WoW – 30 Levels

I did resub to WoW, have played about 16-17 hours, and now have a level 30 Dranei Monk. So far I am mostly enjoying it.

Some Impressions

I was curious about new cinematics and new starter zones, so I created a throwaway char of each race and watched. For the Pandaren and Worgen, I played through the whole zone – I am in the midst of the same for the Goblin. I’m sure I’m the last person playing WoW to note the Pandaren and Worgen starter zones are abbreviated and meant to funnel you through and into the rest of the world quickly; both didn’t take much time to zip through, and left you at level 11-13 or so with some nice gear upgrades and extra bag space. I’m working through the Goblin area as well, but haven’t finished, and I’m sure it will be the same.

Quest flow is vastly improved. I subbed to WoW in 2007, and then in 2010, and I remember being stuck figuring out what to do next.There was no backstory to follow (as in LoTRO or GW) which helps guide you to the next area, and since the zones are a little randomized (two factions with their respective starter areas mixed in with higher level zones) it sometimes meant crossing to the other continent, running long distances to get a flight path, etc.

But now, the capital cities have an announcement banner that gives a “Hero’s Call” quest. So after wrapping up all the quests in the Dranei area, the banner told me to report to someone in Ashenvale, skipping me over Darkshore which I out leveled). Once there and starting on the west side of the zone, I received a few area quests and then some that took me eastward across the whole zone. And when I got into the upper 20’s, another quest from the announcement banner in the capital gave me a quest to report to Stonetalon Mountains and also Desolace.

Of course, making it to Ashenvale for the first time meant hoofing along the road.

Elekk across Darkshore

Elekk across Darkshore

What I do miss from GW/GW2 and even LoTRO is real fast travel – the kind that takes seconds to complete. On the other hand, unlike EVE, at least I don’t have to worry about getting attacked while traveling.

Another thing that is annoying after playing GW2 is the shared resource/quest mechanism. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been cut off trying to get to a quest objective by another player using a ranged attack to tag a mob before I can get there. Or resource node. Blizzard, play some GW2 and advance your quest design by 10 years. And that’s now, when the initial rush of players through the new zones has subsided. I can’t imaging how absolutely crappy things were when those new races were added, players must have spent hours trying to jump on spawned mobs to complete their own “kill X mobs” quests.

Borked Economy

My only real complaint about WoW this 3rd time around is the same one from my previous 2 subs: the economy is 100% totally borked. It is skewed/inflated towards end-game players and basically assumes any lower level char is an alt of a wealthy max level main.

Here’s a representative pic of looking for gear at the auction hall:

Auction Hall

Auction Hall

My character has been wearing that pumpkin helm for about 25 levels, because I haven’t gotten something better via questing, and all the helms (for that matter, all gear I’ve looked for, weapons and armor) is ridiculously priced. That pumpkin helm is probably some Halloween special I received, and if it weren’t the Halloween season, I might not have a helm at all.

In this case, searching for a helm, the options shown are either ~90 gold or ~450+ gold. What is missing are the typical 1 to 5 gold offerings – a basic item likely made by someone merely leveling their crafting skills. Those type of items aren’t upgrades at all and have worst stats than quest reward gear.

So the auction hall’s “affordable” items are terrible and kinda pricey as well, and actual gear improvements are insanely expensive. It is as if everything in the auction hall is made by rich characters crafting items for other rich characters seeking to twink their alts.

I’ll probably just skip checking anymore, it is clear to me the crafting economy is screwed and always will be. I guess I’ll survive off quest gear.

Open-World PvP

One other thing I hate, but have to deal with because my friends are on a PvP realm, is open-world PvP.

IMHO, Open-world PvP is complete garbage. Nobody is interested in a fair or even fight, so the entire premise is crap. The only PvP going on in quest zones is ganking:

One-shot killed

One-shot killed

The enemy player did more damage in one spell than my entire health. There’s no actual combat on either side. For them, it’s a single keypress. For me, I’m suddenly dead and have to retrieve my body. I’ve come to loathe druids, since they’ve been responsible for all ganks so far – druids have the stealth so they can sneak up on you and spells for a ranged kill.

It’s just crap – I hate open-world PvP so much I can’t describe it adequately. Across various characters I’ve leveled in PvP realms in WoW, I can think of 2 times out of ~50 fights where I had a relatively even fight in open-world PvP. The rest have been near-max level chars one-shotting me.

I’ve come to view the inevitable ganking as a 5% chance per hour of dying for no reason I can control… a environment effect of sorts that just kills randomly as an annoyance. That is pretty much what it is like.

I vastly prefer “battleground” style PvP (which WoW does have). PvP like it is in GW/GW2, where you travel to a specific zone for PvP and fight a somewhat reasonably balanced (in numbers and level) group – that’s the way to do it. Then when I’m in the mood to PvP, travel to those zones and indulge. Even LoTRO’s PvP is instanced away to a separate zone (on the other hand I’m not sure levels or numbers are balanced in any way).

I wracked my brains to think of something good to say about open-world PvP and all I can come up with is this: at least it is better than it is EVE where there is also item loss. ;)

Civ – Cultural Victory

One thing I wanted to accomplish before Beyond Earth releases is to win a cultural victory in Civ 5.

So I started a small map, 2 continents, 1 other civilization, and several city-states (4 or 5). And besides fight off barbarians, I didn’t do any other fighting: I just left the other civ alone (easy since it was on the other continent), and ignored the city-state on my own land mass.

I spent the game working my land/sea and building up my empire. In the mid-game I had a surplus of gold, so I simply bought a few buildings and otherwise built up anything with a culture bonus. Every great musician/artist born in my empire created a great work; most great scientists build labs or instantly researched technology, etc.

Since I dominated the research tree, I placed all my spies in my own cities to work as counter-intelligence. They caught/killed at least a dozen of the other civ’s spies. Every time the game showed the apology screen, I forgave rather than take the other option (which I supposed was declare war?).

Basically, I spent the game working my economy and not fighting anyone. I’ve been drawn into long wars in previous games and was determined to avoid that. It helped that nobody attacked me. I did build a few military units, and got a few free ones from trade plus something about receiving 6 free foreign legion units (I don’t remember what I built). When I could, I upgraded them and they were sufficiently advanced to scare off my would-be war monger rival. ;)

In the late 1960’s, as I was about to click “next turn”, I got the “you’ve won a cultural victory” screen. Woot!

Cultural Victory

Cultural Victory

I did really well, the highest ranking I’ve gotten in the game:

High Ranking

High Ranking

But to be fair, this was on normal difficulty against one other computer civilization. I’m sure another player would present a much greater challenge. As would playing a larger map with more civilizations. Being on the other continent with only a single city-state on my side to compete with was a major boon.

Still, it was fun just building an infrastructure and not winning through military victory. I’m looking forward to Beyond Earth!

WoW – Possible Return

So my friend at work that got me to retry ArcheAge… is actually playing WoW along with yet another friend at work and some others they know.

I suppose that’s good because if they were going into ArcheAge – I relayed my story about hammering my disk drive and how that annoyed me to the uninstall point – I wouldn’t be there. Now I have another dilemma, resub to WoW?

This time around might be more fun as I’d actually have some people to play with. I did the first time, sort of, a friend talked me into it but he was an end-game raider on a PvP world, so I had to fend for myself while solo leveling (most of the time) in what I thought were miserable (ganked once a level) conditions. I wasn’t enjoying it and I quit. (This was about 6-7 years ago).

Anyway, I researched and it seems all the expansions are now rolled into the base game for $20, and pre-ordering WoD gets me a level 90 boost.

This brought up another decision – enable my old account, or start another?

Pros of enabling my old account include having a stable of level 50 something chars. Yeah that’s right, I never did hit max level even in the Burning Crusade era. Cons of enabling my old account include being on the wrong server, and therefore spending some money to transfer them.

Another major con for me is literally enabling my account – I set it up with the Blizzard Authenticator, and later uninstalled it from my phone, so now it doesn’t have the right seed value or whatever, so it isn’t working for letting me in. I went through some of the steps for removing it – send email, enter code, enter secret answer to question, but balked at uploading a pic of a government issued id. Um… no, not going to happen. If the registered email account and secret answer aren’t good enough, I’m not releasing personal info like address and driver’s license id number over some web uploader to unlock a game account. If it were say my bank, I’d go into a branch and hammer it out in person.

So that leaves me with re-buying the base game (included are all expansions!) and WoD. Basically, this option costs $20 more than enabling my original account, cuts me off from my original characters (not a big loss) but also saves me a transfer fee or two.

Well that’s a no-brainer; I’m going to create a new account, roll up a new char and fiddle around for a bit before taking the plunge (subbing and buying WoD).

My earlier chars were a shaman, hunter, warlock, druid. I think this time around, I’ll stick with two chars, probably a monk and druid or paladin. I’ll be going for hybrids that can serve all 3 char roles. I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy the monk since the martial artist type chars are my favorite archetype for some reason. It goes back to pen and paper D&D where my favorite char was… you guessed it… a monk. :)

I’m good for one sub fee, I’ll get my money’s worth. Lately I’ve just been doing the skill shuffle game in EVE so I think I’ll just let my sub lapse in a few weeks.

AA – Antivirus Annoyance

I decided to give ArcheAge another try – a friend at work said he rolled up a char on Salphira, and I thought it would be fun to join in. So I reinstalled AA and was able to log into the game, without a queue, and locate Salphira, a “high” population server. That’s fine.

I fiddled around and created a Nuian and Harani. I just couldn’t get into the looks of the other two races, the Elves and the Firrans. I decided to make my first character an Archer, then train ShadowPlay, then train Defense… basically the “Stone Archer” class.

After questing for an hour or two, I reached a point where I trained up a mount:

First Mount

First Mount

which was nice because that will help cut back on travel time. Not that at level 8 I was having trouble getting from one outpost to the next.

Island

Island

So far so good, you might wonder what the problem is. Well, I can’t seem to launch the game again. At least, not consistently.

When I start the game via Glyph, click “Play”, their anti-hacker process starts in the background (I can tell because it flashes an “Anti-Hack Shield” popup briefly in the corner of the screen), my disk usage pegs out at 100%, and it just sits there. This is kind of annoying, obviously.

Taunt Screen

Taunt Screen, which takes 10-15 mins to advance

I could rant against Antivirus software in general, how in my personal experience the !#$@& software causes more problems than it solves (keeping in mind that even the “best” stuff only catches 2/3rds of the known malware out there). But this takes 1st prize in annoyance because I haven’t seen any game ever hit this issue.

I realize botting and hacking is a major problem in ArcheAge, so this software might be doing something useful (?), like Blizzard’s Warden, but at least with Blizzard’s Warden, I could actually start the game and play it.

I cranked up SysInternal’s ProcMon to help figure out what the heck was going on, and after capturing some data, I see that starting ArcheAge kicks the Windows’ Antimalware Service Executable into high gear, scanning the ArcheAge data file: Live\game_pak.

game_pak scanning

game_pak scanning

I suppose I could wait until all ~24 GB of this file is scanned and then see what happens, but I’m definitely not waiting 15+ minutes every time I launch the game.

I thought about cranking up the debugger to look, but poking around with no symbols (very likely) isn’t a lot of fun… way too much work to solve this problem.

Stupid antimalware service

Stupid antimalware service

I thought about disabling the malware service – since that’s the symptom of the problem. Yes, that stupid service shouldn’t hog 100% of the CPU, yes, that’s Microsoft and not XL Games or Trion…

but I decided this annoyed me sufficiently that I uninstalled ArcheAge instead. Basically, at a higher level than this specific problem, I’d just rather play a game that doesn’t have a fricking anti-hack service running the background that somehow pushes the Microsoft Antimalware service into behaving stupid in the first place.

EDIT: The game finally launched, but stutters, undoubtedly because of the disk load that still is going on in the background. Geez this Windows Defender Service is poorly behaved. It might find itself disabled/stopped soon.

GW2 – Gendarran Fields Explorer

I logged into GW2 with Glyneth on the airship inside the “Not So Secret” jump puzzle. There were a few others battling Aetherblade enemies, so I jumped in. It probably looked I came in out of nowhere because that’s kind of what happened!

It looked like a group of 3, trying their hand at the puzzle. A mesmer appeared and cast a portal, so I jumped on it and found myself balanced on a pipe above the top of the airship – basically, very close to the end. So that was lucky… except I still had to get to the chest.

One of the players fell off the pipe and died on the airship. I guess he/she didn’t have much health…? but then how could they even get this far. Anyway, I jumped off and started to fight an Aetherblade or two, which wasn’t too tough. I figured I owed them since somebody in their group ported me 95% the way to end, I could fight off one of two enemies and help rez them.

I stuck around and helped clear the top of the airship with the help of some of the others. Eventually I noticed they had all left so I decided it OK for me to jump down and open the chest and “finish” the puzzle. It all worked out very well.

Glyneth was about 2/3rds the way through exploring all of Gendarran Fields, so I decided to finish it. Since I took a little break from playing GW2 I estimate Glyneth has been working on this particular map for around 2 months – real time. Game time, not that long of course. Along the way Glyneth leveled to 73 and 74, so I’m closing in on my second level 80 char.

Cartography

Cartography

I also gained a new pet by accident. As I went to view this vista, I moved in range of a Juvenile Eagle, a pet Glyneth did not yet have. So when I hit F to view the vista I actually charmed a new pet. Anyway, that’s another thing for the completionist in me to get, all of the ranger pets.

GW2 – Not So Secret Jump Puzzle

I resumed playing Glyneth, intent on reaching level 73.

Underwater Shrine

Underwater Shrine

After swimming around to find some points of interest, and opening a waypoint or three, I was distracted by a jumping puzzle I found. It turns out it I happened on the “Not So Secret” jump puzzle. It is obvious when looking at the map that something is there. And I noticed a stream of players running to a spot on the cliffs, where I found a metal disc that periodically fired steam – standing on it boosted my jump. I proceeded in this fashion, through fake walls occasionally, and eventually came to an Aetherblade base.

Rungs

Rungs

It took me several tries to pass this rungs obstacle – I kept falling at the last one. But eventually I got the hang of it, meaning I can do it about 60% to 80% of the time.

Pillars

Pillars

Unfortunately, I got stuck on the next puzzle section, hopping on the tops of pillars. This was as far as I made it.

I got frustrated and kept trying another 15-30 mins or so, but eventually logged off inside the base. Maybe I’ll luck out and a mesmer will come along that casts the Portal Entre/Exeunt combo. :)

GW2 – New Char Tutorial

With another session or two of GW2, I reached level 10 on my new necro.

I adventured a bit further into Queensdale, a zone I’m not too familiar with since my other characters are non-human, and after helping the locals solve various Skritt issues, I was close.

Skritt Cave

Skritt Cave

Some fisherman near Beetletun needed help catching crabs, so I swam around and did the work. I hit level 10 underwater but surfaced before claiming my reward.

Level 10

Level 10

One of the level 10 rewards was “Vistas Unlocked”. What? I was lazy and didn’t do any vistas so far – part of that is I’m trying to do all exploration on character, my ranger Glyneth, but I didn’t think you had to be any particular level to view a Vista. I clicked on the icon and the explanation was that Vistas now appear on the mini-map. Ah, well I hadn’t noticed actually.

Along with level 10 came a letter from Petra, wanting to meet at the Merchant’s Coin tavern. Ah yes, but first, I stopped by the bank to retrieve an experience scroll. Using it leveled me to 20, where I bought a round of level 20 armor and a few extra weapons. Since once of the level rewards was a nice staff, I kept it.

Now I’m ready to rendezvous with Petra at the Inn, newly buffed up. ;)

Divinity's Reach

Divinity’s Reach