Daily Archives: December 21, 2017

Picking My Favorite WoW Expansion by Reputation

There is always a desire to rate and rank things, to quantify things down to a simple calculation.  Sure, you wrote a nice 2,500 review of that game, but how many stars did you give it?  What is the Meta Critic score.

And I am not immune to such things.  I can ramble on for hundreds of words about something, how I feel about it, what I liked and what bothered me, but sometimes I’d like a nice objective measure of my real reaction.

Which brings us to World of Warcraft expansions.  I had this idea rolling around in my head and then Syp moved me to action by essentially praising what I found to be one of the worst aspects of the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade.

Looking out from the Portal

I find expansions problematic in general.  They must change the game and, in doing so, alienate some segment of the game’s population.  They seek to extend the support of the fan base yet risk driving it away because every horrible feature, no matter how seemingly universally reviled, is somebody’s favorite.  So when an expansion makes something better it inevitably wrecks the game for somebody.

I’ve long said, only semi-sarcastically, that EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark was the only “good” expansion, mostly because it expanded Norrath without changing it too much.

And yet I am always at least somewhat enthusiastic for expansions, so I am even at war with myself over the idea.

Anyway, my gut ranking of WoW expansions has generally been:

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Mists of Pandaria
  4. Warlords of Draenor
  5. Cataclysm

Vanilla can’t really be ranked in that list, it is more of a baseline, and WoW Legion is still active and I am still playing it, so the jury remains out.

But I do wonder how much of an effect distance in time has on that ranking.  If it wasn’t for a peeve of mine about quests in TBC it might actually contend for first spot.  I mean, I loved the dungeons, there were plenty of them and, at the time, that was more important than a lot of other things.

So I started fishing around for a way to quantify my activities in each expansion.  Ideally I would be able to extract something like total play time or number of quests or number of dailies or number of dungeons run while each was the current live expansion.

I stopped for a bit at measuring the number of characters who hit the level cap during the expansion, that being at least theoretically being a measure of how much I enjoyed playing in an expansion, but discarded it when the list turned out like this:

  1. Warlords of Draenor – 7
  2. Mists of Pandaria- 3
  3. Cataclysm – 3
  4. Wrath of the Lich King – 2
  5. The Burning Crusade – 2

Hanging with Khadgar and Thrall in Draenor

This is more a measure of how easy it was to level up rather than an indicator of enjoyment.  Plus, WoD started the trend of giving players a level boost and ended on the pre-launch event for WoW Legion where I managed to get two character to max level.

So I fished around some more and settled upon factions.  More specifically, how may factions from a given expansion did I end up getting to exalted status?  It is a decent measure of how long I stuck with a given expansion and it is something I tend to do with a single character.

So I went over to the WoW Armory and looked at Vikund’s standings, took the total number of “main” factions and the number I managed to get to exalted and ranked the expansions based on the percentage, which looked like this:

  1. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  2. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 73%
  3. The Burning Crusade – 6 of 13 or 46%
  4. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  5. Cataclysm – 1 of 4 or 25%

Jumping into Pandaria

Of course, there are problems with that measurement.  To start with, not all expansions have the same, or even comparable, numbers of factions.  And there there is the question as to which factions should really count?  I put “main” in apologetic quotes above for a reason.  I somewhat arbitrarily decided individuals in Mists of Pandaria should not count, nor should the Sholazar Basin factions in Wrath of the Lich King.

If I add those in MoP goes to 63% and WotLK goes to 61%.  Since that keeps the ranking the same I dismissed that for the moment.

Going the other direction, I might argue that the sub-factions of Alliance Vanguard in WotLK ought not to count the same way the Sholazar Basin factions didn’t count, which would give the expansion an 86% score, putting it on top.

And then there is the question of which factions did I get to exalted in one expansion AFTER a later expansion appeared.  Things get ugly for TBC with that, since I did at least three of those factions long after the fact, and even uglier for Cataclysm, which drops to zero.

  1. Wrath of the Lich King – 8 of 11 or 86%
  2. Mists of Pandaria – 10 of 12 or 83%
  3. Warlords of Draenor – 3 of 8 or 38%
  4. The Burning Crusade – 3 of 13 or 23%
  5. Cataclysm – 0 of 4 or 0%

Valiance Keep Harbor

This is the reason I cannot rate Vanilla, I am pretty sure I only had one or two factions to exalted at the most during the reign of the original game, and maybe not even that.  The Argent Tournament in WotLK got me to exalted on most of the main alliance factions  Also, there are a those wacky factions, like the Bloodsail Buccaneers, or raid only factions, like the Brood of Nozdormu, that I was never going to crack.

And this brings in a side issue, which is the expectations set by the previous state of the game.  After Vanilla my expectations for TBC were pretty high.  They were met on the dungeon experience side of things, but were dashed by how Blizz decided questing should be handled.  And don’t get me started on ugly equipment or the introduction of some really dull daily quests.

So my expectations were more modest for WotLK.

Then came Cataclysm, the expansion I spent the least amount of time playing.  That set expectations so low that I punted on Mists of Pandaria until it had been out for a year, then found it to be a really solid expansion.  But with only 5 level boost in the level cap you could get to dailies and follow on items like playing with your farm or doing fishing quest pretty quickly.

That realization, along with the return to TBC vibe that Warlords of Draenor started with and the idea of housing, again set expectations high.  The zones were fine, the dungeons good, but garrisons sucked the life out of things, seemingly having been designed to prove a comment that Blizz made long ago about why they didn’t want housing; they pulled people out of the world into their own little domains.

To add to the list of things that this might measure, I should also consider what I got out of getting various faction standings to their current state.

In WotLK getting to exalted unlocked mounts.  Many mounts.  Likewise, mounts were a motivator in MoP.  I know that the only faction I have at exalted in Cataclysm is there because I wanted that camel mount, while in TBC the Netherwing and the Sha’tari Skyguard specifically to get their mounts.  But in Warlords of Draenor I either didn’t want mounts or they were not there.  I can’t remember.  All I really wanted was to unlock flying, and that

And over the course of all of this the game has changed, the market changed, and we have all changed.  Goofy stuff that my daughter and I used to do, like wander far afield just to find a specific pet, have been replaced with other tasks.  The instance group, with whom I ran though Vanilla, TBC, and WotLK, started to fall apart as the years went by, our lives changed, and our ability to stay up late diminished.

So I have gone from a situation where the dungeon content has been supreme in my mind to being much more interested in solo items with some touristy group things via Dungeon Finder and LFR.  That means my rankings are flawed in an even more esoteric fashion.

So TBC and WotLK were good at dungeons when that was important to me while Cataclysm was not, while MoP was very good for solo when that was important to me while WoD wasn’t quite there.  But WotLK was also very good for solo for me once the group tired, while the TBC solo content didn’t hold me very well once the group was done with dungeons.

So maybe, in my own little world, I can admit that WotLK was a good expansion and put it alongside Ruins of Kunark.

Basically, 1,500 words in, I think I have decided that I have wholeheartedly liked two MMO expansions, but I don’t expect you to agree with me.

Blaze Fleet in Deklein

Up north it has become clear that the locals have decided to get serious about the citadels we have been dropping.  Early on they were responding with modest fleets only to find themselves in trouble from time to time even against our own modest efforts.  Battleship fleets started coming with force auxiliary support, then capitals started getting dropped, and we even saw supers getting dropped on us.

You can’t really complain about that.  We’d do the same on our own home turf.  But when our scouts are out reporting on the forces being arrayed against, just standing down instead of taking the fight starts to seem like the most realistic option.  We still tend to go to see if we can at least extract some kills from the situation, but the likelihood of us winning any timers is pretty much non-existent at this point.

We had a couple of timers the other night and Asher had promised us something special.  When we got online we found that, rather than our sturdy VNIs, he had a different theme planned.  We were going out in Armageddons instead.  We could then wear our CCP Blaze SKINs for the ship.

The CCP Blaze SKIN on my ‘geddon

There had been a real push to get people to pick up the limited edition SKINs that CCP offered to honor the late CCP Blaze and raise money for his family.  Pings went out Imperium-wide encouraging people to buy the SKIN pack, while within Reavers there was an even stronger push to get people to grab them as several of the ships are in our doctrine catalog.

So Asher had a whole fleet doctrine imported and handed out ships in our staging station, trading for logi, boosters, support, and the ships of the line, the Armageddon.  I opted for the latter, mostly because I had the CCP Blaze SKIN for it, otherwise I might have considered logi.

As that got sorted out reports were coming in about what was being brought to face us.  In Fade, the Astrahus in DW-T2I had Pandemic Horde coming in Machariel battleships and capitals, while the citadel up in Deklein had a Guardians of the Galaxy coalition was also forming capitals, but were going with a Typhoon battleship doctrine instead.  The odds against us were going to be long whichever way we chose to jump.

It was already clear to many of us that this Armageddon fleet was going to be a one-way trip, but Asher put it out there on coms and asked us if we still wanted to go.  The response in fleet chat was overwhelmingly in favor of going.  So we undocked.

Leaving our station

We did not have as many CCP Blaze SKINs… or SKINs in general… as I would have hoped.  The Armageddon isn’t used very much in the null sec meta, so buying a SKIN for one isn’t much of a priority.  If cash or ISK are short, it is arguably a bit of a waste for a ship you’re unlikely to ever fly.  But there were also some comments from people who hadn’t gotten the word about the CCP Blaze SKIN deal who would have bought it if only they had known.

That is always the way of things.  No matter how much you think you’re getting the word out about something… there was a dev blog, it was in the launcher, it was highlighted in the New Eden store, it was mentioned on EVE news sites, and our own coalition was pinging about it… most people don’t pay that close of attention to their video games.  As I have been known to say, if you’re reading this you’re part of some strange minority that probably obsesses too much about games.

Still, there were some CCP Blaze SKINs present.

SKINs on display

The first thing we had to do was warp to another station as the one we chose to stage out of does not offer insurance as a service.  If we were going to go on a one-way trip opting in on the Platinum insurance plan seemed like a good idea.  That goes double for T1 battleships like the Armageddon, which gets a handsome payout relative to its cost.  Once insured we got to undock again.

Armageddons undocking again

Then it was off to the titan to see where we would be heading.  Even as we were hanging around waiting for the bridge it looked like we would be off to Deklein as the INN coverage of the Fade Astrahus timer was already showing the shoot there winding down.

Drunk Canadian and the fall of the Astrahus

As expected, we went off to Deklein to face the GotG fleet in part, as Asher noted later, because they were flying a Typhoon doctrine, something they declared dumb when we did it, but not so dumb that they didn’t copy it.  The fleet meta defies propaganda.

Bridged into Deklein we gated towards the impending fight, then turned to hang on the gate 3QE-9Q gate in E-FIC0, a system name that always makes me think of my credit score.

The gate of fate

We held there because our scout had reported the hostiles coming that way.  Soon enough they were coming through the gate and the fight was on.  Bubbles were up and and we were off to the races.

Bubbles going up around the gate

The Armageddon gets boosts to energy neutralizer range as well as drone hit points, so we were sent off to neut out targets near our name alphabetically while putting drones on one set of targets while running our rapid heavy missile launchers against another set.

That did not start out very well.  While we knocked down a few Typhoons, their logi wasn’t breaking.  And then we spent some time focusing on one of the Apostles that was nearby in the hope of getting a big kill.

A fat target in our midst

That did not meet with success and all the time we were getting whittled away.  The ECM fleet that flew up from Delve to join in with us was picked off in short order and the Armageddons began to drop one by one.  After seeing that the Apostle wasn’t going to go down we switched back to Typhoons, sending our drones after each broadcast in turn, launching fresh drones when the current ones were cleared away by smart bombs.

The Typhoons did not seem to be hitting us very hard.  I survived quite a while with a batch of them hitting me.  But once one of the 19 hostile carriers on grid sent fighters my way, the end was nigh for my Armageddon.  Fighters eat up sub-caps pretty handily.

Into structure now… I also forgot to turn my neut back on when I capped out

I went boom shortly thereafter, managing to catch my ship coming apart only to have the screen shot ruined by the insurance payout popping up during the most dramatic point.  Still, it looks pretty neat cropped down.

My Armageddon coming apart

From that point on I was floating around in my pod watching the fight.  A couple more Typhoons went down but we were rapidly approaching the point where we could no longer break their tanks.  Fleet chat filled with links to our kill mails as we died and soon logi and support were gone as the final stand ended.

A few ships managed to get away, but the battle report shows we welped and welped hard.  I was sitting back in the station in my fresh pod when I saw the bounty payment notification for Asher come in.  They saved him for later.

Bounty Paid

It isn’t a bad thing to place a bounty on your FC.  The bounty system will often tell you they’ve been blown up well before you hear it on coms so you are ready to change over to the alternate anchor or get the hell out if appropriate.

Anyway, it all went as expected.  We got stuck in, got a few kills, and then died a glorious death in our old homeland. No citadels were saved.  All that remains in the CCP Blaze tribute thread on Reddit and some screen shots of our fleet.  For the latter I have a gallery below: