A Serpent in the Garden of Azeroth

Don’t ask me why, but I got a wild hair up my ass about getting the legendary cloak on my Hunter.

No, not the new Horrible Hordie, I mean on my happytime Alliance hunter, Beartrap.

Beartrap, who had been my main bear all the way through the Isle of Thunder, only to be dropped like a mortar base plate during a 20 mile forced march in favor of my shiny new Warlock.

Poor Beartrap had reached 14 of the Secrets of the Empire out of 20 Mr. pencil-necked pipsqueak Wrathion wanted. And I was already exalted with the little twerp, too! So close, but no orange meta gem.

Poor, poor Beartrap.

This could not be borne any longer!

Also, I’ve run out of anything in the game to do that holds any interest for me. Never before have I felt this complete sense of “who gives a shit about WoW, there’s nothing to do” like I do right now. Even during the long stretch of Dragon Soul raiding in Cataclysm I didn’t feel this sense of having nothing left to do.

Just… blah. If this is how I feel now, I am pretty sure I’m not making it to a fall/winter expansion release without unsubbing for the summer.

But there is still this one thing. I could finish out the legendary cloak on Beartrap before I make a decision.

Who knows, I could find a renewed sense of purpose in the game, I could become reinvigorated by the world and fall in love anew with soaring across and Azerothian skies.

And pigs could fly out my butt from all the bacon I eat.

This last weekend I decided to see if I could get any of the missing secrets. I did this by subjecting myself to LFR over, and over, and over. Late last night I endured Lei Shen attempts over and over and over, but at the end of it all 20 were mine!

Now to stick a harpoon up a flying serpent’s ass and run like hell.

Chain running LFR has left me feeling a little sick after witnessing the fruits of the boosted 90 program.

I’m glad the mechanics worked out well, and I get that saying “get your max level character now!” has more punch than “get your 85 and then quest to earn those last five levels so you get some idea WTF you’re doing.”

It still remains that I have never seen so many people, shiny and new, bravely setting out into the world of LFR with no idea how much crap they’re getting into.

It is always painful to see innocense lost.

Hunters seem to be the class that are the most obvious offenders. They have talents and spells that damn near shout ‘I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m in your raid!”

I see Aspect of the Pack left up all the time now.

One person left it up for an entire boss fight, on the Dark Shaman encounter. Entire fight, same hunter left it active the entire time. My UI let’s me see the name of the buff provider when I mouseover, so there was no mystery here. Whispers, ENDLESS whispers throughout the fight to please turn Aspect of the Pack off went ignored.

Others weren’t so kind. I tried to get them to take it off by whisper, but once the tanks figured out who had the buff up, it got ugly and public.

The person never did take it down. We wiped at about 5%, and everyone stood around until the hunter could be kicked from the raid.

I can easily picture them not knowing how to respond to /i chat, or know how to chat at all, or know which button clicks off an Aspect since it’s not like a normal spell.

As bad as that sounds, there is the case of the hunter I met in the first wing of Siege LFR.

During the Fallen Protectors, I noticed this one hunter had a cute wolf pet, and it stayed by his side the entire fight.

I didn’t say anything, we were busy, and maybe they were Survival and didn’t really feel they needed their pet for max deeps.

After the Protectors, on the way to Norushen I checked the damage logs, and they had about 35k DPS. That seemed… a mite low. Not as low as the 20k warrior I saw that stood in ALL the bad, and didn’t understand why they kept dying, but still bad.

So I whispered them, and suggested they change their pet to active because it could add a lot to their DPS.

The person was grateful for my advice. They had never played before, never heard of websites about WoW, bought the game because they could play at max level, excited to raid like they’d always heard of, and were afraid of doing the wrong thing. So they had the pet on follow and passive so as not to cause trouble or do the wrong thing. Did I have any tips?

I tried to help them as best I could, and they seemed very nice. They wanted to play, but didn’t really understand how anything worked so they shut stuff down if they were afraid it might cause problems.

Compare that to the other hunters I saw that left Growl on all the time, but still.

It makes me sad. It’s nice that there are boosted 90s available to bring people into the game, add more subscriptions right when things seem boring as hell for the next 6 months or more without anything new to do. OMG.

I don’t feel that’s it’s doing much of a service for that the new player when there is nothing in game to specifically help them understand what to do with the level 90 now that they got it.

I think the implementation was miles short of being done well. To do something like that and do it well would have taken a revamped version of their ‘challenge modes’ specifically designed to ease a new level 90 healer, tank or DPS through the basics of their class.

A ton of work? Sure. Work that in my mind was necessary. Too late now, but if it was too much effort to do that for the brand new player that never heard of the game before, then they shouldn’t have given free boosts with the purchase of the expansion. Leave it an in-game purchase for existing players.

This is the time, above all others, when those ‘welcome to WoW’ guilds that Blizzard had been building on the servers would do the most good. A place new players could be nughed where they could be told where to find those websites, a place to ask questions without ridicule or embarassment.

Too bad that program fell by the wayside.

I see a lot of trying in LFR. A lot of willingness to give it a solid go, stick with it and win. There seem to be more pleasant attitudes than ever before, at least if this entire last weekend was any indication.

Not from everyone, though. Oh, no.

You’ll be happy to know there are still plenty of asshats that are all about themselves and the ‘go go go we’ve been waiting 15 seconds I’m going to pull for you’ bullshit, and who haven’t adjusted to the fact we’ve got a new generation of player we need to bring up to speed. Or who simply don’t give a shit.

I actually saw it last night on Lei Shen. Three wipes, lost a bunch of people, one of the new DPS that came in (along with a change of tanks and healers) literally posted a stopwatch of 0:17 and said ‘go go go what are you waiting for’ and then ran and pulled.

Didn’t even have groups set up with healers in them for the platforms yet. Lovely little wipe. Did it take more than 17 seconds to recover from the wipe? Yes, I think it did. Did that person give a shit? Of course not.

Bottom line, I have never been embarassed to play World of Warcraft before, but trying to see the game through the eyes of a new player, seeing how these oh-so-vocal ‘experienced’ players talk and act has finally gotten me to that point.

I’m starting to come around to thinking that if people like that are going to be the most prominent part of every group activity, vocal and proud of it, then I feel embarassed to admit I play World of Warcraft. I already feel like I have to whisper people to tell them ‘all players aren’t really like that’.

Especially when I wonder if that is still true.

All I know anymore is me and thee, and I’m not so sure about thee.

Be a Bear, Be a Bear!

Be a bear! Be a bear!
Show them all that you don’t care.
Nap all winter if you want to,
Who would dare disturb your lair?

I could not be who I am if I didn’t tell you about this MOST EXCELLENT Kickstarter project; The Bear Simulator.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330754003/bear-simulator/widget/video.html

Finally, the internet has achieved it’s final form – we can fund what matters most in life.

Some fools thought what is best in life was to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

Bearshit.

What matters most is funding what we want; a game where we are a real bear.

We have come full circle, you and I.

Our natural enemy started strong with Big Game Hunter, letting them feel like they were somehow superior, but the circle of life demands balance.

And bears. Lots of bears.

To quote the Kickstarter project description,

It’s like a mini Skyrim but you’re a bear.

Even better. It’s already fully funded.

This isn’t vaporware, this isn’t an imaginary dream or a cautionary tale, this is a BIG BEAR DERRIERE wandering all up in your vale. Er, valley.

So go! What the hell are you waiting for? Are you going to let some damn GOAT take all the glory?

Fuck goats!

And if you’re a bear, you can, because who the hell is going to stop a bear from doing whatever it wants?

GO!

GO GET YOUR NAME ON THE BIG BEAR WALL!

Wildstar Bot Buddies!

Okay, I might have written my last post a bit too soon.

Right after I published, I logged in to enjoy a bit more BlasterBunny hijinks.

Almost immediately, I unlocked a new ability.

A pet!

A BOT BUDDY!

And guess what?

It’s a tank!

I played with my new bot buddy, and after another level, guess what guys, OMG guys, guess what guess what…

MORE BOT BUDDIES!

This time, an artillery bot buddy!

It tells me I am only allowed to have two bots up at the same time.

Only two.

ONLY. TWO. BOT. BUDDIES.

BOTBUDDIES

There ain’t no ‘only’ to be found here.

Ahem.

SAY HELLO TO MY LEETLE FRIENDS.

Got a WildStar Up My Butt

So, there is this upcoming MMO called Wildstar, it’s in Beta, you very likely have heard of it.

If you haven’t it’s pretty simple to catch you up.

It’s an MMO with controls similar to World of Warcraft, it’s a sci-fi theme, it’s got an art style on the stylized cartoon level with tons of character, and the designers are a bunch of smart-asses.

I’m saying it’s got a twisted sense of humor.

I was fortunate enough to get a beta key earlier this week for the weekend beta testing going on right now. I’ve been playing where I can grab fifteen minute blocks of time, and yes there are a lot of bugs (mostly in sound files clipping and character/NPC facing or edge detection so far). I report what I can.

Here is the thing.

I might actually want to play this when it comes out. Like, I might really enjoy this as a long term investment of my time in something fun and rewarding.

Here’s a few of the things I really like.

First, the character generation. When it comes to creating your character, you are presented with a good range of real choices for faces with personality, each face looks like something you’d want to choose. I don’t know about you, but most games have maybe three faces that seem like something nice to use, and the rest are shit. Especially WoW, most of those faces I could just never imagine using, I think they were created just because they knew they needed more than three choices.

Not here, almost all of them are cool, distinctive faces with very different personalities.

But even then, after you pick one, you can choose to customize it more using sliders to move your facial features around. So yu get a good range of faces that already look great and distinctive, and then if for some reason you just feel like you wish the eyebrows were a little bit lower, or the chin wider, or the nose a bit less prominent, no problem.

I really like that. A lot of the new super-realistic graphic MMOs have a character generator that gives you super generic crap, and then expects you to use the color, shape and location sliders to do all the customization. A good idea if you’re an artist with a vision you want to fulfill, but I just want to get close to something cool and then touch it up a teeny bit, not spend 2 hours messing with sliders. Wildstar nailed it.

I also love the artistic style they’re using.

I like the Warcraft art style because it’s easy on the eyes as well as being distinctive. Things stand out because the details serve the vision rather than being a means to an end.

Wildstar feels like they have captured that same idea by going with a more colorful and cartoony style rather than hyper-realistic. By blurring the edges, you end up recognizing things from a distance much better and everything fits better.

I also like the racial designs. Not all of them, but I can see where every one of them will appeal to someone.

For example, let me show you my favorite race and appearance so far.

I hereby present you with BlasterBunny.

BlasterBunny

The Cub and I created him together, I ran around with him and realized… we made Stitch from Lilo and Stitch.

Technically, he’s a Chua, but let’s face facts; he’s a giant space chinchilla.

For those of you who, like me, are John Ringo fans and have read the Vorpal Blade series, especially the second book that introduced the race I’m talking about, this is beyond hilarious. All I need now is a hoverboard to ride, and I’m in heaven.

No, really.

SoSassy

I’m serious. This is a character. And you can make a wide range of different looking characters with wildly different personalities within this race so they don’t all look the same.

Oh, and this one? He’s on the ‘evil’ faction. And with a wicked grin, he blows things up. Because he’s an Engineer. That means big guns. Blasters. Kaboom!

I made a few other characters as well, a human Exile Spellslinger, an Exile ESPer.

Basically, I’m just enjoying it.

It is, for lack of a better word, snarky.

Now, here’s the other thing about character creation and playing the game that I’m liking; you pick two classes, one for what you are, the other for how you want to play.

See, the classes are things like Warrior or Stalker or Engineer.

But then there is this second set of professions to choose from; Combat, Settler, Scientist and Explorer.

Those are entire classes built around how you want to play the game.

Combat, you’re going to have lots of special side missions to go kill stuff, they’ll give you even bigger guns to do it, you’ll get your Judge Dredd on.

For Settler, you’re there to gather resources fro the area to build improvements into the existing camps and make things that will buff or enhance stuff. You’re settling a brave new world, and someone needs to know how to get the vending machine working again. Or the perimeter defenses.

As a Scientist, you’re seeking out and studying all of the plants, animals, the ancient technology. Space archeaology is a thing. If you like gathering and examining and learning, this is for you.

And then there is the Explorer.

Remember that post the other day talking about the good old days, traveling on foot seeking out the edge of the world? trying to get to those inaccessible places in the mountains or the bottom of deep, dark caverns?

Yeah, that’s what this is all about. And you get quests sending you out to do it! And rewards and stuff!

Yes, you can be the Explorer, charting out this brave new world.

He looks just like Luke under the twin suns, doesn’t he? Spitting image.

Twonsuns

About the playstyle, all I can say is there is a different attitude here that is in keeping with what I said about being an Explorer.

This is a game that welcomes you taking your time to explore the environment.

It was a bit of a shock. I had watched Angry Joe play the beta a month ago on Youtube, and he made it sound slow as shit and boring in the Dominion starter levels.

Playing that exact same section myself, I can see why he said that, and yet at the same time I had a different experience. Because he came at it looking for a shooter, for a ton of action, for run and gun blow through everything at top speed to powerlevel as fast as possible.

Why not? That’s how a lot of MMOs have trained us to play. We look for the exclamation point, we look for the easy to find glowing thing to grab or the ten rats to kill and return. Then on to the next thing.

I enjoyed the areas, even though I was retrieving books and stuff because it had sucked me into laughing at the snarky edge of the humor of it all. The Dominion is the big evil bully of the universe… the Empire to the Exiles Rebel Alliance.

But at the same time… this is an Empire that takes itself so seriously that they bust through to the other side, as caricature, as satire. And as satire, as unintentionally shining a light on being evil without being morally aware that they are evil, it’s really enjoyable. I found myself getting sucked in to the Dominion conversations, the actions, the shrines and seeing the duality of what they were saying and what was the actuality.

I didn’t play the Exile side enough to see if there was a sharper edge to the apparent Rebel Alliance band of misfits tone, outlaws on the fringe of the universe fighting for scraps theme, but as well done as the Dominion side is turning out to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were.

The pacing and quests are fine if you approach it expecting a game that encourages you to actually spend more than five seconds in their world. This game doesn’t see the leveling zones as a necessary evil, something to spend as little time in as possible before you level and blow through to the next place.

The addition of these extra classes, the Scientist and Explorer and such, is I think they’re way of cluing you in that maybe you should stay a while and check things out a bit before rushing off.

I did Explorer, and I tried some Settler, and it’s a surprise to nobody that I enjoyed being an Explorer.

When the Exiles had me scramble to the top of an asteroid to plant a beacon, when I found out they were going to give me a reason to climb the highest mountain, I was hooked on the profession.

I’m hearing in Beta chat that the classes that people are enjoying the most are ESPer and Stalker. I made an ESPer and tried the combat a little… it was cool, but I found myself really enjoying the Chua Engineer and the blaster cannon, even if other people were saying it’s not the best.

I didn’t try the Stalker, but the description of it sounds like a Warcraft Rogue with stealth using fist weapons. Certainly something worth checking out, hmmm?

I guess basically I’m finding it charming, enjoyable, and showing all the signs of having deep gameplay, and designed to reward taking your time to explore without taking forever at it.

Plus, seriously, you had me at giant space chinchillas.

All That Lies Between Earth and Sky

mountup

A Hunter ain’t a beastmaster unless you can tame yourself a big ol’ dino!

Just look at the size of him. Look at that nose, the snout, she’s a real goer, you can tell.

Thanks to my habit of Warbringer farming, I MIGHT have a matching mount. Riding around on the ground for an expansion holds no fears for me, because I’ll be looking good, baby.

Looking good, Billy Ray? Feeling good, Lewis!

Feeling good, indeed.

Let’s talk about being locked to the land for an expansion.

Flying, not flying, no flying at start, maybe later? maybe never? Everyone has an opinion, of that one thing you can be sure.

Flying is a lot of fun. It causes problems for developers when it comes to controlling players and the rate or ease with which they devour/and/or avoid content, sure, but bottom line it.

You can’t take the sky from me.

I love to fly. I love to fly as a Druid in flight form especially, but no matter what the method, I love to fly in the game. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the graphics slide by with ease. A sense of soaring through the wind is attained.

For me, cloudbusting is one of the key things I love in the game.

Oh hell, why not. I love this song, and I love Kate Bush. Enjoy this brief interlude.

Okay, back?

Damn, I love that song and video. Almost thirty years old, and you still feel the power of Terry Gilliam, Kate Bush and Donald Sutherland sticking the landing.

That first line of the song, “I still dream of Algernon, I wake up crying.” That makes me want to cry as well. I also remember Algernon, and I always will.

Cloudbusting.

Let’s put aside all the cynical reasons why a developer would want to keep you bound to the earth for an expansion. Let’s look at the game as a game.

There was a time not so very long ago where there was no free flight in the game. If you went somewhere, you went on foot or took a flight from a dedicated flight master. And before you could fly to the flight master, you had to go out and discover him for yourself. For the fifteenth alt, a pain in the ass, but that first time?

Ah, that first time. Everyone remembers their first time.

Sometimes, flight masters were killed and you’d land only to be stranded until they reappeared.

Sometimes you went walkabout, trying to find the edges of the world. Jumping and climbing, working your way up slopes to the boundaries to see what lay beyond.

I made it once, you know. Dun Morogh, up near Mo’grosh Stronghold, out east where the Night Elves have their hunting lodge. I went climbing with a few random people I met killing ogres one day, and we fell off the world into an empty, grey void.

I saw the other side, and only I am returned to tell thee.

The world was a place of mystery, where the far corners might not have been mapped yet, where you didn’t really know what was on the other side or near the top.

A place where dwarves operated airstrips in the mountains that you couldn’t quite reach, but legend spoke of those who did, and were banished by Blizzard to silence the tales they might tell.

I love my flying, and I do not wish to lose it. I have the game open even now as I write, with my hunter hovering over Golden Terrace, and even now the sound of the wind soars through my speakers, mixed with a sweeping refrain of violins.

Bring in the horn section. Ah, there we are.

There was an undeniable thrill to seeing the world at sea level, to pushing through vines and fronds of leaves, of hacking my way through deepest jungle and breaking trail over high peaks. Yes, and of knowing that if you got in deep shit, you were way out in the woods and far from home, and my what big eyes you have granny.

I still remember the death run I made from Stormwind to Booty Bay, to visit every flight master along the way, at the ripe old level of 25 or 35 or whatever the heck it was. Low enough level to be a bite sized aggro magnet morsel. Every step, would I aggro some unseen panther from the other side of that hill? Would I be able to run? Would I make it, and if not, how much further would I get next time?

As large as the world truly is, being able to fly makes everything that much smaller.

The challenges, like the people, seem so small when viewed from above.

You can’t take the sky from me.

But you can borrow it for a little while.

There are other games, and I can tell you now that there will be times that I will play those other games when I would normally be playing World of Warcraft, just so I can feel the thrill of speed, faster and faster until the rush of the stoop outweighs the fear of death.

Is it a good design decision if it sends players to a different game? Short term yes as long as it isn’t long term permanent, I think.

For the short term, I think I will enjoy the expansion more knowing that wherever I go, I will have to contest my right to go where I will with those that think themselves the lands masters.

I will contest with them, and they will make way, or their bones will litter the ground behind me. It’s all the same to me.

I will not slink like a coward through the Dark Portal to stab the minions of the warlords in their sleep.

Nay, I will ride through the Dark Portal with my massive dinosaur Bloodtusk like the conquering champion that I am, fearing nothing.

Mastersofdraenor

Why should I fear? I have trod the wings of dragons beneath my mailed feet. I have taken the crown from the head of the prince of death, and anointed a successor by my will.

I have killed death itself and sent the elder gods fleeing in panic, seeking to escape my wrath in vain.

I, fear the Warlords of Draenor?

Right. Pull the other one, it’s got mail on, it tinkles like a bell.

Go ahead, give it a few really good tugs. Don’t be shy.

I will not fear, but it will be good to feel once more the sensations of wonder, curiosity, the rousing spirit of adventuring through unknown lands eager to see what lies over the next rise. And yes, the thrill of wondering if it will be big enough to eat me like a Fel Reaver eatng noobs on the first day of the Burning Crusade launch.

Once I’ve traveled the length and breadth of New Draenor and mastered all it has for me, well, at that point there had best be some soaring symphony is all I’m saying.

For a while though, a very little while, all will be well. And all will be well. And all manner of things will be well.

I live for the unchained melody of the wind playing beneath my wings.

The Cub Report – Building a Better MMO

I asked my son this afternoon if he wanted to continue having an active World of Warcraft subscription.

He just doesn’t play anymore.

He’ll log in to mess around on his mounts, he loves flying and swimming and riding. The game doesn’t hold any other attraction for him, though.

He tries, and I think he mostly tries to make me happy. He sees how much fun I take in the game, and wants to like what I do.

With the pre-order for Warlords of Draenor out, the question needs to be answered. Does he want the account to stay active? Is this something he wants enough that we continue spending a monthly subscription for it, and pay the $50 for the expansion to come?

He didn’t really answer it, and I didn’t press him on it now. I know he’ll want to play the expansion when it does come out, but I think we might be safe in letting the subscription lapse until then.

From our discussion came, wholly unprompted, his wish for changes to World of Warcraft.

It started as what he wished WoW was like, and became his idea for making what he thinks would be a whole new MMO even better than WoW. Yeah, I know.

The more he talked with enthusiasm about what he wishes the game were like, the more I found myself agreeing.

This is MMO Design by way of an eleven year old Minecraft devotee and once-upon-a-time Warcraft player.

First, the game world you play in, the questing and villages and NPCs, everything that makes the normal leveling experience should be single player. No other active players in the game world at the same time you are playing your character. The world has one active player, just like Skyrim or other big RPG games.

This way, you don’t ever have to worry about accidentally tagging a bad guy someone else was sneaking up on or farming or trying to skin or any of a hundred other reasons people get angry with you for killing a creature in a zone. Anger that results in foul language and harsh words directed at you, and griefing behavior, all while you’re just trying to have fun and complete a quest.

It also means you can gather herbs and ores and other materials at your own pace, without competition, or fear of someone training a herd of mobs on top of you and vanishing, or swooping in and mining the node while you are busying fighting the bad guy standing on top of it.

The game world, according to the Cub, should be unique and persistent only to you, and should react to your choices and decisions.

It should have terrain that is affected by what you do, terrain that you can manipulate and adjust similar in concept to how Minecraft allows you to change things. If you have a shovel, you should be able to dig a hole. If you dig a deep enough hole, and put a rug over it, an animal could walk over it and fall in. By being your own World, what you do only affects you. If you kill all the NPCs in a village, the consequences only affect you. If you tear down the buildings of an enemy, raze the ground and build a new Alliance village, it only affects you, and the change can be a lasting one. Trees you plant stay there and grow over time, dig a trench away from a lake and it fills with water for a moat, build a castle within what you’ve decided is your demesne and rule as tyrant or benevolent dictator however you see fit.

His biggest complaint about World of Warcraft is that it does not allow for player creativity. You can’t even dye your clothes different colors to make a unique outfit. You can’t cut down or plant a tree, you can’t do things outside of incredibly narrow limits, and the reason for that is everything has to be the same experience at all times for every player that comes along.

Even instanced and phased zones don’t help in his opinion, because they are scripted encounters on rails that you can only play one way, and is reset as soon as you leave and cannot be revisited later. He wants to fight an incredible battle, and if he cannot save his pet and it dies, plant an apple tree at that spot that he can come back to and visit over time, and leave flowers beneath it as it grows in remembrance of his pet and it’s favorite food.

But what about World of Warcraft being an MMO? The whole point is that you play it with friends, it’s an activity you can do with lots of people.

His answer to that one surprised the heck out of me. I hadn’t thought of it this way before.

He said that, really, all I do in the game with others is chat with my friends in the guild and cross-realm with Battle Tags, and do instances or raids with them that are zoned in from wherever I am anyway. I don’t ever just meet up to quest, or beat down a random orc. Oh, sure, I’ve leveled with other people in the past, but leveling is so fast that it’s literally only a day or two, maybe a week and then it’s back to the end game grind. When compared to a year of bumming around solo, that week or two of shared leveling ain’t much.

But still, meeting other people in game is huge fun, you still want to be able to do that. You just need to plan for it, form a group and queue to zone into a public meeting space.

Separate the public meeting parts of the game out. Add in a cross-game chat for battle-tag friends so you still have the private whispers, and add channels to sue for your group of friends and call them guilds or clans. Boom, same experience you have now.

And for group activities or public meeting spaces, how would it be any different than now if the multi-player shared servers still existed, but only for instances and raids, but you add a few new types of ‘raids’ to queue for and zone into.

You form a party with your friends wherever they may be, someone queues the group up for a raid or instance, and when it pops everyone gets moved into one shared multiplayer server to play together just like with Flex runs cross-server right now.

Once it’s done, you leave group and return to your own world hosted on your PC.

If you want to just meet and greet with people, you could set one special ‘city’ raid as something to zone into through queuing, just as if it were an instance. Basically, an instance without enemy NPCs for the sole purpose of having a city to visit with other people, use an auction house, pick up your mail, and /dance with a friend.

He started gushing about how you could have raid instances that were non-combat, the way you could use a mole machine to go to the nightclub at the Grim Guzzler in BRD. Dedicated raid instances without combat, designed around role playing themes like a night club so the group could have a dance night, and there could be a juke box where the raid leader set the music to play and acted as DJ for the night and chose songs. I think that idea came from him watching the TV show The Amazing Race this week, where they had a DJ challenge at a nightclub.

His biggest thing about having your own world was that you should be able to influence the way the story in your world worked, that you should have choices and they should change things, and you should be able to build stuff and do things you’d expect to be able to do. Simple things like dig a hole, or pick up rocks and stack them into a wall around your campfire to keep out wolves. And, since it was your own world, the only thing that had to stay locked by a central server would be the cahracter you use to play in groups with other people. The world itself could be changed and even, if totally hosed up, rebooted to plain starter vanilla.

If you wanted to carpet the land with wildflowers, use animal husbandry to breed unicorns and purple dragons, create a fairy tale castle and live as a princess, that’s your world. But if someone else wanted to go nuts as the evil overlord undead destruction Wizard, they could explode volcanoes on villages and rain down lava on their poor, charred cinder of a world.

Each world could be changed, and would be changed, to entirely reflect one person’s play choices and creativity, without hurting anyone else, and without ever getting griefed.

But if someone wanted to raid it would work just the same as now. Level requirements, gear requirements, whatever. You’d still be able to chat with the friends you only saw in raids.

And then each person could take video tours of their world and post them on YouTube for other people to see.

I’ve thought about his ideas.

I’ve been thinking about them the entire time I’m sitting here writing this down.

I’ve decided I want to play his game. For all the things you’d worry about losing like the auction house, you could place those things in their own instanced world/server that you joined through the queue system, that central city idea of his, and use that place to queue into to retrieve auctions or in game mail.

You could make it work, and about as well as you do now.

The only thing I can see as being the bone of contention is how to have a world resident on someone’s computer that isn’t subject to hacking to duplicate items or create stupid stuff that let’s people cheat on gear for group raids. I don’t know enough about the actual programming of games to know if single player worlds like Skyrim have ways already built in that secure your system so being logged in live to a central computer ensures you can’t hack your system and still link to the servers for shared play with others. I just don’t know if it’s possible. I’d think it could be.

I like it. I like the way it combines both things that I love most, the ability to play creatively in the world my way and change and affect things in meaningful ways like I can when I play Minecraft, and also allows the camaraderie of playing with my friends in group activities, and I also love that he gave thought to using the system to have dance parties and guild meet and greets.

Which brings up my next thought…

Is there any reason why we can’t have a raid instance RIGHT NOW to queue into that was without combat? A peaceful raid environment cross-server to queue for that IS a disco party with jukebox and disco ball? Imagine the RP possibilities if there were a range of non-combat raid instances to queue for as a group.

Meeting halls for guild discussions, even banquet halls with NPCs serving many courses, the possibilities are almost limitless once you kick over that non-combat instance idea.

And when you think about the possibilities of scripted events in a non-combat raid instance, like having those banquet servers wait to bring food out until every player zoned in sits down at the table, or the tank/raid leader ‘pulls’ the majordomo bell signalling the start of the meal, and servers begin bringing platters that you can interact with to get food or drink the way you can with Fong during the Legendary quest line with Wrathion…

The roleplaying possibilities with friends, bringing the world to life for things other than getting together just to kill shit broadens my entire conception of playing with people on a multiplayer world.

Excuse me while I go think for a bit, and wonder why my son sees the possibilities of these things so much more clearly than I do.

OMG Best Knight Evar!

Sweetride

Just the best night ever, wow wait ’til you hear this!

So there I am, right? Brand new Hunter all set to take on the world!

I ran Throne of Thunder, got a cloak, then did the Celestials at the reset today and lucked out, got a nice PvP necklace, and those things are buffed way up, iLevel 550. Just the thing a gear starved newbie Hunter needs to break open the bonds holding me back from the GLORY that is LFR Siege of Orgrimmar.

But I can haz problem. My DPS, she is low. Very low. Like, still only 66k DPS. WTF, amiright?

Wait a minute, there is something I forgot.

Gemming and enchanting and reforging and all that shit!

My Horde Hunter, she has no support system in place. On Alliance side, I have every profession maxed and all the mats stored up for whatever. Horde side I don’t even HAVE a profession yet!

/Cry.

Neutral Auction House to the rescue!

When the thrill of cocaine loses it’s zing, you can always count on the neutral Auction House to stir the juices, as you put big ticket items up for a 1 gold buyout and pray it’s still there as you frantically flip account windows.

Did someone snag that 28 slot bag you had up for 1 gold? DID THEY?!?

This time I played the Neutral AH game and won. All my items made their way Horde side with nary a squabble.

Ta da! Enchants, gems (including the meta!), even a belt buckle and a scope or two. With extras, against that optimistic (or cynical) expectation that as soon as I enchant something, I’ll get an upgrade to drop that very night.

And reforging, yes reforging into proper levels of Hit and Expertise, no noob Huntard here, bars and macros all set up identical to my Alliance Hunter, I’m going to be the best damn brand new boosted 90 they ever did see!

Which ain’t saying much.

So many things to do just to be prepared for LFR without being THAT DAMN HUNTARD.

Reforged to optimal stats? Check!
Gems? Check!
Enchants? Check! Except for the bracer and the legging armor, those damn things are expensive. Save those for upgrades!
Pet in DPS mode and has GROWL TURNED THE FUCK OFF??? Checkaroonie!
Took my Talents? Check!
Used the right Glyphs? Check!
Macros, Focus Targets, Misdirection for Tanks, etc? Yepper!
Food and Flasks? Wow, really going down the ol’ list here, aren’t we? But check and check again!

Right.

Let’s do this thing.

I queued up for Siege of Orgrimmar LFR with a lump in my throat. What would I get? How long would I have to wait? Would I get the first boss, or would I be dropped into a failzone? Would I have time to prep, or would I be plunged into an orgy of add slaughter?

Seconds after queuing I dropped straight into the LFR.

Oh shit, failzone, here we go!

I appeared amidst a sea of purple explosions, yep, raid flailing to the trash surrounding the Sha of Pride. Kaboom! Kaboom! Run, you little bastards, run!

We got the trash killed and cleared, the dead risen, everyone to their places.

Everyone to their places.

Everyone to their places.

HEY! DUMBASSES! If you’re DPS, get the hell away from the tanks and go to the other side of the room!

Yes, Warlock, that means you. Do you heal? Okay, do you heal something other than your pet? No, lock rocks don’t count! Sigh, look, just get yer special snowflake ass over to the other side of the room. See that axe in the floor over there? If you can’t hump the haft, you ain’t in the right spot. Now git!

Oh, and drop some of those cookies.

Cookies.

Warlock rocks.

Drop a soul well, for the love of…

Warlock, and I mean you with the name in purple, you have a spell, you can summon a soul well. Perhaps you’ve heard of it or seen it before.

Tell you what, could you check through your spell book, see if you can find it in there? It’s okay, we can wait.

No, you didn’t have to learn it at a trainer.

You know what, that’s fine. It’s okay. No, really. We’ll run this without one, and when you’re done running in this, the most advanced group activity currently in the game, maybe you could take a few minutes and peruse your spellbook, see if anything looks neat to try for next time?

Whew. After the butt chewing that poor Warlock got, I’m glad I took the time to get all prepped and ready to rock, ain’t that right, Sweetbite? We’ll show them all we ain’t a Huntard, we may not have the best gear but we know all the right moves. We can do the Safety Dance, we can play pac-man if called on, we can do this.

We can achieve our goal; a run through LFR without being mocked as a dumbass.

The tanks pull and away we go!

It’s a Paladin tank on the inside, followed by fast action on the self-reflection, ooh pile up on the prison but wait! What’s this? Everyone swaps to the manifestation and it’s down, OMG it’s down, this raid is going to do it folks, this raid is going to get the Sha down, but oh no, what’s happening, we’re seeing bursts of damage to the raid, what’s going on, let’s take a closer look at the field.

Oh no, looks like some problems in the Bursting Pride area, the raid is having problems dealing with how to move out of stuff exploding at their feet. This could spell trouble.

Oh no! The raid is down, the raid is down, this is horrible, Bursting Pride has laid the raid low. And there go the recriminations, looks like some of the players are feeling a bit special and want everyone else to know it wasn’t their fault. Will the raid recover from this terrible blow to their fragile little egos?

Yes, yes it looks like most of the players are quietly rezzing and getting ready again. Perhaps we will see some healthstones, maybe, maybe, nope!

Nope, nope, nope.

The raid is putting it behind them, dusting off and getting ready for another try. They’ve only got one stack of Determination, this is very early days for weariness to set in. What’s it look like, how did they do on that first attempt? 5%? Oh, they’ve got it for sure this time, let’s see how they do!

Oh my, look at how smooth that performance was, second try is the charm, and the boss is going, going, yes dead without a single player loss, well done everyone and let’s divvy up the loot.

Look there, it’s all worthwhile, a fine trinket drop for our Hunter, congratulations all around, and a fine end with a strong finish. Well done everyone.

Now let’s look at the scoreboard and see how we did, and…

Wait, WTF?

HOW? HOW IN THE NAME OF ALL THE SEVEN HELLS DID I DO LESS DPS THAN LAST NIGHT?

61,000 DPS? HOW THE FUCK IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?

Wait, there has to be a good reason for this. Deep breaths, Bear, deep breaths.

Yeah, I’d like to Deep Breathe on something, damn hunter son of a Horde it’s true Horde sucks where’s a can i want to kick it grumble mutter grrr…

Huh.

Y’know, now that I think about it, I wonder.

Why did I never get any stacks of pet Frenzy? I have the button on my bar, but I never had any stacks at all. Normally I just wait until it’s at 5 stacks then pop it off, unless Rapid Fire or Heroism/Bloodlust is up, then I wait. So I’m used to it not hitting 5 on short pulls, but it should have damn well hit 5 on a 10 minute boss fight.

Is my pet broken? Did boosting my poor pet from 10 or whatever straight to 90 break her? Poor widdle spider, did Blizzard hurt you? ‘Cause if they did, I’m dumping your ass and getting another spider. Be told.

Hu-huh.

Wow.

let’s check the passives in my spellbook, what causes my pet to get stacks of Frenzy?

So… so, my pet’s normal attack causes Frenzy. Like, Bite and shit.

Bite. Why look at that, Bite is right there. At the top of my pet’s button bar where I normally keep Growl.

Turned off. With Growl right under it, also turned off.

I think I vaguely recall frantically clicking Growl off in that first Throne of Thunder, when I saw my pet steal aggro twice, and it kept dying. I bet it was Bite I was turning off mid-fight, not Growl. I must have clicked Growl of second when “it didn’t turn off the first time”.

Why, look at that. My pet went an entire raid boss without ever using the basic attack once. Not once.

And by that logic, I went the entire raid in Throne of Thunder without having any pet DPS either.

Boosted 90s. Clearly, this technology is meant for smarter minds than I, since even with hours of effort I still manage to FUCK THE WHOLE THING UP IN RAID.

GG.

Excuse me while I click this on.

Bite me.

Looking For Relief

For those wondering if I were dead, I’ve been away on vacation. If you are friends with me on Twitter, you know full well where I’ve been, as I spammed you pictures of touristy locations coupled with pithy sayings all week.

I regret nothing.

While I was AFK, the Warcraft world went bugnuts with not one but TWO big things, the live release of the Hearthsteed and the pre-release sale of Warlords of Draenor with it’s included boost to level 90.

I guess y’all should take up a collection, send me off to vacation so Blizzard moves on it’s release schedule, right? Because it’s all about me, right?

Oh, probably just a coincidence then.

Anyway.

The Altmother talked about her trials and tribulations along the way to the Hearthsteed, so I won’t rehash all that. By now, you’ve either got your own or are well on your way.

I logged into Hearthstone, fired up the Hunter deck, and knocked out two wins out of four to get my mount achievement.

Yes, I got my mount after only two earned wins.

See, I don’t know WTF happened on that third win.

Started up, other player passed their turn, I dropped a dino card and on the next turn, they passed. And passed again. I steadily dealt damage unopposed as my opponent fielded no cards whatsoever, until I got the win.

No, I don’t know why. Did they recognize my player name and want to throw me a win? Were they a brand new player with nothing but 9 star cards in their hand? No bloody idea, but I felt really bad about winning a match feeling like either my opponent threw the game for me, or they didn’t know what they were doing and got crushed.

Without a chat function between players in Hearthstone, no way for me to ever know. I really hope I wasn’t playing someone like my son, trying to figure out what to do and excited to maybe get a WoW mount while some jerkoff dumps a horde of beasts on the field and swarms them.

Moving on. I played, I got the achievement and I felt no desire to continue. Hearthstone still feels like a good card game that does not entice me to drop real money trying to buy cards to win with. If I could buy specific cards I were missing to achieve a goal, like building a dedicated Murloc deck for grins and giggles (the lighter side of shits and grins), then it would hold me more… but have less potential for them to get money as folks flirt with the random odds. Once I had the cards I wanted, why worry about buying cards?

World of Warcraft, and the pre-order of Warlords.

Sometimes, I hate being right, as regards the wait for the expansion.

I assume everyone will now finally stop talking like we’ll be playing the expansion this summer? Fall to Winter time frame, and I still refuse to count Beta time as game time.

I don’t care if the Beta is released for everyone tomorrow, if what I do in the game is NOT persistent into live, it doesn’t count, and that goes double for when other people play and gush and post videos about how awesome this will be for the lesser mortals when it goes live but I still don’t have access.

It’s like the champagne room of your local nightclub, I guess. You’re supposed to watch as the special people go in, and envy what you think they’re doing and dream about the day you get in there too…. but in the end, it’s just a different room with the same people and products, only bigger egos.

Huh, that comparison was more accurate than I expected.

I have a confession; every time I get beta access to anything, I use it for maybe two days. As in, a half hour a day over two days. Then I don’t log in again until live. The first time I had Beta access I tested, really tried to find and report bugs. That was back when Beta was intended to have people find and report bugs, not when it was a reward for money received.

This all is coming out cynical. Funny, I didn’t know that was my mood when I started writing today. The things you discover about yourself when writing off the top of your head.

So why am I feeling so cynical and cranky?

Allow me to introduce you to my brand new level 90, courtesy of the boost to 90 from the Warlords of Draenor pre-order; EBONSOUL.

Ebonsoul the Huntard

I’m still working on the transmog.

Ebonsoul is my Blood Elf Hunter than I wanted to play as one of Sylvanas’ hunter patrols that are frequently seen in the Southshore region.

I think Ebonsoul is the perfect name for a Blood Elf Hunter devoted to Sylvanas. It is just so incredibly kitsch. Really, going for a name that is similar to Blackheart using pretentious synonyms, it doesn’t get more Blood Elf than that.

I think the Stylin’ Adventure Hat and Ebonhold set with a spiky crossbow says it all.

The character is great, I love playing Hunters and being able to use pets to reinforce a theme. Big black widow spider named Sweetbite? Kitsch factor 7, can do better, but good start.

I’d quested to level 15 before being boosted, had a full set of 496 gear from the timeless Isle waiting to send over, and by having two paid accounts mailing stuff across the neutral Auction House in Tanaris is a breeze.

I even moved over a full set of Glyphs. It’s nice to be able to move resources where needed for a new alt.

Cassie and I have a teeny level 1 Horde guild called Bacon on a Stick, so I don’t even have to worry about invite spam.

Everything is great. Wonderful. Freaking beautiful.

NOW I can play with my Horde friends, right?

Well, no.

No, see, the point of being able to play with Horde friends is that you’re having fun together, and being a burden ain’t fun for anyone. Before I could actually PLAY with someone, I need some damn gear upgrades.

Even with Timeless Isles gear, best I can do is queue for the Celestials, Ordos (no gear from either), and Throne of Thunder LFR.

I did Throne of Thunder.

At least, I tried to do ToT. A few times, now.

It turns out, my 77k DPS going all out as hard as I can is near the top of what is currently in Throne of Thunder LFR.

Seems that everyone ELSE in LFR is on a brand new level 90 with Isles gear as well.

But fun alert, the majority seem to be playing as if we’re all doing 200k DPS with mad heals and mechanics don’t count.

Horridon… I should record video of Horridon. It’s so bad it’s shocking. People really seem to be watching for when the majority stop working on adds at the gates, so as to be able to join the rush to abandon the gates and focus on Horridon… which works never.

I’m grateful that I was able to get a complete clear on my run in the first wing today, because I never want to see Horridon again.

I don’t feel real warm and fuzzy about having a cross-faction level 90 Horde anymore. I still need gear before I could be an asset to friends in their groups, but to get that gear will require pain. So much pain.

Oh, so much pain.

Fortunately, I have plenty of time to work on it, what with another 8 months before the expansion comes out. That’s a lot of time to run LFR for upgrades, so I should be able to get tooled up with no problems.

Or… my Diablo 3 Hunter is level 54. Not too far from level 60 and Torment modes, maybe I should give that a go some more today.

Perhaps I should hold off on Diablo 3. Is it a bad sign I dream of dual-wielding pistol crossbows? Or is it a worse sign that it’s a pretty good dream?

Ah, well. Ebonsoul the Hunter. Style over substance, scouring the land for those filthy warmbloods.

A fine way to spend an afternoon.

Any Horde groups in the US need a Hunter with no gear whatsoever? No? But with a resume like that, how could you resist?

On the positive side, any Ulduar or ICC groups will be right up my quarrel!

Diabolical Temptations and Time Sinks

Diablo3 - Tyrael

As much as I love World of Warcraft, it’s strength and weakness is that it is a living world. It changes over time, and the challenges grow ever stronger.

If you want to stay current with the challenges you will face, you have to give your characters constant attention. Feed them raids and instances, complete daily quests for Lesser Charms, improve your gear and unlock the content, get those legendary questline drops.

I love the feeling of having a persistent world to drop into, the sense of accomplishment in achieving raid goals, finishing the legendary, cleaning up some old goals that were left by the wayside.

Yep, I love it. Yep.

/whistles

What, we’re in a lull? Nothing at all whatsoever new coming in WoW for months and months as we wait for the other new Blizzard games to be released to our undivided attention and wallets?

Thank GOD that’s over! Seriously, I need a break, man.

I like having that living world to play in with my friends, but seriously, there is more to gaming than WoW. There is, right?

Coincidentally, a new patch was released for Diablo 3, a game I last played when Dragon Soul was a thing. I had reached level 36 on my Wizard, beaten the first difficulty of the game, and faced having to do it all over again a second time in a more difficult setting just to hopefully someday reach level 60.

Nothing sucked WORSE than beating the first play through of Diablo 3 without coming close to reaching level 60 and the unlocking of equal-opportunity multiplayer.

Also, I had a love/hate with the Auction House.

On the one hand, I could try and get great items for reasonable prices that increased my power. On the other hand, if all the best upgrades came from the AH, why the fuck was I playing in a game that was about loot drops? At level 36, loot runs aren’t happening. I’d just be running to get gold to buy better loot. And my apologies to all of those that love economy games, but playing the AH isn’t a fun game to me. Too much time investment to get a means to an end, gold for better gear.

So, I guess my problems with Diablo 3 were running out of game before hitting end level, and missing the point in playing when you can buy the best gear.

Enter the most recent patch. Everything revamped, quest XP boosted to heck and gone, and smart loot drops so the stuff that drops is far more likely to be of use to you.

Also, the promise that the auction house is going away very soon.

Well played, Blizzard. Even knowing that you’re setting everything up so there is nothing new to do in World of Warcraft right while things are heating up in Diablo 3 for the new expansion, here I am, logging in to D3.

Well played, indeed.

By way of comparison, I reached level 36 when Diablo 3 first came out having cleared all four acts and completing the game. A little over 20 hours played, level 36.

I now have a little over 10 hours played on my newly started Demon Hunter, I am level 33, and I JUST completed act 1. Just now moved to act 2 and Caldeaum.

If the XP continues as it has, I should be hitting level 60 and have all my core abilities and runes unlocked by the time I’m reaching the end of my first complete lay through the story.

This feels perfect to me. THIS is the rate of progression in a game I like.

I have purchased nothing for my Demon Hunter, and yet at the recommendation of my friend Arrakeen, I moved the difficulty of the game to Hard for better XP and drops, and I am managing just fine. Maybe a little slower, but the satisfaction at having a legendary drop off a boss kill is HUGE when leveling.

Oh yeah, did I mention I’ve had legendary drops? I’ve actually had six legendary drops since I moved it to Hard difficulty immediately after killing the Skeleton King. I got Leoric’s Crown twice, bracers twice and a ring twice. They seem to scale to the level you are when you identify them, so you can use them immediately, it’s awesome.

A bunch of my guild friends have made a Diablo 3 clan and seem to be even more active in it since the patch than I am. One of the great things about being in a clan with them is that they are all level 60 already, and I get to see the gear they loot.

Did you know that awesome loot from World of Warcraft is also in Diablo 3? I didn’t.

Alke looted Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker. In Diablo 3.

I asked what it looked like, and he said it looks like it does in WoW. I saw him with it in a quick multiplayer team up, and yep, it looks freaking awesome.

That is not the only WoW item in Diablo 3. Far from it. I’ve seen a lot of very cool weapon designs from WoW in Diablo 3, and it’s just too cool seeing these items I am familiar with in a different game, in a different context.

I’m just… I’m having a blast. Demon Hunters are so satisfying to play. I remember loving the graphics of my Wizard spells, but this is just as cool, and I get a pet, too! Demon Hunters get companions, and they are up ALL the time!

I asked Arrakeen what companion she liked, and she said the ferrets. Ferrets? Ferret pets that run out and gather loot off the ground for you?

Oh my god, yes, give me my Beastmaster fix! I grew up on that movie, oh yes oh yes, gimme! FERRETS!

The other thing that’s amazing is, even though I’m barely half way to max level, my character looks cool. Nothing like the incredible looks of max level characters with amazing legendary gear, but still satisfying;

Beartrap the Demon Hunter

Yeah, I know. Nothing is color changed, but I’m replacing stuff too fast to worry about it.

Using a bow is very satisfying. And I like that I can equip a quiver in the offhand and still use two handed bows, I’m not limited to a two-hander, or a one-handed crowbow and quiver.

Sorry, irrelevant.

My point is, the changes they made to Diablo 3 have really transformed the game experience for me.

I know it’s an evil plan, I know I’m falling right into their diabolical clutches, I know that all of this is just ensuring that I’ll be buying the expansion for a game I haven’t played or even thought about in what, two years?

I KNOW.

And yet, here we are, and here I am, and damn you Blizzard, it’s working.

If they had released new content right now, I’d never have logged into Diablo 3. I’d have had to stay logged into WoW every night to keep up with everything. Like a job.

I’m being manipulated, and you know what? I’ve decided I’m all right with that.

Can’t wait until I get to 60 and get that legendary ring that gives me my own Treasure Goblin to follow me around!

Diabloe 3 seems to be the game where all the cool magic toy ideas Blizzard has gets brought to life.

I guess having had a Cow Level takes some of the credibility out of “we can’t do goofy stuff like that because it would ruin your immersion in the game. WE’d have people raiding with fish as a weapon.”

I’ve heard tell of a chicken gun. I don’t know anything about it, but my imagination is picturing me wielding a gun that shoots chickens at a target.

In Rapid Fire.

In flames.

Rapid Fire stream of flaming chickens at my opponents.

That explode.

I’m all right with that. No, really, I have no problems with this concept.

I only pray it’s true.

See you in hell?