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?

Storytime: What Goes Around Comes Around

ILiveForThisShit

I have something to share I really enjoyed, wanted to end the week on an up stroke.

The company I work for is pretty sizeable, with many branches spread across four states. With all of that, it’s family owned and still has that small ‘everyone knows everyone’ feel to it. Most everyone here was here at the start, when it all worked out of a small office in a strip mall.

What I guess I’m leading towards is that, while we work our butts off and get things done, and people are respectful to each other, there is an underlying relaxation among those of us that have been here a while and know each other.

Another important point is that my office is in what you’d call the ‘head shed’ or the corporate area. We’ve got sales outlets and repair facilities and stuff here too, but this is the location with the upper management, such as it is. You know, CFO, CEO, HR, etc. In fact, my office shares a wall with the HR office and if we talk too loud in here, she’ll hear it pretty easily.

So, all that out of the way.

We’ve been expanding my department, growing, working towards tripling our current workforce. Part of that has been hiring and training a new salesman, and now adding on a personal assistant for me.

Part of explosive growth means I’m up to my ass in alligators. I am what you call a single point source of failure. If I go on vacation, people shit themselves. I know most of you can relate to that.

So, instead of training my own personal assistant, I trained the new outside sales guy last month, and now I’m having HIM train my new assistant. They’re next to me though, so I can chime in with the view from above on why he’s being traing to do the stuff Kyle is showing him.

I know this may surprise you, but I’m both a bit of a smartass and a practical joker. I know! Crazy, right? I know I’m pretty uptight and all most of the time here, so you probably didn’t know I could loosen up around the office.

Turned out the salesman, Kyle, well he can dish it out as well as he can take it, and he’s a good guy, so we been messing with each other ever since he came onboard. And the new guy, Curt, he’s all right, he does seem a little high strung but he is the FNG so he’s been taking any good natured ribbing in stride. He can dish it out as well, but he’s so swamped trying to learn a million new systems that he is always walking around in sort of a mid-level panic attack. Kyle tells him that the last thing he needs to do is drink coffee, but hey, who among us can be the one to toss that stone?

So here we are, three of us in my office, with Kyle the sales guy hovering over my new assistant Curt’s shoulder, pointing out stuff like computer systems, contact lists, quoting and, oh yeah, our phone system.

We have this interesting phone system just got added earlier this year. We’ve got digital phones at each desk, and each computer has an app called the Shoretel Communicator which will let us answer our phone, get voicemail messages, forward voicemails to other extensions and all sorts of stuff right from the computer screen. I don’t even need to touch the phone.

This new phone thingie also has a built in Instant Message function. You can call up the app, type in an extension or an employee name, and pop them an internal IM to their desktop. never use it myself, I’m more of a call guy, because if I send you an IM, how do I know you’re at your desk to get it?

So I know what it is, but I don’t use it, and to be honest I don’t know anyone that DOES use it for anything at all except for personal bullshit gossip, and even then I ain’t in that loop. Ain’t nobody got time for that at my desk.

Earlier this week, my boss takes off for Florida to go visit with some vendors, get a free hat, maybe shoot a round of golf. I’ve got Kyle working with Curt and out of my hair so I can try and stay in front of the leading edge of the emergencies that come in every day. “Oh my god my crane is down, what do we do?” “Just take a deep breath, relax, I’ll move some things around and have someone there to fix it in about half an hour. Cool?”

So there I am, plugging away, and an IM window pops up on my screen showing “Curt says; SUCK IT FU&*#^$&”.

I look over and there the two of them are, giggling and pointing fingers at each other. Curt says “Hey, I didn’t send that”, and Kyle points back at him “Well I can promise you I didn’t type it!”

Turns out Kyle is showing Curt the IM part of the phone system, as a joke Curt typed that in to my name, and then as he reached to backspace it off, Kyle reached his gorilla arm around and slapped the Enter key on the keyboard numpad and sent it.

So Curt is freaking out, the two of them are pointing at each other, and I say, “Oh yeah, if that’s where we’re going with this, I’m going to get HR involved.”

And I click the little ‘add a person to the conversation’ button on the IM, type in our HR manager’s name, and hit enter.

Moments later, the IM window on both my and Curt’s computers adds a notice that HR has joined the conversation… and that means she got the entire conversation window.

Curt… Curt just freaked. As Kyle dissolved in laughter mixed with gasps of “ohmigod you didn’t just,” Curt leaped out of his chair and away from the computer, recoiling in fear like a rattlesnake just popped it’s head around the monitor stand.

He’s just losing it, I thoght he was stroking out right there, so I closed the window on my desk closing the IM session, and reassured him there was very little chance HR would have seen it. it’s all good, I’m sure it’s fine.

Curt is still standing there in a panic attack, breathing heavy, saying “OMG I’m going to get walked out of the company, I can’t believe you did that.”

Now, I’m laughing too hard to really reply, but Curt went to get more coffee and Kyle sat down and got his laughter under control.

I gave it enough time for Curt to come back and Kyle to get tucked in next to him going over something else, and then I quietly got up and walked on over to the HR office, poked my head in and said, “Hey, did you happen to see a pop up IM window a few minutes ago?”

Lori looked at me and replied, “Yes, but I don’t know what that was about.”

So I explained. In detail. In loving detail. The whole story.

So she lost her shit too, then she got her ‘I’m professional, no really” face on, and walked out of her office.

I’m still standing there in the corridor outside my office when I hear her walk in and annouce, “Okay, what exactly is going on in here? That was completely inappropriate in the office.”

Now Kyle has enough of a clue to start asking her if she’s serious, halfway laughing and halfway worried, but Curt went from gently vibrating to over the edge freaked in point two seconds.

Lori played it perfectly straight as long as she could, coming down on them like a ton of bricks, denying I’d said anything to her and approaching it as if she was at her desk when the “SUCK IT FU&$^%*” IM popped up and she was now investigating.

So BOTH Kyle and Curt are now losing their shit, and I’m out in the hallway and i just cannot control my laughing. I thought I was going to pass out, I was laughing so hard.

Lori finally couldn’t keep it going and broke in laughter, and i went in and we calmed Kyle and Curt down somewhat.

Curt needed a bit to climb down off of the ceiling, but eventually I think he was getting back down to normal. Somewhat.

I immediately follow up by texting my boss, who is on a plane somewhere winging his way back to us, and let him know that there are high tensions between Curt and kyle in the office. I think they’re having some seriousl personality conflicts.

Then about half an hour later, I text him again telling him there is no longer an issue, that HR had to get involved and Lori straightened everything out, but my boss should probably find out what HR had to do by calling Lori when he landed.

Shortly after his plane landed, I get a panicked text from my boss, now he’s freaking, what happened, did Curt quit? Did Kyle quit? What’s going on?

I repeat my text saying he needs to call HR, no I’m completely serious Lori had to straighten it out.

Now, I know my boss. I know HE’S now freaking out.

I walk around the corner to the HR office, just in time to catch Lori fielding a call from my boss.

And he was taken like a suckerfish, hook, line and sinker. He bought the whole thing.

By the time the real story was shared with him, my boss was about ready to piss his pants in panic over trying to fill TWO sudden vacancies just when both of them were about ready to be kicked out into the real world and make some money.

Then came the capper.

Since today is Friday, it was the FNG’s first payday with a real physical check.

So when Curt came in to the office, he found a paycheck in a white envelope waiting for him on his keyboard, with a note from HR telling him it was his severance pay and to clean out his desk.

Ahhhh.

I think a lot of important training got accomplished.

In a very short period of time, I managed to teach both the new guys and remind my boss what will happen if you fuck with me.

Also, I taught a very valuable lesson on the importance of logging out of your desk when you step away, because you really don’t want anyone else to be able to send message from your keyboard.

Like, you really don’t.

Now I get to wait and watch for when some or all of them try to get me back.

Hey, if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out, right? I can hardly wait to see what they come up with.

Best pack a lunch, me boyos.

Flying through the Possibilities

Flying in Warlords of Draenor continues to be a hot topic.

I see a lot of conversation coming from the bitter and cynical side of life. What I mean is, people assuming that the reasons we’re given for no flying in Draenor or future expansions aren’t the full reasons, that there are things they’re doing to cut costs or remove options to better control us, and then going on to speculate on what’s going on.

Everything from trying to slow our progress so we subscribe longer, all the way through to trying to cut developer time and costs so they don’t have to develop all of the world, just the parts we see from the ground.

Now, I’m a cynical bastard myself, I’m not going to lie. I also assume that there are multiple reasons behind the decision.

I guess one difference is, I’m not assuming the devs are out to get us, or that additional reasons are automatically out to screw us, the players, the consumers of content, the customers.

Say what you want, but I firmly believe Blizzard as a company and the developers as people love this game and want us to be happy playing it and giving them our money for value received. I have a hard time ascribing malice to any decision they make. Just saying, that may make me biased.

I’m used to the idea of multiple goals being accomplished with one task. It’s smart to try and do it, it’s efficient. If you have several goals you’d like to accomplish, it just makes sense to try and come up with a solution that hits several of them at once. You might run into a problem trying to hammer too many problems with one solution that doesn’t fit right, but if you can smoothly cover a few things with one change, that’s smart.

If you are solving multiple issues with one change, from a PR perspective it also makes sense to mention the reasons that will be viewed positively by the customers and downplay any additional tasks that benefit you, the company, from a cost savings perspective.

Saving time and money isn’t inherently evil, but if you went by the media any business trying to save money must be the biggest devils in the lower pits. Meanies. As if throwing money at a problem somehow automatically benefits the customer. I don’t know where that idea came from. Maybe the idea is, the more money thrown at something the more luxurious or triple-A the experience?

Whatever. I’m open to the idea that Blizzard as a company would like to improve the game experience for us, the players, and approach issues trying different things that will accomplish several goals. I also expect that in announcements they may choose to play up the things they hope benefit the customers and downplay the parts that may be seen as cutting content or saving development time.

I personally don’t care what the goals are, I just wish I knew them all because then we can more effectively look for comprehensive solutions that also allow us to keep flying.

For example, I do see the point of saying that removing flying helps to immerse players forcibly into the game world.

I look back on the game as I’ve played it over the years, and those areas that are most alive in my memory are those places from Vanilla where I had to work my ass off to travel from place to place and survive. Where I moved from tree to rock to bush killing things for a quest, and then having to take long boat rides back to island quest givers, trying to avoid wandering foes that I no longer had a quest to fight.

Man, some zones just flat out SUCKED for the distances traveled and the unneccesary fighting we had to do and all the travel. But. But I came to know those zones extremely well, to have mobs that I developed a real hate on for the way they intruded on roads and came to knock my butt off my mount and make me fight back or run away perma-slowed.

Was that a good play experience? Is that something to look back on with fondness or want back? That’s a different question. I came to know those areas as places somehow more real, more tangible to me as a player than stuff in later expansions. The world seemed so much bigger when I had to ride my mount or walk my happy ass from place to place, collecting flight points and trying not to get eaten.

I still remember that first death march I made as a lowbie Druid from Darnassus to Stormwind to Booty Bay in an effort to get flight points well before I should legitimately ever have seen those zones. Why? I don’t know, it’s been almost a decade now. I think I was all excited to be ‘getting ahead of the game’ by having access to all of these remote regions before I came across them in normal play. Like I was somehow getting one over on the game, getting that access.

It says something that a game experience from almost a decade ago is still well remembered because of how intense it was trying to get through those areas on foot.

But all that really says is, it’s a valid idea to limit flight until after all the quests and content in an area are complete. As a reason to say we never need to fly there at all? Hold that thought.

What about, just off the top of my head, Archeaology? Where the travel from zone to zone and even from site to site within a zone seems specifically designed to require flight to do anything without being tedious or having to constantly fight pathing elites.

It seems to me that if we were only trying to discuss ways of accomplishing the one goal, more immersion in the content, then there are suggestions we could make to help find an alternative to banning all flight.

For example, what if flight in a zone were gated behind the Loremaster achievement for questing in that zone? Or even the overall Loremaster achievement for the entire continent?

That would give you a goal that drives you to finish not just the quests needed to level to 100, but all of the questing content for that expansion. At least on one character.

If future content patches are bringing new quests to a new, previously locked zone then that still works fine, because until all the new content is done that new zone can still be locked off from flying.

Is the concern not just quest content but also all the treasures to discover, the jumping puzzles to solve, the rares to find and kill?

Then add achievements for completing those to the overall meta achievement that you need tofinish to unlock flying.

After all, once you’ve completed all of the quests, found all of the treasures, killed all of the rares and solved all of the annoyingly coded and painfully bad jumping puzzles, haven’t you seen the content that you were intended to see from the ground? At this point, flying just adds another wonderful reward to all of that gameplay, and unlocks the ability to observe and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Draenor, take great screenshots, duck into those nooks and crannies you missed the first time around and play full on tourist, without detracting from the creative vision.

This is one reason why, even if there are multiple goals being taken care of with the removal of flying, I would like to know what all of them are.

Until we know what goals this is meant to solve, we have no way of effectively helping to discuss potential solutions that would be well received by the community in general.

As things are now, there are a lot of unhappy people who seem to feel that the core issue is ‘Blizzard isn’t listening to us because they’ve got secret reasons to do this to us’.

Do I want to fly my internet dragons through the skies of Draenor? Absolutely.

I spend all of my non-raid time in my Garrison. I don’t really want to get out there because traveling anywhere is a pain in the ass. I’d love to do Archeaology, but every time I get out there I get tired of the riding around from place to place on my ground mounts when the zones change.

I know Blizzard wants me active in the game world. Taking flight away isn’t doing it. Even with my badass raid geared characters that can steamroll rare mobs, I don’t want to get out there because of all the variable terrain. Moving from place to place when you’ve got to go a long way around the crevices, canyons, mountains and cliffs is a huge pain and, contrary to previous posts I’ve made, I don’t always want to use Avianna’s Feather. I like the RP aspects of mounting up and soaring into the sky on my dragon.

I know that’s just me, but I like to think that there should be a way to accomplish what Blizzard wants to get done while still opening the world up to us for flying.

I hope something gets worked out.

New WoW Pet Goes Live! Oh, and some other game launches too.

Yesterday a brand new pet became available for players in World of Warcraft!

To quote Ming Ming, THIS. IS. AWESOME.

What, Wonder Pets rock, man. Get off me.

The pet, named Graves, comes from an achievement linked to your Battle.net Heroes of the Storm account.

Yeah, Heroes of the Storm. I dunno, some other game that I guess launched recently or something. I hear it’s a Blizzard game based on another game that was based on… a Blizzard game?

It’s always nice to have an example of when to use the term ‘incestuous’ in a family friendly setting. “Heroes of the Storm is the incestuous offspring of a Starcraft 2 mod and League of Legends, conceived while Infinite Crisis watched from a chair in the corner.”

Too soon?

Okay, jokes made, moving on.

Heroes of the Storm released on June 2nd for open play, which is very cool.

I’ve had access to the beta for a while now, and while I have not personally played it myself my son played it a lot in the early days of access.

He decided he loved Sgt Hammer, so I bought that character along with may others in beta bundles, and snagged some skins as well.

According to my Heroes of the Storm account information, the Cub played Sgt Hammer to level 7 and won 32 matches. He also got Arthas to level 2. He raised our overall player level to 12. And none of that means anything to me because I don’t really know if that’s good, bad, normal or amazing.

I’ve learned a few things thanks to my friends on Twitter this morning. Yes, friends on Twitter had to teach me about how a game I’ve had long time beta access to works.

Apparently, your individual characters max out at level 10, and you get the WoW pet once your overall player account reaches level 20. So you can play whatever characters you want in matches, and all of your playing contributes to your overall player level.

Thanks to my son, I’m already at 12 towards that new pet. That’s pretty cool.

Here’s the thing.

I want to want to play Heroes of the Storm, but I don’t.

If you understood that last sentence, you may have had too much coffee, just like me.

Please understand, I am NOT knocking the game. This isn’t a ‘ooh a cool new game came out, let’s be a prick and bash it’ kind of post. No!

I think it’s a great looking game. The character designs are awesome, the graphic resolution is vibrant and alive, I wish that World of Warcraft has the beautiful visuals this game does. It’s amazing. I like to relax and watch Twitch streams of the game in action, and the game itself even has a ‘watch a match’ feature so I can EASILY watch the games in action… while someone else plays it.

But… I don’t actually want to play it myself. I dread the very thought.

There is no excuse for this. I even bought my own character and special skin months ago just for me to play, that I thought looked fantastic. I bought Illidan, and his Spectre skin that is just amazing. I’d LOVE to make a cosplay costume for that skin appearance, it is the first design of anything I would actually want to build and wear to a convention. As long as I had internal cooling, anyway.

spectre-illidan-skin-1

spectre-illidan-skin-2

I can’t push myself past whatever mental hurdle is stopping me from logging in and playing it.

In fact, in some ways this post is a self-shaming attempt to goad myself into playing. In the back of my head is a little Spectre Illidan saying to me, “If you just yell at yourself in public and get people to tell you that you’re an idiot for not playing, maybe the peer pressure will shame you into playing . Judo throw, hiyaaa!”

As if peer pressure has ever made me do anything in my entire life. Hah. Spectre Illidan don’t know me very well, do he?

Now with the release there is a pet on the end of a string, being dangled in front of me just out of arms reach. An incentive meant to strike where I am weakest. If I just get in there and, here’s an amazing concept, PLAY A FUN GAME, I can get a free pet in WoW.

The free mount got me to play Hearthstone, the free pet should be just the right tool for this job as well.

Still and all, I’m dreading doing this. I can’t even figure out why.

It’s similar to that feeling when there is something that you’ve heard is really cool, a TV show or whatever, and the initial buzz sounds good, and your friends gush how great it is, but the longer you go without taking action the less you want to actually see it. It’s almost as though all the positive stuff heard about it goes in the brain and becomes actual weight, having mass and substance, one comment at a time. Eventually, just thinking about seeing the show feels like you’ve got to lift this heavy load of comments out of the way to do it. Exhausting.

Or am I the only one that ever gets that feeling?

My son liked Heroes of the Storm. I should like it too. It looks cool, I like Starcraft and this is kinda like Starcraft only without the building bases or resource management or single player storyline or… hmmm. Come to think of it, most of that is why I like Starcraft. Heroes of the Storm is a game where the stuff I like about Starcraft is removed and all that is left are the named characters bashing away at each other in a click frenzy.

No, that’s not it. That’s a simplistic description that hides the truth. Heroes takes the charming character of Starcraft and puts in a faster-paced action-filled game that does have deep strategy, aimed at moving your butt from start to finish. No slow build up, no fear of a zerg frenzy, no turtling, just go go go. I can get behind that.

But I still dread playing it.

This came out in the open when I tried to enlist a substitute player over dinner the other night.

“You know, son, there is a really cool new pet in World of Warcraft that you can unlock by getting to level 20 in Heroes of the Storm. You like pets, and you like Sgt Hammer a lot. Why not maybe play it some more and you could unlock that pet for us?”

He nailed me right to the wall.

“If you need to ask someone else to play a game for you to get a pet, there’s something wrong.”

Um, ouch.

Maybe this post will get my butt moving, and get me past this mental block I’ve got. Maybe, once I start playing Illidan (or Sgt Hammer, why the heck not, apparently the Cub isn’t going to anytime soon), I’ll develop a newfound love of the game and get hooked.

Maybe. I watch other people play the game like Kiye Berries (@kiyeberries) on Twitch, and it sure looks like they’re having some fun.

Then again, maybe not. I guess it’s not you, it’s me, but just knowing that isn’t enough to get a relationship off the ground.

How about you? Are you a Warcraft player that intends to play HotS JUST to get yourself a new pet? How do you feel about it?

Pump Up the Positive with Pets!

Oh, is there drama out there? Controversy? Bah!

You call this controversy? I call it Wednesday.

Another week, another outrage, more noise, blah blah blah.

Let’s talk about something actually important.

Pets.

With the coming of this pre-patch pause, I’ve cranked up the pet battling from, zero to “oh hell yeah”, and begun my preparations to dominate the pet world… within the walls of my own private Garrison.

My pet collection is the most impressive one possessed by anyone named Bigbearbutt on the Azeroth-US server. It’s pretty badass. All other Bigbearbutts on Azeroth that I asked agreed, it’s pretty boss.

Now that I’ve whittled my desired pet collection list to under 15, and spent several years worth of WoW subscription on pets from the auction house, it’s time to go after pets that might take a bit of effort on my part.

Go figure, right?

So yes my friends, it’s time for…. An Awfully Big Adventure!

Trunks the tiny elephant will soon* be mine. For a given value of soon.

It feels like I spent all of last expansion preparing for this achievement. So many battles that have to be fought by two pets carrying dead weight. Dead weight in the form of the cutest little plushie that ever rawred.

Anyone that plotted out courses across Pandaria to powerlevel carried pets rubbed their hands together in glee. “I got this!”

And then I faced reality. over the course of the expansion change, my Pet Battle Teams addon broke.

Oh, there is a fix and I used it, but…. every one of my previously saved teams I crafted to destroy my opponents and level pets? Gone. /cry

All those strategies, washed away like tears in the rain. Tears I shed for thee, little Celestial Dragon!

Now, you may ask yourself, “What’s the big deal? You can jsut rebuild them by remembering what you used. You did them daily for months, you can remember, right?”

Hah. Oh, you’re a funny one, aren’t you? Remember what teams I used? Memory is something that happens to people with intact brain cells. I can’t even remember how to write or spell anymore. I don’t know how to do it. What I do, is I throw a sentence at my hands and they type on their own, and I watch what goes on the screen in dumbfounded amazement.

“Hey Cassie, look at this, my fingers know how to spell!”

“Not very well.”

Yeah, what do you expect from some dippy digits, anyhow.

Get to the point, already.

I has no teams. After all those battles across an entire expansion, I’m starting fresh.

Ah! But not unarmed or unarmied!

I still have me well over 200 battle pets of rare quality, leveled to 25 and hardened across a thousand battlefields. More than a thousand if that achievement is tracking right.

So I have the pets, I just need to figure out how to use them against each target, right? And I already did every one of these before, so how hard could this possibly be?

Heck, I’ll even stack the deck, and fully level Hiemalis the Elekk Plushie to 25 so she has max health and can survive the slings, arrows and AoE of outrageous fortune thrown at her.

Still, maybe someone has a list of where all the tamers I have to beat are. That would make this so much easier, a list broken down by zone of where the tamers for the achievement are, so I can just swoop around and go zone by zone.

Recognize them by name and remember where they can be found? Seriously, you really are funny, aren’t you?

A quick stop at Wowhead netted me a list, I’ve got a little list, oh I’ve got a little list of pet tamers I need to put in the ground.

Such a marvelous guide to the achievement, with the tamers grouped up by tab, It’ll certainly make the time just fly on by like mad.

Now, here is the funny bit. No, really, this is kind of cute.

So I start off going to the older regions first, and what do I discover?

Apparently, and this is news to me, there are pets that people are big fans of that I never used! Yep, still had them at level 1, never saw a day of combat.

Pets like, oh, the Imperial Eagle Chick, and the Pterrordax Hatchling, and the Zandalari Anklerender, and the Spring Rabbit, and the Darkmoon Tonk, oh and Iron Starlette, mustn’t forget Iron Starlette.

Most of my pet battles back in the day were done with Anubisath Idol, 3x Chrominius, 3x Pandaran Water Spirit and 3x Unborn Valkyrie. Which, I now notice, are mostly not even mentioned. Except the Idol, who I personally code-named “Overpowered”. What, he ain’t nerfed yet? Wow, I lost that bet.

Well, this is just going to go swimmingly.

I prepared for the wrong war! And I can’t remember my own strategies, so what the heck, might as well wing it and smile.

All joking aside, using the pets I do have I managed to clear out all the tamers in Kalimdor, Eastern Kingdoms, Outland, Northrend, the Cataclysm zones and Pandaria last night.

That leaves me with Draenor tamers which I haven’t even done on normal yet, the two Darkmoon Faire tamers, and all of the Celestial Tournament.

The Celestial Tournament.

Oh boy. Now doesn’t that just sound delightful, doing the Celestial Tournament tamers with two pet combinations.

All I can say is, this Trunks pet better have a “Massive Fart” ability that wipes out an entire team with one mighty puff of green death.

“You best start puffing me emerald death toots, Trainee Trunks.”

Now, at this point you might be asking yourself, “Wasnt’ the title of this here blog post something about being positive?”

Damn right it was!

I’m positive that this achievement has been one hell of a good time!

I love the smell of burnt plushie stuffing in the morning.

Smells like… victory.

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.