Archive for March, 2010

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Noblegarden holidays

31.03.2010

Easter is around the corner – or Noblegarden, as it is known in Azeroth. Lucky me, that also means vacation time!

Since “x things to do before y” lists seem to be pretty popular, I present my personal list of Five Things To Do On Vacation:

  • Solo the Deadmines
  • Get at least half my chars up to level 30
  • Get over ten companions on my two “nature boy / girl” chars
  • Buy a guild tab
  • Upgrade several of my self-made items

Some clarification for that list, maybe.

I’ve already tried soloing the Deadmines on my hunter, only to be stumped on Van Cleef. The rest of the mines is pretty straightforward, I died once on the first boss – and a couple of times on the elites, every time when I grew careless and impatient. I expect the second try to be a success, what with a level gained, a new tenacity pet and some loot from my first run.

I’ve slacked on leveling a bit, so I should pick up the pace if I want to see all of the old world before Cataclysm. Getting four out of eight characters to 30 would be the next step, especially since it opens new instances for solo play.

My druid and my hunter are pet collectors, obviously. Ten pets isn’t much, but it’s the first pet related achievement, if I’m not mistaken. If I am, then I should probably aim for 25 pets, just to be safe. This is more a money problem than anything else, buying pets from the auction house would cost about 100 gold for ten cheap pets, for 25, I’d have to buy some exotic ones as well or visit Booty Bay. I have the funds, I’m just not sure I want to spend them so readily.

I am my own guild. Buying a guild tab is just a logical step for creating my own resource pool. On my characters I already have more than enough gold combined to buy a tab. But I want to buy it with the small ‘tax’ I set aside from each character towards the guild bank. Should be easy, though. The holidays will provide ample opportunities on the auction house.

My engineer and blacksmith have several self-crafted items that are upgradeable. I know that there are most likely better items out there as drops or on the auction house, but it is a question of style and flavour. Since I have trained up those skills, a few upgrade have become available, I now need to gather the raw materials to perform them.

Modest goals, but it’s only a week of vacation plus the Easter holidays.

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More of the same

29.03.2010

Continuing on from Darkshore, the typical Nightelven character ventures into Ashenvale. And it is a long trek from the entrance to the main settlement, passing by Elven outposts, ancient ruins and barbaric hut villages.

The setting of the zone is moody, mysterious and quite a bit grittier than the previous zones. The Horde has several camps here, and plots that started in Darkshore unfold fully to lead you against dark wizards and their demon armies. Personal drama ensues as you try to save a young village daughter from a deadly poison. And when you think you finished the quests, another group becomes available, this time deep in the forest, where a few brave Elves have set up camp in the ruins of an old forest retreat.

This zone, then, has it all. Involving storylines? Check. Varied plots instead of search and kill? Check. Magical places and ruins? Check. Encounter with Horde and demons? Check.

Why then, am I slightly tired of it, even on my first character through here? Why has my second character skipped Ashenvale and taken the chance offered by an early quest to travel to Stonetalon Mountains and stay there? Or venture forth into the Barrens?

Objectively, Ashenvale is a brilliant zone, for questing, storytelling, even as travel hub of sorts.

However, Ashenvale has a problem: The target audience. A Nightelf starts out in Teldrassil, which is a moody, mysterious forest with Elvish ruins. That is okay, the first step into Azeroth, it is all new and confusing and exciting. Then the Nightelf travels to Darkshore. Which is kind of cool, larger, deeper plotlines, and a moody and mysterious forest with ancient Elvish ruins. And now the Nightelf heads into Ashenvale, which has long storylines, and is a moody and mysterious forest with ancient Elv… oh why bother.

Now, have a look at the other races, shall we?

Humans start out in the lush Elywnn Forest, head to the rolling hills of Westfall and then to Redridge Mountain or for a change of environment to Duskwood. A dark and mysterious forest, granted, but that’s new for a human.

Dwarves and Gnomes start in the cold snow of Dun Morogh, travel to Loch Modan – or take the tram to Stormwind and Westfall, though why anyone would prefer Westfall to Loch Modan is beyond me – and then usually end up in the marshes of the Wetlands.

A Nightelf, however, gets three dark, moody and mysterious forests in a row. Granted, Darkshore has the coastal regions and Ashenvale has some more enemy camps, but it is essentially the same. It is stunningly executed, but when it comes to pacing, it is a bit wasted in this ‘slot’.

If you like the Nightelf forests, though, it is decidedly “more of the same, please!”

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An epic journey: Zero Twenty

26.03.2010

Preface

Of the eight base classes available for starting characters, I now have six on level 20 or higher. My rogue is a bit lagging behind, simply because I started that class very late – never was a rogue fan in other games. I haven’t yet started a priest, and most likely never will.

So, with all starter zones behind me, and abilities starting to get interesting, I thought it would be nice to do a comparison how the gameplay varies between the classes. As a casual soloist, I look for three things:

Ease of play – how easy is the character to play solo? Are the abilities intuitive? How did I do on group quests (i.e. Hogger)?

Style points – does the character have a certain flair to it? Are the class quests fleshed out and interesting? Does class membership offer some additional benefits?

Fun factor – does the class occasionally make me go ‘Woah!’? Is it fun fighting enemies as this class? Can I pull off feats that I originally deemed impossible?

Since I like statistics, I’ll rate each class out of 10 points, with the hypothetical average, somewhat bland, not quite entertaining class rated 6.0 each.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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3.3.3 – The number of the patch!

24.03.2010

Iron Maiden songs aside, the patch finally went live for EU servers. For me, still being in my twenties (character level, sadly), nothing much changed. Sure, a few abilities are different, but since I’m jumping between classes anyway it’s just a minor adjustment. PvP changes don’t concern me, and the cooldowns for crafting will affect me much, much later.

However, the patch breaks IceHUD, for some reason. I’m not amused. A hotfix is out though, that basically forces everyone to use somewhat ugly default bars instead of the nicer ones. Could be worse, I guess.

Uh, yeah.

And that’s me resumé for 3.3.3.

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How not to help newbies

22.03.2010

Imagine you’re an apprentice carpenter. You’re working away at your first real assignment, when a seasoned professional comes along, pushes you aside and finishes your job. Then hands you the completed piece with the words “You’re welcome”.

Imagine you’re learning to drive. Only the instructor – instead of just being there in case you screw up – constantly controls the pedals and shifts gears for you. While going on about how his private car is so much better than the one you’re learning to drive.

Imagine you’re just learning to play a complex game, where everything is new and confusing. You get the task of fighting beginner’s level enemies that are actually quite peaceful unless attacked. Just as you’re coming to grips with the basic interface and trying out the first abilities and finding out just how much punishment you can take, a veteran comes along, killing all enemies and tossing a “You’re welcome.” your way.

What do all three examples have in common? The apprentice, learner or newbie hasn’t learned a thing. The professional, instructor or veteran wasn’t helping at all.

Seriously. A level 80 Death Knight hanging out in Northshire, blasting any mob that’s targeted by a level 1 character to smithereens, telling them to “Pull all!” isn’t helping. Not the slightest. Yes, it’s fun to see a horde of *whatever* die in one blast, but the goal of the 1-5 areas is to teach newbies how to play the game. To teach them when to run, what to do if a fight gets out of hand. And all that in a safe environment.

I’m not against helping newbies. But doing so without regard if they want it or not is plain rude.

Buff them. Buffs are nice. Buffs can be canceled if they decide they don’t want or need them.

Heal them. Heals are nice. It means they usually know they would’ve died if not for outside help, a valuable lesson.

Ask them. Always, always, ask if they need more direct help. Some would prefer to get the starter zone over with quickly, others actually enjoy these first few levels or want to figure out the game for themselves.

After experiencing those “helpful” 80’s a couple of times – including those that continue to follow you around even if you obviously don’t want their help – I actually made a macro, complete with /rude and a link to John Gabriel’s GIFT. I’m aware that may turn off a few people from wanting to help others. But in my opinion, they weren’t helping at all anyway.

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Make teamwork, not groups!

19.03.2010

My auto-decline protects me from the most annoying specimen of fellow players, who happily pop up invite dialogues while I’m busy fighting for my life. Fortunately, there is another specimen of player that doesn’t get blocked. Teamwork players.

Point in case. I was doing the Murkdeep quest on my Druid. I already have it on my Hunter and on my Warlock, so the quest itself is more or less routine. As I approach the Murloc camp, I notice another Nightelf Hunter fighting off mobs. Fine by me, the mobs are equal or higher level, less mobs means less danger and more space for moving about when Murkdeep shows up. He doesn’t.

So I sit back on a nearby log and watch the scene. The Hunter comes over – recovering Mana – and asks which quest I’m doing. Turns out we’re both set for Murkdeep. Now, normally, there are two options on what could happen: It could become a race to see who gets the kill first, or I hear the inevitable chime of my auto-decline  shooting down a group invite. Surprisingly enough, neither happens. The hunter dismisses his pet and sits down as well.

Now, I have done the quest multiple times, and my only defence at this point is that it was quite late after a long day at the office. I decide to pass the time by killing some of the respawning Murlocs at the camp. The Hunter watches and occasionally provides a sting or pulls aggro off me when one of my surgical pulls goes wrong. And watches as I realise that Murkdeep in fact spawns when the camp is cleared. Unfortunately, that moment of facepalming clarity comes at the exact moment when I’m standing on the shore between the Murloc camp and Murkdeep’s spawn point in the ocean, Mana almost zero, health down to a third. Thank you, Murphy, thank you.

When I returned to my physical existence, I expected the camp to be cleaned out, Murkdeep slain and the Hunter off to get his quest reward. Instead, I find he still waits nearby, no pet, and asks me if I want another go since I did most of the work already.

On the grounds that I fumbled my own attempt I tell him to go ahead and keep him healed.

And that is the difference between mindless “o look, theirs some1 doin my quest, group plz!!1″ and people who know how to work together without artificial crutches provided by the interface. It proves you can solo your stuff, find the occasional fellow adventurer who respects your privacy and still help each other out.

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Last chance to see

15.03.2010

Cataclysm is coming. With it, some of the zones we know will change forever. One of these zones is Darkshore, with its port of Auberdine. It is the first town outside of Teldrassil that Nightelves normally visit, with connections to Stormwind and Azuremyst Isle. Other Alliance members may know it primarily from traveling through on their way to Ashenvale and the Barrens beyond.

Which is a shame, because, in my opinion, Darkshore is one of the most beautiful and well thought-out starter zones for our faction. Almost none of the quests are straight-forward “kill ten monsters” type, like the majority in Westfall. Instead, as is the Nightelven way, you always investigate first, then devise a cure and ultimately confront the source. And the opponents vary greatly. From hulking Moonkins, slithering Murlocs, rabid bears, spirits, Satyrs to giant golems, demon worshippers and Nagas… pretty much anything that is connected to either the struggle to keep the balance of nature or the mystic.

Travel during quests is relatively short, while the zone in general feels quite large. This is mostly due to the fact that it is a narrow, long zone – you can spend an eternity wandering along the beach north to south, but once there, the quests are stretched east to west, meaning you can quickly complete a cluster, without having to plan it all out in advance.

And you really should spend some time just wandering about. The mood of the forest changes considerably depending on which time it is. From a sunny, autumn-like afternoon to a mysterious dusk. And don’t forget the sunsets seen on the beach – possibly the best in all of Azeroth.

Cataclysm is coming. Visit Darkshore now, it’s your last chance to see!

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Lazy Li’l Goblin

12.03.2010

I’m no Goblin. Mostly because I’m too lazy. But still…

In the past two days I have tripled my funds. Now, that means it’s only from 100 gold to 300 gold, but given that I don’t really ‘play’ the Auctionhouse, I’m still reasonably proud of myself. A couple of minutes on log-in and then just before log-out, checking the Resale and Snatch lists in Auctioneer and selling mats I came across during questing.

I seriously can’t understand why anybody would buy gold-guides, for example. Even I, with just a few weeks of experience and no clue about the specifics of the WoW market now have more gold than my level 20 characters need. And I started with absolutely nothing, no guild, no outside help. Just a bit of common sense, some patience and Auctioneer.

What I find works astonishingly well is simply buying things on the weekend when many players post auctions, undercutting each other and then selling during the week, when it suddenly becomes a seller’s market.

A few things are puzzling me, though. I had expected the price of Lesser and Greater Magic Essences to correspond to the 3-1 conversion between the two items. It doesn’t. So far I can’t come up with an explanation.

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The definition of fail

09.03.2010

While the first chunk of 3.3.3 is downloading, I get time to read some more blogs. One word that I find mentioned fairly often, in blogs or on the official forum, is “fail“.

But what exactly is fail? Or, more precisely, what do I mean, when I call something “fail”?

Fail is, simply put, not achieving your goals. So the basic premise is that without knowing another person’s goals, it is hard to declare someone “fail” on pure observation. It has always to be in context. The most prominent goal is survival. We can all agree on that – if you’re dead, you’re hard pressed to do anything in-game. But being dead doesn’t mean you “failed”, because there’s bad luck, honest mistakes, or just plain learning experience. So we have to look further than that. Fun seems a good point. But what determines fun? For me it’s definitely something else than for a high-end progression raider. Am I fail? Is he? Either could be, depending on the point of view.

Group play is a bit easier to judge. The goal of the group is to clear the boss, preferably with as few wipes as possible, and for all members to have fun. That last part is important. I know that I, personally, enjoy a relaxed style, quite possibly suboptimal equipment because it fits the character and what I want to achieve. But if I were to join a raid, things would probably change, because the goal is suddenly bigger than just me. So yes, that tank in full ICC-whatever gear that can’t keep aggro, fail. The newly-dinged 80 that hasn’t had a chance to gear up yet? Not fail, as long as he’s doing the best he can.

Solo play, however, I find it hard to call anybody honestly “fail”. Only in interaction with others, because, again, suddenly it’s not only them, but they affect others as well:

That level 80 in front of the auction house, advising some newbie to install Gearscore because they “need it for raiding”? A wonderful fail, unless you want to be part of the Gearscore crowd. Personally, I’d even call it a success, because I now have two more people to avoid.

The priest I met, dying to some mobs because he asked me in chat about grouping instead of fighting when I had already started to taunt mobs off him? Fatal mistake, but not really fail.

The people who just pop up the join group dialogue in the middle of combat? Fail. And annoying.

Thank god for Autodecline. As a side note, you might think that they get the hint after two or three declines – I have set it up to only accept invites from people I have whispered to. But I have had as much as a dozen invites in succession, thankfully only flying by in the chat window. Fail.

The level 80 Death Knight at Northshire abbey, “helping’ newbies by killing any mob they have targeted and trying to impress them? Fail on so many levels… but that is a post for another day.

Larísa has a wonderful story today about her fresh experiences on an RP server. She is enjoying things that she would have never done on her normal server. This, for me, is the essence of what I am trying to say. Change the context, and suddenly your definition of success and failure change, while the goal “have fun” stays exactly the same.

If you find your fun-factor in World of Warcraft declining, why not try something completely different? Stop being hardcore. Roll on an RP server for a week or two. Take your time to do wacky things that you wouldn’t normally do. Laugh as Gearscore junkies call you fail and know, that, from your perspective, you’re a huge success – having fun.

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