Crossing the Floor

AllianceGarrisonGate

Typically, the term “crossing the floor” is used in politics. It is where a member of a political party leaves their current one and goes over to another.

Similarly, I have crossed the floor for only my second time in my World of Warcraft career – after spending about nine years a Horde, I’m back to playing Alliance on my main. Korath the Tauren is now Korath the Night Elf. (It still feels weird and a bit dirty saying that out loud.)

It all started almost a year ago, shortly after the Siege of Orgrimmar started. I had stopped playing consistantly, and was playing more Diablo than Warcraft. There were times where I went over a month between logins. On my Horde Main, I did the LFR stuff to get achievements (not actually getting my Garrosh kill until a month or two before 6.0 dropped), yet it felt that I was doing it for the sake of completion and nothing else.

At the same time, I was working more on my Alliance Mage that I had transferred to play with some friends that I had met in real life a while back. This was mainly due to the fact that I wanted to see the Alliance version of Mists of Pandaria, and to play with some other friends.

Shortly before Warlords was launched, I found out that my guild had decided to merge to get prepared for Mythic raiding. I was definitely surprised at this, but since I wasn’t logging on very often it wasn’t shocking. There were a bunch of new people in the guild that I had never seen or heard of before, along with the familiar faces that I have known for almost ten years.

I’ve gone through a guild merge before, which ended up being decent at first and ending up not awesome. If I was a regular core raider of the guild, it might be different – but as a casual player who doesn’t do any raiding apart from LFR, I was feeling quite left out. I didn’t even feel comfortable speaking out in guild chat.

After weighing all of the options, I made the decision to move my main character – Korath the Tauren Druid – over to the Moonrunner server and faction change to Alliance, so I could play with my friends that I knew and was comfortable with.

korathNightElfA few years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet up with some people that I had met through blogging: specifically, Fannon from Dwarven Battle Medic and Ophelie from Bossy Pally. It was fantastic to meet other WoW bloggers and just to get to know other people.

I’m a very shy and introverted person. One of the scariest moments of my life was getting out of my car and walking into the pub where we all met.

However, it was one of the best choices I ever made. Through this meeting, it set up a get-together with other bloggers: this time with Vidyala and her husband Vosskah, and a few others. Instantly, my wife and I formed a friendship with them and were able to have great conversations.

There was only one downside to all of these people. All of these people were Alliance, where my wife and I played Horde exclusively. (My very first characters were Alliance, but around the original Zul’Gurub patch I switched to Horde.) At that time, I server transferred my then level 60 mage to Moonrunner just to talk to them, and left it at that.

Now, all this time later, it paid off. Unfortunately I did have to spend more money to do the server and faction change, but it was most definitely worth it – along with the fortunate timing of getting it on sale. The group of people I play with are fantastic, I’ve been able to meet a bunch of new people who are just a whole lot of fun. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase, but I really don’t have any complaints as of yet.

The only downside of my WoW time right now is that my wife isn’t playing anymore, but that’s just due to her complete lack of free time with looking after the kids during the days and working at night. Ah, the life of a young family.

In a political sense, crossing the floor can be a disaster. Constituents feel like they were misled or betrayed, and it can cost someone their career. However, in this circumstance it has been one of the best choices I’ve made in a while. Once again, I’m excited to play WoW and habitually log in to check my garrison missions. Right, and actually play and have a crapload of fun.

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!

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.

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.

Guild Reputation

Guild reputation was a brand new feature that came out with Cataclysm and combined with the guild perks, rewards, achievements, and other stuff like that. Your guild levels and gets perks, and the more reputation that you have with the guild (by killing bosses in a guild group or doing daily quests), you get access to more of the rewards.

I’m not talking about any of this.

As I had mentioned before, I recently joined the AIE guild with my Death Knight on the Earthen Ring server. I was looking for an alternative place to hang out and find somewhere that had a better raiding schedule. After being in the guild for about a month, I’ve found that I’m rarely ever spending any time on my Druid anymore and mainly hanging out on my DK.

Many times I’m doing random dungeons for the Valour and Justice points, daily quests, a Baradin Hold run, or whatever the case may be. Yet, I could easily be doing these things on my Druid as he also needs some upgrades as well. At this point, I’ve all but decided that I will be moving him over to AIE soon-ish.

Getting used to a new guild is tough, and even more tough when there’s so many people in it. At any point in time, there’s at least over one hundred people online, and it’s hard to see familiar faces when there’s over 7000 to pick from. That being said, AIE is fortunate in the fact that the guild as a whole is very well run and has a great culture by itself that people seem to embrace easily.

For an example of the guild culture, twice a year they have craft fairs.  People give up a ton of materials from each profession to help others level up theirs.  I’ve heard stories of people maxing whatever profession they are (even the annoying ones like Leatherworking and Blacksmithing) within the short period of time that the craft fair is on.  This is a guild culture that I can support without a problem.

The Instance podcast has definitely made AIE popular, and is the reason why I decided to join.  Yet, even though it was the podcast that got me there, it’s the people who keep me there.  During BlizzCon, there were a bunch of volunteers who made a guild hall in one of the nearby hotels, which was basically a place for guildies to hang out when they weren’t at the convention.  Some people flew down there just to go to the hall, rather than the convention itself.  Goodie bags were made specifically for this, and it was a whole event contained within that hall.

Just by these few examples, it’s obvious why I’ve decided to try out this guild.  The reputation that it has gained from the amazing people who are members is truly awesome.

As a whole, I’ve had enough experience with AIE that I want to continue my association with them. The reputation that a guild has outside of the reputation panel is extremely important. If you don’t enjoy being in a guild, why bother getting Exalted with them?

Does Guild Size Matter?

Guilds have always been a key factor to World of Warcraft and most MMOs. When Cataclysm launched and the guild system was reworked, they became even more integral to the gameplay. While not required to do anything, they make life a whole lot easier with the perks that they provide.

I had mentioned before that I created a new character on a different server to try and get a new play experience. Since then, I have successfully joined the guild Alea Iacta Est (AIE) on the Earthen Ring server. This guild might ring a bell for some people as being one of the biggest in all of WoW. As far as I’m aware, there are over 7000 players spread out across a number of “co-guilds”, since there is a cap on how many characters can be in an guild. At one point, everyone was all in one guild, but the guild panel would stop showing people past a certain number.

My Death Knight that I was leveling just recently hit level 84, and is now a member of AIE Libertas. This is just a slight change from where my Druid is, back on the Thrall server. Band of Thorns is a very small guild, and might have about 10-15 people on at most at any point in time – usually during raids. Both guilds are level 25 and have all perks available.

So, does the size of the guild matter? It certainly does… to an extent.

One of the first things I noticed was just the fact that there’s always somebody on. Even if not in the specific co-guild that I’m in, but through one of the addons that makes guild chat go between all guilds, someone will be there. Even so, even in my co-guild I have yet to be on at a time where there’s less than 10 people on.

Along with that, with more people comes more help that can be available. Something simple as having some lockboxes to open, I asked in guild chat and I had five people who were willing to help out. I would normally have to wait for a while for a rogue to appear to help out, but now I have a number of people ready right away.

Raiding is a very different situation. There are a great number of raid teams in AIE, and a new team can easily be formed by starting a signup for a regular time. Rather than just having one chance to make the raids per week, I’ll now have many teams to choose from or be able to start a new one if needed.

The only downside that I have had so far is the fact that the guild is so big. I want to get to know people, but with so many people out there it’s hard to find the same people to talk to time after time. I know everyone in Band of Thorns, so far in AIE I don’t know anyone. At the same time, I’ve only been in the guild for about two weeks so far, so there’s definitely time to make it work.

There are plenty more options available in AIE than I currently have in Band of Thorns. More than once, I’ve thought about transferring my Druid over to Earthen Ring and joining in with him as well. The problem that I have is that I’ve been with Band of Thorns (in one way or another) since the game’s launch, and have never not been in the guild. There are people who I’ve known through the guild since the very beginning, and it’s very hard to let go. I wouldn’t sever all ties, but at the same time I want to keep my main character active.

Lots of things to consider. All I know is that I’ve been playing my DK a lot more than my Druid, for the main reason that I have stuff to do again, and I’m enjoying the people I play with.