Fall, Theramore, Fall!

‘Tis the day before Pandaland, and excitement is brewing and bubbling away.

Poor timing for this post? Perhaps. But in the rush of enthusiasm, as many are carried along, there will be at least one voice saying, “But momma, he’s not wearing any clothes.”

This is, yes,a bout the Fall of Theramore, but it could as easily be called “What I did last weekend.”

But this isn’t about the story qualities of the Fall of Theramore. I’ve got a completely different axe to grind. Or not.

I think Rades said everything that should be said about it, in the best possible way. At least, everything I hope can be said about it. I find myself nodding along and wishing that it was all intentional to build up the Raid of Orgrimmar, and not just, you know, fail character development of Garrosh.

When The Fall of Theramore scenario was first released, Alex, Cassie and I all hopped on our characters and ran it once. We had a good time learning about it, exploring, burning the ships, etc.

Alex, as could be expected, was a big fan of setting the ships in the harbor on fire, usually while Cassie and I were still fighting on the decks.

We ran the Fall scenario just once that first night, because when we went to re-queue, the option for Fall was greyed out.

The second night, we went in again, and did it a few times. It turned out that you could re-queue, as long as you dropped group and then regrouped. Fortunately, that bug has since been fixed, but at the time it looked like a given character could do it but once a day.

I think we only ran it twice that second night, and I went on my Death Knight, hoping to get a weapon upgrade.

Instead of gear, I got the Everlasting Alliance Fireworks in my loot bag. Alex saw me get that, and was excited at the possibility of getting it as well. I mean, fireworks, right?

I wasn’t sure how loot was designed for the scenario, because after three or four runs, none of us had seen any loot whatsoever, and I had thought there was supposed to be a pretty long loot table for it, so, is it even working? but clearly, there is loot, and it was in the spoils of Theramore box, so… okay?

We ran it again a few times over the week, and no, none of us ever got any epics or Everlasting Fireworks on anyone else.

The drop rate seemed pretty low for anything, and it’s now school time. I decided to just put it aside until we were level 90, and could do the scenario at our leisure to get the fireworks.

Time moves very fast. It was Saturday night when I saw that a Blue had commented that the loot you can get from the scenario of Theramore now will NOT be available in the level 90 Mists of Pandaria version. If you wanted any of the items, you’d better go get them now.

Well… shit. Really?

It was late, maybe 10:00 pm, but I decided to log into Alex’s account and queue up his Death Knight to try and get those fireworks for him. It was no big thing, but I like surprising him with things like that, and he loves the cute flavor items more than actual gear upgrades, you know?

I left Stormwind to fly up to Western Plaguelands to farm iron ore, and join what I expected to be the long queue time for Fall of Theramore, just to get him an everlasting firework.

My first surprise was that the queue time was instant. I’d heard there were huge wait times earlier in the week, but not on Saturday night. I had three runs in before my flight even landed in Western Plaguelands.

How long could it really take to get one simple firework? I could reason that the epics might have a lower drop rate, but a cute little flavor item with a short availability? Shouldn’t be a big problem.

After my third run, I mentioned in Guild Chat that it was going to be a long night of runs to get that firework if the drop rate was as low as it seemed. I mean, sure I didn’t get any loot, but neither did anyone else in any of the runs.

Call me suspicious, but three runs now, plus the runs from earlier in the week, and NOBODY got an epic yet? That suggests a fairly low drop rate. Not exactly raining epics.

One of my guildies, Baddmojo, offered to run it with me three or four times to speed the runs up a little.

Saying his presence would speed the runs up is not a boast. Well, it is, but it’s also damn true. He’s a member of the progression heroic raid team in the guild, and his Rogue is a pure badass. He mentioned in guild chat that he hit 88k DPS on one of the DS boss fights over the weekend, and all I can say is, really? Well, we could bring three of my Hunter, or one Baddmojo to a fight. Hmm… let me think about that for a second. So yeah, I could reasonably expect the runs to go a teensy bit faster with him on the squad.

We queued that baby up and ran the Fall of Theramore.

About four runs in, I realized I was getting Justice Points for every run. Alex had no points when we started, and had been wanting to get a Spellpower Heirloom Staff for our baby Warlocks, so hey, double bonus! We’ll be making progress towards two goals at once. Can it get any better than this?

We ran the Fall. And we ran it some more. Then, well, we might have run it again.

It might seem boring or like drudgery, but I was having a blast on every run.

See, I have a Death Knight that is now a baby 85, no raids, no runs, barely an instance or two. Still half in pvp 377s. But I was on Alex’s Death Knight, and seeing what a hotrod can do on the open road.

It was an eye opener. So many things to try, so much to do, shiny buttons and Talents, oh my! 

Inevitably, we were trying to see how fast we could do it, and okay, so we were messing with each other pulling mobs. Since his DPS was so obscene, I would use Death Grip on his mobs when he was far way from me… especially when I’d see his Legendary Dagger wing effect pop. 🙂

I figured out I might have been going too far when I didn’t let the mobs spread out to engage the water elementals on the last phase, but rushed the group instead so I could Death and Decay and my diseases on everyone at once. Oops! Steamrolled!

Oh yeah, right. When you’re dead, you do zero DPS. Right. Forgot about that.

About, I dunno, 8 runs in we got a dedicated Priest healer, and holy CRAP did that change the nature of the game. The two of us dropped any pretense at strategy, and just started zerging the island.

We’d pile everyone up at the beginning, kill that damn kissing captain, and then he’d take the left ship, and me and the healer would head right. By the time we’d hacked our way through to the right ship’s captain, Baddmojo would have knocked off the left captain and caught up to us. Usually bypassing us to set the ship on fire.

After that, zerg the fountain, zerg the demolisher, and successfully zerg the final wave.

I wanted to hug that healer. Such fun! So fast! I wanted to keep him and hug him and name him George.

I asked him if he’d stay with us. Don’t leave us! Baby, it’s cold outside.

He was there farming cloth, he was delighted to run it again with us.

Over and over and over…. and over and over and over…

By 2:30 in the morning, I had about all I could do. Fortune favors the brave, and random is random, but it just wasn’t happening.

God bless Baddmojo, he stuck with me the whole way through. He may have said he’d run three or four with me, but we ran Fall of Theramore enough for me to earn enough Justice Points to buy that heirloom staff outright.

Lemme see here… 168 JP per run, and 3500 JP for a staff, equals… huh, about 21 runs in one sitting. Or maybe it’s 186 JP per run, and 19 runs. Shit, I don’t even know anymore.

What I do know is, we ran Fall of Theramore a lot.

Over the course of the evening, I saw a lot of cloth drop, a lot of trash grey items, and I got… one Black Circlet epic.

No Everlasting Alliance Firework, just a ton of the Alliance fireworks.

Baddmojo got three of the epic daggers to drop.

I never saw any of the other players we were with get any epics at all.

All night long, not a single one of us ever got the Everlasting Firework.

Here is the sad part. We didn’t get the loot that was supposed to drop, but we did get a world drop of a iLevel 359 epic. A necklace or something, Ju’tzes bell or one of those things.

It wasn’t a waste of an evening by any stretch. Like I said, I did earn enough JP for my son to get the heirloom staff all in one night. That’s pretty badass.

When we played our Warlocks the next day (we’re at 27!) he was so delighted. Now, as he pointed out, he only needs enough JP for the cloth heirloom shoulders. As it is, we’re twins in so much Heirloom gear, the mobs might as well bend over when they see us coming. 

It wasn’t a waste in other ways, too. I had a freaking blast playing through that on Alex’s Death Knight.

I learned so much about performing AoE DPS on a Death Knight, on survivability cooldowns, on how Talents work, I can’t begin to tell you.

I know that I started out the night doing around 15k – 18k DPS, and by the end of the night I was doing 33k.

Of course, Baddmojo was doing about 20k more than that, but I felt a distinct sense of satisfaction at improving so much.

I had never really had a chance to play with AoE Death Knight mechanics, and let me tell you, the Blood Tap Talent is awesome for repeated applications of Blood Boil at carefully timed moments of maximum crowd density. Just, wow. Boom boom boom!

And then there was just having a blast messing around with someone doing things that aren’t for progression, just… having fun, you know?

What I’m just a little ticked off about is the miserliness of the drop rate for these items.

Just.. why?

I don’t understand it.

Is it really intended that you should take one character and have to chain run it for a week to get one item you’re looking for? To invest four, five hours running the same 20 minute scenario in the hopes of getting an everlasting firework so you’ve got that cute memento?

Alex wasn’t down about not getting it… not with the multiple stacks of normal Alliance fireworks he got. He can burn those suckers off for the next two years. He’s cool. It’s not like we were dying for some specific transmog item, either. Aside from the Archmages Staff, they’re pretty ugly items.

But the drop rate…. I really am surprised. Ooh, here’s the point of the post. I’m a little worried, too.

What I’m worried about is that this isn’t intentional design, but instead a result of the new LFR loot system.

As far as I understand the new LFR loot system, the game decides if there was a chance that loot your class and spec could use would have dropped from the boss. If the answer of that random roll is yes, then a second roll is made to see if you would have been lucky enough to win it based on normal numbers of competitors all rolling for it.

So, although you’re not literally rolling against anyone else, the rarity of loot is supposed to be equivalent to your playing with a full group of people, and always having everyone who could roll for something useable by you competing with you.

Is what I saw in Fall of Theramore that system in action? Where I won a single epic helm after 18 (or 21) runs of the scenario, not including the runs from earlier in the week?

Or was the scenario not using LFR rules, and it was just… hell, the worst loot luck I ever heard of.

Not leaving me with warm fuzzies, here. What if it had been a pet drop? Something I would have wanted on my account, too?

All in all… the Fall of Theramore is leaving me with a bad Cataclysm aftertaste, and I am hoping, I am really hoping  that it’s not a sign of what the live Mists of Pandaria will be like.

Swimming for Firelands

We’re living in interesting times.

The new expansion for World of Warcraft is just around the corner, and the 5.0.4 patch that will bring us new talent specs is less than two weeks away.

I am… not prepared.

I haven’t made any effort to get prepared, either.

Specifically, prepared to tank as a Guardian Druid Bear RAWR RAWR bash all the things tankity tank tank.

I could have spent my time these last several months doing research, beta testing things out, providing feedback to the devs, all that sort of thing. If I had, I’d be going into this expansion ready and able to take advantage of every gearing and playstyle opportunity that is heading our way.

I chose not to.

I decided, rather than spend my time these last few months as an unpaid beta tester and help influence the direction of the game, I would spend my time having fun in the live game I’m paying for right now.

While others were beta testing, providing valuable feedback and pointed guidance to help improve outr class and future gameplay, and coincidentally preparing themselves with the knowledge they gained, I’ve been busy.

I’ve been running Dragon Soul and Firelands raids with our guild when I can, playing with my family in old instances, and having fun with a bunch of you in Icecrown Citadel.

I’ve been pursuing achievements, leveling alts I’ve never tried before, completing pet and bucket list goals, just living the high life with my wife and son.

Everything comes with a choice… and a price.

That price will soon have to be paid.

The fun I have had along the way has been great, and I regret none of it.

My Mage dinged level 84 last night, and I can proudly say that I leveled as Fire spec every. single. squishy. day. I only bought Dual Spec last night because I wanted to answer the question posed by the immortal Chris Knight, “Hows it feel to be frozen!”

It’s true, ice is nice! But I’m still burning for you, babe.

When the expansion goes live, I am going to return to doing something I haven’t done in a long, long time.

I’m going to return to raiding… on my Druid.

As a tank.

At least, that is the plan right now. I’ve been asked to be one of the tanks for the raid team I’ve been a part of, on my Druid, but whether or not that goes live depends a lot on the team, who levels what first, who wants to do what, that kind of thing. The team I’ve been healing for has two really awesome tanks right now, and as far as I know there hasn’t been a meeting I’ve been a part of to talk about our future plans, so I really don’t know who, if either of them, were planning on playing something else rather than a tank at first.

I’m not trying to vague things up here, I just don’t really know what’s going on. I’m not an officer, a raid leader, or any of that. I am joe player, one each, and I just offered to play whatever part I was asked, asked who I should level first to be ready for the team, and I was asked to level my Druid to tank.

I’m cool with that. It was either my Druid, my Hunter or my Priest, and frankly, I want my Druid leveled to 90 and having fun first. There is so much more I can do with my Druid, for everyone.

Yes, I may even start posting Bear tanking things again here.

God help me, I’ve got a big mouth and I write about whatever I’m doing in the game at the time. Whether or not anyone would care is really irrelevant. It hasn’t stopped me posting anything else, why start now?

Putting aside future raiding and my state of preparedness or not, Imagine with me for a moment what the new expansion will really mean for us as small family or solo players.

I am at heart not a progression raider in the way it used to mean. There is too great a necessity to devote long hours on multiple evenings, time I spend away from computer a lot more than my online status may suggest.

Let’s just say I’ve been surprised to find my character still logged in and afk twenty-four hours after I left to take care of something “just for a minute”.

For those of us who do not raid regularly, or who enjoy playing solo or with just a few family members, level 90 is going to give us a lot of distance from Cataclysm content.

What ICC and Ulduar and Naxxramas are to us now, Bastian of Twilight and Blackwing Descent soon will be. Plus of course the heroic versions of Cataclysm instances.

Right now, a group of three LFR geared players can fairly easily clear most normal Cataclysm dungeons, especially if one of them is a tank.

Once we’re level 90, and geared appropriately from that, all of Cataclysm will open up to us like a pretty flower, and the gate won’t be gear or DPS or HPS, but management of the mechanics.

I’m really looking forward to those days to come.

I’ve found that with the right team, I do love challenging the new content and really pushing forward to do the best I can, but I also love taking a group into close to current content, stuff that WAS the baddest of the bad very recently, and just taking the time to laugh, to joke, to explore and sightsee our way through the content, beating up bad guys as we go.

When Ulduar was current content, I only got in there in raids a few times. When I did get in there, I was focused entirely on performance. I was watching the boss, the trash, and the other players to ensure I was doing my best to help the team win. I wasn’t looking at the graphical design of the architecture.

Likewise every other current raid I have ever done.

It isn’t until content is ‘old tier’ that I’ve able to go in and take my time playing tourist and simply enjoy the artwork, the designs and the amazing attention to detail that has gone into the game.

From something as simple as the floor in Gundrak in front of Moorabi that is so gorgeously detailed with elephants it could be a special collector’s edition china plate, to the room of Algalon in Ulduar that transforms into a stunning galaxy of light and color when the encounter begins, it’s breathtaking… when you are able to take the time to enjoy it.

As much fun as it is to progress in raid content, for me there is more satisfaction to be found in playing tourist, taking the time to stop and smell the rot in Sindragosa’s lair. For a place featuring an All You Can Eat buffet, ew. Dragon bits and bits and bits!

At a time when my thoughts should be turning to catching up with Guardian Druid gear plans, talent specs, ability synergy and active mitigation to tank a progressive raid group, I find myself instead already looking forward to when I can look back, and form cross-server reader raid groups to take down Bastian of Twilight and Firelands, to smile at the dragons and admire the electricity sparking down Onyxias’ side.

I am not prepared… but that’s okay. We gonna have us some fun!

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A new post up this morning at WoW Insider struck me as being damn timely.

The article, written by Josh Meyers and titled “Has the early Cataclysm gearing model failed?”, takes a look at the intent of early Cataclysm leveling, of gating content by iLevel, and then touches on whether it has held up or not this late in the expansion.

It’s a good article, one I found especially timely since I am actively working right now (well, when I’m not at work-work) to do everything I can to subvert that very gearing model he describes.

You play the game and get a character to level 85, and what do you want to do?

You want to go do the fun stuff.

For those that want to PvP, there are fairly new craftable PvP blue items, full armor sets as well as jewelcrafting rings and necklaces to get you started.

Clearly, the powers-that-be realized that the PvP arms race would make it painful to get stuck right in. So they added new gear as a stepping stone.


Because in PvP, there is no ‘working your way up the difficulty ladder’, no ‘easing into it’. When you zone into a BG, it’s gametime, baby and you’d better bring your ‘A’ game or find out what it looks like in first person to be teabagged by a Moonkin’s big feathery butt. Everyone else is in their best earned gear, and whether god or grunt, it’s everybody for themselves. No artificial gating of content, it’s just you, your computer, and the cold, harsh reality of survival of the fittest.

Been this way several expansions now for PvP, clearly they like how it’s working for them. Well, Burning Crusade brought PvP blues bought at the rep vendors, so it’s only been two expansions now with the crafteds. My bad. But they saw how the BC model worked, and changed it up the next time.

On the PvE side… by this late in the game, I don’t care how cool the starter heroic instances started out, everyone is sick of them as a gearing necessity.

Is it great to be able to level by running instances? Yes. Is it great to be able to do instance quests? Yes. Is it awesome that as you level and have fun in even the normal instances, you get Justice Points towards end game gear? Hells yes, sweet incentive.

Is it cool to do them and see the story and learn to play an unfamiliar class or role in the end game group content?


But I challenge anyone to say that they find it FUN to have to run the expansion starter instances in heroic mode at level 85 on every new character to grind the gear upgrades and Justice Points needed to unlock higher iLevel content.

And I won’t even go into how much sheer joy is to be had in considering having to grind rep to get epic shoulder enchants or gear on your fifth character, even with Tabards.

So, we try and subvert it, to a greater or lesser degree. Are we to be blamed for trying to bypass the system as intended?

Or, and I’m just throwing this out idea there, is subverting the original gearing process exactly what Blizzard expects us to do, and is precisely WHY we have things like the new high-level BoE epics from the new heroic instances dropping like snowflakes in winter?

Crafted epic items, auction house BoEs, new heroic instance quest rewards, the Thrall and Aggra Elemental Bonds questline that gives a nice cloak, etc.

Is being subversive simply the game working as intended?

I think so.

Look at the facts.

I’ve played the game the way it was meant to be played on three characters now, my druid, warrior and hunter. Leveled, geared, got crafting skills, reputation grinds, all that stuff.

I am damn glad to have done it, too. For example, I am proud to have a character maxed in every rep, plus exalted with my guild.

When I have new characters come up now, I don’t have to worry about head enchants because I’ve got one character with max reputation on all factions, and that character can buy the enchant and mail it over.

For weapons, I can gather ore, transmute Truegold, gather or buy Orbs, and use my epic Blacksmithing patterns from rep to make some iLevel 365 weapons… or buy cheap Beermug maces, BoE epic drops from the new instances, etc.

I can craft rings, necklaces and armor that, while intended for PvP, is good enough to get into new content and get the job done, but just crappy enough for PvE that I’m going to want to get rid of it as soon as bloody possible.

I even have BoE gear of incredible power that I can earn on my max level characters through Valor Points, to feed down to my new alts.

But what if I don’t have max level characters to feed my new alts, characters all decked out and done with the content?

Working as intended. If you don’t already have all the content done and maxed on anyone… Blizzard wants you to get out there and do it all, at least once.

In my opinion, the only truly glaring weakness right now is that the epic level shoulder enchants purchasable from rep with Therazane is not bound to account, and the ease of getting that rep has not been reduced the way the Sons of Hodir were towards the end of the expansion.


I’ve been preparing my Rogue for max level, because I truly do not want to do a single original heroic, not a one. I want to ding 85, equip gear, and step into a 4.3 Dragon Soul heroic.

To that end, I’ve been seeing how far I can game the system on my Combat Rogue, and how cheaply.

Slow main hand weapon, fast offhand are the Combat preferences.

A Tremendous Tankard O’ Terror goes for about 800 gold on my server, so I bought one. Oops, Cassie had 8 in her bags, and I actually had one I forgot about in my Hunter’s bank. Stupid of me not to check, but point made.

For an offhand, my blacksmith crafted the Brainsplinter, using all personally farmed/transmuted mats. Done.

For a thrown weapon, maybe due to lack of demand the Thorns of the Dying Day are going for a mere 300 gold. Done again.

Sure I’m going to want to upgrade as soon as I can… but these aren’t pure crap, either. These are all weapons that, in terms of stats, would have been great before 4.3 shipped.

For armor… well, there is the obvious.

My max level characters have taken a week off from upgrading their own gear with Valor Points to donate the Bracers of Manifold Pockets and the Rooftop Griptoes. If I was wealthy, I could have easily bought them instead, they get advertised in Trade Chat as Valor boots or bracers, your choice, 5000g or 6000g golod all the time, YMMV on your server.

Still, I wanted to go as cheap as I could as far as I could.

As I said before, once I reach level 85, I’ll be able to do the Thrall and Aggra quest chain, Elemental Bonds, to get the iLevel 365 cloak, Mantle of Doubt. I could simply craft the new iLevel 377 PvP leatherworking cloak Vicious Fur Cloak, but I’d vastly prefer lower iLevel but more PvE oriented gear.

There are 17 item slots to fill, and already 6 are at 365 or better at level 85, plus one quest chain I like to do anyway. 🙂

I then did dip into my own pockets, and bought one item I’ve been repeatedly tempted by at the auction house. I got the Nightblind Cinch belt for 7000 gold. Maybe they saw me coming, but an upgrade THAT huge means future Valor Points don’t go to a belt, they go to things like necklaces, rings and trinkets. I’m willing to pay it, and be glad.

The rest of the slots ALL have iLevel 377 PvP items that can be crafted with leatherworking and jewelcrafting if I wanted to, but let’s go one step further.

What about the Molten Front?

Yes, yes, I know. Craft some PvP stuff and go have fun, get upgrades in one day that outstrips what you’ll earn after 45 days of Molten Front dailies.

There are still two things to keep in mind.

First, after only three days you can unlock the Molten Front area, and purchase Matoclaw’s Band from Zen’Vorka.

Second… my Rogue is a skinner, and the spider area is a skinner’s paradise. I’m going to want that anyway, so why not at least look at what I get after those three days, right?

Where I’m going with all this, is really that it’s too damn easy to craft or otherwise acquire high level items to bypass the starter heroics for it to have somehow slipped past Blizzard’s attention that we can do it.

No, I think it’s working as intended, and I like the fact that I don’t have to just equip PvP gear to beat the iLevel restrictions, I can go for lower level gear but with better overall stats if I so choose. And I DO so choose.

As I said before, I just think there are a couple areas that could be finished up, like the Therazane rep shoulder enchants being made Bind on Account.

What do you think? Is this all some cunningly designed master plan to give us lots of options and choices, or is it a failure of the Blizzard gearing model?

Moving the story forward

Things are moving along nicely, my friends.

In the game, my Hunter is already level 74. Isn’t that crazy?

I have decided to set for myself a new goal. It’s a stupid goal, but it’s one that can’t be ground out, it’s pure luck; to forge a Legendary.

To that end, I’m going to solo Molten Core each week to shoot for either the Eye or the Bindings.

Considering how many times I ran that place in the old days without seeing any of them drop, ever, I’m not all that worried about not getting them.

It’s just fun to have that sense of “Maybe this time? Could be!”

I ran it on my Worgen Warrior this last weekend, and soloed everything in my blues and greens except for Ragnaros himself. Just couldn’t keep myself alive solo. I’m apparently a fail Warrior, I made it to the first submerge and the adds ate me. 😦

I had to ask Matheo to step in and heal me… and he said I really am a fail tank, he ran outta mana keeping me alive.

I told him that the reason was probably that I wasn’t in defense stance or tank gear… I was pure Fury Warrior spec and gear. /facepalm.

On the plus side, in one run I almost got all the Cores and Dark Iron I need to craft Sulfuras, and I got the bar and bought the recipe to craft it. My Warrior is a Blacksmith, so it’s fun to think that, no matter who ever eventually gets an Eye, I’ll be able to craft the hammer for it. 

I really wanted to craft one for Fal back in the day, and if I ever do see the Eye, I’ll be thinking of him when it happens.

What kind of impossible or long term goals do you set for yourself? Do you find having some kind of big goal helps keep you interested?

Or do you prefer not having something planned that would be like an itch you couldn’t scratch? Do you like being able to shut the game off and walk away without ever caring that you didn’t finish X goal in your game life?

On the personal side, I don’t have any announcements or anything, but Cassie and I are working on improving and editing Converging Forces, bringing it out of the very rough cut state and turning it into a novel. It’s going to take some more time, but I’m really very pleased with how far we’ve gone already. I’m also learning a lot about writing in the process, Cassie is teaching me a great deal.

She worries that I’m going to get defensive when she shows me things I’m doing wrong in my writing, but the fact is, I’m loving it. It’s wonderful to have someone that I love and trust looking at the story, and telling me “This part is good, but this phrase is unclear, I don’t know what this word is, and what you do to apostrophes is an offense against God and nature. Stop it.”

Seriously, its very positive for me.

The first thing I hear that she tells me is, “This part is good.” I don’t ignore that to obsess about what’s wrong. 

I hear what she’s telling me, that I have things I need to correct to improve my writing. I may have lots of bad writing habits to break, but the core of a story is in there. The most important thing I want to start with is a story that is going in an interesting direction, and characters that you come to care about. I can learn how to fix the rest.

Cat Scratch Fever!

I’ve been kinda flailing around lately over on Azuremyst-US, trying to figure out just where my cheese was to be found.

You know. The Cheese. If you haven’t read it, that’s a great book, by the way.

I’ll let you read the Wiki entry about the book if you’re not already familiar with it. That’ll bring you up to speed fast enough.

Got it? Good!

Lot’s of talk around the community about being bored with WoW. Should I stay or should I go now… if I leave there will be trouble… and if I stay it will be double.

Well, not really. Who cares if someone takes off to play another game for a while? Or even leaves forever?

They’re just video games, after all.

Why do I feel like, upon uttering those words, a flashmob should spawn, with someone in the back crying, “Burn the witch!”

Well, I was feeling pretty burned out about playing WoW for a bit there. I had lost a sense of why I was going through the motions, why level if I just don’t have the time to raid with a guild regularly, and if raids can’t be successful as pugs anymore, then how utterly futile. Why even bother getting to 85 if the randoms are such a pointless mess when you pug. Such… blah.

I did some shopping around. Tried out DC Universe Online, tried Champions, thought about dipping my toe into Rift… they just weren’t feeling very cheesy to me.

I may not have been turned into a newt, but I got better just the same. I found my cheese.

The Cheese.

The Cheese represents your own joy, happiness, satisfaction, contentment. It’s supposedly what you want. It’s the grand prize. It’s why you’re paying a monthly fee to play a game… to get some kind of satisfaction or enjoyment out of it, right?

Unless you’re getting paid somehow for playing, whether by selling in game items or writing about the game for money. We won’t go there. 

If you log into WoW, are you getting your cheese? Are you happy, excited, ‘”Hells yes I’m playing WoW tonight, baby!”?

Or do you feel like you’re trapped in that old 80’s commercial for Dunkin Donuts?

Time to do the dailies… the dailies. Time to gear up to raid… gotta gear up to raid.

I love that commercial.

Is that you?

If so, hey, maybe your tastes have changed. What you find enjoyable has changed. Maybe you’ve mined this node for as long as you can, and it’s time to find a fresh spot to farm.

What is important is that if you ain’t getting your cheese, then GO GET SOME. In WoW, in Rift, in mowing your lawn, whatever.

You should be feeling pretty cheesy.

If you do move on, I have one request of you;

Please don’t shit all over what other people still love to do.

If you leave WoW to play Rift, that’s cool. Have you found your cheese there? Awesome! Just don’t go and shit all over the people playing WoW just because you found YOUR cheese somewhere else. That’s pretty low class.

I know you’re enthused, holy cow hot mama, there be some tasty CHEESE over here! Come and get some of this swiss, baby, this be tops! How can you idiots still be satisfied with that smelly old limburgher, that crap be sooo old!

Just because the cheese you have found is mighty tasty over there doesn’t mean we are stupid for enjoying the cheese we have over here. So shut it. Tell us what you like, thats always a help if we’re feeling a lack of tastiness and wondering where good cheese might be found. But don’t hate on us if we are still enjoying our own cheese.

Still playing WoW? That’s cool, too. No, it IS. Just don’t shit all over the people who leave WoW because they moved on. Yes, there are still lots of awesome in WoW, but if someone ain’t loving it anymore, well, they ain’t. It may hurt like heck, but they deserve to find and enjoy their cheese TOO.

I went looking for my cheese.

I think I’ve found it. Whee!

It was hard to find, but when I get home, I’ll tell you something. I’ve got that excitement to log in again, I’ve got that energy going, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I’m on a new server. That’s helping. I did NOT bring all my ‘mains’ over, so I spiritually left all that baggage behind. Having a full roster on a server, with many max level characters, means that to do ANYTHING new means something has to be destroyed.

That sucks.

Even worse, all those max level characters represent quests done, experiences had, and in some cases… achievements unfulfilled.

With a new server, there is a wide open slate to fill with whatever alts trip your fancy. New struggles without Heirlooms. Well, not struggles, but without Heirloom weapons at least you’ve got to start caring about upgrades, again.

And new opportunities to craft a new experience different from those before.

I know a lot of other players have pretty much completed all of WoW. Did all reputations, did Achievements, did all of the quest zones, got Loremaster, got anything and everything that cuold be done. It’s got to be hard for them to find any fresh cheese.

I never really did. I came close on my Druid, but once I did a faction change that kinda hosed up achievement tracking.

I’ve found my new cheese, my excitement with the game simply by leveling new characters, following the quests for the zones and experiencing the way the stories have changed… and thinking about completing Loremaster for the first time.

I found myself playing my new Worgen Druid, and thinking that it would be neat to do Loremaster and full exploration as I went. With some other new alts to break in from time to time.

So I spent some of last night banging around Teldrassil, way over level, doing all of the quests so I could get Darnassus rep.

I’m well into Revered, and I’m going to hit Exalted and be riding a pretty tiger mount well before level 30 at this rate. And that sounds pretty fun to me.

It’s unquestionably a sad time in the community. People are leaving to find their cheese, and we miss them. A lot of folks are hanging on even though they ran out of cheese long ago, and they’re getting bitter and cranky about it.

I’m sorry, but it really is that simple. If you run out of cheese… go to where the cheese IS. Or, and this is always an option, make your OWN cheese!

[snicker] Sorry… I’m having a hard time working through the euphemisms here. I’ll get better in a minute.

I didn’t have to leave WoW to find new cheese… and when the cheese starts tasting stale where I’m at, then I’ll either try some new flavor of cheese, or I’ll go see if the cheese I left behind in Kael’thas has started looking pretty darn tasty.

And maybe the horse will sing.

In the meantime, I really do wish each and every one of you success in finding your cheese and cutting off a nice, fat, tasty slice.

For me, for now, my kitty Druid is providing me with a rich, smoky flavor that I’m finding very satisfying.

If I didn’t have so many other things I ALSO wanted to do, like read John Ringo’s “Life Free or Die”, or write James’ next turn, my life would be complete. So much to do, so little freaking time!

And who knows? Someday, when I hit 85 on my Druid on Azuremyst, maybe i’ll even go on some randoms or something? The mind boggles!

In conclusion, I leave you with a little hawt kitty lovin’.

WoW! Sorta kinda maybe

I’ve been quiet about WoW lately, because most of the stuff I used to find fun… isn’t.

I used to enjoy;

  • Playing end game instances/raids with others
  • Leveling/questing/exploring in the world
  • Playing cooperatively while leveling with my wife

I’m not going to write some massive bearwall. It would be too long, and undoubtedly boring.

What I will say is, I didn’t enjoy the way Wrath made every 10 person guild a potential progression raiding guild, with that inevitable awareness in the back of everyone’s head that you could possibly see everything in the game… if you started raiding more often. And started taking it a little more seriously. I did enjoy the tempo and design of instances in Wrath, though. Say what you will about them, I enjoyed being able to get a group and burn through an instance at a fast pace. It was pretty cool. I’m not talking about the difficulty level or lack thereof, I’m talking about how long the bloody things took. With Cataclysm, we have the same 10 and 25 person raid progression go go go, but with Burning Crusade style instances requiring teamwork, coordination and cooperation.

I love the new heroic instances as a concept, and I applaud Blizzard for combining the carrot of leveled guild rewards with the stick of heroic instances that are hell on pugs. I think Blizzard sat down and did some serious thinking on how to deal with the endless bitching and complaining about asshats in PUGs. From out of these meetings came the realization that if they could just get the players to form larger guilds, and make them WANT to play in runs as guilds instead of PUGs, then the asshats they end up hating will be in their own guild… and all that bile and hatred would be turned on guild leaders and officers to deal with the asshats rather than on Blizzard.

A guild you can level with great in-game rewards, mounts, pets, Heirlooms and stuffs? Where having more people doing things levels you faster? And to level the guild you have to do things together that you used to PUG? Well played, Blizzard. Well played. I hope that your customer service complaints have been reduced in the percentages expected.

I’m not enjoying exploring the world, because all of Azeroth has changed, and the instancing means that my max level characters can’t just go out there and check things out 100%, learn it. Oh no, if I want to see the zone the way it’s supposed to be… I have to do all the quests in the zone, damn near. On everyone.

And hey, it sure would be nice to go hang out with a lower level friend, maybe help out… oh wait, I’m in the wrong phase. Oh well, guess you’re on your own. Sorry!

And I’m mostly not enjoying playing cooperatively with  the love of my life and best friend, whom I happen to be married to. You see, even if you’re grouped together, and playing together, and leveling together and staying in perfect sync XP to XP… a lot of this phasing takes you out of the game world into your own little custom zone, for you to address the serious stuff.

Boy, that’s just great when you were doing the quests together, and one of you is the Tank while the other is DPS/Healing. “Where the hell were you when I had to kill the bad guy? Sucker tried to eat me?” “Sorry, I think I slipped into an alternate universe there for a second. My bad.”


On a side note, a digression, a sidebar if you will…. Blizzard, it takes a special kind of genius to design a game that has as its sole end game focus GROUPING… to work hard to emphasize grouping, to drive people to bigger guilds, and to design content requiring teamwork and cooperation and coordination, just as I said before… but to make sure that while leveling up while questing, that you CAN’T COMPLETE THE LEVELING QUESTS AS A COOPERATIVE GROUP.

Boy, with all of that, you might think that I’m a whisker’s breadth away from quitting, right?

Damn near, my friends. Damn near.

What is keeping me from that is one main thing.

I CAN play cooperatively while questing with the woman I love. I just have to do it in Outlands or Northrend, that’s all. And then, once we finish in Northrend… well, I guess we’re done, because the new content is another clusterfu&^ for leveling while grouped.

So I’m playing my Frost Mage while Cassie tanks as a Bear. She dinged 68 last night while I’m still at 67, in Shadowmoon Valley.

It’s so much fun… sad to say, my biggest hope now is that Blizzard doesn’t “improve” the old content, it’s the only stuff we can still play together as a team.

I am also contemplating trying something wacky with folks on some other server somewhere, doing Elune only knows what. There’s a really fun-sounding concept guild called “Twits and Giggles” that the Disciplinary Priest started over on Fizzcrank-US, Alliance side. It’s Death Knights only, and as the title implies, it’s just for fun. I could try that. I’ve been leveling a DK on my server, but wtf, I could do another one, right?

It’s either that, or see if I can find someone somewhere that can use a Bear tank once in a while, but who can’t commit to playing that often. Yeah, put THAT in your application and see how far you get, huh?

Dwelling on the positive

In no particular order, here are some of the things I love about the game these days, whether small change or large.

1) Mount speed scales with skill – so if you really like that striped orange kitty cat from Darnassus, you can still ride it as your max speed mount. Likewise if you love the clean purity of the Snowy Gryphon, but always felt forced to use a mount that had a faster speed.

I really like that change. I’ve always thought what a shame it is, once you’d earned those higher level skills, that you were retiring a once-beloved mount because of stats.

2) Professions matter – It’s nice, this early into the expansion, that if you’ve got a crafting profession, it is worth your time early on to level it and make gear. The Blacksmiths, Leatherworkers and Tailors can craft some mighty fine gear that is equippable at a nice, low entry level. It’s also interesting that the Plate tanking sets made by Blacksmiths are equippable at slightly lower levels overall then the DPS equivalents… subtly encouraging tanks to be better geared early on than DPS, maybe?

On the same subject, it’s nice that Engineers can now make Bows as well as Guns, for those that like the feel of an item as much as it’s stats, and Jewelcrafters can actually make Fist Weapons of decent potency, equippable at a low character level as compared to their item level, making them quite handy for those of us with Rogues or Enhancement Shamen.

3) Quest designs encourage more pew pew, less vroom vroom. It’s not used all the time, but it’s nice that sometimes when you’re sent out on a quest chain, the quest completion and assignment of a new quest happens out in the field, without calling you all the way back. I’ve come to enjoy those moments when I complete a quest’s objectives, only to have the turn in appear on my active window, and the next step of the quest be given to me right there whle I’m still where I need to be to keep going. There is a lot more gating on quests, where you have to finish every single quest available before anything new will be offered, but at least some effort has been made to let you keep on chugging forward with fewer pit stops back at base.

4) Zones feel like they have a story that builds up to a satisfying conclusion. Now more than ever, in playing through the redesigned zones, more of them feel as if there is a cohesive main story, and as you play through the quests, things build up nicely, ending in some major confrontation – with commensurate rewards. The first time I played through the revamped Redridge Mountains on Alliance side, I was amazed at how different it all was.

As a side note, I love how the Redridge Mountains quests on Alliance side seem to insinuate that what they did there is why you get those quests in the field later. In Redridge Mountains, you are sent to go pick up a gnomish field communicator, and once you’ve got it and it’s repaired, that is how ‘base’ contacts you for quest updates and follow ups.

Later on, in Vashj’ir or any other zone where you get those same style follow ups, with someone back at ‘base’ magically knowing you finished a quest and telling you what they want you to do next… is it assumed you still have the communicator, and everyone you meet has a sending unit and knows your code? Good thing it didn’t break when your ship got sunk, huh? Is there a way to turn it off, or are you transmitting what you’re doing all the time?

Can I turn it off when I go to the bathroom? Some things I’d rather not have the quest givers know. It’s nice that we’re chatting and everything, but let’s keep just a little mystery to the relationship, whattaya say?

Lost in Wonderland

This is a request for a bit of guidance.

There are Vash’jir “flight points” internal to the zone.

What I don’t have is an understanding… how do you link Vash’jir to Kalimdor or Eastern Kingdoms? How do you move into and out of the zone itself?

Whether through flight paths, boats or portals, I’m just still a little in the dark on this one.

Can someone help me out on the repeatable methods you can use at level 80/81 to get into and out of Vash’jir when you want to?

Thank you in advance for your insight.

You had me at “Thrall”

I got the Cataclysm as a digital download… and went to sleep at my normal time.

However, I took the day off from work!

No, not to play. I’ve got an appointment this afternoon. It is pure coincidence that this ALSO just happened to let me log in this morning!

No, really. It’s coincidence.

So, I logged in and created my new Goblin Warlock, “Fryingbacon”. The starter zone looks kinda cluttered and mechanized, and I wasn’t really feeling it. I’m sure that I’ll get into it if I have some time to come back to it, but after a night long session of listening to Loreena McKennitt, I wasn’t up for mechanized. I’m up for pretty flowers and romantic highwaymen and ladies from shallott.

That means… time for a Worgen!

I hadn’t even intended to create a Worgen, but at the last minute I really started liking the idea of a Priest. So, female Worgen Priest “Supervixen” was born.

I like Gilneas much more. It certainly fit the mood. Very cool. And a lot more crowded with new Worgen than the Goblin starter area!

But ah, the allure of the shiny… can’t you fly in Azeroth now? What’s that like?

Off to Bigbearbutt, to learn how to fly easier than Pink Floyd ever dreamed.

The view over Stormwind City from on high is incredible. Even more so when you realize that a lot of it is still unchanged from the original design, which you never really got to enjoy from the air before. The Mage Quarter, in particular, when seen from the air is gorgeously landscaped.

Logging into my level 80 Druid, however, brought one unexpected bonus.

A popup appeared offering me a quest to go visit the Earthen Ring in Stormwind.

“Ahh”, I think, “Here is where you get offered new quests.”

I go check it out, and they want me to use a scrying pool to see something in a far off distant land.

I use it… and… cinematic?

omigod… THRALL!

There is some hooyah about saving the world from this, or fighting off Deathwing, or some such, but I wasn’t really paying attention.

You had me at Thrall.

Damnit, I guess I’m going to have to go quest now.

For those of you that cannot get into the game just yet, I promise you it will still be here later. In the meantime, just rest easy knowing that it’s live, it’s working, and it just might be almost as cool as all the hype made it out to be.

What is your FIRST goal in Cataclysm?

The actual expansion is almost here, and I’m really curious as to what YOU, the folks that come to visit, are actually planning on doing FIRST.

You’re going to install and/or activate the expansion and then log in. Then there might be some minor shuffling around, addon updates, that kind of thing.

But with the new content and options available, what are you planning on digging into first?

Are you going to make and play a new Worgen or Goblin?

Are you going to learn and delve into the newest Profession, Archeaology, and search the world for something cool to dig up?

Are you planning on tearing straight into the new leveling/questing content on one of your level 80 characters?

Are you going to race change one of your existing high level characters to Worgen or Goblin right out of the gate?

Are you going to train Azeroth flight and go for a spin to see things for the first time when NOT on a flight route?

Are you maybe planning on training a new Profession level, and being the first to hit max on a crafting Profession?

Are you going to train a gather Profession and be the first to corner the herb, skin or ore market?

What, exactly, are you really planning on doing the first time you get into Cataclysm?

Me, I honestly don’t know. I feel the allure of leveling Professions. I might train old world flying, upgrade Professions, and then go do some Mining or Herbing.

It’s so close, you can almost squeee!