[WoW] So isn’t it time for legendaries to become more accessible?

Latest WoW news is that the Firelands, which is coincidentally the most recent raid, is due for a nerfing before the next patch comes out. And when I say ‘due for a nerfing,’ I mean next week. Also, said patch will include a new legendary weapon along with the next raid – a rogue dagger. (Well, it’s a melee dagger but rogues are the only ones who really use them.)

A more cynical person than myself might think that Blizzard was on a quest to use up all the news cycles up until the end of the year. Between Diablo 3, WoW patches, Blizzcon, and WoW watercooler discussions about how they decide who to nerf, it’s all go all of the time.

I think it’s generally agreed (among bloggers at least) that raid progression in Firelands has been slow. Maybe it’s because of the usual numbers dip due to Summer, maybe it’s down to raid difficulty, but fewer raids than ever have completed the instance on normal mode. Ilovebubbles comes out and says what a lot of people are thinking: that raid instance was overtuned. It’s never been a problem if heroic modes are hard, that’s what they are for. But an average guild of average competence would have been able to butt heads against the last boss a few times (if not down it) in Wrath by the time the next raid instance was released. If a lot of people in average guilds of average competence are saying that they’re struggling to even get 2-3 bosses down in normal, then something isn’t right.

I’m not using average as an insult, just a way to distinguish casual guilds who take their raiding seriously as opposed to what bubbles calls ‘stacks of failpancakes’.  Blizzard nerfing the normal raid hard pre-patch is pretty much an indication that they acknowledge the tuning issue.

All of which makes you wonder just how many people actually achieved the current tier legendary at all. Anecdotally, the one friend I have who is in a hardcore raid guild says that they have been finding it a heavy grind. These guys had no issues getting both the legendaries from Wrath and they’re downing the bosses.

So let’s talk about legendary weapons

Legendary weapons have tended to be rare and sought after in WoW. Shadowmourne, the two handed axe from Icecrown Citadel, was probably one of the more accessible variants – it didn’t require any heroic mode kills. Expensive and time consuming, but accessible to raiders who could clear ICC on normal mode.

The current tier legendary can also be obtained from normal mode raiding, but there’s a difference. Firstly due to the raid locks, each player can only clear Firelands once a week (rather than once in 25 man and once in 10 man) and secondly fewer raids than ever are clearing the raid in the first place. So it would take longer even if you were in a raid that got the place on farm quickly. And if you’re an average raid group that would normally take a few months to clear the place on a regular difficulty – you have pretty much no chance of being able to gather enough of the drops to make the legendary. And once the next patch drops, your players are likely to want to move on to the Deathwing raid and not keep farming Firelands so that one person can have a legendary weapon.

So there’s a point where I ask whether this matters. Legendaries are supposed to be rare, is there a problem if only the top raids can get them? And frankly, in an endgame where it’s harder and harder to get players to raid, I think it does matter. Would it have really mattered if the legendary had been accessible enough that a guild capable of clearing the raid would have a hope of getting one?

I find it hard to see people get their hopes up and then have them dashed by either bad luck with drops, or bad luck with Blizzard dropping a poorly tuned instance on their heads. I’d rather see a decent legendary with neat perks and questlines accrue to average guilds, and then let the hardcore guilds have a way to upgrade it somehow from heroic modes.

Anyhow, apparently the next patch will include a rogue legendary dagger. At which point everyone who doesn’t play a rogue mentally tunes out and stops caring about how accessible it might or might not be. But you have to feel for those players who do play and raid and love their rogues (I think least played class in raids at the moment), to have the offer of a legendary weapon wafted in front of them, but wonder if only the most hardcore raids will likely have a chance to get one.

[WoW] A first look at the firelands

firelands5

With thanks to my guild for letting me tag along on an exploratory raid, here are some screenies from the new WoW raid instance. Blizzard have always liked to use strong colour schemes for their zones and as you can see, the firelands is all red and black.

Another thing you’ll notice on zoning in is that you aren’t in caves, there are no corridors, and you can see the horizon out there in the distance somewhere. This is an ‘outdoor’ raid instance and it feels roomy.

And the last thing is … there’s a lot of trash.

firelands1

You can see some buildings in the background here, and pools of lava and  — oh yes – more trash mobs.

I might be the only person who doesn’t really have an issue with this. If only because the whole place is so wonderfully reminiscent of Molten Core whilst still being different. In fact, one of the consummate experiences of MC back in the day was zoning in and seeing two molten giants guarding the entrance bridge. (And probably wiping to them on the first pull.) If you look at the top screenshot here, you’ll see one of the same molten giants trundling along in the distance.

The trash mobs need to be pulled fairly carefully, at least at our gear levels, and I can’t remember the last raid instance where I would have said this. There’s scope for crowd control also. Spinny turtles (sadly forgot to take screenshots of those) are almost as amusing as the Ulduar snowpiles/ jumping snakes.

I kept thinking how fun it would be to try to run speed raids through the place in a few months time when people are more geared and able to handle crazier pulls. And again, that brings back memories of Molten Core for me.

firelands4

Not sure how well the spider webs in this screenshot came out, but anyhow it’s been at least two weeks since we last had to kill spiders so naturally the firelands has a spider boss.

We did fight our way up to her but I forgot to take a picture of that. She’s a HUGE spider who you first see hanging from her web. My desire to go tank that was about nil.

We did however have a few shots at Shannox, a boss who appears and starts patrolling once you have killed enough trash packs to trigger him. It seemed like a fun fight with plenty for everyone to do.

firelands2

Haven’t shown any pictures of rivers of lava yet so there’s one right here. In our exploration, we also discovered some kind of gauntlet up a hill with a big named fire elemental at the top.

Oh and the trash packs here do occasionally drop epic loot and (allegedly) recipes. Plus there’s the usual raid reputation which you can raise from killing mobs in this zone, leading to large numbers of PUG trash clearing raids.

Amusingly, I don’t think fire resistance gear is required for the firelands; well at least that’s one way in which it differs from MC. My general impressions were good. It looks fun, it looks cool, the encounters I saw (which were limited, admittedly) looked well put together. Naturally hardcore guilds have already killed 5 out of the 7 bosses on hard mode – they’re going to be fairly bored for the next few months unless Ragnaros #2 is crazily hard.

[WoW] In just 7 days, I can survey patch 4.2

moltenfront

This is Spinks in the Molten Front. It feels as though she should be waving a sign saying “Hi, mum!”

Finding myself with some spare time (due to end of college for the year), a newly landed patch on WoW, and 7 free days for my account which I could take at any time, I felt the time was ripe to go back and say Hi to my friends and see what’s changed in the past few months.

Reactivating

If you have an inactive WoW account that isn’t a trial, you will also likely have an option to take 7 free days. To do this, log into your battle.net account and where your game accounts are listed, there will be an option to claim the free days.

Catching up with the talent changes and questlines

First off, visit your trainer just in case and check your talents haven’t been accidentally reset or anything like this. I scored a shiny new raid version of Last Stand (why is this a Fury ability?) which is nice, I suppose.

Sadly failed to notice that my interrupt had vanished from my quickbar in Prot Stance until I was actually in the middle of tanking something that needed interrupts, but c’est la vie. (Pummel now can be used in any stance and has become the default warrior interrupt.)

As far as catching up on quest content goes, this is where the warlord’s quest board really comes into its own. You’ll find one of these in every capital city, and it’ll come up as a questgiver if it has outstanding quests for you. It helpfully pointed me to the new troll/ ZG questline (new as in several months ago) and also to the new quests about Thrall, which lead to Hyjal (new as of last Wednesday).

I figured this would be a good use of my free days so trotted off to do those.

They were both good fun, Blizzard well up to their usual standard on quest content. The ZG questline also rewards you with a pet panther cub, to which I MAY have responded with squeals of ‘it’s so cute!!!’, especially as I got the achievement for having 25 pets at the same time. As an aside, I utterly hate cosmetic pets and never actually use them – I’m a goddamn warrior, I do not have kittens lolling around my heels when I go off to kill dragons. Aside from thematic inappropriateness, it’d be cruel to the kitten — but somehow I always like actually getting a new one.

Thrall has never been my favourite NPC, at least not as much as he is the devs, but his storyline showed some depth and hopefully you can feel a little empathy for the guy who has given up his hopes of finding a partner and raising some orclings in order to lead the Horde towards freedom and away from barbarism. Now that the Horde has decided that barbarism gets a bad rap and we like killing the shit out of stuff, Thrall is free to stick two fingers up at them and waltz off with Aggra into the sunset – at least after we’ve saved him from the elemental lords. The actual quests were quite fun too.

New instances

zgrenataki Here we are in Zul Gurub. It’s been fixed up a bit …

My guild were kind enough to invite me along to an instance run in the recently revamped Zul Gurub, which was also good fun. Blizzard has again done a super job on the revamp; it felt challenging, the bosses and the trash are interesting, the fights still feel mechanically related to the old ones, and it’s always been an appealing zone anyway.

Amusingly, I got an achievement for not standing in stuff on one of the bosses (Venoxis, aka didn’t I kill you three years ago?) and one of the newer guildies who I hadn’t met before asked hopefully if I was planning to stay and join their raid team. To be fair, I can see why people would be nervous of inviting an old guildie to join an instance run that’s known to be hard, sight unseen.

On the bright side, despite having missed most of the raiding in the last tier, my dps is reasonably up to scratch. It won’t be winning awards any time soon but it’s not woefully sub par for instancing.

I’m not really convinced on the new troll lore, so let’s not dwell on that.

New dailies

newdailies You can always spot the new daily questgivers because all the players are sitting on top of them.

One of the clever things Blizzard have done with the layout of the new daily quests is allowed you to open up the molten front after just 2-3 days of questing. This means, for example, that someone on a 7 day return visit can get to actually see the meat and bones of what the new firelands zone is all about, earn some rewards, and come back and write about it!

So far, there are two sets of questgivers. The ones in the screenshot who are outside the firelands portal who will set you to clearing up Hyjal, and another set inside the portal who will send you off to help the war effort there.

I’ll talk first about some of the big wins here. The first is the daily quest which requires you to go kill some elite mobs in Hyjal.

  • Changes in the tagging code mean that every player who tags a quest mob while it is being fought gets credit for the kill. So when the quest zone is busy, it will feel like fighting a rift in Rift. Everyone attacks everything, and everyone gets credit for everything too. It’s fairly social.
  • Lots of friendly NPCs show up to help out, and if you have been paying attention you may recognise many of them. I’ve seen a different set every day and they have included Mankrik, King Mrrrrgglll, Chromie, Lunk, and some named alliance NPCs I don’t recognise, and they all have been given some new in-character barks which I have found very amusing. It will feel as though you are fighting alongside NPCs that you know.
  • dailychromie

Chromie the time dragon (in her favourite humanoid form as a little female gnome) makes some time related jokes while she fights.

The second is giving you access to nice gear from a vendor fairly early on. Once the firelands portal opened, I could immediately upgrade a couple of pieces. I’m assuming that as you earn more tokens and open up more of the molten front, new vendors will appear.

Monocles are everywhere!

You can take the player out of EVE but you can’t take EVE out of the player – this screenshot below was taken from trade chat in Orgrimmar.

wowmonocle

Links for the weekend (E3 prospects, and the state of raiding)

  • E3 is next week, and is the first of the big summer gaming conventions. Destructoid summarises the publishers and games expected to be there, so there will be plenty of news/ press releases about those. I don’t feel massive excitement about any of these, although “El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron” is a good title.
  • There are also expected to be some hardware announcements: Nintendo has a successor to the Wii to announce and no one will be surprised if Sony and Microsoft also come up with something. Venturebeat run down some of the more stable rumours about next week’s announcements. Allegedly Bioware are already working on Dragon Age 3 so that might also get an announcement.
  • Yngwe writes a guest post for Kiss my Alas, pondering the ways in which real life has made him a better raider. (But leaves the question open as to whether raiding has helped him iRL.)
  • Staying with the raiding theme, Wugan writes a thoughtful post on Flow asking whether it’s too easy for individual players to act as free agents, shifting guilds as soon as they get frustrated with progression. I always think that a raid leaders’ ideas on what is wrong with raiding can seem so different from a raider/ non leader’s ideas that you sometimes wonder if they are playing the same game.
  • Stabs describes issues that he’s had with filling raids in Rift and explains it using psychology. I felt bad reading this because I’d be one of those people who thinks “I’ve done proper raiding before, I know how much time and commitment it takes, so better that I sit out in this new game than risk being all those horrible things people call you if you get one enchant slightly wrong in WoW.” Not that my Rift character is level 50 yet, but soon.
  • Rhii asks how people feel when someone they are raiding with keeps talking about their other guild/s and other raid/s. In WoW, it’s not uncommon for people to have different alts in different guilds/ raids – I suspect this is more common now due to the way the lockouts work.
  • Scott Andrews, in his excellent WoW Insider column, predicts that Firelands will not save your (raid) guild. Is he right?
  • Psychochild lists 10 games that he thinks designers should play and asks for your suggestions for what games or types of games you think designers should experience.
  • Syncaine eases my troubled mind by explaining why gaming bloggers are not leechers. What he’s actually getting at is that if you are really into a game or hobby, you probably prefer to play with other people who are similarly engaged. And this actually applies just as much to casual roleplayers as it does to hardcore raiders (he doesn’t make that connection, but it’s true.)
  • Danc writes a fairly controversial post in which he critiques game criticism and particularly that written by gamers. In my opinion this is pretty much a straw man because what a reader can get from a well written and well presented experiential blog post is simply a different style of game writing than a critic would be expected to produce. And I’d argue we should value the players who are able to do this well without lumping them in with the critics. I think this is particularly true in MMOs or any game with a virtual community because we don’t really have the theories yet to fully explain how players interact with each other online – it’s a new field. And as in any new field, the observations have to come before the theories and analysis. Be scientific, game devs! Pay attention to the (good) observations.
  • The Last Psychiatrist ponders Second Life and real life, and points out that in some ways they are not so very different. Is getting your hair done to look like a celebrity iRL so different from sculpting your avatar to look like them online?
  • scrusi wonders if exploration and story are mutually exclusive.
  • Tipa notes that the Rift devs have been borrowing a lot of ideas from WoW and wonders if they could take a few pointers from EQ as well.

[WoW] The million dollar question with patch 4.1/4.2

Today the patch 4.2 hype was released with not only a trailer for the upcoming raid instances, but also a timetable for future hype. Which is handy because now we can schedule it around the royal wedding (or around the unwedding TV timetable if you are not a royalist.)

There is a fair amount of stuff on the drawing board; in addition to the new 5 man instances which were released this week as patch 4.1. There is a huge new raid instance/zone (it sounds as big as a zone), more dailies, more lore, more loot, a new legendary weapon etc all aimed at max level characters.

Question is this: If you are one of the players who got bored of Cataclysm (and possibly left WoW), is this enough to pique your interest and draw you back in?

(And how popular exactly are casters going to be in raids now that there is a legendary item on offer …?)

[Cataclysm] Patch 4.1, everything old is new again, and looking for guild

So the first gingerbread trails of news leading to the next big WoW patch have started up. I had a few bullet point reactions.

  • I’ve heard people comment that the timing was directed at countering Rift. This may be true but it’s also happens to be the time of the year for product launches and announcements anyway – DA2, Bulletstorm, Pokemon Black and White, etc (hint: those launches were not all aimed at hampering Rift). If people could just get their heads out of the AAA MMO sandpit for a moment they’d see this sort of stuff is par for the course.
  • There are two ways to react to a redo of an old instance. 1) oh no, they’re reusing old bosses/ graphics. 2) Wow, awesome, they’re updating an old storyline.
  • Blizzard having reused Nefarian in this tier of raiding (when any of Deathwing’s children could have fitted the bill) is a far far worse breach of “oh god, why do we have to fight the same boss again when its story is already over and done with” than the troll instances which, to be fair, were always populated with demi gods anyway.
  • Or in other words, I think a retooled ZA and ZG sound as though they could be good fun. They won’t be the same as the originals but they were both fun, lively instances with memorable fights so if Blizzard can keep that aspect they’ll be onto a winner here.
  • A new tier of ilvl 353 epics. Really? (Just for comparison – heroics drop ilvl 346 blues, raids and exalted reps give ilvl 359 epics. At this point they’re just splitting hairs; just decide that Cataclysm epics start at ilvl 359 and don’t confuse people with a few extra points here and there!)
  • Guild quests sound interesting. It will be particularly interesting to see what types of guilds the quests are aimed at.
  • New looking for guild interface is another interesting addition, that in my opinion the game has needed for ages. What they have at the moment is fairly basic though. You get to select your choice of guild as Casual/ Moderate/ Hardcore and to set whether you are free during weekdays or weekends. Then you can note whether you play tank/healer/ dps and leave a note for any interested guilds at the bottom. I’m puzzled as to what sort of guild finding this is possibly fit for. The mind boggles. But still, it’s a start and if all you want to do is tank at weekends, it probably could help find something.
  • Firelands raid and dailies. If the dailies are like Quel’Danas (TBC dailies) this could be a lot of fun for people as they get the sense of helping to slowly change the zone. On the other hand, you just super changed the zone by zooming through its quests at level 80, so spending a couple of months doing dailies to change another part is going to feel slow in comparison. We know now that the raid will be coming later than the new 5 man instances. I don’t know how well that will work for the raiding crowd or how bored they are with the current tier but together with a caverns of time raid there’s certainly plenty to look forwards to.

I think the next couple of WoW patches sound as though they will be good fun. There are new 5 mans, a progressive daily quest hub, loads of new lore and caverns of time related stuff, and the chance to kill Ragnaros (again :P), preferably before he evolves beyond legs.

I’m on the fence myself when it comes to reusing old bosses. Certainly with the old troll demi gods and elemental lords it can be very powerful storywise to bring them back in an appropriate manner. Ragnaros in particular sounds like a great use of an old boss.