WoW – early Draenor

I haven’t blogged much about gaming, because I’m too busy playing and having fun instead.

Draenor

I was having fun in Pandaria, maybe I’m the only person playing that enjoyed it or something. Granted, the Pandaren race didn’t excite me, but I do very much enjoy the class that they brought in with them (the monk) and the zones and music. So pretty much most everything except the physical appearance of the Pandaren, which I realize is a personal preference.

I finished up all the quests I could find in Jade Forest and moved into other zones, but WoD released so I jumped into that as soon as I could. It started with a quest line that lead to my initial garrison… but I’m sure you knew that because everybody has talked about it.

My Garrison

My Garrison

I’ve finished off Shadowmoon Valley and started in Gorgorond; there are 4-5 other Draenor zones I haven’t been to at all. And eventually I’d like to go back and see the rest of Pandaria even if I’m overleveled for it. Maybe I’ll work my way backwards through the expansions and arrive at vanilla WoW areas. ;)

Garrison

So far I am enjoying the garrison mechanics. I’ve upgraded to a Level 2 garrison, and have an alchemy lab, dwarven bunker, storage, and inn. I’ve tried out alchemy work order, as well as mined in the excavation just outside. I started the fish quest and am midway, and notice there is an herbalist as well, with a grayed out exclamation point (quest marker) – so that’s something I’m not yet eligible for.

As an aside: it would be awesome if I could name that future garden “Suldrun’s Garden” after the book I took the name from. :)

Dungeons

I’ve queued up for 2 Draenor dungeons so far: Bloodmaul Slag Mines and Iron Docks. Both were mostly with guildies and fun to do. The loot is good too but we’re not in gearing up mode right now; I just like the grouping plus the gold and experience is really worthwhile.

I enjoy Blizzard’s sly humor and pop culture references:

Croman the Barbarian

Croman the Barbarian

Quests

I’ve noticed that certain tough boss-type monsters in the open world – I’ve seen the playerbase refer to them as elites and also as rares – aren’t tapped/tagged by a single player. Meaning, you can join in while somebody else is fighting, help out, and get credit for the kill too. That’s really cool and promotes light teaming here and there.

If nobody is around I’ll give it a shot, but keep my Touch of Death skill handy. That one lets me kill a target of less health than me (there is a modification to where it works on a raid boss if the boss is less than 10% health) so I’ll fight, heal myself, and keep an eye on when my enemy dips under that threshold.

Boost

The level 90 boost is an excellent idea, IMHO. It lets somebody like me actually play with others that have max level chars. The timing was good too, I had a few weeks before the expansion went live so I could play a class for a while to see if I liked it, then boost and have some time at the old level ceiling to quest (earn money) and acclimate to new skills I gained.

If the boost didn’t exist, then either my friends would have to be willing to level yet another char, or I’d just pretty much be solo while coming up the ranks. I tried that before and it didn’t work, leading to my first unsub. I don’t mind mostly soloing while leveling, but being left out of grouping when you have RL friends also playing is tough – even though it is nobody’s fault really. I was too low level to join them, they were too powerful to join me, so the two options were: (me) level like crazy to catch up, or (them) start another char to level with me.

GW2 has a nice solution with the down-leveling mechanic… maybe Blizzard could think about implementing something like that. But GW2 was always that way from the start; I can imagine many WoW players wouldn’t want to downlevel the char they’ve played to a high level. Or who knows, maybe they would.

WoW take 3

What’s different for me this time around is I have 3 real life friends also playing AND I have one high level character that can join them. So I’ll quest a bit, and when we have critical mass (including other guildies as not everybody overlaps their play) we’ll do a dungeon which is great variety and lots of fun.

I do plan to level another char as a secondary goal, but I can’t say enough how the level 90 boost really made the difference for me.

Anyway, just a bunch of random thoughts from a level 95 monk.

WoW – Level 90

So after playing a monk to level 30/31 and enjoying it, I decided to use my “boost to 90″ option on that char. And things immediately changed.

Initially, it was disorienting because I lost the skills I had and was back to a minimal rotation. It seems when you boost a char, you get some nice gear (your original stuff is mailed back to you), bags, gold (150 I think) and you then have a small quest chain to open up the rest of your skills, talents, glyph slots, etc. I can see why Blizzard did this, rather than just dump everything on a new char – I’m sure a lot of current players will boost a class they hadn’t leveled much. For me it was only annoying because I used the range taunt Provoke quite a bit, and that was a skill that wasn’t restored to me until I finished the quest chain.

My friend met me in Stormwind and showed me how to get to Pandaria, and we threw in queueing for instances and a raid.

And they were tons of fun!

WoW Raid

WoW Raid

This is what I think of when I think about WoW – endgame instances, crazy boss fights and so on. I had never really experience any of it before. The previous times I tried WoW my friends preferred to run me through a dungeon (i.e. I was a lowbie compared to them so they’d just bring their max level chars and annihilate everything). It would take too long (for them) level start a new char and catch up to me, and the same was true for me to catch up to their lowest level chars. I was at an awkward middle level, too high to quickly reach, too low to really do anything they wanted to.

But this boost has changed everything and lets me group with friends without convincing them to level another char, or me focusing entirely on leveling to catch up.

We group for a solid 2 hours, doing whatever instances popped and I had a ton of fun.

It got even better a few days later, as a 2nd friend joined us. So we were a group of 3: tank, healer, DPS; and queued up for a bunch more stuff, all 5 man dungeons/instances this time.

Mogu'shan Palace

Mogu’shan Palace

It was super fun as well. In fact, so much fun I’m half tempted to pay for a boost on another character, just to have two level 90s to switch between for added variety and flexibility.

But I’ll think about that first a bit more. I enjoy leveling and do want to work at least one char up through the various zones. It’ll partly depend on whether a friend is also interested in leveling a char; then we’d just set those chars aside for grouping with each other.

Questing

My perspective on in-game money has changed. Before, when I had played ~30 levels and saved up a grand total of 5-8 gold (I can’t remember if I did buy a gear upgrade at auction or not), money was always tight.

I’m not rolling in it now, but so many quests in Pandaria award 9-11 gold, I’m stunned even a week later. I just haven’t gotten used to making about twice as much gold as it took me 30 levels to make, in a single quest.

I understand completely now why prices are skewed and things always seemed to expensive. Now with my max level char (at least until tomorrow when WoD releases, haha), quests award gold instead of XP and this is an amazing way to earn money. Longer term players with more high level chars probably have 100x or more than me and without any real gold sinks, just bid up everything to sky high levels; hence the ridiculous pricing and outrageous inflation.

But now, I have a char that can dip into this income stream and that gives me (a bit of) in-game financial freedom. My 90 monk basically earned the gold to buy decent bags for all my alts and it is still piling up. I kinda like harvesting my own materials (mining, herbs) so I can save for other nice things to have, like glyphs or other misc items I haven’t run into yet. Perhaps buying dual-talent trees, etc. I’m not complaining; it’s great to not be under money pressure that probably 99% of the playerbase cannot imagine having.

I’m also enjoying questing in Pandaria: the soundtrack is awesome, nice harp/strings background Asian-influenced music. It isn’t ground breaking stuff, lots of the usual quests, but with a flying mount and being decently geared and leveled, it goes quick and there is so much to do.

I’ve been working on the storyline, doing solo instances to unlock new outposts, with the occasional session play tossed in.

Solo Instance

Solo Instance

It’s just been some of the most fun I’ve had playing MMOs. For a bit in Guild Wars I had a reliable guild to adventure with; same with LoTRO. But right now, I’ve got 4-5 friends playing WoW and see myself shifting around which games I play to make plenty of room for Warcraft. :)

Downsides

The worst thing continues to be open world PvP. It’s just as terrible as it always is, with ganking out numbering the “fair” fights 3 or 4 to 1. And “fair” is still pretty iffy as most players either wait until their side outnumbers you or opportunistically jump while you are partly distracted fighting mobs.

That’s fine, I can keep situational awareness up and partially mitigate those situations.

But there really isn’t anything I can do when a stealthed char hit my level 15 alt for 3200 overkill. I just run back, rez, and keep going. I tell myself I’m not pathetic enough to creep around stealthed and kill players that have no chance whatsoever of fighting back.

Actually, if Blizzard didn’t offer a character boost I probably wouldn’t have resubbed and played on a PvP server.

WoW – Misc Notes

I got a bunch of random stuff done.

First, I leveled a Paladin to 21, another Draenei. What can I say, I think they look really cool! I have more Draenei in the wings as well – a shaman – plus a warrior and hunter just for variety. I figure I need a break from the Draenei starter area so I decided to try a Gnome Priest too (part of my goal to play various classes to 20 or so). Part of me wants to play each class to level 10 or 20, but eventually pare that down to a main and an alt.

The Paladin felt like a solid, fun class to play, decent variety of skills, flexible (can tank, heal, dps). I’ll keep leveling on the side, as an alt.

Second, I made a Gnome Priest as I mentioned. I really liked the whimsical goofiness of the starter area, and made it to Loch Modan and reached level 15. At level 10 I picked Shadow spec because I’ve got to kill stuff to level.

And unfortunately… this is the most boring class I’ve ever played in a MMO (the Shadow Priest through the first 15 levels). I know that healing for groups is plenty challenging, but so far at level 15 I have a 3 skill rotation: Shadow Word Pain, Mind Flay, Power Word Shield. It’s been this way for at least 2 levels already and I’m bored out of my mind doing quests. I looked ahead in the spellbook and the priest doesn’t get another combat skill until level 21! I get Resurrection at level 18, then Devouring Plague and Mind Blast at level 21 which means 6 more levels of hitting 3 buttons without anything more sophisticated (e.g. watching for a proc that might change the rotation) other than cast on cooldown for Mind Flay and Power Word Shield (and reapply on expiration for the Shadow Word Pain). Those skills are 2 instants and 1 channel and ZZzzzzz…. Oh sorry I fell asleep thinking about it.

I cannot fathom doing 6 more levels of this rotation so I’m going to shelve the Priest out of massive boredom. I would respec and try queueing for dungeons but you don’t get dual spec until level 30. It would be cumbersome to keep talking to a trainer to redo talents and so on to work around this issue.

I think Blizzard should go through and smooth out skill acquisition – there is no reason to NOT get a skill every other level at this point. Perhaps the method to their madness is to encourage Priests to go Holy or Discipline by making it so ghastly boring to be Shadow (at least for the early levels)?

Retirement Flight

Retirement Flight

So I talked to the flight master in Iron Forge and flew Melancthe to Stormwind where she will hang around the bank just hold stuff for others.

Third, I used my boost to make my monk 90. I figured what the heck. My previous high level char was a shaman but that was 4 years ago and right now I’m playing and enjoying the monk. More on that next time. ;)

EVE – Activity After a Lull

I had been playing the skill queue shuffling game in EVE for weeks. The good news is Aurora is getting to be a better Battlecruiser pilot; the bad news is I haven’t actually done much else. So I logged in over the weekend resolved to play a bit.

On Summer I exported Planetary Goods and also picked them up with the Epithal. My overview settings weren’t showing anything for some reason, so I had to spend a few minutes digging through to find what to enable. After I while I found what I needed: Orbitals->Orbital Infrastructure made the customs offices display again, and Celestial->Planet made the planets show up. I wonder why that tab quit working but whatever, I fixed it. Huzzah.

The most recent corporate bookmarks were from a few days ago, which were undoubtedly out-of-date, so I switched over to Aurora to scan for my exit out. There were 8 (!!) cosmic signatures to resolve; 6 of those were wormholes (a mix of K162, N110, E004, C125) and the other 2 were gas sites. After finding the N110 I popped out into hisec and found it led to Bereye, very conveniently located near Dodixie (meaning, only 8 jumps).

After saving several bookmarks I switched back to Summer so I could haul the PI goods to market. Except… I noticed Aurora’s scanning ship was no longer insured. I supposed it had been several weeks since I last ran hisec errands (well, anywhere I could purchase insurance which for me is hisec). So I did a side errand of piloting the Buzzard and the Drake to Bereye to re-up the insurance.

Then I switched over to Summer and hauled goods to market (and also re-insured the Epithal). Then I did the same thing on Autumn – updating planetary production, picking up good, hauling to market.

It didn’t even feel like I got that much done, but it still took over 3 hours to do it all. Ugh.

My subscription is up in a few days and after some deliberation, I decided to do another 3 months. I do like EVE but sometimes the logistics are a little too close to reality for me. ;)

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.