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Mists of Pandaria – Three Weeks In

On September 25th, something very interesting happened. Mists of Pandaria was released to a horde of fans who were eager to have something different, and hopefully better than what Cataclysm had been. They were chomping at the bit, desperate for something more than running a raid for the past 9 months.

Blizzard Entertainment did an extrordinary thing. They delivered, and then some.

Most people I had spoken to were completely done with Cataclysm. Dragon Soul had been out for about 9 months, they had cleared everything and had all of the mounts and achievements they could get or wanted to get. All of their professions were maxed, they had all the reputations they needed, or whatever their case may have been.

Personally, I wasn’t playing as much as I had before. I would log on a few nights a week to do a couple randoms, maybe a Raid Finder group (if it didn’t blow up). Leveling alts only stays exciting for so long. Not having time to raid took out the only regular thing I had ever relied on in previous expansions. The only thing I was doing was leveling my Alliance Mage on my friends’ server.

When Mists launched, all of a sudden I had so much stuff to do again. True to what I had been expecting, the very first thing I did was do some pet battles. I had only done a little bit of them in beta, and they were just as much fun as I remembered. Memories of playing Pokemon in junior high school came back in a very big way.

For the first time since Burning Crusade, my wife and I decided to level our mains together. I play a Feral Druid and she plays an Enhancement Shaman, so we were able to power through most mobs without much problem (except for some of the rares that we stumbled across). We hit 90 this past weekend, and really enjoyed all of the zones that we quested through.

Overall, the quest design of this expansion is absolutely amazing. There were quests where we laughed – mainly the Hozen quests, especially Riko expressing his undying (see what I did there?) love for Kiryn – some quests that were quite touching, but the most important thing is that pretty much all of them were a lot of fun.

There is one thing that I keep coming back to, something that I find myself saying all the time, which is how absolutely beautiful the new content is. It’s hard to believe that the engine running this is over 8 years old, yet we’re still given these amazing views. Everything from the grand temples and structures, down to the small little tumbleweeds that blow around Kun-Lai Summit. The environment is gorgeous and incredibly immersive.

At the moment, I have yet to find something about this expansion that I don’t like. The closest thing that I could label as a complaint is that there’s just too much to do. Once I hit level 90, I have at least four different factions that I want to raise my reptutation with immediately, and being the completionist that I am, I want to eventually get them all up to exalted.

I still have yet to fully do many dungeons or scenarios – the only ones I’ve done is one run of the new heroic Scholomance, and one instance of the Arena of Annihilation.

All I know is that I’m more excited about this expansion than I have been for any other, possibly having Burning Crusade for the exception (only because at the time, it was the first expansion). One last note: a few friends of mine were extremely critical of the Mists of Pandaria announcement after BlizzCon. They were complaining about how much it looked like a very weak expansion without much content. Now, after talking with them after the release, they have completely changed their stances and are quite happy with the result.

Bring it on!

How my kids saved gaming for me

In an amazing change of normal thinking, I believe that my kids have helped my gaming.

For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I haven’t had very much time to play Diablo III since it’s been launched, due to various (mostly kid-related) circumstances. At the time of writing, I have a level 26 Barbarian who is recently into Act 3, and I’m still enjoying the game to its fullest extent.

Yet when I look on Twitter, the official forums, or other blogs, I notice a trend of people saying that they’re bored with the game already and are disappointed with Blizzard for not making a game with staying power. To me, this seems very odd. However, these people are already into Inferno difficulty on multiple characters only three weeks after launch while my highest alt is only level 8 and still hasn’t killed the Skeleton King.

I never realized how much better a game could be when it’s paced out and enjoyed over time. In the past, I’ve been the kind of guy who sits down and plays as much as possible to see everything as soon as I can. The game would be finished, then I’d play again and again, then I’d stop playing after a while.

Now, because of my two young kids, I’m forced to have only a few hours spread out over the week to actually devote to my gaming. Instead of having finished the game and getting bored while replaying it with alts or higher difficulty levels, I’m still experiencing new content. It’s a very new and different experience.

That being said, I’d love to have more time to play. I’m itching to get back into the world of Sanctuary and destroy the minions of hell. Fortunately though, when I do get that time to play, I’m finding that I’m enjoying it a lot more than I have had with other games.

When Mists of Pandaria comes out, I’m sure that the situation will be very similar. Having a few hours here and there, I will most definitely not be the first person to level 90. I’ll be behind on the leveling curve, the gear-getting curve, the crafting curve, and whatever other curves there are. But when the time comes that I’m in game, I plan on enjoying it to the fullest extent.

Even though play time can be limited, being a parent comes first. I might complain about not having much time, but hearing my kids laugh and having fun with them is much more of a reward than killing Diablo on Inferno. Not even a close comparison.

6×6(x6) challenge

State of the blog: I’m still alive!

Over the past little while I’ve had a big case of the whatevers, in the fact that I have had not much drive to work on my blog. However, thanks to the friendly pestering of some fellow bloggers, I’ve decided to try to get back into the swing of things.

Also, I’ve had a little something – or someone – that has kept me busy for the past week.

The Spawnling at a day old

Meet The Spawnling, born last Saturday. She is absolutely adorable and is totally in control of our house already. She’s going to have her daddy wrapped around her pinky so very quickly, I’m sure.

The Challenge

Go into your image folder, open the sixth sub-folder and choose the sixth image. Show the image, and share some thoughts about it. Challenge six new bloggers, and link to them.

Fannon at Dwarven Battle Medic started to complicate things a bit by making it more than just one folder, which Aidrana from Miss Pew Pew followed – and since they bugged me, and I want to write, you get more for your non-spent money!

1 – World of Warcraft (852 pictures total)

My Tauren Druid main, as a baby character

I used to have more pictures, but unfortunately after reformatting a few times there were some that had been lost. Thankfully this one was saved, which was my very first screenshot of my main character. At the time his name was Asok (after the Dilbert character), and is now Korath – the closest I can get to my usual name as I could on the Thrall server.

As you can see, he is very much a baby character. This was during Burning Crusade when I was leveling up with my wife’s new character, as she had just recently bought WoW and was leveling her way through it. Back in the day, you had to go all the way to Silvermoon just to train Jewelcrafting for the Horde, as you had to go to Exodar for the Alliance. Those days sucked.

2 – Muse Concert (6 pictures total)

Muse concert in Edmonton, March 2010

Unfortunately, these were very bad pictures taken with my old mobile phone. Thankfully it is now dead, and I have a new fancy iPhone 4S to replace it.  However, amazingly enough the pictures are somewhat recognizable. Muse is my favourite band, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to see them in March 2010.

3 – Blog Stuff (144 pictures total)

What I do is whenever I have anything specifically for the blog from something else, I would usually save a copy of it in my Blog folder, renamed for whatever purpose.  However, in this case since I’m using something that I’ve already done… then I don’t bother.

I have only a few sub-folders: one specifically for third party images, so I know which ones are mine and which ones are not; one for my Screenshots of the Week (which is definitely not weekly anymore); and a sub-folder of the SSOTW where I move over the images that I have used.

Why hello, Archaeology survey tool from my Archaeology 101 guide.

4 and 5 – Third Party and Screenshots of the Week (52 pictures total)

Moon and Aurora in Howling Fjord

As mentioned above, these are just pictures from my separate sub-folders.

Howling Fjord is still one of my favourite zones for many reasons. It was one of our first tastes of Wrath of the Lich King, and it really sets the tone for this Northern land. Living in Canada, I’m fortunate enough to see the real Aurora Borealis from time to time, and it never gets old.  I just love it so very much.

Verming concept art for Mists of Pandaria

The Verming concept art was one that just made me laugh so very much. We were watching the BlizzCon live stream this year, and they had this during the Mists of Pandaria preview panel. I can’t wait to kill these guys, as I’m pretty sure that they’re the new kobolds or murlocs and we’ll hate them soon enough.

6 – The Spawn/The Spawnling (1964 pictures total)

The Spawn

What parent doesn’t like to take pictures of their kids?  If anyone follows me on Twitter, they’ll know that I refer to my kids as The Spawn and the new one as The Spawnling. I’m a bit paranoid so I prefer not to use their real names, as Fannon from Dwarven Battle Medic frequently uses the same idea with the Dwarfling.

The Spawn is two and a half years old, and The Spawnling is a week old now.  We have our hands full with them, but as I’ve said many times – being a Dad is the best job in the world.

This picture happened to turn out really well. I was trying to get a picture of The Spawn with my iPhone, and of course he was running around. I figured I’d see what happens, and it ended up being one of my favourite pictures.

Bonus – Too much cute to handle

The Spawn holding The Spawnling

It’s quite handy having a phone to capture some great moments. Of course, when The Spawnling was first born we weren’t sure how The Spawn would react. Thankfully, he’s been an amazing big brother – we just really hope that it continues.

Challenging Others

The last part of the challenge was to tag six other bloggers to do the same thing.  Unfortunately, most of the bloggers that I know have already done this challenge, so I’m going to call out a fellow Band of Thorns member to get off his butt and update his blog.  Sharden of 15 Minutes of WoW – I hereby challenge you!

Next Steps

Thanks to my blogger friends, I should be back into the swing of things. With having two children under three in the house now, updates will most definitely not be as consistent as I would like, but I will try to keep things going as much as possible.

Here’s to a new chapter, I hope that it turns out to be as good on paper as it is in my head.

Boredem and changes

Over the past while, I have to admit that I haven’t been playing much World of Warcraft. It’s not that there is nothing to do – far from it – but there just really isn’t much that can keep my attention lately. I find that I’m logging on for a random heroic or two, but after that I’m finding that I can’t keep interested.

I’ve come to realize that finally, after over seven years of playing, I’m mostly bored of WoW. There have been times where there have been some gaps where I haven’t had as much fun, but it never has been like this before. Even though there are things coming up with Mists of Pandaria that look really cool, at the very least we’re around 6-7 months away from that. When the time comes, I’ll definitely pick it up and play it, but there’s just the problem about the time from now until then.

Previously, I had a solid raid team that I would work with twice a week and work through the raid content. Not having this sort of anchor has affected me more than I ever thought, as the only person who I spend much time with when I’m playing WoW at all is my wife (not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that I would like to have more acquiantances). Even though I have joined a guild on my Death Knight that has a great number of people, unfortunately I have yet to find a suitable raid team that works with the times that I’m available.

With all of this being said, I’m playing other games and having some fun doing different things. I purchased Terraria and Portal 2 during the Steam Christmas sale last year and have started playing them again, and this year I’ve purchased Skyrim and Bastion, along with being fortunate enough to get into the Diablo III beta. Between these five games, I’m keeping myself quite occupied and not really missing WoW very much.

As I’ve said many times before, I’m a Blizzard fanboy and will continue to be one. I still really enjoy WoW, but as many other people do, I think I’ll just play it less than I have in the past. When the New Spawn comes in February, it’s quite possible that I might be doing some Archaeology at three in the morning while feeding the baby.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and get into a raid team that works for me, because I know that it will re-kindle my interest in the game. The future holds many unknown things, and what I will be doing with my spare time to have fun is most definitely one of them.

The End Begins Now…

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since Cataclysm was first released.  There’s been a lot that has happened – good things, bad things, and things in between that people really aren’t sure about.  The expansion on a whole seems to be controversial in the fact that some believe it’s been a big success, while others believe it’s been a failure.  I personally think that it’s an experiment that was partially successful, but that’s for another time.

As of November 29th, the beginning of the end of Cataclysm is upon is.

Blizzard has said that this will be the last full content patch for the expansion, and that this will basically be the end for updates before Mists of Pandaria comes out.  This could be taken two ways: the optimistic way, thinking that we’ll be seeing MoP sooner rather than later and won’t have to do this content forever; or the pessimistic way, thinking that we’ll be doing the exact same content for a year, as we did with Icecrown Citadel at the end of Wrath of the Lich King (Ruby Sanctum doesn’t count).

Unfortunately I don’t work for Blizzard, and I don’t know when they hope to release MoP.  Like everyone else, I’d rather see it sooner rather than later, but we know that it will be done when it’s done.  However, all that being said, I’d like to take the optimistic view.

The 4.3 content patch has a lot in it.  Not only do we get the new raid on Deathwing, but there are three new 5-man dungeons, a revamped Darkmoon Faire, Transmogrification, Void Storage, the Raid Finder, a bunch of new items from the raids and other content, and a whole bunch of balance changes.  It would take too long to go through each one, so I’ll suggest you check out WoW Insider’s guide to Patch 4.3 to get the details about many of the new features.

Briefly, I’m very happy with Transmogrification.  The interface is incredibly easy to use, and I finally am rewarded for being such a packrat for all these years.  I was able to have one of my favourite looks of the Tier 5 shoulders and Wildfury Greatstaff for my Druid, which really makes me happy and nostalgic.

Void Storage is nice, but unfortunately a bit too restrictive.  I have a lot of stuff in my bank from the many holidays that have come around, and I was hoping to empty a bunch out to free up some room.  The biggest thing is that items labelled “unique” or items not soulbound cannot be deposited to VS.  Many tabards, as well as other holiday things are all unique, and some of the holiday items like the Brewfest and Winter Veil gear are not soulbound, but I wanted to keep them nonetheless.  So I deposited what I could, and at least freed up some room.

The Raid Finder has been one of the things I’ve been looking forward to most.  As I’ve mentioned before, my schedule is very weird for when I can raid, so now I can raid whenever I want – as long as there’s enough other people queuing as well.  I was able to get into a group, and successfully get the four bosses currently available with little drama.  We only wiped twice, and there were people taking charge of the raid to get things done.

We also got Tyrael’s Charger.  It’s pretty.

All in all, there’s some great new content that everyone can enjoy no matter what you do.  Raider, casual player, leveling player, there’s something for everyone.  As I experience more of the new content, I’ll post my thoughts about some of them.  In the meantime, happy exploring!

Mists of Pandaria Talents and Specs – DON’T PANIC

The words “DON’T PANIC” are inscribed in large, friendly letters on the front of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

When something new comes, there’s only a few different ways that people can react. If the new thing looks appealing and pleasing to the person, there’s a sense of excitement and anticipation. If the new thing doesn’t hold any interest to the person, there’s a bunch of apathy and boredem. If the new thing looks not good at all to the person, there’s a sense of doom, dread, and panic.

Something new came this week.

Earlier in the week, Blizzard released an early look at the Mists of Pandaria talent and spec calculator. It shows every class, what their new talent tree will look like, and more importantly what the different specs will look like come patch 5.0 and the release of the new expansion.

If you missed it, at BlizzCon it was revealed that talent specs are changing with MoP. Rather than just adding to a specific arsenal of abilities that every class has, each spec will become even more specialized. As an example, only Fire mages will have Fireball and only Frost mages will have Frostbolt, but every mage will have Frostfire bolt.

Between BlizzCon and now, there has been a bunch of speculation about how much each class would change. With the new calculator, it’s shown that every class will be changing, but each class has differing amount of change. The pure DPS classes seem to be having less change than the hybrids, which seems to give the impression that Blizzard wants the spec to do one thing and one thing only – which is what they spec into.

The big disclaimer that has been stated is that this is a “pre-alpha” build, meaning that the information given can and more than likely will change between now and release. Bashiok said that they are giving this information out because they want to get feedback from the players and see what can be improved or tweaked. If you decide to leave a note for Blizzard, just please remember the most important thing (and Wheaton’s Law): Don’t Be A Dick.

Since my main is a Feral DPS Druid, I thought I’d give my impressions about that class.

One big change to Druids is one that all hybrids who can do any sort of healing are experiencing. If you’re not specced into the healing tree, there will be very limited choice for what healing abilities will be present. Rather than having Healing Touch, Regrowth, Nourish, Rejuvenation, and Lifebloom – it’s down to Nourish and Rejuvenation that are baseline. All of the other spells will be available at certain levels if you spec into Resto.

On the other hand, the times when a Bear could do decent DPS while not tanking are long gone. Druids are having the distinction of being the only class that will now have four specs: Balance (Moonkin), Restoration (Tree), Feral (Cat), and Guardian (Bear). If you want to be a bear, you’re a tank and a tank only. Even though this is definitely a loss for Druids, it is bringing us in line with the other classes that are out there. A Protection Warrior isn’t able to do good DPS while still in spec, why should a Bear be able to shift to Cat and do well?

That was definitely one of the benefits of being a Druid in the first place, and we’ll still have a limited capacity for it with the level 90 talent of Heart of the Wild (there are some bloggers out there who think that it will not be very useful at all – which I’m inclined to agree with). However, Druid specs will most definitely be very specialized.

The biggest news that I’ve seen so far is the new level 87 ability called Symbiosis. The text reads: “Creates a symbiotic link which grants the druid one ability belonging to the target’s class, varying by the druid’s specialization. In exchange, grants the target one druid ability based on their class and combat role. Lasts 1 hour and persists through death.”

On first glance, this looks absolutely amazing. Of course, this likely means that it won’t be as amazing as we hope it will be. Lissanna at Restokin gave a really good writeup about how she thinks it will work, and I think she has the right idea. It will probably take a specific ability from each class, rather than taking a random one, and since it will last an hour and persists through death it shouldn’t be left up to chance. Unfortunately, this won’t be able to be properly tested until the beta comes out, so until then we’ll be left with speculation (unless Blizzard decides to give us details about how it exactly works… /wink).

As with expansions in the past, we just have to get used to the “new normal”.  There are things we may not like, but at the moment they’re not set in stone.  If this is how things look when MoP is launched, then there might be some other words being used at the time.

I think that things are going in the right track, but will definitely need some tweaking.  While we see the specs make the player focus on a specific role, there are then talents which encourage us to do other roles… but we won’t have as many tools to do said roles.  It just doesn’t make much sense to me now.  We’ll see how things go as time progresses – just remember, the game isn’t even close to being out yet.

BlizzCon, a Magical Time…

Once a year, there is a time where there is a sense of peace and calmness in the air.  Enemies have meals with each other and discuss strategy.  Strangers go out of their way to help each other.  Altogether, life is pretty good for two days a year.

I’m not sure what you were thinking about, but I’m talking about BlizzCon.

Blizzard is a company that obviously values their fans, and appreciates the followings they have for their games.  Why else would they spend so much money putting on a two day festival for their games, and likely lose a lot of money in the process?  With all of the stuff that happens at the Anaheim Convention Center that is included in the ticket price, it’s well worth more than what you pay for.

My wife and I were fortunate enough to go to BlizzCon in 2008, and had an amazing time there.  More than likely, I’ll be doing some sort of a post around this time every year to reinforce the fact that it is an awesome trip, and I can just hope that everyone has the chance to go to it at least once.  Multiple times is even better!  However, we must deal with what has just happened.

BlizzCon 2011 – Mists of Pandaria and other stuff

One of the best parts came shortly into the opening ceremonies, which was the annoucement of the World of Warcraft annual pass.  This has a person commit to a one year term with WoW in return for some really great perks.  The number one perk being that you can get Diablo III for free.  Yes, free.  When the game is released, the digital download version will be provided to people who are signed up with this, as well as an in-game mount called Tyrael’s Charger.  Pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.

Mists of Pandaria

Obviously, the big deal this year was the new WoW expansion: Mists of Pandaria.  We have a new expansion coming, and for the first time since Vanilla we won’t have any sort of a “main villain”.  There will be a number of enemies that will be there to smash, along with a ton of new features. The biggest things are definitely the new race of Pandarens, the new class of the Monk, and the new continent of Pandaria.  Along with that there will be a new Pet Battle system, PvE scenarios, challenge dungeon modes, a new talent system, among many other things.

When we first heard about Mists of Pandaria being trademarked earlier in the summer, I was very skeptical like many others.  Yet, after seeing all the details come forth in the various panels through the BlizzCon virtual ticket I am very pleasantly surprised at how excited I am about it.  The way that they have the lore fleshed out as well as the gameplay shown has me convinced that this could turn out to be quite good.  Of course, I’m a Blizzard fanboy, but that’s beside the point.

One thing that I think I’m really looking forward to is the Pet Battle system.  In essence, it’s Pokemon inside WoW including having a few different abilities that will be used in a turn-based battle system.  Companion pets will be account-bound for the most part and can be used to battle each other for prestige and rewards.  Basically, it’s a brand new pasttime for people to spend a great amount of time and money with.

The talent and spec system revamp looks very exciting.  Basically, talent trees will be gone and replaced with different choices to make about your abilities at certain levels.  Whereas before we were limited by what spec you were to choose your abilities at higher level, now there will be certain talents that can be taken by any spec.  As an example, Living Bomb will be able to be learned by any spec rather than just those who spec in Fire.  As time goes on and we get to see how the system fleshes out we’ll have a better idea of how it will all work.

Even though the Pandaren were once used as an April Fools’ joke, the new concept art and character models that were shown give a great look at them in-game now. They don’t look as comical as they did in the old joke posts as well as in Warcraft 3.  I’ve always enjoyed Samwise’s drawings that have surfaced over the years, and this makes them really fit in to the Asian theme that has been developed for the new continent.

Plus, the Pandaren starting zone is on the back of a turtle.  How awesome is that?

StarCraft II

I own StarCraft II and enjoy playing it, however I’m not very good at it.  Even so, I really enjoy the game and love the story.  Though more often than not I would not win the matches (PvP, I wasn’t too bad at vs AI), the game itself is very great.

At the end of Day 1 of BlizzCon, they had a match of the Global Starcraft League which is based out of South Korea.  Many people will know that the game is absolutely huge in the country, and there is a massive eSports market built around it.  Out of curiosity, my wife and I decided to tune in to it and see how the games were going… and we found that we were enjoying it much more than we thought we would.

The fight was Terran vs Terran (MMA vs MVP), two amazing players who put on a great fight.  In the end, the underdog (MMA) won the match with 4 wins to 1.  I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to see this, since I was so enthralled by the action.  Because of this, I decided to re-install SC2 and start playing it again.  Good job BlizzCon, you did your job.

Diablo III

Thankfully, Diablo III will be coming out soon (we hope).  The biggest announcement with this game was definitely the WoW Annual Pass giving the game for free, but there was a great lore panel along with some good gameplay footage and overall cool stuff.

Diablo I and II were somewhat lacking in the overall lore, and as Chris Metzen started at the beginning of the D3 lore panel, this was the first year they’ve actually had a panel devoted just to lore of that universe.  The story has been expanded tremendously, and I’m extremely excited to see how the game turns out.

What wasn’t mentioned

We didn’t hear anything about the “Titan” project, which was said a few days before the convention started.  While this isn’t great, this is Blizzard we’re talking about – they don’t give out any details until they’re ready for it.  Personally, I would rather have something polished as opposed to something halfway done.

There are more projects being worked on within the walls of Blizzard.  Through some of the interviews that happened, as well as looking at the job postings on the Blizzard site, we know this.  As with Titan, we just won’t be given any information until they’re ready.

In the end…

As much as I wish I could have made it to Anaheim this year, unfortunately that just didn’t happen.  The virtual ticket was the next best thing that could have happened, and fortunately through that I can watch things happen after the fact.  As I write this post, I’m watching some of the panels that I missed through the days.

I have to say a huge “thank you” to Blizzard Entertainment.  BlizzCon was one of the best experiences that I’ve had, and every year I look forward to it whether or not I can actually be there.  I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into the convention and how much money is spent, but I’d like to say that it’s totally worth it.

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