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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!

A Change in Scenery

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I have a great guild. I’ve been a member of it for my entire WoW career, and I don’t plan on leaving it anytime soon – not many other guilds would put up with my incredibly messed up schedule and still let me raid. Through this guild, I’ve met a number of people and formed some great friendships.

However, I’ve been looking at trying something different for a little while now. Every once in a while I’ll roll an alt on another server and see what happens, which eventually just gets deleted. I lose interest quickly, and just go back to my main server.

Rolling a new character somewhere that has absolutely no connection to people you know, gold, or heirlooms is very difficult. Not only does the new character start with nothing to their name, but also having no connections or a guild to talk to is quite lonely. Fortunately, there have been a few changes to make things a bit easier now.

Even though I thoroughly enjoy the low level changes to Azeroth, it still takes a good amount of time to progress through levels 1-60. On top of that, I’ve wanted to try out a Death Knight tank, so that’s what I decided on. Therefore Borble, the Goblin Death Knight, was born on the Earthen Ring server.

Many times, choosing a server is one of the most difficult choices that someone can make. Do you choose a low population server and have a tight-knit community? Do you choose a high population server for more people to interact with? What are the guilds like with their raiding? By going through server forums and guild websites, it’s possible to find something that works for you.

My choice of Earthen Ring was for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to try a role-playing (RP) server as I haven’t done much of it in WoW. I previously did a fair amount of RP in a previous game, but nothing so far here. (On top of that, creating this character also gave me a good idea for a submission to Blizzard’s writing contest.) Secondly, I’m a big fan of The Instance podcast and they have their mega-guild AIE on Earthen Ring. I’d love to be part of a guild like them after being in a small one for so long.

Unfortunately, AIE isn’t accepting any new characters until October, so it gives me time to explore other opportunities until then. One nice thing about this is that I had my first experience with the Guild Finder option. I listed my name, gave a little bit of a blurb about myself and what I wanted to do, and applied to a few guilds that were on the list. A little bit later, I was invited and in the guild. Now I have new people to talk to and spend time with!

The majority of my time so far has been spent herbing and working on alchemy, while in the queue for random Burning Crusade instances. I just hit level 61, and have not stepped foot in Outland at all. I’ve only done instance runs while herbing in Azeroth, and it’s quite possible that I won’t do anything in Outland at all by the time I’m ready for Northrend.

Through this, I had my first experiences as a DK tank. I’m always terrified of trying something new – whether it’s trying a healing spec on my priest or druid, or tanking on this new DK. Because I knew that I’d never be completely comfortable with it, I decided to just jump in and see how it went.

Amazingly enough, it went pretty well. The first few pulls were definitely learning experiences, as I had only ever witnessed other DKs do the tanking while I do other stuff. Very quickly I found out that being disarmed is very bad and that runes will never refresh fast enough. The other downside of doing this tanking at level 60 and 61 is that I don’t have my regular taunt yet, and only Death Grip… which is on a 32 second cooldown. Many times I need something more frequent than that.

The first experiences have been good, and I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey on this new server. I hope to join AIE when possible, but until then I’m having fun in a completely new environment.

Five Things Gaming Can Teach

While browsing through Blog Azeroth not too long ago, a former Shared Topic caught my eye. Titled “What has WoW taught you?”, I realized that there have been a number of things that I’ve learned in my time playing World of Warcraft (as well as other online games). Thinking about it, I’m reminded once again how certain positions in online games warrant being mentioned on resumes.

People Management

If anyone has ever been a guild leader, guild officer, or raid leader, they’ll know that this is very true. Managing people is a very difficult task on any level, and something that may have been thought as small and insubstantial can easily turn out to be the opposite. Raid organizers from Vanilla will probably shudder a little bit, as filling 40 raid slots while maintaining optimal balance was extremely difficult.

As soon as people start voicing their opinions, or certain people want certain things while other people want other things – managing this and keeping cool is an incredibly important skill to have in any situation. Companies can have seminars and courses specifically on people management. Consider your WoW experience as the preliminary stages.

Time Management

So much to do, so little time to do it. I’d say a large majority of people have a set amount of time to play WoW. Whether that time is two hours after the kids are in bed or all day because you have nothing better to do, there is still a limited number of minutes to do what you want. Figuring out what to do in the ideal order can help organize things much more efficiently.

If you have certain daily quests to do, it might be better to start out with certain ones first because you’ll need to use your hearthstone to get out of there. After that, the other areas where you do the next sets of dailies might have a portal to go back to your capital city, so the cooldown on your hearthstone isn’t as big of a deal.

Every job that is out there requires some sort of time management. The average job has an eight-hour day, and there’s certain things that need to be accomplished in those hours. By prioritizing certain things, it can increase productivity and make life a lot easier.

Keyboard Skills

Before I played my first MMORPG, my typing was horrible. I was the typical “hunt-and-peck” person, and I hated the “home row” style that was trying to be forced upon me at school. The game I played at first had a focus on role-playing and required quick responses with good grammar. In not much time I was able to increase my words per minute and the quality and accuracy of what I was typing.

Any data entry or administrative job requires this. There may even be jobs that have a typing test as part of the interview process, and even getting the job could rest on these skills. Fortunately online gaming makes practice enjoyable.

Patience

The person who likes to collect things must possess a lot of patience. Whether you’re a hunter camping a rare spawn to tame or waiting for the Time-Lost Proto-Drake to spawn so you can get the mount, there will be a lot of down time. Learning to be patient is a very important thing, or else it’s very easy to go a little bit crazy.

Anyone who has ever worked in customer service has good experience with this. You’re ringing through their order, and they take forever to count out the change in their wallet while there’s a long lineup behind them, all tapping their feet. There are times where you just have to take a deep breath and go with it.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Crap happens, deal with it. Very few things ever go according to plan, and it’s essential to be flexible and work with what life gives you. The perfect raid composition can still end up being a bad experience because people may not know the fight, people might disconnect, among other things. Just roll with it, keep on keeping on, and all those other phrases.

Life is full of surprises, and there’s nothing we can do about it. If an urgent file is dropped on your desk with 15 minutes to go before you leave, we have to deal with it one way or another. How you deal with it, however, is up to you.

Conclusion

If you’re the leader of a level 25 guild and have been running things for a while, I think that it would be a great thing to put on a resume. Everything that I just mentioned are very real skills that can be transferred over to any life situation. Hopefully one day employers will realize this.

Who says geeks don’t know how life works?

Memories of Azeroth: Naxxramas

Lately I’ve had difficulty having inspiration for a new post, and have been thinking about what to post about. Patch 4.2 has just recently dropped, but sites such as WoW Insider have much more comprehensive coverage of things in there than I could ever give. However, one thing that I can give is where I’ve come from through my time in WoW. Let’s take a trip with the way-back machine to Wrath of the Lich King and look back at Naxxramas.

Courtesy WoW College

Naxx was one of the entry raids of WotLK, the other being Malygos in the Eye of Eternity. It was originally a 40-man raid at the end of Vanilla, but the difficulty level and attunement process was quite high at the time. Very few people were able to experience it, even through Burning Crusade. Thus Blizzard decided to bring it back in Wrath, along with updated items and tier armours.

This tier of raiding was the first time people got to experience having the choice between 10 and 25-man groups of the same instance. They were on separate lockouts, so if someone had enough time they could do both versions of the raid to get gear faster. Personally I felt it was better suited for 25-man raiding, as it is such a very large instance, and it feels even larger when there aren’t as many people. The size of the instance and rooms were not changed from the original 40-man raid, so that probably has a bit to do with it.

There were four wings, each with a boss at the end that needed to be defeated before moving on to Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad (originally – later through Wrath it was possible to skip the wings and go directly to them). The four quarters were: Military (or Death Knight), Plague, Spider, and Construct. Each wing was themed with similar trash mobs and bosses, with each having their own little special thing.

Back in Vanilla, Patchwerk was the DPS check for the instance. If the raid DPS was high enough to kill Patchwerk before he enrages, the group is probably ready to do the rest of the instance. Fortunately with Naxx being the first raid of the expansion, it was a little more forgiving.

I never had the chance to do it in Vanilla, but I have heard that the entire instance retains much of the original feel. Fights like Loatheb are still very difficult due to the very big mechanic of not being able to heal except for a few brief seconds every minute. Heigan still requires the entire raid to dance between the flames. Kel’Thuzad is still a royal pain if you’re melee-heavy with the ice blocks.

Altogether it wasn’t a bad instance, and I certainly enjoyed the time we had through it. There were certainly things that could have been improved, however. Standing out to me was the Instructor Razuvious fight in 25-man mode. It was a requirement for there to be two priests in the raid, as there are two adds that need to be mind controlled for the fight to tank the boss. In 10-man mode, there were crystals that were used for this reason so anyone could do it. Even though there are 25 people in a raid, there were a few times our guild couldn’t do that quarter because we didn’t have enough priests.

There were a LOT of bosses. 16 altogether (I’m counting the Four Horsemen as one boss), and while that allowed a lot of loot to be given out, it also made for a lot of time in one zone looking at the same stuff over and over again. I’m all for a lot of content, but sometimes there’s a bit too much.

Class tier item sets dropped were re-skinned Tier 3, updated for Wrath. Some of my favourite tier sets are in tiers 3 and 7, so I was quite happy when I got my sets. Along with it were some very interesting looking weapons, including Journey’s End and Origin of Nightmares (guess what spec I was during that time). Unfortunately, as much as feral Druids loved these two items we suffered the usual pains of not being able to see them while in combat.

This instance was a very good raid to start off the expansion with. It was perfect for Wrath’s lore, and had a variety of fights that people had to adapt to very quickly. Thaddius and the positive/negative gimmick was always a lot of fun and very frustrating at the same time.

If you ask me, that’s what raiding is supposed to be like – have fun while ripping your hair out. Good times.

Protagonist Development

I don’t envy Blizzard’s creative development department. Not one bit. I do, however, have a huge amount of respect for Chris Metzen and his crew of awesomeness, as they have an extremely hard job – keeping things straight, and making the lore of the game make sense.

To begin with, creating anything new and original is really difficult. While the human/elf/dwarf/etc universe was not created by Blizzard, they took something that people could recognize and put their own spin on it. A few examples of their original thinking: dragons being the protectors of the world and having dominion over a certain part of it; the Emerald Dream concept, having a complete copy of the unadultered world exist in dream form; the Titans, Sargeras, and the Burning Legion.

Along with this is taking the characters that are created and making them believable. Nobody likes the perfect character who has absolutely no faults (/cough Rhonin and his raptor army), because there’s not a human in real life who is perfect. Take any good novel or movie and see the characters that people relate to the most, and look at who wrote their stories. It’s those people who you want to thank.

When a protagonist is established, it must be incredibly hard to balance the good and bad. They may have some great things about them, but there can’t be any downsides – once again, that are believable. Something simple such as being clumsy isn’t a character flaw, it’s a fact of life. Not trusting anyone because you were sold into slavery as a child is a character flaw, as it’s a huge obstacle that that person must overcome.

There will be spoilers for the Elemental Bonds questline of 4.2 following.

There are a number of major characters in World of Warcraft, built up over the years by the games or novels. Currently in Cataclysm, and particularly in a certain quest line in 4.2, Thrall is undoubtedly at the middle of everything. The leader of the Earthen Ring and the most powerful Shaman on Azeroth is a big thing to balance out as a believable character.

The quest line that I mentioned starts just outside of Nordrassil (after breadcrumbs from either capital) with a convocation of the four remaining Dragon Aspects, the Archdruids, and the leaders of the Earthen Ring (including Thrall and Aggra). Mending the World Tree in Hyjal was the plan, but unfortunately a certain fallen Archdruid had other plans from his “master”. Fandral explains that his master has sensed that Thrall is the single biggest threat to his master’s plans, and he needs to be taken care of.

Rather than simply killing Thrall, Fandral splits the shaman’s spirit into the four elements and sends them to the four elemental planes of the Skywall, Abyssal Maw, Deepholm, and Firelands. The Aspects seem unable to help him, so Aggra decides to take matters into her own hands and task the player to go with her and help restore him to one piece.

This is when we see the different sides of Thrall, and the emotions that he has been trying to keep together for years. Doubt, desire, patience, and fury are all expressed during the different parts. There have been times where he has shown certain parts of this through the game, but never have they been out of control. The elemental planes have enhanced these senses, so you and Aggra have to restore him to as close to normal as possible.

There have been some good conversations on Twitter that I’ve seen, mainly between WoW Insider staffers, arguing about what this quest line does. Does it establish Thrall as more of a fleshed out character, or does it make Aggra a major character with Thrall as the sidekick?

Personally, my thought is that it’s a bit of both. Thrall is given more depth as a character, but the problem that I see is the fact that he’s being set up as an uber-character, and very close to the Mary Sue problem of Rhonin. He’s going through this whole ordeal to basically “cure” his major character flaws – the fact that he has had the problem of controlling his emotions. After this, what else is there to make him realistic?

I have really enjoyed the progression of Aggra’s character. She was annoying at first in The Shattering novel by Christie Golden, but by the end of the book I had grown to like her. After having a small role in the Lost Isles part of the Goblin starting experience, we don’t see her again until she ferries the character into Deepholm. This quest line makes her much more believable and has more of a personality, especially during the Deepholm parts where she gets mad at Thrall for being so stubborn.

Nothing will be perfectly written. In all of the stories written, people can nitpick parts of a character for parts that they don’t like. However, getting as realistic as possible is the ideal dream of an author. With these characters being in a persistent world that is constantly being written, there’s more of a chance for them to have more development in the future.

My concluding thoughts is that the characters are written well, but I believe that Aggra shines more than Thrall in this part. I really like both characters, and having most of my history being a Horde player I’ve had a man-crush on Thrall at times for being awesome. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Metzen and the creative development team takes the story forward.

Out of the Frying Pan (Patch 4.2)

It’s not just any Tuesday today. Maestro, please begin the ominous music.

Today is when patch 4.2 hits North American/Oceanic realms for World of Warcraft. It’s been just over six months since Cataclysm was released, and our first major content patch with new and exciting things to do. We technically have had a content patch already, but redoing two existing instances takes a lot less work than a whole new raid and daily quest hub.

To say that there are a lot of changes is quite the understatement. I will be referencing links from WoW Insider throughout, and the best place to get a run down of the major changes is their guide to patch 4.2.

The major points of the patch are the inclusion of the Firelands raid and the Molten Front daily quest hub. Ultimately defeating Ragnaros once and for all, the raid also includes the chance to get a new DPS caster legendary staff. Similar to the Isle of Quel’Danas, the Molten Front area is a daily quest area that advances along with personal progression (I touched on this on a previous article).

For the first time with a patch, we actually have explanations for the class balance changes that came along with it. Ghostcrawler took every single change and said why they made them in point form. Rather than just saying “here you go, deal with it”, we at least have an idea of the philosophy the developers use when making their decisions. There are a great number of changes, best to take a look at which ones apply to your own class(es).

Another great change is the Dungeon Journal, which includes a version of AtlasLoot. Once again we see Blizzard taking addons that they like and feel should be part of the default UI and incorporating them. The Journal has information all the fights of Cataclysm content (will be expanded for the rest of the game eventually, I’m sure), along with abilities that the bosses use and gear that can drop. Currently there is the gear information on the Battle.net website, but this is a great way so people don’t have to use a third-party addon or alt-tab to find out what drops from a certain boss.

Lastly, one of my favourite things about 4.2 is the inclusion of a great cosmetic change. Since I’m back to being feral DPS, I can be a flaming kitty! I believe that it only requires the person to have the staff that drops from Fandral, and whenever you’re in cat form you become a cat… on fire. Dragonwrath turns the caster into a dragon with a proc, but it looks like this is a passive cosmetic change.

I hope that this opens the door for more cosmetic changes down the road, as we really need them – especially for druids. We have great gear, but in combat we’re in the shapeshift forms and are unable to see the great looks. The community has been asking for changes such as this for years, so hopefully we’ll see more down the road.

New content is awesome. I know I’ve been getting impatient, as this six month period since Cataclysm released seems to have gone by very slowly. Hopefully I’ll be able to raid the new place, for the main reason of becoming a flaming kitty. Otherwise, at least I’ll have the new daily quest area to keep me busy for a while.

Inclusion vs Progression

A little while ago, something happened that caused me quite a bit of frustration. In essence: I love to raid, but I was denied the chance to raid. I was mad at first, but after having the chance to reflect upon it I have some thoughts to share.

Being in a guild comes with rules attached. This is even more important for guilds who raid, as there are the intricacies of determining who gets loot, discipline for people being jerkfaces, attendance issues, among other things. What is the rule for who gets to raid?

Some back story to begin with, as my situation is a bit weird. I’ve mentioned before that I can’t raid as much as I used to, due to real life circumstances. I am married to a wonderful woman and have a great son. Unfortunately I don’t make enough money to support us all by myself, so my wife has to work part-time on weekends and some evenings. As it happens one of the nights she usually works is a raid night, and the other raid night is one where I work late every second week. Therefore, due to our work schedules there have been many times where I have been unable to raid because of having to look after our son or because I’ve been working.

Prior to The Spawn arriving, I was a regular raider. From Vanilla all the way through Wrath, I was there for a majority of our guild’s raids, so I have good experience. I’ve been in the guild since it was formed, so I have tenure. Plus, I enjoy raiding as it’s my version of a “guy’s night out” or poker night.

It happened that this certain Friday, I wasn’t working late and had been given the all clear to sign up for the raid. We’re doing 10-man raiding right now and eleven people had signed up – since I’m a DPS class, my role is always one that’s fought over. This was my first time being able to sign up for a raid in over a month, but I had experienced most of the content in the expansion thus far. The night’s agenda was to go to Throne of the Four Winds and work on Al’Akir, as he’s the last boss we need for the Guild Glory of the Raider achievement.

I logged on, asking if I was going to be able to raid that night. The decision was made to have myself and another DPS do a /roll with the low roller sitting the night. Ultimately, mine was the low roll and I was out. To say I was mad was an understatement.

The arguments came to my mind very easily: I’ve been a member of the guild for years! If it wasn’t for my situation, I would have been there for every raid! I deserve equal chances to participate in the raid! Other people go to every raid, but I have the rare chance! Why do they go but I get shut out?

Almost a week later, I’ve looked back and realized that the decision was made properly. I wish that it was made ahead of time so I would have known, but that’s beside the point. It was a progression raid, and the people who have worked at the content for weeks deserve the chance to get a guild-first downing of a new boss.

There needs to be a balance for inclusion of all members who want to raid. I’m not suggesting that just because you’re a warm body means that you should go, but given a chance. If the raid agenda was to do content that was being farmed, my anger would have been justified. Since it was a progression night, it was not my place to take the spot of someone who has been there all the time.

The Dilemma

Who gets to raid?

This is the core of the problem. When I was an officer back in Burning Crusade, we were getting together people for a Gruul’s Lair run, and we were short one DPS. We had a player log on, one who wasn’t around very often, but was raid ready. They joined the raid, and after killing Gruul we had the Dragonspine Trophy drop – for the first (and eventually only) time of the expansion for us. At the time, our loot policy was to /roll and high roll wins. This player ended up getting the highest roll… and quit the game a week later. (Loot rules are a whole different ball of wax)

Because of the above reason, there is definitely a reason to put the proper people in a raid. Whereas I may be someone who knows what to do, I truthfully didn’t deserve to take the spot on that night.

Obviously there are times when it’s not possible to be picky. If there’s only 10 people on who can raid, you have your raid. Depending on the skill and gear levels of the people involved, that will determine what will happen that night. Progression may not be possible, but it will likely be possible to bring up other people to the point of being able to progress later.

If there’s 15 people who want to raid, there are going to be five people who will have to do something else. Should the plan be to progress through raid content, the obvious choice is the people who are ready for the content.

However, there must be a chance given to people who want to raid. It’s just the timing that needs to be decided on. Firm communication between guild leadership and the members is key. If the plan is to do progression, make sure people know that preference will be given to those who are geared and ready for the fight. For farm nights, some preference should be given to people who need to gear up.

All of this must be done within reason. A whole raid full of people who need to gear up won’t go very far in a raid. I’m not saying that those who can’t make every raid must be given a spot on farm nights, but to take their situation into account.

Conclusion

I love to raid, as it’s something that I enjoy doing with the friends that I have made through World of Warcraft. My schedule limits the times that I can raid, because of the schedule my guild has established.

I was wrong to have been upset at being sat out for a progression night. Hopefully things will work out and I’ll be able to raid again soon. I’m looking at you, people who set my wife’s schedule. /glare

In the meantime there are PuG raids that I could join, there are Zandalari heroics, and upcoming single player content in 4.2 that could make me pass the time. Lots of things to do, and hopefully raiding with my guild will be one of those things again in the future.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

There are times when I wish I wasn’t as accommodating.  Yet, I only have myself to blame for it.  I try to do things with the best intentions, but sometimes things just don’t work out.

In this case, it all has to do with my DPS specs.  A while back now, I decided to change from feral cat DPS to a boomkin because the guild needed more ranged people.  I volunteered, because I always wanted to try the spec out and see what it’s like.  One of the biggest problems is that I barely make it to the raids due to real life schedules, so in the end I didn’t really do much to help the guild out with getting a ranged class.

Finding that I was missing being feral DPS, I decided to change my second spec (feral tanking, which I had not used once since I got the spec set up and reforged all the gear) back to a kitty and tried it out in a heroic to see how I would do.  For comparison, as a boomkin I would average around 8-10k DPS – which is not very good at all – by any comparison for my gear level.

My first thought was: “Why in the world did I ever switch?”

After doing a heroic Zul’Aman, my average DPS for the entire instance was around 13.6k, and my highest was around 18k for Nalorakk.  At first I thought it was just that instance, but after thinking more I realized that it’s just something I’m so used to doing that it flows easier.

One thing I was really bad about as a boomkin was my DoT uptime.  There were some fights where I was below 30%, because I just forgot to reapply it with being so focused on my regular rotations.  Fortunately as a kitty, the DoTs that I use aer some of the most important parts of my rotation and come naturally.  That in itself is a great way to make sure I don’t slack.

Plus, I found I was getting bored with being a boomkin.  There were definitely fun parts about it, but altogether I was finding that I was just there and not being very excited to instance or raid at all.  Perhaps that’s how I got my priest to 85 so quickly, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

Whatever the case, I’m definitely back to being a feral DPS spec.  I had so much fun with it through my first instance, I don’t care how many rogues and other ferals I have to beat up to get my gear.  As well, if I needed any other reason, the staff that Fandral will drop from Firelands in 4.2 turns cat form into a fire cat form.  ‘Nuff said.  I’m back to a melee state of mind.

Moving On Up

I have mentioned before that I was working on a goblin priest for an alt, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. That priest is finally level 85, and heroic ready… but the process was a little bit different from the expected.

Originally, my thought was to try to level through the dungeon finder to work on healing skills as I had never healed on a priest before. It worked out well for quite a while until level 41, when I got too frustrated at other people and then decided to just take the plunge and quest with a shadow spec. This ended up being a good plan, as I now have the basics of both specs down.

The thing that was scaring me was the idea of healing Cataclysm instances. On my druid, I have done all of them multiple times (excepting the new Zandalari ones), so it wasn’t that I didn’t know the fights. I had the simple fear of failing at something that I set out to accomplish. Many times I’ve been in a group where there’s been one member that was doing a very bad job at their role and I was afraid that one day I’d turn into them.

Once my item level was high enough – unfortunately heirlooms make this a bit difficult, as they’re an item level 1 – I decided to give it a try. From when I first made my priest, I decided to use discipline as my healing spec since it looked like fun, and so far it has been. Having the multiple methods of damage prevention and utilities make it so I have more tricks up my sleeve, and hopefully will make the run go smoother.

All in all the regular instances went fairly well. It didn’t stop me from being nervous through all of the runs, but at least we were able to make it through them. The hurdle now is the transition into healing heroics.

I’ve done a number of heroic runs with my shadow spec, getting drops and justice points to improve my gear before I try to heal them. As of last night, I am at the point where I think my gear is ready to go into a heroic. There are a few fights that I’m worried about that have high levels of damage, and whether I’d be able to cope with the stress.

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of forgetting to use cooldowns at times. The biggest problems are two of the best cooldowns a discipline priest has: power infusion and pain suppression. Huge increase in healing throughput and huge damage reduction, and I forget to use them? I have to set up some power auras to help me remember, the same I did for my boomkin stuff.

My priest has yet to heal a heroic, but I think I’m ready for it. If not, that’s why there’s the option for a dual spec.

Outland and Northrend, redux

Here we are, 4 and 2.5 years after the content was released, and I’m doing a review of the Outland and Northrend areas of World of Warcraft. Timely reporting, right? In this case, it actually is – I just finished getting my former-lowbie priest up to level 80 and blazed a trail through the two former content areas. As I adventures through these places, I was reminded of things that I liked and things I certainly didn’t like.

With heirlooms, I actually didn’t go through all of the zones for each continent. (As an aside, I was using the heirloom shoulders, chest, cloak, weapon, and trinket.) Even without, I know that I could have skipped some areas. It is nice that the leveling process has been eased as time goes by through these old areas, as what was once the best part of the game is now some of the worst.

Outland and Northrend are now suffering the “middle child” disease, being forgotten and overlooked. Cataclysm brought us a completely redesigned Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms (less a few zones, coincidentally from Burning Crusade), and going from levels 1-60 in the “old” world is now very exciting and fun. Prior to Cataclysm, people would power their way through the Vanilla content so they could get to the better things in Outland and beyond.

Now the two continents are relics of an old design philosophy. Cataclysm has brought so many new quest mechanics and storylines that it’s truly fun to play through the zones and see what all is going on. Outland and Northrend have many of the same thing over and over again with little deviation.

Outland

My progression through Outland started with Hellfire Peninsula, going through half of Zangarmarsh, and then finishing most of Nagrand before hitting level 68. With 25% experience bonus from heirlooms and an extra 10% from the guild perk, the levels flew by – so much that I was level 73 before hitting Zangarmarsh. I only did two instances, and that was my wife running me through Hellfire Ramparts and the Blood Furnace. This time I was going for efficiency in leveling, and wanting to get through as fast as I could.

One relic quest design that still exists in Outland is the amount of Elite/Group quests. Fortunately, as I was playing a Shadow Priest this time around it was actually fairly easy and I was able to solo a majority of them. There were the few that I needed help with, like Arazzius the Cruel and Durn the Hungerer, but more often than not I was fine.

Nagrand is my favourite zone from Burning Crusade. The looks of it were just amazing, along with very good questing design for the most part. However, this zone suffers from quest hub-itis. There are five places in the zone where you get quests (mostly), and three of them are in the same area – for the Horde side at least. This means that while you can grab about 7-12 quests at once, there’s a lot of travel time involved from place to place. As much as down time is necessary to regroup and calm down, there’s a lot of travel time involved in Nagrand.

All in all, Outland isn’t a bad place – it’s just boring to me. I’ve gone through Outland numerous times and it’s still the exact same as it was when it first came out, with the exception of how long it takes to get through it. There are many great views, quests, NPCs, and other things to see along the way. I just ask that Blizzard update things to make them better. If someone has never gone through the continent before, I think they would enjoy it.

Northrend

Going through Northrend was also a lot quicker than at first, mainly due to heirlooms and guild perk. I started in Howling Fjord, did all of Dragonblight and Zul’Drak, then about halfway through Storm Peaks is where I ended up hitting level 80. Through this I only did two instances, both through the LFD tool, coming up with Utgarde Keep and Halls of Stone (of course).

Normally in my quest to level alts, I end up getting stuck around the beginning of Northrend. I can usually make it through the first zone, usually Borean Tundra, but by the time I reach Dragonblight I get bored very quickly. In a WoW Insider Show, they had likened the province of Manitoba as being the Dragonblight of Canada, and I have to agree – Dragonblight is just boring.

As I said, I normally start from Borean Tundra so the first area I hit in Dragonblight is Agmar’s Hammer. Since I started in Howling Fjord this time I did the Venomspite quests first, which is what I believe made the difference. It wasn’t much of a change, but any change is welcome in boring content.

Similar to Outland, there were a number of Elite/Group quests that were out there. Also similarly, I was able to solo most of them and only needing help with the ones that had mechanics that were harmful to cloth-wearers. The travel time to get to different places still was a big factor, but not nearly as bad as Outland. By this time, Blizzard seems to have learned that people don’t like having to fly somewhere for five minutes before getting to the quest objective.

During my initial time in Wrath, I didn’t really have a favourite zone. This time, Zul’Drak really stood out to me – the story of an empire that wanted to fend off the Scourge so badly that they killed their own gods out of desperation. I would love to see the zone the way it was before, as the pinnacle of a troll empire.

Right now Northrend is still too fresh in my mind from Wrath. Cataclysm has only been out for five months, so it hasn’t been long enough for me to get over it. The zone and quest design isn’t bad, but I’m glad it’s not the current one anymore.

Conclusion

Many times through my leveling experience, I was extremely thankful for the ability to have a flying mount. Originally, flying wasn’t available in Outland until level 70 and in Northrend until level 77. Having to run through all the stuff before was painful enough, I am so very glad that I didn’t have to do it again.

Last year I wrote up some retrospectives about Vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King. Going through the two expansion contents, I’m reminded about many of my original observations and my overall conclusion from them: I’m glad that I was able to play through them when they were relevant, but I’m very glad that it’s the past. What’s done is done, and I’m glad the game is moving forward.

It shows how much Blizzard has done to improve the game over time. Anyone who says that the game was better during Vanilla, Burning Crusade, or Wrath is a liar. The game as it is today is far more superior to the previous content. Blizzard will always improve their work.

I’m very glad to be back in Cataclysm content. Hyjal, here I come!

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