I Would Like Flying Back, BTW

One thing I never mentioned in the last post.

I said I’m okay with their decision not to bring back flying in this or future expansions. I never said I LIKE that decision.

I can live with it. There’s a big difference.

It’s not a deal breaker for me, I’m not going to unsub based on flight at this point, so long as there remains these alternate fast travel and gliding modes available on cooldowns. Remove any way of bypassing things when it’s an emergency or time is very short or you’re focused on a goal and it’s a different situation. As things are in the game right now, I can adapt to it and live with it and not get overly cranky.

One thing that bothers me about the decision though is that I really don’t understand or agree with part of the argument as to WHY to remove flying.

Oh, I get that while players are leveling it is a quest design nightmare to have flying in the game. If your goals are to have the characters spend a lot of time traveling from place to place, making their way through dense populations of enemies and encouraging them to interact with all the nooks and crannies of your world as they level so it feels like a real place, you don’t want them able to fly.

What does flying get you? Drop down on golden exclamation point, get quest, fly up, travel to objective, drop down, kill target. Fly up, return and turn in quest.

No, I can totally see why they don’t want you to fly while questing.

From MMO Champion;

During Patch 6.2’s development, we continued to discuss how flight would fundamentally change the way players experience all of Draenor’s ground-based content, and carefully weighed that against the benefits flying would bring to the game. Ultimately, after much deliberation, we came to the conclusion that the world of Draenor would simply no longer provide the experience we envisioned it if we were to reintroduce flight in this expansion.

But I don’t understand from that how you make the leap to not allowing flying once the characters reach max level, or at the WORST once the expansion content is irrelevant and a new expansion with new rules and locations is released.

For several expansions now we’ve grown used to having flying gated.

It’s been very common, even expected to have no flying until reaching max level. Indeed, we’ev even grown to expect that once a new expansion comes out, the previous flying requirement gets dropped down from the previous max level to the level needed to enter the old content, making it more convenient to level new characters/alts.

What I haven’t seen Blizzard do is answer what has changed in that system that makes all flying banned?

If it’s a question of wanting brand new players to the game have the same experience existing players had, I’m sorry, I’m not seeing WoW being a game that will experience a massive influx of new players. It’s a bit… dated. I love it dearly, but it’s not the fresh new thing that makes all the kids bells ring.

All the comments I’ve seen from Blizzard developers address the leveling process. Nobody is debating that. What I don’t understand and where I see most of the upset is that they’re saying no flying at all, ever, in Draenor or future expansions, and no reason given that answers the question why?

Why no flying ever? Not why no flying during leveling, why NEVER.

Answer that with a reasoned, logical argument and I think a lot of us, myself included, would feel a bit better.

Draenor is a No Flying Zone and Expansion Story Woes

A couple of things popped up today that has me excited to chat about WoW.

Blizzard has sorta kinda pretty much confirmed that we ain’t gonna be flying in Draenor, and probably not in any future expansions either.

On top of that, Anne Stickney wrote a simply fabulous and eloquent article on her impressions of the story of Warlords of Draenor and our place in it.

Draenor as a No Fly Zone.

I’m on record here from the earliest days of the Blizzcon expansion, crying like Blizzard knocked my ice cream cone to the floor and laughed a harsh, rasping nasal laugh in my face. IN MY FACE.

Cause I love to fly in World of Warcraft.

From the first moment flying in the game was introduced, I have loved the sensation of soaring over the lush, beautiful scenery. It’s been very tactile, very fulfilling to glide and swoop. Druid bird form in particular is marvelous, but all flight in the game has felt emotionally rewarding.

So no flight in WoD? Yep, whined and bitched and pissed and moaned about it.

Do I miss it?

Yes. But not so much that I can’t pop back into the old world and soar when I really want to.

Functionally, I’m fine with no flying in Draenor.

Because there IS still flying in Draenor, damnit. There are plenty of tools that let you fly high in the sky and glide for very long distances. Avianna’s Feather, Goblin Gliders, Gorgrond hovering shredders, Engineering rockets and rocket propelled jet packs and all sorts of stuff.

There are places in many zones where you can get extremely high up and then use a glider to get all over the place.

What you don’t have is flight at will for as long as you want, everywhere, all the time.

You’ve got cooldowns on use. You’ve got charges on some methods. You’ve got limited duration when activated.

You’ve got to choose when and where you want to grab some sky. You’ve got to save it for when it’s important to you, or it won’t be there when you need it.

You’ve got to use judgment. You’ve got to make decisions.

I really like that. It adds a new feeling of depth to the world. There are choices to be made about travel, and if I want to take the mole machine from outside my Garrison walls (obtained from one of the Garrison quests) straight to my outpost in Gorgrond, then seconds later activate Avianna’s Feather, soar into the sky and fly directly to the entrance to Blackrock Foundry, I can. Transit time is measured in seconds from my Garrison to raid entrance.

It’s not exactly slow.

But I can’t just roam overhead in circles, looking for dots on my minimap, swoop in, grab an ore node, and swoop away so fast and so unthinking that I didn’t even notice someone was fighting a mob in front of the node until they /whisper me in deserved outrage.

Is it more inconvenient that I can’t fly? Does it make former simple chores in other expansions like farming crafting mats, visiting a circuit of pet battle trainers, or hunting pets and rare mobs more difficult and time consuming?

Absolutely. And I’m okay with that. It’s a trade off. It’s more of a pain in the ass to do those things, but at the same time, if I really want to do them, ain’t nothing stopping me. It just takes more effort on my part. More commitment.

If I don’t care enough to make the effort, I guess there are better things I could be doing with my time.

It does encourage me to isolate more in my Garrison. I don’t spend as much time in the world as I used to in other expansions, because except for special goals most of my daily wants can be met at home. But that’s another issue.

So AS LONG AS Blizzard continues to allow different options for fast travel, gives us many choices for flight so flight does still exist in some form but feels special when we use it, I’m fine with it going forward.

The brilliance of Anne Stickney. This needs to be addressed.

She made many points about how the game this expansion feels to her.

I honestly agree with everything she said, except I play with the sound off so if there is brilliant voice acting in the leveling quests, whoops, missed it. I’ll turn it on for the Horde Hunter I just started in WoD.

I can narrow down how this expansion feels to me pretty quick.

This is the regroup expansion.

I’m utterly uninterested in doing anything in the Warlords of Draenor story world.

This expansion, for me, has nothing outside of the Garrison or the raids to interest me in going and looking.

I explored stuff, poked around, and then went home.

The one thing, the ONLY thing that kept me eager and excited and feeling an energetic and valued part of the story were the weekly Garrison Storyline Quests.

I’m not saying the quests were cohesive or even good. What they were, were NEW. Every week I could look forward to something NEW.

In retrospect looking back on them once I did them, am I doing them on ANY other alt of mine? Nope. One or two were good, but nothing there I need to revisit.

Much like the Legendary questline. Garona as a Legendary Follower is so meh that I couldn’t give a shit less if I had her in the first place. Especially when I think back to how excited, how thrilled I was to see the culmination of those quests end up in that insanely difficult (for me) stealth kiting sneaking mission to earn her place in my group.

When Blizzard decided that giving her a third ability was, apparently, too overpowered and took it away, well… okay. So, nothing special to see here, move along.

Now, Harrison Jones, OMG is that man a badass. Treasure Hunter is so sexy, but then he’s a mentor as well! Pair any newb Follower on a mission with him, and that newb gets experience AS THOUGH HE”S MAX LEVEL!

Talk about super powered and legendary, taking a level 90 Follower and getting them the full 8k or 10k or 18k experience from a max level mission? Shit dog, that Mentor stuff be real.

Harrison Ford shows why I think Garona as a Legendary Follower is a massive letdown. Coulda been a contender, shoulda been something special, taken down before a title bout.

As long as there were new Garrison quest missions every week, I was excited to see what would happen next. Even if they were trivial little bullshit quest chains, IT WAS NEW. IT WAS FRESH. That was the whole point, I didn’t know what was going to happen next and neither did anyone else as long as you stayed current.

I can’t stress that enough, how important, how FUN it was to play content that every self important twit on the internet hadn’t trumpeted from every corner at the top of their lungs in a desperate need to feel special and be the source of spoiler news and get attention.

I’d like to see it for myself, thanks. Don’t really give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut what you or anyone else thought of it. I’m playing to see it for myself, and the Garrison quests gave me that. Oh so wonderful.

Then they stopped.

Stopped dead in the dirt.

And oh boy, when asked why, well they didn’t want to make it too hard for lots and lots and lots o people to catch up! So 6.1 won’t have any at all. Maybe in 6.2.

Yeah, well, fuck you too. I’ll be sitting here in my Garrison.

So when I think about this expansion, that’s what I see. Me, in my Garrison, on multiple alts, sending other people on exciting missions, and taking the rewards for myself.

Rewards I’m using to buy the pets and mounts I never picked up along the way.

This is the expansion where I chain-run old raids to fill out those transmog sets I always wanted.

This is the expansion where I finish up old legendary quests, and go for some rare drops, and generally top of the tank so that when the NEXT expansion comes, I’ll be all set and ready to go to give it my full and compete attention.

One teensy little problem with that.

What if the next expansion is just like this one? What if, once again, we reach the point early on where there just isn’t anything to look forward to and not very many places to do it in?

Well… I guess I can start chain-soloing Mists of Pandaria raids and filling out those rare drops, right? After all, Jerry the Snail ain’t gonna catch himself for me.

I have to say, it’s been very nice of Blizzard to give me all this time to level and complete pet collections and seek out rare mounts without feeling guilty that there was something exciting in game I could have been doing instead. It’s charmingly considerate of them.

The Cub Report – Plotting a Summer of Science

Summer is almost here, and my wife Cassie has been looking ahead to what opportunities for fun and learning there will be for our 12 year old son. You know, the ‘Cub’ part of the Cub Report.

Her goal? Find something to keep him busy and off of Youtube all summer long.

As a side note, my mom did this too. What the heck is so wrong with spending a summer sitting on your butt watching TV or playing video games? Or reading comic books and sci fi novels. I know that’s all I wanted to do when I was a kid during summer vacation. But no, my mom wasn’t happy until I was out of the house and out of sight and earshot. Wait, I might have discovered the secret motive there….

Cassie has been looking for cool things for a 12 year old to do over the summer break. Amazingly, when trying to think of things the Cub would enjoy doing, the options are all coming up ‘science’.

Among the choices she’s looking into are the following;

1) Mad Science.

Mad Science is a very cool group. The Cub has taken part in after-school activities through them before, activities that included making and flying model rockets, building science projects with magnets or lenses or different types of soil, etc. For a summer program, the school is trying to organize a twofer, a Junior Robotics Engineer course, and an Amazing Chemistry course. Those would be week long camps, and make me wonder if they could do versions for grown ups because they sound cool.

2) Minecraft Java Mod Design.

There is this great sounding online course package that says it’s aimed at learners between the ages of 8 and 14. It’s goal? To teach young minds how to code and create their own custom Java mods for Minecraft. The description says they include the software needed for the work, and at the end of the course the student will have a working mod for Minecraft version 1.6.4 and will be able to take that mod and bring it up to date to work with the latest version, which is 1.8+ or something.

3) Project Spark (Xbox One or PC)

On a related note, as we have an Xbox One now (so the Cub can play online console games with school friends), one of the things we’ve installed is the ‘free to play’ Project Spark. it’s ostensibly a software system with community support that gives you the tools to design and build your own video games. It looks to me to be mostly for platforming style games, maybe some arcade smash em ups, and there is as you’d expect quite a lot of cash DLC available to play ready-made stuff or to get more content to use in building your own.

Alex loves building/creating and then playing his creations, as you do, and one of his biggest loves of the moment is the Steam game Besieged, where he builds siege engines and then uses them to complete missions requiring specific objectives of destruction. It’s also community supported, where you can upload your creations for others to try and can download theirs for your own fun. I think Project Spark may be another game along those lines for him, depending on the tool sets.

Whatever, I can easily foresee there will be designing, building, using and destroying in his immediate future, whether in Project Spark or Besieged.

4) Project Gundam.

Starting last year, I began to get the Cub involved in building giant robots. Gundams, of course. We’ve tried to set things up so we get two kits at a time, and we build them side by side. I have two nice worktables laid out where we can build them and admire each others’ progress as we go. His latest build was meant to be Master Gundam and Fuun Saiki which we gave him for Christmas, but midway through the build we lost one of the little pieces for the backpack. Just, I dunno, gone to carpet oblivion. I’m sure it’s warm and cozy in a nest of socks, but that stopped all building progression.

I took steps to finally correct this yesterday. I gave up trying to find the spare parts online, so I used some of my AR build fund to buy him another entire set. The build will continue! He’ll just end up having an entire second robot unicorn gundam, and really, is that such a bad thing? Can you even HAVE too many robot unicorn gundams?

5) Model Rocketry.

Picking up from where we left off before winter, we have an action packed summer of building models, shoving explosives up their butts and setting them on fire. Or, launching rockets in a refined, carefully precise and safe manner. Whichever works. We have several completed rockets already from last year and some left over engines all set and rarin’ to go. This year, I think we’re going to focus on what Alex wanted to do last time, and build an X-Ray model with the see through plastic cockpit so he can launch an actual payload into the sky. Putting an egg in a rocket and shooting it at a cloud never gets old.

If that doesn’t end up being much fun, Wisconsin is just a border away, and fireworks are legal there. It’s amazing how much trouble fun you can get into with a box of fireworks, a carton full of plastic army men, and some matches. Because as Lewis Black once said, “I don’t care about space exploration, I just liked seeing us lauching shit in the air.”

6) Ballistic trajectories and experimentation with physics. MATH!

Also known as ‘going to the range every few weeks and shooting bullets at pieces of paper’. Aside from Bill’s Gun Range in Hudson, I’ve found a few outdoor locations that allow the public to ‘go plinking’. Remember what I said about fireworks and army men? Yeah, that also applies to .22 rifles and army men. We also have been enjoying shooting games, literal games, where the target has tic tac toe on it, or battleship, or race tracks, and you compete on the same target against someone else to try and outshoot the other win the game. It’s AMAZING how this direct competition has focused all of us on pinpoint accuracy instead of being satisfied hitting somewhere near the bullseye.

Sadly, Cassie kicked my ass in tic tac toe on our last outing, legitimately. I was all proud of my leet planning skills in target acquisition, right up to the point where she says, “I don’t know why you didn’t just shoot to block me on the bottom middle.”

The answer is, “Um, because I didn’t see that. I, um, I didn’t see that move. Because apparently I’m not smart enough to play tic tac toe. Now I feel like a big fat stinky idiot.”

Of course, she could have missed.

Spoiler alert: she didn’t miss. I don’t know that she ever misses. Certainly not where winning a game and kicking my butt is concerned, anyway.

So… we’ve got some options. Cassie works hard at planning this stuff out.

Funny how many of her plans involve finding ways to engage his mind and challenge him with building stuff or making stuff… and my plans involve giving him choices to blow stuff up.

Gonna be a fun summer!

OMG Another Alt

My wife says I am the worst leveling partner on the planet.

My son agrees.

They double teamed me last night, Cassie mentions I’m horrible at starting characters with her to level together and then wander off on my own, and it became the two of them bringing up characters of theirs left lying abandoned by the side of the trail when i took my character and leveled past them.

Ow. That stings. The Cub mentioning his Druid left to wither at level 61 hurt. Especially since he hasn’t played the game in so long we finally deactivated his account. In a world of Minecraft, Besieged, Terraria and others he just doesn’t log in to WoW. But he still remembers, oh my yes.

Okay, to be honest, he plays whatever the Yogscasters are playing on Youtube. Especially Yogscasters Lewis, Simon and Duncan. Thanks to them he’s a huge fan of Goat Simulator.

Because goats?

I’m trying to be better this time, honest! Cassie and I have started up a brand new pair and we’re already level 11 together.

Um.

As Blood Elves. Female Blood Elves. Starting in the Forsaken zone.

It was either that or Tauren, and I thought a Blood Elf would look dead sexy as a Paladin in plate. She’s going the Shadow Priest route. Healers? This is post 6.1, who needs healers to level anymore?

I’m not saying anything for certain, but I might have respecced to Prot because I got tired of her Power Wording stuff to insta-death before I could get in range.

By the way, whose bright idea was it to give Shadow Priests a 40 yard range and Paladins a 30 yard? Are you people TRYING to feed her ego?

“Oh, did I kill it before you could get there again? I guess I’ll just have to slow down for you. Because you’re slow. Useless. Having to carry you around, slowing us down.”

Thanks, Blizzard. Love ya. I shoulda been a dwarf so I could blame it on those stumpy legs.

On the plus side, it’s a trip. It’s a funky bally high, man. (If you don’t recognise that line, it’s been too long since you saw My Science Project.)

I forced my evil will upon Cassie, and made her heirloom up on this one. I also sent her gold (although she refused to use it) to buy enough heirlooms to hit 35 and get those level one mounts.

Level 1 alts with mounts, full heirlooms, starting in a zone not your own… yeah, we’re a post-modern leveling family.

It is kind of fun. It’s not, like, OMG SO FUN SQUEE because there is an upper limit on how many times you can level another alt, but this combination is goofy enough, and having mounts to cut down on the horrible running around back and forth is cool enough, that it’s good fun when done with someone you love.

Someone who complains because apparently I quest wrong. She’s over there and where the hell am I? I’m over HERE. Killing the wrong diseased bear or something. That bear was diseased, what did you expect me to do?

Last night we’re heading to turn a quest in, both of us riding in our mounts spinning wheelies off the hillsides, and she starts getting chased by a bear. And she objects JUST because I yelled “Get her, bear!” Is that right?

What did she expect? Show me goldilocks and the three bears, and I’m rooting for the bears. This comes as a surprise? REALLY?

It makes it all worthwhile. It really does.

Next stop, Silverpine.

I’ll admit, I’d like some advise on transmogs for a Blood Elf Paladin (female) and a Blood Elf Shadow Priest (also female).

So far, I’ve got most of a set of Bloodfist Plate for the pally, but I guess there aren’t good shoulder options for that color scheme? I intend to look into how to put together a set that looks like the Blood Elf paladin NPCs but frankly haven’t had the time. So much to do in game!

An Old Geek Just Getting Older

It’s funny how time passes. Some things change, others stay the same, some changes happen so slow you never notice it happening around you.. or to you.

I’ve been interested in, fascinated by, obsessed with things considered ‘geek’ for as long as I can remember. I know everyone starts out as children with toys and, maybe, comic books or cartoons or sports games, what have you.

Is part of being a geek that we don’t put away childish things? Or is it more that we engage more in a world of the imagination, or the what if and could have been?

Do we share some reason in our backgrounds that makes imagining ourselves as other people in other lives an attractive escape, if only for a little while, from the reality of our day to day?

I don’t know. I can only speak for myself, and yes there was a lot of nasty crap in my life as a child, and maybe because of that or despite that I cherished stories and music and distractions that led me out of myself and into the life of someone else.

Is that something we share? Or is it enough to simply have a curiosity of the world outside we know that leads us to read or dream of something different?

I don’t know, I really don’t. I think about it every now and again as I watch my son grow up, and see how his interests develop.

The changes I mentioned, it’s something I’ve noticed very recently as I look over the things I consider my treasures, my keepsakes from years gone by. Things I put aside, small mementoes of special occasions, reminders of things I knew I’d want to save.

Concert tickets, bookmarks with pretty scenes (mostly of tigers drawn in the Japanese rice-paper style), dice and fantasy convention flyers, painted miniatures and buttons, a bracelet, a watch, rings and necklaces and earrings with feathers.

The small things that I tucked away in tackle boxes and small wooden casks, things that I take out now and have a quiet smile as I remember where and when I got each thing. Most of them I forgot I had, and seeing them brings those forgotten moments back.

It reminds me that, in those long ago days of my youth I’d wear concert t-shirts, or shirts with my interests there on my sleeve for the world to see. Buttons and rungs and necklaces, and yes earrings with a feather on, things to display my differences and my interests with anyone to see.

A shout of defiance? A big middle finger ‘fuck you’ to conformity? An advertisement to those with eyes to see that here was a kindred spirit? A little of all of it, and more besides.

But where did that young man go? It’s been a long time since I’ve worn concert shirts, buttons or badges, and it’s been a hell of a long time since I last wore an earring with a feather.

No bumper stickers adorn my car, no signs are seen amongst my clothes or person that here is anything other than yet another wage slave droning along the highway.

I still see others, young and fresh, boldly showing their loves and passions as slogans and images on their t-shirts, their lanyard or buttons on vests and bag straps, anything and anywhere, and i wonder where that desire went in me.

Do I care any the less now than I did back then?

I think it is a function of age. I think, and again it’s just me, but there was a long time when I wore my passions and flights of fancy on the outside… but now, it’s all inside me where nobody else can see. The songs, the camaraderie, the worlds I’ve inhabited only in my mind… I don’t feel the need to show them anymore. They’re always here in me.

It’s the biggest change, and it’s all inside. I no longer have ‘geek cred’, because it’s not what’s outside me. I don’t care if someone sees me and knows I’m different, or that I love comic books or Terry Pratchett or World of Warcraft. It’s enough that I know, because it’s part of who I am. I could no more stop liking those things than I could stop being me.

It leads me to wonder. How many more like me are there? How many more like me have there always been? Everyone you see has their own internal world, and perhaps all of us reach a point where we don’t need to wear it on our sleeve.

Maybe everyone you see in their plain cars and casual clothes, driving to work or walking down the street is filled with secret worlds that they never share and you could never imagine just by looking at them, from 40 to 60 to 90 and beyond, satisfied to have those worlds inside their hearts as welcome and familiar homes.

I’ve heard it said that my generation will be the first one to demand high speed internet for our clan deathmatches in the old folks home, but will we really? Or has technology only just now started to catch up on letting us be who we are inside, without being judged first by what we wear, how we look, what our age or color or sex tells the closeminded on first glance?

The promise of the internet was to know us not by outward appearance but by what is on the inside. To be ourselves, without filter.

When I pause to think of it, it’s one of the saddest things I know. That this great promise of intellectual openness is slowly being lost as written sharing gives way to the smooth voices on podcasts, and even more now by the selfie cameras on Youtube.

Once more we can judge you first by how attractive you, how you dress, how you act before we have to pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth, as if outward appearance defines what palaces of the imagination live in someone’s heart.

It does make me look forward to the day when the virtual reality of novels like Snow Crash and Ready Player One are real. When anyone can craft a visual persona and voiceover to mask their true self however they want.

To paraphrase a favorite super-villain, “When anyone can wear a mask without you knowing, you’ll have to treat everyone as if they’re wearing a mask. Then the only thing you can judge is how someone acts, and not what they look like while they’re doing it.”

Such a strange world. So much hate. So much pain. I never quite know what I think of it all, I just hope to someday understand it better than I do now.

I do know one thing. I wish more people were willing to look beyond the physical and listen, really listen to the words coming from other people before judging or blaming or hating. I wish that so much sometimes, but wishes don’t ever come true unless you make them.

Proving Grounds level – Tarnished Silver

Proving Grounds

Your mother was a mudkip and your father smelled of elderberries!

About this Proving Grounds thing.

Enough time has passed that it’s safe for me to say, if you were gonna do Proving Grounds, you did it. Or tried like hell.

I can remember the first couple of weeks after Warlords of Draenor was released. I played my Warlock (specced as destruction) all the way to max level. I didn’t take my time, but I didn’t rush either. I moved along at a right good clip.

As I’m in a raid team in the guild, and I knew that when raids were formed depended on who and how many were at max level and relatively geared for it, I made an effort to hit those check marks.

The Legendary ring was sure to be the obvious one. I know at one point, our raid leader told me that if someone hadn’t bothered to get to the ‘collecting Highmaul drops’ stage of the Legendary quest, they weren’t serious about wanting to raid and didn’t need to show up.

No direct pressure, but you could see in guild who was advancing, who was knocking down those normal instances, and then who was hitting the heroics and gearing up with blues fast.

It was damn straight a competition, and the name of the game was “Who is the most dedicated about being ready to raid.”

To do the Legendary, you needed some drops from three heroic dungeons.

To get into heroic dungeons, you had to get minimum of Silver in the solo instance Proving Grounds as whatever spec you intended to queue as.

So. The Bar has been set, grasshopper. If you can’t get Silver, you might as well not bother showing up to raid, because you won’t ever get the Legendary Ring.

As soon as I hit 100, my Warlock was in the Proving Grounds, and while it took me 8 or 9 tries, I got my Silver. I was a fresh level 100, and I can’t recall the exact number but I think I was around iLevel 595 or so. I Tweeted it when I finished it, so I could probably go back through the twitter archives, but really, who cares? If I had a brain in my head I would have waited for more gear. It’s no accomplishment to succeed at being stupid and impatient.

But I did it, and I certainly knew that in the Proving Grounds your gear was NOT scaled up, but if you were over iLevel 615 your gear was scaled down to that point. I was proud of finishing it, and I was damn glad to never have to do that again because what a royal pain in the butt.

Still, done and done, time to get my buns in the dun(geon)s.

Ah, but the story doesn’t end with that. Sure, I went on to do the heroics, and to progress with the Legendary Rung quest.

But Cassie got to level 100 as well not long afterwards with her Enhancement Shaman, and tried for Silver.

And failed.

She didn’t say anything about hitting it, she did it, probably so she didn’t have me breathing down her neck.

But she went after it. Many times. MANY MANY times. And she failed.

She got so disgusted with herself and frustrated with the challenge that she got fed up with the game and walk away.

I believe she didn’t come back until the first Highmaul LFRs were open for a while, and we knew you didn’t need to have Proving Grounds Silver to enter it.

How’s that for a kick in the nuts? You can’t queue for heroic 5 person dungeons unless you ‘prove you can play your class’, but LFR raids with 19 other schlubs? Oh, no problem, go right on in.

Months this went on. Every once in a while, as her gear improved and I slid her some enchants and gems, I’d see her slip on and try it again. But those AoE groups with the heals and floating chasing traps were just too much at the end.

So what, right? No big deal. So what if you can’t do heroic 5 mans, you can’t do the Legendary, you can still raid in LFR.

Oh, but if you can’t queue for heroic 5 man dungeons, you also can’t ever complete the Inn quests that send you into heroics for drops. That means no Avianna’s Feather, no Leeroy, no Croman, none of those things.

That’s bullshit.

I started pestering her to let me take a shot with her character at it, let a fresh pair of eyes do the run.

At this point, I’ve gotten Silver on every character I intend to do anything with. I ran Proving Grounds as a Destruction Warlock, Beastmaster Hunter, Feral Druid and Frost Death Knight. I got Silver with all of them, and truthfully once I did it with characters that had 615 or better in every slot, it was a piece of tasty red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and a little frosting carrot on top.

Arrogant? Oh my yes. I was sure, absolutely positive, just let me take over your character, dear, and I’ll White Knight this battle for you.

Yeah, no fucking way.

What I found out was how unmercifully bullshit that fight can be on a stock UI.

That fight is so damn frustrating with a stock UI, especially when you know, not think but KNOW that you can do this easy on your own system.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a pro raider. Not even fucking close. See, I press buttons on my button bar instead of using tons of keybound macros on a pro mouse. Mouse key binds is the way to do it, where you don’t ever even have to look at a bar, you can use most of your key abilities right from different mouse button presses. Instant response. I tried it, just couldn’t deal with it.

So my UI had button bars on it, and I click on those buttons to cast abilities. I have carefully thought out macros and I do have things like rain of Fire on mouse buttons so I can easily click and drop out there on the field of battle, but most of the time I’ve got my attention split between the battle and the cooldowns on my button bar.

It is what it is. At least I don’t keyboard turn.

But I do everything I can to maximize my screen real estate. I use ElvUI because by default it puts my buttons al nice and tight at the bottom, frees up lots of screen, and puts my health and casting bars on the bottom left and my target on the bottom right. I can see my casting bar for making sure I’m queuing up my abilities the instant my current cast goes off, and I can see right there in bottom center the casting bar of my targeted enemy and below that my focus target.

If my target or focus target starts casting, I see it instantly in my prime field of view and can cast my Interrupt macro that beings with a /stopcasting and then fires off the interrupt right after. No delay, because I’m slow enough that I can’t possibly wait for a cast to go off, it probably took me a half a second to react once the bad guy started casting in the first place.

So with my UI, I can look at the center of my screen and see all the key data about my targets, most especially when they’re trying to get that damn heal off, and I can slam the shit out of them and interrupt it easily.

Not so with a stock UI.

The health and casting bars are way the hell up at the top left corner. I never look up there, I CAN’T look up there, I cannot process information from the very top left plus the moving battle in the middle AND the button bars at the bottom. Not happening. I can flip from middle to bottom and back, but not middle to top to middle to bottom to middle to oh fuck he got off a heal. Son of a mudkip!

I tried to do it with Cassie’s Shaman, and I don’t think I got past wave three the first time.

That was a wake up call.

“Okay, fuck this, that’s how it’s gonna be? Fine.”

I made sure everything was gemmed, enchanted, went to Icy Veins and checked for recommended macros and glyphs, aoe strategies, made sure every possible useful talent and ability was on the bar, food buff, good to go.

I prepared for war.

There was actually an ability she didn’t have on her bar that she wasn’t using. Just didn’t make it to the bar when they changed something over the last year.

So I tried again.

And again.

I went at that miserable piece of shit instance nine or ten times, getting ever more pissed off because I could NOT get used to where you had to look to see spell casts by the enemy.

I’m talking swearing at the screen telling it to kiss my big furry butt and getting ready to quit the damn game myself. It shouldn’t ought to be that damn hard to unlock a fucking heroic 5 man instance. I’ve done them plenty of times now; there are some stone idiots in those. If they could get through it, what the FUCK is wrong with ME?!?

But I finally got close enough, popped cooldowns and blew everything I had, and triumphed. And damn, did it feel good.

It also felt ridiculous. The only reason, the ONLY reason that was so miserable was because of the way the stock UI is laid out to provide information.

Dealing single target damage, fine, doing some AoE while hitting single targets hard, okay, moving and scooting out of the way of those stun globs while still doing DPS, fine, but moving and doing strong single target and also AoE and also dodging stuns and ALSO watching a cast bar at the top left so I can respond to a heal and interrupt it in time?

Just kiss my furry butt, man. You want to make us ‘learn how to play’, change your UI to help us identify the damn caster getting off a heal.

You know what would have helped? An option of setting a mob’s outline to glow or pulse red when they began casting a heal. It wouldn’t matter who the hell you had targeted or what their cast bar looked like if any enemy that started casting a heal began pulsing with a bright red glow. A simple mouseover macro tied to a left thumb button and you could quickly mouseover them and pop an interrupt.

Oh, would that trivialize the challenge of interrupting?

I respectfully submit to you my opinion that if the challenge lies in using your shitty UI to be able to tell who is casting or what it is they’re casting, and a UI that better conveys critical information in a tight space negates that challenge, the challenge is crap.

Still. It felt very good to finish that for her, so we can do heroics together and open the rest of the game for her to do if SHE chooses, and not feel blocked because she can’t interrupt a damn heal fast enough while dodging stun balls.

I hate to say it, but it’s true. I know it to be true.

If I had to play the game with the stock UI, I’d quit. I wouldn’t enjoy it after being able to play using a UI laid out by someone who had some sense. Someone that looked at the increasingly difficult raid requirements and realized we needed better access to information to speed up response times.

I’ve been using ElvUI too long. I just didn’t know how bad the default really was for SEEING things.

I can’t help feeling sorrow for anyone that uses the default UI, has tried like hell to do the Proving Grounds, and has failed.

It’s not you. Dear lord, please believe me, it’s not you. I know it must be frustrating to see other people get it done, but it doesn’t mean you suck.

It might just mean that you aren’t playing with the same advantages as others. You might still be foolish enough to think that everything in the game can be done by a reasonably experienced gamer using stock WoW user interfaces without macros or addons.

You poor, poor deluded soul.

The Things That Keep Me Going in Draenor

There was an announcement that subscription figures for WoW were way down. Subscription I assume means active accounts, because with the WoW Token being added what exactly defines a subscription has completely changed. I mean, thanks to the tokens I’ve got my account paid through to next July 2016, and it’s not going to cost me a dime.

With that news, I’m seeing discussion on social media along the lines of, “Well of course subscriber numbers are down because Warlords sucks, and this is why…”.

Sigh.

Okay, it’s a new expansion, and Blizzard tries new things every time around. This time there were some major changes to the core gameplay. Better? Worse?

It’s not your vanilla WoW, but overall I like it.

In fact, I’d argue that overall this expansion has kept me engaged and logging in daily FAR more than any expansion has before.

I know everyone’s mileage on these things vary, but there are lots of things I like, and I want to talk about this because it’s not all doom and gloom and end of the world like I think it would look if I were on the outside.

The first thing I see polarizing people is the Garrison.

I like the Garrison. The Garrison is my core gameplay now. It took the initial promise of the Pandarian farm and expanded it in a way that makes it an excellent starting hub for all of my activities.

Leaving what the Garrison is aside, what I like about playing in it each day is that it has similar gameplay to my mobile phone game apps, which is exactly what I hoped it would be when it was announced.

Just like on the mobile phone games I play, I am not expected to log in and play for hours in the Garrison. Instead, I can log on quick, collect some rewards and shuffle some followers around and level some up to be more effective, rearrange some teams for different bonuses, and then send them back out on missions.

It really is similar to how I play on my mobile games. I log in for a few minutes to do stuff and then it’s time to wait for them to be done.

Now, I’ve sabotaged my own gameplay here. What is quick and easy for one character becomes a lot of time when you have seven fully leveled alts that you try and keep equally maintained. Blizzard isn’t making me do that, I am doing it to myself. BUT.

BIG but. I find the time I am spending doing garrison chores on seven alts to be worth the investment. By spending so much time on garrison missions, I have constant gold and items to sell from the salvage yard rolling in all the time. With lots of epic mounts and treasure hunters, the missions all finish up fast enough to do three, four or even more rounds of missions per characters each day.

And with so many salvage crates to open, it ends up giving me a steady stream of crafting materials and epics to sell, meaning I don’t have to spend time running the herb garden or mine anymore. If I get low on ore or cloth, I use excess garrison resources to buy them at the trading post on days when the prices favor me.

It’s exactly like a small mobile game of managing the team and keeping them busy, doing profession crafting and everything else. The only time I ever have to leave the garrison to actually DO something to keep them going is when I need to go trap a lot more clefthoof for leather and Savage Blood. Just from the trapping, I have 90 Savage Blood that have stacked up that I don’t know what to do with.

Which rolls on into another thing I like that keeps me going. Getting gear upgrades from routes other than raiding. Gearing up alts so they are viable in current raids as replacements if needed.

Note, I’m saying viable replacements, not GOOD replacements. But with the way you can craft items and upgrade them, and how plentiful the upgrade materials can be, the three item limit makes a lot of sense. After all, it’s pretty easy to get three items to max, and they are comparable to good current tier normal raid gear, and even on a par with heroics.

Then there are all the BoE epic drops from raids, items you frequently find for sale on the auction house, and all the items that you can get from garrison missions that are bind on pickup.

There has never been a time in the game before where you could level and gear up an alt easier so that you can play that alt and feel reasonably powerful at that point in the game. Even if you never do LFR, you can still have your character geared up with reasonably powerful stuff so the PvE content in the open world doesn’t just eat your lunch.

There are also other things I really like. Like mobility.

A lot has been made of the lack of flying in the open world of Draenor, but honestly I don’t miss it. There are lots of different ways of moving around quickly, and if you allow yourself to adapt to them it does make distance a lot more important.

For example, if you choose to you can create a building in your garrison that lets you teleport around using waygates. If you did some of the garrison missions, one of them opened up a mole machine right outside your front gate (for Alliance, anyway) that gives you instant travel to your Gorgrond outpost.

If you were able to complete the solo Silver ranking challenge, you could unlock heroic instances and with the Inn building, complete Inn quests for very cool rewards, one of which is Avianna’s Feather, and item that has a ten minute cooldown, and when used blows you high up into the sky, and then triggers wings that let you glide for, damn half an entire zone. CRAZY far. That’s every ten minutes.

Don’t have an Inn? Not able to complete the Silver ranking challenge? You can still get the same effect by building an engineering wonders structure in your garrison. The Skyterror (I think it’s called) device does the exact same thing as Avianna’s Feather, it just has charges and looks different because you ride a rocket up into the sky and have an actual glider instead of glowing wings.

I do miss using my flying mounts whenever I want, but I don’t miss the functionality of flying because with mines and herb gardens I don’t need to fly routes to farm mats, and with the Feather and Skyterror rocket glider if I want to fly massive distances I can, at ten minute intervals. With the cooldown, it just means I have to be more careful, more mindful of what I’m doing.

I don’t mind that. Distance matters more when flying is a privilege and wasting your flight means waiting for ten minutes before you do it again. It also makes landing in tight spots feel rewarding. :)

Other things I like, I really like the garrison pet mechanics and daily quests. With so many pets in the game, adding a catch up mechanic that lets you buy stones to instantly turn a pet to rare quality feels perfectly timed, along with items to buy to help you insta-level them or just increase the XP rate if you like to level as you go. I have over 700 different pets, so this helps me immensely.

No longer do I have to feel like I must spend days camping a rare quality spawn of one particular hard to find pet, preventing other people from getting just one of them of any quality. If I can get just one of those super-rare pets, I can use an easily acquired stone to instantly make it rare, and leave new spawns for other players to get.

It’s funny, there are just so many things that are great, that give me freedom to choose what I want to do at any given time. It’s almost like a sandbox game now, with so many catch up options, so many old raids able to be soloed, the treasures and the LFR and such.

What can be hard is to find for yourself something you are interested in doing. Something that isn’t tied to a constantly growing story.

The one thing that I have felt lacking is a continuous engagement in the story. The Garrison Story Quests that were coming out each week were doing it for me, I truly felt engaged and delighted every single week to log in and see where the story was taking us this time. They had different rewards that felt good to get, they told us more of what was going on and felt like we were truly traveling in time through a changing world, heading towards the confrontation with the Warlords and with the problems Gul’dan is bringing to us in Tanaan.

When 6.1 brought no new quests, that took a large chunk of my engagement with the story away. I think that was a huge mistake. If there was one thing Blizzard could do to really up my involvement in playing, it would be to bring back the weekly quest chains and not have such a long dry spell. Having a quest chain building on the story every week didn’t feel like too much, it felt just right. If you want to catch up if you’re behind, being able to do the next part of the chain you’re missing each successive day would be perfect. If you miss a whole month, you could catch up in one week. That doesn’t seem too arduous a task. But having no new story quests for months, well, you gave me this wonderful thing and I got used to it. The loss hurts worse than when we never had them at all.

I do log in every day, multiple times, and I feel rewarded by doing so. Going out into the world finding pets and mounts, rares and treasures, trapping creatures, using engineering gizmos, a little archeology, even leveling new alts through Draenor still feels fun. With the XP boosts and heirloom upgrades, Draenor zones can simply FLY by if you start getting bored with them.

It’s all the little things, the attention to detail that keeps getting me.

Being able to log in and having my favorite pets wandering around my garrison, some of them seeing me and following me around, that’s delightful.

Traveling through a zone and seeing an icon on my minimap letting me know a treasure is near. I’ve got five minutes, let’s go see if I can figure out how to get to it.

Seeing a skull pop up and knowing, “Here’s a rare I haven’t killed yet! Get him and see what he’s got in it’s pockets, baggins…”

Since last Tuesday, I’ve run Firelands (just a few bosses) on all seven max characters trying to get the Alysrazor mount. No luck yet, so I also ran Black Temple and Sunwell on all seven, trying for the pets. Haven’t gotten most of them, but they go so quickly I’ve still had some cool transmog drop, it hasn’t been a waste of time. That’s a lot of old raids to run, and it’s all good.

I’ve figured out how to solo the rare Demidos with my Hunter, so I’ve been doing that once every day trying to get the pet he can drop. Seven kills, and you can only get loot on a character once a day, but sooner or later the odds will be on my side, and it feels satisfying on my non-raiding toon to be able to solo that bastard. His nerf to self healing and the constant AoE makes each win feel satisfying.

The addition of the garrison special ability, the one that changes in each zone, gets my vote for ‘new thing I never remember until too fucking late’. I can’t tell you how many Demidos kills I’ve squeaked by without using that damn Call to Arms button in Shadowmoon. Always makes me feel just a little bit like a dumbass.

“Yay I got him! Oh damn, I forgot to use Call to Arms. Shit!”

In some ways, I think this expansion is testing the short attention span player harder than any other. So much of the new content requires the player to take the initiative to seek it out and do it. There are no bread crumbs to tell you to go seek out most of these things. It’s there for you to do or not, as you choose. I wonder how much of this expansion blahs can be traced to that.

It’s also so easy to get garrison rewards to gear up your characters that are as good as or better than what drops from the current LFR, it makes me wonder how much of LFR is avoided because you’ve geared past it without ever raiding. As things stand, if it weren’t for legendary ring quests, my Hunter would never have to step foot in Highmaul for gear, everything I have is better and came from something else. I like it but at the same time I think it does marginalize the excitement of an LFR run and loot drop.

I do love being able to take an alt into LFR, without ever doing heroics, and be geared up enough to not be a massive lead weight sucking the raid team into the pit. My skill may suck, but at least my gear is appropriate for what I’m doing.

I dunno. A lot of people I like and respect look at this expansion and are bored and walking away, but I’m still here, I’m still liking it, and I’m having a good time. I wish i could point to one specific thing and say “But what about this, doesn’t this make you feel excited” but I can’t.

No one thing is a big thrill. It’s like the rest of World of Warcraft has always been; a game of incremental improvements and steady advancement. It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of little things that all add up to having stuff to do and be spoiled for choice.

Some days I wish that I had fewer alts, fewer chores, but at the same time I love all the benefits of having all professions maxed and all those garrison missions coughing up their rewards into my deep pockets.

I wonder what changes tomorrow will bring. Will gold missions get nerfed to the ground? Will crafted gear upgrades continue to work so well? Will the story of Warlords of Draenor return in 6.2 with a roar and bring back the feeling that things are happening all around us, or have we already seen the best this expansion will have to offer?

Will we someday soon see a payoff of the promise of a revamped Burning Crusade? So far this expansion has seemed like Burning Crusade 2.0, this time done with us being involved in the story every step of the way. Will we eventually see something as epic as a revamped Black Temple, with all the horror and massive scope that would entail?

Are we truly going to see the birth of the Burning Legion, as fel power returns in spades, and the demons and the green skinned orcs crank everything up all over again, but this time we get a front row seat? Where is this whole thing going? Are we still building to a big payoff, are we in halftime or is the game nearly over and minutes left to make the play?

Everything is good as it is right now… while we wait. While I wait. But I know that if things don’t pick up soon, it’s going to be hard to stay with it. It’s all well and good to know we’re in  for a shipload of trouble in 6.2, but what I hear about the story seems like it’s timeless isle 2.0, and I don’t know about anyone else, but timeless isle wasn’t story, it was more self-starting solo content. Treasures and rares and little things to do tucked in out of the way corners.

I need to see this story pick up where it left off, advance and grow towards something epic. There needs to be a central narrative that all these little things are built around for it to feel satisfying. I’m hoping… I’m still hoping. Blizzard did a great job on the previous garrison missions. I’m really pinning my hopes on those returning.

If you’re not enjoying this expansion, I can understand. It’s really a different animal from what has gone before. In this lull between content patches it’s starkly apparent how much I depend on knowing there is more story coming, and finding things to mark the time until new stuff arrives.

I do wish, if Blizzard takes any lesson away from this expansion, it’s that investing more time in the advancement of the story at max level through weekly quest chains pays off MASSIVE dividends in keeping me invested in logging in each and every week feeling like we’re going somewhere exciting. Those are so worth continuing, they are the one thing i would say is MOST worth continuing.

Everything else feels a good bit like marking time waiting for their return. the weather is fine and it’s nice to hang out sitting on my surfboard, but there is only so long I want to chill while I wait for a ripping wave to haul my ass into shore roaring like a freight train.