“A Little Learning is a dangerous thing”: The Road to Beta

A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

When I was a student I had a crush on Alexander Pope*. The fact that he died in 1744 didn’t matter one iota. I loved his twisted tongue made bitterer still by the ill health which plagued his life and whilst hunting for a book my Mother lent me weeks ago (which I still haven’t found or read), I discovered a slightly battered copy of his complete works hiding on my book shelves. The above and often misquoted lines got me thinking about Warcraft in general but more specifically the upcoming expansion. At the moment we’re being drip fed bits and bobs of information about Draenor but I can’t help wondering if that’s a mistake on Blizzard’s part. It’s human nature to examine every last scrap of data, to pour over it and taking each piece as a separate item, subject it to the kind of criticism which made Pope so “popular” amongst his peers.

I remember when Naxxramas version 1 was about to be released and my then guild had a discussion on whether or not we should learn everything we could about the fights prior to the patch being released. We were the top guild on the server, a position we had held through three tiers of content (with a small hiccup on Razorgore… nerf Shamans!) and we knew that our greatest rivals, a Horde guild were hoping to learn as much as possible before setting foot into the dungeon, including checking out the PTR. In the end our GM prevailed with his policy of “We learn by dying repeatedly” and yes, we got lot more server firsts but looking back, I think it was an excellent policy. We had no preconceptions, we didn’t know that we had to kite Anub’rekhan until it dawned on us that standing still really wasn’t working and maybe that his creepy taunts weren’t just there to scare us but to give handy hints on how to kill him, we just jumped in fresh. Looking back, especially to when I first started playing, it was that constant sense of discovery and exploration which make the game seem so alive and compelling.

All these little details from Blizzard without any real meat wet the appetite sure but is that a negative thing? Take this for example:

Wish they’d stop biting each other and help me kill this thing

Muffinus certainly implying that come the expansion, Hunters will be able to tame Hydras. My first reaction was a squee of glee. I’ve wanted this little fellow as a Hunter pet ever since I got to Netherstorm in the Burning Crusade’s first week.

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Those seconds of excitement were then tempered with a slight grumpiness. Why do I have to wait for some as yet unspecified date in the Fall, approximately six months away for that. However my toy throwing from pram moment highlights a bigger issue. Each fragment of information Blizzard “leak” becomes a mirror for the game as it exists right this second. It reflects the lack of content, it reflects the fact that people are barely logging right now and instead are choosing to play other games, whether they’re Blizzard made or Goat Simulators. It reflects the annoyance that change often brings, an irritation where it doesn’t matter how many “dealing with change courses”your employer sends you on, never seems to abate, especially when you aren’t given all the information behind the decision. We’ve had the Flying debacle (my personal jury is still out) and the whole Proving Grounds conversation (talking of the latter, I’ve just watched Mr Harpy get Gold tanking on a brand new warrior and if he ever tanks a heroic for me like that……… ). We’ve seen people threaten to quit over the healing blog even though it doesn’t really go into enough details to illustrate anything other than the fact that there will be changes ahead, just as there have been with every expansion. Would it have made more sense to do Blizzcon, release what they could and then stay silent until there is a Beta ready to be released? Should we learn about the changes purely from playing them or do we as fee playing customers deserve more interaction in the design of the game that we love so dearly? It’s a fine line between feedback and criticism and one that’s even harder to walk when passion plays a role.

As for me, I’m not going to stop analyzing things I think worth discussing even though I only have ten pieces out fifty. Doing Jigsaws properly was never my forte and I was allegedly born opinionated. As for Pope, would he approve? Well given that he also wrote:

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

I can  only imagine he’d understand.

*My teenage crush list comprised mostly of dead people. Richard III, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick otherwise known as the King Maker, Lord Byron and Boudicca all featured on it.

Moonkin Marmite

The Druid forms seem to have the same effect on people as marmite, you either love them or hate them.

Mentzelia had only just hit level 25 and purchased her first glyph when she was /spat on for choosing to glyph out of Moonkin form. Now I don’t deny this was a deliberate choice made for a couple of reasons. Firstly Moonkin form is too big and ungainly for me. I hate getting stuck in doorways and in pvp in particular, being a massive feathery chicken means you’ve got a 10 foot target painted over your head which I’m sure works for some people but personally I prefer the sneaky sneaky approach. I also dislike the fact that Moonkin form at say level 15 and Moonkin form at level 90 are exactly the same, there is no ability to customise or change your look. Every Worgen Moonkin regardless of level, of whether they are playing a male Worgen or a female one looks exactly the same and in a game which has given us transmogrification not to mention so many choices of gear to play with, that’s just annoying.

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I’m fine with cat* and bear form but have never bonded with either Moonkin or Treeform. I suspect that’s because when I first rolled a Druid neither existed and I was used to seeing myself as caster whenever I popped up to heal or to root.

I also really dislike the new stag form as a travel form, mostly because due to it’s size, it feels like I’m running in slow motion. It’s just a shame that the cheetah can’t give rides because having people leap on your back whilst escaping conflict in PvP can be both useful and amusing.

Anyway, I’m curious. What do the rest of you Druids think? Is glyphing glittery stars to hide your chicken a crime? Should I be embracing my inner glyph of the Treant?

* I was actually really sorry to see the original Tauren cat form bite the dust. There was something about it’s awkwardness which just made it cute.

Distracted

My leisure time is decidedly lacking at the moment and what few moments I do have are somewhat divided.

Reading

books

My current reading list looks something like this. I’d definitely recommend Heavenly Bodies to anyone else fascinated by the skull beneath the skin, the illustrations alone are worth the price and from what I’ve read so far, it’s the left me with the nagging desire to go wandering across Europe visiting Catacombs.

Gaming

I am still playing WoW albeit with that numbness which comes with the doldrums before an expansion. It’s hard to focus on any one activity when you know that a massive change is en route, so I do a spot of pet battling or play an alt but there is no driving force behind my gaming at the moment. I want to tick more items off my to do list and of course level my little Warlock by wandering around exploring and questing but that’s an hour here and there.

Thanks to Ironyca, perhaps too much of my time is currently being taken by an evil little browser game.

I’m also still playing Candy Crush although my rules are still the same. No cash will be spent on the app and if I run out of lives, then I just have to wait. So far I’m at level 123 and it’s a great way of killing time whilst commuting.

Hearthstone

I got my Hearthsteed but I’m still dabbling.

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Although I have to admit I haven’t gone back to playing actual people since I won the mount, instead I’m having fun taking on the computer. That said though, I didn’t actually mind the “pvp” games either, it’s when people feel the need to emote that I get nervous. I love the art work, the cards themselves and their descriptions are amazing.

Dragon Age

Yep, I’m back playing my 10th Mage through her Harrowing and hopefully beyond. There is something addictive about that Mage Tower! This time the plan is seduce Leliana and make Anora marry Alistair but then that’s been the plan before. Usually one of two things happens, I either get distracted writing fan fiction and before I know it, my Mage has fallen head over heels for Alistair which never ends well or even worse, I get into a rut around Ostager and just make a new Mage. I could actually do the Harrowing in my sleep and I’ve been yelled at by the Knight Commander so many times, I’ve explored all the possible dialogue options without having to go back to previous saves. I’m not a hundred percent sure what this says about me, but I suspect it’s not particularly positive.

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I’d also forgotten just how pretty Dragon Age is, even Ostager looks beautiful.

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Possible Temptation – Games I’m fighting the urge to purchase or play

Wildstar

I haven’t pre-ordered but I’m definitely tempted to try the game. After all it has “tree-huggers”, which sounds close enough to Elves to work for me. I’ve read quite a few reviews and whilst I’m not sure it would hold my attention for long, it’s definitely struck a cord or two.

Windborne

I found this whilst browsing Steam and there is just something about it which draws me in. I’ve always loved sandbox games where you can just wander around building and exploring.

Crafting

At the moment I’m sewing together a cat cushion but have so many ideas of things I wish to try dotted around the house. Matty introduced me to this and I can’t resist to the temptation to turn it into a little lavender pillow or similar.

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I also found a book on salt dough when I visited the library last which brought back a lot of childhood memories so I’d like to give that ago sometime soon. Then of course, there is my Warcraft tarot cards to be finished, with the Worgen Harvest witch as the Hermit and of course Tyrande as the High Priestess.

I also need to assemble and find a place to put my Edward Gorey “Dracula” theatre. I picked this up years ago and it’s been sitting in a box just waiting for a home every since.

Finally I’m in the process of  re-organising my button shelf as I think it’s getting a bit out of control.

Essentially as with everything, there are far more things to do than there are hours in the day. That said, I’m always on the look out for new and shiny distractions, so feel free to make suggestions.

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: The Levelling Game

The shared topic over at Blog Azeroth this week is:

I am sure this has been done years ago perhaps, but I felt I should ask again as it is particularly relevant to me now that I am back :)

What sort of method do you use for levelling the multiple alts? Do you follow the same quest chains each time, do you avoid a certain quest section, do you only dungeon etc?? I am levelling my 5th to 90 now – from 85 and I just wondered how you guys do it??

I am not talking about the oddball levelling like just herbing to push yourself to the limit of insanity, but the more run of the mill levelling.

Suggested by Dragonray.

As it turns out I’m a creature of habit. For me leveling on the Alliance side goes much like this:

Mostly questing through favourite zones, for example I think every Alliance character I’ve ever rolled has done at least a part of Duskwood. Looking back, what is interesting is how my questing path has changed pre and post Cataclysm. For example up until the world was ripped asunder, I always went to the Thousand Needles and Tanaris and now I rarely do. Duskwood though is a constant and I’m still fond of Ashenvale.

A smidgen of Dungeons but again I err towards certain level brackets, for example Scholomance, Stratholme and Dire Maul East are rarely missed but if Gnomeregon is an option… count me out.

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PvP also plays apart especially from level 45 upwards where AV is available. If Alterac Valley is the Call to Arms whilst I’m leveling a character, I’ll usually stop doing everything else and just PvP.

Finally when I get tired of the above, I meander across Azeroth pet battling using the flight time to chat to people on Real ID, twitter or to browse the internet.

 

 

A Wandering Warlock Enters

To live in hearts we leave behind         
      Is not to die.

Hallowed Ground by Thomas Campbell

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So the Godmother suggested a thing which resonated me with. For reasons I haven’t quite managed to pin down yet, I don’t like the idea of a boosted character. I think that a part of my issue is that characters gain personality and history from their possessions as they progress from level 1 to 90 but it goes deeper than that.

To go back to the beginning in the truest sense required me to roll a Warlock of some sort which tied in a with a project of my own that I’d considered but not started. Dorrie the little Witch is the hero of a series of children’s books which I adored as a little girl. It’s a combination of the illustrations and that sense of untidiness, of trying hard in an adult world where the rules seem to flex so you’re always on the wrong side of them and of course her constant companion, Gink the cat which sucked me in.

dorrie

So Dorrie the little Warlock was born. Her transmogrifications will of course involve pointy hats and her leveling might be more of a meandering journey than a straight forward path from A to B but I’m sure she might manage to restore my flagging WoW spirits. Following in the footsteps of those who have gone before, I will try and emulate (as much as I can remember) my original Warlock’s road across Azeroth. I know Darkshore was definitely on the list and so was Redridge but other than that, I’ll have to piece together what I can from the screenshots which remain. I might even not bother purchasing flying on her to experiment with having to ride everywhere and after all, Felsteeds are creatures of beauty. The goal isn’t necessarily 90 but to explore, to wander and rediscover that sense of wonder. 

Thoughts on Flying

A lonely impulse of delight  
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;  
I balanced all, brought all to mind,

An Irish Airman Forsees his Death – WB Yeats

At the beginning, I was massively critical of the introduction of flying mounts. I thought it would herald the end of world PvP and encourage people to gank alts without fear of reprisal even though it was limited to Outlands at that point. Indeed as the Burning Crusade progressed, we saw a sea change in people’s attitudes. Prior to the introduction of flying, on my server at least, most of the alt slaughtering was done to make you log your main for some world PvP because people correctly assumed that if they killed your level 20, half your guild would turn up. However with TBC, lower level characters in Hellfire would be attacked and when the cavalry arrived, the aggressors would die once (if you managed to sneak up on them) before ressing, mounting and flying off into the sunset.  There was a classic moment in Wrath where myself (Holy Priest) and Mr Harpy (Prot Warrior specced purely for PvE) went to rescue a guild mate’s low level Warlock. A Ret Paladin and a Frost Mage had been beating him up repeatedly all across Hellfire Peninsula. We arrived and without even stopping to look at our specs, Mr Ret Paladin runs off leaving the Mage to our tender mercies. This (sadly) is now a pattern that’s been repeated across expansions. People are used to being able to take to the air to avoid PvP and whilst Blizzard have started to address with it with items like the Hardened Shell, it’s asking a lot of people especially those who play on PvP servers to potentially remove their safety net. I suspect most people are semi okay with the idea of being killed by the opposing faction whilst leveling, gear, spec, which faction has the most people questing in any given area all factor into the equation but it’s a totally different ball game at the level cap.

What started to sell the idea of flight to me was those hidden treasures lurking in the hills. Beautifully detailed scenes that could only be viewed from your very own flying mount, for example Challe’s nursery in the mountains of Nagrand was my first major “ooh” moment of TBC. Exploration in WoW has always been a huge part of the game for me, my Priest made it to the Troll village between Winterspring and Darkshore long before Naxxramas mark 1 was released and mountaineering in Dun Morogh always held a fascination for her. For further discussion on why not being able to fly would effect exploration, I’d strongly suggest reading this as the Wyvern’s Tail goes to the subject in much more detail.

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Then as if to cement the use of flying mounts, Blizzard added them to the pet store. I’ve only bought one myself, the Fey Dragon and I won a Heart of the Aspects in a screenshot contest but at a quick count there are seven  mounts available on the battle.net store as we speak and all of them are flying mounts. Yes, a couple of them would work okay I would imagine on the ground, the Swift Windsteed being a prime example of this but purchasing all of them would set me back £125. That’s a lot of money to spend on something which might not be fulfilling it’s true purpose in all current content for the life of the next expansion.  Sure, Caveat Emptor applies to most things in life but with competition out there it could backfire fast.

Unfortunately allowing us to use flying mounts on the ground is not really compensation for the removal of flying itself and in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s got the potential to be annoying. I get sea sick watching the Heart of the Aspects bounce along the ground in battlegrounds and the thought that everyone is now going to be outdoing themselves trying to hide quest givers under the biggest wing spans they can manage whilst leveling is not something I’m particularly looking forward to.

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That’s bad enough but couple it with the fact that Blizzard have stated that only our most used mounts will make the stables in our Garrisons and I’m starting to become decidedly grumpy. Yes, I can have Spike my Ironbound Protodrake in my stables but only if I ungainly stomp across terrain crushing small flowers and making bunnies freeze with fright.

Then of course there is the threat that this will become a permanent fixture whether across the whole of Draenor or perhaps in certain areas.

and we will play it by ear from there out.

Keeping everyone on the ground especially post level cap also requires a decent balance between tanks, healers and dpsers. Having to ride everywhere solo becomes painful if healers are only capable of weak dps and mobs hit like trucks. Obviously until we get the beta, we can’t do more than speculate with this but based on some of the things the developers have said already this does make me a little nervous. It also raises some interesting questions for material gathering. All my Druids are herbalists… probably no surprise there and I fully agree that fluttering above the ground pulling up flowers by your teeth is cheating but having to ride through twenty vicious mobs to pick one herb isn’t that appealing either. I found myself wondering if this ties into the Garrison idea. Why would say Herbalists actively pursue collecting their own materials when they could nurture their garrisons and let NPCs do it for them. Making gathering more of a chore could potentially make the Garrison a lot more appealing especially to people with limited time on their hands. That’s before we even touch on archaeology with it’s tendency to space out the digs at the four corners of the map.

Finally we come to the elephant in the room…. Flight form. I quested for it twice, I earned it as much as I earned my Benediction and it’s a part of what I love about my Druids. Without the ability to spiral swiftly into the air and then turning, plummet straight back to earth, falling like a stone, I’m not a proper Druid. Would I ever waddle along in bird form if my wings were clipped? Of course not, that would be adding salt to the wound. In fact it’s because of my Druids more than anything else, I sincerely hope that Blizzard do add flying to Draenor once we’re at the level cap. Exploration can be done on foot, bought pets can be ridden on the ground but take the sky from me… and I’ll never find serenity!

In conclusion, whilst I’m fine with the idea of no flying whilst we’re leveling, I think I would be concerned if we couldn’t ever fly on Draenor. The game and indeed the player base have changed since flying was added and that convenience has become the norm, rightly or wrongly. Perhaps we as players do deserve some tough love and the Proving Grounds before Heroics and no flying is the Blizzard version of no supper and having to write “There is a fine line between having an active imagination and misbehaving. Pretending to be Gretel and locking your teacher in a cupboard because she’s going to eat you is most definitely the latter” 500 times. However these days I’m an adult. The delinquent inside is firmly locked in a cage within my mind and she only escapes when alcohol makes the bars go hazy. Sure, I could play better but it’s the carrot not the stick which Blizzard should be employing here. Make us want to get better don’t grind us down with the sense of our own failure, especially if this entails being repeatedly ganked because there is no escape and chased into pack after pack of mobs (I play on a PvE server, am perfectly capable of holding my own against fair odds and am practiced at disappearing if it’s not so I’m not massively bothered about myself).

Perhaps those pesky flight masters will soon be retiring to Gallywix’s Pleasure Palace made rich by all the toll money.

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Personally I do take flights because that’s my blog reading and my making another cup of tea time plus my sense of direction is dubious at best and I’m likely to end up miles away from my actual destination. Not to mention the handy fact that if you take a ride, you can’t end up out over deep water, drowning but still I’d like the choice to fly myself.

ROYGBiV Tmog Contest – Orange

I thought I’d start by admitting Orange is about as far from being my favourite colour as it’s possible to get and that my favourite oranges are blood oranges, their orange skin hiding that succulent scarlet flesh beneath. Therefore for the second round of Jstmel’s transmogrification competition, I thought I’d celebrate the blood orange by creating something which should transmogs ever become edible would have that perfect tart edge to it.

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  • Circle of Flame
  • Shoulders of Mercy Killing
  • Watcher’s Tunic
  • Gossamer Gloves
  • Sash of the Burning Heart
  • Snarlmouth Leggings
  • Jormungar Galoshes
  • Bloodfire Greatstaff

I’m not usually a great fan of trousers on cloth wearers but this has almost tempted me into farming it for my Mage should she ever decide to go fire. It’s also left me craving blood oranges, that moment when your nails pierce the flesh and that soft orange tang drifts up, released along with the deep red juice.

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