Speculating about Class Halls

In Legion, we know that rather than continuing with Garrisons, we’re going to have what they’re calling the Class Hall. 

We’re also going to have a class-specific weapon quest chain, an expansion on the weapon quest chain they implemented from the Broken Hilt drop in Wrath of the Lich King.

That’s pretty cool sounding, but what has come before this?

We had an upgrade to our Guilds with ranks, reputation and special perks and vendor items. 

We had a character-specific zoned farm and quest hub tied to a zone/expansion.

We’ve had the guild system taken down many pegs and rewards removed or ranks flushed.

We’ve had the Garrison, a vastly expanded farm concept but still tied to a zone/expansion.

Now, Class Halls. 

Considering what we’ve seen in the past, what could we reasonably expect from the Legion Class Hall experience?

First thing we’ve seen is that a new character-specific system generally isn’t designed to be persistent. It is meant to tie into the expansion it is released in, grow with that story, and then be abandoned once the new expansion comes along.

Second, the system has a carefully crafted art theme that ties in to the concept and grows based on your efforts.

Third, there are NPCs that are tied to it that can provide daily quests and vendor items, possibly tied to new reputations.

Fourth, there are usually cute little interactive aspects you might not expect that add charm and flavor. As an example, the farm had dog and watering cans and upgradable tools, the Garrison had a special commander area to display archaeological items, etc.

So, what can we expect?

I’d say we could expect each class to have an area somewhere in the world tied in specifically to the new expansion that is zoned to your character. It is an area that will not be in a central area for whatever the following expansion may be. 

It will be populated by NPCs famous in each class who may provide lore when talked to, offer quests, have class reputation and items for transmog, mounts or toys relTed to your class.

The hall itself will be carefully designed so the aesthetic is not Horde or Alliance, but instead reminiscent of class interests. It will possibly start as one set size but can expand as you play and perhaps unlock/recruit more famous champions of your class to come and dwell therein. 

The Hall may also be customized by seeking out relics of lore associated with your class that you find by questing, interaction with items from old raids or dungeons, or as drops. Relics that you bring back and put on display. Current examples being Music, Archeology and Pepe.

Finally, we can fully expect this to be abandoned in the following expansion. Right when you’ve taken it as far as it can go and people are tired of it, a new expansion will bring new zones that we move the story to, and that area will have the next big thing. Maybe a trueGuild Hall, taking the lessons learned from Class Halls and Garrisons and the Farm and really rolling out something shared and special.

One thing I’ll be curious to see is if the Class Hall is zoned to one character, or if it’s shared to a faction, or even cross faction like Dalaran.

I’ve seen a lot of assumptions so far that I think are more wishful thinking than anything else. Like that of course all Class Halls will be large enough to hold all players of that class of both factions on a server simultaneously. 

I personally expect that it will be zoned to your one character, or that like Dalaran did with Factions there will be shared areas with smaller sub-areas zoned for you alone. 

Okay technically in Dalaran the faction areas just ported the other faction out instead of zoning.

I think we are going to be sent on a quest that leads to a fabled artifact of our class. That will take us to our first famous class NPC who will examine it, share lore and generally herald you as the new wielded of blank and the class champion. 

Alternately it will be that first NPC that sends us on a quest to track down the weapon and sets it in motion.

Either way, having recovered the class artifact and becoming the class champion, we will begin with that NPC to create from scratch a Class Hall or get access to a class related place that may have “always” been there.

From that point we can begin recruiting more class champions to our cause, the overthrow of the Legion.

I would also question whether the Bodyguard system will be expanded, allowing us to quest in the company of a true class lore champion.

Looking past the opening bars of Legion, I could see the next expansion finally seeing the coming of Sargeras, but once you’ve gathered the heroes of your class where do you go from there?

The Guild Hall, bringing together all the class champions (you) officially as a Guild with your massive fortress may be the end game.

If the invasion of the Legion is as devastating as Blizzard has suggested, dividing our forces along Class lines may not be enough to save Azeroth.

We may lose.

We’ve seen from Mists of Pandaria that in pursuit of a satisfying story, Blizzard can transform an entire zone through phasing to show the devastation of war.

What if post Legion sees our max level characters in a phased Azeroth scorched and barren, dominated by demons, and our forces thrown back into isolated fortresses where we are making our last desperate stands against final oblivion?

The fortress itself would be our new expansion capital city, and could have a Guild Hall area for the last desperate forces of light.

Where I’m going with this is kind of a cautionary tale. And a reminder.

When Legion comes, I hope everyone tries to remember to enjoy what you have as you have it, make the best of it and really dig into the gameplay of the moment. It won’t be forever, for better or worse, and who is to say for sure if it, any of it, will still be there tomorrow.

How many wish that they could have just one more day in the blessed valley of the Four Winds, to take tea in the village and camp along the golden grasses?

Seize the day, enjoy the Garrison, ride the hills, for tomorrow we go to war, and our world may never be the same.

WoW, I’m Loving It!

I’m loving WoW and feeling a little frazzled, because as usual there are too many things I’d like to be doing like RIGHT NOW and not enough time to do them all.

I blame Blizzard for adding so many awesome new systems into the game, some of which seem pretty simple but can have a subtle but powerful impact on the multi-alt player.

While the vocal part of the community seems hell bent on bashing Blizzard for any delay in flying, I’m praying they make haste a little more slowly because time, time, ask me for anything but time!

Yes, of course I’m eager to Fly Draenor and enjoy those majestic vistas and go exploring. I have my screenshots of the glorious skies over Outlands, now it’s time to see what nice scenery my tourist butt can find in da land of Orcs and Honey.

But not yet, please not yet! If flying gets released I’m going to feel guilty if I don’t start doing archaeology again, and I have enough guilt from my gaming.

Here’s the deal, buttercup.

I’m like thiiiiiis close to getting my 250 mounts for that achievement that nets me a fel green fire hawk of my very own. It would also position me within spitting distance of that future 300 mount achieve from Legion.

Getting those 250 is a done deal, I just need to consistently do the Argent Tournament dailies on my Druid each day for maybe three or four more weeks, tops, and I’m done.

In the process of working out what mounts I’m missing and where they can be found, a process that the website SimpleArmory made easy, I started messing around with the Custom Group system and made some alarming discoveries.

Now, I’m sure what I’m going to talk about is old hat to most players that are current on blogs, websites and the community.

I’m not current, I haven’t been spending any time reading blogs or WoW sites anymore except for Twitter or the front page of MMO Champion and, sometimes, following a link to Wowhead, and that only rarely. When I get home from work, I’m too busy playing the game to read about others playing the game. Kinda why I don’t watch videos or streams, either. It’s okay, if you’re a streamer, please don’t take it personally. It’s the same reason why I don’t watch any sports at all. I’d rather be doing than watching others having fun. This bear ain’t got time for that.

But the custom group thing, this took me completely by surprise when I really started looking at it and wondering what I could do with it.

See, I’ve been using the Find Group tool and Custom Groups since day one, just like many, many wonderful people in WoW to do cross-server hopping looking for rares that are up in the zones that can drop mounts (or for rare pet spawns), looking for Garrison daily commodity traders and pt quest givers, all that stuff.

I mean, everyone does that, right? You have a Blacksmith, you don’t wait weeks hoping that when the Ore Trader is in Garrisons, your character with Blacksmithing just HAPPENS to be lucky enough to have that NPC, right? No, you check Wowhead’s front page where they kindly list all of the things active in the game that day (including Garrison trader NPCs and quests), and if it’s the vendor you need, you go to Find Group and Custom Groups, and find some incredibly nice soul who has started an auto-join group so you can visit their Garrison where they have the trader up and ready to go.

This right here, this feature and how people are using it, has restored my faith in the actual players of WoW. No matter how many angry twits are spewing venom to community managers or Blizzard Developers, the fact remains there are a lot of people, all the time and every day, who go out of their way to form Custom Groups just so others can come and use their Garrison for vendors, traders and pet quests. God bless them, they are magnificent people.

But I hadn’t gone any further than that, not until I started working on making Custom Groups so that I could get my account and my son’s account both grouped up to run some old raids for mounts, and came across the most amazing thing.

You can group up with your own alts, and share raid lockouts!

All internal to your one account!

This is insane, and I love it, and it’s caused my gaming to explode lately.

It’s really simple.

Say, like me, you don’t have the Pureblood Firehawk that has the potential to drop from any version, heroic or normal, of Ragnaros in the Firelands.

Well, Ragnaros is the last boss in there, and even at level 100 a full clear of 25 normal can take a half hour to forty five minutes. Lot of loot drops, sure, but time! Ask me for… you get the idea. 45 minutes per character clear across, what, I’ve got 7 alts to level 100 now, that’s a lot of damn time.

But with Custom Groups, what you can do is go in on a character, in my case my feral Druid, and clear all the bosses in 25 normal Firelands through Majordomo Staghelm. So, everything except Rag.

Then my Druid leaves the instance, sits down and logs out just outside the entrance.

Now, I pick one of my alts, log in, fly out to Firelands and stop outside the entrance. I open Custom Groups, start a group, name it ‘test run’, and list it. Then I make sure it’s set to ‘auto join’.

I log that alt out, I log in the Druid that cleared Firelands, search for Custom Groups, and right there is my ‘test run’ sitting there. I join it, and then log out again.

When I log my alt back in, I’m still the group leader because I started the group, I’ve got my Druid in the group but offline, and maybe there are other players who are joining groups to server hop that are in there as well.

I edit my group so that it no longer lets you auto-join. Then I remove other players besides me and my Druid, if there were any.

Then my alt walks into Firelands, and no shit, the warning pops up, “You have joined an instance where 7/8 are killed, if you accept you will be saved to this instance.”

I accept. I am now the raid leader in a Firelands that has everything but Ragnaros killed.

Then I boot my Druid from the group. :)

Boom!

I go on from there to go straight to Ragnaros, kill him, loot him, and hearth to my Garrison. Elapsed time on that character for a Rag kill from first log in to return, about 10 minutes, max.

Log in to my next alt to run it, repeat the process.

The next time I enter Firelands with my offline Druid in the group, it gives me the same warning, 6/7 or 7/8, whatever it is. I’ve run it so many times, and so many others raids, they’re all blurring together.

I don’t even have to reset instances or any of that on the alts, as the group leader that booted the Druid, the Druid was never in the raid when the last boss was killed.

Now, there has been a learning curve. I’ve been working on this for weeks, in multiple raids.

For one thing, you have to clear a normal raid, not heroic, on your original clearing character. And you have to be set to normal on the alts when you’re entering the raid for the boss you intend to kill.

Only after you have booted the Druid (or clearing character) from your group can you choose to convert raid from normal to heroic, from inside the raid. And of course, if your alt has never killed the raid on normal before, he can’t convert it to heroic. You’ll have to get at least one normal clear under your wing first on every character in order to do heroic bosses.

Also, you can do this the other way. You can start the group with your clearing character, have the alt join, then wait around for a while and the offline druid will eventually time out and lead will automatically pass to you. I don’t like that because the whole time you’ve got the auto-join setting on and other people will be popping in and out to see what’s going on. That’s great if your group is going to be up long enough for them to do cross-server stuff, not so good when you’re trying to farm a raid, or hoping lead passes to you instead of someone else. I personally prefer my alt to form the group, and have the character that cleared the raid join it and later on be booted after sharing the raid ID.

This whole thing has been transformative to my play.

As I said, I’ve got seven characters at level 100.

Thanks to Apexis Crystal upgrade gear, Garrison missions, LFR and Shipyard mission drops, all of them are at least iLevel 645, and three of them are over 675. ALL of them can clear Ragnaros 25 normal easily. Ridiculously easy.

Last night, I killed Ragnaros on EVERYONE.

I didn’t get the mount, but my Druid and my son’s Death Knight both got Sulfuras, the two handed mace, to drop. And both can use it for transmog. well, the Death Knight can when in Unholy, which happens to be my son’s favorite spec. He’s INSANELY excited.

I can’t wait to level up my Warrior to 100 just so I can start farming Ragnaros weekly for Sulfuras, JUST to Titan’s Grip the mace and dual wield it. I’m almost in tears, that vision is so glorious.

The night before last, on server reset, I killed the Lich King on almost everyone. It turned out to be a bit too difficult for me to do on my Rogue, I kept getting bounced off the top to my death by those glowing balls of shame.

I was killing the Lich King on Heroic 25, which is the only mode that Invincible can drop from.

I didn’t get the mount, but again, my Druid cleared the place on 25 normal, and then my alts all started groups, the Druid joined them, the alt walked in, booted the Druid from the group and then converted it to Heroic. Boom, a Heroic 25 Lich King only run, instantly. This only works, as I said, if the alt has cleared the full normal mode before. can’t convert it to a Heroic otherwise.

I’ve run Ulduar 25 no lights a few times to try to get Mimiron’s Head to drop, but that was before I ever found out about this, and as much as I love Ulduar, doing a full clear 5 or 6 times a week was just too much.

But this… as soon as I get either Invincible or the Pureblood Firehawk, I’ll drop that raid from my weekly rotation and start up Ulduar.

Talk about a revitalized interest in running things.

And on the subject of old raids, do you have any idea how powerful we are now? I hadn’t completed the achievements for Icecrown Citadel 10 man before to get the Bloodbathed mount thingie. I only did it with blog readers on 25 man a year ago or so.

Well, I started off at zero, ZERO achievements for the 10 man version, and soloed it in two weeks with my Druid as Feral, using a hastily thrown together Resto spec for the green dragon.

It only took two weeks, and it wouldn’t have taken that long except one week I had to kill the vampire queen after getting bitten, and the second week I had to burn her super fast so she died BEFORE I got bit.

Maybe you’ve long ago gotten every mount and pet in the game, you’re sick of soloing old raids, you’re bored off your ass and there’s nothing for you to do byut wait for flying.

If so, I’m really sorry. I am. I love this game but I need goals to excite me and shape my activities. Whether it’s chasing that transmog set, farming legendary staff drops or going for mounts os achievements, I have to have a goal.

But this Custom Group thing has me running my butt off, and frankly I love seeing all these different places… as long as I only have to clear it once.

Now, I’m not even doing this as far as I could. I haven’t tried it, but I’m pretty sure I should be able to push the raid instance lock each week after reset, and never have to clear the place after the first time. Just keep pushing it every week.

I’m not doing that, because I LIKE clearing ICC and Firelands on my Feral Druid. It’s so damn FUN!

So after all my alts have killed the boss in a week, I go in on my Druid and kill him too, get that one extra chance, and I’ll just clear again next week.

Sorry, i know this is really long, and all I’ve talked about is soloing old raids, which is nothing new and has been our fall back plan when times were slow for years.

I haven’t even had the chance to talk about how easy it’s been to farm ALL the rare drop mounts in Draenor thanks to the cross-server Custom Group feature!

With most active players hanging out in Tanaan Jungle, the rest of the zones are fairly quiet.

It’s been a great time to go to each spawn point where a rare could be that drops a mount, usually three or four spots in each zone (and easily crossed if you have a Feather) and then

use Custom group to quickly check four or five servers at each spawn point to see if it’s up.

I got all of them except Poundfist and the Voidtalon portal mount within an hour of deciding to target that rare. Felt really nice to finish that up, it had been nagging me.

So much to do, so many places to go, so many mounts to get!

Shoot, I’ve even been enjoying jousting at the Argent Tournament once again. And I’ll admit, it’s nice to be able to just walk up to a Commander before the gates of the citadel and smack him a few times instead of having to mount up with a lance and try and joust them. Makes the actual doing of the quests a breeze.

My only complaint has been that I don’t like to leave my Garrison for too long… I’ve got missions to complete and more gold to get! Those 120,000 gold mounts on the Auction House aren’t gonna buy themselves, you know.

Geez, I also didn’t mention the new Night Elf Death Knight alt I made to level. I’m already up to 72, and having a good time feeling my way through Northrend quests again. It’s been a long time, but it’s just like coming home. These heirlooms from the new system are so nice, and the Void Tendril heirloom trinket you can get from a Garrison mission (if your character is over iLevel 675 and so are your followers) is so overpowered it’s insane. Oh, and that trinket comes in a bag, the trinket is BOP but the bag reward you get is BOE. So you can buy that heirloom trinket from the Auction House if you search for the bag it comes in! It’s called the Void-Shrouded Satchel, and the trinket is called the Touch of the Void.

So much to do, so little time….

Please, Blizzard, just hold off the patch and expansion, just… yes, bring them, I really want them, but… not yet!

Concerning Arming the Military in America

Since the tragic terrorist attack and the murders of our servicepeople in Chattanooga, there has been a lot of talk in the state I live in, Minnesota, about arming ‘the troops’.

The discussion itself highlights the growing feeling among some civilians that we here at home in America are under an active, ongoing threat of attack. Talking about arming active duty military servicepeople is a response to the feeling that we are engaged in a war on our home territory. A terrorist threat, a guerilla war, however you’d like to phrase it.

As a former Marine that writes about video games for people who mostly don’t have anything to do with active duty military stuff, or who aren’t familiar with America (waves to Rel and Hunni!) I wanted to give you a little more insight into some of the issues involved here. Stuff that I just don’t see included in the discussion.

The first big thing is, this discussion is mainly being driven by civilian citizens that want to do something to try to address what they feel is a vulnerability for our armed forces. The argument goes, “We allow them to be armed and defend themselves when we send them in harms way, but here at home we disarm them but require them to wear their uniforms or be in clearly marked areas, painting targets on them and making them helpless victims.”

As an example of where this comes from, take a look at this relevant picture from the news coverage of the recent Chattanooga terrorist attack. That picture is of the front door of the recruiting station that took quite a few rounds through the glass.

gunfreezone

That’s right, a sign proudly stating that “this is a helpless victim zone, fire at will, we can’t shoot back.”

Oh, no, sorry that was my editorializing. It’s a typical sign declaring an area to be a gun free zone, so please don’t bring your guns in here.

How that is any different from posting a sign saying, “Hey whackjob, helpless victims inside, have fun” I have no idea.

So civilians want to do something. And something probably should be done.

But you can’t just say, “Oh well let’s arm them all and then we’re all safe.”

The armed forces won’t do that, because THEY’RE in charge of how the internal firearms policies work, and those policies are based on long and careful considerations of lots of stuff. No, really.

See, the first issue is the conversation is happening in the wrong place. Civilians aren’t going to get SHIT done about this.

Armed forces aren’t democracies. It’s a top down hierarchy that is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not a civilian legal code. There are specific rules about firearms use by active duty military.

Changes in the civilian legal system, especially at the state level, can’t dictate how a federal armed force will choose to arm or equipment individual mission classifications or MOS dutues. The National Guard may work differently, but sure as hell Governor Dayton in Minnesota ain’t gonna get the Marines all issued pistols and ammo. So talking about it is just a barometer of the concern we all have about wanting to do something.

Any action will come from the military themselves.

A valid question would be, “Is there anything in the civilian legal system preventing the various branches of the military from arming recruiters or other service personnel?”

NO.

They can absolutely do this. The armed forces can indeed, at any time, choose to make internal changes up to and including assigning weapons to, issuing weapons to, and instructing active duty servicemen to carry them while going to and from and about their duties here and anywhere else they are assigned.

The main issues as to whether they will or not are armory and supply logistics, firearms safety, weapons inventory control and mission requirements.

Let’s talk about mission requirements first.

All it takes for this change to begin is for the upper ranks of military leadership to re-examine what the mission requirements are for, say, active duty servicepeople assigned to recruiter duty.

If they re-examine the requirements for that mission and determine that the capability of an armed response to a potential threat is required, then they can determine what type of the equipment needs to be issued to a serviceperson fulfilling that mission. That includes the issuing of a firearm, what type of firearm, and deciding at what times that firearm is to be carried and how.

Regulations and standards get written. It’s called your T/O equipment, or table of organization equipment. Every rank, every role has a place within the Table of Organization, and if your role requires you to carry a Beretta 9mm pistol as your T/O weapon, then there you go.

It does not require any interference by an outside agency or civilian legal system.

I can tell you flat out that before that happens, before the T/O gets re-evaluated for recruiters to be required to carry firearms, then someone will have to admit that our armed forces in the United States of America are under credible and consistent threat on domestic soil by armed terrorists, whether foreign or domestic.

Despite all the talk in the media, ain’t nobody official from the federal government gone anywhere NEAR saying that, or admitting to it.

But let’s say our military leadership does change the mission requirements, they determine our military forces assigned to recruiter duty, or living off base, all need to be armed.

The next step are all those rules and regulations and standards that have to follow.

First off, it won’t be a case of just letting military personnel carry their personally owned firearms. Not in this lifetime.

This may surprise you, but most active duty military don’t OWN personal firearms. Not while they’re active and living on base. If they do have them, they mostly have them at their parent’s or relatives home, or at a friend’s house off base.

Why?

Because if you have a personally owned firearm on base, you have to keep it stored in the on-base armory, where it is controlled, maintained and issued by the armorers just like any government owned firearm, and if you want to check your personally owned weapon out to go hunting, then you have to go there and request it, fill out the inventory control card, and after shooting it you have to clean it before they let you check it back in.

Most people don’t want to deal with the hassle.

Also, there will not be a requirement that active duty military must spend personal funds to purchase a firearm for official use. So no, no they won’t make active duty recruiters carry personal firearms. And I cannot see them allowing the possession and carry of personally owned firearms while on duty in uniform. I just cannot see that happening, because holsters and rifle slings and safety and OMG just no.

No, if the mission changes so our recruiters need to carry a firearm for personal defense, it will have to be an official firearm identified and supplied by the military, controlled under armory conditions and inventory rules, and the service member will have to train with it and qualify on the range with it.

So, on to the next one. Armory and logistics.

The military will have to get enough inventory of these firearms to issue out to meet this new requirement. Also ammunition. Also all associated equipment like holsters, etc.

Training in the rules and regulations on grooming and cleanliness standards will have to be provided, since  aside from Military Police and officers, few active duty servicepeople are ever issued a pistol for their T/O weapon. Your average Marine sure as heck knows how to march with and salute with a rifle in his possession, but a pistol?

Yes, these are important considerations. You don’t just hand a pistol and holster to a Sergeant on recruiter duty and tell him to figure it out.

And finally, one of the biggest considerations; safety and public opinion.

Before the recruiters are assigned weapons and ammo and directed when and how to carry them, someone in the military leadership will have to decide that the benefits of arming the recruiters outweigh the potential negatives of loss of life, bad press and other fallout that would come from an active duty service person firing on and wounding or killing a civilian when it wasn’t in response to an actual terrorist assault.

If you arm a shitload of recruiters, you HAVE to address the conditions that permit those recruiters to use those weapons.

Only in defense of themselves? What about in defense of others? All service people swear an oath to protect and defend the citizens of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

That’s pretty fucking cut and dried. it doesn’t get much plainer than that.

Yes, there is training provided on when it is appropriate to apply lethal force. Yes, that training can and would be freshened up for everyone involved. But it is a consideration that would have to be rexamined in light of arming active duty people and sending them out to interact with civilians all the time. The training is normally focused on what to do while on active guard duty and witnessing a security breach, or in the field, not when walking across a mini-mall parking lot to your POV.

But this is the real world, and if you’ve never been in the active military you have no freaking idea how much your base and unit commanders fear and dread having their Marines or whatever get into trouble with civilians off base.

No, really. You really have no idea.

Just for a moment try to imagine that the unit commander is the father of 200 or more smelly, messy testoterone-addled teenagers whose only desire is to get out of the house, get drunk and get laid at any opportunity.

What is worse is none of those kids are yours, they come from your wife’s former marriage. So you’ve got all the responsibility, but you aren’t related to those pains in the ass by blood.

And finally, realize that these kids are off base, out of your control, and when or if they get into trouble it will be with civilian authorities that are going to resent having your charges out of their legal control because they fall under the UCMJ for most things.

That base or unit commander, therefore, rarely feels much mercy towards someone that fucks up to the point that the civilian law ges involved, from say a DUI off base.

You cannot imagine the reaming you endure and the punitive actions that can be taken when a dry cleaning store owner calls your base commander to tell him, personally, that Private Dumbschmuck wrote him a bad check for the uniform dry cleaning bill.

Think about it.

Now we’re talking about those military leaders having to address how to deal with having all those recruiters, working out of small offices all over the country, being armed and living exclusively among civilians all the time, with the increased potential for incidents that would come with it.

So there you go. Those are just some of the real issues involved behind the scenes right now while people are yelling about how OF COURSE our active duty military should be armed and why hasn’t it happened already, jerk that knee.

Could be those folks are right. Maybe our recruiters should be armed. Maybe ALL active duty military should be armed while not actively on base or at a secured facility.

But those decisions need to be made after careful consideration of all the many aspects of this change, and as part of an overall analysis of how to respond to the situation as a whole.

I can assure you that if our military leaders are looking at the pros and cons of increasing defensive capabilities on an individual basis among recruiters and off-base active duty military, they are also looking at ways to be proactive and go on the offensive, identifying the threats in each community and taking action against them to neutralize them before it gets to a shooting at a strip mall.

That would require increased military intelligence and cooperation with local and federal law enforcement, but those are the kinds of things they WILL be examining.

This isn’t going to be about a sudden popular fad in the media asking why they’re not arming recruiters.

It’s going to be about analyzing the overall threat, and how best to address it. And just tossing guns to recruiters isn’t going to be the only solution discussed, or the only layer to the solution, if any, that they eventually go with.

Never lose sight of the fact that before any of this happens, there will have to be an official recognition by the government and the armed forces that this is a serious ongoing threat that needs to be faced. I’ll be honest, our current sitting President does not seem capable of using the term ‘terrorist’ or of acknowledging that anything out of the ordinary is happening in America. Can’t fix it if you’re too proud to admit it’s broke.

In the short term, I’d expect many, many, many safety briefings and terrorism counteraction classes are being given and an overall “let’s be careful out there” message is being delivered to the troops.

If WoW PVP had other popular PVP modes

Yesterday Blizzard revealed they were developing a ‘Mercenary’ mode for battleground queing.

In brief, it’s a system that would speed up queue times by letting members of an over-represented faction play on the opposing faction team for that match.

I like that Blizzard are very careful about there being ‘lore’ reasons behind all the pvp content the players have available. There needs to be some small suspension of disbelief in the number of times the battle for Alterac Valley plays out, but everything has to this date had to be explainable in terms of lore and story and setting and motivation.

So it is with Mercenary mode. A simple conceit that allows us to imagine, if only for a moment, that some traditionally Alliance races have individuals that would be willing (for a wage or a cause) to join in on the other side.

Sounds pretty cool to me.

I’m sure a lot of questions immediately spring to the minds of the perpetual complainers. “What about people who join a match intending to throw it for their friends on the other side!” Etc, etc, ohmygodarewebacktothat.

I remember a time, lost to the pages of history, where you could have characters of only one faction on a server. You could go Horde or Alliance on a server, but not both. Why? Because OMG what if your friends on Alliance were going to PvP and you could switch to Horde and listen in on enemy plans WTFQQBBQ.

Yeah, that was a thing. Didn’t really happen because, as we all discovered, outside of flaming forum posts nobody ended up having the energy to truly give a shit what the other side was planning. I mean really, nobody has time for that shit.

Remember when Transmog was impossible to consider implementing because of how game breaking it would be for pvp if people couldn’t evaluate your power level by recognizing the look of the individual pieces of gear you had equipped?

Oh yeah, you think I’m kidding. That was also really a thing, and some people actually took that argument seriously.

Moving on…

I like this idea, I think it sounds fun, spices things up and adds some additional flavor options.

But I don’t think we’ve gone anywhere near far enough, and I wonder if the desire to match gameplay into existing lore and story are limiting our options.

As an example.

We have these wonderful maps for PvP battelgrounds, places like Alterac Valley, just as an example.

These maps, if present in a traditional first person shooter game, would each have multiple mission types you could choose from. capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, you know the drill.

We get one type of battle built in to each map. Wouldn’t it be WONDERFUL if we could use these maps for other types of missions? Missions that perhaps wouldn’t use the looking for more / automatic matchmaker function, but would instead open them up for inner-guild or cross-realm friend gameplay events?

My first example of what I’m talking about, using Alterac Valley, would be a Snipe Hunt.

A group of friends or guildies, all same faction, group up into a raid and queue up for the battle.

The existing looking for group has role verification. You get a popup offering you the different types of role you are willing to queue for based on the capabilities if your class.

In this case though, it wouldn’t be a role check for tank, healer or DPS. Instead it would be a check for Hunter or Hunted.

In Snipe Hunt, one person would be the Hunted, and everyone else would be the Hunters.

That one person would be the target of everyone else. Obviously a class with stealth capabilities would be great for this, but consider this;

The first question everyone would have is, why not gang up in groups of four and ensure that whichever group finds the Hunted can lock them down and insta kill them?

My answer to that is, proximity based health and dps debuffs. The closer a Hunter is to other Hunters, the lower the debuff drops their health, damage and related atributes like armor.

If you hunt as a pack of four, you will be more effective in terms of numbers and multitasking but you will still have the effective health and combined damage of one player, the average of all four combined.

Can you imagine the fun of a stealthed Hunted sneaking up on a group of four Hunters and killing them all in a burst of Killing Spree or Barrage because of how weak they were when clumped up?

One grenade, man. Just one grenade. Don’t bunch up! Get scouts out on the flanks, damn it!

It would be a balancing act, but I think you could tweak the gameplay into something that would be fun and thrilling, especially if there were bonus objectives like capture the flag or treasures to steal or other things that could give the Hunted multiple paths to gather enough points to hit a win objective.

If it were all capture the flag, then the Hunted turn turtle, and if there are no capture points or treasures than there is no reason for a Hunted to go roaming instead of hiding in stealth in a corner. But give the Hunted a time limit and a point total to reach, and make each Hunter kill, flag point or treasure worth a certain number of points and the Hunted gets plenty of options to make the flow unpredictable.

Moving away from the gametype, think how you would feel being able to join a group of guildies for a night of “Hunt the Guild Leader”, where everyone gets to go into a battlegroun with one goal… hunt your guild leader down and kill him with extreme prejudice.

Or a cross-server group of Twitter friends able to group up with the express goal of killing someone like Rades. Rades is a badass hunter, he could handle it. Right?

Same-faction grouping for different pvp modes in battlegrounds wouldn’t really fit in with lore or story, AT ALL, but I think it would inject a lot of life into the game and add lots of possibilitiies for friends to get together and do things together outside of formal pve raiding or playing against strangers.

With all the innovation taking place in FPS games, i’d love to see more gameplay modes available for our existing battlegrounds. Heck, even tourist modes for Battlegrounds would be a hoot.

What do you think? Do you have any passing ideas for spicing up pvp by keeping the battle within your circle of friends?

Adventures in the Timeless Jungle

With the advent of Patch 6.2, I tried to have as few expectations as possible. Spoilers and all that.

Still, it’s hard to be spoiler free when you’re online and surrounded by enthusiastic people who enjoy sharing the things they look forward to, especially with such a big unknown as ‘what will we be doing next?’.

So I knew there would be rare mobs and treasure chests that had a spawn cycle similar to the Timeless Isle from MoP.

I also knew there would be ships and a shipyard, but I didn’t give much of a ship. Can I get on them and take my piracy on the high seas like in Assassin’s Creed – Black Flag? No? Oh, I get to send faceless crews off to do missions for me and you’ll let me know how they turned out?

Okay. Well then. I hope you go have fun! Bring back some fruit and little pink umbrellas so I can enjoy a nice tropical drink while I bask in the sunshine here on my beach because I guess I’m not going on a cruise ship with you. Because I’m the hero. /sip.

It’s safe to say I didn’t know the specifics, but what I did know didn’t exactly flip my skirt up in excitement.

But that was then, and along came Tuesday, so let’s go see this Timeless Jungle.

So far, I have to say it’s changing my expectations.

The terrain is as varied as the rest of Draenor, but much more cluttered, claustrophobic, atmospheric. I’m enjoying it. There is definitely more of a feeling of tension moving around.

There are bad guys everywhere it seems, crammed into every nook and cranny.

And yes, just like in the Timeless Isle there are rare mobs on respawn timers everywhere, and yes there are already camping groups waiting for their specific highly desired spawn. With the added complication of the Group Finder and cross realm match making, which I think is going to be a big help. Heck, thanks to group finder we filled out a 40 person raid group to take down the Whale Shark off the Northeast coast of the jungle last night to get our Shipyard blueprints, took less than 10 minutes to finll the entire group. That plus inviting friends, of course.

Before I go too much farther into the good, I have some grumpiness to get off my butt. let’s get this out of the way.

There are factions grinds, and my apologies to Blizzard but this ‘kinder gentler rep grind’ I was told about is bullshit. I’d rather grind mobs and unlock rep at MY pace then be locked behind gated daily quests that force me to drag it out over weeks.

Here’s the horrible truth about the new reputation system, at least for your initial faction-specific reputation; it still sucks.

there are two ways we’ve seen this, and each has it’s pros and cons.

Having only mob kills give rep means you have to grind mobs to get your rep and with a teeny bit of rep per kill, it will take a long time to amass vast quantities. But at least when you have a really big block of time, like say a day off from work on Saturday, you can get in there and get some serious grinding done.

Having only daily quests give you rep means that yes yuo can log in and do one big event for a large chunk of rep, but you can’t go out and spend all day grinding if yuo have a sudden sufficiency of free time. You have no choice but to do the limited quests available in a single day, and even if you have plenty of time you run out of rep quests before you might run out of desire to do them. And if you have too little time to do even the single quest in a given day, I know I feel like each day I don’t log in and do them is another day I’m falling farther and farther behind with NO WAY TO CATCH UP TO MY FRIENDS.

The solution?

ADD BOTH METHODS instead of this either or crap. /rant off.

Okay, so I got that out of my system, and it was important for me to say something because Blizzard made a lot out of how they heard our pain from the initial WoD rep grinds and made them so much better. Um, no. When I finally got the TIME to do rep grinds, it took me less than a week to finish all FOUR. And it felt great.

Also, I’d like to point out that the original Warlords of Draenor reputations had no impact on gameplay or gating content. They provided cosmetic items, mounts, pets, followers. Most of those items shared to your account, so only ONE character really needed to do any of them.

Now, there is actual content for our mission success gated behind reputations, meaning every character that we want to have a viable shipyard or legendary progression needs to do those same rep grinds, to some extent. No, honored ain’t that long a slog but it’s more than my Priest or Druid needed to do so far. Just an observation.

So, as far as the concept of reputation grinds being so much better now? I have a saying that I find applicable.

Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

Okay, seriously, moving past that. The actual area is so much better than that.

I went into Tanaan Jungle, and what I’m finding is I really like the hunt for rares, the seeking of the Equipment Blueprints for my Shipyard, the random events and activities and the general feeling of hustle and bustle.

I also like how some of the reputation is at least done in different ways, like instead of just daily quests one of them DOES require you to farm mobs to get claws, to earn your right to challenge more powerful bosses for better reputation. That sounds pretty good, right? earning the right to challenge an opponent to increase your reputation with their enemies? I like that.

What has surprised me is how powerful the normal mobs out there are.

I’m running as a Warlock with a tanking AoE demon pet and wearing damn near iLevel 700 raid gear. I didn’t expect each generic mob fight to be so stiff, and to have to watch where I was going to the extent that I am.

I also didn’t expect the entire area of the Throne of Kiljaeden, where lots of rares and quests and stuff are, to be elites.

I can kill them one on one, even two on one sure, but it takes a lot longer than I expected.

I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m saying it’s unexpected.

Running around in there solo for a few days, it felt pretty slow. Things take a while to die.

On the flip side, I’m using Avianna’s Feather on cooldown to get around fast. That thing is a must have.

So I was getting kind of down in the mouth about it. I mean, here’s the new content and if it’s this stiff on my raid geared tank-having character, what the hell would my squishy Rogue or Priest think? I get sudden images of a train rolling down the track. POW! right in the kisser!

And then this morning, while I logged in for a few minutes to see if maybe I could score a rare, I found that a bunch of guildies were also on and I joined them while they bopped around slaying rares by the dozens, including tearing through the Throne of Kiljaeden.

Suddenly, it all makes sense.

If you actually have a group of friends with you, even if none of them are healers, everything in that zone clicks and it’s perfectly balanced. It is good to have a tank, but I bet a Hunter with a tanking pet and a healer could get along fine.

With a small group, the timing feels perfect. The mobs are just tough enough to let you cut loose with your rotations and not feel like the thing will be dead before your first cast gets off, and soft enough to not feel you’re gonna insta-wipe when you pull an extra pack.

Suddenly, reputation grinds like collecting claws makes PERFECT sense, as long as you approach those areas of Tanaan Jungle as an opportunity to get together with just a couple of other friends and make a go of it for an hour or two.

For me it was a really nice sense of shifting perspectives. Instead of grousing about how tough the opponents are, I started seeing that some areas are fine for soloing, and others are balanced to encourage you to go play with friends for a bit.

Do you HAVE to? Not really. Like I said, I didn’t know any better. I took my Warlock up to the Throne area on Tuesday night, and I had it all to myself. It took me a long time, but I did go up there and I did kill quite a lot of enemies and explored around a bit. I just had to take my time and be careful of positioning.

I know, it’s still early days. Maybe things will change and I’ll be grumpy again next week.

But for right now, my first real impressions are that I like it. In fact, I love it. I just don’t want to spend a lot of time there doing it. It ain’t no place to relax. Get in, get it done, get the heck out.

My hope is, not only will this encourage ME to find other friends to play with on a regular basis but that other people will also feel inspired to want to play together instead of always being a lone wolf. It doesn’t do much good to want to play with friends if everyone else is too busy getting their soloing done. :)

One last thing.

This really does highlight how awesome the Barracks is, and the ability to have a Bodyguard to follow you around. And how wonderfully useful it was for Blizzard to give us multiple different types of potential Bodyguards that we can pick from depending on what WE think we need to fit our playstyle. I have a tank I can control as a Warlock or Hunter, so I’d rather have a healer or DPS along to help out.

But I can promise you, my Priest, if she ever goes there, will have a pet tank as a Bodyguard, 100% guaranteed.

Never really NEEDED a Bodyguard before, but now? Now I can definitely feel the benefit, no matter how billy badass I think I am.

All things considered, I have to give the patch a tentative Bear Butt Up.

Farming Sha’tari Defense Rep – The Quick Way

Shatari Defense Trading Post - mount and building

This morning, I finished the last of my pre-6.2 patch bucket list. I went from Neutral to Exalted with Sha’tari Defense, the reputation associated with the Garrison Trading Post, in three hours.

It was fast, it was fun, it was easy.

I’ve avoided working on this reputation because of the insane length of time it would take to solo it out. There will be things like a Garrison Quest in patch 6.2 that gives 1000 rep towards it that will help, but if you’re looking to clear the decks BEFORE the patch drops, maybe this will help out.

The pre-requisites to accomplish this are having an Alliance Trading Post at least to level 2 so that you unlock the Sha’tari Defense reputation, and preferably to level 3 for an extra 20% reputation boost. It is very helpful to also have a Battle Standard of Cooperation or other Guild Banner (sold from Guild Vendors) that you can drop on cooldown to award bonus rep. Oh yeah, and be level 100, of course.

The way I did it is the same way I see most people getting it done lately, forming a 5 person group in the Custom Group Finder tool, and then hitting the Path of Glory.

You see, there is a place in the Northeast corner of Talador called the Path of Glory, leading right to the massive iron gates blocking the way to the jungle.


Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - smallYou can get here quite easily as Alliance by flying to Fort Wrynn (where you started in the zone) and riding along the path to the place where it forks before the citadel.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - map

Here you will find the Path of Glory, just by taking the branch of the path to the right. It’s a very short cul-de-sac that ends at the massive Iron Gates. And before these gates, tasty, tasty elite mobs that award Sha’tari Defense reputation. Lots of it. EACH.

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates 2

Shatari Defense - Path of Glory - before the gates 3

While I’m sure my Death Knight pal Monstre could walk in here and solo them all, I’m not quite so sturdy.

So, it’s time to find some friends, fast.

There are LOTS of folks trying to get this rep done. All you need to do is start or join a 5 person group. Raid groups larger than 5 don’t receive rep for kills, so you need to make a 5 person one to get this done.

Just in case you haven’t used the new Dungeon Finder tools to do this before, you need to choose Premade Groups and then the Custom sub-category.

Dungeon Finder tool 1

Dungeon Finder tool 2

If you’re a tank or healer, it should be simple to find a group. If you’re DPS, you may want to make your own.

I was fortunate enough to join a group as DPS that still had a few open slots. We ended up with a raid geared Monk tank, two destro Warlocks, a balance Druid and an arms Warrior. No, we had no healer, and yes, that made some of the pulls where we grabbed everything a little tricky. We had to time things to make the really big pulls when the tank had a lot of cooldowns available.

Still and all, dropping the banners, using our Warlock AoE stuns, dropping massive AoE damage (gotta love Rain of Fire and Fire and Brimstone), even without any heals we cleared the area in front of the gates repeatedly as soon as the mobs respawned. And the spawn FAST.

We’d usually still be finishing off the last few from barrel toss pulls as the respawns began trickling in. You are not left waiting.

Three hours of clearing the area, minus probably a half an hour of messing around as people wanted to hearth to Garrison to buy banners from the guild vendor and be summoned back, then hearth to the Garrison to upgrade (or build!) their Trading Posts and then be summoned back. Or go walk their dog. Or look for a garage remote for some strange reason.

The rewards for finishing this rep are pretty good. Aside from a really nice set of Plate armor that is transmoggable (and binds on pickup, so if you want it make sure to run this on your plate-wearing character!) there is also the nice bloody elephant mount shown above, and two toys, one of which transforms you into a Draenei plate-wearing Sha’tari Defender for an hour. Transforming items that last an hour are pretty rare, so it’s a very nice toy.

Oh yeah, and you’ll be able to buy the Sky Fry pet, as well, if you haven’t bought him off the Auction House.

Personally, I’d recommend a standard 5 person group of tank, healer and three DPS instead of trying it with no heals. All it takes is grabbing a group too big with no tanking cooldown available and you’re in for a short run back from the graveyard.

I’ve been wanting to do this and putting it off for at least five months now, all because I didn’t want to solo an endless grind.

But a three hour clear? I think any of us can handle that, if only once. And if you don’t get all the way there with your first group, there is always another you can join or form.

Did I mention that group finder is cross-server? Just in case you haven’t ever used it and were worried not many might know of it or use it from your low population server. No, it’s widely used, and extremely convenient.

Just be careful that the server you get pulled into doesn’t change you from PvE to PvP… or accept it and be prepared to maybe farm some honor while you work. :)

I don’t know what will happen when patch 6.2 comes along. I think this area in front of the gates to the jungle will be opened and the elite mobs will no longer be so convenient to munch on. Maybe in three days you’ll be back to farming reputation in the harbor or Shattrath City.

Whatever happens, if you’ve been hanging back, I hope this encourages you to take the step to get it done if you’re at all wanting the toys, mount and pet. I know I’m very happy I did.

Only thing that would have made it better was if I’d done it with some friends.

Half an Idea – Injecting Randomness into Gameplay

E3 is going on right now, and aside from making me really glad to have bought an Xbox One, it’s pretty cool to see the new ideas and gorgeous concept videos on screen. I love a slick trailer.

Still, there is a reason Penny Arcade coined the term ‘bullshot’ to refer to advance release screenshots full of bullshit hype that doesn’t reflect real gameplay. I’ll enjoy the promise and then judge the execution, just like most other gamers I know.

While looking at all of these game trailers that are coming out, I had a thought occur to me on what could be a fun addition to mutliplayer shooter gaming that I just haven’t seen done yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

There are a lot of first person shooter games already out that incorporate leveling and loot aspects. It’s a hugely successful genre, and everyone is always looking for a way to spice things up, including how to generate real surprise.

What I was thinking was, what about mid-game context sensitive bonus objectives with enticing loot or rewards?

Here’s what I mean in actual gameplay.

Say you’re playing multiplayer, with strangers from the lobby or with friends, maybe a Destiny style game that has gear loot drops. Good stuff that is hard to get, your infamous rare ‘purple drop’.

The five of you are working together towards the common objective, go through this terrain and avoid or kill the trash mobs, get to the boss fight, down the boss and then pick up the flag/salvage the wreckage and extract to the starting point to finish.

But as your group is working through the trash, player A gets a pop-up window only she sees, saying ‘Bonus Objective – kill 10 trash mobs in 30 seconds or less within the next two minutes for epic weapon reward.’

That player, and only that player, now has a choice to make. Ignore the bonus objective that has a timer ticking and miss out on that oh so tasty chance at good loot… or go for it.

The danger to this objective is that it would be tuned so as to achieve it, you would have to ignore smart blocking and cover mechanics to go full rambo run-and-gun. You would have to push like an idiot to get that many kills, exposing yourself to enemy fire and risking your entire team getting wiped as you break cover. Risk vs reward, and only you know what is happening. Unless you are on voicechat and choose to share the news of your opportunity. And what makes it so enticing is, even if the team wipes, if you completed your objective first, you got that promised piece of loot.

Or another scenario. You and your group have made it to the boss fight, you’re taking it down, and at the 15% health mark you get a popup window, ‘Bonus Objective – Kill one member of your team to gain +50% chance at Legendary drop.’

Do you do it? Do you swivel around and kill a teammate at the tail end of a boss fight, making the whole thing even more difficult for everyone and screw your partners over just for a chance of better loot?

Mid-game bonus objectives to introduce a sense of randomness, to force you to make real decisions on the fly balancing risk vs reward, with enough of a variety that you can’t easily game it. And the point is to simulate the human element, the truth that you can’t ever really know the mind and heart of the person you’re with. You have to trust them. And to make trust matter, there has to be a reason for someone to be tempted to break that trust.

They don’t all have to be designed to screw over your teammates.

There could be objectives to fall back and ‘take 30 seconds to rest’ while engaged in combat or advancing through terrain, something that can provide a small disruption to the rest of the group unless they are well coordinated.

The point of all of these is not specifically to encourage players to troll a group, although that could be the result.

As I said, the point would be to introduce the human element that is present in all real life events. That randomness, the unpredictability of human nature under extreme stress.

The teammate with a sudden case of nerves that freezes in combat, the kill-crazy idiot that loses their head and forgets to duck, the buddy that runs too hard and has to catch their breath right when things go bad. The team mates on a heist that at the last minute turn on their partners to try and take the loot for themselves.

The team member that sees a friend about to take a rocket to the face, and leaps in front to take it themself, sacrificing their life for their friend.

Greed. Fear. Rage. Protectiveness. Caution.

In a video game where your character suffers instead of you, you the player in control may not feel the emotions your character would in that situation, but mid-game bonus objectives could entice you to ACT as if you were suddenly influenced by strong feelings.

To your fellow players, the effect would be as if you really did crack under pressure or flee the fight, or go nuts and walk into the open like Kurt Russell in Tombstone.

It’s a half an idea at most, but there are bones in it that I think could be fleshed out into something pretty damn fun, especially in a team based multiplayer shooter. Even among friends using voice chat together and able to warn each other, it would add a level of tension and suspense that would be an interesting addition to a game.

Okay, so here is where I hit publish, and someone tells me it’s already been done and by who. In a world with this many imaginative gamers, the possibility I came up with a new idea is ridiculous. But what the heck, I am enjoying imagining the possibilities to spice up my games.

Give me your feedback, what do you think? What kinds of mid-game bonus objectives do You think would toss a group a curveball in a fun way?