Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Fear of Flying

In one of those “note the date, something big was said” moments, Blizzard has announced… through a proxy at least, if not via an official press release… that they likely won’t allow flying mounts in Draenor… or maybe in any future expansion.  You can read about it over at Polygon, where the fateful words came as part of an interview.  I think this sums up the justification.

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways

There is a bit of irony in that, seeing that Outland, an alternate timeline Draenor, was the first place to feature flying mounts, but Draenor will be denied them.  Flying mounts have been a thing in WoW since 2007.  But the interview goes into all the thing people tend to bring up as the downside of flying mounts.

Certainly, flying has been a contentious thing in WoW.  And Blizzard has no doubt been aware of the trade off that flying brings with it since The Burning Crusade.

Back then you only got to spend what seemed like a ton of gold on a skill and a flying mount… back when buying the mount was the expensive bit… when you hit the level cap.  At that point you got to fly and there was some content that required flying to access.

Then came Wrath of the Lich King, and there was much moaning because flying went away the moment you hit Northrend, at least until you got to level… 77? 78? not quite the level cap… at which point you could train Cold Weather Flying and move into some of the content that required a flying mount.  That was a hint at the problems to come, as once somebody has something, it is a hard task to take it away.

Cataclysm gave us flying from the first moment and pretty much proved to me that flying had its problems.  Aside from Vashj’ir, which was under water (though you could make the case that your under water mount was effectively a flying mount), you had access to your flying mounts in all of the new zones, which took much of the effort out of them.  There were a few points where you needed flying, but for the most part flying felt like a pass to flit past any opposition to get to a quest objective.  It basically sped up leveling, something I am not sure WoW really needed.

Blizzard pulled back from that with Mists of Pandaria, going back to the model of allowing flying mounts only at level cap.  There was even a bit of content that required a flying mount, though nothing like the level of content in Outland or Northrend.  But that led us back to the cycle of losing flying with the next expansion again, and Blizzard hemmed and hawed about flying in Warlords of Draenor.  There was a promise to look into flying, an assumption that we would get flying, but no concrete statement that it would be so.

And now we have the word… or perhaps it is just a trial balloon that Blizzard can deny was the official line if the rage grows too strong.

Personally, I get what is being said when it comes flying.  It does make the world feel smaller.  It does trivialize travel.  It does let players bypass all that annoying “content” to go straight their objective.  It does make an already too fast and too convenient game feel even faster and more convenient.  Exploration ceases to be a thing… there being little or no effort in exploring on a flying mount… and some types of adventures just don’t happen when you can fly.

It is just a shame that flying is so much damn fun.  Here is what I wrote back when I got my first flying mount in WoW.

Flying… it is good enough that it feels like cheating.

Yeah it does.  And I never get tired of it, especially when it comes to druid flight form.  I could easily spend an idle hour amusing myself with my druid just jumping off of tall buildings and then going into flight form as I fell.

Patience got me Flight

Druid just floating above the world…

Once you have a druid with flight form, even flying mounts feel a bit awkward.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

I love when I can fly and the flight form hasn’t drawn yet…

And, like any really good, empowering cheat, it is very tough to let go once you have used it once.  I never think, “Oh, I should just ride or walk, flying is too easy.”  I just fly.  It would take a serious effort of will to walk or ride when flying was available.

So I can see why people are upset at the even the suggestion that we might not get to swan about on flying mounts everywhere in Azeroth.  We’ve all had that bit of heroin in our veins by now, and it is a tough habit to break.

But I also can’t help but see something of a parallel between how a few people are responding to this and how some botters responded to their bans recently; petulance and declarations and speaking for the community as a whole along with threats to never give Blizzards another nickel.  The usual stuff.

I just can’t get all that worked up about it myself.  If I could press a button and turn on flying in Draenor, I probably would.  But I also have a bit of a fatalistic outlook when it comes to video games.  I try to look at things like this as obstacles to conquer as opposed to things that I should spend much time pouting/raging about.

And, coming of age with video games when I did, I also seem to give developers a lot of leeway in shaping their game to be played the way they want it to be played, as opposed to the way the players think it should be played.  That is one of the great philosophical questions of our age, the relative importance of developer vision versus player desire, and one that gets deftly avoided time and again when people, including myself, write about games.

That doesn’t mean I don’t bitch and moan about some decisions, or count the cost of a particular change… that’s great fun at times… or occasionally think I am smarter than the devs on a given issue, but you’ll note that I mostly focus on the games I keep playing anyway.  It is more a matter of my wanting to talk about games than any desire to impose my will.  Just last week I took the time to note that the harsh death penalty of TorilMUD was being relaxed.  I had suffered from that harsh penalty more than a few times in the past, but always considered it to be part of the game and altered my play style to accommodate it.  Now that has changed, and likely the game itself will change because of it… though given the low population of TorilMUD these days the range of the impact likely won’t be great.

Anyway, there is a mob howling about flying.  I won’t be upset if Blizzard holds to their current vision for flying mounts.  I think Blizzard has some legitimate points, ones that have been brought up time and again.  But if the heat is too much for Blizzard and they decide that putting the toothpaste back in the tube is beyond their means, I’ll be riding around in the air on my flying mount like everybody else.

Other bloggers looking at the whole flying mount thing:

 

WoW Subscriptions Drop to 7 Million on Purpose

Last week the Activision-Blizzard earnings announcement indicated that World of Warcraft had dropped from over 10 million subscribers, a position held from November 2014 through at least the end of the year, to 7.1 million subscribers, putting its player base back down to where it stood during the 13 month Pandaria content drought.

Blizzard's slide from the deck

Blizzard’s slide from the deck

That is a tough drop to explain away as “expected and consistent” so soon after Warlords of Draenor and given past history.  The much reviled Cataclysm expansion bottomed out at 9.1 million, while Mists of Pandaria took at least 18 months to hit low ebb at 6.8 million subscribers.  (MMO Champion has a nice chart showing this.) Their might be a seed of something in SynCaine’s hyperbole.

So it seemed like an odd moment for Blizzard to turn around and ban more than 100,000 accounts, unless it was an attempt to get all the bad news in at once.  Only, the bans won’t be reflected in the subscription numbers until the next quarterly report, so that doesn’t really fly.

The first I noticed that something might be up was yesterday morning on Twitter when, in amongst the widespread moaning about the Jem and the Holograms trailer I saw a tweet (since deleted) from somebody enraged that Blizzard had banned a friend’s WoW account for NO REASON.

And then, as the day wore on, we found out that there was likely a reason after all.  The official Blizzard announcement was:

We’ve recently taken action against a large number of World of Warcraft accounts that were found to be using third-party programs that automate gameplay, known as “bots.” We’re committed to providing an equal and fair playing field for everyone in World of Warcraft, and will continue to take action against those found in violation of our Terms of Use. Cheating of any form will not be tolerated.

Blizzard is serious about this sort of thing.  It is ingrained in their corporate culture, forged by their experiences with the original StarCraft, which practically became the national sport in South Korea, that cheats are bad and a threat to their long-term success.  And so they are very aggressive in seeking out any hacks, cheats, or exploits, and have been since day one of WoW. Blizzard’s Warden software has been around a long time.

Of course, there are a lot of “but I was only…” sorts of defense comments out there from the banned.  There is a fine collection of them over at the bottom of the latest post over at The Nosy Gamer, who covers botting and RMT topics regularly.

But we all know it was cheating, both those making the lame rationalizations and those of us reading them.  I ran a poll about six years back where I listed out a bunch of behaviors and let people choose what they felt was cheating.  The results stratified into three groups, with the “we all know they’re cheating” items at the top, the uncomfortable ones in the middle, and the pet peeves at the bottom.  And botting, automation of complex tasks, was right there at the top of the list.

But even if we were going to rationalize and try and kid ourselves that maybe botting some things isn’t so bad, that boring game play somehow legitimizes it, or run off and try to whitewash gold farming to frame it as a good thing, it doesn’t really matter because, as I said above, Blizzard’s corporate culture cannot see it as something besides a bad thing that must be fought.

I used to think the term “corporate culture” was a bullshit phrase.  But that was more because describing corporate culture to somebody is often like trying to describe water to a fish.  It is just there, all pervasive, yet just part of the environment, just the way things are.  Even if you change jobs, moving to another company, it can be hard to really see the full embrace of the culture.  One person just assimilates and learns how things are done.  To really see corporate culture you have to go through a merger or an acquisition and see two different cultures clash.  That is one point when you can really identify what the culture is, when it appears in sharp relief.

At my last company we went through a series of such moves over the course of a decade, and I went from my opinion about corporate culture being bullshit to wondering how some companies survive given how immutable corporate culture can be.  Culture is like a tangible substance.  It can be like mold in your attic, where sometimes it is just easier to tear the house down and start over.

At one point we were acquired by a hardware company that desperately wanted to be a software company.  We went from just shipping a disk or a download to a long and convoluted certification and sales process that looked remarkably like what you would do to sell hardware.  I had a 200-page guide covering everything we needed to do to move software from “we’re done, ship it!” to the point when sales could sell it.  And we couldn’t do a thing about it because they bought us, so their culture “won,” so we had to be a software company that worked like a hardware company, right down to refusing just to sell software unless we installed it on the hardware on which it would run before it left our building.

That quickly strangled sales, until we were acquired again.  This time though it was by a company that was a spin off from the phone company, with all the baggage that implies to anybody who has ever worked for/with any of the one-time Baby Bells.  For somebody from Silicon Valley with a background in start ups, it was almost literally like living in a Dilbert cartoon.

So when I see a company like Nintendo clinging to a hardware based business philosophy while pundits shout that they need to get into selling software, I know what I am seeing is corporate culture… or maybe corporate identity is a better term… at play.  Yes, they have recently made some minor moves in the direction of software only business, but for all they have said, it still strikes me as something to appease stock holders rather than a serious effort to change how the company works.  They still see themselves as a hardware company, measure their success by the number of Wii U or 3DS units sold, and see software as a way to move hardware rather than a revenue stream unto itself.  We’re not going to see core Pokemon RPG games or Mario Kart on iOS or Android.  It will take a near-extinction level event to get there, and while the Wii U has been a serious disappointment, that has been off-set by very healthy 3DS sales, which no doubt reinfoces the idea inside Nintendo that the problem with the Wii U was one of execution and not a call to change business models.

All of which is a very round-about way for me to say that it comes as absolutely no surprise to me at all that Blizzard chose to ban more than 100,000 accounts (and remove the corresponding revenue) right on the heels of announcing that they were down nearly 30% when it came to subscriptions.  Corporate culture will dictate.

Draenor Tourism Season is Over, WoW Back Down to 7.1 Million Subscribers

Blizzard Entertainment had the largest Q1 online player community in its history, up a double digit percentage year over year despite no major launches in the quarter. As expected and consistent with our experience following prior expansions, we saw a decline in the World of Warcraft subscriber number. Subscribers ended the quarter at 7.1 million. World of Warcraft’s revenue performance at constant FX has been more stable, driven by continued strong uptake on value added services, and price increases in select regions, which partially offset subscriber declines, particularly in the East. World of Warcraft remains the No.1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world.

Activision-Blizzard Earnings Report for Q1 2015

The East is always letting World of Warcraft down.  What is it they want over there?

Well, we knew subscriptions would go up when Warlords of Draenor shipped, though perhaps how early the number went up was a bit of a surprise.  And it lasted through the end of 2014 as expected.  The real question was how long the bad guys in Draenor could hold the 10 million subscriber number.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

How can you leave these guys?

The answer is, apparently, less than six months.

Not that 7.1 million subscribers is anything to balk at.  That is still a player base any four current MMOs could divide amongst themselves and each feel like a huge success.  (And that same subscriber drop would kill any competitor.)  But this is World of Warcraft and forever will that “more than 12 million” number dominate its destiny.

Of course, the money is still coming in hand over fist, though the strong dollar looks like it will be an issue.

Given the weakening of foreign currencies versus the U.S. dollar, the company’s 2015 international revenues and earnings are expected to be translated at lower rates than in 2014. This impacts the company’s 2015 outlook as compared to 2014 actual results given approximately 50% of the company’s revenues, and a higher percentage of profits, are generated outside the U.S.

So you have to have to wonder if the game will continue its “expansion about every two years” trajectory as subscribers bleed off during the between times.  I won’t even say “the dead period” as there still seems to be a lot to do and more is coming up.  But for some people, the leveling game is all she wrote, and those were a quick ten levels.

The report mentioned other irons that Blizzard has in the fire.

Blizzard's slide from the deck

Blizzard’s slide from the deck

There was also a bit in there specifically about the WoW Token being launched.  Though that might keep some gold-rich subscribers in the game longer, it isn’t any sort of revenue machine like the base subscription.

So are we going to see an expansion sooner this time around?  Or will there just be more content released before the next box shows up?

Building a Pet Battle Army of Extraordinary Magnitude

When I first started on pet battles, I was way behind.  The whole thing came in as part of the Mists of Pandaria expansion and, having skipped out of the game when Cataclysm was still a thing and only returned when Mists of Pandaria was nearly a year old, it felt like there was a lot of catching up to do.

Not that “behind” really means much.  Pet Battles, like so much of WoW, can be viewed as a primarily solo activity.  That others have already “done all the things” doesn’t mean that you cannot go do them or that they are in some way diminished.  It just means that you still have to travel a road that others might have already gone down.  Sometimes that isn’t a bad thing, as they will leave notes behind to help you out.

It was more a matter of coming back to WoW and there being so much to do.  When the instance group finally all got back on the first thing on the agenda was to finish up Wrath of the Lich King.  After that there was Cataclysm and then, finally, we got into Mists of Pandaria.  During that time I did not do much about Pet Battles.  I caught a few pets now and again, but for the most part I was in zones with level 20-25 pets, while my own collection was mostly in the level 1-8 range.

Eventually I did get a pet to level 25.  And then three.  Grunty, the pet from BlizzCon 2009 was one of my first to level cap.

BlizzCon Exclusive Gift

BlizzCon Exclusive Gift

He remains one of my favorites, always in the rotation if I am facing beast type pets.  After him there were other, like the Terrible Turnip, until I had a few choices for a max level party.

Of course, having a few choices tends to highlight the holes in your lineup.  Such is the rock-paper-scissors of Pokemon Pet Battles, where having three level 25s can be a long way from having the RIGHT three for a given battle.  After unlocking the Menagerie in my first garrison, it was a struggle to defeat Gorefu, Gnawface, and Carrotus Maximus in order to unlock the next upgrade.

It was one of those things where I went to look up the fights, having failed badly, only to find that I did not have any of the suggested pets for these battles.  I found substitutes and managed to scrape by, defeating Gorefu mostly on luck rather than having the right counters.

I persisted, working on leveling up additional pets.  I picked up a couple of the addons suggested by people and had a plan to get the pets I wanted to level 25.

PetBattle Teams on the right side...

PetBattle Teams on the right side…

I still struggle a bit getting pets to level 6 or so.  No system in place for that yet.  But once they are 6 or so, there is the aquatic battles in Pandaria in order to get them to 15 and then they can be swapped into my daily pet master battles in Draenor. I even leveled up one of my characters in Draenor pretty much via Pet Battle experience.

As my collection has grown, so has my list of pre-set teams.  The first time I struggled with the Menagerie unlock battles.  Now I have a pre-set group for all three that will do them in no problem.  I am good against the Darkmoon Faire battles now, and have been creating groups to counter the daily battles that come up in the Menagerie.

Countering this all magic pet group

Countering this all magic pet group

And when I go look things up now, I sometimes even have the pets suggested for the given battle, or at least a close enough substitute.  (Though one of my minor gripes is how many pets share the same model and same attacks and simply have a different name.  While I like my three cockroach threat team, I am not sure the cockroach, the fire-proof roach, and the tainted cockroach are all that different.  Basically there are 10 sets of roaches that share everything except a name.)

Still, it came as a surprise to me the other night when yet another pet hit level 25 and I got an achievement.

ProPetMobAchiThat is the achievement you get for having 75 pets at level 25.  Of course, the reward is another pet to level up.  On getting that I checked my stats over at Warcraft Pets and found I was just a couple shy of 400 unique pets total.  I took my level 90 druid, who I still haven’t pushed into Draenor yet, and had him start hunting for new pets in Pandaria.  That is probably the one expansion I have the least pets from.  And soon, I had another achievement.

LotofPetFoodAchiThat is what you get when you collect 400 unique pets… well, that and another pet.

Suddenly I seem to have more options.

Pet stats as of May 4, 2015

Pet stats as of May 4, 2015

While I continue to build up my collection, I want to start looking into the Mists of Pandaria options when it comes to Pet Battles, which leads up to the Celestial Tournament.  And, of course, there is a collection to obsess about round out.  There are currently 724 pets, so I am just past half way towards catching them all… or whatever.  Still plenty of pet battling to be done.

April in Review

The Site

I have nothing new to gripe about when it comes to WordPress.com, so I will just repeat that I really, really hate the new post editor and it is going to be very painful to transition once they drop support for the “classic” version.  I hope they at least fix the bit that crashes my browser when I try to use it.

So, with that out of the way, I want to ask a philosophical question about post categories.  As you can see on the side bar over on the right, there is a drop down that lists out the larger categories that I write about here.  Those are general areas, usual a game or a company or a specific group, while I use tags for specific items, like a dungeon or expansion associated with a specific game.

My question is, what should I do about SOE and Daybreak?

Daybreak... wait, no!

Daybreak… wait, no!

I have a category for Sony Online Entertainment, which I use for topics that involve the company itself rather than just a specific game.  When they were bought out by Columbus Nova Prospekt and changed their name to Daybreak Game Company, I made a new category for that.

It follows you as you move about the room!

Here’s the right one…

But now I wonder if that was the right move?  Should I have kept continuity, and the load of history with the SOE category, and just changed it to Daybreak?  Or should I have just kept on with SOE, because a Limburger cheese by any other name smells the same?  Or do I stick with two, and use them both when referring to something that applies to both or refers to the history that comes with SOE, eventually using only Daybreak as the company starts using its new logo and domain name to form its own identity?

I will cut you

Angry CONCORD guy comes to life!

When is it no longer relevant to refer to SOE and the history that brings?

Or am I, as usual, over thinking this?  (Hat tip to Feldon for spotting the logo thing.)

One Year Ago

Spacewar! for the PDP-1 was up via emulation on the internet archive.

The Elder Scrolls Online launched, hitting its planned April 4th date.  I did not play.

I was diving in to Pokemon X & Y, having returned to Pokemon at last.

The strategy group played a game of Civilization V that ended with a win via nuclear terror.

The Kickstarter campaign for the book A History of the Great Empires of EVE Online kicked off.  But Pantheon: Rise of the Something was spluttering along after failing its Kickstarter campaign.

In EVE Online proper there was Burn Jita 3, which seemed like less of a thing the third time out.  There was a video.  Then there was the CSM9 vote.  At least there were only 36 candidates on the ballot.

In null sec we were shooting Black Legion things, because that is what we do in the CFC.  I was just happy to be using lasers.  those skills having been trained up amongst my 120 million skill points.  There were also some posts about being space famous and an attempt at in-game blackmail.

But on the broader CCP front, World of Darkness was officially cancelled.

On the iPad I was playing Hearthstone and QuizUp… for about a week.

Turbine announced that Beornings were coming to Lord of the Rings Online.

SOE gave me a key for seven days of Landmark, so I went and tried it out.  SOE also announced H1Z1 and began their current love affair with Reddit and got their new All Access plan running.  While on the old school front, Dave Georgeson said SOE never plans to shut down EverQuest.

Warlords of Draenor was still a long ways away.  But Blizzard was doing well on other fronts.  The instance group finished up Zul’gurub.  And there was the usual April Fools stuff.

Five Years Ago

Video games as art?  Did we flay Roger Ebert enough over that?

Turbine was purchased by Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.  No word on a Harry Potter MMO as yet, though we did get LEGO Harry Potter.

Crimson Leaf Games brought out their rework of Megawars III / Stellar Emperor.  1986 style online game play at a much cheaper price.

SOE announced a new subscription plan for EQII, the EQII Passport.  Framed by at least one person as “1/3 the price for 1/10 the access” it surely must have been the right plan for somebody.

And speaking of paying for games, I wondered where Facebook credits were headed.  They seemed like a bad deal for games relative to paying companies like Zynga directly.  Despite speculation that they would be the ONLY currency allowed on Facebook, that has still not to come to pass.

And while talking about Facebook games, I couldn’t bring myself to play Mafia Wars, so I secured a deposition about the game from a friend.

In EVE Online somebody was trying to blackmail Gaff’s corp.  This was an out of game threat though.

Blizzard introduced the Celestial Steed (aka the sparkle pony or the greed steed) to the Blizzard Store.  Blog reactions were mixed, but the queue to buy the mount on day one got 140,000 transactions deep.  That is a lot of horsies, which meant they were everywhere in the game pretty soon.  The Lil’ XT companion pet that was introduced at the same time also made its own mark on the world… until Blizzard toned it down.

The instance group was in WoW still, playing horde characters on the Lightninghoof RP-PvP server.  We we working on Dire Maul, attempting a successful tribute run after having run around Blackrock Depths.

Since the instance group was getting close to finishing up the classic WoW dungeon and wondering if we should press through the Burning Crusade content (as short as it passes), we started exploring other games as possible alternatives.  This lead us to try out Runes of Magic for a bit.

There was April Fool’s.  I had a contest while Blizzard went over the top, as usual.

And, finally, the cruelest 2010 April Fool’s tease, the iPad arcade stand.  On the bright side, while it started as a tease, it ended up becoming a real thing.

New Linking Sites

The following blogs have linked this site in their blogrolls, for which they have my thanks.

Please take a moment to visit them in return.

Most Viewed Posts in April

  1. April Fools at Blizzard – 2015
  2. Reavers Represent
  3. Progression Server Progress in EverQuest
  4. CCP Copies Blizzard’s WoW Token Idea
  5. Considering Star Wars Galaxies Emulation? Better Grab a Disk!
  6. The Mighty Insta-90 Question – Which Class to Boost?
  7. Complaining About Small Things in WoW… Yet Again
  8. Running Civilization II on Windows 7 64-bit
  9. Daybreak and Forums and Reddit
  10. LOTRO – The War of the Ring as an Eight Year Long Quagmire
  11. The Fall of ZXB-VC and the End of Dominion
  12. Hail The Imperium! Amarr Victor!

Search Terms of the Month

lotro all that is beoring
[Yeah, beoring… that was what you meant]

overpowered by my wife likelike
[I bet you likelike!]

best way to powerlevel in everquest
[Buy a level 85 character]

merry karanas png porn
[Things in the Karanas have never been that merry]

eve do cnr need tp
[I even keep an extra roll on hand]

soe taking over?
[SOE is dead, man]

EVE Online

The annual purging of Delve seems to be about complete, our foes have fled before us, and what remains of N3 is a wreck.  Even the Reavers have been taking sovereignty from them, while the local renters have started paying us tribute to leave them alone, that “shame renters into defending the space they pay for” plan having not worked out.  The CFC changed its name to The Imperium and has pretty much “won” the Dominion sovereignty version of the game.  Not bad for April.

World of Warcraft

Sometimes I think I play a different version of this game than some other bloggers.  Or maybe I just don’t play as much or I have too many alts or too many garrisons or whatever.  But I keep logging on and seeing how much I have left to do/see/explore and then I compare this to people who are “done” with the expansion and already complaining about needing new content.  Maybe I am slowing down in my old age.

Coming Up

It looks like we might be set for another round of the New Blogger Initiative.  It is set to start… soon.

In WoW the instance group is on the road to 100.  I’ve been letting down the team by not showing up lately, but at least we’re in the gap between new dungeon content.  Still, it would be nice to get there before the inevitable summer hiatus kicks in and the group is pretty much done until autumn.  So I expect May will focus on that.

There will be things to do in EVE Online… I have a lot of crap to move out of Fountain to start with… but otherwise my space tribe is sort of in a holding pattern until June and the Fozzie-Sov comedy/chaos event.  Also, if I am using the term “space tribe,” which comes straight from the mouth of The Mittani, I have clearly been assimilated.  All hail The Imperium!

I will play a new game in May… because I really only played WoW and EVE in April… and likely write about it as well.  If you’re friends with me on Steam, you might have seen it added to my list and have been asking yourself, “WTF?”  There is a comedic opportunity reason behind this.  We’ll see how this plays out.

And, finally, I am going to start working on getting official Daybreak endorsement for my FreeRealms emulation project, because they seem to be into that sort of thing at the moment.

Another Rush to Draenor

After our runs through Skyreach the previous week we were, as a group, off the leash and headed to level 100 in order to get access to the final four normal mode dungeons in Draenor.  And once I turned Tistann’s experience back on and started using him for pet battle dailies along with catching up with some of the quests in Spires of Arak, I found his levels quickly mounting.  He is already into 99 with what does not feel like all that much effort.

So I decided to slow him down a bit.  I didn’t want to be first to 100 necessarily, and what would the point be getting there when others in the group are still working on hitting 98.

It was time to bring out another character.

I guess I could have worked on all of the garrison related quests and building related things, but I do like the leveling game in WoW and always seem to have a character somewhere I am working on.  So it was more a question of which one I should return to this time around.  I have been spending some time now and again with my Orc hunter.  But, in looking down the list, I decided to go with my other druid on Eldre’Thalas.

For reasons unclear to even me I ended up with two night elf druids on the same server.  They used to even have the same spec and professions.  The second druid, Selirus (one of those name generator names that I took before ever trying to pronounce aloud) was actually the senior of the two, but somewhere fell by the wayside as Alioto moved ahead.

While Alioto sits at level 100, Sel was just level 83, somewhere in the Cataclysm content, close enough to Draenor that I could get that sixth garrison soon enough, but still with some work to do.  His gear was a bit of a mess, having tried to be both feral and resto by turns, so the first thing I did was decide to go with healing and concentrate on just that.  If nothing else, when he catches up with the rest of the group, that would give us a secondary healer option so Skronk isn’t always “it” for instances.

Fortunately, after splurging on heirloom gear over the years, I had a selection of items for him to wear for his role.

Restoration Druid Heirlooms

Restoration Druid Heirlooms

That would keep me outfitted until 90, when the Draenor gravy train of gear would take over.  With crafted items, mission and quest rewards, and things that pop up as drops, I have yet to miss heirlooms past level 90.

Leveling as a healer means either slogging through quest content in a spec that doesn’t do much damage or doing random dungeons.  And what better way to get back up to speed on druid healing than jumping into the mixed bad that is Dungeon Finder groups!

I downloaded the Healium addon, threw some healing skills on my bar (I nearly found them all!), and queued up to see how bad it could be.

The first group was rough.  They were in Stonecore and their healer had just dumped the group after the second boss for reasons that became very clear very quickly.  As a whole, the tank and the DPS seemed to be operating on the “everybody pull a mob and tank it, the healer will sort it out” philosophy of instance running.  Also, run run run and grab the next mobs even when the healer is trying to ress after the last batch.

There were deaths.  But there were no wipes on my watch.  I quickly went back to my baseline of putting lifebloom on the tank and keeping him alive, then me, and then any DPS way out in distant third position.  We managed to make it through and finish up, and I felt no compunction about hitting need on drops from the final boss.

After that though, I hit a good streak.  I ran with four groups all of whom seemed t have their act together, including one team in Grim Batol that was so in tune that we had what must have been the most efficient run ever.  Everybody knew the instance and nobody stood in the fire.

Having a full blue bar, a pile of heirlooms, being able to do the quests with each of the instances, and getting the bonus experience from doing randoms, I saw my levels mount quickly.  After Grim Batol Selirus popped to level 86 and was out of Cataclysm and into Mists of Pandaria.

I was wondering how that was going to work out.  I thought at one point you actually had to hit the right quest line to be able to open up dungeons in Pandaria… or at least get onto the ground in the expansions.  But from my perch in Stormwind I was able to queue up and quickly found myself in Stormstout Brewery.

The brewery awaits

The monkeys awaits

The first run in Pandaria was a good one, with only one death when our rogue ran ahead.

My final instance of the evening wasn’t so smooth.  I was dropped into a group at the start of the Temple of the Jade serpent, which is an easy enough instance.  We did it as a four player group at level back in the day.  And things were about 80% fine.  As a healer, I just happened to have one problem child, a dwarf paladin would just had to stand in the gunk like he had a death wish.  Up to and back from the first boss, there is just one simple rule, don’t stand in the water or you will die.

He wasn’t obnoxious or rude or anything, he just wouldn’t listen to my suggestions that he not stand in stuff and that he pay attention to his health bar.  He never said a word and eventually I just stopped healing him simply to get his inevitable death out of the way quickly.  Checking the Recount numbers, nobody else was healing him, nor did he use his lay hands ability or anything.  I didn’t feel bad about that, though in hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have stopped ressing him, instead telling him to release and then shouting “Run, fatboy, run!” to encourage him to catch up on his own.

Alright, I didn’t shout that, but I did leaving the resses to his guild mate who was also in the group.  If only he could have explained how to not stand in things while casting.

Anyway, everything aside from my little death eating pally pal was fine on that run, as it tends to be on most Dungeon Finder runs in my experience.  Out of six runs in one evening, four were good to excellent, and the other two were only slightly annoying.  But the negatives hang in your mind, so I can barely recall anything from a couple of the good runs while I am sure I will remember that pally for a long time to come.

All of which left me on the edge of hitting 87.  At that point I did the intro quests for Pandaria so that I would at least have access to the continent via the portal in Stormwind.  At this rate Selirus will be in Draenor and I will have that sixth garrison to tend this weekend.

Complaining About Small Things in WoW… Yet Again

The time has come to once again gripe about a few small issues that are bugging me in World of Warcraft and see if people commiserate or call me crazy.

Tabbing Out

At some point when I wasn’t paying attention, Blizzard decided that if you are playing full screen and you tab out of the game, well, fuck you.  Auctioneer stops getting data from the auction house, pet battles patiently wait for my return, and redraws stop happening so I have to go through a loading screen when I tab back in.

It wasn’t always this way, was it?  I mean, I remember, at one time, being able to tab out of WoW and not having my auction house scan just sit on the same page the whole time.  Tabbing out is so ingrained in me that I am sure it must have worked fine at some point.

And I get the whole not using system resources when you don’t have focus thing, but this seems like it has gone too far.  My of my processor cycles to go the idle task anyway, feel free to waste some.  They aren’t roll-over cycles.  I can never get them back.

Losing That Highlighted Feeling

All your bags open up when you access a vendor.  They all close again when you close the vendor window.  Big deal, right?  Been that way for half of forever.

And it was fine… until Warlords of Draenor.  And then Blizz introduced that thing where it highlights new items in your bag.  Cool feature.

So now you hit the vendor, bags open, you buy something, it is there highlighted in your bags, but you can’t click on it or anything lest you sell it back, so you close the vendor window, and your bags close.  Then you open them up again to find your new thing and… the highlight is gone, because it only lasts though one bag open cycle.  After that, it is old business and hidden in amongst all your junk.  And since Blizzard is still using the same 27 icons from 2004 for everything, sometimes finding you new purchase can be a chore.

There is a work-around.  If you open your bags before you hit the vendor, they don’t close, so you don’t lose the highlight.  But I forget to do that about half the time.  So I feel like that first pass with the vendor shouldn’t count for the purpose of turning off the highlight.

Carnie Dialog in Darkmoon Faire

When running through Darkmoon Faire… and I run through it with a dozen characters every month… I am done seeing this.

Yeah, yeah, get back to work already

Yeah, yeah, get back to work already

When does every carnie have to put up a dialog?  At what point did somebody say, “Hey, I know what people wanr!  More windows to close while playing!”  I play with sound on, if they have something to say to me they can mumble it out like the other NPCs.

I know there is a sweet spot for doing the carnie quest, a distance from them that is far enough not to trigger the dialog box yet still close enough to bandage them.  But I get too close at least half the time still, so I’d rather Blizz just turn this off so I don’t have to see it come up a couple dozen times a month.

Parental Controls on the iPad

I have complained specifically about aspects of Blizzard’s parental controls before.  But even with my gripes, their parental controls are the best I have seen in any online game.  In fact, in my experience, such controls are almost non-existent in online games, especially in kids games.  I remember LEGO Universe touting their parental controls, which were pretty much useless, while Club Penguin parental controls were a joke last time I looked.

So Blizzard’s parent controls work out pretty well for me… as long as I am at the computer.

But there I am, sitting on the couch, watching a movie and my daughter asks for a little more WoW time.  I reach over for my trusty brain extension… erm… iPad, always close to hand so as to be able to look up actors or whatever, and then stop.

That won’t work.

You cannot (or at least I cannot) use the Blizzard parental controls UI with a touchy-feely tablet interface.  I have to get up off the couch and wander back to my office, log into Battle.net, and change the time there if I wish to grant my daughter this boon.

Blizzard, stop making me get up and move about!

Also, setup parental controls for your other games already.  You have a decent template.

EVE Online Problems

So, a while back, WoW got update 6.1 and EVE Online got the Scylla expansion, and now they do not play well together.

This is important to me because EVE Online is often a game where it is good to have another game to play in the background.  For all you fans of the old days of EQ, downtime and waiting and all that are still very much alive in space.  So for quite a stretch I was doing pet battles in WoW while waiting for things to happen in EVE.

But when I do that, tabbing in and out, WoW is horribly choppy, to the point of being nearly unplayable.  Pet battles are manageable, but if I have to actually travel to get to one, things become painful.

I suspect that CCP is the main culprit here.  EVE certainly doesn’t stop using resources when you tab out!  But WoW is doing something odd as well.  Having either game running seems to kill performance with Paint.net.  And I have had my own odd problems with WoW in the past, like that stretch of time where the game would crash whenever I was in Dalaran.

Of course, it could be that I need a video card upgrade as well.  Having had to go back to my five year old nVidia GTS450, a modest card back when I bought it, after the big power supply blow up last November, I am certainly nowhere near the leading edge on the GPU front.  At some point I am going to have to find some money and buy an upgrade.  Maybe if I can find a GTX 960 on sale.

Anyway, those are my current top five annoyances with WoW at the moment.  What is bugging you?  Are you feeling any of these?