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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!

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?

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.

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.

What is “Premium”?

This post is part of a Shared Topic on Blog Azeroth. Be sure to check out posts from other great blog authors!

After my last post was linked on WoW Insider, I saw a couple of comments on the page that made me think.  Firstly, I realized I didn’t do that great of a job explaining my position on the Premium Dungeon Finder. Secondly, I realized that there’s a lot more to this “premium” thing that should be discussed. Through the ensuing blog posts as well as Twitter conversations, I thought I’d expand my thoughts.

To begin with, it was a new and controversial move when MMOs first started charging a monthly subscription for games. Up until then, you paid your money for the game, and played as much as you want for the initial cost. Games that had vast multiplayer services like other Blizzard games (Warcraft III, StarCraft) or first-person shooter games (Counter-strike, Quake) operated on the one-time payment and provided the rest free of charge. I don’t know the economics behind this all, but I’m pretty sure that these games would have to sell a lot to be able to provide free multiplayer services.

Even to register a domain name for a website, there’s a fee. Heck, in many major cities in Canada and the US, it’s hard to find free parking at times. Behind everything, there is some sort of cost – whether it’s seen or not is the big thing.

Warcraft II: BNE & Warcraft III, Diablo and Diablo II, StarCraft and StarCraft II all offer free multiplayer through Blizzard’s Battle.net service. At any given time there are millions of people playing games on their servers, using the bandwidth they have to pay for, and ultimately costing the company. Someone has to maintain the servers to make sure they are at peak performance. Someone has to administer the people working on said servers, and the data centres that house them. Even though people playing those games only pay up front, there are real costs that Blizzard has to deal with on an ongoing basis.

Thus we have the reasoning for a monthly subscription fee for MMOs, as they are a whole new ball of wax. Rather than being separate instances of a game, they are a persistent world that also has instances within them. They must allow thousands of people to log on to a server and play the game as the company has designed and have fun doing it. If the servers crash repeatedly, nobody is having fun. The monthly fee goes to offset the likely astronomical costs of being able to maintain the server networks.

We already pay a monthly fee, why do we need to pay more for extra services?

I forget who exactly, but someone on Twitter gave this example: “I already pay for my cable, why should I pay more for the HD package?”  Similarly, it’s the same as going to a Starbucks and asking for a coffee with an extra shot of espresso but not wanting to be charged for it.  Both examples are extra services or products that are offered, but not essential.

Currently, the WoW remote package is the only Premium offering that is available.  This gives people the ability to do things outside of the game which can enhance their WoW experience, namely being able to use the Auction Houses and chat with guild members who are in-game.  Both of these services require an extra charge, likely because a lot of work went into them, and I know for a fact that it wasn’t free to create. Blizzard employees put their time and effort into these things that are not even required – not even remotely! (Yes, the pun was intended)

The Premium Dungeon Finder is something that will require Blizzard to change their network infrastructure. The servers right now are physically located at various points around the world in clusters. The Battlegroups are set up as such, and the people who group together in the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) or battlegrounds are pulled from these server groups. Blizzard is working on making it so eventually it will be region-wide, with no extra cost for the player. By changing the LFD system to be able to pull people from your Real ID friends list specifically from servers around the region, it is a major change that was likely not planned for when things were first set up.

Finally, even though the game has been out for six and a half years, the subscription rates have not changed once. Inflation has brought many prices higher across many different industries, but we pay the exact same to log on to WoW as we did when the game first started. I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of money lost by keeping these rates the same.

In the end, I highly doubt that Blizzard will introduce something that is so game changing that it is a requirement to pay for it. If they did, they would most definitely lose a lot of subscribers, and likely myself included. I believe in getting a fair deal, and I think Blizzard has given us a good one so far.

If you want these extra features, you can pay for them. They are not necessary, but they’re helpful and useful. I personally will not be getting the WoW remote subscription or the Premium Dungeon Finder when it comes out, as both of them are not worth it for me. Everyone can choose for themselves to see if they think it’s worth the extra money for the services received.

Premium Dungeon Finder

Today there was some news released about something Blizzard is working on that will be quite game changing.  No, it’s not the dance studio.  A “premium” service which will allow someone to use the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) tool to group with friends on Real ID.

At first glance, I think this is an excellent idea.  With WoW being so big across so many servers, there are people who want to group together but don’t want to take the time or money to level an alt on another realm or transfer a character over.  By being able to bypass the tedius or expensive effort that these entail, it will allow friends to do dungeons together and have fun much easier.

The biggest thing that will cause most people to call foul is the fact that it’s a premium service, which is an extra fee on top of the monthly fee we already pay.  To be honest, that was the first thing that caught my attention as well, but I’m going to wait for all the information.  We don’t know any pricing or how exactly it is going to work, apart from the fact that only one person needs to have the service – that being the person initiating the group.

If this feature will be included in the current premium package which allows remote auction house and remote guild chat and keeping the price the same, I can see a fair amout of people using this.  I could even see myself possibly signing up for this feature.

One big question I know a lot of people will have is whether this will support cross-faction groups along with cross-realm.  Many of my friends are not only scattered across different servers, but between the Horde and Alliance.  As much as the Alliance are scum (as far as my characters think), I’d like to group up with the people behind them.  To me, I think this will be the selling point: if I’m able to do cross-faction groups, I’ll pretty much be sold.

Since this is still very early in the cycle of the feature, we’ll definitely be given more information later on.  I’ll be very curious to see what the final version of this product will be.

Melting Faces and Taking Names

Once upon a time, it was said that Shadow Priests can melt faces. After testing out this theory for myself, it turns out that the information presented was indeed correct. For the first time in my World of Warcraft career, I’m playing a “squishy” class without actually being squishy.

When Cataclysm hit, I had my sights set on making a goblin priest. I’m not sure why exactly I wanted to do that specific race/class combination, but it seems to be working for me so far. The first bit I decided to try to level entirely by using the dungeon finder, and it worked – for a while.

Levels 15-35 were fairly uneventful, with decent groups being able to go through a dungeon in a good amount of time without much drama. After that, it seemed every second group would either be completely full of idiots, or people who don’t know what they’re doing. If I was really fortunate, it would be a nice mix of both. I was really hoping to continue leveling through the LFD tool to work on my healing, since I would likely be doing this once I hit max level. However, this didn’t end up happening, and at level 42 I decided to start questing again.

Unfortunately, since this character had been parked in Orgrimmar from levels 15 to 42, I didn’t have any flight paths other than Bilgewater Harbour and Razor Hill. Thankfully I had epic riding skill, so the drive down to Dustwallow Marsh to pick up the Thousand Needles breadcrumb wasn’t too big of a problem. I changed over to my dual spec of Shadow, and promptly began to melt the faces of Grimtotems, pirates, and anything else that stood in my way.

Since then there has only been one circumstance when I switched back to my Discipline spec for use, which was to heal a tank so we could duo Durn the Hungerer in Nagrand. Apart from that, I’ve only switched over to spend the talent points that I had earned. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any need to do so.

While I was leveling my enhancement shaman I found I was able to solo most things, including some group quests which I had never been able to do before. Out of curiosity, I decided to try this in Hellfire Peninsula on my priest. I had gotten the feel of the class by this point, and was comfortable in what to do for an elite mob. After some preparation and making sure I had the proper buffs, the giants for the Colossal Menace quest were destroyed efficiently.

I was honestly quite shocked – a clothie that can solo group quests this easily? It was different from what I had expected. (For the record, I have leveled a Warlock previously and they did well for group quests – but having a Voidwalker or Felguard will help quite a bit! Warlocks aren’t that squishy, but I don’t have any experience with one since originally leveling through Outland back in Burning Crusade.) Not having a pet or something to tank an elite mob, while I was able to still do very decent damage and have self-healing… it was a nice feeling.

Going through Outland, I was able to solo all group quests in Zangarmarsh and Nagrand (with the exception of Durn). In my brief time in Howling Fjord I’ve been able to solo the one group quest that has come up which has always presented me with problems on other characters, which is March of the Giants – elite giants who do heavy damage, along with a hard-hitting damage over time debuff placed on you. Fortunately a priest’s arsenal includes Dispel Magic, which saved my hide a number of times through the course of that questline.

I was able to hit 70 before completing the quests in Vengeance Landing and Camp Winterhoof in Howling Fjord the other night. Originally, I was expecting to level by healing the dungeon finder groups I found with a Discipline spec. I’m extremely glad that I decided to make the switch.

It will be interesting to see how things go through Northrend and Cataclysm content. I’ll be wanting to get more healing experience, but being able to melt faces is just so much fun. Rolling this priest as an alt seems to have been a very good idea.

4.1 and Call to Arms

It’s time for me to add to the growing group of voices in the blogosphere in regards to the upcoming change to the Looking for Dungeon group tool in 4.1 and the addition of the “Call to Arms” feature.  There has been a number of posts regarding this issue, and a number of different opinions about it.  From all the posts I’ve read and podcasts listened to, it seems people are pretty much split down the middle.

When the announcement first came out from Blizzard that they were adding in the “Call to Arms” feature for the LFD tool in 4.1, I have to admit I was a bit surprised that they would make such a move.  Since the tool first came out in Wrath, there have been average wait times depending on your class.  DPS players have long queues, healers are medium to short, and tanks are extremely short or instant.  People (mainly DPS – including myself) have complained about the wait times, but nobody has had any ideas of how to fix it.

Enter Call to Arms.  Basically, this feature adds an incentive for a player to queue as one of the roles that is lacking in the LFD tool at the time to help speed things up.  Lots of healers and DPS in the queue but lacking tanks?  The system will add CtA for tanks, and give that person an extra reward after a successful dungeon run.  Basically, it’s a new version of the grab bag added at the end of The Oculus from Wrath to convince people to do something.  It’s not a bribe, it’s incentive.

To break it down in a simple format, here’s what I think:

Good things about Call to Arms

  • Gives people a reason to want to tank – for example: making it a dual spec, rolling an alt.
  • Extra rewards are bind to Battle.net account, so the rewards aren’t just for that character.
  • (Hopefully) fills roles which are needed in the queue at the time, reducing wait times all around.

Bad things about Call to Arms

  • Throws money at the problem without fixing the overall issues – the tank is the expected leader of the group, whether they know the instance or not giving extra pressure.
  • Increases chances of getting tanks who aren’t ready for heroics – their item level might be high from other gear, no clue how to tank.
  • DPS will never get the extra reward – likely it will be tanks most of the time, healers rarely.
  • Encourages people to queue solo, as there are no rewards for queuing as a needed class with a group.

I personally have my second spec set up for tanking as a bear.  I tanked through Burning Crusade and Wrath, and enjoyed it.  The changes that came through in Cataclysm made things different, and I wasn’t comfortable with doing it again, but I would like to try.  4.1 has some good changes for bears, which will hopefully make keeping aggro easier for AoE groups.

Altogether, I think the Call to Arms system is a good one.  I just hope it works as Blizzard intended.

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