WoW Is Dying? What, Again?

Are we really going to go through this again?

Francis sits down and opens his browser to the homepage to catch up on the latest news from MMO Champion.

“Oh my God, WoW lost 1.3 million subscribers since last quarter! I knew it, I knew it! I’m bored, Bob’s bored, this dude I hang with in guild is bored, so WoW MUST be dying, it’s all over, this is the death spiral down the toilet bowl, I bet Blizzard won’t ever even put out a new expansion, because WoW is so dead! I knew it, I’ve been saying it since Pandaland released, this game sucks, man.”

Joey wanders into the room, holding a Red Bull. He’s been Francis’ roommate going on four years now, and he’s used to hearing shouting coming from the game room. Joey sees Francis has MMO Champ up on the screen. Again.

“Hey Joey, are you going to go to Blizzcon this year?”

Francis spins his chair around, scraggly facial hair bristling in frustration. “No, the damn tickets were sold out 5 seconds after they went on sale, and I couldnt’ hit refresh fast enough to get in the queue. Totally sucks, man. I so wanted to go and get drunk with the rest of the guild, most of them are going to be there.”

“Whoa dude, the rest of your guild got tickets?”

“Naw, but a bunch of them are going anyway, there’s gonna be a lot of parties and stuff with people that play. All sorts of parties away from the con. I ought to go anyway, man, like, I might be able to meet Anne Stickney and get an autograph!”

Ahem.

Let’s get down to the core fundamentals, here.

“WoW is dead”, and “Blizzcon tickets sell out in 5 seconds” are not necessarily mutually exclusive headlines.

Still.

A reasonable person might want to take a deep breath, and try not to read too much into the subscription figures. Just maybe kinda possibly.

When something like subscription figures are released, you have a fine example of news that can be used by anyone to trot out their own personal opinion and spin some kind of bullshit about the numbers proving whatever they happen to believe in.

Before you get too caught up in the whole thing, here’s what I think we could all stand to do.

Stop, take a nice cleansing breath, and ask yourself this simple question.

“Am I having fun playing WoW?”

If the answer is yes, then congratulations. The numbers don’t mean shit to you. You can go. Toddle off, have fun, see you in game.

If the answer is no, and you want to blame something outside of yourself for the lack of fun, then congratulations are also in order. Now you’ve got some numbers to ‘prove’ that however you feel about the game, there are 1.3 million other people out there who share your feelings, and that’s why they quit.

Oh yeah. World of Warcraft is dead. Stick a fork in it.

And while we’re at it, for those of you going, have fun at Blizzcon, I wish I was able to join you! I’ll be watching from the streaming online video feed, so wear a bear tank shirt for me!

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The Cub Report – Battlecruisers are Cool

Welcome to another fun filled edition of the Cub Report!

In this episode, we find out what happens when I give the Cub my old computer.

A short while ago, the Cub’s computer took a data dump, and left us scrambling to come up with a replacement.

We ended up getting me a new computer, and passing my old one on to him, leaving us both with an upgrade.

The only thing I had to do to get the computer set up for him was to install the backed up Minecraft game/world saves for him.

So, hey, Portal is on the desktop, he played that a bit. And it had World of Warcraft, of course. And I installed a painting program for him to get his art on.

Over the weekend, he was bored, and asked me what this other icon on the desktop was. Starcraft II? What’s that?

More importantly, can he play it?

Sure. Why not? He’s ten, he can give it a shot.

I explained to him that it wasn’t a World of Warcraft style of game, instead it was like a science-fiction version of Warcraft III, which I let him play a bit a year or more ago.

“You make a base, fortify it, build armies and go out to smash other bases.”

Okay, cool. He’s excited, he wants to try it.

I set him up with a fresh start in Campaign mode, and let him at it.

He did a few missions in campaign mode, but he didn’t really care for it.

“Is there any way I can just do a battle? I build a base and the bad guys build a base and we fight?”

Why yes… yes there is.

I showed him how to set up a match against the AI, the different variables, how to browse Blizzard maps, what team AI was and all of that.

Then I let him go to it again.

He got his butt handed to him by the enemy in his first match. He was kind of upset.

So I told him that if he’d like, I’d replay the battle, and show him some of the things I do to defend my base, build resources and kick butt.

“Sure!”

I sat down, he had Terran set up against Terran on a 1v1 map, and I showed him how you can set up your SCVs to harvest minerals and gas, build more SCVs to farm faster, send an SCV down to another nearby mineral site to start a second command center and bring in more resources, and have a couple SCVs off on their own building missile launchers, barracks and bunkers with Marines around the perimeter.

I showed him how to group armies with Ctrl+#s, I introduced him to the concept of avenues of approach, and how to upgrade weapons and armor and perform research.

I showed him how some forces can only attack ground targets, some can only attack air, some reveal the surrounding area, and some units can attack both types.

Then I built a force of 5 Battlecruisers and turned the keys of the kingdom over to him.

He likes Battlecruisers.

He played several more AI matches over the weekend after that. He tried some of the 2v2 maps, with an AI on his team and two AI opponents, and also one match with two AI buddies on his team with one lone little AI victim.

Does everyone do that at some point? Set up a completely one sided and horribly unfair situation where the poor bad guy is just screwed right out of the gate? It’s not fun to actually play, but it seems like a rite of passage for an RTS game, gives you plenty of time to build up impregnable defenses, a ridiculously large and overpowered army, and then have the AI bad guy die because your two AI allies lost no time in zerg rushing him?

Anyway. He had a lot of fun.

He loves the battlecruiser, he likes the looks of the Thor but I don’t think he’s built them much. So far he seems to go for dominance of the skies rather than open-field tank battles.

He likes the Viking, he asked me if I knew that the Viking was a flying gunship that can land and transform into mecha. Very cool. Also, there are medic ships!

I came in on him last night, he was whooping it up, I wanted to see what trouble he was up to.

He’d started a 1v3 battle, with 3 Terrans against his one Zerg force.

When I popped my head in, he was grouping zerglings into armies. Lots and lots and lots of armies. And giggling.

“I’m going to send THIS army to scout the enemy camp, and THIS army to attack his weak point, and THIS army to cover the way to the enemy base so I’m not surprised, and THIS army to defend my ramp here, and THIS army….”

Um, yeah.

Okay, so, note to self. Do NOT buy a second copy of Starcraft II. I can just see getting my butt zerg-rushed from thirteen different armies while still trying to finish building my first barracks.

Also, those giant things that Zerg can make that look like dinosaurs? Why can they burrow? He was building them, burrowing them and giggling.

Why? Why make something that massive a sneak attack? “La la la, walking along the trail, all is quiet, HOLY CRAP INSTANT MUTANT RHINOS ARGGGHHHH!”

My son likes the Zerg more than the Space Marines?

That’s just wrong, man.

Feeding Frenzy

Ah, you feel that?

That wonderful time dwellnig in the trough between the waves.

A new patch comes, content gets dumped in the water like chum and we scramble to tear it up and get it all down…

That’s over now.

Now we glide idly through the game taking a nibble or two, relaxed and happy, digesting the last big meal, letting off a burp or two knowing we’re going to get another dump of chum in just a few weeks.

Maybe you’re in a different place right now, but that’s how the cycle feels to me. A patch comes, new stuff to do and shinies to pursue, and the server slams the twin Evinrudes full throttle chasing after it. We all thrash around overfishing the same small holes until everyone hits their limit for the season, and then we get to relax a bit before the next tourney.

Perfect pacing, thank you. Having just a little time to enjoy our success gives us a palate cleanser before the next patch brings fresh fish.

Patch 5.2 has been good, but the thrill has trailed off. The raid is out in full and it’s been good… but it has lost that new raid smell.

New raid smell. Need to get me a can of that, spray it on the seat cushions.

I like where we are at because we know the lull will definitely end, and soon. We don’t have the empty wasteland of nothing to do for the next eight months staring us in the face.

I’m spending my time chilling out and finishing off some of those Pandaria reps that were so two patches ago. I’ve been doing the farm assignments to get reputation each day, and I had the bright idea of patrolling the Valley of the Four Winds for Dark Soil, to try and get Best Friends with everyone.

I figured by this point, everyone who just had to have everyone as Best Friends did, so I wouldn’t have much competition for the Dark Soils.

The result? Yep, true story. Some nights, I’d do a pass and end up with 15 Dark Soil items to turn in before going back for another round. Only took a week of flying around to get ’em all. My farm looks mighty purty now, and I like the chickens. Wish I could click one, kill it and have chicken to fry for my dinner. Ah well, as long as Dog gets to have a fresh chicken snack pack, it’s all good.

I just completed exalted with both Golden Lotus and Shado Pan last night, too. Yes, both. It was the first time any of my characters reached exalted with either of them.

Completed Cloud Serpent a few weeks ago, too. After all, why not? I’ve got some time now that the Isle of Thunder is completely unlocked.

Now that I have the rep, sooner or later I’ll have all of those tigers, cloud serpents, cranes and goats. New mounts are a grand thing. My low level alts will look nice on the back of a blue Shado Pan tiger.

I’ll tell you something. As nice as pet battles and scenarios are, I love having those faction reputations to pursue in my free time.

It’s not the Valor or Justice gear. Those are a joke. They are perishable items, and most of them were stale at their price points on the day they were released.

No, the reputations are fresh and tasty because most of them have FUN stuff to get, stuff that has nothing to do with gear or game performance.

By all means, Blizzard. Give me some factions with a cool story arc and daily quests, and a quartermaster with pets, mounts or attractive transmog gear.

You can keep all the Valor and Justice gear, get that off the faction quartermasters. Stick that somewhere else. Just put a gear vendor in a capitol city that isn’t gated by reputation levels. Valor Points are gated by a weekly cap anyway, so why put a rep level gate on top of it? Just put all the new Valor gear for a tier there at once, and let me decide which single piece I’m saving my Valor for first. I don’t think that having all the items available to pick from is unbalanced when you are still limited to only one item per two to three weeks of capping Valor. Oh no, if all the gear is available from the beginning, then in twenty weeks I could have it all without grinding Rep! Oh noes! Yep, that’s too damn OP. For sure, dude.

The game should feel challenging and reward a certain amount of dedication without feeling gratuitously punishing. What feels punishing is subjective, but I said my piece on Valor Gear vendors, and now I’ll drop it.

Back to the point of factions, daily quests and reputation.

I love having these in the game as filler, without being tied to necessary gear upgrades. I like not feeling that I have to grind that rep every day to stay on top of where my gear should be at.

I might not do the faction today, I might not spend every waking moment grinding rep. I might have a raid instead, or real life, or whatever. A week long family vacation, maybe.

But when I’m queued and flying around bored waiting for something to pop, I’ll go to your faction hub and do some quests, smack some Mogu around and take their fruity pebbles.

I know I said it at the beginning of the expansion, and it’s holding true. I love having faction daily quest hubs that are story driven with actual arcs and new quests at various rep levels along the way, and end in some kind of story reveal or special quest that wraps it all up for you.

A new mount, pet or transmog item for a final reward is the sweetest prize ever. That Onyx Cloud Serpent for Shado Pan? Beautiful mount, and getting it felt like a prize that enhanced an already great final faction quest rather than being something I ground to get for a better ilevel.

I’ve even come around to appreciating the Order of the Cloud Serpent gating the training required to fly one. Although I still think the training should be account bound. You raise one yourself, it’s special, and you fly it for a while, but there are other, special cloud serpents out there waiting for you.

I haven’t reached exalted with August Celestial on anyone, but I’m looking forward to that as well.

I like the direction Blizzard has gone with Factions. My only worry is whether they can maintain the quality of the faction quests and story arcs. They have set the standard very, very high.

The completion of each Faction story arc have become some of the best moments in the game for me. The final Klaxxi reveal, the defense of the Black Ox for Shado Pan, the defeat of the Bloodletter and the battle on the steps of Mogushan Palace for the Golden Lotus. The whole sequence with Operation: Shieldwall.

I find myself doing the factions to see what will happen next. And isn’t that what you want from the people playing your game or reading your story? To keep them looking forward to finding out what happens next?

Oh, and the final ceremony of the Order of the Cloud Serpent! That was steller! Alex loved it, too, when he completed it. And the fact he could go tame serpent hatchlings. 🙂

That is what it all comes down to. That is the cycle I’m enjoying, all boiled down.

A new patch comes with content for boosting your gear and power. We tear into it and burn through as fast as we can to stay on the leading edge of Valor gear and LFR drops. But when the patch is been and gone, when we enter the lull, it is the faction daily quest hub that I fall back on, with progression at my pace, a story to look forward to, and a cute fun reward at the end of it.

Please Blizzard, just keep on doing what you’re doing. Only more so.

🙂

I Will Not Move When Flame Wreath Is Up…

One of the things I love about World of Warcraft specifically and social multiplayer video games in general is the way we are actively building a cultural history.

A video game environment used to be pretty personal. You played a game, and the most social it ever got was people watching you play on the TV set in your living room. You want to share what yuo’re doing, you tell people later.

Now, streaming and Twitch and all sorts of stuff. Why play a game when you can watch the streaming video of other people having fun? Or something.

But in the middle, in MMO land… groups of people getting together, forming guilds, linking with typed chat and voice comms, and sharing experiences.

Experiences that happen to you… but not really you.

It’s your avatar, and no, we’re not wired in to feel it’s pain. Yet. If it ever does happen, we know who will be driving it.

ERP.

Still, your avatar, and you’re invested in what happens to you, but you can’t actually die when you screw up by the numbers.

You can do something galactically stupid, and look! it ain’t intensely personal and private anymore. Oh no, you just shared that with all your friends. They saw it. Some of them took pictures and laughed.

And some of them made a video, posted it to YouTube, and you went viral. Have a nice day.

We’re growing our culture as we go. Things happen often enough in game that it’s the new normal. We take it in stride, and move on.

But how would the squares, those sad types out in the real world react to some of this stuff?

Thats the best bit. As time goes on, we become the new normal. What we get used to, and how we talk about it, gets absorbed into the outside world.

People will start adopting our terminology and ideas, even if they’ve never played a game before. Suckers.

What is the most contradictory new concept we’ve created?

I think it’s obvious.

Standing in the fire.

Think about it.

The entire concept of standing in the fire, just wtf.

In the real world, you stand in the fire, you catch on fire, and you have no choice stuffs start moving.

If your body can move, and you catch on fire, there may be a split second where your nerve endings haven’t reported latest events, but just as soon as you catch up to OMIGOD PAIN HURTS your body already moved you. The challenge is to stop moving, drop and roll. Your body doesn’t like that plan, it wants to run around screaming.

Standing in the fire? Not something that happens in the real world.

Only in a video game can ‘you’ stand in the fire and not even notice.

But you still take damage. And your friends, who are there playing with you and who might be responsible for keeping you alive? They’ll notice. And as history has shown us, they won’t be shy about letting you know that something might be happening to your nether regions, and perhaps, just maybe, you should do something proactive about it.

“Hey, Dipro? Get out of the fire. Get out of the fire. No, really, you’re standing in the, just holy crap dude, don’t freaking debate about it, just move, you’re on fire.”

It’s only one little thing in the game, but it really shows the difference between a virtual world and the real one. How can you not know you’re on fire?

Only in a video game, ONLY in a video game do you need someone to tell you to get your butt out of the fire.

The idea of someone just standing there with their feet on fire, totally oblivious? Someone so stupid they wouldn’t even move if we set them on fire?

That’s out there. We gave that to the world.

You’re welcome.

I’d love to see a title added to the game, from a tracked achievement – Character took more than 50 million cumulative damage from standing in environmental damage. Title awarded? “The Hotfoot”.

Alternate title, “The Hotstepper”, but that’s only because I’d like to see a character named Hossenfeffer the Hotstepper.

What else are we creating in our artificial game worlds? What other new cultural baggage are we creating that will seep out into the real world, stuff we take for granted but is unique to life in an MMO, stuff we might not even be noticing?

I love how this concept is enduring. Not just the standing in the fire, but the standing in the fire oblivious while your friends yell at you.

Case in point;

Throne of Thunder.

Looking for Raid.

Wing 4, boss 3.

LEI SHEN.

I have never seen more people standing in the fire than the first week of Lei Shen in the Throne of Thunder LFR.

After your first phase 2, when a pillar is destroyed and that entire quadrant of the floor is arcing with big old glowing blue lightning?

Yeah… it’s blue fire.

The first week Wing 4 came out on LFR, and our guild was in there typing over and over;

“The floor is on fire, get off of it. Move. It’s on fire. You’re standing in fire. No really, move out of the blue lightning. No, don’t drag the boss in that quadrant, it’s on fire. The floor, it is on fire. It’s pretty blue fire that hurts, stop standing in it. Hello? Fire check? Still burns. Move please? Please?!?”

Standing in the fire. An enduring legacy we leave to the generations that come after us. God help them.

All Things Considered Equal… AREN’T

While listening to Group Quest #114 on Monday morning, one of my favorite podcasts alongside Convert To Raid, I heard something in passing that sat me back on my butt.

I listen to podcasts while working, and my attention goes to work first. Sigh. Damn priorities.

So, at times I’ll be working busily away and bits of something controversial will be said that blows right by my shields. It sinks into the vulnerable rear areas of my brain, the part where ideas like “wouldn’t it be nice to grind Dark Soil to get Best Friends with everyone on the farm?” come from.

Once that bit of overheard conversation gets down there in the dark, my internal drama bear reaches out and smacks me around a bit, no claws, yelling “Wake up! Shit just got real! HANDLE IT!”

What I heard was a segment on community posts, talking about somebody who wrote a blog post stating that their character in reasonable gear can auto-attack and do 32k damage without having to push any other buttons, so 32k can now be considered the “I don’t give a shit, I’m afking through this LFR, fuck you” level of play.

The conversation immediately moved on to discuss what is or is not a reasonable amount of DPS to expect players to put out in LFR, and I think either Hasteur or DeGei mentioned that top raiders can reliably put out somewhere around 200k DPS, so expectations on “what is good DPS” are changing a lot.

Good points, very good points.

I can’t recall another expansion that saw such a dramatic increase in player damage output in such a short period of time.

This ain’t all that new. We’re used to outgearing content as an expansion goes by. Even in Burning Crusade, there were plenty of jokes about bare ass nekkid bears tanking in 5 person heroics just to get some damn rage generation. “Tanks, drop your pants!” was the common cry. “Tank Naked” was the order of the day.

You know, because of the old system where you had to get hit to build Rage, and if you had awesome gear and maxed Avoidance, you ended up rage starved. You know. /Whistles. Yeah, I know, recap buzzkill. Anyway.

Hmm, a new shirt idea. Big words stating “TANK NAKED”, with a line of dancing bears underneath. Where is my Robert Khoo to monetize this shit? Moving right along…

Yes, I say we’re used to the concept of outgearing content during an expansion, but we are arguably only halfway through this expansion, and the content that is still current has become trivial for Throne of Thunder normal raiders.

Trivial, I say! Bah, humnuts! Or Chestbug. Or something.

Heck, it’s trivial for people decked out in Terrace and Throne of Thunder LFR gear!

I’m not complaining, mind you. The better my gear gets, the happier I am to do daily quests, because I can blow through them (and the mobs) in short order, and feel a bit like a badass at the same time. Which is a good feeling, after getting your ass kicked in a bad LFR or Brawlers Guild fight.

Every game needs to have a moment where you get to feel like a badass, right before it kicks your teeth in.

So yes, expectations shift and grow over the expansion. What would have been hot shit in LFR or normals a few months ago are now the low end of the spectrum.

Still.

The little drama bear thought it heard some awesome chunky drama, and hit the big red “Bullshit alert! bullshit alert!” button in the back of my head.

Seriously? 32k DPS is the new ‘afking through the raid, fuck you’ level of performance?

After the outrage registered, my very next thought was, “Well, what about those of us who don’t have an auto-attack? we no clickie buttons, our damage output is zero. I guess it’s all right for SOME, but we still be activating shit over in this neck of the woods.”

I’ll grant you, I’ve played on my Hunter for the first half of this expansion, and my Hunter has a nice, tasty ranged physical auto-attack. Also, my pet will tear the SHIT out of anything I start attacking, and if what I’m attacking dies and something else is in combat with me, why, it’ll go after the next monster all on it’s own. My pet is a big chunk of my DPS, and he can work almost completely autonomous.

That means my pet ain’t just a button on an attack bar, it goes out there and chews on some ass. Mmm, tasty.

darn right, my Hunter can stand there doing nothing, and my bow goes ‘twang, twang’ at the bad guys, pet goes and gets some Mogu tartare, damage be getting done. Makes me look like I’m doing something. Oh yeah, I’ve got a button I can press too. Pew pew. Or not.

I get it.

But the caster classes I be playing, there ain’t none of that easy mode shit.

I’ve been raiding on the Warlock at around 500 iLevels (with Grimoire of Sacrifice and no pet), and I’ve started doing introductory LFR on my Druid as a Moonkin at the lowest gear levels. /cry

My ranged caster characters? If I don’t hit a button, newsflash for ya, they don’t do SHIT!

My poor Moonkin in particular, it’s rough going. I’m trying to adapt my expectations from the instant casts of the Destruction Warlock with great deeps down to a poorly itemized Moonkin with long cast times for every-damn-thing, and it feels like the gear I’m shifting down to is reverse.

Cast… cast… can’t cast, gotta move, cast… PROCS! Cast… cast… cast…. gotta move, can’t cast, kiss my feathered ass Blizz fucking every fight a move fight, cast…. cast… ca OH SHIT CAN’T CAST GOTTA MOVE FIRE FIRE FIRE PUT ME THE F%^ OUT! Cast….

Yeah, you get the picture.

I am in a mix of 450/458 PvP gear, and a good collection of 476/483 gear from a week of LFR. Some enchants, some gems, don’t have a meta installed in my 458 PvP hat, sue me.

All that just to say, my Moonkin is doing around 35k DPS, raid buffed, with me busting my butt to crank out some damage and not be a complete drain life on the raid.

So yeah, like I said. I heard that 32k damage was the new ‘you’re not even trying’ range of DPS in an LFR, and the little bear in my brain stood up on hind legs and wanted to maul the shit out of something.

So… reality check.

That’s fine to have for a first reaction to something heard in passing, but what were the facts?

I went back and looked at the Group Quest website to see where that community piece had come from. It sounded familiar, but I sure as hell didn’t remember any drama inducing, brain-vessel-bursting posts like that recently.

Come to find they reference it as being from The Grumpy Elf.

Okay, so clearly what I thought I heard wasn’t what I actually heard, ’cause the Grumpy Elf wouldn’t have said that.

No, the Grumpy Elf didn’t say they can do 32k DPS afking through an LFR.

It was 38k DPS.

Well, shit!

But they weren’t saying it as a “this is what you should be doing, and if you’re not you suck” way.

Instead, it was put as a conversation starter. Like, okay guys, this is what I’m doing over here, got 38k DPS going just auto-attacking, what’s going on and why are other players not reaching those same numbers in LFR?

It’s a good question. The Grumpy Elf is playing a Hunter, just like I had been (and still love to), and just like I said, the class has basic mechanics that allow for automatic damage output.

Is it a function of being a physical damage class?

If I consider those classes that have to get into melee range to do DPS, those classes where physical positioning is important, they all have auto-attack damage as a large component of their DPS.

But the auto-attack is offset by the melee classes all having to constantly move their butts to stay within range of the target to do damage.

For ranged classes, there are Warlocks, Mages, Elemental Shaman, Moonkin, Priests and Hunters.

Of all of them, only the Hunter gets a ranged auto-attack. Warlocks and Mages can have pets too, but not an auto-attack. And when you’re ranged, positioning on the target doesn’t matter, you just have to move your butt out of fire once in a while.

Huh.

The Grumpy Elf has a great point. Why the heck are Hunters able to enjoy such a strange advantage?

Is it because of the old caster Wand mechanic, when everyone could auto-attack if they had an equipped ranged weapon, but casters had to use the Shoot spell, and Hunters could just, well, go bang?

But aren’t Wand attacks gone now? I know you can still equip a Wand, but they’ve become main hand caster weapons, there ain’t no separate ‘Wand’ slot anymore.

Hmm…

I know one thing. I like there being an auto-attack on the Hunter. I really like the feel of my Hunter attacking the bad guy with a baseline attack, while I control the timing of when I activate the ‘special’ shots. It puts me solidly in the mindset of controlling cooldowns, with EVERY shot becoming a cooldown.

Maybe what is needed is to bring every class in line with the Grumpy Elf’s ideas.

Maybe it’s time for every class to have an auto-attack, with traditionally ranged spell-casters getting a nice filler.

I know Demonology Warlocks can have a ranged spell auto-attack when in Metamorphoses and, I think, under the influence of the Glyph of tanking Awesomeness.

I think it is time. I think every class should have a baseline auto-attack, with melee being in close where their big damage attacks are, and traditionally ranged classes having a ranged auto-attack.

The more I think about it, the more I love the idea.

Hopefully, that’s something for ‘someday’.

In the meantime… let’s never forget that what is easy mode for one class is most certainly NOT for another. Sometimes, you have to bust your ass just to get a ‘meets expectations’ rating on your annual review.

In case this isn’t clear… I love the Grumpy Elf, and I loved the post once I went back and looked at it and realized that was what Group Quest was talking about. ‘s post. All the attitude came from my hearing a partial conversation by other people talking about it, and then thinking about what I thought I heard.

I still think it’s funny. I swear, I thought that was what they said, yer honor! now don’t go bringing any of your goldarn facts into it.

The Cub Report – Sax and Violence

The post title is stolen shamelessly from @neowolf2 on Twitter. Titles don’t get any better than that right there.

Last night, my son had his first band concert at the school. He has been playing the saxophone since the school year began, and he did wonderfully. The band played several songs as a group, broken up with solos and duets. He had a duet with a kid playing a clarinet, and he had to totally carry the clarinet player. If it was a scenario, the clarinet player was trying to run it as a healing spec.

His band class is a before-school extra thing, it’s not part of the normal school curriculum, so he is in a class of about 20 kids, each with different instruments and spanning four school grades. There were three saxophonists this year including him, but next year the other two will be off in High School, so he’ll be big man on the sax circuit.

Seeing him up there, with his serious ‘business time’ face focusing on the sheet music… that makes everything worthwhile, I swear.

Enough of that, it’s time for some Cub news around the World of Azeroth!

Mists of Pandaria is turning out to be a difficult expansion for Alex.

In a pure sandbox game like Minecraft where you are given all the tools and left to go nuts, he has a wonderful time. Just a few nights back he opened up a world where he made a black onyx pyramid that stretches to the heavens, and added a series of roller coaster tracks over and through and under mountains, rivers and the pyramid itself. Including glass blocks so you can see the water you were riding under. He did this with powered mine cars, tracks and switches. Then he took some rides. With nothing but a bag of tools and an open world, he builds shit that knocks my socks off.

In other games, like the new Luigi’s Mansion game on the 3DS, he’s also having a blast. It is focused along one path, and you play the path or you don’t advance. The challenge comes in executing what you have to do each step of the way.

He’s very good at those kinds of games as well.

World of Warcraft is turning out to have too little direction to show him where he has to go next to find a small area filled with stuff to do, and if he does stumble on an area it’s hard to tell what it might be for, what the start or end is, and what the eventual rewards may be.

That would be fine if there was more pure sandbox stuff in WoW, but there simply isn’t enough freedom in the sandbox to let his imagination run wild. Have you ever tried to interact with the environment? They’re getting better at having things that can spawn you can pick up, but for the most part, the assumption is to not bother trying to interact with trees, rocks, sand, buildings, torches, windows, wild animals (except to kill them), etc. If they added sandbox tools, would we know? We’ve been trained to ignore the environment and focus on the critters to kill and people to give us quests or buy our trash.

It is what it is. He is still too young for the game, and I don’t expect a game designed for mature audiences to have to tailor its play to a ten year old. That WoW is as accessible as it is already amazes me.

I mention this because there are plenty of times I feel it, too. I remember when I first reached level 90 in Pandaria, and I felt adrift. I knew a lot of stuff was out there… but where to even begin? What would be the most fun? What should come first? I felt lost enough that I had a major disconnect with my character. It felt almost as if, there I am at max level, there aren’t any more breadcrumbs, there aren’t any obvious things to focus on… guess the game’s over, and I won?

Where things are now, with the scattered quest hubs and nothing to send you out there TO them, he logs in, flies around aimlessly, does a few pet battles, browses Mogit to look at gear sets, reads through the Dungeon Journal memorizing the fights and looking at gear, and then he tells me yet again that he wishes Blizzard would go back and add in entries for all the OLD raids into the Dungeon Journal.

I agree with him on that point. I’d really love to see the Dungeon Journal updated with pictures of bosses, spell effects and loot tables from all the old raids. Really.

He likes WoW, don’t get me wrong. He likes his Worgen Death Knight.

He’s just having a hard time finding a loose end of the sweater to start unraveling to reveal all the fun that is still to be had out there…. somewhere.

He needs some guidance. Something to say, “Hey, you haven’t done this, you wanna give it a try? You’re able to do it, you could handle it with no sweat. Go for it!”

I try to fulfill this role when I can.

For example. When Cataclysm was the fresh hotness, the Cub really wanted to run the Halls of Origination, play around in there. He wanted to ride a camel into battle against bone-winged undead.

It wasn’t so much that he wanted to run it, like go go go get valors get golds get drops get gone and do something else. He wasn’t on the progression treadmill where content is the job you do to earn the valor cash to buy gear.

U bai gear? Yes, we all bai gears.

No, he wanted to explore, to take his time, experience all of that celestial wonder. He wanted to, and this may shock the heck out of you, he wanted to go do a five person instance as a fun adventure, exploring all the little nooks and crannies.

Cataclysm was a long time ago, but all the content is still there. Much like Minnesota, it’s flyover country now, but it’s still there.

He was logged in, drifting along looking for something to grab his attention, and I mentioned to him that part of the joys of being so well geared at level 90 was that when it came to old content, he is now, to quote Goldeneye, Invincible!

Yes, that video is appropriate. It’s true, right up until the point where it ain’t.

I told him he could darn well go and solo the Halls of Origination.

Um what?

YES! Go forth and explore all the things!

So he did.

He had a lot of fun in the Halls of Origination… until he reached this one room with, I don’t if you’ll remember this, four elementals you have to kill in a room filled with fast-spawning groups of ads? Yeah, the frost elemental will ice trap you, freeze you in place. Fine if you’re Unholy with a perma-pet, but for a Frost or Blood DK, kind of a pain. When you’re soloing, it’s mighty funny.

Still, he got through it all and won, he rode a camelback, he fought and won against some beautifully constructed five person instance design. That place is begging for a revamp as a 10 person raid.

That inspired him to do more instances, and he had some fun doing them.

Still and all, that is where we are. The Cub is having a good time when he can find something that is fun to do, that is small enough that he doesn’t have to maintain enthusiasm for it over several weeks of dailies. If we can identify something that has a beginning, a middle and an ending over one or two days, he’s all over it.

When we can’t come up with something he can go out there and have fun doing that doesn’t require logging in and ‘doing your chores’ day in and day out, well, that is when we break out the Minecraft.

There is ALWAYS something to do short term in Minecraft.