Would You Be My RAF Buddy?

So, here’s the thing.

I went out and bought two full sets of World of Warcraft, the Battlechest and Mists of Pandaria on US servers.

Everything needed to play the game, with the 30 days that is included.

I intend to give these two sets of the game away to two people who would like to play the game as my Recruit a Friend buddies.

If you are one of the two, I’d follow the process of sending you the RAF invite, and then email you the codes for the game. They’re yours, period.

I would hope that you’d have so much fun you’d keep playing the game, and along the way pay for the two months of time that would send a reward back my way.

If for some reason you decided you didn’t really enjoy the game though, I would not hold you to any obligation to do so. Maybe I’m crazy, but if you play the game and after a while decide you don’t like it, I’m not going to expect you to pay for more game time. Screw that, who makes their friends resent them with that kind of thing?

The disclaimer. I can’t promise that I will level a character all the way to max with you. I work full time and pop on and off a lot for family stuff.

I also tend to go in bursts of enthusiasm, playing the hell out of an alt before some other shiny catches my eye to obsess over in the game for a week.

That said, I do have one empty character slot left on my main server, and one low-level character, a level 40-something Shaman. So it is possible I could do some leveling with you.

What I can promise is that, if you are on Alliance side, I would be delighted to run you through anything and everything until we get to content I can’t quite solo on my Warlock, such as some of the Firelands bosses. That is a lot of stuff that your character will be able to see and loot as you level.

I can’t make that same promise Horde-side, I don’t have a high level Horde character. Sorry.

So, you get the game for free, and the benefits of teleporting each other around (and I do have a Mage so that can be handy whenever you need to get somewhere fast) and someone to chat with and run you through stuff.

I potentially get an RAF pet or mount if you decide you like the game enough to keep playing it three months from now. And I also get a new friend to run shit with, because you know, it’s nice to feel needed to do stuff in game and have friends.

If you are seriously interested, send me an email at thebigbearbutt AT gmail DOT com, and let me know why you’d be at all interested in being my RAF buddy. Not looking for an essay or anything, just want to be sure you have some idea of what you’d be getting into.

First two folks who contact me and seem serious are in. This ain’t a contest, no hoop jumping. Just a handshake and taking a lot on faith.

Hope to hear from you soon!

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What Unannounced Feature Would You Like In Your Garrison?

WoW Insider has a nice “Tell us more” article up this morning, asking what we as players would like to see in our Garrison.

Great timing on that question, because there is one thing I’ve had on my mind for our Garrison that they could do, that I haven’t seen mentioned before.

First, what I can’t have. What I would wish more than anything is that our Garrison architecture would match our character race. It would lend the ultimate Warcraft III feel to our Garrison, to go along with our minions scurrying back and forth under our command.

Sadly, I know that’s not going to happen. The panels at BlizzCon made it clear that there was going to be one style for Alliance, the Stormwind castle design, and one style for Horde, the basic Warcraft orc hut style.

To implement an alternate design scheme appropriate for every race would require the art and framework to be developed all over again. That would be hundreds of new buildings, maybe more, to have race-specific versions. Crazy talk.

Blizzard said it was a “maybe someday” thing, but not a launch goal.

I hope it does see the light of day, sometime in the future.

I know if I were a Blood Elf, I’d hire Blood Elf architects to design my buildings and a Blood Elf crew to build them. I wouldn’t expect my personal fortification on an alien planet to look like what those short lived, short sighted Orcs would throw together out of mud and sticks. Even if they DID grow up in the hostile environment I’m trying to defend against.

Barring that, there is one other thing they COULD do in the time remaining that wouldn’t break the design bank, so to speak. Well, maybe it would.

What I’d like to see is one special building in your Garrison among the default structures that relates directly to your character class.

The Garrisons are supposed to be character-specific right now. They’re leaving waffle room for maybe making them account wide, but most comments from developers talk about doing an accelerated Garrison for your alts similar to our current farms. Just like every character has to do everything to unlock the farm all over again at an accelerated reputation pace, so too our first Garrison will be the big one to do over time, and our alts should see a faster buildup.

Well, if my Warlock is my main, and I build my Garrison, I would love to see one of the default buildings, the first ones that get built, be a Warlock tower of some sort. A place where I have my citadel, my personal workroom, the place I get my studying done.

That one touch of individuality that will separate this Garrison from the ones my other alts have.

If I then decide to create a Garrison on my Hunter, why not have a building unique to the Hunter? A Mage getting a Mage Tower, Warriors getting Strongholds, Shaman having an elemental shrine like the place in Nagrand.

I would love that. Even if the design focus of each building was as a place of meditation or contemplation, like a place a character might design as his or her sanctum supreme, place of power or hard point fortification for you Warriors out there.

Paladins would want a place to pray, as would Priests, but with slightly different themes. Thieves might like a little backalley access to the Black Market Auction House, and that secret closet where they hide the poison lab and plundered loot.

I know it would require designing and decorating a lot of different buildings, basically twenty-two new buildings, 2 designs (Alliance and Horde) for each of the eleven character classes.

I don’t know if Blizzard would want to build twenty-two new structures just to give your character a ‘home within a home’ feel. The Garrison itself is such a massive step up from the farm that it’s insane. I keep looking at those slides from BlizzCon and feel overwhelmed.

But of all the ideas I have for what I’d like to see in the Garrison, this is the one that really clicks for me. A Garrison is a fortification out there on the front lines, where my hero can fall back, regroup and prepare for the next push against the Iron Horde.

If I were to build a Garrison, I would have at least one building ideally suited for my interest, my power, my skills.

If I were a Mage, I’d need that tower to focus my arcane arts and collect my tomes of power for easy access.

If I were a Hunter, I’d need that Safari Park where my pets can roam and be trained to my hand. Maybe with my own training dummy on the KD course.

And yes, I would simply love my own secret Sorcerer Supreme / Doctor Strange style Warlock tower, a place where my dark studies can continue unhindered. It’s nice having those Warlock-only places like the Slaughtered Lamb in Stormwind, but let’s be honest. Once I got my feet under me, I never went back there. I’m a Warlock, those other Warlocks aren’t my buddies, they are my competitors in the dark arts. I’m not dropping in for a cup of tea and a fresh bottle of pig’s blood, damnit. The Slaughtered Lamb? That’s where the wanna-be Warlocks hang out with their black cloaks, dribbly candles and face makeup, moaning about ‘the other side’.

If wishes were fishes we’d all be up to our asses in chum, but I can still dream.

Character Development – Is Jaina Doomed?

One of the things I like about World of Warcraft is the rich story and the wide variety of characters that I’ve come to care about.

These are characters that I’ve talked to, done favors for, fought beside and generally been a huge pain in the butt to over the years.

Any RPG is going to be like that, but there is something about the World of Warcraft story that has me actually wondering what those characters are doing during the parts of the game where the focus is on something else.

“What has Sylvanas been doing while we’ve been fighting Sha in Pandaria? What plots are bubbling just beneath the visible surface?”

“How has Kalecgos reacted to the changes in Jaina, and her actions in Dalaran? Is everything still all right with a girl and her dragon?”

“Why was Tyrande Whisperwind suddenly bloodthirsty and impulsive in the scenario ‘A Little Patience’? Was it simply poor writing for a priestess that has successfully led her people for thousands of years, and suddenly displays less wisdom then Varian? Or is there something unseen going on that may turn up later? What if she has lost part of her deep connection with Elune, and is feeling horrible pressure without that reassuring presence?” – just complete tinfoil hat speculation, by the way.

I like these characters, and I want to know more about them, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what the future holds in store for them. And of course, I want to know when I get to see them again and go on missions for them. Or attack them in their capital cities. 🙂

Of all the characters in World of Warcraft, it is the future of Jaina Proudmoore that is worrying me the most.

I’m just going to say it.

I don’t want a WoW version of Dark Willow.

If that’s what happens, if that is the direction the story is heading, well, that’s just the way it is. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.

Jaina has been one of the strongest people we have worked alongside in Azeroth. And her greatest strength has been her displayed adherence to principles, touched with compassion.

I have seen her sometimes portrayed as the peacemaker, but it always seemed to me that she was less concerned about peace for the sake of peace, and was more focused on wanting to see to the truth of things, no matter who was speaking, no matter what form it took. She did not trust based on appearance, she did not lend the words of someone more weight simply because their tabard was blue rather than red.

She judged intent by actions, not words. She acted on her judgment with conviction of purpose, even when her judgment was that the Orc invaders of Azeroth were acting with honor and her own father was acting from hatred and prejudice.

Jaina wasn’t soft, and has never acted soft, she has instead always been driven to see a thing clearly as what it is, and to act on that vision. To try and convince others to see things as she did. And when they wouldn’t, when she saw them determined to act as fools, she tried to do what she could could to minimize the inevitable damage they were going to cause.

Badass.

Oh yeah, and she’s the most powerful wielder of magic in the world.

Total badass.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Dark Willow storyline as it played out in Buffy. As much as my heart ached for what happened to her and Tara, as pissed off as I was that Whedon felt the need to ruin the one perfect relationship in his show, even then I knew we were watching something that was going to become legendary.

Time softens the wounds, but leaves behind the memory of a truly epic transformation.

What I have a problem with, is that it feels Jaina is being groomed for that kind of descent.

You’d think we were past that. Tides of War saw Jaina faced with the tragedy and grief, and suffused with rage akin to Willow when her beloved Theramore and all the family she cherished, the people she took responsibility for were destroyed. Jaina had her moment where rage and grief overwhelmed compassion, and she had her dark transformation. She went all billy badass and wanted to wash Ogrimmar out to sea, let Garrosh have fun swimming with the fishies.

Frankly, I was rooting for Jaina. Except I would have liked to have seen her use one of those thingies Mages can do, wtf are they called, oh yeah, PORTALS, and open one of those bad bears inside Garrosh’s throne room. From inside a volcano. Lava bath for Mr Garrosh, will you accept the charges?

But yeah, we saw that side, but she didn’t go through with it. She had enough strength of character, of sheer will to still listen through her rage and hate when Thrall and Kalecgos tried to reach her.

I would have liked to see more Jaina beating Thralls ass, while I’m on the subject. You know, I blame Thrall for the entire Garrosh saga.

I can see why he would have been motivated to do it. I never forget that Thrall was standing beside Grommash against Mannoroth when Grommash sacrificed his life to take the demon down. I played through the Thrall and Garrosh questline in Outlands. I always keep in mind that Thrall feels guilt over Grommash dying for the Horde and Orc people instead of Thrall.

Was it a shit decision to give the leadership of the Horde to the hotheaded Outlander son of Grommash, a boy that never really LIVED through the aftermath of the Second War? Hell yes. Garrosh just didn’t have that shared experience of being defeated by the Alliance, of experiencing the containment camps and the misery, the despair. the apathy. That was something that happened to some other Orcs, and just like most youth, he seemed to feel that it would have all been different if he had been there during the Second War, if HE had been the one in charge.

Stupid decision. Of course I blame Thrall. And I blame him a second time after playing through the Thrall and Aggra questline in Cataclysm, and seeing the firelands version of Thrall raging against Garrosh, his true feelings exposed, because he rightfully blamed Garrosh for the death of his friend, Cairne.

Thrall felt rage in his heart against Garrosh for killing Cairne. It was exposed, and at Aggra’s direction we helped him to calm down and regain control.

That doesn’t change the fact of his feelings… and yet, unless something Horde side in the story is vastly different, he never acted on those feelings. He never confronted Garrosh. He never called him to account for his part in the massive disrespect he showed to Cairne.

I have heard the Garrosh apologists when the duel with Cairne happened. I read the book, I understand.

My problem from the beginning was the disrespect Garrosh showed Cairne, and the complete lack of honor given to him, the disregard for his words of advice, his council.

It was Cairne, Thrall and Jaina who combined their magics to purge Grom Hellscream of the demon blood. Remember that? Cairne, Jaina and Thrall. They worked together, wove their magics together, and it was only because they did that Grom was freed.

And Garrosh is going to face this wise old tauren chieftain who redeemed his father and gave him the opportunity to die a hero instead of a blood-drenched betrayer of the entire Orcish people, and blow him off? Talk down to him?

Oh, and now that you’ve killed one person that helped save your father, let’s go drop a mana bomb on the other.

FUCK Garrosh. And Thrall let that shit go? Yeah, I blame the entire Garrosh problem on Thrall from the get go.

Got off track, sorry about that.

We’ve seen Jaina have her transformation, face her dark night of the soul, and sure Thrall and Kalecgos talked to her but it was her own compassionate spirit and determination to see to the truth of things that saw her return. Changed, yes. Less willing to listen to the counsel of fools, yes. And why not? Action, not words.

Since the fall of Theramore, it just feels like she’s not done changing. She came back changed, but those changes aren’t done. We’re not seeing just a Jaina with a new attitude, a new view of what she will permit to exist around her unchallenged.

It feels like every time we see a new chapter in the story of Jaina, we’re seeing her less interested in the truth. She isn’t looking as close before taking action. She is making decisions based on her own prejudice instead of a thorough understanding of the facts.

And I hate it.

She isn’t her father, I thought that was the whole point.

I am truly afraid she is being groomed to follow in her father’s footsteps, to come to the decision that in the end her father was right to believe the Horde would never change, and to seek their total destruction regardless of the actions of a few.

I don’t want to see such a strong, principled character, someone who to me represented strength of character and clarity of vision, slide down the slope to become another bigoted, hate-filled genocidal tool.

I don’t really see where else her story is going, though. I was in hope that we were seeing a hard-won wisdom in our words with her at Anduin’s behest while we were seeing the beach landings. Then the purge of Dalaran happened, and that was a thing.

Then we had the whole thing with Jaina and Blood Elf ponytail on the Isle of Thunder. I thought, just for a moment, that maybe Taran Zhu got through to them both, what with the hole in his gut and all that.

But we see the ending cinematic for the Siege of Ogrimmar, and what strikes a foul note? Jaina urging Varian to slaughter the Horde leaders right then and there, “end it” once and for all.

End it? What, all of them?

And once you’ve ‘ended’ the threat, what do you do?

Concentration camps? Or do you learn from past mistakes made by your father, when he ‘let’ the Orcs be kept alive in the camps instead of exterminating them and ‘ending’ the threat?

I don’t like where that little snippet in the cinematic leads us, because that isn’t a Jaina that is true to who she was, someone who is stronger than blind hatred or prejudice.

So.

We’ll see what we see, but I guess my real question from everything we’ve seen so far is, has anyone seen any sign that Jaina is overcoming her hatred? Have I missed a short story or a piece of lore or questline recently where we see that she is changed, yes, but still possessed of her wisdom, strength of character and principles?

Oh yeah, and can I get in one last fuck Garrosh?

War Crimes trial my butt, I want the ghost of Cairne to come back like Uther and shove the bloodhoof runespear right up his ass. RIGHT up. And Magatha too, of course.

I guess, best case, I’m hoping the War Crimes novel by Christie Golden (which I am very eager for) will bring those visions of the past to life, and by living through them a second time give Jaina a chance to grieve, and find some small sense of closure.

Damn, 1900 words. I am very sorry for rambling on that much.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving, everyone.

Lessons my Heirlooms Taught Me

If information is a river, most days I’m not even dipping in my big toe. Big news keeps passing me by.

Take Heirlooms, for example.

I love Heirlooms. I have bought almost all of them over the years, some of them multiple times thanks to changing servers and leaving quite a few behind. When the Heirlooms are finally able to be mailed across servers, I’m going to have a plethora of riches.

I buy Heirlooms for classes and specs I have never leveled and never intend to level. Elemental Shaman Heirlooms? I have a full set. Moonkin? Same thing. I’m an Heirloom Junkie.

Recently I started leveling a Night Elf Warrior. Went full Fury just as soon as I got Titan’s Grip so I could transmog the Very Light Sabre and dual-wield them.

I only had one of the Heirloom Bloodied Arcanite Reapers on my current server, although I think I still have two on my old server. Both enchanted with Crusader, of course.

Is Crusader as a drop enchant even in the game anymore? I remember farming the mobs that could drop it during Vanilla for days and days, but with the revamp in Cataclysm I guess I never stopped to wonder where they moved the Crusader enchant drop to.

Anyway, I needed a new axe, and we can’t mail Heirlooms just yet, so I needed Justice Points. To get Justice Points, I needed to find the most time-friendly path.

Enter chain-running heroic 5 mans.

Fortunately, since you can mail your Heirlooms around, you can farm Justice on anyone you’d like. as long as they’re on the same server, of course.

Thus entered the first thing I learned this late in the expansion; there are a LOT more people running heroic 5 mans than when it was current content.

Average queue time for me as DPS to get in a heroic 5 man run, about 8 minutes. That was how it was a few months ago when I wanted to upgrade a Bind on Account blue weapon, that is how it was a few weeks ago to get this axe, and when I went farming for more JP that is how it was last night.

I have my own suspicions as to why more people are running dead content then ever before. I mean, it can’t be for armor or cloak drops, you get much better from the Timeless Isles. It has to be Valor, Justice and weapons. And maybe… practising your new Healing or Tank spec on content that your new 496 gear vastly overpowers?

Well, that and the fun of queueing with strangers.

I’m thinking people are just more willing to run the heroic 5 mans, even when they don’t need the gear drops, because they outgear the content even with a brand new spec and there is virtually no chance a run will be a hard, long slow wipefest. There is wiggle-room to figure out how to do this whole tanking or healing thing.

Plus, you know, quick Valors.

So. Heroic 5 man dungeons now have a fast queue time (at least on my Battlegroup), the players outgear content so they move fast, and when you blow shit up REEL GUD you even get people who want to chain with you and requeue immediately.

Every boss you kill in a Heroic 5 man dungeon gives you Justice Points. A LOT of Justice Points. 100 per kill, 120 JP if your guild has the reward For Great Justice (rank 2).

If the average dungeon has 4 bosses, that’s 480 JP PER RUN.

The second thing I have learned from this is you meet all kinds of tanks, and most of them, in fact the majority of them are able to hold aggro like a tick on a hound’s ear.

I have yet to see a single bad attitude from a tank. Not one. They seem to revel in their ability to charge in and have ALL the threat, and God bless them every one. Also, Blizzard, I thank you for Vengeance, and apparently all other tanks thank you as well.

Last night I reached level 80 on my Warrior and hopped on out to Mount Hyjal because FUCK Vashj’ir.

The third thing I learned was both of my Bloodied Arcanite Reapers, my Heirloom shoulders and the Heirloom chest and both Heirloom trinkets were only effective from 1 – 80 and at level 80 stayed at Wrath of the Lich King power levels.

The items purchased through the Guild Vendor with gold (thanks to easy guild rep) are effective up to level 85, but even they don’t spoke in power to Cataclysm gear levels until you reach level 81.

Once I reach 81, the Heirloom hat, cloak and leggings will be up to the gear level of other green drops, and good to go until the shores of Mists.

Having your main weapons at level 80 having HALF the dps of green quest rewards stings a bit. /cries.

The choice had to be made; Do I continue actually PLAYING the Warrior and having fun without those Heirlooms, or do I go spend a week farming Justice Points to upgrade them first?

I blew through the first 80 levels as if they were wet tissue paper. Is it really worth farming Justice for a week just to eke out 5 more levels of bonus XP and fun Heirlooms?

OF COURSE IT IS. TO THE RANDOM DUNGEON FINDER!

The fourth thing my Heirlooms have taught me is that when they reduced the prices needed to upgrade them, they REALLY reduced them.

The Bloodied Arcanite Reaper costs 3500 Justice Points to purchase. If you look at that as less than 35 boss kills in dungeons, that doesn’t seem bad for an item that lasts forever.

When they first gave us the chance to upgrade old Heirlooms to level 85, you had to have the item plus another 3500 JP, the full purchase price.

I thought that to upgrade my gear would cost that same amount. I’d forgotten they’d slashed prices, everything must go!

Now, to upgrade one of the two-handed weapons, you only need the original weapon and 1400 Justice Points. That’s twelve bosses, maybe three dungeon runs? Score! Two for one deals, gotta love it.

And to upgrade an item of armor only costs 870 Justice Points.

With prices this low and heroics that flow, everything must go!

In one night of runs last night, I earned enough Justice Points from heroic 5 mans to upgrade both axes, the shoulders and the chest. I’m still torn on the trinkets, I kind of want to start looking for and using new trinkets.

The fifth thing my Heirlooms taught me was that when you mail them to another character, they lose all enchants JUST like when you put an item into your Void Storage. I had shoulder glyphs, chest enchants and Windsong enchants on the axes for that blue glow. All wiped.

Also, all transmogs get wiped when you mail an item. You can’t transmog something and then mail it to somebody else to look all pretty. That seems fair, but the enchant thing also stings.

See, there was a time when you could put an actual enchant on an item and it would keep that enchant through the mail. I don’t know when this change went live, but as I said, my axes on the other server got shipped around all the time with Crusader on them. having super expensive enchants that could be applied to level 1 items made sense when they STAYED enchanted. Now, I lost the shoulder glyph and I can’t say as I feel like putting another one on.

And I did mention that transmogs get wiped in the mail, so that brings me to the sixth and final thing my Heirlooms have taught me.

I got my upgraded gear back on my Warrior last night, I went to the bank and grabbed the pieces I wanted to transmog into, and flew over to the Etherial in Stormwind to do the deed.

I opened the transmog interface, and something seemed different. I’d noticed it a week or so before, but hadn’t paid attention.

The new thing was, instead of clicking on an item in your bag to set your new transmog choice, there is a little arrow kind of button on the item box in the interface.

I know I’m not describing this well. But I looked at an axe in the transmog window, wondering how to get one sword to apply it’s appearance to both axes.

I noticed the little arrow thing (which looks like the arrow on the Warlock Pet Summons bar icon to open the demon choices. Or the arrow on a Totem bar to expans the totem choices).

I clicked the arrow, and the window opened to show me the sword… along with about seven other weapon choices.

WTF, over?

I tried it again with the shoulders, and the chest.

If you go to the transmog vendor, and you click that little arrow, it shows you every compatible item you own in your bags, in your bank and in the Void Storage. TYou don’t HAVE to have the shit present in your bags anymore!

Well, fuck me sideways with a poisoned chainsaw.

You know, I distinctly remember Blizzard announcing sometime back that you could now transmog stuff using the items in your Void Storage without having to pay to take those items out of storage first.

What I didn’t know was HOW.

I’ve even gone to my Void Storage since then, frequently, and puzzled over how to get shit out of there without paying for it. I always gave up, grabbed my gear, went and transmogged it and then put it back.

It just never registered on me that the transmog interface had changed. I keep my bags clean of unnecessary crap all the time, you’d think I’d have noticed before.

Just, holy crap. I’ve blown hundreds of gold on Void Storage I never had to, did the bank shuffle, and never had to do any of it. I can change mob appearance right in the window, browsing looks to my hearts content.

Yeah. So, there’s that.

What other awesome new features have I missed out on? What else is going on out there I just don’t know?

Next you’ll be telling me I don’t have to visit a class trainer anymore to learn new abilities, I mean geez.

CORRECTION: after talking to Psynister on Twitter, I realize it wasn’t mailing the Heirlooms that stripped the enchants off, it was upgrading them which removes the item you had and gives you a completely new one. Clearly, I’m an idiot. Thanks for the catch, Psyn!

What is an expansion?

Midst the flood of news recently came a little woolgathering from Ghostcrawler, as he told Digital Spy that they would like to put expansions out more frequently, and as often as once a year or so “would be a good rate”.

I noticed he didn’t say they were going to put them out once a year, or commit to doing them once a year. He only said that they know new expansions bring more people back than a content patch, and they’d like to do them more often.

“We really want to get to a cadence where we can release expansions more quickly. Once a year I think would be a good rate. I think the best thing we can do for new players is to keep coming out with regular content updates.” – Ghostcrawler.

I’m not seeing a promise to put out a new expansion every year, although I have seen folks rephrase it as though this is the new moose. Will we see people yelling at Blizzard years in the future, “But you promised you’d put out a new expansion each year!”

Undoubtedly. Reading comprehension is a fading skill.

But so what? What IS an expansion, anyway?

How does a new expansion differ from a content patch?

To me, an expansion is an entire story arc coupled with new technology upgrades, added mechanics and features.

The story arc is the part I love the most, but the technology upgrades probably have the most impact on my everyday gameplay.

I do not expect the same updates or upgrades to the engine each expansion, or the same bumps in character capability. I just expect that there be some improvements to the software, some technology upgrades, some under-the-hood tinkering.

So, like with Warlords of Draenor. I am hearing people complain and saying how disappointed they are that there aren’t new classes or races announced. “It’s not an expansion without at least one new class or race.”

I can see why you could think that. Burning Crusade brought Blood Elves and Draenei, Wrath of the Lich King brought Death Knights, Cataclysm brought Worgen and Goblins, Mists of Pandaria gave us Monks and Pandaren.

It’s a fair point to make.

I don’t personally subscribe to the belief that what was done once must be done always, until the end of days, world without end amen. So they’re not doing a new class or race this time. Okay.

They ARE, however, committed to updating the character models and animations of every single race out there, and I have heard it said they are adding more hair styles and color options.

I don’t have this mythical new class or race, but what I do have are eleven full character slots on my main server, with five character at max level and more on the way, each and every one of whom could benefit from looking prettier.

New Garrisons. New world PVP. New elite PVP modes for those who want the PVP version of Challenge Modes, skill instead of gear. Item Squishes, gear that changes primary stats based on your current specialization, Heirlooms on a UI and out of the bags, Garrisons, more class levels and new class talents.

Yes, this upcoming expansion is bringing tech and mechanic improvements. So to me, that checkbox is filled.

And we’re getting a new story arc. Warlords of Draenor. Going to old Draenor and taking the fight to the Horde… before they were a Horde, and before they ever did anything to us. So, basically, we’re getting our revenge in first. Preemptive Revenge.

So, if we invade Draenor and kick all kinds of snot out of the Orc tribes, in the years to come will they nurse their anger and thirst for revenge against us? After all, Han Shot First and all that.

What I personally want to see is the part of the story arc after the initial rush. That first content patch after the expansion has been out for three months, when we’ve killed most of the male Orc tribal leaders… and their wives seize control of the clans, swear vengeance and set out to make us pay.

Then we can have a great slog in the mud as everything gets all twisted. The Orcs were manipulated into attacking their former friends, the Draenei. But they didn’t drink Mannoroth’s blood, they still possess free will, and here came these invaders from another world who tore into the Iron Horde and slaughtered their leaders before they had the chance to make their own decision to turn back to the path of justice.

The Iron Horde are not inherently evil, they cannot be, for they are the living parents of our own Orc peoples.

So what happens when we get ours in first, and they respond to that? When they rise to this unexpected challenge? When the Warlords that were duped fall and new leaders rise in their place, leaders that may not have fully bought into this whole “let’s go kill the Draenei and wear their skins as clothes” bullshit, but sure as HELL aren’t going to let us just waltz in and kill their families.

It’s going to be interesting as all hell. Where will it go? Where will it end? Blood feuds will come from this. And what of the Orcs of our Azeroth, going back to fight their own ancestors, once lost to them?

This isn’t that long ago, what of Orcs facing otherworld versions of themselves…

Will the Orcs of the Iron Horde think of themselves as the superior race because they did NOT weaken themselves by drinking the blood of a demon? A master race?

Will they be a people capable of both atrocity and compassion, or cardboard cutouts? Are we looking at Orc Socialism on the move?

I am excited as hell because Blizzard has ALWAYS satisfied me with their storytelling and their intricate plots. Go  back and take a look at Mists of Pandaria, track how we started with a lost prince on a mysterious island, grew through discovery of ancient peoples and fascinating cultures, fought a massive war against the Mogu and the overall insidious nature of the Sha poisoning everything, and finally culminating in a faction leader trying to take some of that power and seize his chance at ultimate victory over everyone he sees as an enemy.

Which turns out to be everyone not exactly like him, or the mercenary Goblins he hires.

This new story arc is so full of potential I’m squeeing in glee. So many ways to take this Warlords of Draenor thing over an entire expansion arc filled with multiple content patches.

So much potential for fun.

What is an expansion?

It’s lots of new game features and improvements, and a big honking story arc.

Can they do a new expansion every year?

Sure, as long as they tighten up how long the planned story arc will be to one year in length with the content patches coming  every two to three months. And as long as they continue to have new features and improvements in the pipeline that seem significant when they are unveiled each year.

I know it sounds silly but while I do like having content coming out sooner, I don’t want tons of new content coming out quite that fast.

I think most of Mists of Pandaria hit me at just the right pace. Maybe a few weeks of free time after I had absorbed each one before the next came out.

How fast we play the content is different for each person. For every player that has best in slot gear and has already completed Siege of Ogrimmar on normal, there are probably 50 that are still collecting Sigils or Valor for their Legendary cloak quest.

Just as there has to be new content for us to get excited over, there has to be a codetta afterwards to give us space to breath. We enjoy the content, work hard to reach levels or reputations or gear points, unlock content, and then we take a moment to look upon our works and relax before tearing into it once more.

I would actually like to see something different than a traditional expansion each year.

What I would like to see is one true expansion with the technological marvels and new features with the big story arc lasting a year of smaller content patches as chapters…

And then the second year would focus on another big story arc, new areas to explore and adventures to go on. The Burning Crusade storyline, zones, dungeons and raids without the programming time spent working in two new races, more levels and above all the time spent trying to re-balance it all in playtesting.

Yes, the art assets, quest design, all of that would be just as intense as ever, massive amounts of work for Blizzard to prepare. But without the balancing that new levels or classes impose on us, I think we could get to the new storylines sooner.

Anyway.

What do you think? What features or improvements do you feel are necessary to take something from a content patch and make it a real expansion worth purchasing a box?

And how fast do you really want them to come? Has Mists of Pandaria left you feeling bored between content patches, overwhelmed by all the new things to do that hit before you’re done with the last chunk, or has it been just right?

Something New for the Ninth!

Saber Sushi

I logged in last night to see we had a surprise gift from Blizzard.

It was the start of World of Warcraft’s 9th anniversary!

Nine years.

That is one hell of a long time to be playing a video game.

Surely I’ve seen everything there was to see, been every place there is to go after living for nine years in a virtual world, right?

I got a present, too!

Blizzard gave me a token that puts the ugliest damn tabard I have EVER seen on my character, and oh yeah, a buff worth +9% bonus XP and reputation for killing stuff!

Woot! Time to go fish up some bonus rep with Nat Pagle!

Um… so. Fishing gets me fish, but I’m not actually killing anything? What, not even the damn fish? Look, I gots this ittle club, I catches the fish and then I gives ’em a whack behind the ear, kills ’em dead. Look! LOOK AT ME AS I’M KILLING THESE FISH GIVE ME THE REP DAMN YOU.

Yes, fish have ears. Hey, in MY world fish have ears. And my billy club of whacking is +5 to hit against fish ears.

Don’t make me show you what a lightsaber can do to a fish. I will! Don’t think I won’t. Saber Sushi is all the rage in Northrend.

Um. What was I saying? Geez, I gotta cut down on the coffee, wtf.

RIGHT! That’s it, ninth anniversary.

Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads… 

Woah, sorry, flashback.

After nine years, what, Blizzard thinks I’m still focused on leveling up alts? They give me a buff so I get bonus XP when I kill stuff? Who the HECK is still leveling up characters in this game?

So, at the moment my big focus in the game is leveling up my Warrior alt, so I decided last night I’d…

….what? Yeah, yeah, whatever. So what, they got me pegged dead to rights. Alts4life.

It feels like a lame gift, but it IS only the ninth anniversary. Show me a buff item like this (and that horrible tabard, it’s almost as bad as the sweater) for the tenth anniversary, there will be some serious disappointment over here.

I’m talking sad bear eyes.

Sadbeareyes

Don’t make me give you the sad bear eyes, Blizzard.

Back to my warrior, HOLD ON I said I tried something new.

I reached level 68 Sunday, so last night I started out in Northrend, having fun kicking some Scourge butt in the Borean tundra.

As I tooled around in my sporty purple vest, I thought of doing an instance. I blew through two levels in an hour, didn’t need the XP, but what the heck. Cassie and Alex both enjoy hauling my butt around instances and I take a definite joy in blowing up ALL the old content with my Warlock.

But wait! It’s the ninth anniversary of World of Warcraft.

I’ve got to do something to make this different, to make this occasion special.

Maybe…

Maybe I could try to run MYSELF through a dungeon!

After all, it IS an MMO. What better way to celebrate all that I love in the game but by trying to remove all other signs of human existence? Turn it into a solo excursion!

A three hour tour….

I logged my Warrior in, and then I tried to start a second World of Warcraft game on my computer, and logged in as my son’s Warlock.

They both ran side by side!

Hmm.

I’ve never, ever done this before. Is this dual-boxing? I always thought that meant having two computers side by side with both characters on the screen simultaneously, as if I had, dare I say it, dual boxes.

And I thought dual boxers did stuff like have keybinds and mapping and some arcane software so what their main character did the other characters would mimic. I ain’t gonna try any of that crap, I’m old.

But I can have the game running in two windows on my computer, load up both characters, and then tab between them.

So I have the warlock invite the warrior, tab out and back into the warrior and shit, not fast enough, invite timed out. Try again.

Okay, gotcha! In a group.

I fly the warrior into the Nexus, then tab over and fly the warlock in.

Okay. Quests!

Get the quests on my warrior, walk up and tell the warrior to follow the warlock. Stay! Good boy. /pats head.

I tab out and back into the warlock, okay this could be a pain.

Let’s go!

I walk forward and begin blowing up bad guys.

So far, so good.

I blow everything up, looting on the warlock (on free-for-all), and at the first boss, after it’s dead I tab out, flip into the warrior, pick up the quest item book, loot the commander, re-follow and tab back in.

Fine.

But what happens when the warrior gets attacked?

It turns out that, even though the warrior got attacked once, it didn’t stop following. I really only had to flip back when I wanted to loot a boss.

Um, I did find out one sterling piece of advice I could pass on.

You know that point after the rift platform where most of us learned to jump down as a shortcut?

Yeah, don’t. Don’t do that.

But seriously, I don’t know if that was dual boxing or what but I ran myself through the Nexus and then through Utgard Keep, and it was easy as pie.

Since getting attacked doesn’t drop the follow mechanic, I didn’t even have to tab in and out all that much.

I did find out my computer can’t run two windows of WoW AND run Chrome as a browser at the same time, holy crap Chrome about took my system DOWN on a stutterfest. Closed it out and everything was fine again.

All these years of hearing people talk about dual boxing and all that stuff, all the times people talk about doing recruit a friend with themselves and leveling up two alts side-by-side, and this was the very first time I even thought to try it.

Go figure, it was kinda fun, and certainly convenient.

It will never replace Cassie or Alex running me through old content and letting me die from getting eaten by ghouls, though. NEVER.

Still, I can see those two AM drunken instance crawls, me dragging my son’s hunter alt through Molten Core for no reason other than to see how far he can aggro shit and how fast I can blow it up before he dies.

Happy ninth anniversary, everyone. I hope you all find something new and different to try out to keep it fresh and fun!

Don’t Post Angry!

Because we see what happens when you do.

I posted angry a few days ago.

The only thing I regret is that I posted in anger, and the anger had nothing to do with what I was writing about. Also, because I was angry, I rushed to vent my spleen onto the internet without taking the time to make sure I said everything I wanted to. Sent it out confrontational, aggressive, hurtful and with half the things I wanted to say still swirling around in my head.

When I talk here, I always make the standard internet mistake. I talk like I would to folks who I have known for over seven years of intimate sharing. I assume you know what is in my heart. Poor communicating on my part; you can only know what I say, not what I think.

For the record, I stand by everything I said. I do wish I’d have done it without anger, I didn’t set out to hurting peoples feelings or say things that clearly sounded like I hated or was angry with other people in the community.

I regret the anger. I wasn’t angry about what I wrote. I’m still not.

I was angry for other, completely separate reasons.

Stuff is going on with our son at school, not bullying or anything like that at all, but it’s stuff he has to deal with on his own. There is very little we can actually do to help, and I have a hard time feeling useless, having to stand by and watch and do nothing. I hate it, and the anger and frustration I feel with myself for being useless and unable to help is feeding a really good head of steam.

I didn’t really know what was causing me to be so angry, but I sure as hell was. And when I got irritated at the way it feels people are ganging up on and bullying Blizzard to reveal stuff about the upcoming story to assuage their fears, or to make changes without even knowing what’s going to happen past the first chapter of the prelude to a novel, I let that irritation grow into a full fledged tirade.

I’m still angry about the school stuff with the Cub. That hasn’t changed, but at least now I understand why I’m so quick to take offense at the littlest things right now. I’ll let it go soon, knowing where shit is coming from in my head is the best start to letting it go.

Look, I’ll end this with a few points I wanted to make, and let it be done.

First, I feel that we saw some geeks having a great time in the company of friends at BlizzCon, and I think they focused on the ‘boy’s club’ bullshit because all they can share with us without spoilers is the first chapter of the introduction to a massive novel. I think if PR reps had released carefully worded statements, it wouldn’t have gone out the way it did. But these are geeks, with the over enthusiastic explosion of excitement and all it entails.

Second, I don’t think it’s fair or realistic to go after Blizzard community managers in anger at the story and anyone’s portion of it when we have no facts of what is to come after the beachhead in Draenor. We don’t have any facts on which to base outrage. We just don’t. We only know the very tip of what is to come. Voicing concern is fine and healthy, it helps Blizzard know where we are and what our hopes and dreams for the expansion will be. But attacking in outrage and hate is just wrong. Most didn’t act that way, but enough I saw did that it is what spurred my initial irritation.

Third, Blizzard has a history of making some bad, offensive mistakes when it comes to sexism and other topics in the game. I say other topics, but we’ve got rape culture, torture, racism, bullying… there have been incidents at BlizzCons of the past and coded into the game itself. Most of us know that and we all have a right to be concerned when we think we’re seeing it happen again. I know I don’t want my son exposed to it, that torture quest in Northrend in particular still bothers me, and so does some of the creepy stalking of Ji Firepaw, and those damn Oglers and Mina in Pandaria. And other stuff, when I let my mind roam over the years.

I feel that we have to wait until Blizzard actually makes the mistake before we can register our concern aggressively. They have been very good about recognizing the mistakes when brought to their attention by the community, and fixing them. I wish they wouldn’t make them in the first place, but attacking the game designers now before anything is even in beta for us to see in game feels wrong.

Fourth, I agree that it is a good idea to share those hopes and dreams we have for what we’d like to see in the game with the developers. My objection is when some people phrase it as an attack, an accusation, a pre-emptive strike. Getting in your retaliation first. Say what you expect, get the message out, but accept that in the end the story is in the hands of Blizzard, and is fueled by what they are most excited and passionate about.

Some things they can probably add or change, but I think we’ve all got to remind ourselves, the story they’re telling now was written and decided over a year ago. They’re crafting the story for the next expansion now, and the one after that. All we can hope for now is that they can add subplots if the community asks for things they didn’t think of way back then. But those requests should come with a measure of respect, and failing that, some courtesy. Not outright hostility.

Fifth and last. I truly do apologize to the people who read what I write and felt it was a personal attack. I really do. I’m sorry. I am aware that it was uncalled for and over the top, and none of you deserved to have even a moments confusion as to whether I was talking to you, about you, or felt any anger towards you.

I can’t ask for forgiveness, but I can at least tell you that I’ll try to only rant and rave like a lunatic when the emotions I feel go with what I’m talking about.

Peace to you all, my friends and to all who sometimes visit for whatever reason.