Thursday, September 30, 2010

Release Date Shuffle!

There's been all sortsa speculation about when Cataclysm is coming out. Here is just a quick rundown of the sources and what I think of their liklihood for the moment. and Other Retailers
Amazon widely reported that they would be distributing pre-orders of Cataclysm around November 23. A few days later, I and another 14 million people received an e-mail saying that it would be early January.

I know all these people who go to Gamestop and say that the release date is printed there, or who know somebody who know somebody at EB Software that says "blahblahblah"  but experience shows that there is no way the retailers ever know this stuff with any accuracy before the WoW community. There are too many people in WoW following this one detail extremely closely, whereas EB and Gamestop are probably more concerned about the next Splinter Cell sequel, among 1,000 other titles they are handling.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Visiting the Throne of Tides

I broke down and took Merinna to her first dungeon finally. My curiosity about the challenge level of new healing mechanics got the better of me and i just had to go see for myself. It was educational experience. I'll write healing specific observations in another post, since I have a lot to note about that

The biggest impression I got from The Throne of Tides was how utterly tiny it is. Minuscule. Itty-bitty. There's a hallway with an elevator at the end that leads to ... another hallway. You meet the first boss at the end of that second hallway and additional bosses appear as you make your way back to the entrance. The hallway peeks out into a larger watery world, but the place still feels a bit claustrophobic. Truthfully, it seemed a little like the elevator is only there to provide the impression that the environmental artists had something to do.

The State of Our Cities

Now, if only they could get rid of this smog  ...
Blizzard pulled a fast one on us this week by removing the city portal hubs from Shattrath and Dalaran. No longer shall we be setting our hearthstones to these neutral cities for the benefit of centralized teleportation abilities.

I'm honestly not looking forward to a three stage travel itinerary to reach most places in Kalimdor, but I kinda appreciate the logic of sending people back to the old world for real right now. Blizzard has said they want the cities to feel lived in and populated, but to do that, they needed to take out the neutral city hubs. I can understand that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Mer is riding the shark, not jumping it! Riding it!

So, You Think You Can Dance? (part 2)

Back in this post over here, I tried to suggest that raiding is a lot like dancing. Please feel free to go check it out if you didn't have the opportunity before!  I'm very proud of that one.

But in order to get this piece rolling, I need sum that one up a little: You have got to mind the choreography of the raid to be able to accomplish anything, and thinking about it as a dance helps me a lot.

I want to take that analogy a little deeper though.  In addition to keeping up with the choreography, you need to be on top of you own rhythm.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I can't decide which is funnier, that the Stormpike dwarves would use this as "camouflage"
as they close in on Tarren Mill, or that the denizens of the Mill hadn't noticed.


Actually, I'll write more posts as soon as
I stop having fun riding my new sea horsey
all over Vashj'ir.

I couldn't take it anymore and sent Merinna into new territory and have brought her to level 82. There has been so much forum discussion about how much the healing mechanics are changing that I had to go see for myself. So, expect some up-coming posts about the new content after all.

My first impressions of the undersea realm of Vashj'ir: The zone is pretty honking huge. And it is layered and very vertical. This makes it a little tricky to find things since what you are looking for might be on the sea bottom, or it might be sitting on one of the four ledges that jut out over your head. So a little patience is required.  You do get some help in navigating, however: Merinna's sea horse there is a full blown new mount (that only works in Vashj'ir) but you can jump on him and move about at epic-flying like speeds. And you get that sea horse in the first 10 quests or so.

You also have the fairly well documented "Sea Legs" spell which allows you to skip across the sea floor at a semi-normal speed.

The first few areas that you go through don't look terribly exciting really. There is sea bottom, and a fair number of shipwrecks. But as you go deeper into the realm, much more incredible things rise up out of the murk to surprise you. So, the whole place is well worth exploring!

The Horde and its Politics (part 2)

Naralie went on a brief quest on behalf of Tarren Mill that piqued my curiosity:

She was sent to Alterac Valley (the entrance anyway) for a meeting with Drek'thar about bringing the Frostwolf clan to the defense of Tarren Mill. The conversation that followed was very interesting.

Drek'thar refused to come defend the Forsaken, saying that for all the terible things he has done, he faces remorse and recrimination, but that the Forsaken feel nothing and that the atrocities they bring to the world are far worse than anything the old Horde could have done.

This is an orc who had done horrible things under the leadership of Gul'dan, was ostracized be the old Horde but became significant again, having reconnected with the elemental spirits as a shaman, and as one of the first mentors of Thrall.

Today, he does not speak for the ruling elite of the Horde. I bet that he and Garrosh would come to blows over issues of honor pretty darn quickly. But refusing to aid the Forsaken like this is a pretty severe rebuke of the Horde's status quo.

It's kind of exciting. Every clue I find about how the Horde is doing points to massive unrest if not a flat out civil war between the races of the Horde. I'm dying to see where this is all going to lead.

As a side note: It's been a little while since I was last in Alterac Valley, but I don't remember Drek'thar being blind or riding a wheelchair. In fact, I think he was pretty healthy and tried to murder me with a large stick.  Is this story progressing too?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Is Flintlocke in the Game?!?

Merinna was at Stormwind Harbor, looking for a way to return to Vashj-ir and not finding much of anything, when something caught my eye:

A plane. It is one of these typical "plane" models that we have seen flying all over Northrend for a while now: Mostly yellow with orange highlights. But these things have only been on rails to date. You get in one at Valguard and it takes you to an Explorer's league outpost. Or, you fly around in one for various reasons in Icecrown.  But here was one flying into Stormwind. And, um, flying badly.

I tried to click on it to see what it was, but it would fall and then climb again. Really, it was behaving like somebody experiencing lag on a mount. But I finally got my cursor on it and targetted and then I checked my raid panels to see what it was:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Snapshots from Betaland

Naralie had an encounter with the Kirin Tor recently.  There were many of the sorts of mobs there that you might expect: warders who carry shield and sword, watchers who are offensive casters. And witchaloks. Witchaloks?  What is a witchalok? There is clearly meant to be a reference to "warlock" with a name like that. And these mobs are all female.  I wasn't really paying attention at first to whatever I was ganking and then the witchalok started talking:

"Tremble in fear as I call forth the mighty Doomskull!" she said. And sure enough, a large yappy skull with pink particle highlights appeared and started circling around. Not attacking anything, much less me, just circling around. "Behold the sheer size of it! Are you not afraid, mortal? Have you ever witnessed doom of this magnitude?"

A Quick Visit with the Warlocky Ones

My warlock looks nothing like this.
This image is here to distract you so
she can still sneak up behind you and
steal your soul.

I made a little time to slip my warlock character over to the beta this past week to get a feel for what is going on there.

No More Soulshards? Meh.
This is the big new mechanic of the warlock this expansion. No longer must one carry around tons of little pink glass shards in one's bag, soulshards now just kind of disappear into your ui. There is a cute indicator showing if you have 1-3 of them available.  Whoopee! I have more inventory room now!

My lack of enthusiasm comes from the fact that I don't see a lot of regular use for them. Soulshards now have no other purpose than to be consumed by the Soulburn spell, which augments certain other spells in the warlock's arsenal. And the effects are all pretty strictly utilitarian.  They have made two different methods to regain your three soulshards fairly easily. I just lack imagination, I guess, to see how I'm going to need three soulshards with any regularity.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mark Your Calendars

You know you want this too
Yesterday, Boubouille, the writer/instigator/sage of went on record saying he is expecting a Nov. 2 release for Cataclysm. There are very few in the greater WoW community who I would listen to as for these sorts of predictions, but Boubouille is one of them.

Boubouille described his estimate primarily from what sounds like his inside sources, and backed that up by saying that the pre-Cataclysm event that started last week, (Operation Gnomeregan, and whatever they call that thing the Trolls are up to) had started according to the schedule he had heard. He also indicated that further pre-Cataclysm events should occur in 2-4 weeks.

But, and I stress this as muh as Boubouille does: Anything can yet happen. Blizzard is good at delaying product, so that may yet happen. However, even if it's not right on Nov. 2, I think that general neighborhood is pretty likely right now. BlizzCon is happening on Oct. 23, I suspect that a release date will be well established by that time. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Archaeology Is Here

Your friend and partner in archaeology: a surveyor's scope
The new profession Archaeology made its debut in the most recent beta build as well.  I started to write a thorough how-to of this new profession and then thought better of it. Other sources will do that better than I can. When I bump into a good link I'll throw that up as well. So, instead I cut to my first impressions.

  • Fun!
  • But only fun. There is nothing here that is going to make or break the game for you.
  • This is totally a profession to work on when you are waiting around for people to show up to a raid, or when you're just chatting with folks online and don't want to get too wrapped up in anything really serious.
  • One thing I especially kind of enjoy because it takes a fair amount of stress out of things: Archaeology nodes are not shared. No one can ninja your node. There might be a despicable blood elf paladin digging in the same spot as you, but he's going to find what he is looking for and you will find yours. They are totally different.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The New Deal for Flying

You know you want these.

The latest beta build has a number of changes to the flying system:
  • Old Weather Flying - (Really named Azerothian Navigation) So, it is going to cost you to use your flying mount in the Old World after all. It's 250 gold (200 with exalted SW reputation). That really is pretty well chump change, so no big worries. You can pick this up at level 60 however, but I think I read that if you don't have a Burning Crusade expansion, then you are not eligible for this.

New Beta Build, New Shaman Changes

A new Beta build with many many talent changes has come out. Of course I skipped past everything to see the shaman's restoration tree: (please pardon my attempt to make "blue text" like what the developers always post with. I started trying to work it out with a stylesheet and then didn't really get close and just gave up. You can sill read it just fine).

Tidal Waves no longer affects Lesser Healing Wave. Now affects Healing Surge.
Improved Water Shield no longer affects Lesser Healing Wave. Now affects Healing Surge.

Okay, but what is Healing Surge? Meh, it's just LHW with a new name. I'm not sure why they bothered. All this means is that I have to change a few macros..

Telluric Currents is now a Tier 5 talent, down from Tier 6.
Improved Cleanse Spirit now a Tier 4 talent, down from Tier 5.
Nature's Blessing is now a Tier 3 talent, down from Tier 5.
Nature's Guardian is now a Tier 2 talent, down from Tier 4.

Moving all this stuff down the tree is making a leaner, meaner healing tree, I think. The reviled Telluric Currents is still nicely marginalized with other talents you can take in its new tier. So is Nature's Guardian. But a lot of the talent choices feel easier than they did before.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lions and Tigers and ... Bears? Oh, my!

The Cenarion Circle is going to have to relax its dress code.
Worgen druid bears look freaking weird. With the yellow eyes, wild hair and teeth going in all directions, it seems to me that they were trying to capture wild fury of the bear, but ended up with a sense of sheer, roiling insanity. This isn't a wild bear, this is a psychopathic bear. He's ready to tank a monster, or a bunny, or his healer or even a wall perhaps. Whatever catches his eye first.

And then I bumped into a Ziggy Stardust bear... er, I mean, a troll druid bear.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Erm? Is That All?

Just a quick note about live realms for now:

Gosh, I just can't quite find the words to describe the letdown I feel about the whole "Operation Gnomeragon" event.

This particular event has been hyped for a long long time now. I guess I was expecting a series of daily quests, defeating leper gnomes on the surface, preparing the war machine. Maybe a chance to drive those spider tanks! That would have been cool. And... don't you get the sense that maybe they were originally planning it that way? We get to test the spider tanks, shoot at some targets, and then ... nothing.  That quest planting radiation detectors from the flying machine just smells like a repeatable quest.

Alright, so... well, we are still going to retake the city in a fight to the finish with Mechengineer Thermaplugg! YAAAH GO! Woot, kill the tanks! Waste the troggs! Oh no it's a bomb! I was having a great laugh about the dialogue going up to that point. High Tinker Mekkatorque beating on the bomb with a hammer, and then we get teleported back to IF and ... "#$%&$%&#!!111one" That's all? Phhhht.

I'm trying not to mention this, but it's going to just come out anyway: The whole assault on the city glitched out twice for me trying to get it done too. I can tell that this is a widespread problem on the event from what other players were saying.

It seems to me that Blizzard has alluded to the fact that this is not the only "pre-cataclysm" event we can expect, so maybe there is some fun coming yet. But seriously, Blizz... ya dropped the ball on this one.

So, You Think You Can Dance?

C'mon, Daddy-o! It's the Jets Raiding the Sharks!

How to Raid is such a loaded topic and I don't mean to bring it up as a way of yelling at nubs or chastising the people who make a PuG Eye of Eternity impossible to accomplish. So often, though when you get to a new fight with a group you don't usually run with, a large part of the raid is going, "This is easy! Why can't you people do what you are told?"

There is often some ego in statements like that, but sometimes I think the problem is experienced raiders being unable to communicate what it is they do to players with less experience or skill.

I do not want to hold myself out as a skillful, experienced raider telling everyone how it is done. I just want to offer a new way to look at a raid fight that might help.

Raiding is like a large movie musical dance production.

Raiding requires a sense of rhythm: doing certain actions at a certain point in time often in tandem with the other dancers/raiders in your group. In a fight against a WoW boss, or in a stage production of West Side Story, unless everybody sticks to the same basic choreography, the whole thing is going to end up with some broken bodies lying on the floor. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Enter the Mage!

Don't mess with the 'Dar!
Eridar has come to the Beta.

Merinna has almost always been my main, but if I had a "main alt" (and I have many alts), it would be Eridar the draenei mage.

I'm still sticking to my guns about not letting myself discover too much about the new content between 80 and 85, but I want to learn more about the talent and ability changes for more of the classes I like to play. And besides, I can copy several chars to the beta server, so why not!

There has also been a problem in that all of my low-level beta chars, like Naralie and Winklestein, have disappeared into "crash" zones. Which is to say that I log onto them, they stand there for a few seconds, and then the entire client crashes.

So Eridar is here. My first impressions of the high level mage?


New Glyphs

The gylph artwork might benefit from a lil more variety too.
In the most recent beta build, the new glyph system came online.

Most of the details about this are pretty well documented and haven't varied much from what was advertised.

  • There are three levels of glyphs: major, minor, and prime
  • If you go down to the AH and buy a glyph, you read it once and then you know it for all time. You will never need to buy another.
  • The Glyph UI system lists every glyph you could possibly use, but lights up the glyphs you have learned. So, it is possible to be very specific about what you can use and what you need to complete your glyph collection.
  • You can change any of your glyphs at any time, in any place, so long as you are not in combat.

Some of the details are becoming more apparent, however, as we look at the system:
  • Minor glyphs are just what they always were, fun, cosmetic, mosly inconsequential.
  • Major glyphs seem to be existing for talent abilities (not trained abilities) and a variety of utility abilities. All of these are along the lines of reducing cooldowns, making a range a bit further, things like that.
  • The Prime glyphs are where the dps is at (or bigger heals, or whatever). All of these glyphs are crit increases, an extra percent of damage, or a longer DoT effect.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I Heart Yumfries

Time for another Machinima break. I could (and almost did) put the entire Yumfries catalogue on here because the "Nub Tales" series is so much fun. But, you guys can either follow the link here back to the rest of the Nub Tales collection or I'll save some to post for later. And you know part of what makes Yumfries as much fun as this? He's a shaman, baby!

Friday, September 3, 2010

It's the Little Things... (part 2)

Ooh! It's a red launcher!
Blizzard has unveiled a new system for delivering patches and updates. The launcher now tracks what kind of data is being updated into your WoW client and Blizz categorizes it as essential, secondary, and "less-important."  The trick is that once the "essential" files are downloaded and in place, you can turn the game on again and the secondary and "less important" files will fill in as time ticks by.  Inside the game, there is a new indicator near the mini-map that shows file traffic coming in.

It's the round red thing at the bottom.
General reports are that if you do start the game while the patch is still incoming, you can expect a wide range of um... experiences.  WoW might be playable, or you might be sorta stuck in a place like Dalaran that hasn't loaded in yet and so you're just going to lurk there in the sky until the scenery comes back. 

  • I have realized that despite everything, Sylvanas cannot really be an evil mastermind. A real evil mastermind, when giving her lickspittle an assignment that goes horribly wrong, is supposed to torture said lickspittle horribly and then say "You have ONE MORE CHANCE to redeem yourself!"  In reality (as much as WoW is reality) Sylvanas just blames herself and then gives the lickspittle a pair of magical britches.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What about the Big Raid?

Actually, I really won't miss Sartharion 3D on 25 man

I just can't see how very many 25-man raiding guilds are going to survive after the Cataclysm. Everything I read fails to give 25-man guilds any real incentive to keep running 25-man raids.
  • The loot tables are the same in 10 man and 25 man.
  • The lockouts for 10 and 25 man instances will be the same. So there's no more way to run both.
  • 25 man raids are awfully painful to organize. I would not lay blame on one single guild leader who decided it wasn't worth his trouble to keep doing it.

How is Blizzard Trying to Help Our Guilds?

I had never stopped to think about guild structures being messed up before, at least, not in any way that developers could do about it. But there are so many incoming changes for guilds right now, that I thought I needed to give it another look and see why these changes were really implemented.

I think, on the outset, people just see More Stuff To Do. And it is, of course. The main way to prolong the life of a game like this is give the players More Stuff To Do. But why this More Stuff To Do?

Think about the problems that guild leaders have: players trying to exploit the guild for materials, easy carries through dungeons, a place to stick your alt where they can tag along when the player feels like it, but doesn't really contribute.  Ragequitting. People on the gripe about loot rules.

I don't think there is much that Blizzard can do to overcome a lot of the gross human nature that causes some of this. But they have added one important aspect that should help:

Guild reputation