Does Blizzard Hate Their Players?

I mentioned to Cassie in passing today that one of the surprises in Patch 5.1 was that Ghost Iron Ore and all Herb spawns had their respawn rates cut in half. Why? Apparently, because the resources were too abundant. If the resources are scarcer and players have to work harder to get them we’ll value them more, and they (and they’re crafted items) will be worth more on the Auction House.

Her reply? “Sometimes I think Blizzard hates the players.”*

I can see her point. I personally thought the respawns were originally too generous… and I was grateful, because I don’t exist to play “WoW Tycoon”, I play WoW, the game that has an auction house in it where I can share shit I get with other players for cash, and if there is something I’d like I can maybe go find it there too.

Since I don’t play the game to amass vast quantities of gold, I make sure I’ve got characters that can go out and get the stuff I need to satisfy my wants. You know, like Herbalists and Alchemists and Enchanters and all that stuff. Self-sufficient. So long as I can get enough of the base resources to satisfy my own needs, fine.

It’s about time investment, though. I invest my time in leveling a character now so I have the capability to make stuff, so in the future I can spend teeny amounts of time getting a few mats and making what I ened on the spot instead of having to always be working to get gold to buy stuff on the AH.

Change things so it takes tons of time to get those mats, fighting other farming players for hours to get the scant few resources it takes to make a couple flasks, and it flips things around.

Likewise, they changed the conversion rate for Spirits of Harmony from 1 Spirit to 3 Golden Lotus, to 1 Spirit for two GL. I’m not trying to corner the AH market, so whatever. As long as I can still get what I need to make weekly flasks with my little farm, it’s all good.

It does mean that the amount of time it takes us, the players, to accomplish the same tasks has increased. So why do it?

If I were to settle into a “me me me” point of view, then it would be a sign Blizzard hates us, the players. They made it harder and take more time, so thus they’re out to ruin our fun. Right?

It’s nice that people can make WoW Tycoon a game in and of itself… but I don’t feel that we need to really care if people aren’t getting the prices from their ore or herbs that they want. If the inscription market doesn’t make you thousands of gold, I really don’t give a shit. That’s not the game I care about or respect. So how dare you change things to cater to them! Let them make real money in the real world with those skills if that’s what they like!

Or… maybe there’s a different point of view. A view that embraces more than just me. Possibly?

I don’t see it and other things Blizzard does as signs they hate the players. I see it as signs they are still looking for ways to please more types of playstyles.

I think they are  still growing, and in this case are trying to identify all the different playstyles that attract paying monthly players, and then add content that will reward them and keep them coming back.

The Black Market Auction House, canes and monocles and other items… these are things that acknowledge the existence of playing the WoW market as a real ‘thing’, so let’s go all the way to making the game economy an official, and rewarding, part of the game.

Just because I don’t care about it doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile part of the game, right? PvP isn’t my thing, and they’ve done amazing stuff with integrating it into the game.

How long did those of us who like all the casual stuff in game rail at how the designers seemed solely focused on raider content? Oh waaa, it’s all about the raiders, why can’t we get class quests or something for us casuals to do?

Shit, we got that in spades, didn’t we? Look around you, and there is so much to do the game is bursting with content for players of all playstyles. Including raiding for non-raiders!

PvP content, raiding content, social and collecting and game economy and fashion and soloing and now even stage productions, fighting while we watch!

They didn’t ignore the plight of casual players for content, did they? It just took time, exactly as they told us it would.

“The things we are working on to make the game better now you won’t see for years.”

They tell us these things, and looking back, can we agree they weren’t kidding around?

And now, they’re clearly paying attention to the desires of those who make the Auction House and game economy their playstyle, and despite it meaning it’ll be a teeny bit harder for me to go out and get my own mats when I want them, to me it means the opposite of “Blizzard hates the players”.

It looks to me like Blizzard is trying to see what people like to do in the game, and then accommodate those desires. ALL of those desires. A massive balancing act, trying to make all of the people happy all of the time.

That’s pretty amazing. Doomed to fail? Heck, let’s find out. I’m enjoying the ride anyway.

They’re even going back to the “let’s make class quests because they’re fun” well, with the Warlocks.

Pet battles, mounts to collect, pets as drops from old raids, old raids modified to change mechanics that required multiple people to now be (potentially) soloable, a Brawlers Guild that is all about a solo player going against NPC challenges before a live audience…

Blizzard takes a lot of abuse, but when you come right down to it, they’re doing an amazing job.

One thing I like is how they’re experimenting more with small changes that add up to big content for players.

Have you seen the little items you can buy with the new Commendations that drop from mobs you kill doing dailies? You can buy traps. You take a trap, and it gives you a daily quest. You can go out and farm some materials to make an animal trap. Then, you trap the animal in the wild. You take the animal and turn it in at a big arena with animal cages. You or anyone that sees the animal in a cage can ask to fight it. And those are some tough critters! Crabs, Tigers and Cranes, and they are serious badasses designed to be easy for a party of five, but good luck soloing one.

Here’s a hint; stand on top of the tiger. If you back off to range, he’ll leap on you and one shot your ass. Melee Hunters up!

It’s just a little thing, but it’s an activity that you can choose to do every day that takes time, is diverting and different, the trap quests act as dailies for 5 valor and 2 Lesser tokens, and when you’re done, you or anyone else can fight the beasts and get a quest on completion that gives you more faction rep. And like with other boss kills from quests in the game, you don’t all have to be in the same group. If you take part in the kill, just jump in and assist one in progress, you get credit. And like I said, when it’s dead, your first critter kill of the day gives you a nice quest to turn in for added rep with the new faction.

I tested it. It’s only the first animal kill. Just saying.

Blizzard does things sometimes that seem to be huge pains in the ass, or make life more annoying, or whatever. But sometimes, you look at it a different way, and you can see that it may be annoying to my playstyle, but it makes someone else’s more interesting.

Let’s not be the raider that hated on casuals for wanting stuff to do. Or the casuals that hated on PvP.

I personally am eager to get a Brawler Invite. I’ll wait until I can afford one on the BMAH, but I was in the Brawlers Guild arena watching today, and it was very cool.

I enjoyed watching other players square off against opponents, and I can ABSOLUTELY see spending an evening kicking back, relaxing, having a few beers and watching the fights while waiting for my turn in the ring.

This Brawlers Guild thing really is going to add a new dimension to the game… exhibition. You are going into your fight knowing you are being watched, and judged. Will you get stage fright? Will the crowd jeer you?

Today I saw a Druid fight a penguin in Bear form, running and jogging around, almost jigging and it looked like it was all to put on an exciting show. I’ll grant you, someone in the crowd was /yelling “GO GO GO HAPPYFEET”, but it was still fun.

I can see a developing new playstyle, people playing to the crowd, tweaking their costumes for the show (transmogs are awesome now that we can be performers on stage, amiright?), dancing around and doing emotes to give the live audience something to FRAPS or screenshot for later.

Players, we who are about to /dance while kiting green slime salute you!

I feel as though the seeds for amazing things were sown in the expansion, and we’re still just seeing them start to blossom.

It’s just too damn early to pass final judgment on these things. Or to get all cranky.

*sentence take out of context may not represent Cassie’s actual thoughts about Blizzard.
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A Cornucopia, a Plethora, a Herd, Flock or Swarm?

A cornucopia, a plethora, a herd, flock or swarm?

Ooh, I know what you can call lots of choices in Looking For Raid dungeons…

An Embarassment of Raids.

I love having all these LFR raiding choices, but at the same time, it’s a bit overwhelming. It’s almost too much of a good thing.

Almost.

But then again, maybe it’s just right.

You don’t have to do any LFR at all. But, if you do choose to do one, you’ll get 90 valor points. That’s the equivalent of 18 daily quests, all in one shot.

And there are a lot of them because they’re all broken up into bite size boss pieces, so it’s entirely possible to only run the third and fifth LFR instances if those are the only ones that drop gear that would be useful to you. Like, oh, a hunter weapon. Damnit.

Last week, on Tuesday night, I knocked out Sha of Anger before dinner, did Gate of the Setting Sun heroic to take another daily shot at the epic bow, and then began queueing for the first of the LFR dungeons.

There are now five LFR dungeons to choose from, if your average iLevel is 470 or higher.

The iLevel gating didn’t matter to me, I have managed to stay current with the content on my Hunter by doing Sha of Anger, LFR and heroics every time I had the chance and the Klaxxi dailies and even some Golden Lotus to stay up on my valor points and gear. And of course by not spending any real time on any other character at all.

The iLevels are fairly effective gates. I had to put forth some serious effort and planning to make sure I hit those 470 levels on my Hunter without normal raid drops.

One does not just walk into Terrace of Endless Spring.

You can’t just slip, fall into a pile of epics and stroll into LFR like Ghostcrawler designed it all just for you, you precious little snowflake.

You have to put some effort into getting geared up. You have to, you know, show an interest. Run Heroics, gain reputation with some factions, earn and spend some Valor, make or buy some crafted, etc.

The result in LFR attitude seems to be positive. 

When I step into an LFR right now, the relative skills displayed by players (including me!) may vary dramatically, but the level of intensity, of interest, of giving a shit is there.

Right now I can feel a big difference between Pandarian LFR and Cataclysm.

I ran Terrace of the Endless Spring again last night, as well as the second half of Mogushan Vaults. You know… the two raids that have a chance to drop a weapon upgrade for me.

Not that they did. SON OF A USED CAR SALESMAN.

But it’s cool, because I still got an upgrade. All those days of Gate of the Setting Sun? It left me maxed at 4000 justice Points, so I was able to upgrade both my Tempestuous Longbow AND my Alchemy trinket! So my Alchemy trinket got a double boost, they buffed it in the patch from 450 to 458, and now with JP I got it up to 466.

It’s only a teeny upgrade, but it feels good. Look, I got a little better without having to rely on luck!

Screw waiting for a lucky drop, I can now improve all of my gear through perseverance and grinding and wait, this is a benefit again? Oh, of course it is, but holy crap, if I thought there was pressure to cap weekly valor before, the knowledge that there are now 496 valor belts, boots, trinkets and rings available from the new rep, PLUS the ability to dump endless valor into upgrading existing epics… ugh.

Awesome, but still… ugh.

With all the new options for customizing and modifying and personalizing gear, you know who I really feel sorry for?

Ask Mr Robot. This has to be a coding NIGHTMARE.

Whatever else may happen down the road, this one change in 5.1, giving us the ability to spend valor to upgrade items, THIS will be something that has long term effects way out of proportion to the effort of adding it.

I can’t even imagine how dedicated high end raiders are going to have to be now to keep earning that max valor every week to keep upgrading even their Heroic raid gear multiple steps. Bye bye Sun, hello begging for removing the damn weekly cap so we can earn at OUR pace, and not have to log in like it’s a daily job to punch in and out of.

But I’m talking about LFR raids, and getting back to the point, the experience I had last night mirrored the one from last week, and all the weeks before it.

There are plenty of boneheads in LFR. That has NOT changed. There are people who zone in without a clue what to do, where to go, what to shoot, where to drag bosses (Will of the Emperor tanks, I’m looking at you), or what to get your butt out of.

As a side note, if you’d like to do the LFR raids but don’t want to look clueless, can I strongly recommend the Fatboss series of Youtube videos? They’re good, informative, and funny as hell. So you get to be entertained while you learn. Isn’t that nice? Just search for Fatboss on Yourtubve, subscribe to their channel.

But yeah, while there are plenty of boneheads…

The negaitve attitude, that nasty, mouthy, bitchy eliter-than-thou attitude is almost non-existant.

There are people who get exasperated at times, and there are always people who drop group after a boss, for whatever reason.

But the one thing that sets these Pandarian LFR runs apart from Dragon Soul is intensity. Determination.

When things go wrong, and they will still go wrong when people unfamiliar with what to do are there, there are few recriminations. No ranting. No swearing, or whining about repair costs.

There will be whining and bitching about drops and gold, of course, but not about “why you so fail”. People dig in and try. They may not know what the hell they’re supposed to be trying to do, but they are trying just the same.

People are paying attention. Things still go wrong, but it’s from enemy action and ignorance, and not from a willful desire to troll the raid or screw off.

I can’t help but contrast that with the Cataclysm Dragon Soul LFR. 

I wonder how much of this is from there being so much to do, trolls don’t have the time right now to blow a whole night just to screw over a bunch of strangers by wiping the same raid over and over, especially when it’s just one raid out of five available to do.

I obviously wonder what part of the iLevel gating and the effort needed to break through that gate has to play in the reduction in intentional trolling. Has the effort needed to get into LFR caused those who are in to value the chance and try harder to do their best? Has that played any part at all?

Right now, it feels like everyone present in LFR is intent on getting things done right the first time, paying attention and not wanting to screw around with running back in. It’s easy for me to feel it might be because of a desire to get done to go do something else, because there is so much that can be done, and a weekly valor cap needs to be reached, over and over, world of warcraft without end, Amen.

You know who I’m not seeing in current LFR? Those people who feel they are too good to be there, that they’re slumming and the rest of the raid are peasants who need to do all the work to carry them as they chat about how stoned they got that weekend.

You know who I mean. Picture if you will a couple of loud-talking cell-phone using people with free front row tickets to a Billy Joel/Elton John legendary concert. “Oh yes, Phoebe, I’m here at that show they were handing out the tickets for at the office. Oh, I don’t know, it sounded like it might be okay, but really, they’re just singing some tired old song that is just so ’80s, I’m sure my mother would love it, but really, I can’t believe people would pay to see this. Who cares about that, I’m just waiting until I get a call from Mark and then we’re going to coe meet you. How are you? Is that party you’re at fabulous? I’ll get out of here as soon as I can, it’s just so dreary, blah blah blah…”

Oh yeah. In Dragon Soul LFR, some days it felt like that was half the damn raid.

I haven’t seen them at ALL in the new stuff. Maybe once the easy peazy epics start dropping, and they can waltz in past the iLevel gate without having put forth any effort? Or maybe they’re too busy tilling their farm, or doing dailies, or looking for rares, or any of the hundreds of new things to do that don’t require effort to get into.

I’m sure they’re coming, but by then… well, seems we’re still getting new stuff to do, amiright? And as we get what we want from the lower iLevel LFRs, and new daily quests come out, we don’t even need to run them for valor.

I don’t know. It’s just wierd. I keep expecting people to be vocal asshats or try to intentionally grief the raids like we saw in Dragon Soul, and it keeps not happening.

I have raids wipe on bosses through ignorance of mechanics or low DPS or failure to move their ass, but that’s perfectly acceptable to me. People try, and learn, and eventually succeed.

People, you have trained me to hate and dread LFR. Why are you confusing me so much?!?

OMG The patch is here!!!

The patch is here, oh the patch is here, life is bacon and life is beer, I think the most wonderful time of the year is the patch, I do! Don’t you?

‘Course you do!

Pets will be cuter when the patch comes.
Skies will be brighter when the patch comes!
My class will be more fun when the patch comes.
Those dirty old Warriors will be nerfed when the patch comes.
Hunters can now move their asses when the patch comes!

Old school raids will be run when the patch comes.
We’ll be stealing C”thuns bunny when the patch comes.
Warlocks are the flavor of the month when the patch comes.
I still won’t get a bow upgrade when the patch comes.
Because Raigonn remains a huge douche when the patch comes.

You’ll get fresh new quests and rep when the patch comes.
All your gear can be upgraded when the patch comes.
But you won’t have the Valor to spend when the patch comes.
Because the new rep brings ring, belt, trinket and boots.
Now aren’t you glad you bought the old valor loot?

You got your PvP in my PvE when the patch comes.
We be ganking BG noobs when the patch comes.
6000 Valor will be a breeze when the patch comes!
I will kill for the Black Prince when the patch comes.
What could go wrong serving a Black Dragon when the patch comes?

Everything you ever wanted will come true when the patch comes
unless the thing that stays the same is you….

When the patch comes.

The Cub Report: Because Evil is Cool, Mmkay?

The Cub has been spending minimal time playing WoW since Pandaria released. He’s found the questing in Pandaria to be too crowded and dangerous to be fun.

He stops to read quest text, to read the quest description, and to check his location on a map a lot.

In most places in the early areas, that means you get jumped every time you try to get your bearings. He hates it, and so he stopped playing.

I’d watch him get a quest, open his map to look where to go, and get jumped immediately. So, he’d have to close the map, kill it, move a bit away where it looks clear, open the map… and respawns jump him again right away.

Frustrating as heck.

If you like to take a few minutes to get oriented before charging out into the world to do your next quest, it can be a huge pain… especially when you’re used to simply hopping on your mount and getting some elevation so you can check your map or read your quest text in relative safety.

It is what it is. The game isn’t aimed at challenging a nine year old, it’s aimed at challenging teens plus. As in the old line about the horse, we shouldn’t be dissapointed that the horse has a thick accent, we should just be grateful the horse can talk at all. I’m proud at how well Alex has learned to read, understand and develop his own strategies for playing the game. He’s getting better at typing replies if someone says ‘grats’ to him, and he’s even created a few macros to do the /chicken and /dance and such.

This little person was watching Maizy Mouse not that long ago. It’s amazing.

Since he doesn’t like the questing, he’s spent most of his time since the expansion playing during Sunday evening cross-server raids, and sometimes at night queuing his Death Knight for random Pandaria dungeons.

In the cross-server raids, we were finishing out Burning Crusade, and he’s been running on his Warlock. Just this last week he completed the Tier 5 Corrupter Warlock set, and I’ll grant you, it looks impressive on a male Worgen. Very cool, very “I will tear your soul apart” Warlocky. He loves it, and he’s happy to have completed such a great looking set. The helm actually looks decent on a big wolf snout.

In Pandaria, when he plays on his Death Knight he’s taken to avoiding the Jade Forest quest zones and just queues for random normal Dungeons to get XP.

He did Stormstout Brewery a few nights ago, and I watched over his shoulder without giving him any tips at all… until he got to the final boss.

At that point, I just gave him a few pointers, because that fight kinda blows. “Make sure you don’t stand still when you’ve got the brown stuff. When you see the lines of green waves coming at you, jump high to let them pass underneath. Kill the adds.”

Lots of stuff for a melee to deal with, but he did well.

Before the boss even died, I told him, “Whatever you do, don’t leave the instance.”

The boss died, loot was rolled on, and one by one the rest of the people left.

“Okay, now get back to the entrance, where the little old lady sells tea.”

He did that, and I had him get the ‘special’ brew that lets you see stuff, you can have up to five in your bags at a time.

I showed him that if you drink that tea, you get a buff that lets you see Golden Hoplings… and if you find all thirty in the instance, you get a Hopling pet mailed to you!

“Is the pet a Golden Hopling?!?”

“No, it’s a white-colored Hopling.”

“Oh.”

“Yes, I know, a Golden Hopling mailed to you like it was one of the ones you found, that would make too much sense. Just roll with it, and get your butt out there and find those Golden Hoplings!”

“How long do I have?”

“As long as you like. When the tea buff wears off, drink another. If you run out of tea, go to the beginning and buy more.”

The hunt for the Golden Hoplings is, I think, the most fun he’s had in the game in a long time. He found almost all of them the first time, only missing one. That actually made it cooler, because it wasn’t just some easy snooze to victory. When he realized that he’d missed one, he got that “I’m really concentrating now” look on his face, with the tip of his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth while he systematically tore that place apart looking for missing Hoplings.

He got ’em all, too. Heck yes he did.

Once he won, he tore up the stairs to let mommy know that “I went through looking for all the Golden Hoplings, and I found them all so they mailed me a Hopling pet! Except it’s not gold, it’s white.”

Just an FYI. If you haven’t done that achievement yet, you can do it in Stormstout Brewery on normal, you can wait until the place is cleared and all your teammates have left the group, and you can take as long as you’d like. And your children may like to do it for you. 🙂

Alex having a Warlock at level 81, and the fun toys he got,  has had me itching to level one. There seem to be so many changes since I last tried one out. 

I have all the Heirlooms, even the pants, and with the WoW 8th Anniversary 8% XP (and Rep) buff, I put a lot of my gaming time into leveling one this weekend.

I had a level 30 female Worgen, the one I was leveling with Alex, but I had to delete it and start over Thursday. The Worgen casting animations I could deal with, but the transmog pieces? That snout had to go!

If I’m going to be evil, damn it, I’m going to look good doing it.

With that WoW 8th Anniversary 8% XP buff, the heirlooms… it’s been crazy. I reached level 40 last night, not really trying that hard. Most instances give me two levels. I barely have time to get through the starter quests in a zone while queueing before I move on to the next quest zone.

Let me tell you something about Warlocks.

They’re fun. They didn’t used to be this fun to level.

Part of it is, there has been a lot of attention to detail put into the fun extras. It’s not just a race to the end, where they suddenly turn cool. They get lots of fun, crazy stuff right off the bat that make them fun to level up.

Let me give you an example.

I’m leveling and playing Demonology. Much like my Hunter, I feel that if the core aspect that sets a class apart is a pet, then go for the gusto, really go full bore pet.

Demonology is all about a powerful demon pet, and about being a powerful demon yourself.

To transform into a demon, you need to build up some Demonic Power. As you do damage and use abilities, your Demonic Power increases. If you’re out of combat for a while it fades down to a minimum level.

Turning into a demon looks neat, and your abilities transform into slightly different versions, but there is more coolness than that.

If your Demonic Power builds but you don’t unleash it by metamorphosing into a demon, there are visual cues that show you’re bursting with power.

One of the earliest signs is that you grow two glowing purple horns out of your head. Still in normal form, you just suddenly have honking big purple horns.

Then your hands start to glow all the time with swirling purple energy.

Once your Demonic Power is maxed out, you’re veritably exploding with purple smoke trails, horns, and a big evil pattern on the floor like the opposite of a Priest sigil of power. It’s freaking cool.

Also, you seem to get an 8% passive damage buff when you’re full of Demonic Power but not actually in demon form. I haven’t really checked into it, I’m just going off the wording of the tooltip.

All the graphic changes don’t serve any actual utilitarian purpose, but it looks absolutely awesome, and it feels like a direct consequence of building up all of that power internally and not giving it a release.

There are plenty of other things too, small things like a Glyph that lets your special flaming demon horse run over water, leaving a flaming trail behind it. Or a Major Glyph that gives you, as far as I can tell, an almost-tanking form suitable for clearing old school raids all on your own. With taunt and everything. I haven’t tried it out, but talking with guildies about it last night makes it sound very interesting.

Think about that for a second. A Glyph that can give a spell caster an “I’m a tank!” button, with new abilities.

That is potentially a game changer, in a very real way. Taunts aren’t for PvP, so it must be to let Warlocks play in dungeons or raids as a tank, even if it’s not official and if it’s not current content.

What other possibilities are there then, if we can set Glyphs to be spec-specific, and add new forms and abilities that change a classes core functionality?

Could we have, as Baddmojo suggests, a Glyph of the Swashbuckler for Combat Rogues to let them actually tank with high Dodge and Parry, if they have Swords equipped? Because tanking with daggers would be just silly.

I say, if you’re going to be a Rogue Tank, you should have chainsaw fist weapons like Ash from Evil Dead. Just, go for the gusto. If you’re gonna be crazy, be BIG crazy.

That’s right, I’m bringing gusto back. It’s a great word, use it today!

Or what about a Glyph of the Mountain for Enhancement Shamans, letting them transform into a giant stone elemental granting immense durability/mitigation, whirlwind to act as a dodge/deflection/parry, with an avalanche for AoE threat?

So many possibilities, so much potential.

Blizzard adds something like this to the game, I remember all the excited furor about it when it was even more powerful in the Beta, but instead of speculating over future awesomeness, here we are, stuck talking about dailies and valor grinds and reputation.

Pbbhhht.

I fully intend to get Alex’s Warlock a Dual spec, get him all set to be a Demonology Tank, and let him lead me into Molten Core. Go for it!

Let’s take some of this stuff out for a spin, and do something NEW for a change! Screw the reputation grinds.

That was intense!

Panda-man ALWAYS intense!

Gotta love Harry Dean Stanton.

Tonight, I completed the Hunter rite of passage.

I successfully tracked down and tamed one of the new Pandaren rares, Savage!

And Repo Man or not, that was freaking intense!

I did not do this on my own. My inspiration was Cymre (of Bubbles of Mischief fame) with her recent post about tracking him.

It wouldn’t have happened, though, without Euphyley’s awesome post (At WoW Rare Spawns) detailing the how, where and why of Savage, with maps and all. And of course for the reminder that right now, before 5.1 is released, tracks are still displayed backwards, so backtrack ’em. 🙂

I was inspired by Cymre to try my own search for this beautiful white jungle cat with the blueish-purple eyes. I have always loved tigers, and the look of this white tiger is simply stunning. Of all the rares, Savage was the one I hoped the most to be lucky enough to find someday.

I started at the western-most point of the Jade Forest on Euphyley’s map, just below the bridge to the Valley of the Four Winds.

I kept tabbing in and out, comparing where I was on the map to landmarks, trying to get oriented in my mind where to go next. “All right, so if I move to that grove of trees, then I can do a southeastern loop around that lake, then head up toward the mine entrance, staying to the left of the village.”

I stayed on my flying mount for the trip, not expecting much luck on this first excursion, walking slowly, criss-crossing where I thought the trail might be.

I went the entire route, all the way to the eastern coast, when suddenly I saw it! A dot that showed up as a Bloody Track!

I checked the orientation of the paw print, and it showed the claws pointing ahead of me… which meant he was actually heading back the way I came.

I whirled around, popped a flare… and nothing. Uh oh. Oh wait, there’s another track back the way I came!

And thus began a half hour stalking session.

That was intense. I had people whispering me, and I didn’t respond to anything. I couldn’t, I might miss a track or it would fade away!

I was fixed on the screen in front of me, analyzing every trace of land for the sign of the next Bloody Track.

It seemed like no matter how far I went, there were always more tracks in front of me.

It wasn’t until I was almost all the way back to where I started, at the southern shore of that lake south of the mine, that I felt I finally got ahead of the tracks. The southern part of the lake is bordered by a trail and mountains, so it’s a natural choke point. It became slightly easier to see the tracks, and to feel I was ahead of him. It also gave me a better feel that the flare might encompass where Savage would have to walk.

I popped that flare, and the thrill when I saw the giant, white-furred head push into view was amazing.

Seriously, if you are a Hunter, and you haven’t done this yet, please do yourself a favor and go on the hunt for one of these special rares.

Visit WoW Rare Spawns, look at the various rare Hunter pets in Pandaria, and set yourself on a safari.

Wow, what a rush!

Look ma, I’m a real Hunter now!

Thank you Cymre, and thank you ever so much Euphyley!

BBB Cross Realm Raid – We’re Gonna Try it Again!

I hope you’ll join us this Sunday at 6PM Central time, as we try once again to clear Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep: The Eye.

What are the odds that we’ll all get sick again? Anyone?

By the way, on that topic, does anyone know a reputable company that provides earthquake, fire, flood, black hole and meteor insurance coverage? No reason, just asking.

/whistles

The truth is, Alex was feeling a little better on Monday (while I was starting to go down with the ship), and wanted to run SSC and the Eye. So I hustled together a quick group of whoever was on in my friends list and a few nice guildies, and we cleared them both. Took very little time. Alex managed to get every piece of the Warlock Vanquished Hero Tier except the helm from Lady Vashj and the belt from the Lurker Below. (The belt isn’t tier, it’s just the piece that matches the set).

Pretty crazy. He’s hoping to finish the set, or at least see a helm drop from the Lady, but you never can tell with that crazy RNG. He says he likes that Warlock Tier look better than any other. I think he’s crazy, the Tier from Black Temple and Battle for Mount Hyjal is awesome. He doesn’t like the tauren sized horns on the hat, though.

Side note, what is your favorite Tier for your favorite class? And why? I’d really like to know… the why more than the what, the reasons people have for liking something can be quite convincing once you know the background story.

I’m thinking there will definitely be enough time after The Eye to ROFLStomp Gruuls Lair, and probably even Magtheridon’s for the finish.

Maybe next week… Ulduar 25 achievements?

Ow the Loot, Bloomin’ Loot!

Ow the loot!
Bloomin’ loot!
That’s the thing to make the boys git up an’ shoot!

– from Loot, by Rudyard Kipling, found in Barrack-Room Ballads

Ever since my Hunter hit level 90, I’ve run Gate of the Setting Sun once every day. My hope, of course, is to be lucky enough to win the epic bow Klatith, Fangs of the Swarm from the final boss, Raigonn.

I have come to really enjoy Gate of the Setting Sun. It’s short, it has lots of twists and turns, and the final boss mechanic is extremely fun for the DPS lucky enough to use the rocket fast enough to be one of the two players on Raigonns snout, smacking him in the Weak Spot with a rolled-up newspaper.

It is the only Heroic I do, and I don’t get Valor for it because I queue for a specific one, not a random.

Gate of the Setting Sun is fun, and fast… but I do it for the loot. If the bow were to drop for me or I were to win a better from LFR tonight, I would not be running it again tomorrow.

I run it because it’s fun, and because there is something there I’d like to win.

There are a lot of great experiences to be had in the game. I want to do everything at least once, twice if it was really fun.

Loot is what overcomes my weariness when all other reasons to do something are long gone.

I had a brief discussion with an Enhancement Shaman in a Gate of the Setting Sun run last night, and the gist of it was, they wanted to know how many LFR runs it took for me to win the one item I was wearing at the time.

Why? Because they had run LFR constantly, and never seen anything but gold. They had no idea how loot worked, when they should see loot drop, or how often.

I told them, “The way loot in LFR works, you kill a boss, the game does two loot rolls for you. The first roll determines if loot your class and spec could have used would have dropped at all, and then the second roll is to see if you would have won a need roll for that loot when competing with others. If yes to both roll checks, you get loot. If not, you get gold.”

That stopped them. “I never heard that before! That makes a lot of sense now, thank you!”

We chatted a bit more, and it was clear that they had been thinking of giving up on LFR.

Their perception based on personal experience was, there is no loot won from LFR. It’s a fun experience, but it only rewards gold.

Perception versus reality? Programming issue or public relations?

LFR loot.

I think it’s good to talk about this system, because it’s been out for a bit now, most folks have had some chance to get in and try a Looking For Raid run if they really wanted to, and so we have firsthand experience of it to form some opinions.

I walked into the LFR having spent some time thinking about the ramifications of the new system. So, when I ran it the first week and won nothing, I wasn’t surprised. When I ran it the second week, used every bonus roll, and won one piece of loot, I felt it was working as expected, and I was grateful to have won that piece of loot (my hat).

The Godmother recently wrote a post about someone who wanted to see what others won. She wonders, rightly, how anyone could ever want loot drama back. Does anyone really think that wouldn’t bring back drama? And if you know it will, why do it? The only true benefit of the current system is loot has become personal and personal means no drama.

Or is that the only benefit?

The one main thing that brought down the tone of the Cataclysm LFR was the way people would piss and moan about loot. Who won it, how often they ran without winning it, angry at other people rolling Need that already had better equipped, people playing as one spec rolling Need on loot for another spec, and other issues.

But how does the new system differ from the old?

The most visible is, people ain’t bitching about what other people won. Instead, they’re bitching about getting “gold again”.

Are there things about the old system we might miss?

In the old system, some people might choose NOT to roll if they didn’t need or want an item. Some people might only be along in the hope of one item, one super-rare, never seen, white elk item like, oh, the Vial of Shadows. As an example. Some might even just be running for some quick Valor.

So in the old system, not everyone always automatically rolled Need on everything they could.

In the new system, when computing the individual rolls, it is assumed everyone who could roll Need does.

No, you are not directly competing with anyone else in your run. But you are competing against a virtual number of other people, represented by the number of people Blizzard feels would have also wanted the same item. If in the first roll Blizzard decreed a 17% chance it would be loot usable by Agility DPS, and on the second roll you would have had a 15% chance to win it, the rest of the people you are competing against are represented by the 85% failure rate. Broad figures for the purpose of discussion only.

So in the old system, the longer the LFR was available, the higher the possibility that people running in it might have won loot on a previous run and could pass. This resulted over time in a higher chance for new alts to win an item they could use. Over the extremely long lifecycle, once people didn’t even want Valor points, the only people running LFR were alts, and everyone needed everything again.

Yes, there were flaws. But not everyone rolled Need all the time.

In the new system, as it stands now and as we understand it, your chance to win will never improve week to week, no matter if everyone else is geared in ilevel 600 or not.

Because in the new system, the virtual players you compete with in your loot chance roll Need all the time.

But what have we gained?

Make no mistake, we have gained quite a bit.

As the Godmother pointed out, we do not have loot drama because of other players. Nobody can ‘steal’ your loot. That is the most obvious.

But the other benefit, one that I haven’t seen discussed much, is that your chances to win loot are no longer tied to a fixed loot table.

There are no longer two or three physical (pixelated) objects for people to see and haggle over.

Just like a casino, your odds are controlled by background settings, probability generators. There can now be… slider switches.

The number of items that can drop in a regular raid are fixed. In the new LFR, all variables can be directly modified by Blizzard to increase (or decrease) drop chances any old time they want to.

If Blizzard chooses to, as time goes on and the early LFR raids become increasingly obsolete, they can simply slide the gain and increase the chances of tank drops, healing drops, DPS drops or all of the above. In any configuration. Individually.

They could conceivably increase the chance items drop for players of lower average iLevel while reducing the chance for players decked to the nines.

Do you see? The majority of the community focuses on the short-term, the eternal now, as if what we have now is, was, and what shall ever be.

It feels brutal now, but who knows what may happen tomorrow, or after 5.1 hits, or when there are new raids released past Terrace of the Endless Spring?

Maybe there will come a point when a character hits 90, and can queue for LFR for a few weeks to get pretty well geared up in iLevel 476/483, and then be off to enter the very bottom of the newly released raids with their guild.

I would not expect any kind of announcement from Blizzard that they are even considering it, because experience has shown us that as soon as Blizzard announces something coming someday, that same afternoon everyone makes their plans as if it’s being implemented tomorrow.

Whether you think they would ever change those percentages or not, the new system gives them the option to do it without even letting us know.

They could even now be sliding them switches back and forth, trying to find a sweet spot where the perception of loot drop frequency begins to match the reality.

It’s just a thought, but when it comes to planning for the long-term, I’m going to bet on Blizzard.

They know why we play, and why we push forward doing the same content repeatedly.

They know better than anyone that if people think they won’t get any loot, they’re going to lose interest in running on that treadmill. The point of dangling a carrot on a stick is so you can see and smell that carrot, you can almost taste it, right there in front of you.

A lot of people seem to be having trouble seeing the carrot right now. They see bags of gold instead.

I count on Blizzard to find a way to change that.