The State of my Game

This last few weeks have been a little intense but in amidst the roller coaster ride, perhaps I’ve made the first step towards building my confidence.

Raiding

For the first time since December 2010, I stepped into a raid this weekend. I spent most of Saturday questioning my sanity in signing up in the first place because everything was bound to go badly. As the clock ticked around towards raid time, I found myself hoping for a black out or a ghost pirate attack (we do live by the sea) but nothing out of the ordinary happened. The first hour or two fed all my insecurities as we learnt the fight and I found my  feet and my keybinds again. By hour three ish however I was starting to remember the good things I like about raiding, especially when you kill something with people whose company you choose. By the end of the night, around five hours after we started, I was even contemplating setting up teamspeak on my computer although that might be a step too far for the moment.

It looks as if killing Garrosh this expansion might actually be possible. Theramore will be revenged!

An obsession with Scenarios

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So in order to upgrade my gear, I’ve been trying to cap out my valor each week and my favourite method is running scenarios and attempting to beat Mr Harpy at dps in the process. Being able to pull 70k to 100k dps as a Mistweaver even though my gear isn’t brilliant is one of the awesome aspects of being a Monk.

Two “person”ing

With more confidence comes more challenges and we’ve started trying to run old raids again as a healer/dps combo.  The ultimate aim is Firelands but we’ve started doing Cataclysm content beginning with the Tol Barad bosses on 10 man.

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Blogging challenges

I’m so behind with these but this weekend it’s catch up time.

Then of course there are all the other posts half written in my notebook on everything from lore to the possibilities of the next expansion to my noodle cart fueled desire to make noodle soups.

Finally I have a purpose in logging.

 

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Thoughts on being 90

Whilst levelling is a journey full of wonder and amazement, arrival at 90 is like landing at the airport to discover they’ve lost your baggage, customs want to strip search you but you’ve won the lottery to compensate. Sure there are a lot of positives but some definite negatives thrown into the mix as well.

1. Dailies, dailies, dailies as far as the eye can see. The choice is overwhelming as is the feeling that you should ignore the “fun” ones (Tillers/Anglers/Cloud Serpents) whilst concentrating on the rest in the run up to raids and the arena season starting. Given that I don’t go back to work until Thursday, we have been spamming the lot but it definitely feels like overload. On the plus side (a phrase I never thought I’d ever use in this context) most of the daily hubs involve going to one specific area and slaughtering & collecting. On top of that, compared to the Molten Front, killing vermling, playing catch with baby dragons and beating up sharks with your bare hands is a refreshing change.

2. Heroics aren’t really heroic in any shape or form. When I queued up for the first time I was really nervous remembering back to the start of Cataclysm when on some trash packs mana was an issue. I didn’t need to worry, in fact even after boss fights my interweaving of power word:solace into the mix meant I didn’t need to drink then either. I know the challenge modes are there for just that purpose but I would have liked the Heroics to be slightly tougher. It just feels a bit wrong where the Stormstout brewery for example felt harder on normal at 86 than it did at 90 on heroic (just wearing blue 450 gear in every slot apart from my 463 legs and my epic trinket from Coren).

3. PvP is awesome. My favourite all time battleground now has to be the Temple of Kotmogu. It’s fast paced, fun and a bit like arenaing but with objectives other than making sure you’re the last team standing. I definitely don’t feel squishy as Holy unless the whole opposing team piles on top of me (or I’ve been hogging a power ball too long) which is a good start to an expansion too. I plan on doing a proper post covering my choice of glyphs + talents as Holy for each of the maps once I’ve finished testing a few things.

4. Scenarios! I love all of the ones I’ve played so far (apart from Theramore). They’re quick, varied and because it’s not just standing still and healing like a proper dungeon, great fun (ignoring the lore side of it, Theramore is just a bit too much like running a dungeon).

The loot bags are annoying though, I know RNG is RNG but so far Mr Harpy has had an item from pretty much every second bag and I’ve had zero which makes gearing up a little more irritating.

5. Priesting. Why oh why can’t chakras last after death and on zoning. I know it’s not a massive issue for most things but it’s still a quality of life issue. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with Holy. Mana is 10 times better than it was at the start of Cataclysm in both pve and pvp. In fact the only other thing which annoys me is the lack of useful minor glyphs for my chosen spec. We have a choice of ten, four are shadow specific, one is disc specific, one is holy specific but requires your death and the others are just flavour.

6. Pet battles. Fear my Hopling because it will lick you to death! This turned out to be more addictive and less annoying than on the beta. I’m still working my way through pre Outlands pets but I hit 250 unique pets a while back and am route to 400 albeit slowly. I have to admit I went and tamed an Infested Bear Cub even though I said I never would. (By the way, they only seem to spawn after midnight if you’re looking, at least that’s the only time I’ve ever found any sign of them). Also whoever designed Jaguero Isle to have a separate weather system to that of southern STV can take a spinning crane kick to the face.

7. MoP transmogrification. Yes please! The cloth pvp set consisting of a pants suit had me panicking slightly but the weapons and off-hands are stunning.

8. Pandas. I’m still not 100 percent convinced, but I’ve made one even though she hasn’t made it out of the start zone yet. She’s a Priest (surprise surprise) called Snowflower after a book I fell in love with a little while ago when I found a beat up copy in a charity shop. I’m slightly saddened by the fact that my favourite beta hairstyle isn’t available at the character creation stage but am hoping it will be an option once she escapes the Isle.

9. The Storyline in general. I’m really impressed with the stories this time around. Blizzard have added some really lovely touches and some tragic moments. I was particularly taken with the fact that my evil double giggles.

It’s a great mix of tragic, comedic and thought provoking.

I think I started out looking for things to criticise, wanting to believe that WoW had nothing left to offer me, that I reached my final destination as far as the game was concerned but it seems that somehow despite my cynicism, Pandaria’s beauty and sense of wonder has managed to pull me back.

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?

Theramore: The Aftermath

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

From ’99 Luftballons

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

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

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

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