Firelands – Now With Improved Shiny!

Sigh.

So, there’s this thing. It’s a staff, and its freaking legendary.

You can get it by running the Firelands raid for, well, for like forever. And then a little after that.

You may or may not know that I’ve been running Firelands every single week on Monday night with battletag friends, proving I have an understanding of the meaning of work.

If you don’t know, the formula for work is the amount of force you exert times the distance the thingie traveled in the direction you wanted it to go.

In other words, if you use all your strength to push on a rock all day long and it doesn’t move so much as a single inch, you didn’t do any work.

By that definition, I don’t get any work done at my job. Ever. That fucking boulder goes nowhere.

I’m getting lots of work done in Firelands, though. Every week we move that rock just a little closer to my goal.

I honestly believe that I will be done with the legendary quest, oh, about a week before the pre-expansion patch comes out. We’ll see if I did the math right.

You’d think I know Firelands pretty well, right? I mean, we kill all the bosses in Firelands-10 heroic mode every single week. Sometimes with six or seven of us, sometimes with just two or three.

You’d think, right?

Right?

Last night we were doing a special style of Firelands, we ran it in normal mode and focused on getting Elynea through the Delegation questline for the Legendary, gathering and charging the fragments from the first four bosses.

We completed the collecting and killed the special bonus boss, but it might have taken us a few tries to get all the stones we needed from Alysrazor.

Because reasons.

See, here’s the thing. No, really, it wasn’t my fault, I can explain everything.

The first time we tried Alysrazor, we were all set and Elynea was raring to get her pyreshell fragments from the eggs. It seemed like the easiest boss of all to complete, because all you needed to do was grab three of those fragments, and one dropped from each egg. There are two eggs per phase, so logically we only have to do two phases of fragment gathering before setting the thing and letting it eat an explosion.

Well, Elynea might have been a tad bit too eager. Maybe. Last boss and all, you know how it is. She was very… eggcited.

There she is, standing in the middle of the area waiting for eggs to fall from the sky, and when they do she is RIGHT on top of them, reaching for the fragments.

Couldn’t actually gather the fragments, though, because there were these damn hatchlings trying to eat her, chasing her all over the place, and she couldn’t lose aggro and my was she getting frustrated at those darn tanks.

Get some aggro tanks, what the heck, amiright?

Except, ha, the hatchlings focus on whoever is the first person they see/closest person to them. They fixate on you, and think you’re the mama. Or want to eat you, whatever.

By the time we realized Elynea was spending her time running around the whole area being pecked to death by big bird, the fragments despawned.

No problem, carry on, right?

Second pass with the hatchlings, everyone but the tanks stand well the heck away from the center, and she gets her two fragments. Only one more to go!

Third pass with the hatchlings, she gets her last fragment, gets all set, waits for Alysrazor to explode… and waits… and waits… and we took too long.

Bird never did blow up.

Apparently, you gotta close escrow on the fire crow before the end of the third cycle.

Too bad we found that out after she combined the fragments and dropped it. So we have to do the whole thing over including gathering three more fragments. And wipe, too, since there ain’t no enrage timer on the big bad bird.

We die creatively (and in some cases exhaustingly), run back in, and there we are waiting to get things started.

As I’m standing there, I’m exploring my surroundings as a bear is wont to do. I’m just lookin’ around at the ground.

Yearningbear

I see something shiny there on the ground. It’s so pretty. So shiny.

I move closer to get a better look.

Sitting there on the ground is one of Alysrazor’s feathers!

Soshiny

I mean, look at it. It looks really cool, right?

I look at it, and my thought process goes exactly like this.

“Wow, that’s a molten feather.”
“It’s still sitting there on the ground.”
“It must not have despawned after the wipe.”
“I wonder if I can pick it up and run fast while we wait to start the fight.”
“I like to run fast.”
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
CLICK.

So, just so you know, and I’m saying this in the interests of performing a valuable public service, clicking on that feather is how you start the fight after a wipe.

Go figure, huh?

Who woulda thunk it.

Yeah… I suppose that does make more sense than that a molten feather just happened to still be lying there after the wipe.

Since some people (like Elynea) didn’t happen to be in range when I clicked on that pretty little feather, maybe we might possibly had to run like hell from Alysrazor all the way to the exit of the raid and run out.

Bonus points, who here knew the hatchlings would chase you all the way to the exit portal? Pretty cool, huh?

Yeah.

At least Elynea completed her Delegation quest and can now begin the glory that is gathering all those damn embers.

See, doesn’t that story just make you want to join me every Monday night at 7 central time? Don’t you just wanna LEAP into action?

Oh yeah, in a heartbeat. Sign my butt RIGHT up.

Grats, Elynea! You succeeded despite my very best efforts.

Movie Discussion – Guardians of the Galaxy (SPOILERS)

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy last Saturday night, and as of this writing the vast majority of media reviews I’ve seen, and the gushing of all my friends, seem to indicate that everyone else loved the movie as a fantastic, wonderful thing, best Marvel movie ever.

One thing I’ve heard said about it is that this is the ‘Star Wars’ for our generation.

I didn’t have quite that same reaction, and I’d like to talk about it because I actually know and enjoyed the source material, and I’m curious how that is tainting my viewing of the movie.

This is a discussion where I’m going to totally geek out. I loved the source comics for Guardians of the Galaxy, the Annihilation storyline.

Weaving that into normal Marvel comics would be hard enough, and for what they’re doing, I think they did a great job. Mostly.

I really liked the movie, don’t get me wrong. For an origin tale with tons of necessary exposition to introduce you to the characters, settings and motivations it did very well.

They have already announced there WILL be a Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I’m glad of that. I think the second movie, dealing with established characters and setting, will have even more room to go nuts and have fun.

But still. No movie is perfect, and since this is based on some extremely good comics that I love, it left me wondering why they made some of the changes they did, because they definitely detracted from my enjoyment of parts of the movie.

SPOILERS below this point.

It should come as no surprise that every character was modified from the comics to fit as part of their new team movie.

Drax deviated the most from the comics, and not necessarily for the better, but Drax as a character in the comics had an insanely complex and in some cases WTF backstory with Thanos. I can certainly appreciate someone looking at all that and saying, “Oh, hell no.”

Every character was changed. The appearances were the same, the style, but even Peter Quill was very different.
That’s okay, the movie was strong and it came off very well.

If there was one thing I carried with me leaving the theater that left a bitter aftertaste, it would be the treatment of Gamora in the film. And such a small thing, but even after a couple days I’m still irritated.

The universe of the movie is organic and funky.

It’s the Jurassic Park writ large, life will find a way, and it has, packed in every nook and cranny that could support it.

Space is filled with ancient planets that have gone through ups and downs, and in our modern age younger races stand on the shoulders of giants, in many cases scavenging a living by picking the bones left by the decaying elder races.

And I mean that literally.

You don’t get a sense of light years separating each world from the other.

It’s more immediate, everything is in your face, the teeming billions of the galaxy are in an inner-city ghetto of world tenements, each stacked right next door to it’s neighbor. Close enough to pop over for a cup of sugar or to loot some artifacts from a temple and crack your skulls.

That’s a good thing. Organic is good.

Making the universe feel funky? Outstanding.

Totally stands out, anything can happen here, and probably is in some far off corner.

And there ain’t a thing you as a person in this universe can do about it. Chaos is happening, the universe is too big, too unknown, too unknowable, too wild, and all you can do in this galactic shitstorm is the best you can to get by in your little part of it.

You can’t CONTROL it. There’s too much shit you can’t comprehend.

Seeing how all of these characters and others deal with this kind of universe is so much fun, offers so much potential.

So, Gamora.

In the Annihilation comics, Gamora is the female Riddick.

Think about that. Picture in your mind everything you know about Riddick as played by Vin Diesel. That is Gamora.

Except if anything, Gamora is much scarier, because she actively seeks out excuses to kill people. If she isn’t getting paid for it, she’ll kill you for fun, or because she’s bored, or so people won’t forget her reputation. Cold, ruthless, absolutely fearless.

In a universe filled with scary things possessing cosmic power, she is a cause for terror if you’re on her list.

Overall, they did a very nice job with her in the story.

My problem comes from the scene in the Kyln prison.

Remember, spoilers. PLEASE don’t read if you haven’t watched the movie yet.

There comes a point where Peter Quill, Rocket and Groot are sent as fresh prisoners to the Kyln prison. They are loosely allied with each other, and Gamora is with them but an outsider.

Gamora was just there to take the macguffin from Peter, and hasn’t had a special moment with anyone yet.

On the shuttle to the Kyln, Rocket makes it clear he has escaped from 22 previous prisons, and sees absolutely no reason why the Kyln should be any different. You want to break free of the Kyln, he’s gonna be the raccoon with the plan. Stick with him, he’s going places.

Once in the prison, Peter Quill has a scene where someone BIG makes it clear he’s about to make Peter his bitch. Rocket and Groot step in and face everyone down, it’s pretty cool.

Gamora has a scene where it’s shown how universally hated and feared she is, and Rocket points out she really does have a galaxy-wide rep as a badass assassin. It’s pretty clear the other prisoners intend to kill her first chance they get.

Peter Quill is being set up in the story as a bumbling young Han Solo. This is a good thing, he’s a rogue, he’s charming, but he’s inexperienced and relies on luck and improvisation rather than experience and planning. And he’s got a gooey center, it’s cute.

Cool so far?

So here is the problem.

Late at night, Gamora is shown being dragged through corridors of the prison by a small group of like 3 or 4 dirtbags, who clearly plan on killing her in some dark corner.

They drag her past a crowded room of sleeping prisoners, except for Peter who is wide awake and having a tender moment. He sees the fair damsel being dragged off to her doom, and decides to leap to the rescue.

Gamora is set up as a helpless damsel in distress for Peter Quill to save.

There is no explanation for how two or three pissant dirtbags managed to overpower the deadliest assassin in the known galaxy. One moment you see her stoic in her cell watching the door, the next she’s being manhandled down a corridor by a small group of thugs from central casting.

Now, don’t get all ‘oh shit another feminist for Gods sake shut up’ with me. Hear me out.

Picture in your head for one moment Vin Diesel as Riddick being hauled through that corridor by three or four meatsacks.

It’s okay, right? It’s like one of Riddick’s defining things. He gets taken by a group of scum, and he’s all right with it because he knows that he can kill ALL of them whenever he feels like it. You may think he needs rescuing, but the truth is he doesn’t. If he’s in chains heading somewhere, it’s because they’re saving him the effort of stealing a ship and flying it there himself.

Sure it may look dire, right up until the point that he shows everyone he’s just messing with them, before freeing himself and killing everyone in incredibly awesome ways.

That should have been Gamora. That is who the character in the comics is. Even if she was overpowered and hauled off by a crowd of dirtbags, it would have been part of a larger plan. Or because she’s bored and looking forward to turning the tables on them and seeing the look in their eyes when arrogance turns to fear.

As a fan of the comics, when I realized she really was overpowered and being dragged to her death, it was a big ‘bullshit’ moment.

The actual rescue and Peter Quill and Rocket and Drax stuff was good, don’t get me wrong. They used it to set the stage for Drax becoming a part of the group, and as they did it I can see it being fine with most people, but it felt totally unnecessary.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean, I’ll lay out an alternative way to reach the same result without using the damsel in distress bit.

Exact same everything as before, and we leave Gamora alone in her cell, Peter Quill and the others in their room with all the other male prisoners, and Drax having seen Gamora and clearly interested in watching her.

But here is where we deviate.

Gamora has no friends, she’s been dragged into prison with these idiots, and she was close enough to the rest of them in the shuttle to hear Rocket talk about his previous escapes and his intention to break out.

She is in the same group, and sees Peter Quill get told what a pretty little boy he is, and she sees Rocket and Groot face the other prisoners down.

Gamora knows people well enough to know that a scared prisoner isn’t going to fight you face to face if they can stab you in the back later when you’re asleep. She also knows people hold grudges, especially prisoners faced down in front of their peers. Everyone has to sleep sometime. And she could use an ally to get her off the Kyln.

She has reason to want to get into Rocket’s good graces, and she has seen Rocket is soft on Peter Quill.

Gamora knows something is coming. She watches and bides her time.
She has no problems with the other inmates. Someone may mouth off, but she tears him a new asshole, and everyone else backs off, reminded how she got her reputation. You don’t fuck with Gamora or you’ll get bloody and sore.

Late at night, as everyone is asleep, Peter Quill is grabbed by big ugly and a few cronies, who gag him and drag him out of the sleeping chamber. Sure as hell they’re pissed off for being embarassed in front of everyone earlier, and it’s time to make someone pay. But they’re afraid of Rocket and Groot, so they’re gonna take it out on Peter Quill. Fresh meat needs to be taught a lesson, they need to get some face back.

This is what Gamora was waiting for.

Gamora shadows Peter Quill and his captors, and when they’re getting all ugly and Peter is getting panicked, she leaps in and takes them down in Riddick-style moves that reinforce the core concept – you don’t fuck with Gamora.

Rocket shows up attracted by the noise, sees Gamora save Peter, now she’s got in ‘an’ with Rocket. Now she can get into their group and take part in their escape plan.

In this scenario, Gamora stays true to her character and reinforces being a total badass. She cynically analyzed the situation, determined a course of action that would get her what she wanted, and took action. No sentiment, just the appearance of sentiment.

There is still plenty of opportunity for character growth later, when she explains to everyone else why she betrayed Thanos and Ronin, and to have her steel heart warmed a teeny, tiny bit when the others put their lives on the line for what she believes in, and try and save Xandar. Which is what happens in the actual movie.

So what about Drax?

The scene introducing Drax was decent, but it would have worked just as well if he was stalking Gamora, followed her, was in time to witness her saving Peter, and then overheard her tell Rocket and Peter that she was betraying Ronin and was trying to get to something that Ronin wanted, and stop him from destroying the planet Xandar.

This puts Drax in the same spot as in the movie, but with more cunning and patience to achieve his true goal, killing Thanos (adjusted for the movie to include Ronin and anyone associated with Ronin).

Give Drax just the slightest amount of cunning to think through a plan, and he could have held off on revealing himself at all until the rest of the group started their prison break. Then he could use it to his advantage… kill Gamora, steal the macguffin, or choose a moment to save the team and earn his way into their escape.

Why help? Because this group was already pissing off Ronin and they were sure to be chased by Ronin if they fled. Also, she wants to save the innocents on Xandar which would resonate with Drax.

This gives the movie a chance to really focus on Drax unexpectedly stepping in and being a badass, saving the mission. You get a chance to see he’s valuable, not just a kill crazy psycho on an uncertain leash.

My only problem with the whole film is that one moment when the story took Gamora in that tired direction and it didn’t need to.

Putting Gamora in the position of a damsel in distress needing to be rescued cheapens her character, and is totally unnecessary to the story.

She’s not the damsel, she’s the ruthless killer. She isn’t a soft center needing to grow a hard shell, she’s hard all the way through, cynical and brutal, and her character development is that she is finally, just the smallest bit, by the barest fraction learning to feel something for someone other than herself, and putting herself out there for someone else is the risky move.

That one moment really disappointed me.

I really liked the movie overall, but because of how well the rest of the film played that one moment stood out for me even more.

Did you see the film without reading the comics? What was your take on it?

Borderlands 2 – The Things My Friends Shared

Since I’m coming very late to the party on Borderlands 2, there are a few things friends on Twitter have shared with me that have made the game faster to get into, and helped me feel that I was on top of my options.

Buying the ultimate version of the game

First, there is a lot of downloadable content for the game. It’s been out for a few years now, so even though it feels fresh and current tech, there are two additional character classes, several adventures, and two sets of level cap boosts out there.

All of those can be purchased individually, or you can get them in the Game of the Year edition.

I got into Borderlands 2 by getting a deal through Slickdeals. It got me a digital Steam bundle through Newegg that had the Borderlands 1 GOTY edition, and also Borderlands 2. STOCK Borderlands 2.

The deal was $8.50. Not so bad, right?

Except I started Borderlands 2 first, got totally hooked, and then got sticker shock on all those DLC packs. Good lord.

After playing a bit, everyone told me how cool Tiny Tina’s Dragon Keep was as a content expansion, and I wanted to try out Gaige the Mechromancer as a class (the infamous ‘Girlfriend mode’ class dear lord save us from stupid people), and all that stuff starts adding up to real money fast if you were to buy it one piece at a time on Steam.

What to do?

Well, I was helped in my decision making by my son, who loves playing Terraria, Portal 2 and some other games on Steam.

My Steam account.

I got home from work jonesing for a BL2 fix, and I can’t play because my son is having fun on Steam already.

I clearly did not think this through properly.

Ah! But wait!

I found a good deal once, maybe if I camp Slickdeals…

And score.

There was a deal to buy Borderlands 2 Game of the Year edition from Gamefly for $14.99, Steam Code.

Boom! There it is. The game and all the DLC, $15 bucks, all in.

And so a new Steam account was born so I could play my game and my son has inherited… everything else.

On the positive, this means I can keep an eye out for a cheap Portal 2 deal on Steam, and my son and I can play that coop. I hear it’s brilliant, and my son has watched many videos on Youtube of Portal 2 coop.

So, if you want the game yourself and don’t have it yet… I guess the moral of the long ass story is, there be cheap deals out there, be patient, and don’t rush out there and buy the core game like I did without checking things out first.

Shift Codes and Golden Keys

Thanks be to several of my friends on Twitter for letting me know there is a program from the game developer called Shift. From inside the game, under extras, you can register an email address for spam. In exchange, you get access to entering in ‘Shift’ codes for Golden Keys or other things like new heads, skins or weapons.

You can get these codes through following Borderlands on social media, and since the game has been out for a while, there are a lot of codes already out there. The website Orcz has a detailed, updated list of all Shift codes, and by using them all yesterday on my new GOTY account I ended up with over 210 golden keys and some free weapons and character skins.

Golden Keys can be used to open a bonus chest in the city of Sanctuary for random epic loot, so this is a very cool thing. Free epics!

In the game, the loot you get is based on your player level, so you can use a key anytime for level-appropriate goodies. The sotck game max level is like 50, and the two expansions brought that up to, what, 72 or something like that?

With 210 keys, you don’t have to feel like you have to wait until max level to use them. Also, you get epics, not legendaries. So since the REAL goodies are the super ultra rare Legendary drops, it’s not like using keys means loot doesn’t matter. Oh no, not at all. it just means you can play around with some freaky weapons and upgrades while still on the hunt for that ‘next big thang’.

It’s an RPG!

And finally, there are cool skill trees for every class, and yes, if you look on the internet, there ARE places with skill tree calculators and with suggested builds depending on what you’re wanting to play.

So you can have the fun of planning your character out and trying to decide what you want to put points into as you level with a full range of online options and support.

It’s got a good story!

I’ve always liked first person shooter games, but there is a limit to how long I can stay interested in the same maps, weapons and character skins. Unreal Tournament was a lot of fun, but there is just so much.

Adding in a massive, interesting and humorous story to a FPS is a big bonus. We’re not talking Halo here, where the story kind of sucked and levels were repetitious but the PvP was insanely awesome. This is a great story.

I want my own Butt Stallion. And if something happens to Butt Stallion later in the game, don’t spoil it for me.

Adding in RPG style leveling, random quality loot drops, and branching skill trees? Amazing! Letting me EASILY play with friends, expanding and contracting difficulty on the fly?

Now THAT is legendary.

All this and no monthly fee. No free content updates, but you know, I can live with that. I’m not marrying the game or devoting my entire life to it, I’m just playing it for a while.

Oh, and if you take into account the cost, why, for the price of one month of World of Warcraft, I got Borderlands 2.

What are the chances this $15 purchase will last me more than a month? Anyone?

The answer is….

Very high. Giggity.

Drinking Slag and Crapping Rainbows

Bearwall. Because I don’t care about pageviews and I have no interest in breaking this up into a week-long 5 part miniseries to keep you coming back for more.

In fact, what I’ll do is break this up into two parts and post them both today, so it’s easier to ignore one of them!

Just part of our customer disservice. Discouraging readers since… oh, heck, day one, really.

I have a new obsession, and its name is Borderlands 2.

Yes, I am well aware this is a game from 2012 that most everyone else seems to have played already. It’s so old the sequel prequel is coming out soon.

Borderlands 2 is not an MMO. It’s a cooperative first person shooter RPG set in a futuristic anarchistic apocalyptic world…. ic.

Does old game automatically mean bad game? Or tired and stale game? NO!

Unless the graphics suck, but hey, this is only two years old. I think the cell shaded graphics are perfect and crisp, and give me a ‘styled and smooth like WoW but not WoW’ vibe that I’m loving.

I’m not just gonna talk about Borderlands 2 and why it’s got me crapping rainbows. I’m going to start by dissing on World of Warcraft, and then explain how Borderlands 2 is filling a need I didn’t even know I had until the warm fuzzy feelings were gotten.

If I were to name three issues I have with World of Warcraft, it would be that the endgame content is too dependent on a massive playerbase, there are too many abilities crammed onto my bars/buttons, and the PvE ‘fun’ abilities are constantly screwed over (I mean ‘tuned’) due to PvP balance issues.

I’m pretty good with everything else. Yes, even long daily quest grinds and stuff.

In WoW, I am perfectly happy having long term goals that will take much logging in and questing and collecting and stuff to complete. I like having goals I can’t zerg through. Sometimes, it’s nice to push that stone up the hill a little ways and take a break, knowing there is no way you can roll it all the way up RIGHT NOW no matter how hard you try. So that’s not an issue for me, your kilometers may stray from baseline.

My first real issue is needing tons of people at endgame to get anything done.

The whole WoW thing is designed around being a massively populated world, and the top level challenging and rewarding content in the game requires large numbers of players to complete.

This leads inevitably to needing to get all them peeps. If you want a regular play experience, you need to gather up a large group of people to ensure you can do the content when you want instead of standing in a city yelling “Hey, anyone wanna raid?”

Guilds full of people, raid organization and application processes, solo players begging for ‘Looking For Group’ mechanics so as not to be left out, etc.

Here is my problem with it. You’re starting with a need for bodies to reach a certain number before you can access the content at the highest challenge level. This means first you need the bodies. Once you’ve got the quantity, then you can start selecting for quality.

Anybody ever hear a variation of the following statement in your raid team? “We’re still short three people, we need one tank, one healer and a DPS. Can anyone swap to a tank? Can anyone swap to a healer? Okay, now that we’ve done our best to control the quality of tanks and healers, anyone got any friends? No? Shit. Okay, then I guess we’re either calling it, or looking for some mouth breather from the Trade channel.”

“Let’s just call it, strangers suck.”

What is the optimum experience you can hope for? That your guild and raid teams are full of nice friends that all like each other (or get along well without drama), are skilled at playing their class, dedicated to maximizing their main character as best they can, and that have the time to play with you consistently.

That’s the best you can hope for.

How many of you have to settle for less than that to make sure you get your raid on? And of the things you settle for, does your raid aim for skill and dedication first, and if they’re friends or not, or even decent human beings or not, well, you can’t always get everything you want out of life?

And if you DO prioritize friends… does that mean sometimes you’re taking people you really like, but who suck at playing their character and that adds a fresh level of hell all on its own?

Yeah.

So, if you raid, sometimes you just have to accept that some of the people you’re playing with either don’t like you, or you don’t like them, or you love them but they suck, or you hate them but they rock the DPS charts so nobody will ever say boo to them.

But that is the price you sometimes have to pay to play the challenging content, right?

What about number of abilities?

I like having a good variety of abilities. It’s fun to have cool stuff to do. Where I’m at, though, is realizing that to truly excel at playing my character in a raid I should have all of my key abilities, and I mean ALL of them, either macro’d, bound to quick access keys, or bound to mouse buttons for fast blind usage while focusing my eyes on the screen and targets.

To play at the top of my game in a raid, I should never, ever be looking at the button bar on screen to click something. Those fractions of seconds are precious.

But I have a regular keyboard and a mouse that, while nice, only has two extra buttons near my thumb. And there is only so far my fingers will reach to hit keys.

There are plenty of mice out there that have rows of mappable buttons, and there are also several gaming keyboards with button bars and extra keys to bind as well. Professionals noticed this need for mappable keys a long time ago, and there are many products to fill that demand, products with high quality, durable and sensitive to the touch.

That’s fine, but I don’t own any of those. I should buy one if I’m going to keep raiding, the Razor mice with the programmable buttons are amazing, but I don’t have one now, and I feel the lack.

It’s doable to play without it, but at the same time it feels kind of silly to be thinking that in order to play my character in the game properly, I really should invest in some top of the line peripherals, because I can’t cut it as a clicker. Clicking’s a noob move.

What if I don’t have $150 to drop on a new mouse and keyboard combo? Well, get over it, right?

I’m not arguing the point. I don’t have to have that to play, I can sort of get by without it, it’s totally optional.

I’m saying it’s something to keep in mind, that part of playing World of Warcraft at the top level involves more than just buying a game and paying a monthly fee and trying really damn hard. If you want to be competitive (or at least not the worst player in your raid group), you need to do what it takes. And in this case, it might mean a new mouse and keyboard. And trying to wrap my brain around muscle memory programming for a main character and also any alts I want to raid with, too.

Or maybe I should spend that time learning a foreign language. Might be a bit easier. Always wanted to learn Gaelic. It’ll have just as much application in the real world, too, so bonus!

Oh wait, I’ll be able to say really cool toasts over Guinness. Points to Gaelic, set and match.

Then there is the last issue I have.

Adjusting what I can or cannot do with my character around what is ‘balanced’ for a PvP player.

Also known as;
“Why can’t I do that?”
“Because it’d be overpowered against other players in the Arena or BG.”
“So? Fuck them. I don’t PvP, I couldn’t give a shit less. I want to tame and fly a fire-breathing dragon and burn down towns and stuff.”
“Tough shit.”

PvP is why you can’t have nice things. Because the team of dragons you’d like to command to descend upon your enemy for five seconds of glorious roflstomping and munching is the burst damage some other player will scream about being too OP to defend against.

PvP means everyone has to have balanced abilities. If you’ve got high survivability, your DPS has to be shit. If your DPS is super high, you’ve got to be a glass cannon in a field of thrown stones. If you can take control of a character away from someone else, everyone else has to have access to blocks or breaks.

PvP ensures that any crazy WTF ability that might look really cool or do something nuts against a computer-controlled opponent is automatically ruled out of the game.

You’re supposed to be super… but everyone else has to be equally super. And once everyone is equally super, nobody is. Yeah, I know movie quoting is cliche, but damn it, it’s true. In a game about crazy sorcery and wild magic and demons and dragons and barbarian warriors and ancient beings that can crack open the planet and drink the guts like an egg, we’ve got to make sure all the players are perfectly matched in potential power because stunlocks suck.

World of Warcraft. Wish spells need not apply.

It is what it is, and I have a lot of fun playing it, warts and all. I’ve never really had cause to voice these issues before because I have had no solution, and pointing out problems without a solution is whining, and screw that. Is it fun to play anyway? Heck yes. So, ignore and move on.

But.

But what if there were other games that took a different route? They weren’t a complete replacement, but they did fill that gaping void? A game that satisfied the itches that need scratching!

I’ve found my personal backscratcher in a little game called Borderlands 2.

As I said before, it’s a first person shooter RPG with up to 4 person scaling cooperative play.

All three of my World of Warcraft points are addressed right there.

It’s a first person shooter.

I don’t know how it is on console, but the keyboard/mouse controls are a dream. The only buttons I’ve had to remap were melee attack, grenade throw and crouch. And my mouse just happens to have thumb buttons for two of those, and crouch on right control feels natural.

I never, ever have to look at a button bar to do stuff in Borderlands 2, within minutes the controls felt 100% natural without macroing. No worries about special keyboards or mice. Well, my mouse with the two extra thumb buttons came in handy, but I could have remapped them to something else and gotten by. I still have many attack choices, too, through a scroll-wheel-controlled weapon list, each weapon doing something wild and crazy.

It’s on Steam with up to 4 player cooperative play.

And it’s real drop and bop coop, anyone on my Steam friends list can see what I’m doing, start up their game and drop right in, joining me wherever I am on the fly. And vice versa.

Don’t want them dropping in? Then don’t have them as friends!  Or log in as invisible maybe, I dunno, maybe you can do that. I wouldn’t know.

Borderlands 2 is becoming my gateway game to multiplayer outside of WoW and Minecraft. I never had anything to do with multiplayer on Steam before, and BL2 has made it so seamless and easy it’s got me hungering for more coop in other things. What’s next, coop Portal 2? I think so. I really do.

Since the game scales difficulty based on number of players both up AND down on the fly, I don’t HAVE to have 3 other people to play. There is no forced incentive to find three bodies to join me, whether I like them or not, except more crazy out of control fun.

I can play a cooperative player vs environment game, and ONLY EVER PLAY WITH ACTUAL FRIENDS.

My favorite moments in WoW have always been playing with friends, and some of the best of those were during Burning Crusade, when I had no aspirations to raid, and it was okay to do 5 person regular and heroic instances for fun. All Druid and Rogue stealth missions, things like that. Fun with friends. When it gets to be a 10 or 25 person raid… how well do you really know everyone else?

In BL2 I never, ever have to wonder who in the group actually thinks I suck and doesn’t want to play with me but they needed that extra body to fill the group because none of their real friends were online.

You just play with friends. And if someone has to go do real life things, they go. The game carries on. You don’t have to restart, or find a replacement, or begin again at a save point. It’s… it’s revolutionary. In fact, it’s so awesome I could almost cry.

World of Warcraft is starting to build this in, but with the holy trinity of tank/healer/DPS, there are limits to what they can do with Flexible modes. Take a first person shooter where there are no tanks, and watch it fly.

To only ever play with friends. No drama. No bullshit. No unspoken undercurrents.

It’s kind of terrifying, when you think about it. Entire blogs would fade away with the lack of bitching about strangers in LFR groups.

And balancing?

You’re kidding, right? Who needs to be balanced when you’re just blowing away computer-controlled opponents? Go ahead, have giant robots and turrets you can summon, base an entire character class out of controlling an opponent, freezing and floating them in place and making them your puppet, or out of having ginormous honking guns on rock and roll. Why not? Why not have a class that is super challenging to play, and another that’s kind of easy mode. Who suffers in the long run? Why the hell not?

The thing is, Borderlands 2 isn’t an MMO. It’s doesn’t have to complete with a persistent online world. This ain’t a game where you’re setting up shop and moving in.

And I’m starting to realize, it’s perfectly fine to play games that aren’t MMOs. In fact, it might be a damn good idea to just avoid them all for a while and focus in on what are the most important parts of playing a game.

Having fun, either alone or with friends.

Borderlands 2 also scratches that RPG itch for me.

Skill trees, loot drops (in all the normal colors of the rainbow, as long as your rainbow is Green, Blue, Purple and Orange), and leveling up.

Oh, but in keeping with that whole ‘playing with friends and not competing’ thing, there are no such things as soulbound legendaries. A friend drops in and gets an amazing Legendary weapon he can’t use, well, just open trade and give it to someone else. or if you have Legendaries that are too low level for you, and a friend just started up the game? Drop in on them and trade ’em over. Nothing says you can’t. Nothing is soulbound because why screw you over that way in a coop game without PvP?

Can you imagine a world where you play a game, and say, just as an example, a right-hand binding drops for a Legendary weapon, and you could trade it to someone else that could use it… or mail it to your other character that has the left-hand already and has never seen the right for years and years? And it would seem normal to do that, because why on earth wouldn’t you be able to? To what end do you prevent someone from making use of a drop or giving it to someone that could?

Ah, but then that cheapens Legendary weapons, right? I mean if anyone can have one without spending a year or two to get one… if any scrub, any loser, any filthy casual…

But wait a second.

What if… what if we were just meant to play this game for a while and have fun with it, and may after a while buy a different game instead of spending 8 years in this one obsessing over being the coolest kid with the most rare Legendaries that you can’t use because they’re not current content and weren’t when you finally finished grinding for them in the first place?

It’s kind of a different state of mind, isn’t it?

World of Warcraft and other MMOs certainly have their place, and that place is to create a long term persistent world to live in… forever. To reject reality and replace it with your digital playground.

I’m delighted to have found something else that has grabbed my passion as well, and has me shitting rainbows in delight.

WoD Beta – Mass Hysteria in the Garrison

This looks really cute, so I wanted to share it with you.

I am playing and submitting bug reports for the Warlords of Draenor Beta, playing my hunter Horde side.

The follower and mission interface is available in your Garrison, and I was browsing through the possible followers currently listed in the Follower tab when I noticed this and it made me laugh.

First, here is Fiona.

In the Follower tab, at least the one I have on Horde side, there are many Fionas available, each with different traits or classes, but all female Worgen with the same appearance.

This particular one has the Engineering trait, meaning she can be a permanently assigned Follower in your Garrison.

Fiona-Garrison

So Fiona can be assigned to your Engineerings Works, if you place that building in your Garrison.

Cool, right?

Then I noticed this particular Follower, Goldmane the Skinner.

GoldmanetheSkinner2

Goldmane the Skinner has the Skinning trait, and can be permanently assigned to your Barn structure.

And Goldmane… is clearly a cat person. He’s a fricken’ mountain lion, just standing there, all being a feline version of the Worgen and stuffs.

Dogs and cats… living together.

There, I said it.

Garrison-MassHysteria

I just… this is so cute.

I don’t know the circumstances in which we can unlock these Followers yet, or what the cultural significance of Goldmane and his people might be in game, and even if I did I wouldn’t spoil it here.

That being said, am I the only one hoping that we can look forward to some hilarious interaction between the two of these in our Garrison once the expansion goes live?

The only thing that could possibly improve this would be a BigBearButt pandaren Follower with a small bacon stand set up between the two, always sighing and trying to convince the both of them to chill out, and asking them, “Why do you fight? Slow down, and enjoy some of this delicious bacon instead.”

I can see Fiona doing one of the Worgen patented “Sniff Sniff Sniff” emotes, and Goldmane replying with a little paw scratching in the sand… as if pretending to be burying something. Something which we shall not name, nor question overmuch as we try to run a classy blog. Stay classy, Bear!

Ah, the potential of all this.

Of course, I’m not speculating on where Goldmane comes from. I hope this will be a pleasant surprise in game. I’m afraid to look on WoWhead to see if there is a full lore explanation. Let me build my cathouse in the sky while I can. :)

Dare to Dream Big

I sometimes see people wonder where writers get their ideas.

For me, there is no answer to that question. Ideas come whether you try to have them or not. Ideas don’t really give a shit if you wanted to have one, or whether now is a particularly convenient time.

In fact, I think my ideas wait for me to be taking a shower or driving to work so they can slam into my brain, stun me with how awesome they are, and then slip away so I can’t pin them down and make them work for me.

I get to a pad of paper and think, “Where are you NOW, you prick? Get back here! I wasn’t done with you yet. That was good dialogue, don’t leave me like this. Grrr.”

I do think if you don’t spend some of your time investing in your daydreams and letting your mind wander over the cool and the weird, you’re not going to have as many chances to get ideas, but maybe that’s just me. I like to think I’ve made my head a friendly welcoming home for the occasional wacky idea to come set up shop, stay a while.

Here is my latest idea, which I had yesterday and then vocalized in a burst of enthusiasm in vent last night;

What I’d love to see in Warlords of Draenor is a new Caverns of Time raid, a BIG one. A raid that gets unlocked by doing some hardcore stuff in the normal progression raids, the way Raden only got unlocked when you completed heroic Lei Shen.

You know, a rewarding, insanely challenging boss fight and the flip side of Siege of Orgrimmar.

What I’d love is, once the normal progression of raids is complete in Warlords of Draenor and we have seen where the storyline will take us with the Infinite Dragonflight interfering in events, we have to prevent a big all out push for an ultimate weapon.

As part of the Timeless Isles weekly quest chain, you empowered the hourglass and saw visions. One of those visions is what would have come to pass in Stormwind if Garrosh won.

In the War Crimes book, which I have NOT read, I have heard that the Infinite Dragonflight makes a reappearance, something we thought was inpossible with the closing of the Nozdormu/Murozond loop in Cataclysm.

What if our empowering the hourglass has been the first true event that causes the Infinite Dragonflight to come once more into being, and we’ve armed them with the power to travel the timeways again. Now they’re bound and determined to create the world that the Black Prince tried to shape in Azeroth, a world united under one banner prepared to defend against and win against the Burning Crusade. Only the world they’re going to shape into a weapon against the Burning Crusade is one without the corrupting taint of the Old Gods that drove Nozdormu insane; Draenor.

Nobody says it has to be the same Infinite Dragonflight as before, with the same goals, right? That is why Garrosh travels to Draenor to inspire and unite the world under the banners of the new Iron Horde; to be united and strong in the face of the incoming Burning Legion.

But what do we do? We follow Garrosh through the red portal, we interfere, we undermine the Iron Horde, we divide them by uniting with the Frostwolves, we emplace our Garrisons and prevent a single, strong Iron Horde from ever rising ready to fight.

Then the Burning Crusade crashes down.

After all of that major questing and story development, what if we had one capper of an all-out last ditch play by the Infinite Dragonflight, their attempt to get an ultimate weapon to turn the tide, an unstoppable leviathan of destruction so overwhelmingly, ridiculously overpowered that the Iron Horde would have no choice but to follow such a leader and along the way crush the Azeroth forces?

What if the Warlords of Draenor ‘Raden-style’ boss was set up for us to go to the Caverns of Time and be sent to a Stormwind from an alternate timeline where Garrosh won. You know, that timeline you see in the Timeless Isle hourglass quest visions with Stormwind in flames?

Your goal is to prevent the Infinite Dragonflight from capturing Garrosh, who is riding through the streets of Stormwind on the back of a tamed Thok.

Can you see it?

Garrosh, fully empowered by the Old Gods but in full control of the power instead of an unwitting pawn, an avatar of unspeakable might, riding through the streets of a Stormwind in flames on the back of Thok, the mightiest mount the world has ever seen, riding the edge of it’s blood fury and together tearing apart the city?

And you have to drop in on that and destroy Garrosh and Thok in a massive final battle where not only are you dealing with them, but also the attempts of the Infinite Dragonflight to stop you.

The great thing about it from a story point of view is that it wouldn’t matter which faction you were, your goal isn’t to save the city because it’s from another timeline. The goal is to deprive the Infinite Dragonflight of their ultimate weapon.

And come on… dropping down into the middle of a Stormwind in flames, with Alliance troops trying to slow down Garrosh so refugees can flee, and work to block waves of True Horde forces from reinforcing him while you try to reach him and destroy him?

If Horde characters were transformed to look like Alliance the way Escape from Durnhold changed our appearance to better fit in, so much the better. Can you imagine having to try to rally Stormwind forces so they can hold the line against True Horde reinforcements and keep them from making your fight against Garrosh more difficult?

I’m squeeing in delight just imagining the fight.

It doesn’t matter where ideas come from… all that matters is that we enjoy the hell out of them when they get here.

Battleheart Legacy Builds

Battleheart-Legacy-featured

On the off chance you decided to try out the iPhone and iPad game Battleheart Legacy, here are a couple character builds the Cub and I are using and having a lot of fun with.

I find the guides at Appunwrapper to be very helpful, with tips on how to unlock each trainer as well as what all the upcoming skills will be for each class at each tier, so I can plan ahead on what I want to level towards.

I, apparently, am an in-your-face mauler at heart.

My chosen class combination is;

Barbarian/Knight with some Ninja/Monk moves

My main stats are STR, Skill and END, although I have leveled others up just enough to get a few other abilities from Ninja/Monk.

I use a Colossal two-handed weapon, the heaviest plate armor I can get my hands on, and accessories that give me +weapon power and +crit or instant cooldown (which gives you a chance your special abilities will instantly come off cooldown).

Active Skills:

Power Attack – default special melee attack.
Cleave – 2nd tier Knight special, melee frontal cone AoE.
Whirlwind – 3rd tier Barbarian powerful AoE.
Savage Pounce – 6th tier Barbarian special attack and pounce, I use this for chasing around teleporting healers and crushing their bony skulls.
Karma Kick – 3rd tier Monk special – flying attack that takes you right to the enemy, great for chasing down those  teleporting casters or wyrms.
Frenzy – 7th tier Barbarian special, greatly increases your attack speed and cooldown speed.
Smoke Bomb – 4th tier Ninja special, creates a cloud of smoke that hides you from view. Makes ranged attackers come into your melee range. Suckers.
Intimidate – 6th tier Knight special (I use it to freeze all the enemies in place and let me pound on their healers).

I am only level 28 right now, so I’m not done with this build. I intend to take the 13th tier Barbarian special next, Quake Strike, and replace Karma Kick with it.

Passive Skills:

Colossal Weapons – 2nd tier Barbarian passive. Let’s you use those honking big colossal two handed weapons.
Adrenaline Rush – 10th tier Barbarian skill, when you kill an enemy, you get back some health and get much faster movement speed for a bit.
Armsman – 5th tier Knight skill, +10% blade weapon damage
Lethality – 5th tier Ninja skill. Increases critical damage by 50%. This is why I like +crit on my armor and accessories.
Flurry – 7th tier Ninja skill. Increases attack speed by 10%. Still not entirely sold on this one.
Grit – 8th tier Knight skill, Increases weapon damage by half of your endurance, AND reduces the duration of negative status effects by half. Damn nice.

I’m thinking of replacing the Flurry passive with the Rogue Lethal Edge, which increases dagger and sword crit chance by 10%. I haven’t yet because I don’t know if colossal swords are considered swords or not for the skill, and I’d have to do some serious number crunching over time to figure it out by the averages. I’m having too much fun to do that right now.

What I really want is to work towards the 10th tier Ninja passive, Silent Assassin. When you kill something, your next moves Teleports you BEHIND your next target. I can see chaining my kills, Teleporting around the Colosseum like a rabbit on crack. The thought makes me grin.

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The Cub, on the other hand, has been trying to level everything up at the same time.

He started with some Knight and Barbarian, and then found the Necormancer and Wizard, and has been mainlining Intellect as a stat. But he’s not focusing as much as I am, and he isn’t looking forward to upcoming tiers like I am. He’s been leveling a little here, a little there, and trying a bit of everything.

At the moment, he’s higher level than I am at 29, and he is solidly running a;

Witch/Wizard/Necromancer

And he’s kicking butt.

My build, I can get to 115 ~ 125 killed enemies in the Colosseum without much problem. His character just did the Colosseum and got to 160 enemies.

FYI, if you kill 100 or more enemies in the Colosseum in one session, you are guaranteed a Legendary weapon or armor drop. So hitting over 100 every time is a milestone worth reaching. I didn’t start hitting that mark until level 23 or so with my build, and it took the Cub level 27 with his spellcaster build to do it.

The keys to his build are slowing AoE spells and Teleport. Also, using a Mummy as a tank. Teleport into the middle, drop a Mummy (if it was dead), Teleport instantly to the outer edge and begin shelling with slowing Tornadoes and Blizzards. It’s crazy.

His character uses staff weapons with spellpower, robes with crit, and accessories that are pure Instant Cooldown or reduced cooldown speed. He has the Azamoths Cursed Eyeball for +15% chance for Instant Cooldown and the Almanac of Annihilation for +20% cooldown speed. Faster specials are GOOD.

Active Skills:

Wandering Plague – 3rd tier Necromancer spell, an everlasting poison that does a lot of damage to the target, and when the target dies it hops to another and keeps on going.
Chain Lightning – 1st tier Wizard spell – You know what this is.
Tornado – 11th tier Witch spell, the Tornado moves in a straight line to your target, slowing anything in it’s path and doing good damage.
Blizzard – 5th tier Wizard spell, sends a blizzard towards your target, slowing anything in it’s path and doing good damage. I’m detecting a trend.
Meteor – 3rd tier Wizard spell, Blasts target and those around it with AoE fire damage.
Drain Life – 1st tier Witch spell – vampiric attack, hurts your target and heals you.
Teleport – 6th tier Wizard spell, this is AWESOME. You cast it, and your next 5 moves will teleport you where you click on screen. No time limit. Cast and save.
Summon Mummy – 5th tier Necrmancer spell, he’s big, strong and durable, and things in the Colosseum like to chase him instead of you.

Passive Skills:

Army of Doom – 7th tier Necromancer skill, increases the health and duration of summoned minions by 50%.
Dark Arts – 5th tier Witch skill, Increases poison and unholy damage by 10%.
Staff Master – 2nd tier Wizard skill. Let’s you use magic staves.
Wild Magic – 4th tier Wizard spell, Increases critical strike chance with spells by 10%.
Life Leech – 12th tier Witch spell, causes ALL of your attacks to heal you by 5% of the damage done.
Mass Destruction – 9th tier Wizard skill, Increases the damage of all AoE attacks and spells by 10%.

He’s planning on working towards the 12th tier Wizard passive skill, Student of the Mind, which increases cooldown recovery speed by 15%. Probably replacing Wild Magic. Also looking towards Calamity, the 13th tier Witch spell that is basically a single target nuke, which this build lacks.

The Cub let me try his character out, and let me tell you, in the Colosseum there is a joy to the play style that is amazing. Casting Teleport and holding them in reserve, popping to one side of the room, dropping a Mummy, then targeting something, Teleporting to the other side of the group from him, sending Tornadoes at him so they run through the whole group, let them slowly get close then Teleport to the other side and send more back the other way, Blizzards raining down, Meteors dropping from the sky. It’s chaos, a big game of keep away, and with Life Leech healing you from your AoE damage on an entire pack, the mobs are screwed.

Conclusion

I have no idea if anyone else intends to play this simple mobile app/game, but we’re really digging it.

I have about 10 hours total played on my character at level 27, and the Cub has 18 and a half hours on his level 29. Considering this is mostly in spurts of a half an hour here or there, driving in the car, sitting on the, um, waiting, yes, waiting for, um, things, that’s an incredible amount of gameplay for us on $5.

I think the main questing story is going to be complete when we hit around level 35. There is one big multipart quest from the King, and it looks to me that it might be done and the game over when it’s complete. So, say about 15 hours of gameplay for me, and probably about 22 or 23 for the Cub. After that, it will be replaying from first level trying to focus on a few class combinations and max out their stats for the biggest punch.

Certainly not an ever-living MMO, but for a mobile game, damn, this has been the best I’ve seen.

When we’re done with this, I think I’ll be giving their first game, Battleheart, a try.

I hope these builds are of some help to you.