Thursday, January 31, 2013

Are We There Yet?

Everyone sets goals for themselves and with the first raid and PvP season cycles ending soon we can take a look back and see where we are, when it comes to fun, and how much we have enjoyed this expansion thus far.

Are we there yet?

If the destination is fun, I would have to say yes, this expansion has been a great success so far in my opinion.  Sure, you see me complain about things but as I mentioned here on more than one occasion, complaining is a complement.  People only complain about the things they care about and if I wasn't having fun I wouldn't complain because I wouldn't care.  If you follow what I am saying.

Not to mention, complaining is just more fun, but today I am going to talk about some of the things I have enjoyed.  Won't be as exciting of course because it is a lot easier to point out why you dislike something than it is to point out why you like something.  For example, I love the roll club quest.  Why?  Don't know, just do.  See, saying what you like is boring, so get ready for some boring stuff.

1) Champions

The new rare mobs around the world made leveling fun as a hunter.  I would see each and every one while leveling as I was ahead of the pack and I would take each encounter as a personal challenge.  It was great fun and I even wrote a post about one of those battles a short time ago when I was leveling another hunter.

Rare hunting, as it has become known, has become a way to have a little fun while leveling.  My priest was not able to solo any of them while leveling sadly, but my hunters are gold with them and much to my surprise my death knight makes killing them even easier than my hunter did.  I heard horror stories from melee people saying how hard they were on melee.  Either death knights are really that super over powered or these people need to learn how to play better because my death knight, while it will never come as close to my hunters in speed killing, are easier than my hunter to kill the things on.

Every character I level I look out for them and give them a shot.  Every time I see one while flying around I always land and kill them just for the chance at the bag of goodies.  I've even made travel plans in the summit and kill all of them as soon as they spawn if I am on, as I know exactly when they spawn so I can get them all easily.  Nothing is better then getting a baggie with 40 golden lotus in it.  While rare, it makes killing those rares in the summit well worth it.  I've gotten more sha crystals, golden lotus, good feasts for 10 and 25 man, magnificent hides, and trillium than I can count, all for free, all for killing those rares.   Yeah, I love it.

2) Farming

While I still worry about losing this addition come next expansion I am hoping its success will force them to consider moving it to a more centralized location where we can use it forever and not make it a mists only thing.

I've all but stopped doing my farming.  I only do it once in a while if I have some time to waste on a character or when leveling a new character up reputation wise.  It just takes way to long when you have as many characters as I do and you do not have unlimited time.  If it were just pick and plant it would be more enjoyable but farming was and is a success and a great part of what was added that is mostly enjoyable this expansion.

I like the idea that with the stable of characters I have I can massively build up materials on a moments notice by planting the appropriate seed.  I like that it is something you can do while waiting in queue.  I like that it is phased as it gives us hope that something resembling player housing is on the way.  Outside of the stupid birds and vermin and other annoying junk that once you reach exalted you should never get as you are now an expert farmer, farming is really a great addition.

3) Pet Battles

I did not expect to get into this as much as I have and I only seem to get into it in spurts where I will do it like crazy for a few days and then not do it for a few weeks, but that is what pet battles are perfect for.

There is no continued push.  Once you reach level 25 on a pet it is done.  No gearing it up, no need to gear it up again when a new patch comes out, no need to valor cap your pet, no need to do anything with it.  It serves no purpose what so ever.  It is there just to have some fun with, to pass the time and it fills that role with absolute perfection.

I do it while waiting for the raid to assemble.  I do it while waiting in queue.  I do it when I know I will be logging soon and do not want to get involved in anything.  I do it just to waste a little time.  I do it on low levels for experience with the dailies.

Like I said, I never expected much from it and did not think I would like it but I do and I think that is another reason why I consider it a huge success this expansion.  When you have high hopes for something you can only be let down.  When you have no hopes for something you can only be surprised and pet battles surprised me.  Good work blizzard, you ripped off an idea and made it yours, and it is a huge plus for this expansion and unlike farming where it seems tied to one expansion, pet battles are tied to the game, throughout it all, as a whole, and that is the absolute best part of it because we know it is here to stay and worth investing some time into.

4) Raiding

I can really only talk about normal modes as I have not even attempted a heroic mode this expansion.  We plan to give heroic MV a try some time soon, but no rush because we are not done with all the normals yet and that is why I call normal mode raiding a huge success this expansion.

If a guild like mine was doing heroics or was not downing things consistently even with our lesser time spent raiding, it would have been a failure.   We are not doing heroics and we are moving forward, which in my mind, makes it a success.  A casual guild like mine should not be going into heroics easily and should also not be held back by massive cock blocks.  While there are a few bumps in the road here and there, nothing was insurmountable.

There is a solid progression for a casual guild like mine.  No boss has taken us more than 30 attempts to down but being we do not raid much, only 2 hours, that 30 attempts could take 2 weeks or even 3 on a long fight, it still makes for a solid progression rate.  One new boss every 2 weeks on average, never extending lock outs, and that, in my opinion is a fantastic rate of progression and as it should be for a casual raiding guild with so little time spent raiding.

We hopefully will finish the normals by the time 5.2 comes out but even if we don't it doesn't feel bad at all because the forward motion, while slower then a regular raiding team that does more than 2 hours progression,  always seemed to flow nicely.

I have not been overly impressed with any of the fights this raiding tier and there are none I can really say I like to do but that is okay.  It is the forward motion that matters and it always feels like we are moving forward.  Sure I would have liked a few fights I considered fun mixed in and there are none, but I can live with that.

On a side note to gripe, because I can't just not complain about anything, the LFR still sucks.  The loot drama has changed for the better with the new looting system but it is still there.  Everyone complains all they got was gold and the one person that links what they got will always be sure to hear, how come the baddies always win something. So the drama is still there.  And if you me, the loot god hate is still there as well.  Still no bow even using a coin every week and running it multiple times a few weeks.  That is one reason the old way worked better.  One person I run with has won the bow three time, old school LFR he could have given it to me.  I want that old school back because my luck sucks.  My luck aside, the only problem I see with the LFR is that it is still too hard for the masses that are in it and the ones it is meant for.

5) One Land

Never discount how important this is for your enjoyment of the game.  Most people like that everything in is on land mass now and I am one of them.  Cataclysm was horrible with its all over the place design that it makes it feel extra nice to have one simple land mass to play on again.  To be able to fly directly from zone to zone.

Whether it is gathering, exploring, hunting for something, heading to a destination, having everything in a set place just makes the game more enjoyable for many, myself included.  Most people might over look that fact and even if they are liking mists more they will never consider that this is actually part of the reason for that.

Could you imagine doing my rare hunting back in cataclysm where zones are all over the place?  It would not be even half as fun as it is now being able to go from one area to the next.  Even if people have issues with dailies it is nice that you can just make a path and go from one set to the next as they are all in the same part of the world instead of all over the place, like they would have needed to be in cataclysm if they had this design with dailies then.

So if the destination is fun and you ask, are we there yet, over all for me I would have to say yes.  While there are a lot of things I can complain about this expansion it gets a thumbs up from me so far.  Something I don't think I was ever able to say at any point during cataclysm.  I was hard pressed to find anything redeeming about that clusterfuck.  Mists is a success in its first raid/pvp cycle, at least as I see it.  Even with those things to complain about, it has a hell of a lot of good stuff going for it.

Two things I would like to see to make it better.

1) An Ulduar Style Raid.

5.2's raid is being called that but I will not just accept the reports, I have to see it to believe it.  Will it feel as great as that instance did?  Playing it will be the only real way to tell.

2) Become Alt Friednly

Seriously, for someone with one character mists is already the greatest expansion ever.  For anyone with alts, it can down right suck unless you have massive amounts of free time.  They need to make it more alt friendly, and from the early reports on 5.2, that is not happening.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three Reasons The Golden Lotus Ruined Dailies

Dailies have become a staple this expansion, something people needed to do at the start to get their foot up in the gearing department.  Even if you raid you wanted to have those reputations up so you can buy that piece with valor that just would not drop for you in the raid.  If you don't raid, that was the only way to get current level gear.  So it made, for many, grinding dailies a requirement, not an option.

Add to the reputation thing the fact that people always feel they need to valor cap it pushed more people into doing dailies, even people that never really did them before.  This means that they need to do the things they need to get valor, and those daily quests give valor now.  At the lower rate of valor you receive from raiding, from dungeons and the pitifully low number you get from the new addition to the game known as scenarios, for many it made it feel like they needed to do dailies to help.

So someone like myself that likes to cap as soon as possible and is a damage dealer so I can not get quick queues for dungeons or raids means I have to mix and match in dailies to help get to that cap faster.  It is nice to have the option but that means that I will be doing a lot more dailies than I might really want to do. 

Don't get me wrong here, we are talking about someone that has over 10,000 dailies done on my main already, it is not like I have anything against doing them.  I've always done them even when I did not need anything from them as that large total of dailies from only one character proves.  So I am not against dailies, I think it is fantastic design and a great concept and glad they have added valor to them.

But the golden lotus are a completely different story.  There is nothing fun about them outside of the roll club.  While it might be true that they are the best to get valor from as there are so many of them, they are just so badly designed in a few ways as I see it.  Anyone that had close to 10,000 dailies on one character before mists even came out should be considered an expert on dailies, so I will share my expert opinions on why the golden lotus dailies ruined the entire daily experience for many this expansion.

1) Reward

Golden Lotus quests are just as rewarding as all other dailies are in many aspects.  Nineteen gold and some change, a few lesser charms and five valor, but their 100 reputation (more with bonuses like human or guild) per quest seems prohibitive.

For anyone that does the math they will see that the golden lotus are not that bad at all reputation wise even at 100 per quest.  It would take a new player with no guild, not a human, and no other reputation bonuses less than a month of grinding them to get to exalted.  So in reality that is not bad at all.

So why do I consider that 100 reputation to be one of the things that makes the golden lotus bad?  Because it is all about appearance.  You will do roughly 15 quests per day and at 100 per for most, you will end the quest day with 1500 reputation.  Compare that to the anglers where you do three quests, all much easier, all much faster, and get 1500 reputation.

See, that is why there is a problem with reputation, it is the appearing that you are getting nothing for it even if you are.  Everything is not so black and white when it comes to the game.  The quests are fine, the rate of reputation gain is fine, there is really nothing fundamentally wrong with them, but that 100 just feels low for the average player. 

That is where the Golden Lotus dailies failed.  They failed in making people feel as if they were making some progress at a reasonable rate because 100 just seems, well, unrewarding.

What they could have done, instead of having three sets of hubs they send you too each day, is make it one hub a day for 5 quests and triple the rewards of those 5 so it equals the same thing in the end. 

You could even only double it, effectively making the reputation grind longer, but getting 200 per for 5 quests would feel like more progression than 100 per for 15 even if it isn't, just because of how people perceive things.  Most people will not ever see the end result that they are getting 1500 per day, they will only remember they are getting 100 per quest.  That was one of the Golden Lotus problems.

2) Location, Location, Location.

No, I am not talking about real estate, I actually put location three times because reason number two, location, can fall neatly into three sub categories about why their location is a problem with them.

a) Close to the Main Cities.

Not really a problem, so to speak, but it does seem to become one during prime time.  What seems to have become a habit of many people waiting in queue for a dungeon or raid is to do a few dailies to get some valor.  Nice work blizzard, no seriously, not being sarcastic.  It is a great design, but it also is a fault when one such questing hub, the biggest and most important one as a matter of fact, is right outside where everyone parks themselves when they log out.

The Golden Lotus quest hub is always packed. Over packed in fact.  Everyone goes to do them because they need to do them to open others and because they are right outside your front door while you are waiting in queue.

It makes it like there is no option.  It is as if they tried to funnel everyone into one zone to quest on purpose.  Not like this has not been done before, there were hubs that they funneled everyone into in all previous expansions.  Isle, tourney, molten front, but all of those were one time things and there was no additional incentive to keep doing them after you got what you wanted from them unlike the Lotus ones.  These they want everyone to keep doing forever and even give you the valor bait to get you there while you are waiting in queue.  They pushed us there, not like the tillers which is another huge quest hub most do every day.  That one people do because they want to.  Not, just because it is there, not, because they need to do it to open others.

b) Dailies Only.

As mentioned above, this has been done before with the isle and the front but neither of those were part of the main world as the Golden Lotus are.  Isle was off on its own and the front was phased.  They were not part of every day life.

Now personally I have never had a problem with this and quite honestly never even thought about it until I started hearing others mention it and what they had to say made a lot of sense to me, even if I did not really agree.

The area is one useless patch of land if you are not doing dailies.  It is an entire zone, dead center of the map, that just wastes space to house our new cities and nothing else of use when not thinking about dailies.  Now, once you have finished the quests in each zone you can say the same about any zone, but their argument is that this zone holds no purpose except to waste space.

Point taken.  It does seem like a different approach to their design.  Most zones have their zone quests and then maybe a daily hub in them once you reach max level.  This zone has nothing except for the daily hub once you reach 90.  In an expansion that is all about dailies when it comes to where to throw your dislike, the Golden Lotus area wins the ire of people hands down because they take up a whole zone.  It is an entire zone dedicated to what people have started to rebel against.

Like I said, I do not mind so much the entire zone is for dailies but I can surely see why this zone, and the daily hub included in it, gets so much hate because of it.  It is the perfect example of over doing it when it comes to dailies.

c) Travel.

People can not complain it is far from home, as it is right outside your front door, but people have been complaining about travel when it comes to the Golden Lotus quests oddly enough.  Not the travel to it, but the fact that it feels like one quest hub all over the place when it really is three different mini hubs.  Remember where I said earlier that how people feel matters even if they are wrong?  This is a case of that.

People feel that to do the dailies you need to travel the entire zone.  Even the most traveled quest hub this expansion, that is the Celestial quest hubs I am talking about, you have to basically go all over the world to do them, but each time they are just in that tight little defined space.  So it feels as if it is a nice tight quest hub even if it did require a lot of travel to get to it, so people do not complain about the travel concerns.

With the Golden Lotus you start one place, move to another place and the move to a third place.  It makes people feel as if they are using the entire map all the time and some people seem to dislike that.  Excuse me if I really disagree with this point here, flying to my shado-pan dailies or fishing dailies, or any other daily basically takes longer then all the flying I will do while doing three sets of Lotus dailies, but I can understand what they mean even if I do not agree with it and it comes down to feelings again.  People are left feeling like it is a lot of travel even if it is not and that leaves a bad taste in their mouths.

3) Quest Design.

This is another point that has multiple angles to come from.  One being that some of the quests are just downright annoying or flat out unfun.

a) No Fun.

I'll be the first to say that the sprites are annoying as hell if you are not the type that has figured out how to do them without dragging many into the fight.   I'll also be the first to say there is nothing more humorous when talking about sprites then seeing someone run their ass off trying to get away from them with a trail of 10 or 12 sprites following them.  It is almost as fun as watching DKs get knocked off the mountain by goats because they dropped from the air with a D&D to try and take a whole pack of goats they could not handle.  The sprites are in the same league of the goats.  People hate to do them but love to watch others do them.

There are many quests in the Lotus rotation that are just horrible.  Sprites can be one of them, another is when you have the serpents in the first set with certain other quests.  The serpents are annoying enough as is because it makes you have to constantly move all the time.  I have never had any issue with doing them on my tank or hunter but try doing them on characters that need to stand still like a mage or a priest and it becomes annoying as hell.  Not hard, just annoying. 

Now if the daily is up where you need to kill those spirits that run around in packs of 5 or 6 at a time at the same time as that one, you moving every two seconds to avoid the circle breath thing and those babies respawning on a seemingly instant spawn timer and you could find yourself in a constant epic battle until you are a little over geared and can kill the things really fast.  Again, it is not a matter of difficulty, it is not difficult, but it sure as hell is annoying.

I saw someone the other day die doing one of the rings over at the garrison in say cursing at no one really, just out of frustration.  I whispered them to offer some advice on how to avoid the things and they said they have been trying for an hour and keep dying.  I told them switch to healing spec as they were a priest and try healing themselves while doing it if they are having issues.  I finished it, saw them turn into the priest angel form and got a whisper that said, fuck!!! i give up but thanks anyway.  Now I've never had any problems with it but it sure as hell seems others have.  They were not the first and will not be the last I see having trouble with that one, so I can surely see people not having any fun there.

Another great one is that worg with the sword, I've seen more people die to him than I can even count and each one was funny to watch.  Have you ever noticed that the more annoying a quest is to do the funnier it is to watch others do it?  The Golden Lotus are filled with annoying quests.  Even my favorite, the roll club one, which I wish was a daily every day because I love doing it, I have heard people tell nightmare stories about not being able to do it.

b) Random Hubs.

Random hubs are good, do not get me wrong, it mixes things up so it does not feel like the same old same old every day.  But sometimes random sucks.  Like the one quest achievement I have left to do, the one where you can take no damage from walking through the halls, I have not gotten that quest since, well, forever.

I got it early on when I was more concerned with getting things done.  I figured I would do it later without getting hit.  There are two I would need to do anyway so I will come back later at a time when I am not rushing to get everything done I could take my time and get the achievement.

I was wrong.  I have never gotten that quest hub again.  I've only even done one of the two to begin with.  I have 6 characters at least at honored, 2 at exalted, and over all of them that one time is the only time I have ever seen that quest.  And I have never seen the other of the two I would need for the achievement.

What is more annoying that not being able to do an achievement?  Not even being able to attempt to do it.

I did not get the roll club quest on my main until way after I reached exalted.  I was doing the dailies on another character when I noticed it was up so quickly switched to my main and did it on him.  How do you manage to get all the way to exalted and never see a quest?

The random hub design of the Golden Lotus is worse than most because there are so many different ones.  Some people like certain hubs, some like others.  They should have taken a page out of the molten front dailies and give us a choice after the first set.  Do you want to go to the halls, the garrison, the lake or the village.  How about letting me choose where I want to start even?

I would do the halls every day hoping to get the ones I need instead of having to do three sets of them just to be let down and see that is not on the daily agenda today.  Will I ever see that one again?  I do not do the Lotus quests every day, but maybe they should be kind enough that if they are going to use this horrible design that they tell us what the quests hubs of the day are before we start.  Oh, third hub is halls today, I'll do them.  I feel weird asking in guild every day what the third set of Lotus dailies are for today.

Random is nice, sometimes.  When it comes to something like this, after I am already exalted, let me just do the ones I want to do.  I am not doing them for rep, I will be doing them for that achievement or some quick valor at the beginning of the week.  The fact there is this massive wall of dailies you need to do to even see if the one you want to do it up is bad design, in my expert daily doer opinion that is.

c) Gating.

This is the biggest one in the whole book and the number one reason people begin to hate the Golden Lotus dailies.  I am not talking the gating to gear, we all knew that would be there, I am talking the gating to do... wait for it... more dailies.

You need to grind the most annoying daily hub in the game to revered just to have the privilege of doing more dailies?  Gee, thanks blizzard, said sarcastically this time.

For my alts, specifically tailoring and enchanting alts, I just want to get my recipes.  Anything extra is a bonus.  If I get rep to buy gear, so be it.  If I don't, who cares, I just want my patterns.  Not a lot to ask right?

So if I need to get shado-pan reputation or celestial reputation I will do that, no complaints from me.  But I have to do the Golden Lotus reputation before I can do the reputation I want?  What is that line of complete bullshit that blizzard keeps trying to pass off?  Everything is optional.  Golden Lotus is not optional if I want to get the enchanting recipes on my enchanter.  Yes, it is my option to get it or not to get it.   I want to get it and will do the grind for it.  I just do not feel I should be required to do a grind to be allowed to do another grind for it.

I've never had a problem with gating.  I actually support some sort of gating in many cases.  If you want to do something you should have a path to do it and I understand there was a reason for the gating at the beginning. 

I will be the first to admit I would have burnt myself out doing the other two hubs as well every day at the beginning.  But this is a prime example of holding alts back.  If you opened everything on your main then you should be allowed to choose on an alt.  If I wanted my enchanter alts to only get the enchants, I should have been able to do just those and not be forced into doing the Golden Lotus like them or not.

Many people have developed their ill feeling toward the Golden Lotus not because of the reasons I previously mentioned but because of this badly designed quest progression that required people to do something that they did not want to do because it was not necessary for what they wanted to achieve. 

If your intention was just to get the enchanting patterns you should be able to just work toward getting them.  Let the gate of shado-pan or celestial reputation be your gate to getting them and not have a gate before the gate for no other reason then to pretend it is optional content.

This design, the forced into doing it design, is the main reason that the Golden Lotus dailies made people feel like it is the poster boy for what ruined dailies.

Dailies are good for the game but the Golden Lotus ones were not.  There were, and will remain, the reason people hate dailies.  When someone like me, who has well over 10,000 dailies on a single character to my credit that I did because I wanted to, hates them then you know there is something off with them.

There is nothing wrong with the dailies this expansion.  Nothing except for the fact the Golden Lotus made people have ill feelings toward the grind and as I said, how people feel really matters.  Even if they are wrong.  And the Golden Lotus dailies ruined the daily experience for them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Evolution of the Alt

Alts are just like everything else in the game, they evolve.  At least for me they have.  Just like my playing focus has changed many times over the years and my opinions on topics have changed, so have the usage of my alts. 

Alts however are a different situation when it comes to change however.  No matter what my focus of alts have been throughout all the changes, they have always been alts.  My hunter has been my main since I started, heck, you could even say my hunter has been my main since before I started, but that is another story for another time.

1) The Profession Alt

My alts have always filled a role for me and I leveled them not because I wanted to play them but because I needed something from them.  From the start when I made an alt to be a tailor, so it could make my hunter bags and a leatherworker/skinner so it could make my hunter gear to later on when I wanted to save money on requirements for raiding and made an enchanter alt and a jewelcrafter alt.

Some people do profession alts to make money.  Some people do profession alts to make things for their main. Some people do profession alts because they just want everything done.  Some people do it for all three reasons.

My first alt was made for professions.  A tailor and leather working rogue.  Lets forget for a moment that the leather worker needs leather and I did not have a skinner, that was just a moment of stupidity of a starting player.  But that was my first step in the evolution of the alt for me.  I later made a priest and made it a taiolr and dropped tailoring from my rogue to pick up skinning, which made more sense anyway when first starting.  You really should not have a double crafter when starting out if you do not have a gatherer or the money to support it yet.  I learned that lesson of alts early on.  On the first profession alt I ever made.

2) The Extended Family

Whether you are on a role play server or not doesn't make a difference.  I would hazard a guess that there are many players out there that are not role players that have made up stories and histories of their characters, at least in the back of their minds.  My alt family extended when I started to build the stable of characters I had.

While none of the characters were actually related in my little character world they were all connected.  I went on a small run creating one of each class and naming them based on the small family of characters I had in mind.  Three of them did not even have any plans for them, my warrior, my warlock and my mage, but they did have their names and how they connected with the other characters in mind.  They were made simply because they were part of the family.   I could figure out their professions later if I ever decided to level them.

For role players this extended family means a lot more of course and on one of my servers that is a role play server some of my characters actually are family.   Oddly enough, based on the same family of my main servers characters.

Two brothers of the sword and a sister who could best them both.  A father, a thief, and his daughter, a pirate.  The quiet one that travels with them and the loudmouth that always has something to say about the silence.

On a role playing realm that all works out well and any one that role plays will understand the back story even if only a tiny bit was posted there but all my characters, even if not made for role play reasons have a story and usually the characters I make on that server have a connection to that story.

When I started to branch to other servers and actually play often, I would not start just one character, I would create a stable of them with the own story and preplanned on who would be what professions, to help them all move along together, as a family.

3) The Escapist and Loremaster

These two I put together because they are both alts that were made for the same reason even if they might have seemed like different reasons at the time.  When you roll on one side you usually stay there on that server, at one point you did not have a choice as you could not have both sides on the same server, so that is why my first horde character was not on my main server.  Well, that and I used up all 10 slots for the 10 classes a long time before I decided to see how the other side lived.

I tried many servers and leveled many hunters.  A troll, an orc, a taruen, you name it.   None of them ever stuck really.  There was always something else I needed to do somewhere else.  So they leveled slowly, really slowly.

I would pop on to escape the every day of raiding or grinding or what have you to take some time off and experience the game from the other perspective.  I like that stuff, and I used my alts to get the most out of it.  I did the whole experience, back when leveling still took time, so more of the story was enjoyed as I went instead of just going back and powering through it like you would now, which made it a lot more enjoyable, for me at least.

Now, thanks to catching up again, I am capable of seeing the story on both ends once more and have been at the beach in the wilds seeing how things work out on the other side and I must say that if you do not have one character maxed on both ends seeing the story from both sides, you are really missing something great.  If you are into the story that is.

So I used the other side as an escape from my every day playing and to explore a whole new world within a world I had already come to know quite well.  That could be said to have been the real reason to have alts.  To have a little time to get away.

4) The Collector

Oddly enough this was not something my alts evolved into early on.  While I did make a bank character as a catch all that is all it was.  It got a guild of its own and every character sent it everything.  It wasn't until cataclysm that I actually started to refine it from a catch all to an actual designed structure of collecting things however.

Originally everything got sent there, if a character needed something, it would send it to them.  That bank character was an enchanter of course, as I believe all good bank alts should be, and as such it became the perfect place to send everything.  It would also list all the excess junk on the auction house and become the sugar daddy character to all my alt should they need money.

As I collected more stuff and the guild bank was completely full I started to organize things better.  I got big leather bags for my rogue, and that became my leather catch all.  Some big gem bags for my druid and that became my gem catch all.  Some big enchanting bags for my priest and that became my enchanting catch all.  Things like that.

I moved from my bank all mentality, basically being a hoarder, to a designed plan of collecting and my alts worked as a network to hold everything and maximize space using the slots in the bank for the bigger crafting bags.

This expansion I needed to add a new collector of sorts, a food collector to send everything too, and I have.  I have not however got the big bags from the tillers yet as I am waiting.  Waiting for the engineering ones that are bigger and will not cost me tokens to buy.  Why waste tokens on a bag when I can buy black pepper with the tokens and sell them for 100 gold each.

My network of alts is wide and maximizes space.  No longer is it just one character hording everything, it is all characters doing it.  Who would have thought that you could have a guild bank full of stuff and a slew of characters with filled bags and still have no space anywhere.   Maybe it is still hording, but I like to call it collecting and my alts had worked into a collection of bag space mules instead of just being alts.

5) The Time Waster

At a certain point mid wrath I would say, I started making a lot of alts on random servers, just to waste a little time.  I would play for one day or even one week and then go back to what I was doing.   I entered a new phase of the alt creation and that was trying to find a new home.

Not like I wanted to leave what had become my main server by osmosis, but I wanted to see if I could find a new place to feel like home as well.  A get away, a place to waste some time.  When you have made as many alts on as many servers as I have you can pick up a lot about a server and its community by listening to their trade chat.  It was during this phase that I realized that the server I am on as my main is probably the worst US server and possibly the worst server in the entire game in any zone.

There were trade trolls everywhere on all servers but most servers seemed better.  I made some characters on servers to join people I knew in real life that played on different servers.  I made some characters just for the experience like rolling on PvP servers.  I made some characters to join people I'd met elsewhere and even managed to get into a world top 5 guild for a while, albeit on a brand new alt shaman. 

A friend invited me to come make a character there and I dabbled with it for about two weeks and moved along.  Even if the idea of being in a top 5 guild was cool and all, I did not roll these alts to leave my main or to get a better progression guild, I did it to waste some time.  Just for fun, just for something different.  I eventually got kicked when I did not long on to that character for three months but hey, I can still say I was in a top 5 guild, even if I was only a level 30 something the last time I was on it.  Sounds funny doesn't it?

The thing is, the other realms all seemed better than mine yet I would not leave mine.  I wonder why that is and I think it is the people I do play with that keep me there.  One realm was pugging heroic DS, full clears, when on my server you could not even get a pug to down more than one boss most times.  One realm teamed up against someone that was trying to be a troll in trade and told him to take that crap to general, and the entirety of the trade people all pushed him out of trade.  I was surprised by that, a troll free trade chat?  What universe did I end up on.

So many servers so many different styles they seem to evolve into.  If you ever want to see what the world of warcraft is really like I suggest you make some alts on other servers and spend some real time there and see what they are like.  Do some of that time wasting, trust me, you will not regret it.  Perhaps if you are looking for something new you might even find it.  If nothing else, it is a nice way to waste some time and see how other people live, so to speak.

6) The Backup

I always raided on my hunter, not so much on alts.  While I had alts at max level for some time it was not until ICC came out that I ever raided on any of them.  Nope, not even in a throwback type raid had I ever stepped into a raid on my alts.  I kept them geared through dungeons and buying frost gear (I think that was what it was during ICC) but they were alts.  Something I did when there were no pugs going on, or to gather materials, or to have some fun with it.  My alts were not raiders, never had been, never were intended to be.

But with ICC came the emergence of raiding for all.  The golden age of warcraft if you will.  It opened the doors to everyone that was at least remotely competent and that meant it opened the doors for my alts to step into raiding for the first time ever.

My main was doing 10 and 25 but there were reputation runs all the time and people needed tanks and healers and damage dealers, just to fill the spots and I started to bring my alts in, one at a time, just to fill a role.  There was, in my experience playing, never this much pugging going on, ever. 

In time, they actually started to join in on full pugs that downed a few bosses.  Even before the buff started, it was a popular thing to see pugs for rep or kill runs going on 24/7 when you logged on.  Thanks to 10 and 25 being two different lockouts and trash being worth killing and even the worst of bad pugs being able to go 3 in, it made for a lot of community friendly playing.

I was raiding all the time, even if just trash clearing, I was learning to play my alt and was learning that I actually liked raiding with them.  I met new people that I still know now back then and it was great for my alts and for the community, and when we moved on from that phase the game has never been the same but that part is another story.

It was only a matter of time when the buff started to come and more guild were running multiple groups that I started to play my alts more often.  As it turns out, my priest was my first character to kill arthas, not my main, my hunter.  I tanked it on my bear, my warrior, and my paladin.  I DPSed on my hunter, mage and shaman, and of course, healed it on my priest.  No matter what, no matter when, there was always a run going and I always had an alt ready for it.  It was the greatest time ever to be playing wow.  You were never bored, if you liked raiding that is.

It was during this time that my alts changed.  They were no longer just profession people.  Just catch all characters.  Just something to be there and say I have a max level whatever.  They became raiding options.  From that point on I felt it was my responsibility to attempt to gear them up as best I could with the lesser alt time played.

Someone asked why I feel the need to gear up ASAP a few days ago, and this is the answer.  Because they are alts, I play less on them, almost not at all, but I liked the idea of having that many different choices ready to go on a moments notice.  So I want my alts to be raid ready even if I never use them, and as alts, I would like the gearing up to be fast.  I never mind spending time on my main, but the catch up mechanic for alts needs to be fast.

Those end days in wrath when ICC was all the rage and the community was growing and getting better and there were pugs all day every day were the golden days of warcraft, something we will never see again.  As while that might seem all peachy it did come with one major side effect for me and my alts.

That was the last time I actually played on my hunter as a main raider.  Since then, since the awakening of the alts, as I call it, I have mainly tanked T11, did tanking, healing and damage dealing in T12, healed and tanked a large portion of the time in T13 and have not had my main see the inside of T14 with my guild.  I only have one visit in a pug I did with him.

The awakening of the alts made my main, an afterthought, when it came to raiding. 

7) Achievements, Mounts and Pets oh My.

Even before the announcement that those things would be shared I had taken it upon myself to collect everything I could  from both sides of the fence.  More and more my alts were becoming extensions of my main. 

My night elf would not exactly be welcome to do the fishing and cooking dailies in the horde cities, I know, I tried, those mean quest givers would not even talk to me.  So my horde characters would need to do it and get the achievements for it.  Didn't matter to me that things like that were not shared, there was an achievement out there and I wanted it, even if my main did not have it.  There are a whole slew of achievements I will never be able to get, but something like those is in reach of a solo player and there is no excuse not to get them.

Same goes for mounts, the opposing faction mount vendors are not really the smartest people in the world.  They would try to kill me the second I get within range.  Not very good business.  The smart move would be to let me buy the mounts then kill me after you collected my gold.  But no one said that mount salesmen are smart.  Heck, if they were smart do you think they would be selling mounts and cleaning up after mount shit for a living?  Poor kodo salesman must have done something wrong in a previous life and this is his punishment.

All kidding aside however, when I was bored and doing the alt thing I would try and get stuff I did not have, even if it were not shared.  Sharing those things just made it 100 times better for me and people like me that have max level characters on both sides and were odd enough to want to collect all the achievements, mounts and pets that were one side only anyway.

With the sharing of such things my game play has actually expanded.  Just like I used my alts at one time to support my main through professions I could now do it in other ways.  Getting the big city brawler was easy when you have characters on both sides of the fence.  My alliance character did not need to go into a horde city and my horde character did not need to go into an alliance city.  How much easier does it get?

And then there are achievements.  Some are easier on certain types of characters.  So being 90 alone made it capable for me to get some things done that I was never able to do before, like shocking 10 and shocking 25.  Sadly, I have never been able to find a group without at least one stupid person that would cross things up.  Even when I would tell people, just stand there and do not move the entire fight, some how they still screwed it up.  I was glad doing it at 90 now solo.  No one to screw it up.  So 10 and 25 and the metas for them are finally done, two expansions later than they should have been.

But that is just a level thing, what about the class thing.  Some classes, just like some factions, it is easier to get certain things on.  Like winning PvP battlegrounds is easier on my healer than on my hunter.  On my hunter I will end up in a battleground with no healers and that means a loss 99% of the time when you do not have any healers unless the other side is made up of bots.  But on my healer that means that at least one of the characters there will be a healer, me.  So my win percentage is a great deal higher on my healer.

Thanks to things like that my hunter can now get achievements easier by letting my healer get them for him.  So my alts, who were originally made for the purpose of doing things for my main, but have morphed into something more, were now back to their original intention, to do things for my main.

I am glad to say I have gotten a fair deal of achievements since mists came out thanks to my alts.  I am also glad that being my alts achievements count on my main it does not feel as I left my main behind.  I don't know if anyone else was in my situation but it sucks when your alts are getting all the achievement you want on your main.  Not any more thanks to shared achievements.  Now my alts are getting them for my main instead of getting them in place of it.

8) Co-Main

With the shared achievements and such the idea of a main is becoming less and less singular.  Now it is a group effort.  No longer do I think of it as I got a raid achievement on my bear, I got it on my hunter too.  As long as I have a crew ready for everything I am ready to roll.  My hunter might not have a tanking spec but my bear can get him achievements, so it is almost as if my hunter does.  My hunter might not have a healing spec but my priest can get him achievements, so it is almost as if my hunter does.

Sure, some things, like that pesky reputation, I still need to grind on all my characters but not everything.  It is almost as if my bear and my priest could be considered co-mains in a sense.  All that is missing is complete connection, as in that reputation stuff.  Outside of that, they are all interchangeable now.

If I really wanted to I could go this whole expansion without playing my hunter and my hunter would still end up with all the achievements as if he had played every day of it.  Even my level 12 hunter on area 52 will get every single achievement that my other characters get despite the fact I have not played on him in over 2 years and only played on him for that one day when I first created him.  That little level 12 hunter that is unplayed is a co-main too.  They all are co-mains.

While characters on different server never really were created to support my main, as they couldn't help with professions, they can still do so through achievements now.  I could get on my max shaman on that server that pugs heroic content before any guild on my server has completed normals and get all the heroic achievements on my main that is on a server that has not even seen one heroic boss downed.  How is that for alts supporting my main, more than anyone could have ever imagined.

All my alts, even on different servers, in a sense are co-mains now thanks to things being shared. Is this good or bad?  Not really sure.  But one thing is for sure, what started in ICC where my alts basically replaced my main is now an after thought, it no longer matters.  They are now a part of my main.  My alts are no longer something that exists on its own as they are all an extension of my main now.

Is that to be the last evolution of the alt for me?  Can they even be called alts any more?

When someone asks me I tell them my hunter is my main but if you look at the numbers and compared what he does to what all my other characters do he seems like the alt.  An alt I spend a disproportional amount of time on.  But now that everyone is connected like that, I think the concept of main is something different.  It is now the character you spend the most time on, which would be my hunter. 

It no longer means who is your main raider or main PvPer.  It is the one you like being on the most, even if you don't do any end game with them.  My main has elevated to a higher level.  He is no longer middle management.  He is now the boss.  He sits behind that big oak desk and lets everyone else go out doing the work while he sips whiskey and they get the achievements for him and you know what?  I think I have really begun to like that he is still my main even if I do not get to play him in the content I want to, all thanks to the evolution of the game, which spurred on the evolution of my alts.

9) The Future

We all have alts for various reasons.  They have changed for me in what they mean as I am sure they have for others.  One only has to ask, what is the future of the alt.  Blizzard has made it clear this expansion is not alt friendly.  They want you to build up each character on its own and bring it through the raids to catch up.  This is the opposite of what we have been fed for two straight expansions, ones that wanted us to play alts and wanted us to catch up quickly on our alts. The old world was even redesigned to help people get their alts to max level faster so they can catch up but now all that means nothing with the work your way up with everyone design of an alt unfriendly expansion.

Then this time around they add the greatest thing ever for alts, a way for them to feel like co-mains but make it harder to keep them caught up with the minimal time you spend on them, or should spend on them.  What does the future bring for our alts?  Do they want us spending time on alts like the speed leveling and shared achievements mean or do they want us to dedicate ourselves to one character by slowing down the alt gearing process they just sped us through content to get to?  Only time will tell where the next step in alt evolution will lead.  It has been a fun trip so far.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Random Thoughts

- I should call this monday random rants.

- Not so much thoughts today, mostly complaints.

- But not only about game play.

- You have been warned.

- What do you play for?

- I play to play.

- When I log on I usually have an agenda, do this, that or the other.

- If I have nothing to do in game, I log out.

- Mists has made it damn hard to have nothing to do now.

- If you are like me and have an army of alts you want geared, there is no such thing as nothing to do.

- I often feel like I would need to quit my job to play at the level I want to.

- So right now on my alts, I can't play at the level I want to be able to play.

- This is making me dislike playing them, because I know I can be better but the game will not allow it unless I dedicate more time then I actually have to playing.

- As odd as it sounds, I think I would really like a few moments of having nothing to do right about now.

- Now for something slightly different.

- So when I log on to do my thing people whisper me.

- All fine with me, I am a raid leader, a liked person for some god unknown reason, a helper that is always willing to answer questions, and I assist other guilds with advice on their raiding.

- I almost log on expecting whispers.

- I answer them and move on but every so often you get people that just don't get it.

- I had to tell one of them off yesterday, albeit politely.

- I log on and they whisper hello, I whisper hello back.

- They say how are you, I say fine and you, they say dandy.

- That should be it right?

- Nope, the chick will not let up, for the next hour she sends message after message after message.

- Even comments that I am not responding and bitching about it.

- I was not responding at all, she was just talking to herself.

- She should know why, this is not her first time doing this.

- I finally said screw it and logged off.

- Did not want to be rude and say leave me the F alone.

- That evening I log back in.

- She whispers hello, I say hello.

- She whispers how are you, I say, the same I was 5 hours ago when you asked me.

- Why the hell do people feel the need to chat all the time?

- I log on to play a game, if I wanted to chat, I would pick up the phone, meet you at the bar, pop on vent.

- No matter who you are, if you want to chat with me, there is a way to do it.

- If you are a real friend, lets go out.

- If you are an online friend, lets talk on the phone.

- If you are a game friend, pop on vent.

- Stop whispering me while I am trying to play a game dammit.

- Many times over the last few years I have had to tell her off nicely.

- I am playing a game, I do not have time to stop and chat, if you have a question I will gladly answer it, but I do not come on to chit chat, if you want to talk about every day events, log on vent, I am not going to stop playing just to chit chat.

- I do not think I am being rude, but sooner or later I am going to have to start being rude, she doesn't get it.

- This has been going on for years.

- What do you think?

- Sorry to ramble and rant a bit there.

- Now back on to random topics, which that one does lead to another.

- Everyone plays for different things.

- I think people need to be more respectful of other peoples style of play.

- I do not PvP often, but I respect that people have fun that way.

- I do not press hard mode raiding, but I respect that some people have fun pressing content.

- Heck, I do not even care if I down normal content.

- As long as I have fun.

- Clearing LFR with zero wipes is NOT fun.

- But I can understand that some do find it fun even if why escapes me.

- Wiping 25 times before downing a boss in a real raid can be fun.

- But I know why many people do not like doing that, it takes a different style of player to enjoy it like I do.

- So for me it is not all about slaying internet dragons, it is about having fun doing it, win or lose.

- Some people like to chit chat instead of playing, as mentioned above, and I can respect that.

- But people need to realize that everyone is not them.

- If someone does not PvP, hard mode, chit chat, respect that and do not demand they do or try to force them into it.

- Everyone plays for their own reasons.

- For me, I play to play, to pass the time and have a little fun.

- I like to level, I like to build up things, characters, as best I can to their max potential solo wise, so if I need to do group content I can.

- The road to building up is sometimes more fun than the end game for me.

- I max out everything on all my characters.

- On many servers I have one of each profession.

- I just like having things complete, for lack of a better word.

- Yet I have only leveled archeology on one character, guess that says something about the profession.

- And we are talking a person that has first aid and fishing and cooking maxed on every max character.

- Because they need it to be complete.

- I just pretend that archeology doesn't even exist.

- Speaking of complete. I need to work on one of my pet projects soon, as my main server alliance and horde characters are getting close to where I want them to be.

- I started a server last expansion for hunters only.

- I want to have a crew of hunters, all professions between them.

- Just wish hunters had a healing or tanking spec.

- Would make max level play so much more enjoyable.

- Playing a damage dealer makes it the world of waitcraft.

- I love pet battles for those world or waitcraft moments.

- At least it gives me a brainless way to pass the time.

- I've said it before and I will say it again.

- If you actually want to play this game, you need to play a healer.

- Sad thing is, and I can't completely understand why, I hate healing this expansion.

- I used to love it.  I just can not get into it any more.

- I blame the stupid reputation things.

- My healers are healers, nothing more.

- I hate having to quest to open reputation to get some pieces with my valor.

- And next patch, I will not even have the upgrade vendor to upgrade the things I get in LFR and LFD as a way to spend some valor.

- So what should I use my valor on now?

- My desire to play healers has just decreased, because if I can not buy gear with the valor, why earn the valor.

- Enjoy your longer wait looking for groups for the LFR when you have fewer healers entering the mix.

- I just do not enjoy the gearing up process for my healers any more.

- I want to spec healer and stay healer all expansion.

- I want to be able to completely upgrade my gear, buy my patterns, do everything I would do on other characters, while in healer spec only.

- So that means, I can't play healers any longer unless I play them as damage dealers.

- Thank you, no.

- If I want to play a damage dealer I would log on to my hunter, my mage, my lock or my rogue, the classes that have no options.

- At least I can quest as a tank.

- I love questing as a tank.

- And active mitigation makes it so much better now.

- I think this expansion will differ from the last two, where I loved healing and did tanking just if it were needed.

- This expansion I am loving tanking, and do not want to heal at all, even if needed.

- Yes, my healers will be able to get into the new 480 LFR.

- Yes, I did it without grinding the reputations.

- No, I did not like it.

- No, it was not fun.

- As the saying goes, if you are not having fun, don't do it.

- So I guess I won't be healing all that much.

- I feel like I am playing wrong.

- I knew they could have geared faster, better, and more effectively.

- If only I did the quests.

- I dislike playing them because I knew they were not being played to the best of my ability thanks to the design of the game.

- I dislike playing them because now I needed to gear for two specs when only one mattered to me.

- I dislike playing them because I just do not like the feel of healing this expansion.

- I dislike playing them because of the people in the LFR that think it is my job to heal them through stupid.

- I just wish I could enjoy playing my healers again.

- I used to like being a healer.

- But I am not having fun healing, so I am finding other things to do.

- Now when I log in on one I have that feeling like, screw it, I'll just log off and read a book.

- There is a reason there is a shortage of healers and my reason is one of them.

- I am sure there are some that feel just like I do.

- And there are many that find healing too complicated now.

- And just like at the beginning of last expansion, there are many that hate the gearing up process when they feel like they can't heal anything those first days.

- And the hate it even more because they now need to grind reputations, unless it is their main and they raid, there is no way around that if you want to be at your best.

- And there are some that just got fed up with the player base that wants to stand in the fire and then blame the healer that did not heal them.

- I usually just say, I let people in fire burn.  If you want to burning to stop, get out of the fire and I will patch you up afterwards.

- Most people just quit healing after getting abused.

- Blizzard, if you want more healers, make some changes to it.

- I'll have some suggestions for that later in a nice long ranting post, thank you very much.

- I think I would really like a little time to do nothing.

- How different is that?

- In cataclysm we were begging for something to do, now they gave us something to do, and it is too much.

- The designers need to learn a little about moderation.

- It is like the nerf to cloth at the beginning of the expansion.

- My first character, I was maxed first aid before I was 86, and just leveling that character I had enough to make over 800 bolts, not cloth, bolts, when I sent all the cloth to my tailor.

- Do you think they over did the drops?  I do.

- Second 90, all the way to 90, around 20 cloth dropped.

- Third 90, all the way to 90, around 30 cloth dropped.

- Do you think they over nerfed it?  I do.

- How about trying to keep things in the middle somewhere?

- Mining was the same thing.

- On my miners I would do my farm dailies and end up with 8 or so stack of ore, not even going out of my way, just stopping for what was in my path of the quests.

- They changed it, and not one ore on three miners the next day.

- So I flew around and it took me 38 minutes to get 1 stack of ore.

- I think they over did it just a little bit.

- In both cases I agree it needed a nerf 100%.

- In both cases they screwed up the nerf 100%.

- Balance.

- Listen to the freaking pandas.  Balance.

- You would think a game this big and this old would have at least figured out drop rates and resource spawning by now.

- You would think wrong apparently, as they haven't.

- I've started getting into my monk and the DPS spec.

- Perhaps because it is such an easy rotation and when looking it up online even at 90 it stays easy.

- I like the idea of fewer buttons, I need a break from 101 buttons, or what feels like it.

- But I hate melee, so will I still like it once I hit 90?

- Questing and raiding are two different things.

- I do not mind questing as melee but raiding as melee needs a special type of person that does not get distracted by all that noise and flashing light and that person is just not me.

- And if I hate having 101 buttons why does it seem like the only things I like playing this expansion, hunters and tanks, all have 101 buttons.

- If I hate them why do I gravitate to them?

- I hate all the buttons but seem to only like the classes that have them?

- Yeah, I am losing my mind.

- If I went to see a psychologist in game as my character it would probably end up being a gnome.

- Named Squigmund Fried.

- And he would try to blow me up.

- Guess my characters are on their own.

- Have a great day.

Friday, January 25, 2013

PvEers: Blizzard Wants You to PvP

Somehow I missed this whole PvP conspiracy in 5.1 and 5.0.  Even looking back it is hard to say it existed, even if you could make an argument that it did.  What am I babbling about?  It is easier to gear up for PvE by doing PvP than it is to gear up doing PvE, or at least it will be in 5.2.

Lets start at the get go and the evidence that we all have taken advantage of but thought nothing about which proves that it is easier to start the gearing process through PvP.

The crafted 450 gear.  It is dirt cheap to make and it is leaps and bounds better than the 429 and 437 quest items you might be sporting when you hit level 90.  The 450 crafted gear, based on its dirt cheap cost, is roughly the PvP equivalent of the PvEers quest gear.  The only difference is, for a few gold you can gear up 450 in every single armor slot through crafted PvP gear but even if you quest to the absolute last quest you will only get three 450 PvE pieces.

Remember, PvP and PvE gear of the same item level have the same stat allotment now, so the answer to the question of those that do not know is this.  No, 450 PvP gear is not worse than 450 PvE gear, they are the exact same, the only difference is PvP gear comes with bonus PvP stats on it for free, with no consideration of item level allotment.

Lets look at part two of the initial gearing up process.  Justice and honor gear.  Justice and honor are the same thing for their respective parts.  Justice is for low level starter gear in PvE and honor is for low level starter gear in PvP.  When the expansion came out, justice purchased 450 gear, honor purchased 463 gear.  So you could get better gear for PvE through PvP when you started.  This was noticed and adjusted, the 450 justice gear was upgraded to 458 while the PvP gear was lowered to that level to put it in line with each other.

There were two problems however that still existed that were completely ignored by blizzard.  One, you still needed reputation to buy the justice gear.  Two, there were only a few pieces available for justice but you could buy an entire gear set with honor.  So if you PvPed you could have all 458 gear but if you PvEed you could only get a few 458 pieces if you had the appropriate reputation.  Since then I believe the reputation for justice gear has been removed, but the fact still remains you can get more 458 pieces though PvP than you can through PvE only measures.

So those first baby steps into the game when you first reach 90 are easier if you embrace PvP, even if it is only with the concept of buying PvP 450 craftable gear.

The reason most of us, myself included, didn't notice that it was so much easier to gear through PvP was because it was subtle at the start of the expansion and as soon as we moved along some it was completely forgotten about.  As soon as the PvEers started dungeons, that 458 gear meant nothing, and we all started the second we hit 90 so it is quickly forgotten about, we got our 463s and never looked back.

That starting point, while minimally better through the PvP gear seems to have set the tone for the expansion. That tone is that PvP gear could, and most likely will, be used as the catch up gear of choice for the smart PvEer as the expansion goes on if something does not change.

Still as 5.2 comes out, unless something changes on the PTR, that 450 crafted PvP gear still will be the best option to get a super cheap start on your journey to gear up for PvE.  It will allow you to perform so much better than just quest gear will and anyone that cares even a tiny bit about how they do will take advantage of the PvP gear, something that there is no PvE equivalent of.

With the coming release of 5.2 when looking at how things currently are it becomes more apparent that PvP will be the way for a new comer to gear up.  5.0 Valor gear will be cheaper, but will still be locked behind a wall that people will feel could be insurmountable in the gearing up process because they are new to 90 and already so far behind.  That reputation will look like a huge cockblock and even more so when it seems like it is all grinding reputation to buy you subpar gear compared to the current level of gear in 5.2.  The 5.1 valor gear will be behind the same wall, a reputation one, as will 5.2 valor gear and that will be behind a raid reputation to boot.

So they will hit 90 and see that they need to run dungeons until their eyes bleed and hope to get lucky with drops until they are almost in all 463s and can start the LFRs to once again hope and pray they get drops to move up the LFR ladder.  They will slowly build up valor and have absolutely nothing to spend it on because all the gear it could buy is locked behind reputations and there is no upgrade NPC any longer making the valor they earn effectively useless.

Or... they can do as blizzard wants and start PvPing for their PvE gear.

In one nice long PvP weekend and you can gear yourself up in all 476 items come 5.2.  Unlike running dungeons where it is hope and pray that things drop, you will earn honor and buy the pieces you want, all the pieces you want, as you want them.  No luck involved, grind and earn, a beautiful way for gear progression if you ask me.

Lets just look at the gearing up process come 5.2 for the PvEer through PvE and PvP.

1) Hit 90 and hope you have a 435 item level for heroics.
2) Buy a few 450 PvP pieces to get there if you are not. (yes, even in the pure PvE only way you still need PvP items)
3) Run heroics and...
a) Hope to get the dungeon you want, as you can only directly queue once a day.
b) Hope the item you want drops.
c) Hope you win the item you want that drops.
4) Rinse and repeat as needed, for hours or even days on end while working to get to a 460 item level to start the first set of LFRs.
5) Continue to run heroics for missing pieces and the LFRs and...
a) Hope you get lucky with the system giving you something.
b) Hope you get lucky with the coins, if you even have them, when the system does not give you something.
6) Rinse and repeat as needed, for hours, or even weeks as you can only run those LFRs once a week, while working to get to a 470 item level to do the next three LFRs.
7) Continue to run heroics and the 460 LFRs for missing pieces and the 470 LFRs and...
a) Hope you get lucky with the system giving you something.
b) Hope you get lucky with the coins, if you even have them, when the system does not give you something.
8) Try to earn some gold to buy some crafted pieces or BoEs of a higher item level so you can make it to 480 and the new LFRs.
9) Look back, now possibly many weeks later, and finally get to 480 item level to catch up with the current content at its lowest level, the LFR.
10) Look at all that wasted valor that you can spend on nothing unless you were grinding some reputations while doing all this as well.

Note:  Remember that you only get loot if you win, which means you could run into wipe fests that leave you frustrated and with nothing to show for it.

1) Pound battlegounds for honor and buy 476 gear with it and be ready for the original 5 LFRs instantly without ever needing to worry about the luck of drops.
2) Buy some conquest gear, you earned while grinding your honor and some craftables or BoEs and reach that 480 item level ready to roll with the current PvE content at its lowest level, the LFR.

Note: Unlike PvE where a crap group means you get nothing, at least you will still get honor even if you lose in PvP so even a horrible effort still helps gear you up, even if a little slower.

Now lets say you are new to 90 once 5.2 hits, which sounds nicer?  Gearing up at will through running battlegrounds where you get honor win or lose or praying the loot god loves you and gearing up through heroics, many of them, where you get nothing when you get a bad group?

Bottom line is that blizzard wants people to PvP and they are doing it in a very subtle way, leaving up to us, the players, to notice that gearing up alts, or for new players, for PvE just became about PvPing and is no longer about PvEing.

Sure, you have the choice of still grinding reputations, and they do go by a lot faster now for people with alts and everyone should be at least honored with the klaxxi when they hit 90 if they enter the dread wastes as soon as they hit 89, even a first time player, so there will be at least one valor item they can buy without working on reputation really.

But unless you work reputations, you will have nothing to spend valor on, so earning it becomes useless, a waste, unless you convert it to conquest and buy some conquest gear with it, which will help you catch up in PvE.  Amazing how the only quick way to catch up in PvE now is to work reputations or PvP and the PvP option is better.  You can only get so much reputation in one day but you can grind from that first ding of 90 to full 476 gear in one day with PvP if you so wish.

So everyone out there that wants to gear up alts but does not want to do the reputation grind, dust off those old PvP skills, because the only easy way to gear up for PvE is through PvP.

I wonder how all these PvPers feel about the fact that PvEers will be PvPing just for the gear to get into PvE content.  Will they look at it as free honor, or ruining their experience because blizzard is funneling all these unskilled, unmotivated, and uninterested people into PvP, into their world?

I know that come 5.2 I plan on gearing up all my alts I have not played with much yet, or have not hit 90 with yet, through PvP.  Maybe I'll get lucky, one day running PvP to get my item level over 470, run the 5 older LFRs and hopefully get lucky, and then get into the new 480 item level LFR with a price of some crafted gear or some lucky drops and then be all caught up.

All caught up in one weekend, all thanks to PvP.  There is no way you can do that with PvE.  Yes, no doubt in my mind, blizzard wants you PvPing and they did an excellent job hiding that fact by locking out gear from new players that do not want to grind reputation.  It was a subtle way to push them into PvP if they wanted their gear faster.  Nice move blizzard, nice move.

Even if you did grind reputation, it still comes down to this, all 476 gear in one day through PvP or one 489/496 piece every two weeks grinding valor and reputation.  It could help to boost item level even if you only get one piece every two weeks and the smart player will at least try to add that to the mix, but it is a boost to get to the new content, nothing more.  PvP to gear up for PvE is just a better option.  Hands down.  The gear might be lesser item level wise, but it catches you up a lot quicker.

Shouldn't you need to PvE to get the best catch up gear for PvE quickly?  Nope, you should PvP.  Blizzard said so.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

WTB: Better Pellets

This article continues on what I wrote yesterday, so feel free to read that post first if you get lost with my babbling.

We all play the rat in the game pressing the button and picking up our reward.  Yesterday I mentioned how the daily quests tend to let us down in the reward for our effort department once you have done enough of them.  Once you are exalted, once you have enough lesser tokens to cover the next 24 weeks even if you did not do any dailies at all in that time, once you are valor capped, the dailies just do not seem worth doing.

The question is, what would satisfy our inner rat once we no longer need the pellet the quests offer.  What could they give us that would make us keep clicking on that button know as the daily?

If dailies offered more valor once we were exalted it would be worth it more in my opinion.  If it could let me cap faster I would be a happy camper and it would allow me to work on alts more. But then we move into another problem.  If I have clicked that button so often that I no longer need the pellets on my main I feel it is redundant to do it on my alts.

This is why they added the reputation boost, to make it easier on alts but personally that is not enough for me.  Once I did it on one character I got my fix, I no longer want to press that button any longer.  Been there, done that.  It almost feels like a penalty for my alts for being alts that I have to do this all over again, even if only half as long thanks to the reputation gain boost.

So we combine the two, to make pressing that button more attractive.  More valor once one character is exalted for all characters on that account.  Also, once one character is exalted it opens the faction store to all characters, which removes the need for grinding reputation. 

So your alts would now get more valor, and have a place to spend it without the need to worry about doing the reputation grind again, and that would make doing the quests on your alts a lot more enjoyable.  It now moves from the "you have to do it" category to the "you want to do it" category.  Do not discount that difference between the two when it comes to pressing the button for your pellet, you will always press the button you want to press a lot quicker than you would the one you feel like you have to press.

By making you want to press the button it keeps you pressing it longer.  Isn't that the whole idea blizzard was aiming for?  To keep us busy and make us have a lot of buttons to press.

But we would still run into the problem with valor capping removing the desire to do the dailies.  That too can be fixed.  If we doubled the valor once we reach exalted on one character that means all dailies offer 10 valor instead.  15 for alts thanks to the buff.  That will make capping a little easier for sure but what about making you still want to do something after you cap.  How do you manage that?

With justice points and creating something justice can buy.  At the moment justice can buy nothing of use for most players.  Add things justice can buy, even if only crafting materials, just like they had in cataclysm, and give another boost to collecting justice.  Make those dailies double up again on justice if capped on valor.  So 20 justice for each daily, 30 on alts, if capped on valor on that character.  Interestingly enough, the desire to do quests increases.

Same goes for dungeons, scenarios and raids.  When capped, give double justice.

But let me step back for a second and touch on those dungeons and raids and scenarios.

Right now the pellet we get for pressing that join queue for any of them is just not worth it.  80 valor for the first dungeon and 40 for each additional?  Not even close to worth it.  Even more so if you do not need anything from them.  When you need gear from the dungeons 80 is more than fair, it is great even, because you would be doing them anyway for gear.  Once that component of the button pressing is removed it effectively reduces the value of the pellet we receive.  So use that gear check function to check gear.  If you are over a 463 item level and queue for a dungeon it is 160 the first and 80 each additional.  That would make up for not having anything else to get in there.

As someone replied to the last one, the reward for the LFR is no longer worth it either.  So I think the same should be adopted there.  Once you exceed the item level of the raid, 476 and 483 respectively, you get double valor.  Increase the value of the pellet. 

As he mentioned, even if he does need something from there, it just does not feel worth it any more.  Running something 15 or so times and not seeing the item drop even when you use a coin every single time is the biggest let down in the game.  It comes back to the only reward you are getting is that pellet of minimal valor and the disappointment of once again not getting the single thing you do actually need.

Getting double valor is no real bonus, but at least it gives the illusion that it is.  Getting quadruple justice when capped on valor and giving us things to buy with it might not be a great bonus, but it gives us the illusion of one.  To keep us happily pressing that button it is important to make us feel like the reward we get for pressing that button is worth it.

For me at the moment I do not believe the reward for doing dailies is worth doing them.  I do not believe the reward for scenarios, which give less then dungeons but take longer, is worth it.  I do not believe the reward for dungeons is worth it.  And I do not believe the reward for raids is worth it.

My solution is not a good one really.  It is patch work.  Might solve the issue for some people for a limited time.  It will not give a good reason for people to keep pressing those buttons for very long at all.  That does not change the fact that the rewards that are offered just do not seem to be worth the effort and most definitely not after the first character has done them and that is why this expansion has already received the label as the most alt unfriendly expansion yet.  While I do think this is my favorite expansion so far, I do agree with the assessment.  From a multiple character standpoint, this expansion sucks, it is not alt friendly.  For the person that only has one character, or really only cares about gearing up one character, this expansion rocks.

The reason for that feeling from most people is that they do not feel the reward is worth pressing the button a second time on an alt.  What do you think would be ample reward for things that would keep people pressing the button?  More importantly, how would you make it more attractive to press those buttons over and over again even when you need nothing from them, or on alts?  As it is, the rewards for playing just do not seem worth it and absolutely not on alts.

WTB: Better pellets.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Daily Quests: The Broken Skinner Box

Video games like warcraft live off of people that feel they need to do things to progress, or keep up, and giving them something they feel they need to do helps them craft a pattern of behavior in their players.  Your will is not your own, they attempt to condition you to do repetitive tasks by offering you rewards.  Enter the skinner box, the basic building block of any successful MMO game, or any game that wants to get you addicted and keep you playing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term skinner box I will give you a basic breakdown of what it is.

B. F. Skinner was a behaviorist who believed that all behavior was a result of conditioning.  So much so that he could even mold or create a predetermined behavior through an effort and reward system.  His first major experiment in the area was named the skinner box for obvious reasons.

He created a box where he would place an animal and it would be rewarded for actions with food.  While many might see this as the animal was just noticing what gave him food and doing it when he wanted food, Skinner took it further with later studies to prove that things could be taught and behavior predicted through the use of his skinner box.  It was not just the animal pressing it for food, it was the animal being conditioned to do what he wanted it to do for food.  Link for more info.

So what does this have to do with video games you might ask?  Everything.

We are given tasks and rewards and made to repeat them over and over if we want to receive our reward.  Warcraft, and all games like it, are one giant skinner box and we are all just rats pressing the button so we can get our food.  The most amazing fact is that even if we know this we still enjoy playing it.  Until we feel as if the box is not giving us our rewards that is.

This is where daily quests are a broken skinner box.  When you first start them with that first character you don't complain because you are getting ample reward for pressing the button.  You are getting some gold, some reputation, some valor and a couple of lesser charms.  When you continue to do them over a long time is when the box starts to fall apart. 

Once you have exalted reputation you are no longer getting reputation, a reward for pressing the button has been removed.  When you are capped on valor you are no longer getting valor, another reward for pressing the button has been removed.  When you are done with exalted on all the factions you will have enough lesser tokens to last you quite a while as well, so there is another reward for pressing the button that just does not seem as rewarding any longer.  Now the gold, which was always just a bonus reward, is now the top reason to do them as the other rewards were all removed or lessened.  Lets face it, if time invested to reward is a consideration, and it is, gold is better earned elsewhere.  This is where the skinner box design is broken.  We kept pressing the button but were not getting our rewards any more.

When people where capped on reputation and getting valor in many other places making it less required to do dailies each day the daily quest skinner box broke.  When we were doing it on our second and third characters it also had the added result of "we already pressed this button, just give us our reward" making it less desirable to do it again for most.  As if in the back of their minds, subconsciously, the players already knew, why should I keep pressing this button, you are only going to take away my reward for doing it like you did last time.  B. F. Skinner could have predicted that would happen.  You can not just take away the reward and expect the button will keep being pressed by the subject, which in this case is us, the playerl.

B. F. Skinner was right.  You can develop a pattern of behavior based on offering rewards for completing simple tasks.  It is why we did the dailies and in the same it is also the reason we revolted against the dailies once we stopped getting our rewards from doing it.  It was not so much that people get tired of doing dailies as it was they got tired of doing dailies they did not feel as if they were getting rightfully rewarded for doing as we were conditioned to expect.

This concept was not lost in Skinner either.  In other tests he noticed that if the reward was not ample the subject would begin to look for something else to get a better reward.  If the reward was removed, the subject would find another way to get the reward.  As shown in the example with the pigeon in the link I posted above where he managed to get it to turn its head in a complete circle to get the reward once it no longer got the reward for turning it only to the left.

Humans, just like rats and pigeons, can fall victim to the treadmill of the skinner box just the same and games count on that.  If they can keep that reward for effort coming we will keep playing it to get our reward just like the animal will keep pressing the button to get its food.

When the reward is no longer there you will look for something else to do that gives you a suitable reward. 

The problem with the daily quest skinner box is not that it is a skinner box, that is what makes it work, the problem with the daily quest skinner box is that it loses its appeal, its reward, once you are capped out in reputation and getting valor in many other ways.  It starts to feel as if it is not giving us our food any more and we have been conditioned by the skinner box that we should get a reward from it.  Without reputation and valor or even charms being needed from it, we are not getting our reward.

Many people may not realize it but the entire design of a video game of this style is a skinner box from the get go. Do something, get a reward.  Over and over from the moment we start to play.  The only time people complain is when they do not feel as if they are getting ample reward for pressing the button.  This is exactly why the dailies are a broken skinner box.

The daily quests and their decreased rewards over time have broken the skinner box design.  Skinner box rewards are supposed to get better or at least stay the same.  That is what makes them work.  Do this and get that.  It trains you that is how it works.  The daily quests have broken the skinner box by not having enough of a reward once you have done it long enough.

Perhaps if blizzard had designed something that made them more rewarding to keep doing later when reputation was no longer needed, or more rewarding to do on alts so it would not have felt like doing the same thing all over for the same reward that you knew would be useless like it was on your main after a few weeks, then the daily design would have not been the victim of all the rage of the community over them. 

The daily quest design was a broken skinner box because the reward just wasn't worth pressing the button for after a while.  In the end, we were conditioned, by blizzard, that doing the dailies had great rewards, outstanding even, and once that was gone, the community revolted.  Because blizzard conditioned us to do just that with their daily design.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lesser Players Have More Fun

Lesser players have more fun playing the game, at least that is how I see it.  I could be wrong of course but from the appearance of it they sure seem to enjoy their time playing more than I do.  There is never any stress on someone that just doesn't care or just isn't that good, as long as they can embrace the fact they are a lesser player skill wise.

I am jealous of those types of players.  When a fight is over when raiding, even if we down the boss, no matter what role I play I usually think what I could have done better.  I did 120K DPS but if I had not messed up my timing a few times I could have pulled 130K.  There were a lot of people that got really low on life a few times, if I used my healing cooldowns better they might not have been in danger so often.  I took a few big hits I could have avoided because I was not watching my timers and did not have an appropriate cooldown ready making my healers life harder when tanking.

Yes, I enjoy the fact we downed a boss but I also am always looking at what I could have done better whereas the lesser player will just revel in the excitement that they downed the boss and not give a crap if they did not do as well as they could have.

Ghostcrawler said last expansion that less than 50% of subscribers have a max level character.  I find this hard to believe only because for me that would mean I am not getting the most out of the game.  Isn't the idea to get to the end, even if you never raid or do anything end game.  Isn't the whole concept of any game to max out your character?  I don't think I could fully enjoy my game play knowing that I could not even do the single easiest thing to do in game, get to max level.  But those 50%, more than 5M subscribers, are probably having fun doing what they are doing because they just don't care.

There is something to be said about those people that have the attitude that they just do not care.  They can enjoy any part of the game to a much greater extent than I do because they just do not care.  Caring brings stress and while you can still enjoy the game no matter what, that stress reduces it some, that stress is something the lesser players never need to worry about.

Someone said to me about a year ago, "I bet he is having a lot more fun than you are because he is just having fun and you are trying to get better all the time and not taking any time to just have fun".

Is that really true?  I do have fun, if I were not having fun I would have quit a long time ago.  Like during the Zuls when I almost quit, it was because I was no longer having fun that pushed me to the edge.  I have fun or I would not be here.

I just have my fun a different way.  My fun is in doing the best I can do at whatever role I choose to play.  That is my fun.  Seeing the progress as I get better and finally seeing the results when I reach that 80% potential threshold I aim for as the minimum. Then I try to inch that up more and more to continue my growth as a player.  I will never be a 95%er, but I can surely be an 80%er on anything if I try hard enough and put my mind to it.

And then it occurred to me, that is where the difference is.  While we both have fun I am working, trying to get better, practicing my skills, etc.  The lesser players just play.  That is how.  How they do does not matter.  Getting better does not matter.  Reaching their potential does not matter.  All that matters is playing and having fun.  So they have fun 100% of the time whereas I only have fun after I have spent my time practicing, reading, and running stuff trying to get better all in my effort to have fun seeing the results at the end.

So while we both have fun with the game, I am working to see the result and then consider it fun seeing the result.  They just take it as it comes and have fun from the get go.

Lesser player have more fun, because they do not care how they do.  I must admit, I am a slight bit jealous of people that can play and just do not care.  I don't think I could ever do anything in my life half-assed like that.

Remember, the next time you are playing and wipe or lose in PvP and think to yourself that if only you had done "this" maybe you could have won that fight there is a lesser player out there having more fun at that moment because he does not care that he did not do "this", he was just having fun playing.