Monthly Archives: November 2011

Shared Topic – Create a New Race

I’ve recently started participating in a bloggers site called Blog Azeroth, which is a nice little community for WoW bloggers.  One of the things they do over there is Shared Topics, which are out there for the bloggers to participate in and post their own take on an idea during a particular week. This week’s is creating a new player race, complete with class options, and racial abilities. The idea was brought up by Mia.

Since I’m not necessarily a fan of the “play either faction” methodology, I’ve come up with two new player races, one for the Horde and the other for the Alliance; complete with a brief history of how they came to join their factions.  So, without further ado… here are the new player races I’d love to see in game.

High Elves

Faction: Horde

During the aftermath of the cataclysm, more elves seemed to be roaming all of Azeroth. Most assumed they were members of the dragon flights in elven form, but in reality, they are High Elves, come again to the settled lands.

Eschewing their Night Elven brethren for turning their backs on the arcane arts; and trusting (at least in part) the stolid partnership of the Tauren; these newly returned High Elves have allied themselves with Baine Bloodhoof and thus with the Horde.  Vin’aleth and his followers have made their home in Thunder Bluff.

As a high elf, you can choose to be a mage, hunter, priest, warlock or monk. Particularly skilled in the arcane arts, the high elves get a bonus to their enchanting skill.  Additionally, they have the ability to regain 20% of their base mana, focus, or chi periodically.

Ethereal

Faction: Alliance

A young Nexus-Prince, Gamuul, has made his way to Azeroth. While negotiations between the Alliance and Horde to gain his support and technology, he learned of Trade Prince Gallywix. Bent on taking down the top dog in Azeroth, Gamuul has sided with the Alliance.

As an Ethereal, you can choose to be a hunter, mage, rogue, warlock or warrior. Due to their knowledge of the nexus between the physical world and other realms, they are able to use the ethereal shift, which can bring them immediately to their foes, or speed their travel rate as needed.  Also due to this ability to move between realms, the ethereal jewelcrafter is more likely to acquire higher quality gems when prospecting ore.

Progression Dungeons

A most interesting thing happened tonight… We have only five active players with level 85 toons. Those players have been working together and doing level 85 instances on Sunday nights.  Tonight marked our first attempt at a heroic instance. Now, one of the toons may have actually run some heroic PuGs, but for the most part, we’re green on these toons.  And it reminded me of my first Molten Core run back in Vanilla.

We started with Heroic Deadmines. And no, we didn’t complete the instance. Our tank has about a 2 hour threshold for being able to hold up the pressures of tanking.  I’m good with that, the heroic mechanics don’t  make melee dps a cakewalk by any means.  All that said, we started out our evening to discover our hunter didn’t have the item level to actually get into a heroic. So, we admit, we fudged the numbers. He was, after all, only a couple points shy. He also happens to be our most instance/raid experienced player, having a main who is actively raiding in another guild.

So here we are, going along in deadmines, and we get to Glubtok. And we wipe several times. Each time, tweaking our plan. Step one – let phase one take longer, save our cooldowns for phase two.  Step two – learn where the fire wall spawns so we can get positioned better. Step three – learn that our tank needs to not be on the boss during phase two.  Step four – manage to put it all together and down the boss. While at the same time earning the achievement Ready for Raiding. All five of us.  Does that sound like raiding to you? Does to me.

We are doing progression dungeons. And in their own way, they are just as challenging as raiding, and just as rewarding from the gaming perspective. Sure, the gear’s not “as good”, but that doesn’t mean that the gear isn’t better than what we have. Besides, I’d hate to see situations where I want Sona’s tanking gear because the primary stat is so much better than my current gear that it’s worth taking on dodge and parry.  Not that she gets any tanking gear out of deadmines.

We one-shotted Helix, but I think that the work we did on Glubtok actually assisted with that. There was chatter as things happened. We had started to really work as a team, in absolute terms.    We only got one attempt at the Foe Reaper, which was not successful, but I learned important things about the mechanics of being the one in the reaper getting rid of adds.  The video we watched even said we should expect to wipe a few times while the person doing the vehicle gets used to the mechanics.  So we shall see.

And another thing – I was just reading over on Officer Chat about owning your mistakes, and he’s absolutely right. If folks own their mistakes, whether it be poor positioning, not being able to see to get out of the crap on the floor, or learning that there really is line of sight in the room, we learn. We learn to adapt, or how to recommend better positioning, or the signs to watch for to make sure we do or don’t do something. Or even what the tank should be focusing on. We learn, and we get better, and we don’t get frustrated with that one player who seems to always die. Because we know why.

And if you ask me, that’s what progression is all about. It’s not about better gear or in game achievements. It’s about learning to work together to succeed. With that definition of progression, then we’re doing progression dungeons.

Misconceptions

It was pointed out to me recently that there’s a lot of misconceptions about people who play WoW in tiny guilds. The general assumption is that these players are less serious about playing the game. Being in a guild that can barely put together enough active toons to get the raid achievements for previous expansion raids is assumed to be a guild full of individuals who barely play.

That may seem true, but it isn’t always the case. In some cases, like ours, we have a few players who are incredibly dedicated to their toons, and others who… aren’t so much.  In our little group of 15 players, we have a high school student, a project manager, a truck driver, an accountant, a stay-at-home dad, an IT guy, a welder, and a surgeon.  As you may have guessed from that list, work happens. Almost none of us are actually able to schedule to play consistently on any day of the week. But, at the same time, a level 8 guild doesn’t get That’s a Lot of Travel Time with a group of players who aren’t serious about their time.

Take the truck driver, for instance. He has 3 level 85 toons, organizes our level 85 instance runs, and works 50 hours a week on his short week at work.   The welder? Welding is shift work. Currently, he works 2nd shift, so can’t join us for much, but he plays while most of the rest of us are at work. (He has two level 85 toons, and several between levels 60 and 70)

In spite of the issues with not being able to play together much, we all have something in common – we love to play WoW. We get achievements, we get guild achievements. We play how we want to play when we can and want to. And we come together under the Higher Authority of fun. (Not the fun Ghostcrawler talks about, but the fun we create!)

PvP and Raiding – Why so few people do them?

There’s been quite a bit of talk in the blogosphere lately about why so few people do two of the types of endgame activity – PvP and raiding. What I find the most interesting about this is that many of the “serious” blogs and message board systems are heavily geared toward one or the other of these activities.  Certainly, there’s other information out there, but even WoW Insider spends a whole lot of time talking about getting ready to raid, how to PvP and so on. So, then, if there’s so much information out there about those two subjects, why don’t many people do them? 

I suspect the answer is two-fold. First, to do these activities requires commited time to do well. This time is not only the time while you’re actually doing the activity, but also time to prepare your character – which might not seem like much, but can be quite extensive. Additionally, in a raid group, you are often expected to help provide the resources for groupwide benefits.   

Second, these are not activities that you can just go in and figure out, like questing. The questing experience, in fact, does not prepare you at all for what you need to do in raids or PvP. When you quest, you either pull a mob or run up to it, then stand more or less still while you kill it. Sometimes it might be wise to take a step or two so that you’re not standing in some ick the mob just dropped, but it’s not imperative to get out of it. Generally, the ick won’t actually kill you while you’re questing. You just kill the mobs too fast for it to be an issue.

In raiding, you have to know how the encounter works before you get there. In PvP, you have to know what every class can do that might be troublesome, and what you can do that is particularly difficult for them to deal with. In both cases, you need to know what you can expect from your teammates and what they expect from you. For PvP especially, there’s a big complaint that the bar for entry is set too high, because the gear you get in PvE (questing) doesn’t actually work for PvP very well.   On the flip side, the bar for getting into raiding is equally high as soon as the first patch hits. If you weren’t already raiding by then, you might as well give up on it.

And then, there’s the aspect that no one talks about: Drama. I would guess that 90% of the drama in WoW is over gear. Most of the gear drama comes from drops, which mostly matters in raids.   My guess is based on how many forum threads there are, how many resources are spent on sites like WoW Insider (Two columns come to mind immediately: Drama Mamas and Officers Quarters.) and how many people talk about drama in comments all over the blogosphere. 

For me, it’s the drama and the time that make me disinterested in raiding.  The time is easy to explain. I don’t like to have to spend a lot of time preparing to play. When I’m at home (where I could do research about boss encounters, etc) I want to play, not read. I don’t mind the farming, but I do mind being told that I need to do x, y, and z to raid. I understand that I need to accomplish certain things, but generally the x is not get your item level up to a certain point, it’s do Heroics until you get the gear or the justice points, and do it as fast as possible. Hello! I’ll do it at the pace at which I have the time and energy. Thanks. Done now. I don’t think I need to talk about drama.

PvP? I’ve never had an interest in PvP. I suspect that many folks who like to PvP play other games where PvP takes center stage, instead of being a side activity.  But that’s pure speculation, I have no proof.  As I said before, though, I believe that the gearing bar is a big problem for PvP. Back in Vanilla, before there was this stat called Resilience, the best PvPers were raiders. Folks who only PvPed didn’t like that (understandably) and Resilience was added to help. The problem is that there are two ways to get resilience: crafted gear and PvPing. The crafted gear is baseline gear. It’s “good for starting out”. The problem is that not everyone is starting out at the same time, so it’s not good enough unless you’re PvPing very early in the endgame stages.

I remember back in Burning Crusade, that there was one trinket you could get via PvP (purchased with honor points) that was highly beneficial to one raid encounter. I was offered a spot on a raid team, but told that I had to PvP in order to raid with them. What? No. You do not tell me how I need to play. You can tell me what I need to be able to do, but I will figure out how to do it. Thanks.

Blizzard tries to help fix both of these problems.

Rated Battlegrounds are the attempted answer to PvP. It’s an attempt to get the high-end PvPers against each other, letting the rest of us play in the shallow end of the pool. The problem there is that non-rated PvP is still accessible, and why not pick up some easy honor if you can do rated BGs?

For raiders, every time a new raid comes out, the previous raid gets a bit easier; and frequently vendors start selling items (usually for justice points) the equivalent of a couple of raids behind. This does actually help a bit, but more for the folks struggling in raiding than the ones trying to get started.

Is there a solution to the problem? Probably not, without disenfranchising the folks who want the challenges provided by the newest raid and the rated battledgrounds.

Getting Guild Achievements in a Tiny Guild

I’ve talked a little bit about this here and there, but realized I’ve never talked about it in the context of what it really means to get a guild achievement to a tiny guild.

We’ve completed several achievements. The easy ones, like the dungeon achievements (complete x dungeon in a guild group) aren’t so hard. It’s not all that difficult to get 3 people together to run through an instance. Heck, we’ve got two standing guild 5-man nights to take care of those.

But then, there’s the ones that can take a while for even the biggest guilds. The ones where the guild needs to craft a whole lot of things, or kill a whole lot of things, or complete a really large number of quests.  We’ve completed a half dozen of these, and the two I’m most proud of: Critter Kill Squad and That’s a Lot of Travel Time.

Back in July, I realized we were getting close to having killed 50,000 critters. I think we were probably around 47,000. Our regular Sunday group for 5-mans got done early, and so the 5 of us decided to go and kill some critters for a while. We had found a spot off the coast of Borean Tundra where we could get instant respawns on penguins… meaning the faster we killed them the faster they would respawn and we could kill them again. Three paladins, a rogue and a hunter on three small islands spamming their AoE abilities can kill a lot of penguins. We were amassing around 50 a minute.

Then one of our less frequent players came online. We asked if she wanted to join us. We had about 1500 to go at that point. By the time we got her there, we were down under 1000. A sixth member of the group shot our numbers up to nearly 100 penguins a minute. Those last few minutes were, bar none, some of the best guild camaraderie I’d yet seen. Getting that achievement was almost as exciting to us as a first kill on a raid boss.

Let’s fast-forward a bit, to the beginning of October. I made a post on the guild boards saying that we’d been moving right along with That’s a Lot of Travel Time, and that if the Hallow’s End candy bucket quests counted towards the regular quest count, we’d likely finish during the month of October. Well, those quests did count, and I think a few people did a few more candy buckets than they might have otherwise – because we got the achievement on October 27th.

Now, I want you to think about this. 15 people, only 4 of whom are very active at all, got 25,000 quests (not including daily quests) completed in less than one year. Luckily, we all have altitis, so we all almost always have a toon that’s not at max level to play. But it still remains that that’s a lot of quests for only a few people to complete.

But there’s another interesting thing about my guild, and these achievements. One of two things consistently happens when we’re working seriously towards an achievement. Either it gets completed while I’m not online, or everyone will get it to within one of completion and stop, giving me the honor of finishing it.  I think the only reason it didn’t specifically happen with Critter Kill Squad is because we were killing them so fast it was impossible to simply stop at the right time.

The thing about these kinds of Achievements in a tiny guild, though, is that someone has to want to get them done. They don’t get touched otherwise. We have 107 PvP kills. I suspect the majority of them are from people working towards completing the various holiday achievements.  

I make a post every week on our guild boards about our progress towards completing the guild achievements. That post helps to drive what I put into the guild message.   I’m an accountant in real life, and it translates into those posts. I not only provide a list and progress, I also keep track of our completion percentages, which achievements we made the most progress on, and even the “total completion” percentage.    When something gets to within 10% of the goal, I start hawking it in the guild message of the day. I’m even thinking about holding events when some of the achievements get closer, so that we can have a large group effort again.  

These things are fun for our guild, and sometimes we work hard on our achievements. Other times, we just let them tick along in the natural progression of our daily activities.

My Take on Pandaria

If you pay any attention at all to WoW news, you know that the next expansion is going to be Mists of Pandaria. And, of course, it’s all the buzz for the moment, while we wait for patch 4.3 to drop.

For me, the things that are being discussed aren’t that big of a deal. They’re changing the talent system – OK, I’m going to have to respec again. I have to respec pretty much every expansion anyway. At least this time I’ll only have 5 points at the beginning to use, not 25 or 30. 

They’re adding a new race, Pandarins, and a new class, monks.  I’d like to see the starting area for Pandarins, and maybe see what happens if I pick either Horde or Alliance; but otherwise I’m not particularly attached to the pandas, nor, however, am I in an uproar over a race that most people seem to think was a joke at one time. (I’m lead by WoW Insider to understand that they were present in Warcraft III, however). Monks? I’d also like to try one, but not until the rest of the world has gotten done making theirs.  I do believe in trying every class at least once, anyway.  My problem with these additions, however, is that I can only have 10 characters on a server right now. And that…. well, I have 4 level 85 toons (two paladins, a druid and a hunter) who I don’t want to abandon. I’ve also got a level 50 shaman, who I hope to get back to, and a level 47 warrior who has my Zhevra. I don’t want to lose them, either. Finally, I have my level 33 Priest, who is telling the story of the dwarven dungeon crawl. She’s definitely off limits.

My other three toons are debatably expendable – a low level rogue I’m playing for my love’s benefit when she can’t play (on our TV, but I need to work on resolution issues there.) A low-level troll we rolled up to see the new troll starting area, but also who we created because female trolls are really hard to find during certain holidays. Thanks, Blizzard. And, finally, my most expendable character – a gnome warrior. I’d really just rather have the ability to create more characters on one server – I never play anywhere else, even though I have a few toons scattered across the realms.

There’s the companion pet combat system that’s being put into place. I’m curious about that, but it seems like a sideline to me. I may end up with a pet or two that I adore fighting with or I might hate the system. It really all boils down to whether it’s PvP exclusive, or if there’s PvE methods of using the pets.

But, what I’m really interested in, bar none, is Scenarios. We know virtually nothing about them, and I want to know more. To be fair, I haven’t gone digging; partially because there’s only a few sites that I’d trust to have only the facts, or at least well documented tin-foil hat moments. And I can’t get to most of those sites at work. And when I’m home, in front of my computer? Well, I’d rather play WoW than read about it. Thanks.

Am I excited about the new expansion? For the most part, yes. It’s new content, and I’m truly hoping that it will be a balance between the on-rails questing of Cataclysm that I don’t prefer and the almost complete lack of organization to questing that we saw in Classic and Burning Crusade. I think Wrath had a pretty good balance.  I will admit, though, that Cataclysm told the epic story reasonably well. Even if they only really told the whole story to the Horde. 😛