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!

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.

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.

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.

Screenshot of the Week – August 6

Click for full size

My hunter just finished leveling through Nagrand again, and I can never get enough of the zone. It truly is absolutely beautiful – I could have a post full of the many different areas of it. Not only that, but after reading Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden, I can appreciate the history of Orcs that is throughout the zone.

Memorable Quests

The Cataclysm wrought huge changes to the face of Azeroth, as well as what the inhabitants are doing. For the first time in six years, the story progressed forward and we see new things that are happening across the whole world. Mankrik isn’t just wallowing in Crossroads anymore, he’s plotting his revenge at the Grol’dom Farm (and other places later on). Along with him, there’s plenty of new things to experience.

Right now I’m leveling up a new hunter, and have just recently gone through part of Badlands and got to experience one of the best quests in the game so far. It made me think of some of the best quests and quest lines through the game so far, and why I’ve enjoyed them.

Welcome To The Machine

This is a quest at the border of Silverpine Forest and Hillsbrad Foothills, where you get to do something never thought of before: become a quest giver. Rather than just moving through the quest hubs, collecting the quests and moving on, you get to see the story from the other side.

Three characters come by, and you get to see the different stereotypes of questers that are out there. It also sets the stage for part of the zone, as you get to meet up with two of the characters later on, who play a major part of questing areas.

I enjoyed this quest as it’s almost breaking the fourth wall, and gives the character an idea of what it’s like to sit around all day and hand out quests. Very entertaining, and makes you think a bit.

The Day Deathwing Came

If you’ve ever seen the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”, this is similar to it. In the show the main character is telling his kids a long story about how he eventually met their mother, and at times he tries to censor himself or what they were doing, so the story is embellished or changed. For example, in college they loved “sandwiches”, and not something else which isn’t completely legal.

This quest line is made up of three quests from three NPCs sitting around in the Badlands and saying what “happened” the day that Deathwing came through and messed things up. You get to live out each of the stories, ranging from punching Deathwing in the face to having a flying motorcycle.

Once again, it’s just very entertaining and funny seeing Blizzard’s imagination at work. I can totally see three people hanging out saying how things happened, and that it was THEIR version that was the truth.

Waptor Twapping

Looney Tunes meets World of Warcraft. Elmer Fudd has been reincarnated in the NPC Kala’ma in Northern Barrens, just north of Ratchet. He is upset that the “waptors” have stolen all his stuff, and wants you to “twap” them. All of his dialogue is along this style of Elmer Fudd or the priest from The Princess Bride.

Blizzard puts thought into even these small quests, as the action that you take is “twapping waptor”. It’s things like this that show the amount work that goes into quest design, and I sure appreciate it.

These are but three quests out of many thousand that are in the game, and were just off the top of my head.  There are many memorable ones out there, but these were ones that I thought were fun and entertaining.  Feel free to add your favourite quests in the comments.