Monday, March 30, 2009

State of the state

I'm around level 54 now and I can feel the magnetic pull of the Outalnd gate. Ah, new gear, better quests and a boatload of Death Knights await! Seriously, I can't wait.

Having said that, great things are afoot. The world is changing, as two prominent bloggers have thrown in the towel recently and moved on to take care of other things. For whatever reason, just before a patch or an expansion hit the web, people quit. It happens all the time.

With BRK though I have a feeling it's different. BRK, if you ever read this, whatever's going on, it's gonna get better. Hold tight.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Surprise! BRD!

Someone whisps me in Feralas and asks me to come to BRD, because they have a full party. How can I say no?

I wasn't around before BC so I guess this is what old-world instancing was like most of the time. Sure, BRD is drab, boring and monochromatic (well, orange mostly), but damn, that's one huge instance! We didn't do it all and the tank was terrible, but it was a helluva a lot of fun.

For whatever reason my DPS was terrible - so bad in fact that I suspect my recount was messed up. I never used the bloody thing before and it showed me way below the healer, even though he didn't do any damage at all. Funny, that.

Also, I made the most noobish mistake ever and didn't repair. Halway through I was one dagger down and my torn pants were hung in place only by the sheer muscularity of my nelf's buttocks.

Darkfall delivers... well, something

I gotta admit that after reading stuff about Darkfall on Tobold's and Ixobell`s blogs, and also looking up the community for a little bit, I wrote the whole game off, mainly because I don't like nasty people and the place seems full of them. But then I got to read about some accounts on how open-world dungeons with PvP and collision detection work and how incredibly awesome the whole world PvP thing is shaping up to be and I gotta say I'm intrigued.

It all sounds like a WoW and EVE trainwreck, with all the negative conotations you can imagine. Still, the graphics seem uninspiring and the game is riddled with technical problems which will keep me away for sometime. But I think I'm closer to picking it up one day for a bit then I ever was before.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Old trash

I logged in to my old level 80 warrior just to see if I get any of the old charm back. Well, I didn't. The terribad lag on Ravencrest EU didn't help at all, but it wasn't the point. I tried to change the spec from prot to fury, but the effects were less then steral and after the zippity-hoppity I get with a night elf rogue, the tauren warrior was so slow that 15 minutes felt like hours. I logged back into my rogue and feel great about it. I'm at 51 right now.

I'm planning to do some changes around my schedule. Though my play time might be slightly affected, I'm not dropping WoW or this blog any time soon.

Also, I'm preparing for a 4000 km road trip next month. I have to get from Poland to the UK for a week of training and I managed to convince my boss to let me drive instead of flying there. I also get to take my girlfirend along for the ride. We'll see our friends in Holland and the UK, spend a full week together and have a good time. The comapny's paying for most stuff, so that's good (even though our parent company has filed for bankcrupcy, huh!) Road trips are something we're good at.

UPDATE: Last week I wrote about how I love both Project Lore and WoW Insider. Well, Alex Albrecht from PL will be on the WoW Insider's podcast tomorrow. Awesome.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How to solve the low level instance problem

Earlier today WoW Insider had a nice little topic about WoW's biggest mistakes. I got to the party a bit late, but I managed to voice my concern, which apparently is shared by other folks. It's pretty much about leaving the old content behind.

I made a post last week about how I feel the old world in WoW needs to updated. While giving a whole place a face lift might be a bit of a stretch, there's a way to improve the game by making the low level instances more accesible.

As it stands, the earliest people get to do instances is in Outlands. You can hang around all day in Tanaris trying to group for Zul`Farrak, but even if you do find 5 people, it's highly likely the whole thing will go to hell once you realize that the tank wants to heal and the healer wants to tank (true story!).

Now, the new LFG system from 3.1 let's you put a tag on your toon, so that other people can see if you're DPS, tank or a healer. So why not have all the 5-man old world instances follow a similar pattern? Let's have them geared towards 3-man parties consisting of a tank, DPS and healer!

SFK - one of the best instances, now abandoned (source: Wowwiki)

First of all, grouping will be much easier and lowbies can take advantage of the new LFG tags. Finding 2 other people instead of 4 increases the chances to do an instance by 50%! But there's more.

These days if you miss an instance during leveling you can solo it later on. There's one problem with that - there's no reason to do it, as by the time you're able to solo an instance, the quests and mobs are sure to yield no experience, not to mention shitty gear. Now, if the content is geared towards 3 man groups, you should be, in theory, able to solo it with a stronger character while your quests are still green. You just have to be really good at playing your class, which could work as a benchmark. If you skip the old world instances, you really don't know just how good you're playing until you step into an instance, and as I mentioned before, it's unlikely this is going to happen before 70.

Sunken Temple - love to go, but I've never been (source: Wowwiki)

I still would love to have heroic versions of all the instances, but I can see a problem with that solution - once players spread out, there actually might be not enough people to fill all the lvl 80 groups in Northrend, not to mention the work that would have to be done on retooling the encounters and perhaps working on new loot tables. 3-man instances feel like an elegant solution with added bonuses for all. Leveling a toon might get a bit of it's charm back.

Goin' down!

Achievement time! I did Going down? totaly by accident. I was planning to do it once I reached Outland, in the best known spot for it in Shattrah. Well, turn's out the border between Un'goro and Tanaris, right above the path, is a good place for it too. Sure, a rogue doesn't take as much fall damage as other classes, but it was a nice surprise.

Appreciation day!

I'm still taking it lightly for now, and since the weather is really sleepy, I chose to spend some time lounging on my couch and looking for cool stuff on the web. I never really knew there were so many blogs out there, and looking for something interesting is entertaining. There are however a few places that I know I'll find something interesting in.

First up, there's WoW Insider. For whatever reason I've been reading this site for a long time. I can;t even remember how I came across this gem, but what I do remember is that they had a humble beginning - nothing close to what they are now. I'm not saying they're not humble, just that there's a huge staff there, loads of content and a uniqe style. WoW Insider is also very casual-friendly and a great place to start surfing the web for WoW related content. Also, kudos for the podcasts!

Wowhead is the second cool place on my list. While the database is something I'd mainly use in game, I recently discovered that they have pretty neat forums too, and the admins do a great job at keeping things running smoothly. It's a nice place to get away from the chaos of the official WoW Forums and hardcore meeting places, like Elitist Jerks

Finally, the single most interesting website that I visit daily these days is... Project Lore! At first the idea of watching guys play WoW didn't seem that cool, but it works and the show is steadily chugging along, building its own unique style. Now, I live in Poland and had no idea who these folks are, but they all have backgrounds in TV and acting - this shows! I tune to late night talk shows for the specific chemistry between the hosts and their viewers. In Project Lore, there's chemistry between the guys. Every time I watch a show I'm reminded just how cool the social aspect of playing the game is.

8 more levels to OT

I finaƂy dinged 50, though the last two levels were not fun at all. I think it was a case of mild burnout, so I took things easy and tried to tidy up my quest long, resulting in long flights all over the place. Taking it easy is not always the best idea though - to my dismay I found that my quest mobs in Un`goro were above my level so I patiently went about killing them. Turns out the easier mobs were just around the corner.

Since I wasn't very busy with power levelling, I worked a bit on my spec, raotations and gear, since the rogue is an all new beast for me. I tried using two swords, but I missed Backstab and Ambush too much and felt that I'm essentialy a warrior with really bad armor in that configuration. Most of my points are in the combat tree, and I try to keep Slice 'n Dice up during all the fights, with Eviscarate as my main damage tool. I open with Distract and Ambush on easier mobs and Cheap Shot --> Backstab --> SnD on harder ones. It's working fine, though I read that the 20 seconds it takes for me to kill a slightly stronger mob is a bit long.

If anyone has any tips, go right ahead!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lockpicking woes

I've leveled a few proffesions in my time, but I gotta say none of them come even close to the sucktitude of lockpicking. I guess that in theory if I went around and pickpocketed every available mob, there's a very slim chance that I'd level it seamlesly. As it stands, at a certain point I had a whole bank of 175 boxes and 120-ish skill level.

Turns out the only way out of this is to stock up on breathing potions and go diving - Redridge first and then Desolace. It took around an hour and a half, but I finally got those damn boxes open (payday!) and got some greens out of it too.

Let's just forget that sad episode!

Since it is monday, I did not have that much time to play around, and neither did I feel like it. I ran some quests here and there, but that was it. Well, one of them stood out, and I've never done it before. Tooga's Quest has to be one of the strangest and most entertaining quests in Azeroth. As I escorted the turtle through Tanaris and, I've had quite a number of people joining me along the way. The conversation at the end is also priceless.

I'll put in some more time tomorrow, as I have a single meeting to attend to in the morning and them I'm free, unless something pops along.

Be nice or else

I make it a point to be nice to people and to give props where they're due. My dad loved to throw hissy fits when out on town and my mom is not easy to get along either. When I turned 20 I noticed that I tend to get agressive more often then I should have and decided to work on it. Okay - every once in a while I can go off and it's nasty. I'm a big guy and I have this good, deep, boss-ish voice (so I'm told). Once I did realize that however, things got easier.

Anyhow, my philosophy is to tell people that they do a good job if they do, and I go out of my way to do that. I love WoW and it gave me some great moments during the last 2+ years, not to mention the fact that it's the primary means of communications with my mom these days. There I was in Desolace, in the middle of the night and fresh from reading WoW Insider's take on how most people are ungreatful about the game. I used the in-game form to tell the folks at Blizzard how much I appreciate their job and this is what I got back:

Hugs from the GM team? This makes playing WoW soooo much more awesome!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hinterlands aren't so bad

Instead of flying all over the place, I did finally choose to go to the Hinterlands. This turned out to be a grrrreat idea, since all the quests were yellow, but the mobs ended up being green. This in turn resulted in something I like a lot - a whole list of quests marked as complete.

Anyhow, I don't like the Hinterlands, and I can't really put my finger on it. I guess the problem is that the zone is nothing more tham a thick forest with invisble walls. Troll temples scatter tha landscape here and there, but moving around is a pain in the ass. With Aerie Peek in the west, there's one road through the place and it doesn't gurantee safety. I hate being pulled down from my ride. On top of that, the questline forces me to go to Zul'Farrak, and I really don;t feel like LFG in Tanaris. I actually did for a few minutes today, and it was a disaster.

At 46 I'm starting to feel how the xp value of quests is detoriorating - even though each one nets me around 6k points, I'm not advancing as fast as I'd like to. Damn.

Sunday bloody sunday

Well, i've hit a rut. All my quests seems to be orange and even the yellow ones are a pain in the butt. I'm lvl 46 and stuck in Feralas which I promised myself not to go to. Still, the only alternative seems to be the Hinterlands - and I refuse to go there to! My schedule right now is to go to the Blasted Lands first and continue to Easter Plaguelands, as these are the zones I've never quested in.


On the topic of Feralas, I have to mention that it might not be the best designed zone gameplay-wise, since it's essentially a long path and some hills, but it sure does look great. Last time I was here I was using an inferior computer nad had most of the details turned down. Now, with proper graphics the place looks stunning.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What a day

It was a great Saturday - I spent it on playing WoW, eating a pizza (and a half) and even finding time to pop out and drive across town to see my grandmother. All this was possible due to the fact that a) my flatmate was out for a day and b)my lovely, lovely girlfriend was out on her biweekly psychoterapy classes - I'm sure I'd be a great test subjest, if only they were allowed to work on loved ones. Oh well.

I dinged 46 a few moments ago. As I planned before, I did go to the Blasted Lands, though it's a tough place and I'll wait with it for at least a level or two. There's still some loose ends all over Azeroth I need to clear up.

And then maybe, just maybe I'll spend a part of sunday on revisiting my MA thesis. Sure, I haven't really bothered with it for the last two years, but wars in Iraq and Afghanistan won't solve themselves, you know.

Lockping and Enchanting not so smooth

While I had a blast this week, going from 1 to 45, I did not find my leveling expeirence streamlined - at all. My quests are out of synch and I'm flying all over Azeroth to tie up loose ends. Sure, I might go after the orange quests, but I don't enjoy the extra hassle.

My biggest gripe however comes with lockpicking - I used the boxed in Redrige to get to 80, then got a lot of other containers off various nasty characters all over the map. But my levels progressed, my lockiping skills didn't I suddenly found myself picking 175 boxes with 108 lockpicking skill - and it's not like I was slacking! The worst part is that the solutions given to this problem in particular are to find and keep lockpicking various non de-spawning boxes or pick off boxes from low level charaters, and in my case that would be 63 boxes. With an optimistic 50% drop rate, I'd have to pick pocket 300 mobs. Geez, I hope I am getting this wrong.

My enchanting is off also, now that disenchanting does not increase any skills. I was able to remedy around 20 points by buying stuff from AH, but I still have my bank full of disenchanting reagents which I won't be able to use for some time. All my enchants require Strange Dust, but the disenchanted greens give off much better mats... which I can't do anything with.

Tanaris, here I come

I like Tanaris for a copule of reasons. Mostly the goblins! It's also a great place to quest in, with lots and lots of open space - a welcome change after hours spent in the dense jungles of SV. I heart Tanaris so much in fact, that I've decided to name this blog after the whole place. I think I'm not alone, either - ater all you not only get the troll instance here, but also the incredibly kickass Caverns of Time. Awesome!

With my previous character I levelled through Un`goro and Silithus. This time around, I've got me eyes set on Blasted Lands. As a hoardie, I only had a few quests there. With an alliance toon I'm hoping on getting some more quest around the place. I've still got around two levels to go, though, as the zone starts from lvl 45. We'll see how it goes!

Still in SV... nice place, but I've had enough!

I keed, I kid

I guess that World of Warcraft is a great tool if you ever forget that being a teenager apparently sucks, fills you with endless angst and generally makes you a pain the ass. During my first few days on the new server I met a guy who seemed nice enough. We talked a bit and exchanged personal details about who we really are. Sure, he was a kid, but seemed nice enough.

Obviously I should have noticed what I was getting into when every time I logged in, the guy would whisper me with "do you want to join my guild yet"? Well, no, I didn't, and after having been asked the 10th time, I said I'm not looking to join any guilds until 80. "Why?" he asked, and I patiently answered that it has nothing to do with him, and it's just that I really don't feel like. Then came the angst. "Well, if you think my guild is crap, the forget about it!" and he promptly logged off, without ever talking to me again. Ah, teens.

Why do you hate me?

Apparently Runetotem EU is an established server with a good economy and a boatload of low level guilds. Before I reached 20, I had something like 10 offers. My mom, who can't and doesn't use the chat window (at all!) is in a guild, though she probably has no idea what that is about. At this point in time it's, well... pointless and stupid.

I am not going to go into any shitty guilds this time around. I want to reach 80 and get to the best one there is. The thing is most guilds are nothing else then glorified LFG channels for the guild leaders. I'll sure pay more attention this time around.

Oh, and about the initial topic. I'm really, really happy I'm not a teen and never will be. Good riddance!

Friday, March 20, 2009

What the world could be like

I can't stop thinking about what's in store for World of Warcraft in the future. Heck, with games like EverQuest (the first one!) and even Meridian 59 still going strong, I don't think we'll ever get to see a completely new, stand-alone New World of Warcraft. In fact, WoW 2.0 is much more probable. Did I just pull that out of my ass? Well, kinda, but hear me out.

I spent the last week rummaging through old world content and with Outlands and Northrend out and about, it really shows just how long WoW has been around. It's not that the graphics are bad, because they're not, but the world mechanics are rather outdated.

Stromgarde - tear it down and blow it up! (Source: Wowwiki)

Take for instance Stromgarde Keep (I actually noticed it's Strom, not Storm... whaddya know...). You essentially have a full-blown war going on here, with parts of the city in hands of different fractions - ogres, assasins and allies, oh my. You even get an occasional troll. Yet this place is basically a bunch of mobs standing around with nil, zip, nada interaction going on between them. Had this been WOTLK, this place would be constantly shattered apart by explosions and epic combat. I've been to puppet shows with more action. BTW, that's what I do with my free time - watch puppet shows.

There's heaps of places that could benefit from better design and more scripting. In fact the whole place could do with some tidying up here and there, not to mention the atrocious, in my opinion, fact that due to old design decisions, it's impossible to use flying mounts in Azeroth, because a single, 3D world plane doesn't really exist – as I understand it, each zone works more like an instance, thus the narrow border passages everywhere (I might be totally wrong here though).

Undermine - it could happen! (Source: Wowwiki)

The thing is though that as new expansions come and go, the leveling experience is deteriorating. Before you can get to the new content, you have to zoom past all the old stuff. Sure, we've got Death Knights but then in order to get your mitts on them, you still need to go through the old stuff at least once.

My guess is sooner or later we'll get a whole new old world, with a revamped leveling experience. The next expansion might not contain as much high level content as BC and WOTLK did. Raiders will get new, awesome raids, but the lowbies will get at least one new playable race, which – hear me out – will have it's own 1-58 leveling experience. Heck, maybe with revamped zones the 80's could get more reasons the re-visit Azeroth.

The point I'm trying to make is that from the technical and graphical point of view, there's no need for a sequel and there won't be for ages. We still have, however, a bucket load of places which could be updated or re-vamped. I'm hoping to see Gilneas and Undermine from the back of my dragon. I want to see Outland-sized Duskwood and Feralas. I'm hoping for a big war with air bombing runs on Stormwind and Orgrimmar.

Inside the monastery

I did not plan or wish to do any instances until maybe level 65. After playing as a warrior tank for two years I got used to the need of learning your class really well and then studying the instances. Most of the time it was hard work and in the end I decided to quit, because it wasn't a very rewarding experience.

Going about my business, I did notice a few low level LFG's, but ignored them. Then I got an invitation to go to the Scarlet Monastery with a guy I met during my first few days. I did and I instantly recalled what fun instances can be once you take off the burden of tanking.

So SM may not be the best instance out there. In fact, I think it's drab, boring and the first three wings are basically variations of the same thing. I'm not really an old school raider - I did spend a lot of time in Shadowfang Keep though, which still is a great, great instance to be in and SM is very pale indeed in comparison.

Hall of Champions - pretty awesome (source: Wowwiki)

We had two 40's and three 35's, which meant we were OP and owned the place. Sure, we didn't make it to the last wing, what with most of the party being noobish and the MT dishing it out Diablo-style. I don't think I'll be able to hand in [In the Name of Light] and it's too bad I couldn't play too rogue-ish since saps were out of the question. Still, the joy of bringing pure DPS is amazing.

Aside from dishing out tons of DPS, the rogue has dozens of "oh-shit" buttons which basically mean that you get a "get out of jail free" card in 7 out of 10 wipes. If the SM run was any indicator of what the endgame is like, then count me in.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Low level rogues have tough lives

I've hit 40 last night. Now that the cap is at 80 it's a great moment to step back and rethink the choice I've made when I rolled a rogue. Verdict? Awesome!

Now, has someone asked me what I think about rogues around lvl 25, I'd say it's a terrible class. It was a nightmare to go through places like Duskowood and I ended up flying all over the map, looking for quest I could actually do.

With a warrior you know where you stand. When you start, the rules are plain and simple. “Welcome to World of Warcraft! Here's a sword. Go kill stuff”. It's that simple, because a warrior gets his tools of the trade right off the bat.

A rogue is supposed to be a stealthy damage dealer, lurking in the shadows and bringing a swift death to his enemies. The problem is in order to play like that you need skills which don't really become available until you're in your mid-twenties. Up until then you're essentially a warrior with crappy armor and shitty blades. It's like leveling a hunter from 1 to 10 without a pet, only it goes on for much longer.

Then it all clicks into place, though. At lvl 40 I can take on almost any challenge.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How I came to where I am

Sometimes you just have enough. I know I did. After playing a warrior on a PVP server for 16 months, I was tired. I started together with some real world friends and friend's friends and we zoomed to 70 pretty fast. Most of them were experienced WOW-ers and I sort of tagged along. I took a break from the game, lost touch and got left behind. Once WOTLK came out, I leveled to 80 and stopped playing.

Maybe it was the constant ganking. Maybe it was the atrocious quality of the PUG's I tried to tank for and the seeming lack of any progress. Maybe it was the terrible guild I was in, or the fact that everyone else seemed to speak either Danish or Finnish. Maybe I plain sucked. Most probably it was all of the above, so I just stopped for a few months.

Once the WOW-bug kicked back in, I was faced with two choices – roll a new toon on the mostly Polish Burning Legion EU server or keep trying to tank for bad PUGs on Ravencrest. And then there was the third choice – you see, a year ago I got my mom to play the game. She's a hardcore player since the early 80's, though she stuck mostly to real-time strategies and FPS games. She has a curious way of playing too, spending an average of 6 months on a single title, taking it apart on all difficulty levels. So why not join her?

When I first set up her WOW account, I chose at random a PvE server called Runetotem (pictured: Hamuul Runetotem, clan head and server namesake, I guess). She seemed to be happy with it, even though I never really bothered to check on her – she now lives in a new house in a small village in Beskidy mountains in southern Poland and we generally talk every few weeks or so. New realm, new toon, new beginning.

Even though I tried all classes, I still feel best with meele. I've seen people do amazing things with their rogues, so I went with that. Since my mom was a Night Elf and seemed to hang around in Teldrassil, I went with that. I leveled to 14 and stopped playing again, then came back for good. In a few days I reached level 39 and I'm happily slashing along.

What's next though? Great things, I'm sure. Some sleepless nights too. It's good to be back.