Thursday, February 28, 2013

They're All Gone

With this tier of raiding coming to a close I've come to the realization that the people from my original raid team, the first one I connected with, the first one I was a regular with, are all gone.  It happens to us all in the game if we play long enough.  Even if it is a video game it is a team sport of sorts and you remember your first regular team.

It is like a snapshot of the mind and I can see it as clear as day.  Us, as a group, smiling and standing there together victorious over some big baddie we worked so hard to defeat. The team picture of me with my first regular raid team.  I might have raided some before them and lots after them, but that team picture remains clear in my mind.  The first team I fit in with.  The first team I raided with on a regular basis.

And now here we are in the first raid tier without even one of them as a part timer joining me at any given point.  It is really rare for anyone to stay with the original people they raided with as long as I have but it is not hard to understand how that happened.  When I moved, most of them moved with me, and when wrath was coming to a close we all found ourselves back in the same place together again to rekindle what we had earlier.

So even if there had been changes over the years in peoples ability to play time wise or skill wise or even class wise as some changed the class they wished to play and there were times we changed guilds or were even in different guilds that first real team I was in stayed friends and stayed together, even when apart.

With T14 coming to an end I face the realization that not once this entire expansion have I raided with any of those other 9 people.  Even at that I think that only three of those original 9 even have a 90 now and only one of those original 9 would even consider being a back up if we needed them and even he has been away for an extended period due to real life issues.

We lost them all during cataclysm at some point.  Perhaps that is one of the reason I think cataclysm is the worst expansion ever, because it destroyed what I had.  They were basically a group of mostly vanilla players, some even beta version vanilla players and they all disappeared at some point last expansion.  We lost some to rift, a couple to starcraft and a few to just getting busy and not being able to play for real life reasons or really disliking the turn the game had taken.  Whatever their reasons might be, they're all gone now.

So this week in what will probably be the last raid week of this raid tier I stood there in a room in game with 9 other people whom I have become close with and have raided with for a while now and somehow I felt alone. 

Knowing this cycle has come to an end and never once being able to raid with any of the people I started raiding with left me feel as if something was missing.  They were the ones who took me in when I knew nothing and they were all veterans.  The ones that taught me just the same way I teach people now.  The first friends I made in game were all gone and even surrounded by new friends I had made it just felt as if something was missing, as if I lost something, as if I were alone.

It is the end of the age of innocence for me.  The last mentor, so to speak, was gone.  Not once did I have them to to fall back on.  It was all on me this time.  I was the old timer.  Even if there are some people in my current raid team that are vanilla players and have played longer then I, they are new to this crew, my crew.  I am now the elder.  I am now what those 9 people were once to me.

It is human nature to look back and remember first times for everything in life.  You will fondly remember those things and it is the reason most people like to see things with rose tinted glasses as the expression goes.  This isn't a case of that however, at least I do not think it is. 

I am not thinking about how how much better it was, or even saying it was, I am just thinking about how that was the time I first fell in love with the game and realizing that while the game has changed immensely over the past years so have I and the people I play with.  Not a case of better back then, just a case of me being a different person then and knowing that I will never be that person again.  You can't have another first time, there is no such thing as falling in love again even if generations of poets and romantics will argue otherwise.

A day comes in all our gaming lives where we feel as if a torch has been passed and even if I have been a raid leader for around about 3 years now I was still always "the new guy" and suddenly, just like that, a raid tier finishes and those people that made me the new guy are gone and I am now "the old timer".   Yeah, just like that, just that simple.

They might all be gone, the ones I started with and the ones that taught me how to be the player I am today, but they will always be there as a part of me.  Maybe the day will come when they come back, this is warcraft after all, no one ever leaves, they just take breaks.  The time might come when they come back and they will be welcomed as if they never left because it is about the friendships that we made, not about raiding or progression or anything like that, that is just what brought us together.  Our friendship were forge because of what they were, not what we did.

I've been part of many guilds in my time, even a few on the server I am talking about, but none ever felt like family except this one.  I've been a part of guilds that were designed around trying to be close knit and ones that were just leveling factories.  I've been in guilds with better progression and worse.  I've been in horde side and alliance side.  But this one, this is the one I fit with.  Not sure why or how, it just fit, and that is an exceptional thing to be able to say because not many ever really find a place like that.  Somewhere along the line, no matter what ever happened and when I decide to move on myself, I will always remember that first team I connected with because when it all comes to an end, in a game like this, it is the connections you make that you will remember for ever, even if they're all gone now.

I can almost picture my character going home after raiding last night knowing it would be the last time against these particular bosses knowing that soon he will be moving along to a new set of challenges and thinking about his past companions.  Sitting down at his desk and pouring a glass of the finest dwarven whiskey he could get his hands on and putting his feet up on his desk while looking at the group photo taken when he first met these wonderful wonderful people and raising the glass to them to make a toast.

To absent friends.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Missing Pieces

One of the issues you deal with normally as a casual raider and casual raid leader are missing pieces.  Whether it be a tank or healer not showing or a few solid DPS not being around allowing you to push further but you always find a way to make it work even if that sometimes means strange tactics.

The missing pieces I am thinking about right now are not based on the fact that I can not find a damage dealer that can deal damage at an acceptable rate.  It is not about being in the rare situation where we actually have enough healers and tanks to go around.  It is about the classes I see absent and have not seen for a long long time.

The last time we had a regular druid healer was back in ICC.  We had recruited two during cataclysm and there were fairly decent but nothing to write home about.  More than ample to do the content we were doing however, all normals and a few heroics here and there.  However both of them had delusions of grandeur and thought they were god gift to the world and that never flies well with me so they were both politely shown the door when I would not allow them to join the main group and kept them in group two.  They left on their own.  But that is it. 

I have not seen any other druid healers since ICC.  The one we had back then was amazing and was easily the best druid healer I had ever seen, perhaps that has clouded my view and it is why I can not find a druid healer as I am always holding them up to unrealistic expectations of being as good as she was.  Either way, they have not even joined the guild and if they do not join I can not compare, so no healing druid for me for a long long time.

The last time we had a retribution paladin in our regular rotation of players was during T11 and he was really a tank that was just willing to play ret as we did not always have a tank slot open.  So he did it often and he did it decently.  If I were to go back and think about it, we have never had a main spec retribution paladin ever.  Not once.  We have had 4 over the recent years and all 4 were tanks doing it just to get into the raid and the last regular one playing ret every week in and out was back 3 (soon to be 4) raid tiers ago.

Speaking of paladins, the last time I saw a regular holy paladin was in firelands.  We have a guild healer that had a paladin alt that played it some in DS for our third team but that was not a regular holy paladin so I do not count it.  The oddest part is that a holy paladin is the only thing we have been asking for in our guild recruitment macros since then.  Since T12, with T15 coming out soon, we have been posting guild recruitment asking specifically for a holy paladin and have not had one bite at all. 

Even when we were as high as the number three guild on the server and are usually a top 20 guild at the very least and top 10 for the last year at least, and we can still not get one holy paladin to bite.  We have not even had one join that was not a holy paladin but willing to give it a shot and learn, which I would be more than open to.  Now with the LFR I would go with them and teach them through that while they got better.  I would spend time with them and help them get better but that is not even an option.  Since T12 and repeatedly asking for a holy paladin we have not had one person join the guild that was one or wanted to attempt to be one.  Are there any holy paladins out there?

Those might all seem weird depending on your team make up but the position of rogue being absent should not be.  It is the least played class in a game in PvE for a reason.   Most people do not like playing them.  The last time we had a regular rogue was at the start of DS and he left shortly after because he was upset we were letting all rogues come in and pick pocket.  Guess he thought he was special and should be the only rogue in the guild to do it.  Either way, when he left, so did the only main rogue I had seen in years. 

We ended up having an alt, a rarely played one at that, get the legendary daggers so we could get the guild achievement for it.  The one difference here is that I have not actively sought a rogue.  If one with good skill and attitude came along I would be more than happy to raid with them but I have not ever, nor will I ever, actively seek a rogue for even a third raid team.  We have enough players with rogue alts if we ever needed one for some reason and they really do not bring anything to the team that other classes can't bring along better.  No offense rogue players, just as a raid leader I would rather anything else in that raid slot unless the rogue was really that amazing.

This expansion is the expansion of the warlock, which makes a great deal of sense being the next expansion is based on Gul'Dan and this is leading into that.  Warlocks are also number one on the DPS charts.  So why have I not been able to find any locks anywhere?  The last time we had a lock as part of our team was for a brief while mid T12.  It was a long term guild mate that had left shortly after the start of T11 and had just come back and then disappeared after a few weeks of being back and we have not seen him since.  With locks on top of the charts we have obviously been looking for one since the expansion started but have yet to find one. 

We had one non raiding lock that wanted to step up and when doing a looking for raid with him and seeing what he could do and having him argue with me that locks need spirit my quest to try and train him ended as quick as it started.  I am always willing to help someone that is willing to help themselves.  If you are going to tell me I am wrong and that locks do need spirit back it up.  I can be wrong, it has happened many times, but because, I said so, is not going to change my mind.  And even if I am wrong.  I am the raid leader and if I say I do not want you to have any gear with spirit on it, change your gear or raid somewhere else.  He went somewhere else after he decided to make some really rude religious based insults in guild chat and I gave him a swift kick in the ass.  But that lock seems to be the only type of lock out there.  The ones I see, few and far between, are all the jerk type that guy was.

We did have one trial lock that was amazing, but he wanted more progression and we did not push heroics, so he left.  But I think that lock is the only good one on the entire server, at least until my old guild mate comes back.  When he joined us during his comeback in T12 with only some T11 gear and cata heroics gear he was doing 19K, so he rocked and knew how to play the class.  Maybe I should send him a scroll of resurrection.  I would love to see what he could do with his skill now that locks are at the top of the food chain.

And to fill out the last spot in my missing pieces is what most people will probably find the most perplexing.  We have not ever, in the history of our guild, had a main blood DK.  We have had 5 alt blood DKs and a couple DPS DKs tank as an offspec because I asked them too but we have never had a main spec blood DK ever even if we have been looking for one since their inception.

We have had a series of prot paladins coming and going, more than I even care to think about.  I can't even begin to hazard a guess at the number or raids that had two prot paladins tanking.  We have had some excellent warriors in our time including what I still consider to be the best tank I have ever had the privilege to play with because he did things that I did not even think could be done in game.  The most amazing warrior tank for sure.  We have had a few bears come to spend some time but none ever stayed long.  They might have been main spec bears but they were not consistent players.  I over look their absence because we have had a few and because I also play one so it doesn't feel as if we are missing one.  But a DK tank, none.

How is it possible that the most popular spec of the most popular class in the most constantly over powered class remains missing from our raid team?  I have no clue.  It is not even as if we had any join and try to move up the ranks, they are just not out there or at least not applying to our guild.

So there you have it, my guilds missing pieces.  Druid healer, damage dealing and healing paladin, rogue of any spec, lock of any spec and blood DK.

We are all missing pieces, classes or specs we have not seen or raided with in a while.  Then again, we all also have things we see a lot of.  Like if you are ever looking for a shaman healer, we have 5 main spec shaman healers while there are other guilds that are screaming for them, ours would rather sit on the bench and rotate than leave.  Things are so odd sometimes.  Try raiding with only shaman healers, sometimes it makes for some interesting changes you need to do to adjust.  But it sure makes it fun... sometimes.

So what are your missing pieces?  What haven't you seen for a long time?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is Life Required?

While exploring the world the other day and thinking about all the cool and interesting things I have found over the years I started to wonder if having a zone filled with life was really required in the game.  As in the reason they created the cross realm zone was to breathe life into areas that seemed desolate.  Is it really necessary?

For the most part I believe that the leveling experience, and most things related to it, is a solo experience now and it is best experienced that way.  There is no joy in waiting for quest mobs to respawn, quest items to respawn, or the escort quest NPCs to come back from someone else walking them 100 yards that they could not walk themselves for some odd reason.

There was a time when the world needed life.  It took a long time to level and it was better to do that leveling with other people so obviously having other people around helped in the endeavor to find other people to level with.  There were a great deal of quests that even a hunter could not solo so grouping was a requirement if you wanted to get them done.  To group up you needed other people around.

Those days are long gone and the mobs that you need a group for are now few and far between.  While there might still be a few mobs that you would beg out for help killing, the speed of leveling made it more of a choice to just not do that quest instead of the choice of finding a group.  No longer do you need to do that quest because leveling took a lot of time and quests offered a lot of experience.  You can skip it now and still be well done with the zone long before you run out of things to do there.  Life in a zone is no longer required for group quests because the game no longer has them.

Another change since when leveling took a much longer time is that the idea of crafting items to wear made sense.  If you had a leatherworker and could craft yourself a new pair of pants it was a good idea to do so.  If you were not a leatherworker you would ask if there were leatherworkers around.  It was worth spending the time to find someone that could make them for you and doing so in the area you were in was the best place to do it.  The person in the area would most likely be around your level and that means their leatherworking should be around the level to make you gear you needed.

It was also a good way to meet people that perhaps you could end up grouping with for those group quests I mentioned previously.  People would be glad to help you out for little or no coins really because they got a skill up as well and being it took so long to level they surely had mass quantities of leather, more than enough to make leveling easier unlike now where you will usually level faster than you could keep up with your skills if you had taken leatherworking and skinning.  I remember someone crafting me some shoulders after we did a group quest together, because I did not have any yet and they had so much leather anyway.  Ah, the old days, you have to love them.

That pair of pants that you had someone make for you by asking in the zone would last you a while.  Even if you got a better pair 20 quests later, that 20 quests later would be hours if not a day of play time later.  Not 15 minutes later like it is now.  So your need to make something for yourself or seek someone else to make something while out leveling has basically been removed from the game that is now designed to be a solo endeavor where crafting is all but useless while leveling.  Just like your character your crafting abilities do not really mean anything until you reach max level.  So life is no longer needed to seek out people to craft things for you or for people you can craft things for.

And what about those dungeons.  You would collect a few quests here and there that would lead you to a dungeon and most assuredly, unless you are stupid like I was when I started and tired to do them solo, you would not enter a dungeon alone.  You would create a group. 

To most effectively create a group you would ask in general and there were surely people in that zone that had picked up quests for that dungeon and just like yourself they needed others to do it.  A little general spamming and some time later to meet up at an area and you were now with four other people you most likely had never met and you were ready to adventure into a new world, a dungeon, perhaps even for the first time.  This was an instanced group quest basically and it was the absolutely number one best reason for areas being filled with life, because you were not going to be getting these instanced group quests done without the help of others.

Enter the looking for dungeon finder and the need for the zone being full of life was completely removed.  No longer did you need to assemble a group and meet new people, which was excellent for community and the first place I met someone that invited me to a guild because of.  You just queue up and you are in the dungeon you want to be in.  There was also the added effect that there was no longer a need to travel to said dungeon, queue up and you are instantly there and when it is done you are instantly back where you started from before you went in. 

Further down the line they even removed most of the quests from the outside world that lead into them.  Now, all those quests you used to go around collecting doing all the quest lines in an area to basically earn those special quests are given to you right at the entrance meaning you did not even need to quest in that area to get the quests for the dungeon.  They are sitting there waiting for you.

With the absence of need to assemble a group or even quest to open the the special dungeon quests there is no need to even be in the zone, nevertheless make a group through posting in general to get into the dungeon to get it done.  That massive loss for the community was replaced by the instant gratification system of queue and kill.  So does the world really need life for dungeons any longer?  No.

Lets look at the simple aspects of competition.  From player vs player to gathering nodes to achievement hunting and see if life is really needed for them.

At first glance, even someone like myself that was against the cross realm zone, the idea of player vs player with zones being filled with life was the only true winner.  In concept it seemed like a good idea but it did not work out as planned, at least not from the people you hear talking about it and there are reasons for that.

The game has become so streamlined to level you as fast as possible that the quest to get there is about getting there as fast as possible because the end game is all that matters.  The journey to the end game is better played alone, as it has been designed to be done thanks to the lack of need for any communication or connection with another person, as mentioned above.

This translated the same to player vs player with the one down side that there are so many levels with such insane gear inflation that higher level characters can pass by and spam a low powered AoE spell and take you and everyone else around you out before you even notice they are there.

If you ever did a study on human nature and used the players of wow as the subjects you would be scared to death for the future of humanity because it would seem as if the entire world lives to make the lives of others hell. 

In a lifeless world you might run across a jerk killing your quest givers once in a while and killing you with a sneeze here and there but in a life filled world that happens all to often.  You are killed every step you take, your quest givers are killed every step you take, your mobs are killed every quest you take, everything anyone can do to make your life hell is done every step you take.  Not in an effort of competition but because some people live to make the lives of others hell.  And you wonder why I say watching wow would make you have little faith in the future of humanity.  This is it.  If these people are our future leaders, we are in for trouble.  More life in a zone did not create more PvP, it created more ways for those people to ruin the game play of others. 

Not for competition sake like two 35s fighting over a gold node, but for the fun someone gets ruining someone elses fun.  Like killing them as they try to mine the node and taking it from them.  Then mounting and flying behind them waiting for them to find another node only to kill them just as they are about to get it and then taking it and doing this over and over again.  It has happened to me.  I gave up after having three nodes stolen from me by a guy that was just taking them for no reason other then to screw with me.  More life in the zone when it comes to PvP is not good, not at all, not when it is used by the type of people that play this game.  At least I did not cry to him about it, I played it how it should be played.  I logged out and did something else.  But what of the poor guy that does not have alts?  Would he just get fed up and quit the game because of this more life version of the world?

Speaking of nodes and the competition for them, with the speed of leveling now, it is quite possible you can out level gathering professions and I've had it happen as have many others.  It is just a matter of luck, or lack thereof, on when you play and who else is around.  When leveling took longer, even if there were copious amounts of competition you would not really fall behind because you would be in an area for a much longer time and you would get your fair share of herbs and ore along the way because of it.  Now with the speed of leveling, each node is like a lifeline to moving on.  Without it, your professions get left behind.  Add to that flying mounts and a massively filled area.  Lets not even consider bots in the equation or things would really start to seem bleak, even more than they already can be. 

Filling a zone with life and people higher level flying all over grabbing things you need is not about competition any more.  It is not you and another person racing to a node and seeing who can get there first.  It is some flying max level character landing on it as you are walking to it and just fought three mobs, that were not one shot battles like they would be for him, to get to it.  That is not competition.  It is not fun.  And it is not the type of life servers need.  Is life required?  Surely not this type of life. 

If anything it takes away from the fun of the game to constantly fight your way to a resource only to see people from many different zones constantly land on it just as you are finally making your hard fought way to it.  I am not sure what some people consider fun, but this is not fun and this is not required, thus the life CRZ brings to a zone that creates this is not required either.

Lets look at people going back in content now for achievements or hunter pets or battle pets.  Does competition make this more fun or less?  Most people do things like achievement hunting or pet battles to pass the time and just have some fun.  Filling zones takes out a great deal of the fun factor from this.

Try getting frostbitten now with 12 realms all together or the time lost proto drake.  I've been hunting this guy for years now.  Back in wrath I would constantly be the only person in the zone.  Maybe on rare occasion there might be another person or two there and I never saw it.  Never even saw its dead body.  I flew around, picked herbs, killed a few things here and there to pass the time and gather some meat.  You name it, I kept myself busy there in an effort to find it for what has to be more hours then I care to even hazard to guess at.  Now, with more life in the zone, I can go and fly to the spawn spots and there are usually 6-8 people at each one.  If I could not get it in years and years of trying when I had little to no competition how am I supposed to have a chance of getting it now?  How is having less of a chance to get something supposed to be more enjoyable?

While camping the minfernal with dozens of other people flying around one spawned and I was quick enough to get it before anyone else.  Partly by luck and partly by being a lot smarter than the rest of the pet hunters there.  While they were all high up in the air I was hovering just over the ground and when it spawned I was on it before anyone else moved.  So yes, I know the excitement of getting a rare spawn among many  people camping for it.  It does make it that much sweeter to be the one that got it but that should have never been required.  There is no need for there to be that type of competition there.  There had to be at least 8 different servers there, all hovering over the area, all looking for one to spawn.  All probably curing the other people there yelling things like get off my server.

Does it really bring anything to the game to make more people compete for things like that?  Things that are supposed to be for fun or cosmetic purposes only.  I do not believe so and I do not believe that artificially creating additional rarity by making more people wait for the same thing is a good idea as it brings nothing to the game but hard feelings. 

Like the one time I entered storm peaks a few weeks ago and saw a shit storm in general because someone had downed time lost and everyone was fighting that it should have been theirs and this was bull crap and everything.  Reading the talk, the time lost in question was downed nearly two hours prior.  These people were all angry, a little to much for a game if you ask me but to each their own, over something that should have never been.  Losing the time lost to someone on a different server.

It really comes down to something as simple as that.  People will lose it to people they should be competing against and deal with it but losing it to someone that is not even on your server seems to bring people to a whole new level of anger.  So is having more life in these zones required?  No.  As a matter of fact, it is bad for the game.  If there were eight servers worth of players there and each of them where on their own server one on each server would have just gotten the mount instead of just one person leaving all the others to think, you stole my kill.  Even if they have no basis for thinking that, as a grouped server means that kill belongs to everyone on it, people will still feel the way they feel.

Is life required in a zone?

I don't think so and as a matter of fact with the way the game is now I think it would be better to have less life in zones instead of more.  The leveling process is meant to be quick now.  It is meant to be solo now.  So why is there this sudden desire from blizzard to make the world seem full?  Perhaps it is just so they can say, look how great the game is doing, there are people everywhere and all zones are full. 

Hey, blizzard, let me let you in on a little secret.  The guys that spent two hours complaining about losing the time lost proto drake to someone that didn't deserve to get it because they are not on their server does not give a shit if the game looks like it is dying.  They only care about playing the game and having fun.

There are at least 7 other guys that would be praising the game for being great because they just for the time lost but they didn't, so now they are saying how much the game sucks.  There are dozens more that would have been upset they lost it, but not as upset because someone from a different server got it.  It is not good design to upset people, so much so that they go on about how horrible the game is for hours in general, just so you can make it appear the zones are full.  Do you honestly think the person that got it cares if there were 2 or 200 people in the zone.  They don't.  They just care that they got it because for the majority of players that is all that matters, getting it, not how many people you beat to it.

Happy players make for good vibes and good vibes are good for the game.  Angry and upset customers can spread this disgust with the game to others and quit and maybe bring others with them.

Making the cross realm zones when the old zones really did not need any life just made many angry people so they could save face and make it appear as if the game were not dying. 

The game is dying, face it.  It was at 12M and it will never be there again.  But it is not going anywhere soon.  Saying wow is dying because it only has 10M subscribers is like me saying I am dying because I got a cold.  Sure, I am dying, some day, just not any time soon and neither is wow.  So stop trying to fill the old world with life to make it seem like it is doing better than it really is, because it is not necessary.

Do you want to know how to make the world seem more alive?  
1) Remove flying mounts. 
- Pretty hard for the roads and cities to seem alive when everyone in the game is hovering over them and out of sight.
2) Give people a reason to be out in the world. 
- Random drops that are cool or sell well can be a great motivator among other things. 
3) Offer 1 free server transfer a month. 
- So if people do not like their dead or packed server, they can switch and not complain they do not have the money. 

There is really no need to mash up people on to some mega server.  Never has been, never will be.  It is bad design, badly thought out, with bad results.  Nothing more.  Life is not required in the old zones, why try to bring it there?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Random Thoughts

- My random thoughts today feel like old school random thoughts.

- Not really thinking of anything specific.

- So I might be all over the place, so hold on to your seats.

- Have you ever noticed the clouds in Pandaria?

- Neither have I, but I noticed them this weekend.

- I stopped to pick a snow lily on a mountain side of pure white snow.

- It was blinding, really, the sun reflecting off the snow made it hard to see.

- Then suddenly the sun went away.

- I panned upwards and didn't really see any clouds but I knew what that was, the clouds passed in front of the sun.

- The color of course changed, no longer was I blinded.

- I picked my snow lily and waited a few minutes and the cloud passed, the one I could not even see was there to begin with.

- The snow reflected the light again and I was once more blinded.

- The visual of the cloud passing and the temperature change there because of it was so well displayed that I could swear for a moment I felt the temperature change.

- No, I am not losing my mind, have to have a mind to lose it.

- I really felt the temperature change.

- Now that is good art and design and gives a whole new meaning to the word wow when using it in reference to this game.

- I did some exploring this weekend just for fun.

- Did not run any dungeons, raids, do pet battles, anything.

- I just farted around.

- Killed some rares, picked some herbs, explored areas I often do not explore.

- Stopped to kill some mobs for no other reason then I felt like doing it, I was not looking for a drop or anything.

- I just... played around.

- I stopped by to visit my old friend I found early in the expansion, Grohl Grohl, and hung out with the drum master as he beat on them for a while.

- He is hidden in a cave in the summit that is really hard to find.

- I would not even try to explain how to find him and his drum set.

- He is on the far end of the mountains in a little hole in the wall, literally.

- Good luck finding him, and tell him the grumpy elf sent you, he might even play you a special song.

- Okay, he won't, but just let go and pretend and have some fun being silly and doing nothing for a while.

- It worked for me.

- Is it just me or can you tell the difference between pandas and what side they are on just by looking at them?

- I could swear their features are different depending on if they are horde or alliance.

- Be careful of the pandas however, I ran across some panda just sitting on an island in the middle of nowhere fishing and I decided to join him, do some fishing, and maybe share a few stories.

- Little to my surprise he did not want to fish with me, he did not like me, he hated me and he had never met me.

- He just wanted to flag me and kill me because he was horde.

- What did I ever do to him, we had never even met before.

- I had no choice but to fight him and kill him.

- I felt so bad, all I wanted to do was fish with him.

- What if he had a wife panda and baby pandlets.  They would never see him again because I killed him.

- All because he would not sit and fish with me, he wanted to fight for some stupid reason like he joined the horde and I was not horde.

- Senseless violence that left his wife a widow and his children without a father.

- This game is sad sometimes when you think about things from that perspective.

- And the bodies, all those bodies.

- We go around killing things left and right and just leaving their bodies all over the place to rot.

- Could you just imagine what the world smells like with all these rotting corpses all over the place.

- It can't be the type of place you would want to live.

- Is there some cleaner that runs around cleaning up after us and our mass genocide?

- Kind of like the mob has someone that goes in to clean up messes and make it look like nothing happened there.

- There has to be, because out of nowhere those bodies just disappear, just like the body of my horde panda friend did.

- As if some magical imp or something carried him away to clean up after the mess I made beating him senseless.

- What is more cruel, me leaving his dead body just laying there, or the fact that I still stayed and fished for a while admiring the little hut he had in the fishing area he had designed there.

- He reappeared and I was forced once again to kill him.

- The emotional roller coaster his poor family must have hearing he is dead and then he came back to life and then he is dead again.

- His kids are going to grow up with some serious mental issues and end up being end game bosses one day all thanks to me wanting to fish a little bit with what I thought was a friendly panda out in the middle of nowhere.

- I spent a fair deal of time during my exploring underwater because I know that is a spot not many will ever see and I would hate to see all that art work go to waste and no one ever see it.

- They take great effort to put in some amazing details in areas where only people like myself will ever see.

- I found a plug at the bottom of a lake.

- You know the type you put in you kitchen sink to let the water build up.

- Or is that too old school for the people that read this?

- And when you pull it out you get this big bloop type sound and then the water starts to swirl and it goes down the drain.

- Well, I found a plug like that at the bottom of a lake.

- I could not remove it, but I wonder, why is there a plug at the bottom of the lake?

- More importantly who puts plugs at the bottom of lakes but does not even put a bathroom anywhere in any city?

- The art team has too much free time to add little things like that, and I must say I love them for it.

- But they must also take a page from the design, encounter and class teams, if something would make sense, don't add it.

- An artwork door anywhere with a sign that says bathroom would fill the need, do not need to make it functional.

- There are only a few bathrooms I have found and no, I am not sharing the locations, the lines are already long enough thank you very much.

- They are so great at adding the little things, I think the lack of bathrooms is more of a running joke than an oversight.

- It is probably something like they can't add them now, so lets keep not adding them.

- Maybe the magical invisible imps that carry away the dead bodies so they don't stink up the place make it so we don't need a bathroom, or sleep.

- Just don't ask me how they remove the need for us to go to the bathroom.

- It has to be a dirty job.

- How would you like to be one of those magical invisible imps?

- You spend your entire day dragging around dead bodies and removing the crap from peoples bodies so they do not need to go to the bathroom.

- That is just disturbing.

- Ever kill a mob and it just reappears instantly?

- That is one of those imps on speed.

- All drugged up he does his job so quickly.

- Ever wait on a quest mob to respawn and it seems like it is taking forever?

- Imp is taking a nap.

- See, the imp theory explains it all, doesn't it.

- I might be on to something here.

- I wonder if I can get the imp to remove the plug from the lake, I would like to see what happens.

- Underwater you find some of the most interesting things.

- And the most deadly creatures.

- There is some scary crap out there in the seas, don't think of it as some cute finding nemo type of thing.

- There are some serious beasties out there.

- And they did not slouch on the artwork in those areas either.

- You can get lost looking at it, for the few seconds you have before you become lunch for some over grown guppy.

- There is a lot that goes on in game that we never notice because we never take the time to stop and see it.

- The crops in the tillers area grow each day.

- If you pass by multiple times you will notice that.

- I am willing to bet most never do.

- Watching what the animals do when no one watches it funny too.

- All those mommy animals with their little ones around them is funny.

- It is almost as if they have personality, they play with them and are protective over them.

- It had to take some time to design that type of interaction.

- I have to say the art team really does a bang up job giving the world around us real life.

-Of everyone that works on the game they do the best job and get the least acknowledgement.

- Seems unfair, but I guess that makes sense.

- The art around us we take for granted and most people never even notice it.

- It is one of the reasons I say warcraft is the best of the best of the games of this type out there, because of all that attention that is paid to the little things.

- Even the stuff people do no notice, like plugs at the bottoms of lakes.

- It all meets up somewhere in the middle of awesome.

- Without anyone really ever noticing it.

- Everyone feels the environment around them and it really helps with the feel of the game even if they never actively take notice of it.  It is part of what makes the game great.

- You know who notices things like this?

- I mean, outside of weirdos like me that just decided to go exploring this weekend.

- Role players.

- They get the most out of their environment.

- They notice the things around them.

- Not the raiders, we are too busy doing anything else besides noticing what is around us.

- We need to get this done now, get that done now and the other thing should have been done yesterday.

- It was nice to take a break from that, even for only one weekend, and do nothing.

- I did not care that I was not capping.

- I did not care that I was not getting rep.

- I did not care that there were alts that needed to do things.

- I did not care about the game at all.

- I just did nothing even if there was a world of things to do around me.

- And it was damn nice to do nothing.

- Makes me wish that there were more time to take a break from the every day grind and not feel as if you are falling behind by doing it.

- Blizzard really needs to work on that.

- How about making it so people have a little more free time that they can enjoy the sights and see the little parts of the game.

- Trust me, standing on the snow and seeing the sky chance and actually feeling as if I could feel the temperature change was amazing.

- I needed that.

- I'll get back to grinding to get this, that and the other done, but for one weekend, I did nothing and I liked it.

- We all should occasionally take some time to do nothing.

- Have a great day all.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Hunter Bond

Some people play hunters because they are powerful at a particular time.  Some people play hunters because they figure they are easy as the rumors say.  Some people play hunters because they like the mechanics of them.  And some people play hunters because they are hunters.

There are a million and one reasons someone can play a hunter, or any class really, but what makes people really connect with their class.  Warlocks know the feeling of a bond with a pet but not like hunters as warlocks can not choose their pet other then a selection from a drop down list.  Hunters are completely unique in many ways in the game and being able to choose our pet is one of those ways.

So what makes a hunter a hunter and not just someone that plays one?  The hunter bond.

At least for me, one of the reasons I fell in love with being a hunter, was my pet.  He was not just an instrument of destruction, he was my buddy.  I think that is also why many people that would prefer to play solo like to play hunters.  It is as if you are not playing solo.  You have someone with you at all times.

The AI for pets has always had a few bugs and each time they fix one it seems another pops up.  While they can be frustrating at times I like to think of it as adding a personality to my pet.

Does anyone out there remember when pets used to always try to get behind the mob and when you sent your pet in to fight it became a dance across the entire zone as your pet and the mob jockey for position?  I can recall yelling at my pet on more than one occasion to chill the hell out.

A lot of the quality of life adjustments to the game have taken out some of the bonding moments between hunter and pet.  Do you remember having to sit down to eat after a fight and throwing your pet a meal before you sat so he could eat with you? 

There was something about needing to feed your pet that made the bond solid.  He depended on you as much as you depended on him.  Or throwing him a meal after a hard fought battle or something to eat after he just died so that you would survive and you revived him.  Have to keep that pet happy you know because only a true friend would die for you.

How about when you went out and caught yourself a brand new buddy and needed to spend time with him to level him?  You would now need to spend a serious amount of time with your new buddy to get him up to par with you.  It was a time for the two of you to bond some.  I recall looking for pets closer to my level because the last thing I wanted to do was level a pet up too much because that was a major time investment.  On more than one occasion I recall grinding a pet up hoping to have it ready in time for a raid.  It was not just some spell in my spell book, it was my companion.

I remember being glad when they changed it so that any pet you caught was at most five levels below you because I had so often been stuck taming a pet I did not like the skin of because it was a higher level or spending some serious time leveling it if I wanted the one I wanted.  But that was the beginning of the end for that whole aspect as the quality of life change that came later made it so that our pets were always our level.  I liked it, but I did not like it, at the same time.  Where would our bonding time come from now?

All these little things you had to do helped create a bond between hunter and pet.  It was a traveling companion and a friend.  It allowed you to enjoy the solo life without actually ever being alone.  It needed care and attention and was not just some piece off gear that once you added it, it does what it does.

Even micro managing a pet became a full time job sometimes because if you allowed it to attack at a certain time it would mean death and the last thing you want is fluffy dying one hundred and one times during progression that night if you did not have enough food or he might just say, screw you, you don't love me so I am out of here.

I was never around for the beginning when you needed to catch pets to teach your pet abilities but from what I hear from hunters of that time is that the bond you created with the pet you spent time to build up was even stronger back then because of the time and effort you needed to put into it to get your pet into top fighting shape.

Over the years that was removed, and all the things I remember were removed, and each of those little things that helped build that bond slowly disappeared.  Even pet specs are gone as every pet can do every role now, even if some are more inclined to do better at roles than others.

I still have a bond with my pets because of all I went through with them.  Even when creating a new hunter and not needing to do all the things that made that bond strong on my original hunters I still feel that connection because that is who I am.  I am hunter and my pet is part of me.  Maybe that is part of the reason I love being one.  I've gotten so connected to my pets that I talk to them sometimes.  I yell at them other times.  And I look at them confused on some occasions and ask, what the hell were you doing?

My pet is just some AI run part of my skills but it is so much more to me.

Is it because of the bond we created when my pet actually needed me as much as I needed it or is it just part of what being a hunter is.

I wonder sometimes if the new hunters, the ones that never knew what it was like to care for your pets because you had to, to level your pets because you needed to, and to heal them all the time because they needed it and you needed them, have that connection.  Do they have the bond that we do?

Is the hunter pet bond something that happens, even without the little things that were removed for quality of life purposes.

I must admit I still throw my pet food from time to time.  For no other reason than I want to.  I still roll a mend pet on my pet after every fight even if it is at full health.  I still do the little things that I used to have to do, not because it is needed any more, but because it shows my pet I care.  I know it means nothing in game any more, but it means something to me.

Does the hunter bond still exist for new hunters that never needed to bond with their pet to survive?

I ask because it would be really sad if they didn't.  If there is one thing I look back on and remember with great fondness, it is my pet and I bonding.  Silly, I know, but what can I say, I am an animal lover. Now... to figure out how to tame the darkmoon rabbit.  That is a pet I really want fighting beside me.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Is Time More Important Than Skill?

I was reading a post about someone in a high progression guild that quit because it became too much for him time wise when considering his real life responsibilities.  First thing first, congratulations for being an intelligent and responsible person, there are too few of them in game.

Reading the comments however show that people are sometimes extremely intelligent and extremely stupid and it seems that one of those seems to feed the fire of the others.  The more intelligent the post the more violently rude the stupid comments get in reference to the person that made the intelligent point.

Raiding seems to get the blood flowing and incites arguments just like talking about religion or politics do sometimes.  So much so that one of the first posts someone made was to call the person that quit the top level guild because he could not dedicate enough time to it by saying it is no big deal he quit because he is a bad player.

At no point was any skill in game play ever mentioned.  He just mentioned that with a new born, a 10 hour a day job, and all the responsibilities he could not dedicate enough time to the game to be in a guild of that caliber.  No where did he say he could not keep up with them skill wise.  It was a time factor.  Yet people still ripped him for being a baddie and having no business being in a top end guild to begin with.

I look at people like that as the raiding version of most PvP players.  They play only to insult others that they deem lesser skilled then them.  Like the PvP player that has a spit macro for everyone they kill or in some cases macroed to every single one of their abilities.  For those raiders and those PvPers insulting others is the only way they feel better about themselves.  And it seems the high end, or people who like to think themselves high end when they are not, really brings them out.

The more intelligent posts all seemed to fall back on the time factor involved in raiding.  Many of those posts were made by people that have been there or are there now.  Top 10 guild members that know first hand what is involved and those, the intelligent posts, were mostly ignored by many because those people would rather talk about the baddie that could not keep up with a top 10 guild and forget the fact that being a parent of a new born is in itself a full time job on top of the full time job this person already had.

But this is not about that guys ability to play, it is just about his time to play that changed, and not his skill level.  It is about the time factor and some of the points some commentators made that I found interesting.  The following one more so than anything else as it got me to think back on the past.

"For every top 10 progression raider there are 100s of others that have more skill but less time and dedication."

That is paraphrasing one of the comments and I thought it was a powerful statement coming from someone in one of those top 10 guilds.  If anything, his standing brings a little more weight to it.

I am sure all of us scrubs that are not in heroic guilds pressing content fast can say we have experienced exactly what he said.  Ever join a pug and just blow away people that are better than you progression wise?

I remember one time doing a ToC 25 pug back in wrath, I was still in mostly ulduar gear and the top guild on the server needed a few people to fill it out, so I joined and destroyed everyone DPS wise, did not die once and was last in my favorite ranged DPS stat, damage taken.  I always get a kick out of being #1 on damage done and last in damage taken.  It is like a badge of honor for me, it shows I did the best I can do and followed mechanics perfectly.  One of the hunters from that guild, in all heroic gear mind you, that I beat quite hard whispered me and said, nice work, why are you not in a more progressed guild.  I said, I can't raid the times they are raiding.

It was as simple as that but that is exactly what they guy meant by that comment.  For that hunter and everyone else in his guild, who were in the number 1 guild on my server, I was still better with less gear and less progression, all thanks to the time factor.  He and his guild were only ahead of me and my guild because we raided 2 nights a week 2 hours a night back then and they raided 4 nights a week 5 hours a night.

He asked me to join his guild, even said that I would not need to fill out an app or have a trial period.  I was the best hunter he ever met and he wanted me.  I was beyond flattered and quite honestly excited to hear another hunter, even more so one in the top guild n the server saying that, but I declined.  He asked why.  I said, I can not raid until midnight every day because I wake up at 4 AM and midnight server is 1 AM for me.  He understood but I still would always get invites for stuff on weekends.  Even still get messages from him from time to time to help fill out a run if I am on, two full expansions later.

So is time really more important than skill?  That is only one tiny example and that was only a top 1000 guild not a top 10 one but from that alone I can say what that person said is true to some degree.  For every top progression player there are 100s that are more skilled but do not have the time.  Heck, I am not even the best player on my raid team and I was better than anything his guild could throw at me in all the runs I did with them back in wrath and all the ones I did with his guild throughout cataclysm and this expansion.

Of course, with every intelligent comment like the one I mentioned that makes you think about things there are the people that have to inflate their own ego and insult the people that say them.  And that happened.  What do you expect from this community.

But I am thinking about that comment that I read and something someone in guild said a while back.

How come there are guilds that could down this boss with no problem and we are wiping on it?

I explained it as simple as I could.  Because we are new to this boss and we have only had 8 attempts at it over 3 weeks.  They probably spent 5 or 6 hours at it 3 or 4 nights a week until they mastered it.

Ever notice that each attempt the tanks get better at using their cooldowns more effectively?  Ever notice that the healers have a easier time with each attempt as they are getting used to when the damage is coming and we are getting used to avoiding it?  Ever notice that you are doing 20K DPS more now than you did on our first attempt?

The more attempts you put under your belt the better you will get at it, the better we will all get at it.  It is all about practice.  Those other people are not better than we are, they just spend a lot more time on it than we do.  If we spent 5 hours in one night on it we would make it look like it was easy too, we haven't even had a full 2 hours on it yet and we can get it under 10% already, don't feel bad.

I've learned that motivating speeches like that are part of the job of a casual raid leader.  The best part is that I am not just saying motivational bull shit.  I am speaking the truth.

The other night we had an accidental pull.  Not only that, an accidental pull on a boss we have never one shot before, with people in the wrong specs and missing a person while clearing trash.  Even if we beat it a few times it usually took two attempts.  It was one of those whoops, lets roll with it.  We had two players in the wrong spec as we were playing around with the trash and people were testing things.  Most of us did not have cooldowns up.  I expected a wipe but we did not wipe, we one shot it with everyone alive.  Now that was fun.  But that goes to show you, the time we invested wiping on that boss paid off, we were able to one shot it even with a mistake pull and missing a DPS.

I am not saying skill does not matter, it sure as hell does.  We would not have downed that boss if we were not skilled enough to do so and surely not on a mistake pull with people in the wrong specs and most of us without our cooldowns on the pull.

But even with our skill we would have never been able to do it if it were not for the time spent wiping on it in previous attempts.  The time we spent on it made it so we knew all the ins and outs of the fight.  Sure I had to call a few things out that people needed to do and were probably not used to doing but they knew the fight from all that time spent on it previously that they could do what they needed to and let the skill take over.

Skill does matter but the time you invest in playing is what will make or break you.  No matter how skilled you are you will never be able to down a boss in all blues unless you bust your ass learning everything you can about the fight to the point where it is second nature and the only way you can learn that is with time spent doing it.   That is why you can carry alts through after something is on farm.  Because even if your alt is not as good as your main you can still do the fight because you know the fight.  It is not your skill on that alt that makes it easy for you, it is the time you spent wiping that makes it easy for you.

That guy, the original one in question, would have never been in a top 10 raiding guild if he did not have the skill and people blasted him as being bad.  No, he was not bad.  He was good, at least good enough to get that spot.  He just did not have the time and that is what sets apart the top tier from the rest of us more than skill does.  Time.

Another post later on explained that perfectly when he explained the difference between two equally skilled players in a made up example.  One that raided 5 hours a week and one that raided 50.  While the 50 hour one would have downed heroic sha a month ago the 5 hour one would not even be up to normal sha, even at the same skill level, because it takes time to learn a fight.  He sited the average of 150 pulls (not sure where he got that from) that it would take most progression guilds that did not grind to over gear sha to get it down saying that the 5 hour a week guy probably does not get 150 pulls in per month where the 50 hour one might get that many in during one night.  It was that time spent raiding that set them apart.  The difference between heroic and normal is the time spent until you master an encounter.

So, assuming that skill is a constant, everyone was the same, time really is the only factor in progression.  Someone with less time will never be able to accomplish what someone with more time can, plain and simple.  And that is how it should be, shouldn't it?

But in the same vein someone with less skill could get something done if they invest enough time, should it be that way?

Time is, in my opinion, without a doubt the most important factor in raiding.  The more time you can spend at it, the better you will do.  It is not only about skill but even if you did want to say skill was more important I would like to remind you that the time spent will also increase the level of skill, just from doing it.  So even if you value skill high, it is time spent that makes you skilled.  So time really is more important that skill and for this one guy at least, the only thing that sets him apart from being in a guild like mine or being in a top level guild is a little baby boy.  It has nothing to do with his skill. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Good or Bad: Valor Upgrades?

With blizzard announcing the end of the PvP season we know for sure that 5.2 is very close on the horizon and it is time to look back at the one addition we were given when 5.1, a non raid patch, came out.

The way they speak of it seems like when we get non raid patches the valor upgrade option will be available and when we have a raid patch it will not be.  So now that we have basically finished one full cycle of a raid patch and a non raid patch and return to a raid patch and say good bye to the valor upgrade NPC what is your take on it?  Was it a good addition or a bad one?

As a blogger I write my own opinions but on this topic I am afraid I can't really take a side because I don't have one yet.  I love the idea of upgrading gear and I hate it all the same.  I can't really pick a side yet but if I were forced to lean one way or the other I think I would have to lean toward it being a bad addition to the game if only for one reason, which I will get to. 

Without prompting and without thinking really, when someone mentioned the removal of it yesterday my immediate response was impulsively thank god.  But then the second guessing came because I added, it just sucks that I still have not gotten a sha touched weapon and if I do not get one it better be soon so I can upgrade it before the vendor is removed in the next patch or I will be even further behind.

The Good of it:

Some of the good parts of the upgrade vendor are quite obvious.  If you get your best in slot you can make it 8 item levels better.  There is really no down side to that is there?  Better is always, well, better.  If you are having issues getting an upgrade of a piece and you have nothing else to spend valor on, you can get that one piece up a little bit to try and make up the difference some.

Then there are characters like my healer(s) that I have not done any reputations on.  Being I did not do the daily grind on her she basically has nothing what so ever to spend valor on and the item upgrade vendor becomes a perfect way to spend that valor. 

Gaining valor and not using it would feel like such a waste and thanks to the item upgrade option at least all that valor did not go to waste.  Sure, the easier and smarter solution would have been to not have valor gear behind reputations but this is blizzard, lets not ask them to think like reasonable rational people.  Some things just can't be done.  So because of that, the item upgrade option was fantastic for my healer(s) as I really can't quest as a healer so I can't get reputation as a healer and I only want them to be healers.

There was another small bonus to the item upgrade option that was very mathematically involved when you started to get to the end of your gearing process.  That is stat break points.  You want to reach them and reforging helps but sometimes upgrading items can help even more and most people never noticed that.  If you needed 40 haste to reach a break point which would be better?  Reforging 229 from another item to haste and losing that 229 in critical or mastery or upgrading a piece of gear that has haste and getting that 40 haste so you get to keep that entire 229 in critical or mastery?  If you said upgrading is better, congratulations, welcome to the world of being a smart player. 

Sometimes upgrading was not only about upgrading the best piece of gear you had, it was about upgrading the piece that would help you the most over all even if it wasn't the best flat out option to upgrade.  That is one of my favorite things with the item upgrade vendor.  It really bought a lot of complexity with it, it was never just as simple as lets upgrade this piece because it is the best piece I own.  Nothing is ever that simple really.

With the exception of upgrading my darkmoon trinket, every single time I considered upgrading an item it was a process.  A long and drawn out process of considering everything available to me, what I could be getting soon or what I will be getting soon and the numbers I needed to be at.  Hey, call me a math geek, but I love numbers and I got a bit of a kick out of trying to figure out the perfect piece to upgrade.  Nothing quite like hitting that haste break point perfectly on a healer thanks to upgrading the right piece for a math geek.

The other, most obvious, reason why the valor upgrades were a good idea from a design standpoint is a bit of a double edged sword, as you will find in the bad part soon.  Having a use for valor always means you always need to grind valor and always need to cap.  Blizzard wanted to keep us more active, keep us playing, keep us grinding and more importantly keep us subscribed.  Because of the upgrade vendor there will always be something to spend that valor on and always be a reason to keep getting it every week. Ding ding ding, we have a winner, blizzard did exactly what they wanted to do. I don't know about you but for me, even if I had another 9K valor right now, I could spend it on upgrades and still need more.  Valor was more useful thanks to the upgrade vendor.   This keeps you playing and keeps you earning.  But...

The Bad of it:

That could surely cause a lot of burn out.  When you feel like you always need valor you, of course, have to always get valor.  Yes, I know this is a hard point for many to understand and they like to fall back on the optional argument but as I have said here many times before, optional is an illusion that people making excuses for not being the best they can be use.  So no, as long as there is an upgrade that you can get, getting it is not optional unless you do not care about being the best you can be.

With that said, I only worry about being the best I can be on my main.  Not that I do not want to on my other characters, I just do not have that much time to cap on more than one character most weeks.  I think I have only capped 2 characters 6 weeks all expansion so far and 3 only once.  Time is a huge factor.

And that is where the upgrade vendor is a bad thing.  It makes me have to keep grinding on my main to upgrade and be the best it can be that I can not invest enough time on my alts.  As such my army of alts which I played enough to be good at them and geared on them have been left to being played sub par and geared sub par because I have not been able to give them the attention they need to get geared and me to get better at playing them.

The key to the bad of it is that because of the valor upgrades there is no end.  You will always have something to upgrade and even if you do manage to catch up you will sooner or later get another piece of gear that needs to be upgraded too and it starts all over again.  There is no end game.  There is no point were you can say, I can't use valor any more.

When they had BoEs you could buy with valor it became optional.  You had the option to keep gaining valor to buy them to sell if you wanted to once you did not need anything from valor points.  But having the upgrade vendor as the valor sink instead of BoEs as a valor sink, meant, for people like me at least, that you would never reach the end game of valor.  As long as there was something to upgrade you need to keep grinding it.

That is why I said thank god when asked about it.  Thank god I will no longer need to grind valor.  Thank god I will be able to say I am done.  When the next patch comes and I buy whatever valor gear I need and there is nothing left for me to buy with valor I am done.  I want to be done.  I like having ends.  Exalted for reputation, last boss for a raid, win or lose in a battleground, a cap for valor, whatever it may be it is nice to have a destination and get to it.  With the valor upgrades there is never an end and surely not when things keep coming out faster like they have been.

I am sick and tired of feeling like I have to get my main capped as soon as possible each week or I am not doing the best I can do.  I miss the feeling that when a new valor week started I could skip my main because my main did not need valor and I could start working on playing an alt and getting better at it and gearing it up now.  The feeling that I don't have to valor cap is a good thing and once the valor upgrade option is gone that goal, that I do not need valor any more goal, is attainable again and thank god, I can't wait until I reach it.

That upgrade vendor was like a drug, an addiction, as long as it was there I would need to keep going to it.  As long as my gear still needed an upgrade I needed to keep at it.  Like a drug addict would rob a store when he needed money to keep up his habit I would make sure to cap myself each week, like it or not, because I could not go a week without my upgrade.  I needed it, it was like crack.  Removing that upgrade NPC is like removing the drug dealer.  It is making me quit because I have no one to sell me my drugs any more.  Thank god, because I was not going to quit upgrading on my own, I was addicted, they need to remove it, I needed that intervention.

Good or Bad:

You decide because I can't.  In my opinion it is both and it is neither.  My addiction of trying to do whatever I can for my character will mean I will always feel forced to use it if it is there and it is because of that addiction that I can't really make a decision.  But like I said, if I had to make one, it would be that it is a bad thing only because upon hearing it was going away I couldn't help but say, thank god.  And lets face it, even if you like something, if your reaction to it being over is thank god, perhaps you really don't like it even if you think you do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What Makes Something Replayable?

The top complaint from people this expansion is that the game is not very alt friendly.  Most people seem to think the expansion if fantastic, or at least very good, but the replay value of doing it on an alt is very low.  Over the last few weeks I've been rewatching a TV series I used to like and it got me to thinking about doing / watching the same thing over again.  What makes something replayable more precisely.

This weekend I finished the last of season 6, the final season, of the TV show Lost.  I had not watched it since it originally aired so it was a nice throwback to see it again.  I actually think I enjoyed it more the second time around even.  The thing is, if I would have watched it all over again when season 6 came out on DVD I might not have had the same opinion I just did because it was all still fresh and new to me.

Waiting as long as I did to watch it again, even if I had all the DVD from the moment they were first released, did a world of good for the replayability of the series in my opinion.  While I still think the series took a turn for the worst in season three when they seemed to become more interested in being a love story and less a mystery, I did not feel it played out as badly as it did the first time around.  Probably because I knew this was just a rough patch of bad writing and it would pass.

When the series was over I came to a conclusion that I seemed to have missed my first time watching it.  If you had watched it originally you might remember the take on the final episode online and what most viewers thought about it.  Spoiler ahead, if you ever plan to watch it and do not know.  The opinions were that the passengers were dead the whole time and their time on the island was some sort of purgatory.  I never quite agreed with that, but could not fight it as it seemed to be the consensus. The thing is after watching it this second time around I realized that while that seems to have made sense it was wrong.  They were not dead.  Most definitely not.

The flash sideways images we see in the last season was, for lack of a better word, purgatory.  The time on the island was real.  It actually happened, they were actually there, left, went back, everything we saw was their real life and they were alive for it.   I would go into it deeper but that is not what this post is about.  It is about something being replayable.

You see, the reason I enjoyed watching it so much the second time around is because I waited long enough and it did not feel like more of the same.  Sometimes, if you really like something, you can watch it over and over again but other times, even if you really like it, there needs to be a space of time before you can fully enjoy it again.

As for what makes something replayable it falls into one simple category that will be different for everyone based on their opinions.  If you can get something out of it, it has replayability.  I doubt I would have got as much out of watching lost a second time if I had done so right away but waiting long enough I did.  So much so that even if I saw it all before it felt all new to me again.

And this is where mists faults itself this expansion and while most might really think it is an excellent expansion they are not feeling it when making alts.  The replayability is just not there because doing everything again, which seems required, is too soon.  Which makes there be little or no replayability.

This was the key to wrath and why I oft times call it the rise of the alts.  Wrath had excellent replayability.  Catching up never felt like a task, it always felt like you could do it if you want to or not.  Gearing up to catch up was about time investment that could be done all in one day or over time.  The head and shoulder enchants would not kill you if you did not have them because skill was more of a factor than a numbers game.  Sure, you would be looked at more seriously with them and you could do better with them, but you could also do just fine without them, there was not such a huge emphasis on stats and gear like their is now.

The reason it became the rise of the alts was because there was something people could get out of it.  They did not feel as if they had to press on through something they did not want to if they did not want to.  Kind of like that season three lull that I did not like in lost.  If I had watched it right away it would have had a feeling of more of the same and I probably would have said, I do not like this, screw it, and stopped watching it the second time around.  But waiting made me think it was okay again.  When there is something people really dislike, having to do said thing again can really turn them off.

And that is why I believe there is the alt issue with mists.  Raising alts in Mists is Lost's season three.  Something what while it is part of a much bigger and better picture, doing it too soon again will ruin the experience as a whole.  Just like if I had watched lost again right away I would have stopped watching at season three, but waiting long enough made it something that even if I was not so fond of it I could bear with again because I knew there was a much greater good, enjoyment, after it was over.

Bringing up an alt right now and having to do the gearing up process through dailies and such is like that season three.  You know it won't take long, it is part of a much bigger picture, but you just do not enjoy it and do not want to do / watch it.  Unlike with a TV series, where if I wanted to I could have just skipped it, there is no option to do that in game, so it would be like being forced to watch season three right after I had just finished it, over and over again for each alt I wanted to level.

That would really turn me off on the series if I need to watch the worst season of what was an otherwise excellent series over and over.  So I would not do it.  But like I said, with a TV show you have that option to skip it, in a game you do not.  If you need to grind reputations you need to grind reputations.  Without it you can not go on to season four.

So what makes something replayable?

If you can do it, even with the parts you do not like to do, and still enjoy it fully, it is replayable.  For some things there needs to be a time break to make it repalyable while others, no matter how much time passes, are just not worth doing again.

The key with me enjoying watching lost again, all of it, was that I knew I did not really need to watch the part of the series I did not like.  I knew that at any moment if I really got bored with it I could skip it any move along to the parts of the show I wanted to see, the stuff I liked more.  Even if I did watch it all, it was knowing I did not have to watch it that made me want to see it again.

This is what is missing in mists for most people.  No matter what there is no skipping because there is no quick pass options.  You need to go through the boring stuff, even if you know it will not take long.  It is enough to turn you off and that is why there is the alt rebellion.  Unlike the rise of the alts in wrath were the only thing that could ever happen was not having a head and shoulder enchant and neither of those were capable of making or breaking you game play wise, it goes to show you, for most, what warcrafts replayability is.

When you do not need to go through the gear up process on alts, when there is a quick and easy catch up, people love it.  When there is a more involved process and you forced, or for those people that refuse to think people are forced, feel forced to do it then it becomes a game breaker.

If season three got to me and I could not skip it I would have never watched lost again.  I would have never found new things I did not see the first time through.  I would have never came away with feeling differently then the first time I saw the end.  I would have never noticed that the series was actually a lot better than I remembered it even if I did like it the first time through.

That rough patch, and all things have a rough patch, is what dictates somethings replayability.  There are only two ways to get past that rough patch in most things.  One is time, let it pass until you do not mind going though that rough patch again or press on through it hoping for something better at the end.  The problem with pushing through it is that you start to resent having to have pushed through it.  So much so that you start to dislike the exact thing you liked and pushed through to experience.

I think mists would do itself well if it tried to remove its season three.  Take away the reputation wall.  The valor wall to slow people down is more than enough now that the expansion is under way.  Either that, or people will have to keep watching season three and sooner or later they are going to realize that it is just not worth putting yourself through that horrible season without the option to hit fast forward.

It comes down to what people like and what they are willing to put up with.  I am sure there are a fair deal of people that liked Kate and Sawyers caged loved and Jack and Juliet exchanging shy smiles but for me it left me thinking, stop with the filler content just to take up time and get on with the much better story I know you have to offer.  That is the same exact thing I feel about doing reputation on alts, stop with the filler content just to give me something to do and let me get on with the much better game I know you have to offer.  For me, it kills the replayability.

What makes something replayable for you?  Or more importantly, what kills the replayability for you? 

Friday, February 15, 2013

What If: Phasing Was More Useful

Phasing in game has been around a while and continues to get better.  While there are still some serious misses out there that were never fixed, like trying to gather herbs in twilight highlands after you have done all the quests or capture pets near your farm and they phase out, but over all phasing has gotten better.

There is so much more phasing can be used for that has not even had the surface touched and I think using phasing in quests for certain objectives would not only make sense but could add more to it.

What if they started using phasing more liberally when it comes to some parts of the game?

Wouldn't it be nice if we, the heroes of azeroth, when sent on a mission to rescue 10 prisoners rescued all of them?  Never made sense to me that there are 30 people in cages, we can easily handle the mobs, but we only rescue 10.  We are some really mean people, just letting those other 20 rot.  So phasing, while it might seem a waste of resources to many in this case, would make sense that once you rescue 10 prisoners, there are no more prisoners caught in cages.  You saved them all, so once you have, they are not sitting around in cages any more.

Little things like that would make it feel as if the game changed around the world with you.  Even if in little pieces here and there like that it would make the game feel more, real, for lack of a better word.  As if the things you do have an impact on the world you live in because let face it, the way the game is now nothing we do matters.  No matter how many times we save Corky every time we go back that stupid Fer has found a way to get caught in the same cage we just got him out of less than 5 minutes ago.

How about mob phasing for quests?  They already have some sort of basis for it, like with the could serpents when you need to kill the glowfly things.  If you are not on the quest to kill them they are friendly and you can not kill them but when you have the quest you can attack them.  They also have it, in a way, in the golden lotus area.  When it is the stone mogu day you can kill them and other days you can not, same with the quillen, they can only be hunted on their day.

So why not make these things active all the time, so they walk around and make the zone more active and you can only target them when you are on the quest for them, or in a group with someone that is on the quest for them.  This would allow for making mobs just for you, so to speak, and mixing up heavy quest zones like the lotus area.  Give some of the daily doers one quest and some the other.  So you split up who is killing what and thus make it easier and quicker for everyone to complete their quests.  That type of phasing is only a hop, skip and a jump away as they already have them as only active when it is their quest day, it is just a matter of making them active all the time and how they react would only be based on what quest you are on, while everyone mingles together.

There are so many things that could be done with phasing.

How about raid watching?  They mentioned adding something like that and it could be done with phasing.  You could invite someone to view your raid and they would be there, as if they were phased.  They could see everything but could not interact with anything.  Same could be done with PvP, to watch battlegrounds or arena.

It would give a chance for people to learn or teach from it.  I know I would not mind peaking in on some battlegrounds to use it as a learning tool.  Or maybe sitting out of the raid one night and just watching and letting other people learn the fights.  It would also be an awesome way to teach from and to call out things from.

I've heard some people have some really extreme ideas for phasing but the only thing that really makes them extreme is the fact we do not have them.  Maybe they aren't really all that extreme.

Like making nodes, mining and herb ones, phased to the player they are meant for.  As someone mentioned, this would stop bots right in their track, or at least make them have more bots.  If the game decides that you should only get 2 stacks of ghost ore per hour, it would only show you enough that you can get 2 stacks of ghost ore per hour.

There is the plus size to that for some, less competition, or none really, as no one can pick your herbs, but there is the down side that the people that are willing to put in more effort can not benefit from putting in that effort.  Unless they want to have a whole crew of miners they will always be limited by what the game says they should have.

But could that become a future use of phasing?  Nodes just for you.

The lost and found items are like that, at least the grey ones are.  They are always there but only one per character.  Perhaps nodes could become something like that.  They are where they are, but you can only pick or mine them once per hour.  Something like that is a type of phasing.  Then when you already grabbed it, it does not show for you in your phase.  The marmot stomping and weed killing quests already have just for your things, so can something like this really be that much of a stretch?

How many of you ever noticed the implications of something as simple as those 95 gold grey items and what that could mean to the future of the game and how we play it and see things?

As it is, phasing is getting better but is still a pain in the ass most of the time.  Like when trying to heal for a friend on the legendary quest line when my healer had not opened the quest line in the wilds yet, or killing a rare and the person I was grouped with could not see it.

Phasing still needs a lot of work, but it is getting better, and we have only touched the surface.

What if phasing were more useful and played a bigger part in how we play the game.   As in letting the game evolve around us so once we rescue Corky he will never be in that cage again.  Hey, it might not mean anything to you, but little things like that bug me.  I would like to see the world change around me, even if only in tiny bits like that and phasing is the only way it will happen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Don't Panic: I'm Not Ready for the New Raid

With 5.2 knocking on the door and being the vast majority of casual raiding guilds are not even finished with the current raid tier there are going to be some rough moments in the coming weeks for some casual guilds and their respective raid leaders.  But those problems are nothing you can not handle.  Don't panic.

Many casual guilds are in the position mine is right now.  We have not finished this tier yet and it is the reason we think the new raid is coming out too soon.  My guild is 8th on my server, a server that has only three guilds that have even finished current content.  My server is not exactly what you would call a good server.  Hence the reason we do not have more progression, there is no decent player base to recruit from and with no good players to choose from, you have no choice but to play things from the casual approach. 

The thing is that it is not just my guild on a bad server.  The story I just told is what the majority of servers are experiencing.  The average casual guild is somewhere in heart of fear right now or maybe just starting terrace and will not have this tier done by the 26th.  Just a simple fact.

Don't Panic:  I've been down this road before.

Being I have experienced this before I will share my opinions on how to handle it for those that either never experienced it or are new to raid leading or raiding in general and are not sure what to expect.

The last time my guild had not beaten the last boss of a raid tier, or at least been working on it, when a new tier came out was back in Ulduar.  Blame it on ulduar being huge and us not extending lock outs, just restarting each week, or blame it on ToC coming out roughly 15 minutes (slight exaggeration maybe) after Ulduar was released.  Either way, we were only 10 deep in Ulduar when ToC came out and there were a lot of issues when that happened.

I was not the raid leader at the time but I was an officer.  Some people wanted to stay in Ulduar and finish it up.  Some people wanted to move on to ToC.  Some people wanted to do one night on ToC and one night on an extended lock out of Ulduar.  The raid team was torn apart with everyone wanting different things for different reasons.

It actually almost tore the guild apart.  We thankfully have the faction champions to thank for that not happening.  We got to them easily but no one liked them.  No one wanted PvP in their PvE and we did not even do many attempts at it..  That fight made the decision for everyone.  The raid was so boring and that fight was so annoying that we, as a group, decided to go back and finish ulduar because at least that was fun and we could buy some of the higher gear with emblems to help us on our way should we get stuck.

And that is what we did.  We went back.

While there is no saying that there will be a horribly designed fight that does not fit PvE in the new raid what happened back then does show something about how this situation can be handled.

Don't Panic:  You are not done with T14 yet.

So you will not get all the feats of strength for completing it while it was current content.  Don't feel bad, neither will I and I know if my guild raided more than the short time we do we would have finished this tier 2 months ago.  But the game is not all about bragging about when you did things or how well you did them.  It is about having fun doing it, even if you do not do it as much as others.  That is what casual raiding is about.

Throne of thunder will be out soon but that does not mean you need to rush into it.  You can dabble in it, like I intend to do.  Have one night raiding for the new raid and have a second night to go back and finish off T14.  In a few weeks, if you get some bosses down in throne you will have some higher raid gear.  Even if you do not get any bosses down you will have some LFR gear and some valor gear to give you a nice little boost which will make T14 a lot easier and you can finish it off.

Also, for the first time ever in the game, a raid that is not an end game raid is getting the blanket nerf treatment.  There will be a 10% nerf to all T14 raids.  So the average casual raid guild should be able to finish T14 with little fuss thanks to a small nerf and some extra gear.

So do not stress running into throne.  Split it up and finish T14.  Let the easier fights thanks to the nerf and gear give your team some additional confidence so when you switch to T15 full time they can feel like world beaters, even if they are, what some might call, a month behind.

Don't Panic:  It is called casual for a reason.

Sometimes casual guilds need a gentle reminder what casual means.  It does not mean bad, it just means you move at a relaxed pace.  Where a hard core guild or more dedicated base might get 14-15 attempts in during 2 hours and that is only part of what they raid, the casual guild will get 8 or 10 in two hours and that is all they raid because they are not rushing it.

Casual guilds take their time to talk about attempts and find a plan that works just for them, not what the video on you tube said because it is what they thought was best.  A casual guild will move at their own pace and there is nothing wrong with that.  Do not fall into the abyss where you think things are horrible because you are still doing T14 stuff when T15 is out.

You will need to reenforce the casual mantra to your raid team when the time comes.  No worries, we will get there.  Explain to them that if it takes you two or three weeks to get into throne full time that means you will have two or three weeks of more gear, valor gear and LFR gear.  You will have two or three weeks of more experience as a group and you will have two or three weeks of success to walk into the new raid with.

When the time comes, you will down the bosses in throne and the raid will be around for six months at least so taking an extra two or three weeks before getting into it won't really hurt any.  Lets face it, most casual guilds did not go in and down stone guards as soon as it came out.  You took a few weeks to down it as a casual guild using those few weeks to get some valor gear and some LFR gear.  Just like my guild did before we downed it the first time.  Then after we downed it the first time we went in and one shot the next boss the first time we ever saw it.  All thanks to that wiping on the first boss for a few weeks while we got some gear which in turn made the rest of the raid eaiser.

So skip the wiping for a few weeks while getting the LFR gear and the valor gear and just finish off T14 so when you step into T15 you are more geared to handle it and that first boss might take 9 attempts instead of 90 and you will already be in the gearing process which will make the others easier as well.  Be casual if you are a casual guild and enjoy rolling through finishing T14 while you get a little step up on T15 gear wise.  That is the beauty of being casual, no rush.

Don't Panic: This raid tier is different from anything we have seen in a while.

The lack of progress by many casual guilds this raid tier is a shock to the system of many.  Even the first raid tier of cataclysm which many complained was way to hard people had much better success at.  From my personal experience this is the worst progression my guild has ever done in a tier, percentage wise, and we are not alone.  Many people from guilds all over the game, social, casual and hard core, are all saying the same thing.

As I said, this is the least progression I've ever seen and going through my memory of the guild the last time I can ever remember hearing of this little progression, percentage wise again, was back in vanilla, when raiding was for the most extremely hard core.  Back in the day when if you lost a tank your world was a life of hell because now you needed to go back and run all the old raids again to gear a tank to help them catch up because there was no quick and easy catch up mechanic for gear.

Lowest progression rate since vanilla?  Having to do previous content to gear up as there is no instant catch up mechanic?  Starting to sound a little like the game is going full circle, don't you think?

At least now the catch up mechanic is a lot better than it was back then.  With some valor gear, and nerfed previous raids, we can all catch up.  Just understand that blizzard is trying something different.  They are trying to bring vanilla back with the modern benefits and so far I think it is working out okay.  Even if my alts still hate it.

The key is, don't panic, everything will be fine.  Now go finish T14, we have a new raid starting soon.