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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.

Screenshot of the Week – November 19

This isn’t a weekly feature anymore, obviously, but that doesn’t matter!

Click for full size

Being Canadian and experiencing the Northern Lights on a number of occasions, I will never get tired of seeing them.  Blizzard did a great job of making them in-game in Northrend, especially in Howling Fjord.  This view looks toward Utgarde Keep, just over a Vrykul settlement.  A moment of peace in an otherwise war-torn zone.

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.

Excrement Excavations and YOU! (or, worst quests in WoW)

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic – check out other articles about this topic from great authors around the WoW blogging community!

One of the very first things that anyone will do when they log into World of Warcraft on a new character will do is accept a quest. There’s a big shiny yellow exclamation point above a nearby NPC that draws you in and compels you to right-click them. Then, for whatever reason, if you kill enough pigs you’ll get a reward! How awesome is that?

More often than not, it’s very awesome. Even moreso since the Cataclysm old world redesign, WoW’s quest design has been amazing. Not too long ago, I did an article about some of my favourite quests in the game. This time we’re going the opposite way, to some examples of the worst quests that are out there today. Not surprisingly, they mostly come from Outland and Northrend – but this is partly because I haven’t done all of the new content yet.

RNG – the bane of all existence

The infamous random number generator (RNG) can be one of the best or worst things in the game. It is blamed for drops from mobs and bosses, block/parry/dodge/hit/miss chance, spawn rates, and quest item drops. There is a reason why the RNG is hated so much, and it’s because of the simple fact that it’s so very random.

Any quest that does not have a 100% chance to drop your item has the possibility to require you to spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to get what is required. Lately it seems that the drop rates for many quests have been improved, but there are many that are still very annoying. Good examples are in Zul’Drak, the quests to collect bat wings and spider ichor.

Isn’t killing a BAD thing?

Falling in line with the RNG is the “kill mobs until something happens” style. Apparently the leaders or commanders of certain groups of mobs only appear after a certain amount of people die. It makes me very glad that I don’t serve under them.

Three examples that came to mind immediately are all from Northrend. In Howling Fjord, you have to kill a number of Vrykul until the commanders show up for you to impale with a battle standard.  In Zul’Drak, shortly after going to Zim’torga, many trolls need to die in order for certain mobs to show up and take their shinies. I just did this quest again yesterday, and it took way more time than it should have.

Excrement Excavations

This post could not happen without some mention of the poop quests. First appearing in Burning Crusade, there has been some sort of quest like this in random places since. To this day, my wife won’t do the Hellfire Peninsula one.

The above-noted quest is called Shizz Work, and is given by a goblin foreman near Thrallmar. Part of a quest chain and open to both factions, it involves using a flute to summon a felhunter and digging through its “leavings” to find some keys. After digging through each pile, you get a debuff called “Stanky” that doesn’t do anything but give you a green smelly aura.

Good idea, but enough already!

Once Blizzard finds a quest mechanic that they like, they tend to stick with it. Sometimes a bit too much, at times. There are quests where it’s a fun mechanic, such as taking an abomination and blowing things up with it, but the amount of things required to blow up is a bit much.

A good example of this is the a quest in Zul’Drak for Drakuru to require a total of 60 trolls to be killed to draw out the three chieftains. I really enjoy things exploding, but it could have easily be done in half the amount of trolls and have the chieftains come with every 10 instead of every 20.

In closing…

Thankfully there is a good variety of types of quests in the game. Blizzard has done a great job, especially in the new Azeroth, of mixing things up. I hope that eventually we’ll see a revamp of Outland and Northrend, and with that we can see some of the new mechanics introduced to these areas.

Firelands Nerfs and Me

Recently Blizzard announced that there was going to be a nerf in the difficulty of Firelands bosses, for both regular and heroic modes. For a lot of people this came as a surprise, as the Tier 11 content wasn’t nerfed until Firelands was released, and heroic modes were kept on the same difficulty. The reaction has been mixed: some are very happy that this will let them see the content before the next raid patch comes out, and some are very upset that the content is a pushover now and their previous work is all for naught.

My thoughts are somewhat in the middle. Unfortunately, due to my real life scheduling situation and some very frustrating timing for being rotated out of a raid spot, I have yet to see an actual Firelands raid. I did a trash run during the first week as well as a few attempts on Rhyolith on another week. No kills or loot from the instance at all for me.

Because of my situation, I’m a bit excited about the nerfs. This means that when the time comes that I’m actually able to raid, there’s more of a chance that we’ll clear through the bosses and I’ll be able to get more Valour Points and good loot. Rather than taking the rare chances that I actually have to raid (so far I’ve been available for three nights of raids since Firelands released) and beating my head against a wall because of stalled progression, I will have a good chance at stuff that most of my guild has had for months.

However, I see where the regular raiders are coming from in their frustration. They’ve been working on this content for a while, learning the fights week after week and making steady progression. Perhaps there’s a guild who was on the verge of taking down a certain boss after many attempts, and all of a sudden the fight is easier by 15%. It’s a little bit of a downer, as the pride in taking things down at full strength is a great feeling.

In the end, this means that more people will be able to see more content. We don’t know any sort of estimated time of arrival for 4.3 and the new (hopefully) awesomeness that awaits there. In the meantime, people who have yet to see all of Firelands will be able to do so. More people will get better gear, meaning that when the next patch finally does arrive, they’ll be better geared for the new content.

I know that our guild has been 6/7 for normal Firelands, so I’m sure that many of my guildies are feeling the frustration. Hopefully the frustration will pass when they realize that they’re getting new goodies and will look forward to beating Deathwing to a bloody pulp.

4.3 Instances of Awesome (I hope)

Looking around the WoW news community this morning gave me quite a bit of happiness. 4.3 looks like it’s going to be incredibly awesome – and even though the word is used entirely too much these days, the word we’re looking for is epic.

On top of the other features of the patch (transmogrification, void storage, raid finder tool, Darkmoon Faire revamp, among other things) we get the best part: the Deathwing raid and 5-man dungeons. Interviews were given from Tom Chilton and Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler) across a few websites, and a bunch of information was given.

From the WoW Community Site

Basically, there will be three 5-man dungeons giving the story leading up to the Deathwing raid, all involving the Caverns of Time:

  • The first one (“End Time”) will be a dystopian future where Deathwing won and the world has been destroyed and remade the way he likes – all in ruins. The idea behind this is convince Nozdormu that he needs to get involved and help, or else there won’t be much of anything to watch over.
  • The second one (“Well of Eternity”) will be during the War of the Ancients, where Deathwing first betrayed the aspects and created the Dragon/Demon Soul. It looks like we join Thrall to get the Demon Soul to use as a weapon against Deathwing in the present.  Basically using the power to overload the essence within him, causing the big black dragon to burst from within.
  • The third one (“Hour of Twilight”) will be a flight to Wyrmrest Temple to begin the fight against Deathwing, raid-style. Along the way there will be battles against many foes trying to steal back the Demon Soul and prevent you from attacking the big bad guy, likely lots of Twilight people.

The final battle against Deathwing (“Dragon Soul”) is in an instanced version of Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight (hopefully including the changes that happened in the Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects novel), with fights around and in the temple itself. At one point we get to be on Deathwing’s back, trying to pry off his armour plating to get to his fleshy bits underneath. Apparently there will be a “balance” mechanic, as Deathwing isn’t just going to be flying in a straight line – the raid will be a bunch of fleas on his back that he wants to shake off (do a barrel roll!).

Eventually, Deathwing ends up at the Maelstrom where he becomes a bit of a conglomeration between himself and an Old God minion. The phrase used in the interview with Ghostcrawler says that they call him “Cthulhu-Deathwing”, tentacles included. All in all, this raid looks like it will be living up to my expectations and more.

Also included with this will be a new legendary, a set of two daggers for rogues specifically. This quest line will involve the uncorrupted black dragon egg that was the subject of a really good questline in the Badlands. At the end of it, there’s nothing said about the future or fate of the new whelp, but it looks like we’ll find out shortly.

For more reading, check out interviews at Joystiq, MMO-Champion, and Tankspot.  The official World of Warcraft community site also has a bunch of information.

Signature Abilities

There are certain things in the game that scream: “THIS IS WORLD OF WARCRAFT!” Each class has their own special thing that people think of when they picture the class in their head. Some have changed over time, being iconic when the game came out and all but vanished now. Some have emerged over time, starting as a thought and finally being realized.

One good thing is that I couldn’t think of one specific ability that is recognizable for the entire game. There are a few front-runners, but there are many that define each class. Blizzard has done a great job of making each class very individual (with a few exceptions), and you know who you are playing by what you can do.

Shamans get two picks from me: Frost Shock and Bloodlust. Sorry Alliance, but it will always be Bloodlust and not Heroism. In Vanilla PvP, Frost Shock was one of the biggest abilities that the Horde had in their arsenal, as it was a good snare on a short cooldown that did a decent amount of damage. There used to be an addon that would have an audio file of “FROST SHOOOOOCK!” when it was used. Bloodlust, including the roaring-murloc-style sound, is such a great feeling. The very first time it was used in game for my character gave me goosebumps.

(The above is my son being a good PvP Shaman in training)

Druids are pretty straight forward, being that their forms truly define who they are. Not as much as previously, with the removal of a permanent Tree Form, but I believe that Bear Form & Cat Form are truly iconic (and of course the laser chicken). There’s no mistaking what you’re fighting when you have a cat tearing up your face. Being able to be a warrior, rogue, mage, and priest all in one is a nice feeling.

To me, the Warrior’s signature ability was mainly visible in Vanilla as it was before big nerfs. Mortal Strike was a high damage move that also caused the target to receive 50% less healing as a debuff. This was in place for a very long time until it was nerfed to be only 10% less healing, as it was very overpowered for PvP. Many tanks were Arms spec in Vanilla mainly for this ability, so mobs that healed themselves could be mitigated. Close second is Titan’s Grip – being able to wield two two-handed weapons is just awesome.

Rogues are mainly known for one thing: their stuns. They have close to fifty thousand of them (or so it would seem at time in PvP), and used well they can completely lock out someone for a good period of time. By the time the stuns wear off, the target’s health is low enough that they’re as good as dead.

Warlocks also have two great abilities to cause grief to people: Fear and Death Coil. Both mainly in Vanilla again, but the combination of the two spells were great to keep a player or a mob out of the way for a good period of time. The only problem with PvE use of them is that they have a very good chance to pull approximately one thousand other mobs who are close by.

Mages have two things that I believe is their signature, which is Polymorph and the ability to blow stuff up. Polymorph’s history goes back to the early RTS games, and thankfully stays in the game today as a great crowd control device. Being able to have different animals other than sheep is nice for groups or raids with multiple mages, but the sheep is still awesome. Plus, mages can blow stuff up, including Living Bomb. How can you go wrong?

Hunters are definitely known for having their pets and their traps. The removal of Eyes of the Beast, allowing direct control over the pet, is definitely a big loss – it was also the way our guild pulled Baron Geddon in Molten Core back in Vanilla. When pets had their happiness system or needing to tame specific pets to learn specific abilities, or basically how pets were before they were all made generic are what truly defined hunters for a very long time. The traps have become a lot better, as rather than having to place them where the character is, they are now able to be launched to a location without having to sacrifice yourself. Coming close behind is feign death, which is also useful in real life.

I had a difficult time coming up with a specific priest signature ability. Eventually I decided on Shadowform and the ability to be a very flexible healer. Unfortunately with all the specific heals that a priest has, there are too many to narrow down to one signature one, apart from Greater Heal. Bread and butter healing. Shadowform is very different in the fact that it gave priests a way to do very good damage and still be a priest at heart.

Death Knights are pretty easy, as Death Grip is one of the first things that a player uses after rolling one. Being able to yank someone right to you, also acting as a taunt, is a tank’s best friend. Plus, a lot of fun in PvP. Army of the Dead is a close contender, as there are few things more awesome than an army of ghouls rampaging on your behalf.

The Paladin signature ability was the easiest one to come up with. Divine Shield, or the infamous “Bubble”. Unfortunately not being able to last long enough for a full bubble-hearth, it still has the reputation that it definitely deserves.

In conclusion, each class has things that truly make them feel unique. Even the Druid, which “borrows” the styles of other classes, still makes the playstyle their own. Even though they use rage like a warrior, they are not warriors (parrying with their faces takes skill).

As a signature ability for the game? I don’t think there needs to be one. The closest “iconic” one that I can think of would have to be Bloodlust. It is synonymous with the Orc culture, and every time I hear the sound effect I can’t help but think of the Warcraft series.

Screenshot of the Week – September 10

Click for full size

This week we have a view of the Tol Barad prison, main block at the middle of the island.  Within these walls lie loot pinatas, and easy valour points for all.

The plan is to be back to regular articles coming this week.

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