Archive for the Fun Category

The Cycle of Alts

Posted in Fun, Guides, News on October 1, 2012 by Natarumah

The content added during Mists of Pandaria is already staggering. Even in the starting zone people mill in confusion, while the quests attempt to guide them into the storyline in an orderly fashion. But it’s all nice and good when you try to rush your main to 90 – after that you have an even longer road ahead. You will need to grind reputation with factions – to allow you to grind reputation with other factions. This return to the old TBC model of reputation as the main precursor to raids does have a rather unsettling side effect, namely that you will find yourself actually running out of progress, normally filled in by levelling alts.

That said, the content is much more focused on lore and your character’s role – it allows less for alts. In fact, leveling an alt in Pandaria will be much more of a chore than in Wrath or TBC before. So in the light of most people reaching or approaching level 90, a few tips on how Alts can make your day better.

Levelling alts

The best advice is to get through the starting sequence in Pandaria and then ride on to Halfhill in the Valley of Four Winds. The ride there is with very little danger for a level 85 character, and it gives plenty herbing and mining opportunities if you are so inclined. With the many creatures being killed there daily, skinners will also find it a lovely place to visit. You will find an adventuring gear vendor here (Grummel with a big pack) who can sell some good stuff. After you are done here, you can fly back to the starting zone with better preparation.

If your cooking is not up to scratch, this place allows you to quickly level cooking through “Pandaren Cooking”, where you get specific recipes using Pandaria ingredients to level quickly. A lot can simply be bought at the trainer, for the rest you will either need Ironpaw tokens or materials sent in from other characters or the AH.

Do the starting quests for the farm, and make sure you plant stuff there daily for use in cooking. Now, the trick is that the dailies for the tillers do not actually appear until level 90 – but this place is a good spot to put your hearthstone. And, even if you decide not to level through questing, you can easily use it as a home base while running random dungeons or battlegrounds. If you keep any alts here that you don’t plan on levelling yet, you ensure a steady stream of ingredients for your main’s cooking – and trust me, you will need a lot of them. Once they do level to 90, you can farm crops daily for about 200 rep a day – plus whatever daily quests you do. Once you get to revered, you can start farming special crops. This means that every character you get to level 90 can potentially have 16 farming slots, each with a plant that provides 1 or more pieces of cloth, leather, herb or ore. Even enchanting mats or Harmony can be farmed this way.

This will severely relax the need for farming alts (except that they will be farming literally of course), allowing you to sustain yourself with what comes off the farm. This also means less time spent running after resources, which are then available for people levelling who need them. This also means that the Cross Realm Zones will affect us less, again. Winning all around, but it takes some effort to get the engine running.

Reputations for alts

Lorewalkers, Anglers and the Order of the Cloud Serpent reputation is either less important for alts, or is simply very hard to do without a flying mount. In such cases, only go for these reputations on alts where you feel you must have access to the items they provide. If you want to have a permanent fishing/hunting alt, specifically for providing fish and meat for cooking, then feel free to go for the Anglers reputation.

Black Marketeering

The Black Market is a pretty dangerous place to get to, but if you manage to get an alt there (bonus points if it is a Warlock) and your friends put an alt here as well, you can have a quick summoning stone relay to get mains in to place a bid on items at the right time. Not many people actually come here, some don’t know and many don’t have the money for it. But if you want early access to epics, this place offers an opportunity.

The alts here can be used to check what’s on sale as well, and using a guild form or guild message of the day to report what is for sale will make your guild respond a lot more efficiently to the stock.

Old materials

Right now the Auction House is flooded with low-level materials brought in by levelling Pandaren and Monk characters. New tradeskills being levelled creates demand, meaning prices are outrageous for the TBC and Wrath materials. This is a good stock to cash in on now. Starting materials will quickly stabilize, and Cataclysm materials are in great supply (leftovers), but might rise in a week or two.

Note that the Cata inks are still used to trade in for lower level inks in Stormwind – if you have a scribe make sure to use the cheaper herbs and whatever stores you have left to trade them in for glyphs to sell.

If you have alts running dungeons and have no use for the Justice Points, they can still be used to buy Cataclysm grade materials for a modest profit or levelling an alts’ professions.

Gearing Alts

Alts that managed to hit 90 can be very quickly geared. Level 90 quests and normal dungeons equal the new Justice Points gear, while heroics equal the new Valor Points gear. This means that every option is open to get yourself up to snuff. In fact, many people are currently using the PvP crafted sets to gain their last few skill points in Blacksmithing, Leathworking and Tailoring, and their prices are dropping steadily.

These PvP items are cheap to make, meaning that they are a quick avenue to meeting the iLevel for Heroics. In fact, because PvP sets take up a lesser amount of item budget, PvP gear is almost as good as the PvE gear of the same iLevel. This is good news for newly dinged 90s.

A special note to tailors

Dear tailors,

Northrend cloth farming, or whatever it’s called, works in full force. You will still find many, many additional pieces of cloth and therefore will have no difficulty completing your daily tailoring in the Silk Fields, reaching 600 tailoring or finding expensive lint all over your bagspace. Please consider using it for First Aid on your main (for Cloud Serpent dailies) or on any alts that might need it.

Personally I am sitting on 50-60 bolts after hitting 600 on tailoring, so I might commit the unforgivable sin of actually leveling First Aid to max…

The Old Gods and their new toys

Posted in Diary, Fun, News, Roleplaying, Shadowpriest, Theory with tags , , , , on June 3, 2012 by Natarumah

Things are starting to get rolling in the Priest department, it seems. When MMO-Champion released a video of the new priest animations (check it out here) by Kit, the first thing that went through my head is “hey – I think I see a theme…” which is a good thing, definitely. While the Holy and Discipline priests have their clear and present feels, I posted before on how Shadowpriests need to be re-examined and have their theme pulled tight again.

When I look at these animations, however, I have to say that the ballpark seems to be squarely in the Old Gods department again. Let’s have a look at a few telling animations, and see what we can gather from it…or what may be yet in store.

Psyfiend

The Psyfiend looks like a strange mixture between the Sha (The spiritual manifestations of bad and twisted emotions in Pandaria) and an evolved Shadowfiend. As you can see, it has the Shadowfiend’s head and back (including gaping maw) with its lower half devolving into a legless form of spirit and Shadows.

Considering that the Sha represent emotions and are a major threat to Pandaria, I wouldn’t be surprised if this cemented the link between the Shadowfiend being a gift from the Old Gods and the Sha being the creations or manipulations by one. Of course, we’d have to follow through on the Mists of Pandaria storyline in order to find out for sure, but the chances are high that we may find some solid linking between the various concepts.

If you look at the Sha on WoWPedia, you will find that there’s a good resemblance between the Sha types and the Shadowfiend, as well as the ominous stained glass window that was revealed  (which is of course a representation of Yogg-Saron). If we will be eventually facing an Old God in this expansion, it’s therefore likely to be a shadowy one – perhaps finally revealing where the Shadowpriests of the Horde and Alliance are getting their powers from.

Void Tendrils

Of all of the new Priest abilities, this is the most no-brainer of them all. Tendrils that look like any used by the Old Gods and their servants. From Ch’tun to Yogg-Saron, from Vezzax to Zon’ozz, you can’t seem to fight these guys without tripping over tentacles. And right now, Priests can do that exact same thing. It’s possibly the most telling example of the connection between the Old Gods and Shadowpriests, but also the most iconic. Raise your hands if you have run Ch’tun and Yogg-Saron even in Wrath to get your hands on any of the tentacle trinkets?

Mindbender

And the last of the abilities I want to focus on is Mindbender, allowing us to control others’ minds. Where the Shadowfiends dutifully suck out all of that delicious mana for us to use from our enemies the Mindbenders pop out of whatever Shadowy hiding place they come from and give us more soldiers to use in our battles – and these Mindbenders are creatures we’ve seen before. One of them controls Erunak Stonespeaker in the Throne of the Tides, and will jump to party members to do the same.

And one large specimen of this creature controls a Flesh Giant in the Twilight Highlands (Julak-Doom) while Ozumat is likely the largest specimen of this type encountered near Azeroth. The fact that this race is aligned with, and probably spawned by, the Old Gods and now in service to Shadowpriests is telling of our allegiance in the great race between Order (Titans) and Chaos (Old Gods).

Conclusion

We are looking at a solid design element here, Old Gods. People have speculated about them for years now, and I would be delighted if Shadowpriests were actively part of that lore. It’d make us bad guys, sure – or at the very least anti-heroes, but it would give us plenty of visual elements to give us new toys with.

Imagine powers based on the Faceless Ones, such as shadowy globs that explode on impact or eye stalks that cast Mind Flay? Why not some form of buff that makes us bigger and turns out arms into tentacles (or have them grow out of our backs) to show the corruptive influences of our magics?

And if you ever want to remake the Shadowpriest (like what happened to Warlocks) I can offer up one suggestion: replace the mana bar with a Sanity bar. As we go along, many of our abilities reduce our Sanity, producing various nasty visual results, until we ran out of Sanity and can no longer cast spells. We regain Sanity by draining it from enemies (as we do now) or by casting spells that are helpful to our raid (Shadowy healing, buffs, and the like). It might be that certain powerful abilities – instead of being on a cooldown – require the Shadowpriest to be below a certain level of Sanity (thoroughly insane to grasp these terrible secrets) before they can be used.

I hope Blizzard will stick with the Old Gods theme, because as you can see there is so much that can still be done and left to explore. It certainly would keep me playing my Shadowpriest!

How the East was won

Posted in Fun, News, Shadowpriest with tags , , , , on May 27, 2012 by Natarumah

Since there are little to no changes to the Shadowpriest on the beta of note (just continuous shuffling of abilities) it’s about time to look beyond the Shadowpriest itself, and look at the expansion as a whole. From what I’ve seen and what I’ve been told, Mists of Pandaria is going to be quite a different expansion to what we’re used to, as attested to by what the Devs claimed were their intentions and what’s on the Beta right now.

There will be more exploration in Mists

One of the key things here is that the vistas are grand, and areas are huge. There is so much to see, and a lot of detail in the terrain. There are also things scattered around the area from carts to boxes to tea sets still giving off steam. The visual experience is powerful, colors are bold and models are well-made and animated. Where once WoW’s cartoony graphics may have been an anti-aging method, here they actually look like they’re “in place” and meaningful.

Exploration also comes into play with the quests. Where Cataclysm led you by the nose, some quests and events in Mists you won’t find unless you go off the beaten path and beyond the area you are questing in. If you follow the quest lines alone you will level just fine, but to see all that Pandaria has to offer you will have to go down unused paths into the jungle or find long-lost caves and ruins.

Another nice touch is how the quests involving a dungeon actually take place in and around that area, instead of just leading up to it and then stopping cold of the instance portal. It makes the world feel that much more real, thought-out and immersive.

Mists of Pandaria will be more Casual-friendly

Unless the raiding model will be much improved from Cataclysm, and Blizzard gets their raid buffs sorted, it’s likely you will find the number of hard-mode raiders dropping severely (again). With the raid finder, the complexity of 25mans without the additional reward and the heavy focus put on 10man raiding, you will see that Hard Modes are going to be for an ever shrinking group of players.

On the flip side, WoW will be very inviting to more casual play. Pet battles and exploration for those who like them, the ability to farm your own plot of land (like done so beautifully in Lotro before – expect the pipeweed is missing) and the removal of the daily quests cap means that there is plenty to do even if you are not a raider. And if you fancy yourself a good player, you can always test yourself in the 5man challenge modes.

Blizzard seems to head for a Dynamic Server Model

There seems to be a lot of pressure on cross-realm interaction, especially in leveling zones. This seems great for people who want to do that Elite quests (which will make a comeback in Mists) but it does introduce one problem: cross-realm asshattery. Since there is zero responsibility or capacity for punishing people who misbehave on cross-realm areas, we can only hope that the improved reporting system (made quicker and more efficient) will actually curb leechers, trainers, kill-stealers, ninjas and pottymouths.

This is of course nice for people who are leveling, but do not discount the economic effects. Servers that are hardly used because no one was leveling in their zones (I am talking about the physical/virtual servers now, and not realms) can now be merged onto a single virtual server (the crossrealm leveling zone) meaning greater efficiency. This will cut costs and makes sure there’s a lot of backup capacity. This might also help with calamities and stability issues, not to mention look good on the next annual report.

Crossrealm leveling zones will still have their normal trading restrictions (like in random dungeons and raids today) but this might change in the future. And from there it’s only a step up to a truly dynamic server model, where your choice of realm is a choice when logging in, or even a click away (like in Champions Online). This would make the debate about merging realms and dying realms obsolete, as people could be dynamically redistributed. The only stable location would have to be the capital cities, where your guild and friend would be able to meet you when needed and you could organize your 5mans, raids and PvP.

If Fun>Profit run Game else Quit

Yes, an equation. Not very elegant but it proves a point: while some people play for challenge, most just play for fun. Where WoW was once a game where the elite few raided or PvP’d while the rest just stuck to 5mans, it’s now is a game where the casual player is the audience. Those people who want challenging raid mechanics, gear and titles as actual status symbols and truly diabolocial achievements to gain will probably need to look for another game. And let’s face it, it makes sense.

The top raiders once were teenagers, but they are now adults with responsibilities and jobs (for the most part), with the influx into the game being modern-day teenagers who (thanks to the Facebook era) don’t want to spend that amount of time on a game – especially if the same is offered by the free online and FB games of today.

But if you can adapt to the more casual mind-set, where maths are much simpler and gameplay is more set in stone, then Mists of Pandaria still has a lot to offer. I may not personally like how much the game has been made more simple, but it does allow for more expansions to follow and balance to be maintained more easily. And a game that can be upgraded and maintained more easily, and attracts a greater audience, will have a longer lifespan. It also will have more subscribers, which feed into R&D and Design, making the game more shiny. And I cannot find fault in that.

What I intend to do

My personal look at Mists is that I will definitely play. Question is whether it will be as a Hard Mode Raider, and whether it will be as Shadowpriest. So far Shadowpriests are solid in terms of rotations (since we don’t really get anything new anyway) but severely lack in fun (latest addition: a glyph to give your noncombat pet Shadowform – yeah, pass). Warlocks and Death Knights get a lot of shinies and look equally solid. So it may be that I decide to switch mains, or go Casual.

But I do know that I will be playing in the next expansion, and that’s a better outlook than I had a month ago.

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