Thursday, November 13, 2014

So Warlords of Draenor is here...

Apparently the new expansion to World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor is out, and for the first time since World of Warcraft was released, I'm not there to jump in from the start. Or possibly, probably, ever.

My Twitter feed is currently flooding with glee (and quite a lot of frustration) about the new expansion , it's quite contageous to be honest. It's not like I don't think about WoW almost every day as it is, I have been seriously considering getting this new expansion eventhough I most likely won't be able to play it. Ok, that's only a half-truth. There are tons of things you can do in WoW even if you don't have time for raiding or even dungeoning. You can do all the quests for instance or challenge yourself with some odd form of Ironman. It's not like I don't have any spare time, I am using some of that to write this after all. Time I could spend playing WoW of course! I've spoken to the better half about dividing baby time so that we could allow eachother (because he wouldn't mind playing a bit again) to do a dungeon or LFR every now and then. But it's stayed at talks so far because quite frankly, even though I really want to play WoW again - I actually don't want to play WoW again. I've said it before and I am going to say it again. I know WoW will take up all of my spare time and I still have a shit-ton of other games I want to play. I think "you know what, let's just install the damn thing again" and then I immediately go "no, I won't. I still want to play Baldur's Gate, Thief 2, Legend of Grimrock, Pokemon Omega Sapphire, Koudelka..." and so on and so forth. If only I could trust myself to only play WoW occasionally and also give time to other games. But I wouldn't. I am too cheap. Since WoW is subscription based I know I would want to get my moneys worth and try to squeeze out as much time with it as possible. So for now, no WoW. We'll see how long I'll last. But enough of this, what I really wanted to talk about were WoW expansions. Because I've seen them all.

There have been better and worse expansions but overall I really don't think there's been a bad one. I mean, what would that have been? Really boring quests and instances/raids I guess. With every expansion I thought there was something really fun but I also feel like my level of fun was closely connected to my commitment to the game and the quality of my surrounding social life. This is an mmo after all and there is only so much fun you can have on your own, as I quickly learned in Vanilla.

Burning Crusade
Admittedly I wasn't there for the launch of WoW, I joined the WoW crowd some half-year afterwards, but I have been eagerly at the gates for every expansion. With Burning Crusade I was still a mere fledgling, eventhough I had played the game for over 1,5 years at that point (don't ask me what I was doing with my time). I didn't find my role in the game properly until BC was released, that is when I first started raiding and also decided on actually maining my priest (although I had already played her quite a lot beforehand). But there is nothing like the very first expansion, and Blizzard got everything damn right. I remember the feeling of the pre-patch leading up to the expansion and the mayhem that was the Opening of the Portal. It was a clutter so full of Horde and Alliance and death and kill-steals it was glorious. To then run through those portals and have the vast landscape of Hellfire Peninsula in front of you was such an amazing feeling. It looked massive and it looked like loads of fun and most importanly it held so many new things we had never seen before. New races, new mounts! New everything! With Burning Crusade Blizzard managed to make everything fun - this is where they got dungeons, raiding, pvping and questing absolutely right.

Just looking at it I can hear the tune -

More importantly however, it managed to make me feel included, like I was part of the gang. All through vanilla, and like I mentioned I played it for quite some time, I had had the feeling that I was part of someone elses show. I was invited to their groups and their raids, but only when they desperately needed someone. It could've been anyone. And I wasn't part of the team, I was a guest - if even that. I was in guilds, but they didn't feel like home yet. I don't blame the people, this was during a time when I still hadn't decided to take part of endgame simply because I thought a lot of it was quite boring (40-man raids? What were they thinking?). But that meant standing outside and watching everyone else having all the fun. Also, I constantly had the feeling that I was late to everything. Whatever I wanted to do, most people had already done and it wasn't cool any longer. There is a huge difference between being in a raid where everyone is enthusiastic and where everyone just does it because they don't have anything else to do, as frequenters of LFR will know.

People complain about Blizzard making WoW too accessible, heck even I have. But BC made WoW accessible to me and I definitely encourage any steps Blizzard take to make as many people as possible feel like they have a spot (which is not the same as saying that I agree with every change they've done).

Wrath of the Lich King
Once Wotlk was released my priest shoes fit me well and I decided to plan ahead and come prepared for this launch. BC I had just sort of experienced in full awe, Wotlk I was going to get in and own. I took my gaming way more serious for this release than I did for BC and I had raiding that waited for me at the other end of the leveling. I stood in line in the middle of the night for hours to get my Special Edition set. I remember stepping off the zeppelin in Howling Fjord (I was lucky enough to choose that starting area rather than Boring Tundra) and immediately loving it. The setting, feeling and music was great and the area was beautiful. This was another expansion Blizzard did extremely well, basically perfecting gameplay elements they had implemented in BC and trying out some new ones (different difficulties on bosses in raids was one of my favorite features that I really wish they would've kept). I loved every bit of Burning Crusade, Karazhan is one of my favorite raids, but by golly if Wotlk wasn't even better. I think every raid in Wotlk was fun and well done (yes, even TotC!) and I had a good and steady guild to raid with. Unfortunately towards the end of Wotlk, like Ikarus to the sun I wanted more and decided to leave the awesome guild I was in for one that was more raiding oriented. Things kind of spiraled downward for me from there.

That frost wyrm was really annoying though -

For Cataclysm I decided that a digital download would be the fastest and smoothest way to get into the game. Time was of the essence because I wanted to be among the first to get into the end-game instances so that I could be geared to raid as quickly as possible. But I still didn't want to play through the quests so quickly so that I missed out on the experience, I tried to find a nice middle-path and managed to level fairly quickly (especially considering I did it as a healing priest, just as with the previous two expansions), taking a couple of days to reach the new max-level. I liked the questing experience of Cataclysm quite a lot. Eventhough I understand why they had to give the old world a face-lift, I wasn't too happy about it, but the new areas were fun (yes, even Vashj'ir!) and I liked the first couple of raids as well. Firelands was pretty meh and Dragon Soul could've been better so to me Cataclysm ended on a bit of a low note, compared to BC and Wotlk that definitely went out with their flags raised high. But maybe this coincided with me having issues with my guilds and eventually also on a personal level where I had less and less time to raid and play overall. I probably would've enjoyed Cataclysm all the way to the end if the conditions had been the same. Even still, BC and Wotlk were definitely better expansions, I think most people agree on that (right?).

Actually Dragon Soul wasn't that bad -

I'd say early Cataclysm is probably when I took my gaming the most seriously. I had done some pretty heavy raiding all through Wrath (and BC actually) but for Cata I was in a raid-oriented 25 man guild whereas previously I had "only" been in a casual-raiding 10 man guild. I blogged a lot about priest healing (and other things WoW) like changes to the class, specs and loved trying different tactics and gear to see how I could optimize my healing. Sometimes I wonder if my quest for glory got in the way of having fun, and on a guild level I think that might be true. I think a lot of people can recognize themselves in the problem with trying to balance fun with progress in any progress-oriented guild. A lot of the time progress = fun. Finally downing that boss makes all the wiping, farming and grief worth it. But only if you can acknowledge that success and not just feel like it's not worth anything unless you also down the next boss. And the next, and next and so on. There is a lot that could be said about that for sure.

Mists of Pandaria
Another digital download but this time a slower pace of leveling. To be honest, eventhough this is the most recent release (not counting the current one) this is the one I remember the least of. I remember being frustrated about disconnecting, quests not working properly and not being able to click quest items/givers because there was a literal horde of players standing in the way (on their mounts just to be extra much of a nuisance). I am sure that didn't differ much from any of the previous releases, but for some reason I remember the annoyance part a lot more than the awed part. MoP did not sweep me off my feet like all the other expansions had. Maybe at this point I was already too roughed up and the stars had been dusted out of my eyes. Maybe I was getting old and bitter.

MoP was nice, but I never got into it. I didn't catch on to the lore and I just wasn't very excited about the whole process again. It's really not the games fault, at this point I didn't have as much fun in WoW as I used to, for reasons I've delved into in this blog several times before. A couple of things bothered me about MoP, something that had started already with Cataclysm. I felt like it had a lot less content than BC and Wotlk. Less instances primarily (I don't know if this is actually the case though) and having to trudge through the same two (it always felt like they came in pairs) got tedious and boring very quickly. Also, as mentioned, the story about the Pandarens didn't interest me anywhere near as much as the demons, undead and Old Ones of BC and Wotlk had done. Even the dragons of Cataclysm were more interesting.

At least no more dragons -

But like I said, I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that I didn't have as much time to raid and had swapped guild a couple of times at this point. I ended up in nice guilds every time (eventhough they tended to crumble pretty quickly around me) but not knowing the people you raid with still makes a difference. In a way I guess I had come full circle, feeling like an outsider again. Joining in as a guest when desperately needed, just like back in the Vanilla days. I felt like I needed more to fully enjoy the game back then and I still do so if I ever decide to actually start playing WoD it would have to be in a completely different way to what I have been. But maybe that's not as difficut as I think it is.

What are your experiences with the different expansions and which one do you think was best? (Hint: It's WotLK)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Five Hidden Laws of WoW

Doesn't it feel like sometimes games claim to use one kind of rules but in reality they run by a hidden set of rules designed to mock and frustrate you? A lot of this comes from biased thinking, meaning that when something has started to annoy you is when you'll start noticing it and you'll think that it stands out. You rarely recognize when things go your way but more often when things go bad. I swear that some games just seem to know how to tease you though. I don't know how many times I've said I'll give up grinding for something in WoW only to have it drop the minute later (proving I did not quit grinding after all, but I would've! Eventually...).

Continuing on with another post based on some notes I found in an old notebook of mine, this one is about video game logic or lack thereof. These notes (this post and the previous one) were written closely together so clearly I was in something of a pissy mood, hateful about players in general and my game luck in particular when writing these. Remember that these are written tongue in cheek, are based on my experiences alone and you might not agree at all. Also I use words like "always" very loosely. At the time they were probably just an attempt to vent some anger from my side. After (at that time) five years of playing WoW I thought I had its tricks pinned down - I knew that it worked around hidden rules that were designed to lure us into trying just one more time. Fake instant gratification!

1. In a group, whoever plays the worst will always get the loot.
All the entries on this list are frustrating, but I wonder if this one is not the worst one. I was ok with people who played badly (aka did bad dps/healing/tanking and/or a lot of mistakes) to get some loot. In fact this "rule" even worked to my favor on occasion. I clearly remember bringing my lock to Vault of Archavon once, playing utter crap and being the one to win the loot out of at least a handful of rollers. Playing badly is one thing, it can happen to anyone. But the amount of times this seems to have worked in the favor of the jerkwad of the group, I can't even count. You know, that one person in the group who seems dead set on ruining the day for everyone unlucky enough to be grouped with them. Numerous times have I've had people like that in my group, seen something really cool drop (even random epics, mounts or the like) and 9 to 1 the Ruiner of Fun would win it. Just to write "Lol! Screw you guys!" and leave with a digital finger aimed at the rest of the group. Oh sorry, I mean "LOL!!!! SCRUW U GUYZ!!!!".

Every... time... -

2. Percentages are not what they say they are.
This might take some explaining so bare with me, but this is true as day. Imagine yourself fighting some kobolds in Elwynn Forest, chuckling at their cries of "No take candle!" and having a generally good time. Say, just hypothetically that you've got 100% hit chance and 10/10 swings are actually landing. Now imagine further that you somehow get a debuff that reads "10% reduced hit chance". "Ok" you might think. "So I'll only hit 9 out of my 10 swings, no biggie", shrug and move on to the next Kobold. The Kobold end up being the one laughing however as you stand there, wildly flailing your weapon at them, suddenly having a hit chance that seems closer to 1/10 than anything else. What am I trying to say? I always felt, nay unconsciously known, that debuffs that reduces stats had more than twice the actual impact than it claims to have.

It's like the game can't handle statistics and probability properly. I know this is how the human mind works (hence the existance of this list), meaning that we often think in either/or rather than in actual probabilities. But I thought a game, based on solid, programmed numbers would be better than that! As it is I often wonder if the game just runs by the commands "doesn't miss much" or "misses a lot", rather than actual percentages.

3. You always get dazed when you want it the least.
Which usually is always. But sometimes you're lucky and don't seem to get dazed much at all. You can bet your life (and it will be your life) that whenever you're being chased by a ganker you will get dazed by a mob. Or when you pull an elite. Or when you try to ride out of Zul'Farrak after having pulled half the instance.

4. If you run between mobs to avoid aggroing them you will pull both and their stealthed friend.
See point 3. on this list for what will happen next by the way. This is just classic irony or perhaps Murphy's Law. By trying to avoid to get into trouble, you'll actually end up in trouble, and a lot more of it than if you had just wo/manned up in the first place and dealt with it rather than trying to chicken your way through. But I just hate it when I am simply trying to get smoothly from point A to point B (which happens a lot in WoW), I'm not in the mood for any skull bashing and this Gnoll just knows he has to ruin my day. So he brings his friend. And where the hell did THAT guy come from?!

5. It doesn't matter which class you bring, stuff for your other class will always drop.
This one is for all you alters out there, you know my pain! At one point I was juggling quite many, and did some 10 VoA runs each week (day? Don't remember how often they reset). And I swear, the more alts I had the more it felt like I lost out on loot. Which you know, makes sense, because every loot that dropped was something I could've used on one of my other alts. And I guess the more alts I had the more I got the sense that loot dropped just to mock me. Ok, maybe I can scratch this one and just write it down to me being damn unlucky. Or probably averagely unlucky.

Well this person had no trouble finding gear! -

Bonus entry!
6. If you get jumped by someone while questing and you're about to own him, a paladin will come out of nowhere and kill you when your opponent is at 5%.
I think the title speaks for itself and I think this just happened to me when I wrote this list.

Ever felt particularly out of favour with the WoW Gods? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Signs You Should Leave The Raid

One of the many very good things about playing WoW was what a good source of blog material it turned out to be. I literally had notebooks filled with ideas to write about, based on pretty much anything that happened to me in the game. I'm not saying that life in general can't be a good source to write about if you just think about it, but to me WoW always worked like a charm. The fact that I don't play it anymore is a small reason to why I write blog posts so rarely nowadays, but turns out I've got a load of WoW posts actually lying around. The other day I was checking through an old notebook I found and I read through some of the ideas I had that never made it into a proper blog post for whatever reason. Most often I am guessing I didn't think it was much enough of an idea to become a post but sometimes it might've just been lack of time. This post is one of the latter I am guessing, as it was basically done in my notebook and just needed to be written down digitally to be bloggified. Since I haven't played WoW for over a year now I don't know how much any of these hold up, all of them aren't exactly laugh out loud material either, but it might at least put a smile of recognition on your faces. So here it goes;

1. The hunter says he's a melee hunter

People have been making fun of hunters throughout the history of WoW for many reasons. From "everything is a hunter weapon" to the fact that you could just sic your pet on an enemy and roll your thumbs to profit. Fact is that really early on in the game I could swear that Blizzard at least thought about making melee hunters a viable choice, the same way they sort of tried shaman tanks. So maybe we can cut some confused hunters out there some slack. To someone well versed in what WoW is all about, the mere idea to play your hunter without a ranged weapon sounds just about as ludicrous as playing a melee boomkin. Yet there were some rebels out there that thought exactly that would be a good idea. At least there is kudos on them for trying to up the difficulty on the hunter class.

Even Blizzard agreed it had to stop -

2. Raid Leader only knows how to speak in /s

I encountered a lot of people who didn't seem to fully understand how to use the chat system properly, or more often how to turn off caps. In the early levels this is forgivable. But if you've made it all the way to raid level, it is time to learn. Especially if you hope to lead.

Or if this happens -

3. Main Tank says "mom says dinner is ready"

It's easy to make fun of young kids parents that don't understand that WoW isn't pausable and what tremendous issues it can cause a lot of other people when their kid has to come to dinner right that second. But maybe the kid is at fault for not warning the parents about their commitments and keeping a dialogue on game time vs dinner time.

4. People try to lose aggro by running away from the tank

I find this funny because it's such a rooted reflex in human behaviour. To get away from danger you need to run from danger. Unfortunately this means also running away from the person that could possibly save you and when raiding this can be especially troublesome. This got frustrating enough for Thoryana to write a pretty good song about it. Yet I've done this myself many, many times.

5. The Raid Leader isn't part of a guild

I don't know if this is still true, but there was a time while I played where being part of a guild was the way to check if someone was morally ok or not. If someone wasn't part of a guild they probably didn't care about people! And if they don't care about people they will greedily ninja everything they see! Also if they were part of a guild they could be punished by that guild when they did something wrong, so obviously the fancier the guild the more trustworthy you'd be. Obviously this system didn't work too well since it's easy to just create your own guild to be in all by your lonesome and I came across plenty of huge guilds where everyone was basically a douche (Ye Olde Goone Squad, I am looking at you!).

6. Main Tank/Healer uses the Jenkins title

When titles were introduced, one of the easiest to get was the Jenkins title. So of course, having it up came to symbolize someone who didn't try very hard and/or didn't know much about the game. Then came the people who used it "ironically". And then we stopped caring I think.

Just one step closer to getting his own game -

7. The paladin only uses minor blessings

Paladins have been changed so much I can't be completely sure what I meant when I wrote this one. It was probably when minor blessings were 5 minutes whereas major were 30 minutes. But then they changed it so that everyone of the same class shared major blessings which meant that some people needed to get minor once to get the right blessing, and that's totally legit of course. I have no idea how it works nowadays.

8. The Main Tank only uses BoA gear

I'm going to guess that LFR has become easy enough that this might not be much of an issue, but a couple of years ago or just after BoA had been introduced, you did not want to see any of that gear on the person who was going to take big hits from the big troll. This was especially true before BoA tank gear was even implemented.

What I get for Googling "boa" -

9. The Moonkin hasn't specced moonkin form

In line with the melee hunter, it always fascinated me how some people could misunderstand their class and their talents so tremendously (eventhough I've been there myself!). I'm not talking about nitpicky stat optimizing, but somehow not looking at your fellow players and seeing they are all doing it one way and you're not. Doesn't that make you wonder? I'm all for trying new things (and did occasionally), but unfortunately that is rarely rewarded in WoW.

A good reason not to spec moonkin -

10. Tank Healer says "I have really bad lags"

This is just one of those famous last words kind of phrase that probably doesn't need much more explanation.

I knew it! -