Timed to perfection

The next installment of Warcraft is finally – and that’s a well deserved finally – here. Patch 7.0 lands tonight, after which we get masses of bag space, transmog heaven with the Wardrobe, and time to settle into new rotations and abilities before demons start invading Azeroth and we head into Legion.

Hunters have had some major changes, mainly to do with the split into three very distinctive playstyles: melee, no pet, or traditional BM. Bendak has a great overview on Blizzard Watch, and a further detailed breakdown on his own site. I think I’ll stick with BM, I enjoy the pets and fantasy of a companion class, but Marksman also sounds interesting. Can’t quite find interest in melee, despite flashbacks to BC era level 1-10 Hunters when a pet wasn’t provided.

It sounds like every class will now start with a default specialty – for example Paladin’s will all be Ret at level 1. Which means spending some time updating my Paladin Tanking for Beginners guide (and get cracking on the Druid and Warrior equivalents).

Also going away is the chance to score the fabled Moose Mount for Heroic Archimode. I debated paying for a carry to get it, and almost committed for 30k, but in the end figured that while the moose would be awesome, I wouldn’t have earned it and would probably be reluctant to use it as a result. Hopefully the Legion mount is as good, and hopefully I’m there to get it legitimately.

Big week. After waiting so long I’m vaguely amused, and a little disappointed, to be afk for the next week, pretty much from just when the servers will be coming back up – timing is everything!

Warcraft movie paraphernalia

Director Duncan Jones noted on twitter that a replica of Garona’s knife will be available later in the year from NZ effects shop Weta. Investigating further, turns out Weta have an entire shop full of Warcraft paraphernalia, ranging from weapons to rings and even a Orc Tooth Pendant. I like the Horde pin – coincidentally also the cheapest thing there!

Boost mechanics

Having boosted my level 60 Prot Paladin to 90, I was surprised to find that all my abilities and talents had been locked away. I couldn’t even summon the Paladin mount. It was effectively like being a first level character again – Crusader Strike and Judgment were my only skills. It felt very underpowered after blasting through dungeons on the way to 60.

As I ventured into Draenor, quests started rewarding clusters of abilities – damage boosts, mitigation, healing – and talent tree unlocks.

Thinking about it, I realised this is obviously the mechanic for Blizzard to introduce newly boosted level zero characters to their abilities. I wonder if they could have made it less abrupt by leaving abilities unlocked for characters that were boosting from a higher level, but that would pose it’s own problems – what level did they boost from, which abilities are left, how to introduce them.

The main problem I think is that even though the abilities were gradually unlocked, there was nothing in the way of explanation as to what they were and how to use them. When levelling, you get one at a time and can read the ability text and work out (or look up) how they are best used. With the boost, you just unlock three new abilities and hope for the best.

The other problem is the unlocks are not matched to what’s happening in game, so getting the defensive abilities wasn’t because a quest was about to call for them. It also had the strange effect of making me feel vulnerable – some of the quests were harder than expected due to a lack of skills, which I think would be off-putting for a fresh player.

It seems like there is an opportunity to create an isolated boost scenario which would match the skill and talent unlocks to events and challenges in the scenario. Similar to the Proving Grounds, but tailored more toward teaching. And because it’s quarantined from the game story, it can scale to each expac as they are released, before launching the fresh player into the storyline. It would be a lot of work for Blizzard given all the classes and specialisations, but given boosting characters appears to be the new normal it might be money well spent.

Mid-list

After a man-flu hiatus, I managed to logon for some mid floor HFC this week. I’m still a bit shaky and nervous on mechanics – throwing Iskar’s bauble to the wrong person, or the total floor chaos of Xhul. And pretty sure I pulled some trash with a badly placed Barrage, yike. Least it wasn’t a boss! On those bosses my DPS was better, but still pretty poor – staying alive isn’t enough.

The better news was on the bosses where I felt more at ease – Zakuun, Socrethar – I graduated from bottom of the pile to mid-list. Success! Mild success, but still. I was surprised about Zakuun as that was a fight I still wasn’t 100% on my responsibilities, but it worked out ok. Helped as usual by some good strong voice directing from the raid leaders.

Comparing my combat logs in AMR to similarly geared players shows I’m still below average, but the encouraging thing is seeing improvement. And it’s still only 5 or so goes that I’ve had at each of these bosses in Heroic, so I guess a steep learning curve is to be expected. I’m super appreciative to Frostwolves for being able to do this so late in the Warlords piece.

I think next is seeking some feedback. What am I doing right, what wrong, is there any hope!?

Zerg appreciation society

Bhagpuss writes a lovely lyrical paean to the joy of the MMO zerg1:

EverQuest began with no formal raiding structure but players invented one of their own, bringing larger and larger gangs to clear entire zones in a rolling wave of terror. When SOE formalized matters with the Planes of Power expansion the raid size was set at 72, a number that sounds pretty massive even today.

A spontaneous ‘rolling wave of terror’. Lovely. Reminds me of the very occasional WoW groups I’ve joined that would attempt to raid opposing faction capital cities (all of which have fallen apart due to lack of leadership – and the lack of PvP skills in a typical PvE player).

Every time Bhagpuss writes about GW2 I want to go and try it (again). But every time I do I get bogged down in the starting areas and abandon ship. It doesn’t help that the racial selection is so limited, and all the Norn female faces look like supermodels, but there’s something that stops me continuing each time.

I’m not sure what exactly it is. Maybe the clunky storytelling (those cut scenes) or the endlessly spawning events (didn’t I already kill the Direwolf?). Maybe it’s the lack of rails, the free form nature of ‘do what you want how you want’ is too imtimidating, especially when trying to get a grasp on a whole new game and UI. The completionist urge is also a problem – I don’t feel like I can leave the starter area until I have all the vistas, events, hearts, etc. In other words, it’s not the game, it’s me.

When GW2 launched a bunch of WoW friends all jumped in arms open, but the only one that stuck around was the PvP fiend. Which, reading Bhagpuss, makes sense. The WvW game seems so strong, when it works, and while I tried it WoW drew me back pretty quickly.

I feel now like it’s too late to begin or catch up, though I still have a lonely browser tab of ‘GW2 tips for beginners’ open, just in case, and for next time the bug bites. And damn if I wouldn’t love to be part of those zergs.


  1. As opposed to the swarming version of SC2