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Archive for August, 2011

The other night, I got a text from one of my fellow officers, asking if I wanted to go run Black Temple. We all want T6 for future transmogging endeavors, so I said yes and signed onto WoW to get it done. Five of us met in Shadowmoon Valley and jumped in with the intention of kicking Illidan in the pants and stealing his stuff.

I started playing this game shortly before Wrath launched, so I missed the apparently glory of BC raiding. On my very long trek to 80, I got invited to a  couple of retro raids, which is how I saw things like Ony, ZG, ZA, and Black Temple along the way. I never really had the pleasure of running those with the guild I’d just joined though, so I mostly spent those raids feeling very confused, completely unwilling to roll on any of the cool stuff, and feeling too shy to talk in raid chat. Still, I was intrigued by the entire thing, and made a note that it was something I wanted to look at again when I had the chance.

Ony, ZA, and ZG I have obviously now had far, far too many looks at. In fact, if I never see the inside of the Zuls again, it will be too soon. (Somewhere, my pally is screaming that she wants to be geared too, dammit!) But Black Temple…man that place is amazing and epic feeling, even now.

It took my group not very long at all to smash our way through the place, and we got very lucky with drops and tokens. Our pally managed to complete her T6 set, and I picked up the shoulders for mine. But even beyond the gear collecting, this was one of the most fun and relaxing nights I’ve had in WoW in a long time.

I won’t lie. Firelands has been very difficult on my raid group. We lost a great DPSer early on to boredom, had countless computer and internet problems, gotten unlucky with drops for the majority, and generally aren’t making the kind of progress we’re used to. It’s been disheartening, and it’s taken a lot of fun out of the raiding for me. But after the Black Temple run on Monday, I felt like I started last night’s Firelands raid with a much clearer head than I have in weeks. And judging by the pleasant chatter in Mumble, it seems like other people did too.

This got me thinking. I haven’t run a Zul in awhile because I’m sick to death of them and needed a break. My druid is geared to the point where I don’t feel like I need to rush to get that next upgrade. So most of my recent game time has been spent collecting pets and either soloing old content or doing it with small groups. And suddenly a lot of my negative feelings about the game have lessened to the point that I actually want to go back and finish the Molten Front grind on my DK.

After playing around in the fun of Black Temple and Tempest Keep with ragtag groups or soloing Karazhan on my own, my first thought was, “Augh! Why didn’t Blizzard revamp THESE places to become five mans instead of the freaking Zuls?!” Then I realized this is the very last thing I want Blizzard to do. Inevitably if they were to update these old raids and throw them into the random dungeon finder, they too will be ruined by the monotony of being forced to run them constantly and dealing with idiot puggers while doing so.  The moment that these places lose their relaxed, non-mandatory nature is the same moment they lose what I think is their current amazing (and important!) contribution to the game.

You know how during a fancy meal, you get lemon sorbet after the first course? That’s Illidan. That’s Ulduar. That’s Karazhan. Hell, it might even be ICC.

I think the game needs the old places, not just for their sense of nostalgia, but because they serve as a palate cleanser for current content. Running them is purely for fun, not for personal or guild advancement. We can chat on Mumble about completely unrelated to the raid sort of things while running through, but we’re still doing something together as a group. Or I can listen to a podcast or audio book while I solo old stuff and curse Attumen for not dropping that damn horse. Again. But the thing is, even though I would really LIKE to see those reins drop, it doesn’t ruin my night the way a bad session of progression raiding can. I just shrug and move on, figuring that next week, surely, I will see what I want. And if I don’t feel like flying over to Kara on the next lock out….eh, no big deal. It’s not like it won’t be the week after.

WoW is a grindy game. There’s no denying that fact. You “have” to run your dailies and your randoms and your progression raid so you can get the gear that will make it easier to do all that stuff. Somehow I feel that no matter what Blizzard does, eventually it will feel like a grind. But these old treasures break up that grind and make it easier to jump back into smashing your face against a Firelands boss the next week.

Blizzard,  let these old favorites stay in the past rather than revamping them. They’re much more powerful there.

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I may not play a hunter, but man do I hunt pets. Just not the helpful kind that actually assist in battle. No, I’m more of a minipet collector, though my true dedication to the pursuit has only happened recently.

I’ve always liked pet collecting on my main. I made it a point to get whatever holiday pets I could for her, along with all of the Horde and Alliance faction pets. At level 60, I prowled my way through LBRS to get myself the worg pup, which is actually what kicked off my love of minipets in the first place. Still, I never went particularly crazy for farming the rare drops. The only rare drop I had is my magical crawdad, and I got that from pure luck after five casts in Terokkar. Really getting into the collecting was always something I planned to do “someday.” A couple of weeks ago, I realized I was really close to 100 pets and the Petting Zoo achievement and figured that I might as well work on getting there. Possibly up to the 150 achieve if I was lucky because the Celestial Dragon is awesome.

Around that time, I happened to notice one of my closest WoW friends hanging out in strange places like Winterspring and Zul’Drak. When I asked her what she was up to, she said she was working on getting to 150 pets as well. I suppose that motivated me, because since then I’ve been actually putting effort into my collection.

So I started looking over my collection of pets, seeing what I would need to do to hit 150. Unfortunately, since I started playing only shortly before Wrath, I’ve missed out on a lot of promotional pets and one time event pets. I’m still missing two Children’s Week pets. And that’s when I realized…..shoot, I have a crap ton of farming to do!

After getting lucky with a quick Sprite Darter drop, I spent a little time on WarcraftPets.com trying to figure out how long I could expect to see an Emerald Whelp drop. When I saw people saying things like “700 kills and still nothing!” I wondered if there was some addon out there that kept track of these things. The only one I saw on Curse was outdated, but in the comments, another author linked to the addon they’d been working on. I quickly downloaded it and was thrilled that it does exactly what I wanted!

Rarity is currently in beta, and from what I’ve found, it’s an awesome addition to pet collecting. Now I know exactly how many times I’ve killed random mobs in Winterspring, hoping that the stupid Azure Whelpling will drop (Hint: way too many times).

From Allara, the author:

Inspired by Bunny Hunter, Rarity tracks how many chances you’ve had to obtain various rare items throughout the game. It will tell you how likely you are to obtain the item, track how long you’ve been farming for it, etc. Primarily, this is useful for farming companion pets and mounts, but it also supports virtually any item including patterns and designs, archaeology projects, etc.

Some of the features are:

  • Fully user configurable—you can add things to track on your own
  • Supports zone-wide drops (i.e. Hyacinth Macaw)
  • Supports containers (i.e. White Polar Bear)
  • Supports two-level loots (i.e. Disgusting Oozeling)
  • Supports archaeology projects (i.e. Scepter of Azj’Aqir)
  • Supports fishing (i.e. Sea Turtle)
  • Supports item usage (i.e. Mojo)
  • Supports items dropped from bosses that require a group to defeat (i.e. Flametalon of Alysrazor)
  • Supports items obtained from the holiday boss bags (i.e. Big Love Rocket)
  • Supports some special cases (i.e. Elementium Geode, Mysterious Camel Figurine)
  • Supports things other than pets and mounts (i.e. recipes, legendary components, etc.)
  • Will properly ignore skinning
  • Lets you modify your kill count without having to edit saved vars, in case you started farming before you installed Rarity
  • Automatically imports data from Bunny Hunter
  • Shows an “achievement” alert when you finally obtain the item!
  • Automatically scans you to determine if you already have any companions or mounts
  • Shift-click to report your progress to chat

Personally, I mostly love this add on for showing me how many times I’ve killed stuff, and I especially love the achievement pop up telling me when I do actually get the pet. I would have definitely missed looting my Firefly without it, since I was half asleep when that sucker dropped and my bags were full!

Pet farming is generally a mind numbing experience, but addons like this actually make it more fun. Or at least easier to scream about how bad your luck is. If you’ve decided your crazy enough to try for the 150 achievement, definitely download this one to help you along the way.

Oh and as for me? I’m at 132 pets now, with a bunch of rare drops in my collection. 18 more and that dragon will be mine!

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Let me introduce you to the bane of my existence. It’s called Masterwork Elementium Deathblade. It’s not the bane of my existence because of the weapon speed (though I hate that too) or the fact that it has haste on it (also not a fan of that problem). No no. My issue with this sword is the hideous, horrible, overused model. Dear god, I am sick of it.

Let me explain. My pally is my favorite toon. She’s not my main and I don’t get to raid much on her, but she’s my favorite. While I spend most of my play time on my druid (and I love her too!) the pally is the one who has most of the achievemtents and collects the mounts. She’s my main RP toon, and during Wrath, I got to raid on her as well, and she was extremely well geared. I obsess about her dps and I keep up with ret pally theorycrafting. I don’t get to raid on her because I am the raid healer for my group, and that’s where I’m most useful. I’m not particularly good at holy healing, so even when I can bring alts into the raid, I usually don’t get to bring her. It’s sad, but I’m okay with it.

I still like making sure she has good gear though. The Deathblade is the best that’s available to me without raiding, so that’s what I’m using. But MAN do I hate that model.

Prior to the Deathblade, I was using the pink version of the sword, Blade of the Fearless. I had been using that since about….I don’t know….maybe three or four weeks after Cata dropped. I joked with my guildies that I felt like She-Ra with it, and changed my pally’s hair to resemble her for awhile. But after six months of looking at that sword, I’d had enough. I was stoked when I saw there would be a crafted sword because it meant I wouldn’t have to look at that awful thing anymore. Then I saw the preview and it was the SAME MODEL. It’s just blue this time, which I guess makes her He-man? Arg.

Needless to say, when 4.3 hits, the first thing I will be doing is running to the ethereals and transmogrifying the crap out of that sword. My first choice is my long lusted after favorite sword model in the game, Twinblade of the Phoenix from Tempest Keep. I honestly think this is one of the best swords around for a blood elf paladin. If RNG doesn’t smile upon me, I’ll probably use Greatsword of the Sin’dorei  until it does. I loved that sword model during Wrath, and I only got to use it for a few days before an upgrade dropped for me in the five man ToC.

And possibly more exciting is that, as a ret pally, I have grown used to my belt and boots never matching my tier. It’s always either DK or warrior stuff, and sometimes that looks okay (like in t11) and sometimes it looks terrible (like in t10). Finally I will be able to use the models from those healie belts and boots and will not look like I’m color blind. And I will never have to wear a WWE style belt EVER AGAIN!!!!

I’m not just excited for my paladin here. My first thought when I heard the announcement was that I needed to go farm up the entire t6 set for my druid. Then, while playing Atlasloot dress up in guild chat last night, I realized that the off set drops from Black Temple look amazing with T12. While it’s not my favorite, I don’t mind t12, except for the shoulders and helm which I don’t care for in general, and make my poor tauren girl look like a deranged linebacker. But oh, it looks amazing with those two off set pieces!

Plus all of those gorgeous feral staves that look so perfect for a druid? Yeah. They will be mine.

My mains aren’t the only ones I’m excited for. I’ll probably deck my DK out in his starter gear again and will dual wield Tankard O’ Terrors. My engineer priest will be wearing her Wrath goggles full time. My warrior will get any other sword model than the freaking Blade of the Fearless….twice. And the beauty of it is, I’ll be able to change the look of these rarely played characters of mine who don’t often get upgrades, so that when I do get the chance to play them, I don’t have to look at the same gear for months on end.

I’m happy with the way Blizzard is doing this as well. I like that you still need to go get the gear if you want to wear it. I think it adds another level of achievement onto the whole thing. And I’m really looking forward to running old content with my guild so we can deck out our toons the way that we envision them. I would say that this is such an awesome thing for RPers, but really, I think it’s awesome for everyone to have more options. And it will be great that max level characters won’t just be complete clones of each other.

Oh, and as for void storage? Let’s just say my pally’s bank is rejoicing.

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Roleplay versus gameplay

A lot of times when I see people who are new to the idea of RPing in WoW starting to become curious about it, they have some questions about how to handle game play mechanics as opposed to story mechanics. We can assume that gameplay does not exactly equal the world that our characters live in. It’s obviously not possible for our toons to walk around carrying a bunch of bags with several sets of armor, bushels of herbs, raw fish that are months old, and explosives. There are many things that the world game needs to have from a practical view-point that make the game not annoying to play that just don’t work when you try to think of your character as a real person. But how do you decide what is a purely gameplay mechanic and what is something your character could be experiencing in their world? This is something that I encourage roleplayers to think about when they’re writing or RPing on their characters, and it can add to some interest in their stories as well. Some examples of what I mean:

Travel – All things considered, even in game terms, Azeroth is pretty big. It takes awhile to get from place to place even on a flying mount. However, when I handle myRP,I think of the world as being much larger than it could possibly be in game. I treat travel back and forth between Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms as a gigantic and expensive pain that takes quite a long time. I imagine zones being far more vast and expansive, and not possible to being walked across in a few minutes (And to make things more difficult, I vary how I handle this from zone to zone. Eversong and Ghostlands I imagine being slightly larger than they are in game, where a place like Mulgore or the Barrens I imagine being much much larger.) For the most part, I ignore the existence of portals, especially the ones that are in cities to help you get around. I don’t even really like including mage portals in my RP, but I will do that occasionally. But I tend to think of it as something that is very expensive and not commonly done.

Why do I make things harder on my character like this? For me, I feel it cheapens the world to be able to get around it so quickly in character. I want the world to feel big, and so when a character of mine has to travel from one continent to another, it feels as though it’s a serious investment of their time to do so. One of the themes I play with a lot in my RP is the idea of being away from loved ones for the sake of duty, and that entire things feels a lot cheaper if you can just instantly walk through portal and be wherever you want.

Reputations - I do a lot of rep grinding on paladin, mostly because she’s my mount collector. For this reason, she’s exalted with many factions that, in character,she just couldn’t care less about. She may be exalted with, for example, Ramkahen, but in character she’s only spent about a week in Uldum, and that was on vacation. She’s exalted with the Darkspear Trolls because I wanted the Crusader title for her, but in character she just really does not like trolls.

Generally what I do for my characters is pick a couple of factions that I do think they would actually care about, and gently work them into my RP. My paladin has done a lot of work with the Argent Crusade. My druid is all about all things…druid. My second pally worked a lot with Wyrmrest Accord when he was in Northrend. I really try to think of what is important to my character’s personality and determine important groups for them from there.

Raiding – When my guild killed LK, the way that I personally handled it in my RP was to write an epic battle scene with the Alliance and Horde vs. the Scourge. The assault on the citadel had gone on for a long time, with constant setbacks to explain why we didn’t just storm in and kill LK in one day. When we finally got to the point where we fought LK, I decided having it climax in an epic battle would be more fun than simply progressing through bosses as we did in the raid. In my version of that final battle, the platform we were all fighting on was a lot bigger, and there was a gigantic Braveheart style battle that broke out, with the two sides charging each other once the attack began. I used certain elements from the actual LK fight in the story, including Tirion’s beginning speech and some of the fight mechanics, but I also drew from other parts of ICC for inspiration as well.

I also tried to use the idea of raid groups in my story. My pally fought with a small unit, including a couple of healers, but once the chaos of battle started, it was easy for things to go wrong. She fought a group of Darkfallen, for instance, when she was seriously injured. And in the end, I used the same climax that we saw in the raid, complete with LK killing everyone and then getting a mass rez, but it wasn’t my character, or even my raid group alone, that killed LK. It was a very large group effort.

Healing and RezzingThe concept of rezzing is one I most often hear asked about by new roleplayers. In the game, it’s such a common mechanic. All of the healers can rez you. DKs and locks can rez you. Strange spirit ladies with wings that like to hang out in graveyards can rez you, but they like to break your armor first. Without rezzing, the game would be no fun at all. That doesn’t mean it makes for a good story mechanic though. I like for my character’s lives to have weight and matter, and if their deaths could be solved with a simple spell, suddenly difficult choices no longer have an important meaning. Death is one of the most imposing aspects of life, and to take that away from your characters really cheapens everything they do.

Generally I don’t even think that rezzing exists in the world of Azeroth, unless you’re talking about extreme cases, like in the fight with LK. I tend to view it as when we see a character “die” in game, they’re just being knocked out or have grievous injuries that will take a long time to heal. I also don’t tend to write about healing being as easy and effective as it is in game. I like the idea that my characters can walk out of a battle banged up with cuts and bruises and scars. Generally, I view healing as something that allows them to keep fighting, but only time and rest can truly heal wounds.

There are plenty other pieces of gameplay mechanics that don’t necessarily fit into good storytelling. As is probably clear, I prefer to cut out a lot of the things that are convenient and would make my character’s lives easier. Just as Lord of the Rings wouldn’t have been as compelling if the fellowship could have ported to Mordor or Order of the Phoenix would have lost its weight if Sirius simply could have accepted a rez, I think in general good story telling comes from difficult situations that need to be overcome. Letting your characters have things to easily makes for a boring story. And boring stories make for boring RP!

What are some gameplay mechanics that you’ve felt have no place in storytelling?

-Faye

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Tree dance!

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to start a blog that chronicles my love of WoW.and the community attached to it. I kept myself from doing it because I felt I lacked having anything to share that hasn’t already been covered somewhere else in the blogging community. I’ve decided to go ahead with it anyway, and hopefully along the way I’ll have some interesting views that others in the community will find entertaining.

About me: I started playing WoW almost three years ago, a couple of months before the launch of Wrath. I had always been interested in WoW, but never had the time to play. I blame Mr. T for finally luring me in. After seeing his commercial, I went and downloaded the trial (and was thrilled that it ran on my Mac, by the way), rolled myself a night elf druid, and immediately fell in love with the world that Blizzard gave me. The moment I walked into Darnassus, I was completely overwhelmed by how beautiful it was. Something about the entrance and the huge “Alliance Territory” that flashed on the screen really hit home for me that something epic had occurred. Then I glanced down at trade chat, was vaguely horrified by what I read, then was asked if I wanted to eRP by some random night elf warrior, and I promptly signed off. A few days later I told a real life friend of mine (who was a former WoW player) about my experience, and he told me to reroll Horde on his old server. Despite the fact that I didn’t want to be “one of those big cow things,” I listened to him and have been an avid Horde player ever since. I still love Teldrassil and Darnassus though, and will occasionally roll up a new baby druid just to experience the zone again.

Do not invoke the wrath of an angry tree

These days, my mains are a restoration druid and a retribution paladin, because I enjoy healing things and smacking stuff in the face with a sword. I’m an officer in a guild that focuses on both RP and 10-man raiding. I’ve never been interested in doing 25-man raiding because I like the tight nit nature of a smaller group. I make it a point to set aside time each week to RP. For me, if a toon doesn’t have a good character and story behind it, I can’t get into playing it.

In the real world, I work in the a creative field, and my degree is in graphic design. Unsurprisingly, I’m fairly obsessed with having a nice looking UI. I’m the person in my raid who will say random things like “Huh, interesting, they’re using the main melody from ‘Invincible’ as the undertone for the music that they play here,” while waiting for people to come back from a break. I love that Blizzard takes the time to add so many “flavor” items to the game, and think it would be pretty boring if everything in the game were about upgrades.

My hopes for this blog is that it will have a fair mix of entries about raiding, RP, lore, and general silliness in between. I’ll let it evolve naturally and see where I can find my niche in this very vocal community.

-Faye

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