Posts Tagged ‘soloing’


Fort Livingston, I presume


A week has passed since the Shattering, and coincidentally, I’m back from a week of much-needed vacation. So instead of blogging about every single change that I noticed, here is a collection of impressions from my shattered Azeroth.


Phased Zones

They said that they wanted to make heavy use of phasing, and they didn’t disappoint. I’ve only seen it now in the Plaguelands, but it is simply epic. Actually seeing a difference you make in the Battle for Andorhal, later the recapture of Tyr’s Hand – that is truly fantastic. The journey along Fiona’s Caravan isn’t too bad either, and serves quite well to keep the quests flowing.

It’s not quite on the level of interaction you get from single player game like the Fallouts, but it really keeps you immersed in the game.


Bugged Quests

Sadly, the new, phased zones seem to be plagued with a few bugs. Actually, the first quest bugs I’ve encountered so far.

One, the Battle for Darrowshire, seems to be now hotfixed – though I’ll have to try for myself later today.

Two, Into the Flames can be completed but not turned in – I’ve already opened a ticket and am awaiting a response.

Other than that, NPC’s in phased quests seem to behave strangely sometimes, especially when multiple players are doing the same quest.


Stormwind rebuilt

Deathwing almost destroyed Stormwind. But that’s okay, they rebuilt it, bigger and better than ever. Did you notice the subtly applied new textures? How the pavement changes between districts? The old park may be gone, but the new outskirts area is so much more open, and in my eye, even more beautiful than the old park.

Also,  the castle. It’s like the completely tore down the old one and build a new one instead. With a proper entrance and everything.

And if you were complaining about the lag in the marketplace and auction house – head on over to the Dwarven district – I like the bank and auction house there. Ideal for smelting and blacksmiths, and with almost nobody else there (yet).


Worgen now in!

Of course, with Worgen PCs coming in just a few short days, there are already Worgen NPCs around. And the nice touch: You can already gain Gilneas reputation! And don’t you just love the accent? Granted it’s a bit exaggerated, but which of the accents in the voice acting of WoW isn’t…


New music is kind of meh

Entering Stormwind the first thing you’ll notice is the changed music. But, sadly, like the old one, it gets annoying rather quickly. So listen to it once, then turn of in-game music and switch back to your favourite iTunes mix. But points for effort.


New flightpaths are sometimes overkill

In some zones, like the Wetlands, it’s nice to have a few more flightpaths scattered around. In other zones, it seems like overkill. If you can’t stomach a short 40 second ride (or shorter depending on your riding skill), maybe questing isn’t for you? But then, I probably shouldn’t talk – I’m lazy as hell myself and yes, if there is a flightpath, I take it. I may immediately smack my forehead for wasting 20 copper (25 years of living in Swabia will do that to you), but I ride the taxi nevertheless.


Zone specific quest achievements

Not much of a change for those of you coming from Northrend, but the new achievements mean a lot less bookkeeping for potential loremasters. They also provide some sort of progress bar when questing through a zone. I’m German. I like statistics and forecasts and whatnot. So yay for a more detailed breakdown of questing achievements.


New questlines – epic!

Really. I don’t think anything else needs to be said. The new, remade questlines are well written, gripping and generally much more involved and character driven than the old ones. Instead of the old “Kill ten Defias thugs”, followed inevitably by “You’re back? Oh well… go and kill ten Defias muggers, then.” you get to know the questgivers, the reference you to others who then have already heard of your exploits and maybe you can help with this much more pressing problem they’ve got.


A new leveling experience

This is a combination of the phased zones and redone questlines, really. But leveling feels much smoother, much less grindy, much more story-oriented than previously. It also feels a lot faster, which in some ways I regret. I’m a big fan of the “there are much more powerful enemies and dangerous areas out there” feeling. The smaller zones mean that in many cases the mobs are more tailored to your level – changing it up sometimes with a couple of rare but powerful mobs would be nice.

Of course, most of the time you’re so deep in the storylines that it doesn’t matter. Questing through the Plaguelands was the first time that I didn’t want to stop playing not because of “just a couple more mobs and maybe I get a cool quest reward” but “I won’t stop playing until I know what happens to this character”.

I just hope that when I outlevel Azeroth and move on to Outland and later Northrend that the quests there hold up to the new standard.



The world lies in shambles. But what a world it is!

Well done, Blizzard!


Stranglethorn Blues


Cataclysm hits in just over a month. With it, most, if not all, Old World zones change. So far, so good – we knew that a while ago.

Yesterday, it became a bit more personal. My mage is progressing through Stranglethorn at the moment. What better moment to get the Green Hills achievement? Especially since it might not be around in its current form come December. Only it seems I’m not alone with that idea.

A working night, close to midnight. And the place is more crowded than any of the starter zones I’ve been to. Sure, Stranglethorn is a lot bigger, but it looked like there were at least two guilds organising parties to complete the exact quest lines needed for the achievement.

It does take the magic out of things a little, seeing a bored level 80 AoE’ing hordes of raptors down so the three level 30-somethings don’t have to do it themselves. I’ve never been a fan of booster-runs, but instances are a fair game. This, however, was disheartening. Especially together with the usual obnoxiousness. Happily AoE’ing the mob I just attacked. Skinning the mob under my feet as soon as I’m finished looting. Not that my mage is a skinner, but come on! I could just be checking inventory for free space!

I understand the desire to get the achievement and quests done before Cataclysm. Hell, that’s what I’m doing myself. But you can still respect other people doing the same thing.




Yesterday – well, technically today – I dinged 40 on my warlock. She’s the first alt to reach that level, so it was an occasion for much celebration. You may smile or laugh, but that is actually a huge step for me.

  • Level 40 achievement
  • New mounts, including the Dreadsteed
  • Dual Spec, not that I need it, but what the hell, gold isn’t worth anything if you don’t spend it

And, most importantly: It took me essentially one weekend and a bit to level my warlock from 30 to 40. Compare that to the time it took for me druid to get from 20 to 30, it’s a world apart. And it was a blast. The Felguard I got from the new talent trees helped a lot, sometimes I was amazed at the masses of mobs that we survived when a pull went wrong.

Seriously, I think I’ll keep playing my druid, just so my other characters will be even more fun when I get back to them.


The GearScore fallacy


Vacation time means catching up with one thing. Gaming, and sleeping. Two things. Vacation time means catching up with two things: Gaming, sleeping and blogging. Three. Three things…

Before this ventures too far into the surreal world of Monty Python, something completely different.

I read Gevlon’s blog. Most of the time I don’t agree with him, for the simple reason that I don’t think he ‘gets’ why people play games and his poor understanding of what ‘being social’ means. But that is not the point at hand. Occasionally, I come across a post that I do agree with. In this case, a rather old post, titled GearScore Failure.

He proposes that, in a casual environment (pugging, in his example), GearScore is actually inversely proportional to player skill. The reasoning – in my own words – is thus.

Acquiring gear is mostly a function of time spent. While time spent also equals experience (as a player) gained, this ratio varies wildly. A skilled player is someone with a high ratio of time spent to skill gained. An unskilled, carried player is someone whose ratio nears zero. Both type of player, though, acquire roughly the same amount of gear.

Now for context. In a casual environment, what type of player is more likely to apply for a pug? A skilled player that is himself more likely to be in an actual raiding guild? Or a player whose applications get turned down again and again because of a lack of actual playing skill? You can’t see the skill. But you can see the GearScore. And since time spent equals gear, skill equals time spent to skill gain and skill gain means higher probability of raiding guild membership – high GearScore in pugs means probably not much playing skill.

Probably. Of course there are a ton of exceptions. It also depends on how high you set the bar for being a skilled player. Or an okay player at the least. But factoring in other outside elements, such as character name and general demeanour in chat, you should be quickly able to discern into which category the player falls.

Why am I posting about this, anyway?

Enter the casual player.

Time spent means gear. Or rather, time spent raiding means gear. Time spent questing means less gear. But time spent no matter what means skill gained. Granted, the ratio is potentially higher when raiding, but still. Skill gained, in this case means nothing at all for guild membership. To get that gear, though, a casual has to spend more time questing and soloing instances. Whether soloing instances is still casual is open for debate, I say yes. More time spent means a higher potential skill gain. Soloing can be quite stressful, and a good training ground for improvisation and quickly adapting to new situations.

So, since a skilled raiding player won’t apply to pugs (he will, but for the sake of argument, he’ll be the exception), we have two players applying for the pug run: One with a high GearScore and dubious guild membership and one with a medium to low GearScore and no guild membership. Unless both have the same dismal outside factors in chat, the low-GearScore casual is not only much more pleasant to run with, but also probably more skilled. Go with the casual. You’re doing yourself and everybody else a big favour.


If I had one hour as Blizzard WoW class designer


This week’s shared topic is “Design Your Class“. Funny, that’s what I wanted to write about anyway.

While the stage two chunk of 4.0.1 (a whopping 4.5 GB) is downloading, I’m thinking a bit about what my ideal class would look like. Not what the best possible, or most efficient or most overpowered class looked like, but the class that I’d take a look at and say “yup, that’s what I want”.

Since there are obviously too many ways to go absolutely nuts with this idea, I’ll just choose three talent trees and associated skills – that still leaves a lot of options, but possibly maintains a shred of sanity and balancing.

Primary Tree: Hunter – Marksman

Easy choice. I like ranged DPS and the marksman tree and skills grant a higher mobility than the mage pendant with the long casting times. It deals direct DPS mostly, but the stings aren’t too bad either. Unlike the mage tree, which is all skill dependent, marksmen can still revel in searching for the ultimate ranged weapon, be they guns or bows or Goblin punting.

Secondary Tree: Warlock – Affliction

In my opinion, affliction would complement marksman quite well. Pile on the DoTs, then keep the enemy at range while happily sniping away without the need to wait for casting times. The curses and stings together could possibly take down bigger, badder mobs to a manageable level, but you still need the DPS from your primary tree to take advantage of that.

Alternate Tree: Rogue – Combat

This tree is mostly there for dual speccing and switching roles a bit during instances. Combined with marksman, it may be a bit weak – either you’re at range dealing damage, or you’re in melee dealing damage. Still, could be a valid choice for soloing content where you can’t always keep mobs at range or for PvP where you may have similar problems. At any rate, a combat marksman would be quite versatile.

The other possibility, speccing combat / affliction, would yield similar results to marksman / affliction – only instead of running away you close in and hack away at your opponent. Both combinations, by the way, should play very differently from an affliction ‘lock – or at least very differently from the way I play my ‘lock.

One interesting thing about this is: My favourite class, the mage, doesn’t feature at all. Why? Cast time. Yes, playing a mage is spectacular, but for the bread and butter questing and soloing instances, I’ve had much better results with my hunter and rogue. I think a class with the skills of these three talent trees would offer a whole lot of interesting choices, especially with the new 31-point system. And let’s be honest, if I want to play a mage, I play a pure mage. Anything else, derivative, would be inferior. You can’t improve on perfection.


Effort vs. escapism


One of the reasons I started playing WoW was to find a way to quickly relax after coming back from the office. A nice ride through a couple of zones, grinding a few mobs, finishing a level or two and top it off with some meditative profession training and auctioning.

This works remarkably well. Without any obligations to a guild, raid attendance or so much as PUGging, I can get home and just play for a bit while my mind settles down. Then I can decide if I should do something actually useful, or keep playing. In a good mood, hop into a battleground, or maybe start a solo run in an instance.

However, I also set myself a few goals. Having one character of each class, all within ten levels of each other was one of them. This is so I can decide spontaneously which class to play without having to adjust to a completely different power level. Of course, there still is a huge difference between finishing off level 30 and starting fresh at 20 to bring the next character up. But mostly, it works well. All classes play differently but on average I’m within a five or six level range, which means the general feel of what is dangerous stays the same.

My druid is a problem, though. I want to keep him leveled with the rest. Partly because that’s what I set out to do, partly because I expect him to start being fun on the higher levels. Still, it feels a bit more like a chore to level him in comparison with my other characters. My current questing zone of Stonetalon Mountains doesn’t help either, I put that on par with Westfall when it comes to being the least entertaining or engaging zone. So I log on, manage to gain half a level, then start pondering if peace of mind has to be achieved by boring yourself out of it.

In the long-term, yes, I want to level my druid. And I want to do it before continuing with my hunter, simply because she’ll be even more fun after spending seven levels on my druid. And who knows, maybe I’ll get to the fun part of being a druid sooner than I think.

There are quite a few world events coming up this month, maybe they’ll provide both a decent distraction and a level boost.


To be or not to be Main


These days I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, I want to experience all classes to their fullest, taking my time for the journey (6/8 @ lvl30 currently). This means not rushing through zones, carefully planning which character goes where next so I don’t get too many repetitions, not using addons like EveryQuest or Carbonite (which both take away a lot of the wonders and magic of WoW) and generally not optimising the hell out of my play-time.

However, there is Cataclysm coming. I’m psyched, hyped and generally happy as a clam – it looks fantastic, and most of the features so far seem like they are a great addition for not only a casual but a casual soloist. It also means that a lot of the Old World zones will change, permanently. Quite probably before I get to visit them.

Now, experiencing the new zones isn’t the problem, I’ve got a slot saved for my future Worgen Priest, so I get the new race, a new class and the new starter zone all for one character (the remaining slot is for a Death Knight).

However, that would mean that I should try to get from Azeroth to Outland at 58, on to Northrend at 68 and then back to the Old World at 80. Only that 80 isn’t the cap in Northrend any more and since I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to completing a zones quests, I might end up hitting the level cap in Northrend.

One solution to this problem would be to focus on one character and finally establish a Main. But that would go against my motivation to play: The multitude of characters available. Every alt feels a bit like playing a different game, which makes it so much fun. I want to play all classes. I want to be able to compare the classes, given my play style at approximately the same level. Not only that, but since all are solo characters, also similar gear. It is huge fun knowing that my jewelcrafter, engineer and blacksmith can craft items that are of use to all my other characters. Same with enchanter, tailor, leatherworker, everything. No character has that ‘useless alt’ feel, all feel like they have purpose. And that makes it worthwhile taking so much time to progress through Azeroth. So far, all I have to sacrifice are raid instances – but with my current time constraints I’m not regretting that.

Put another way – I don’t know if I should hope Cataclysm arrives soon, so I get a new class to play, or if it should be postponed until I level out of the old Old World. In a way, reading about Cataclysm, the Beta and all the speculation and previews currently is way more fun than grinding levels to outrun it.

So my new motto for the remaining time will be:

Casual all the way, right through the end of the world as we know it.


Cataclysm is not Entropy!


Wowhead has recently published a comprehensive list of updates about the upcoming Cataclysm. Besides the usual class specifics, one article caught my attention: A lot of the changes previewed have been cancelled, while new additions are being developed instead.

I won’t comment the whole article, but there are a few highlights that seem important for solo players and casuals alike.

Path of the Titans

Blizzard has scrapped the entire Path of the Titans progression system.

Well. That was something to start the article with, wasn’t it? It was heralded as the next big thing in player progression. Apparently, however, it turned out to be too similar to the current Glyph system. I still think that some parts of it could end up in a future expansion – there is a huge void where spiritual aspects are waiting patiently for there time.

As for the Path of the Titans – if it really would have been too complicated, or if dumbed down too similar to the Glyph system, then I understand the scrapping. The question remains, will a revamp of the Glyphs be enough to keep players happy? I’d say yes, but read on, the next point could change your mind.


they’ve added a new tier of glyphs: Medium Glyphs.

More variety, more choice, more outlets for creativity and personal style. I like it.

the glyph UI now lists all the possible glyphs for your class.

A nice change in the UI, although I think that even this is inferior to having a database ready at Wowhead, wowwiki et al.

There was also talk about making glyphs permanent rather than consumable-so that as soon as you used a glyph for the first time, it was added to your “list”, and thereafter you could rearrange your glyphs later on as you chose.

Now, this we have to talk about. Yes, it is very convenient. Yes it suits a casual player like me, actually. But good heavens, would it wreck the economy. Once you buy all Glyphs, you never need to buy more. I predict, in my humblest opinion, that Blizzard will think long an hard about this change and quite possibly not go through with it.


the whole guild currency idea has been scrapped

Why am I talking about guilds anyway? Because I’m a guild. That means I hope I can get some benefits from this guild system extension, enabling me to solo more content.

As it is, guild currency? Not a huge fan. Scrapping thereof? Yay. We have enough different currencies, tokens and turn-ins as it is, Cataclysm will add more, be sure of it. It is quite confusing what you can buy with which currency, especially if you’re casual and / or solo and those tokens are hard enough to get in the first place. Keeping the system clean and simple is always the better solution.

The whole guild talents idea has been scrapped as well

This is of course only the half truth. There are now guild achievements. I think it’s a fair change, even if I’m less likely to qualify for the achievement requirements. Again, this keeps the system simple and in line with personal achievements. The whole overhead of having to distribute the talent points, respec and what-not wasn’t worth it, according to Blizzard, and based on the information I have, I have to agree.

New Zones


A second trade district-mailbox, auction house, bank, etc.-has been added to the Dwarven District.

Nice. Stormwind is big enough to house two trade centres, and the market place was awfully crowded.

They’ve added some new areas in the back-some lake area, as well as a city cemetery. Some quests have been added here to help flesh them out.

Well, they’re gone and flattened the park district, so getting another scenic view instead is nice. Plus quests centred in and around the city are a welcomed change.

Other Juicy Tidbits

The Shimmering Flats is mostly submerged, but the majority of the gameplay still takes place above water.

Hope you can swim.

When you gain a level, an announcement appears in the centre of the screen letting you know what new abilities you have access to, and advising you to see your trainer. Skills you’re levelled for but haven’t trained yet will be marked as such in your spellbook.

This is an enormous time-safer for those who don’t have the wiki open all the time. How often have you seen the message about reaching an even level, dropped everything you were doing because you thought “with those new skills I’ll blaze through my current quest!” only to find out that a talent you never used anyway now lasts twice as long? Now you know when to hurry back to your trainer and when to wait until you reach yet another even level.

Archaeology will let you find two types of items – Common Artifacts, which are kind of a collection game where you’re trying to find all of the artifacts for a particular race, and Rare Items which will produce actual usable items. Most Rare Items will be cosmetic only, but a few will have actual effects.

Cool. Archaeology suddenly got some meaning!

Wrath of the Lich King had about 1000 new quests. Cataclysm has over 3000.

Wow. Seriously. If they are as detailed as the Wrath quests I hear about, wow again.

All in all, I’m happy with this update from Blizzard. Cataclysm is turning out to be about change, not entropy as some feared.

Now on with the Worldcup!


A weekend recap – the Good the Bad the Funny



Politeness pays, Horde sucks and all that with 100% more armoury links.

The Good

My warlock completed her Felhunter quest. That in itself is a good bit of news, but I met a fellow warlock on the same quest. We teamed up – this was the last stage, the channeling rod search in the Orc camp – and I have to say, the sheer chaos and destruction that two destro-locks can wreak upon a group of Elites that had my biting the edge of my desk two days earlier is… impressive. I can’t wait to see more of it!

I met him again at the summoning circle, where he helpfully (if unnecessarily) supported me in killing the summoned Felhunter.

The question now is, why did I team up with him but not with several other characters I meet in the zones? Because – he asked first. Was I doing the same quest and would I mind grouping for the last rod he needed? For one, replying to his whisper put him on the ‘trusted’ list of AutoDecline and two, even if I prefer soloing, I’m much too polite to decline such a request.

The Bad

A couple of Horde players decided to camp Sentinel Hill in Westfall. This was annoying. They especially waited right by the Griffon Master, and managed to kill him before I could start the travel. Now, that is exactly a case why I don’t play on PvP servers. They were a full group of level 80 players in a starter zone, no chance of defending or retaliating. And the prospect of such jerks (I’m much too polite to express my exact sentiments) being able to gank me without fear, though or reason is simply too mindbogglingly stupid. Yes, the world of Azeroth is at war between Horde and Alliance. But that is dealt with in the Battlegrounds, there is simply no mechanic that offers any reason for just go and kill some low-level character that doesn’t even net any honour for the killer.

Not that I would mind trying a few Battlegrounds, that actually seems like fun and reminds me of my old days in FPS leagues. But it boils down to the debate around non-/consensual PvP, something that such prominent bloggers as Tobold have explained much more in detail and much more eloquently than I could.

The Funny

Well, depending on how you look at it anyway. I decided to link my roster page to the armoury profiles. For giggles, you even have my permission to look them up! Laugh, cry, facepalm or headdesk at your leisure – maybe even drop a hint. Just keep in mind that any improvement or upgrade should ideally be obtainable using nothing but a casual playstyle, soloing and in extreme cases the auction house. I think I’m doing fairly well so far, even if it’s all a bit improvised.


I tweaked my UI again. Buttonfacade has a few nice non-square skins. Personally, I’d recommend Renaître, which offers square, rounded corners and completely round action buttons.


A fresh look


Time for spring cleaning. And with that, SpartanUI finally had to go. It felt too clunky, too heavy – I’m a big fan of a transparent UI that only fades to opaque when needed. So I ditched Spartan, and Bartender as well. Instead, I’m now using Dominos, which offers nearly all features of Bartender (can’t figure out auto-paging yet), but has a graphical interface for arranging the bars and manipulating the looks.

The rest of the UI got rearranged a bit as well, to go with the new, cleaner, more spacious look of Dominos. For the minimap I chose Chinchilla, way better than SexyMap in my opinion. No unneccessary fluff and bling, instead a few good options and features.

A cleaner UI

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the current look, but there are still a few things  bothering me. The standard chatframe, for example. Even with Chatter and Fontifier, the look of it annoys me. I want to fade it out completely, or have it pop up like the WIM windows. But WIM can’t hook the system channels, only player chat.

Still, a huge improvement over my last version – you can still compare it on my addon page, which I’ll update on the weekend – lots of changes there.


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