry excuse for a mob, a shadow of his former self. My rogue solo’d him without a care in the world, in fact because he’s stun-able I took an impressive 3k of damage across the entire fight.

I suppose my issue here is not that it now takes less time to gain more levels but that I feel that too much has been sacrificed in the process. I accept that taking weeks to level would put new players off as well as frustrate those just wanting to try out a new class at 85. I don’t however see why the elites and group quests needed a nerf. They were always optional and now even more so because we need less experience per level. If you couldn’t find enough people in the zone who were on the quest or didn’t have friends/guildmates to come, you weren’t stuck. Your levelling experience wouldn’t just abruptly end there, you were free to move on something you could complete by yourself.

The elite quests provided an extra frisson of excitement, especially those free roaming ones. Running into Stitches for the first time was an experience everyone should have. Not only was he an argument for staying off the road in the first place, the chance of bumping into him made the zone an interesting place. I liked that feeling of nervous anticipation pre-cataclysm Duskwood gave me, it’s creepiness intensified whenever you heard the yelling start. Now he’s safely phased so no innocent questers will be accidentally flattened whilst he rampages around Darkshire and that’s a loss to all of us. Once you’ve completed the quest chain, no more Stitches ever. You can’t roam through Duskwood lying in wait for him to settle old scores, collecting his femurs as trophies.

I got to Outlands vaguely hopeful that all my old friends would be untouched by Blizzard’s incredible nerfing shrink ray but no, they too were all pale reflections of their former selves. I know the Fel Reaver is untouched but given how open Hellfire is, it’s rather hard not to see him coming.

Then there is the inconsistency, I can solo Durn, this massive monster of mob, this son of a raid boss but I still need a group to take on Brokentoe even though he looks exactly the same as Banthar, a mob I killed by sneezing on five minutes previously. I also noticed on a quick trip to Netherstorm that most of the elites there are still elites. Is that because most people just go straight from Blade’s Edge to Northrend now or is that a bit too cynical?

May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

One of the things which hooked me into WoW in the first place was the challenge of levelling. I still remember the feeling of satisfaction we had when we killed King Mukla the first time with just two people. Yes, it required a fair amount of kiting and one or two attempts but we’d seen five man groups wipe on the giant ape before. Now, all the bumps in the road have been ironed out.   Making levelling easier is one thing but these changes have a couple of knock on effects.

Firstly, they eradicate part of the need for social interaction whilst levelling. In the past I got to know a lot of new guild-mates by helping them with their alts, it was a great way of striking up conversations outside raiding. It was also a way of meeting new people, all of you standing there staring at some massive elite. I made quite a few friends through Fozruk in particular, either by asking for help tracking him down or just getting people to help me kill him. Now, talking just slows you down in the mad race to see who can pull him fastest because you know it’s easy and you don’t want to share experience.

Secondly because the levels whiz past so fast, learning your abilities properly can be hard. You’ve barely had time to keybind one before you’ve got the next. I always see levelling a new character as a house of cards. Each ability or spell I learn is a new card and I carefully add them to those that came before, building upon them. Spells interlinking with each other as I figure out which order I should use them, in any given situation. Take my rogue, she’s combat with a few pvpish talents thrown into the mix and so I want to be able to treat mobs a bit like players as a sort of practise run without ego getting in the way but they don’t have enough health for it to work. I get a fraction of the way through my planned moves and the mob is dead at my feet. In the end, I have to resort to pvp to practice against live target dummies (a cruel choice of words perhaps but then rogue versus most people especially in the lv 75 to 79 bracket could be classed as cruel, especially when the rogue is wearing cataclysm loot).

We’re taught spells in a spaced out fashion, I imagine so as not to overwhelm people but I keep seeing people (in pvp and sub 85 dungeons) who don’t use key abilities for their spec/roll and when you ask why (in the politest possible way), you get answers like “Oh is that what that does?” or “I haven’t done my training since lv 15″. Surely something is wrong if questing is so easy you don’t need to do your training and you can kill easily without using abilities your choice of spec is supposedly built around.

I also want to touch on the gap between those with heirlooms and those without. It is a massive chasm and quest rewards do not come close to bridging it. This is seen in particular in low level PvP, where without heirlooms, rogues are drawn to you like angry pointy teethed moths to a flame. I think this disparity is part of the issue and if heirlooms were either removed from the equation or all players were given access to them, then balancing the levelling game would be far easier.

Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

One of the things I regret most about my WoW play time was my journey to 85. We stayed up all night to level along with most of my then guild and hit 85 sometime in the afternoon. By the time I hit Uldum, I was existing on chocolate and cherry coke, I wasn’t reading quest text (which is really unlike me) and I wanted to kill Harrison Jones (although that would probably have happened anyway). I don’t really remember Twilight Highlands at all nor do I remember the actual yay I’m 85, now I can go to bed moment. Possibly because there wasn’t one and I had to start running instances to gear up for raiding. Looking back at my blog posts, I know that 10 days into the expansion, we were sitting at 8 bosses down already but it’s all a high speed blur. If I could do it again, I’d have gone slower even if it was just by a day or two.

I can’t help feeling that this levelling lark creates a false sense of expectation. You aren’t supposed to sleepwalk to 85 (even though I did) and then learn to play your class at the expense of other people (didn’t do that though). Battlegrounds, dungeons, LFR, guild applications, you see it all the time. People who have put zero effort in to a character, expecting to be able to muddle through, the way they did on the road from 1 to 85. The problem is, they can’t and that causes friction, tension and a good deal of flaming. People who walk into 85 random battlegrounds still in their questing gear or heirlooms and wonder why the rest of their team aren’t pleased to see them. People who try tanking heroics in PvP gear and wonder why their healers are struggling and/or angry.  People who think that doing less dps than the healer is acceptable. Challenge free levelling creates a whole set of issues of it’s own, ones which do have a negative effect on the game. I fully accept that people should be free to play anyway they want to, apart from the areas where their desires/wishes cross into other people’s. Sure, doing a quest in Elwynn shouldn’t be on par with a Heroic raid instance but mobs shouldn’t ever be one shot-able either.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

The road to 85 should be marvellous, after all there are some beautiful zones and amazing, heart-wrenching quests waiting to be explored.

I just wish when they made the levels smaller, they left the elites alone. Little challenges sparkling like pearls in amidst the easy quests so the brave or arrogant could confront them at will and perhaps learn more in those fraught minutes than in all the rest of the journey.

Here’s to levelling in the Mists, may the experience be “full of adventure, full of discovery.”

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