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.

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.

 

The Infested Bear Cub: The most distressing Mini Pet in-game

When I ride through Hillsbrad I give those bears with the spider eggs on their back a wide berth because I have this visceral moment of fear whenever I set eyes on them. However this little cub inspires another sort of reaction.

I’m left wondering why my heal pet button doesn’t cleanse those evil eggs off his little back.

He and his similarly effected brothers and sisters can be found with their parents running around between the mine and the Sludge fields.

The Lost World: Pandaria’s Cinematic

Yep this is yet another post about the Panda cinematic but I also want to touch on my feelings about the lack of a “big Bad”. I know Blizzard have taken quite a bit of flack over that decision, but I feel its the right one for a number of reasons. When we curl up with a murder story, we don’t know the villain from page 1, perhaps by the half way mark we have a good idea who did it but it’s rarely spelt out until the last few pages. In many regards WoW functions in the same fashion as a book, it’s a never ending story, each patch a chapter which unfolds as we play it.

Knowing the destination from the start removes some of the fun from the journey as well making little sense from a literal perspective. Why in Wrath for example did we waste time and lives fighting Old Gods and taking part in a tournament of all things when we could have just knocked on the door of Icecrown Citadel. Perhaps we weren’t strong enough to take him then but we never tried, we just got derailed by the plot.

I’d like to think that Pandaria is an expansion of storytelling, an expansion where the focus is more on why people do things we class as “evil” rather than pulling out the old generic excuse that something external corrupted our heroes. I hesitated in quoting Hannah Arendt here but her comment about the “banality of evil” is I believe relevant here at least a topic of debate. The Horde and the Alliance have been at war so long, with each other and against outside forces that some of those negative emotions are bound to have seeped in. Mass murder, torture and burning villages have the bread and butter of our “heroes” and so surely the line has been repeatedly crossed. Do we know what’s worth fighting for any more or has that all been lost in the bloodshed which has become a way of life.

Then we also have the Sha to contend with, manifestations of negative emotions, they stalk Pandaria taking strength from the anger and hatred we brought with us. From the Temple of the Jade Serpent we know that they can amplify our feelings, bringing us to the point of destruction and thus Pandaria could be very dangerous for some of our Heroes. It will be an interesting path to walk. Is it as exciting as knowing that the huge dragon, demon or guy with a very big sword who just committed some atrocity in the opening cinematic will eventually die to our swords, perhaps not but as a study into human nature it could potentially be far more interesting as we witness the twists and turns of the plot.

Now when I watched the cinematic two thoughts twisted through my brain, the first, wonderfully covered by Apple Cider was the lack of any female characters and the second was a sense of deja vu. Some feeling of familiarity that took me a while to chase back to it’s source. When I was a little girl I loved reading stories of adventure and one of my favourites was “The Lost World“, I suppose I secretly hoped that somewhere hidden from sight, dinosaurs still roamed the earth just waiting for us to discover them.

He had the face and beard which I associate with an Assyrian bull; the former florid, the latter so black as almost to have a suspicion of blue, spade-shaped and rippling down over his chest. The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-gray under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger (from the Lost World).

Both Admiral Taylor and General Nazgrim fit that mould, where men and orcs are manly, tough and happy to run around bare chested. I’ll also admit to a slightly dubious thought involving impalement and Admiral Taylor’s very large pole but I’m going to blame that on this. In many regards I like the fact that Blizzard have stayed consistent, reusing familiar characters (Nazgrim has been with us since Northrend and Taylor at least since Vashj’ir). These are NPCs we’ve already fought along side and whilst I would have loved to see a female Pandarian beat them to a pulp, I think that’s a good start to what has the potential to be a wonderful adventure complete with monsters and amazing scenary.

My guilty secret: Pet Battles and Me.

I have a confession to make.

I hate pet battles.

I want to like them, I really do. I’ve been a pet collector in-game right from the very start. I sold the clothes off my Night elf’s back to buy my first pet, a bombay cat and ever since then I’ve run dungeons, quested and grinded my way to various pets. I’ve bought them from the pet store and the auction house. I’ve even jousted just for pets but the truth is, pet battles leave me cold.

I love the detail which has gone into the flavour text for each pet.

I’m in awe of the huge scope of both pet families and models which will become available to us and I already have a sort of wish-list in my head. I wanted quite a few of the new pets for years and now we’re finally going to be able to get them. In fact the only way they could improve in that regard is if they made a mini harpy (which is clearly a huge oversight on Blizzard’s part). In fact I look at the different spells available to the pets, to the love and attention shown to them and then I look at my own class. At the clunkiness of Chakras, Power word: Solace and Holy Nova requiring a glyph slot and I feel slightly annoyed.

Then there is the actual battling itself. In the average battleground, Sprout uses over forty five different buttons/binds on vud’ho. Now that includes both defensive and offensive spells, drinks, racials, trinkets, nets, pots and cooldowns and would be much higher if I included her party favours for graveyard camping. In the pet battles, each pet has three abilities and as you level, each of those three slots ends up with a choice of two abilities to fill it. So you have a stunning choice of 6 abilities per pet but you can only use three at once. To make matters worse, at least from my perspective, the only interaction I have is choosing which pets and which of the few abilities to use. There is no equivalent of the hit cap, instead I’m a 100 percent at the mercy of RNG which can be frustrating to say the least. I suppose I’m so used to being able to improve my performance through the use of addons, keybinds, talents, enchants, gear and consumables that paring everything down seems unchallenging and almost boring. Sure you can cherry pick your team but to me at least that’s another issue. I have certain favourite pets, these aren’t particularly special creatures but they have meaning to me. They are the ones that ideally I would want to use in the pet battles but it’s hard to ignore the fact that other pets would have a higher success rate, perhaps due to the whole rock, paper, scissors effect or simply because they have better stats. So far I’ve just been steam rolling my way to victory with a suboptimal team but I’m not sure I can do that all the way.

Once you’ve captured the pets, the frustration doesn’t end. All critters aren’t created equal which means that quite often you find yourself having to let go of little Flopsy the cottontailed bunny because he’s a common bunny and you’re after his rare big brother. I’d much prefer it if there wasn’t a cap on the number of pets we are allowed. 500 seems like a decent number until you start doing the maths.

Now of course there are some plus points, seeing a horde of rats run at an unsuspecting critter is always good for a smile plus it reminds me of the many day trips to Hamelin I had to go on as a child. I’m hugely in favour of anything which gets people out of cities and into the world (unless of course they’re the jerks who like to follow people around trying to kill the critters people are trying to battle). I imagine that just like with Archaeology the gankers will be out in force for the first few months of the expansion.

Will I partake, yes. I at least want to collect my very own baby Vermling but I don’t see myself going beyond that point. I’ll pick up the various pet models that I like along the way, oddly enough, most of these despite being labelled “tiny” are bigger than my Gnome but I miss the complexity of playing my actual characters. I also don’t like the anonymity of the whole system. What’s the point of keeping score without recording losses? In a way I find it a bit insulting that Blizzard are basically implying that the whole pet collecting community can’t take competitive combat. In my experience at least, knowing who just flattened you can go a long way into pushing you to improve, something we should all be striving for. WoW is a multi-player game in which we compete on so many levels, why should this be exempt?


In short, pet battling feels a bit like a single player Strand of the Ancient, only the demolishers have cute little faces.