Archive for the Diary Category

And time passes again

Posted in Diary, News on August 18, 2014 by Natarumah

When I quit raiding (before the release of the patch that introduced the Siege of Orgrimmar) I had been thoroughly done with World of Warcraft. I had decided to become a casual, and then found myself spending so little time playing that I didn’t feel it was worth the efforts and costs of subscribing.

Since then I have tried to entertain myself with a variety of games – Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Fallout 3 Collector’s Edition, Fallout: New Vegas, Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, Borderlands 2, Blacklight Retribution to name a few. I also tried a few MMO’s both during my WoW times and after: Defiance, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Firefall when it was in Beta, Guild Wars 2, TERA, Aion and a few others.

I have to conclude that so far, none of the MMOs I have tried have come close to capturing my heart and attention for as long as World of Warcraft, which is why it took such effort to leave it. The social aspect, the enormous choice in activities, the (original) storyline.

It has its weak points, as does any game, and these are glaring:

  • There is definitely a sign of Horde favoritism in everything I see. It used to be small, but it grew with time. I understand they are the “cool” faction, but Blizzard has chosen to put the blame on the players themselves, claiming they “were not involved enough” to create their own cool warcry/culture. That is a sign of weakness on their part. They are the designers and I feel they should make sure that the factions are balanced when it comes to exposure. Sometimes this means one faction should get more PR and the other less, but not in favor of the stronger one.
  • There is also a lack of strong female protagonists and supporting cast in the last expansion and it is a growing trend with Warlords of Draenor. In Cataclysm we watched strong and independent Tyrande become a wavering waif in front of Varian Wrynn. Jaina Proudmoore snapped and became the stereotypical “mad ex”. In WoD, Seven warchiefs, Velen, Kadgar and some paladin who was in the TBC opening animation are shown. There was talk (but no show) of a female Draenei paladin. I understand that before the opening of the portal, female characters basically are restricted to Orcs, Arrakoa and Draenei, and that previous WoW Lore does not support any of it. But times change and the number of female players who want female lead players is heavily on the rise. I think there’s been enough time spent on the male Orc power trip.
  • Mobility in WoW is still old-fashioned. You have a few movement directions and a jump. If you have an appropriate class you can have a roll, backflip or the like. But with the number of action-MMOs on the rise, WoW still sticks to the old model of movement. This could work, but wouldn’t it be nice to have more action-oriented mobility to support the new active tanking model (other than the monk)?
  • Storytelling used to be the main focal point of the original game, TBC and WotLK. A lot of effort was placed into weaving events from various regions together, so that if you levelled a character in various areas, you would find intricately interwoven bits and pieces of lore that painted the whole picture. While still present, the current storylines show a certain lack of effort in that department, possibly due to rushing content or having less developers that are of the old and true bent and more that favor the “something to do and shiny rewards” model of play.
  • The current storyline with Garrosh in Draenor for Warlords of Draenor is awesome to set up the Iron Horde as the new enemy for Horde and Alliance. But Garrosh is not the final boss, so he is doomed to die an ignoble death at the hands of some NPC in a 5-man, likely Thrall. Garrosh was set up for Warchief, and the intense dislike caused him to relegated to “end of arc” boss to get rid of him. Yes, people claim it was all part of the plan but I do not buy it. He was sidelined because a lot of people hated him. Then he escaped his righteous defeat at the hands of the PCs to set off a whole expansion pack (robbing them of their kill likely not once but twice). He is starting to be like Kael’thas, rehashed until he is a pale shadow of himself and ready to be taken behind the shed and shot.

But there are many good things about WoW and the related games. Hearthstone is a lovely diversion, and the Naxxramas expansion is a heart-felt shoutout to the days of raiding that place. I love it to bits. While playing the NPCs all the time is a drag, the casual play is a quick option to find a game (if you don’t mind being stomped by the low-level alts of people with massive amounts of epic cards), and the Naxxramas class challenges are a blast. Arena is supposedly a lot of fun and I will definitely make a report on it when I save enough gold to fuel some games.

Future plans

I am unlikely to resub WoW and get Warlords of Draenor unless it shapes up to be awesome. Strong female protagonists on at least somewhat equal footing to the big brown orcs, a more serious and intricate questline that gives us a story rather than a vehicle to get from quest zone A to B, and some love for Alliance. Even then, I am unlikely to step into a raid again unless it’s raid finder – the long hours, preparations and occasional conflicts have taken their toll.

I have started up a small trial account to keep track of the game and its people. You can only level to 20, trade skills to 100 and cannot trade, pet battle, buy stuff on the AH or use the mail, but it’s great for a bit of a diversion. And I can still go for some achievements and even PVP for a change.

What about this blog?

I had thought long and hard, and decided not to close or sell Twisted Faith. Even if WoW is currently out of the picture, there’s plenty of Blizzard’s games to go around. Hearthstone provides amusing adventures, guides and tips for me to write about, and I can still do something fun with the Trial account. Let me know if my Trial Adventures seem interesting to you guys – I will gladly start a diary on that one.

I may be a very, very infrequent poster – but as long as I am alive I will be writing about something!

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.


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?


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).


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!

Why I am looking forward to Mists of Pandaria

Posted in Diary, Roleplaying, Theory with tags , , on January 26, 2012 by Natarumah

Currently, I am debating the game more than I am actually playing it. The current content is sparse, to say the least, and the economist in me speaks. I am currently raiding 25mans with Unity, we have a 10man Alts run going on as well and I gear up whatever alt I favor at the moment through LFR. This seems sound, but for some reason I cannot escape the feeling that I am bogged down somehow.

That sinking feeling

It probably is safe to say that the success of an expansion hinges not on how much content is released, but how much is perceived to still be “up Blizzard’s sleeve”. By that token, Cataclysm was a short and ironically uneventful expansion. It shouldn’t be that you hit the final raid of the expansion to find the bosses quite easy on Normal mode and then proceed to beat around the bush with hard modes because that’s all you have left. Hard modes are awesome, but once we clear them, the expansion’s just about over.

Over – with no sign in sight for Mists of Pandaria.

Yes, there will be a beta where 90% of the WoW population will join (mind you, when you signed for that annual pass they didn’t promise you what stage beta you’d be joining) and daily snippets of Blizzcon footage are wound off their reels again to keep people interested. Logical, in the light of quite a few contenders in the MMO territory for the more casual player – which is exactly what MoP seems to be targetting.

Taking it easy for a change

After a plethora of world-shattering bosses (Illidan, Kil’jaeden, the Lich King, Deathwing) it will be a breath of fresh air to enter an expansion where we aren’t immediately rushed into doom and gloom. After all, that’s what it felt like and it echoed through every sliver of Cataclysm. Deathwing’s coming, hit 85 quickly, assist the Molten Front with post-haste, quickly defeat Ragnaros and then face Deathwing. Time for a change of pace.

Exploration, discovery and lore matter quite a bit in any story. Finding Pandaria and its mysterious inhabitants, magic and monsters will give us a new insight into Azeroth and its secrets. This way, Blizzard can slowly up the tension to the level of mid-TBC and prepare for another expansion or two before another world-shattering incident.

The joy is in the eating

One of the greatest changes in WoW currently is a shift in focus from the hardcore players from Classic to the people in Cataclysm who are, effectively, playing a lifestyle. It’s a lot less about the cutting edge gear, split-second tactics and perseverance. World-first raiders and upper-echelon PvP masters are now part of the e-sports celebrity community and thereby elevated far above even the UNcommon player.

This means that aside of raiding, PvP and collection games (Archeology, achievements, reputations, mounts, pets, Transmog gear) more needs to be done to capture and entertain the audience. A few of these things are announced for MoP and while derided as childish by some, I am quite looking forward to it.

  • Pandaren represent a first option for a race in both factions, and I am interested how they build on the sparse lore from before (which states nothing more than them being fun-loving ale-guzzling martial artists).
  • The Monk class will, if it resembles the form it was announced in at Blizzcon, a new avenue in class design. More active abilities, requiring a different set of skills and with no one who has mastered it opening it up as a new choice for many. Like DKs, many will fail before it will be embraced by the community.
  • Pandaren and its evil spirits are dear to me because of the imagery, use of color and having an area that deviates from the more traditional heavy-handed High Fantasy. While you could taste this in an Asian MMO, it’s nice to have a change-over on the scenery.
  • Pet Battles may resemble a certain collection game a lot, but in the end it’s just a fun little diversion while you wait for your other raid members to arrive (or your LFR/LFG queue to pop). With Blizzard’s intent to lessen our desire to all cramp together in one city and lazily wait for our next adventure-on-demand window to pop up, this can only improve.
  • A new expansion means a new chance to give our opinions and influence the way the game will be. A game can only be a success if everyone’s desires are met in one way or the other. And as much as people have been moping about it (hah!) fact remains that this is still a wildly popular game – and probably will remain (one of) the largest until the release of Titan.

Right now it feels like we, as players, carefully ration ourselves with the current content. Likely we will have to wai thalf a year at least before the new expansion hits our welcome mat, and we will have to make do with the content we have. Currently the lore has “run dry”. There might be a few more big bads to run on (At least two old gods, C’thun is still not dead again I believe, and at the end of the road is Sargeras) but as sad a state as Deathwing has been reduced to in terms of a fight, having him be topped in his own expansion a la Kil’jaeden topping Illidan would be even more of a slap in the face.

What I hope to see

There’s a few more checks-in-the-box for things I’d love to see in Mists of Pandaria. Things that would make me happy and (among them) continue blogging about. It’s no secret that one of the reasons I am writing less is because there simply is less to write about – and I’d like to see that changed.

  • An epic opening cinematic for MoP, and preferably a half-time moment of jaw-dropping awesomeness (a la Wrath Gate)
  • The Monk class being exciting, dynamic and difficult – but with corresponding rewards in visual displays and feel-good moves
  • Pet battles becoming secretly embraced by people who detract it currently, leading to a new brand of e-sports
  • A storyline that slowly ramps up in scope, not breaking out of its box in the first 30 minutes of play
  • Monk/Martial Art training tools that actually work and allow you to show off your WoW-Fu – danger room, please
  • Emphasis on quality raids with doable LFR, challenging normal modes and fiendish hard modes
  • Loot that does not look like it was taken out of a Slaine comic book
  • Lore revealed which meshes with existing lore, yet gives us inrigueing insight into an isolated culture
  • Classes which have a stronger theme as foundation, meaning less stepping on other’s toes in terms of lore, looks and feel
  • Content being paced properly, allowing us to not have “expansion left at the end of the content”

All in all I have a good feeling about MoP – but the risk remains that watering down the game for the benefit of too large a group will cause it to go stale. I mean, look at a very successful family game like Wizard 101 which is very fun for kids – but not challenging at all for (most) adults.

Warhammer fell into the trap of catering to a single group (PvPers), Age of Conan offered too little content and meandered all over the place, RIFT simply was too complex and its shiny exterior hid a multiple-personality syndrome, D&D Online simply didn’t live up anywhere to its legendary tabletop origins and the various superhero MMOs (Champions Online, DC Universe, City of Heroes/Villains) coped with a serious image problem when it came to more mainstream gamers.

Currently the main contender for my personal attention is Star Wars: The Old Republic. It features strong lore, clever storytelling and class-personalized quest lines. Sure it will be old hat after the second time or so, but for now it feels very clever and well-made. Endgame is still a question, as a lot of bugs have been removed only recently. It does feature reasonably balanced classes with a strong theme – which is one of the things WoW is in danger of losing.

My hope is that in the run towards Mists of Pandaria classes will have a stronger theme, balanced visuals and a unique selling point. Without it, people may burn out on frustration.

Without epic class quests (Paladin and Warlock Mount, Anathema/Benediction, Warlock Doomguard and Infernal, the epic quest line for Hunters, and so on) and the continued attempts and balance through homogenization we currently have a situation where classes are in some cases cardboard cutouts for each other, where you can practically see the “cut along the lines” indications on abilities.


Even though WoW is a old workhorse of an MMO, it is by far the most popular and has shown much innovation in its time. Now it will have to make a great metamorphosis, evolving to endure the coming onslaught of next-gen MMOs. Mists of Pandaria might be the chance the game developers need to show that they can cater to the newer, more casual gamer while still honoring the time-old veteran’s tradition of elbow grease and theorycraft.