Shovels and Shoveltusks

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I declared Thursday and Friday to be part of the weekend last week and decided to take myself four days off from the blog and one week off from the podcast.  I feel super chill going into what is likely going to be an exceedingly stressful week so I think it was probably a good call.  Apart of having to help my folks move some furniture yesterday, I mostly had a pretty chill thanksgiving.  Both Friday and Saturday my wife and I attempted to avoid the world, and the only shopping we really did was online apart from a mad dash out to Target around 9 pm on Friday.  At that point the store was largely sane and wasn’t that much different than a normal trip on any other night.  Throughout all of this I have found myself forsaking my normal checking of Pokemon Go in favor of the relatively newly released Animal Crossing Pocket Camp.  First off I have to admit I have never played an animal crossing game before so I didn’t have much of a cultural frame of reference going into this.  The experience instead reminds me a lot of a mix between the former web based casual MMO Glitch and some flavors of Stardew Valley.  Whatever you end up calling it the game is extremely charming and at this point I am level 16 and have a bunch of the animals at my campsite…  enough that the last three or four gave me a messaging saying there was no room.  Unfortunately I have no clue how you actually determine which ones are at your camp and which ones are not…  but for the moment I am rolling with it.

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I’ve also seemingly hit whatever the friend cap is because when I try and add anyone it says that combined between my friends list and the few outstanding requests I have run out of room.  I have no clue what this cap actually is…  I estimated 200 the other day but I am guessing in truth it is closer to 100.  The game is maybe bad at messaging some things but I am largely limping along without doing much in the way of research.  There is a quarry mini-game that requires you to get help from five of your friends, and I wish they messaged when my friends were needing help a little better.  For example if you look at the middle section of the above screenshot you will see a shovel icon out to the side of Kelsey’s name.  I wish there was a way to sort these to the top of the list because they are really the ones I am most interested in given I like helping other players, because you appear to get some sort of cut of their profits.  After that you attempt to guess which rocks have the most profitable stones…  gold nuggets seem to be the best.  I still very much feel like I don’t fully grasp a lot of things…  like how the hell to make large quantities of Bells that Animal Crossing currency.  Right now I have a 30,000 bells loan with the auto place and have never really gotten close to paying it off.  Thankfully they don’t seem to be sending anyone to break my kneecaps because of it though, and they still allowed me to customize my RV regardless of having the loan out.  I feel like maybe they don’t have the best business model.  Regardless if you have not been playing this you should probably check it out because it definitely seems to be addictive as hell given the wide variety of friends that seem to be playing it on a regular basis.

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I made a bunch of progress in Destiny 2 but I am likely going to wait until tomorrow to talk about that.  Instead I wanted to talk a bit about the other game I played over the break…  World of Warcraft.  I am still working on my tiny Orc Warrior that is getting less and less tiny as each week goes by.  At this point I have completed the Cataclysm content and am on the airship just about to start the invasion of Pandaria.  This is something I have never actually done on the horde side given my last several characters I leveled were abusing the shit out of the pre-legion launch invasions.  I’ve also not spent much time playing through Warlords of Draenor as a Horde character, so that should be interesting as well.  Similarly I have never seen Legion as the Horde…  all things I am interested in experiencing first hand.  The biggest shock for me is just how fast Cataclysm managed to go given that I started in on Vashj’ir Saturday night and dinged level 85 well before finishing the final section of it Sunday evening.  I realize that zone is in theory about the same size as two other zones combined…  but I did not expect to be getting quite that much experience from it.  Granted I am fully geared out in level 100 heirlooms (minus the rings because I don’t have the patience for that nonsense), but did not partake of any of the experience boosting options.  The mission of the day however is to try and figure out how to get a Pandaria flying book…  because I do not want to return to land based leveling if I can help it.

Punitive Shades and Iron Banner

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The 13th anniversary event is going on right now in World of Warcraft and I have been largely disconnected from me.  For whatever reason I am focused on leveling my Orc Warrior above pretty much all else.  This is often the case when I return to WoW after being gone for a bit, I have to ease my way back into playing my bigger characters.  This year each character gets a package that contains 200 timewalking tokens and the quest vendor also sells a bunch of items.  One is the Corgi from past events and another are these crazy sunglasses that my Orc Warrior is modelling above.  These seemed like a fun item until last night I happened to catch wind of something through twitter.

Why would you create an item that is only transmoggable during the yearly anniversary event?  I mean I guess in theory they did give every character 200 tokens so they can fall back on the reasoning that we aren’t out any of our time to get the apparently disposable item.  The transmog system in general has never quite set right with me because it seems overly complicated rather than simply just letting you swap any graphic with any other graphic.  However the fact that there are timed transmogs only makes me more grumpy with it.  I just hate the whole concept of time limited items in general because I realize these are supposed to make me want to collect them all before the time runs out.  Instead what they do is make me just not want to even try and save myself the general disappointment by not participating.  In the case of the  shades, I put them on the Warrior for fun but I am not deeply connected with them.  However it does seem oddly punitive to the players who have designed entire transmog outfits around them.  This is just part of the Blizzard school of design where we can’t have anything that is universally good.  Every nice thing seems to be required to have a negative that comes with it, and that ethos will always be an axe I have to grind with this game.

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My means of taking screenshots in Destiny 2 seems to have crapped out this morning.  It’s probably nothing a reboot won’t fix but I don’t exactly have time to do that when I am trying to churn out a blog post on the off chance that there might be queued updates to run.  Instead you are going to get the Iron Banner screenshot from the PS4 that I took when the event was last available.  Tonight I will begin the process of trying to get a set of gear on my Titan once more, because I really love the Iron Banner gear this time around.  I have the full set on my PS4 Titan and I love it so much for many reasons… not the least of which is it has a decent stat package.  Additionally I am all about trying to get back a few of the weapons that I really enjoyed using… namely the Pulse Rifle and Auto Rifle.  There are daily milestones and my goal is to attempt to complete them on each of my characters.  I am still frustrated that the Iron Banner is not a means of gaining power level the way it used to be in Destiny 1, but it is still a good source of cool gear and I am just going to focus on that aspect.

Memory is Fleeting

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With all of the recent talk about the World of Warcraft classic server, I have found myself contemplating a lot of things about the game.  We recorded a podcast episode where we basically spent the entire time trying to determine just how vanilla classic would end up being.  The other side effect of all of this is that I seem to be playing my horde warrior over on scryers quite a bit more than usual.  Now if you were to ask me to rank the current expansions to the game that ranking would look a little something like this…

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. The Burning Crusade
  3. Legion
  4. Vanilla
  5. Mists of Pandaria
  6. Warlords of Draenor
  7. Cataclysm

Notice that number one and number two are the second and third expansion, and that weirdly enough I rank Legion above Vanilla.  What you are seeing is that my memory of these expansions and the nostalgia that colors them does not adequately represent the experience of actually playing through them.  I’ve recently leveled through the Burning Crusade content in a fashion given that you end up dinging your way out of it long before you actually finish much of it.  I did do Hellfire Peninsula in its entirety, the majority of Terrokar and a good chunk of Nagrand.  I left the Cataclysm tainted Vanilla lands at 58 and similarly left the Outland at 68 and as a result have spent the last four levels completing pieces of Borean Tundra.  The reality I am straddled with is that the zone design of the first two expansions is simply not good.  I mean at the time it was released it was world better than anything Vanilla had given us and as a result felt like a breath of fresh air, however when you stack it up against modern zone design from say Legion…  it is objectively not as well designed.

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What I mean by this is that the quests don’t flow cleanly from hub to hub and instead it forces you to do a lot of travel time back and forth between a hub and its related spokes.  All the while I was leveling through Outland and so far in Northrend it feels like I am spending a lot of time needlessly travelling between two destinations and this might have been the initial intent.  However after seeing modern quest design it feels like I somehow failed and allowed my quests to get out of sync.  If you fight your way through a micro dungeon with quest A you often find that upon turning in you now have another quest requiring you to go back there.  It is maddening to have to wade through an army of minions to kill a boss that you were already next to and sometimes even killed while completing the first quest.  The other that adds to this feeling of tedium is the mob density and having no real way to get in and out of these destinations without a heavy body count.  Thankfully on my warrior racking up a heavy body count is fun, but on other more fiddly classes this causes the leveling experience to grind to a halt.  The truth is it will probably have taken me twice as long to level through Outland and Northrend as it will have to push through the next three expansions.

As games mature their design ethic shifts significantly and we forget what it was actually like to play these games at the time.  When it comes to Classic World of Warcraft for Project 99 in Everquest… what we are chasing is a feeling not an actual honest moment in history.  I think when players say that they want to play Vanilla again…  they want to return to a time when not everything was mapped out quite so clearly and they had a sense of accomplishment and discovery each time they looted a kobold (and the game subsequently froze).  This is why World of Warcraft Classic is going to be the challenge it will be.  That experience means different thing to different players, and none of the calculations that a game company can make actually take the social component into play.  When I think of Vanilla or Burning Crusade or even Wrath, those memories involve very specific sets of individuals that no longer play the game and I might not even have contact with.  For Vanilla it was the Late Night Raiders, and Burning Crusade it was No Such Raid and when Wrath launched we were excited to be the Duranub Raiding Company.  Three non-guild based raids dominate those feelings and memories and the simple fact that I went through three separate raid groups tells you that there is no way to actually ever join those broken pieces back together again.  All of this said I will have characters on the Classic server, and I will see how this experience actually shakes out in the end.  I just feel like it is going to be exceedingly difficult to please even a fraction of the player base because we all want something different.

Snipers and Hellboars

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One of the core problems with Destiny 2 is that progression is all about luck.  What I mean by that is especially as you wind down towards the end of the power curve, everything lives or dies upon what you happen to pull from your powerful engrams each week.  Once upon a time SquirrelPope told me that he started getting random world 300 blues when he hit 299.5 on his base light level.  I’m at 299.8 at this point and have yet to see one and nor have I actually seen any of the supposed vendor engrams that go as high as 300.  At this point on my Titan I need a chest and a class item to hit 305, which admittedly is way sooner than it happened during the console release.  That said everything is luck of the draw for me and this week my luck was just about as bad as I could possibly get.  In total I got six sniper rifles among the nine powerful gear packages that I have opened on my characters.  Sniper rifle being the only weapon that I consider utterly useless because I have yet to find one that is even close to being worthy of that power slot.  Grenade Launcher is traditionally a stinker as far as slots go, but even there I have Berenger’s  Memory and Play of the Game that I like using.  If I absolutely had to use a sniper… so far the only one that seems even viable is Gentleman Vagabond from crucible packages but even then…  there are so many other good weapons that I could be using in that slot.

I tweeted this comment out last night and I thought I would post it on my blog as well this morning.  I promise I meant this to be helpful and not ragey, but it does frustrate me when I see players effectively wasting the scorch cannon rounds spamming the crap out of them.  I admit that I did not know this was even possible until I got to run the Wrath of the Machine raid in Destiny year three, so I went that long effectively using them wrong myself.  The scorch cannon at face value looks like a rocket launcher with a lot of ammo, but it is way more than that even though the bosses that use it never actually use them to their full power either.  With Titan being the weekly flashpoint planet, you are going to encounter a lot of scorch cannons considering 2 of the 3 available events on that planet involve Fallen Walkers.  The weapon has a somewhat hidden alternate fire that involves holding down the trigger after you have fired the round and letting the munition grow in size before releasing and letting it explode.  You are going to have an auditory and visual queue to this and while you can continue to let this go and keep gaining strength as Squirrel pointed out last night, my personal experience is that the 4 second rule seems to be the most efficient for killing those walker tanks.  What I do is fire a round and then duck behind cover while holding the trigger allowing the munition to grow in size and about 4 seconds into holding it visually doubles in size.  At this point I let it go and let the damage get dealt while lining up a shot for another round.  Basically doing this will burn your target faster and easier I might add than spamming rounds and also give you more than enough ammo to take out both tanks with a single Scorch Cannon.  The AOE explosion is also fun for dealing with waves of yellow bar captains and such, but unfortunately this is a tidbit of ancestral knowledge that has not yet circulated through most of the population given that I see most players wasting these weapons.  As a result I just wanted to toss this thought out there and hopefully it sticks.

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As far as last night goes however…  after my crushing disappointment of being in sniper rifle hell…  I decided to chill out on the sofa with my new favorite orc.  At this point I am just shy of level 64 and am still in the Hellfire area cleaning up the quests.  In theory I should be able to completely skip Zangarmarsh and go to Terrokar, doing the every other zone leapfrog across Outland much like I have done with Legion content.  There is something extremely relaxing about Warrioring it up and all the while chatting occasionally with the Facepull crew horde side.  Mostly World of Warcraft is serving as this super relaxing comfort gaming time for me, and with work being as stressful as it has been lately I guess I am finding I need it.  Right now it is looking like I won’t really get to take much time off for the holidays other than the default days they give us off.  I have too many deadlines crashing in together at the same time, and this is also throwing a massive monkey wrench in my traditional Pax South plans.  Right now unless something massively changes I will not be attending this year which is a bit of a bummer considering I’ve gone every year since its inception so far.  It also means I will miss out on meeting up with friends and hanging out… and the biggest bummer of all is that I just found out my friend Cuppy is on a panel this year.  I would have loved to have seen that, but then again I am absolutely horrible at actually attending panels at Pax.  I tend to miss them while wandering around doing other things.  Even if not for Pax I am hoping to make it back to Austin as some point in the future.

Accidental Orc

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Firstly I feel like I need to lead this post with a tweet from one of my friends that I received last night.

I did in fact do this thing.  To be more specific I went on a spree of mass cancelling my MMO accounts in early October.  I went so far as to actually uninstall many of the games, which is apparently the surest sign that you are just about to decide that you are going to want to play again.  Thankfully I have super fast internet and downloading World of Warcraft really is not that big of a deal anymore.  I am not exactly sure how to explain this one other than the fact that I have been playing on and off with a friend in Destiny 2…  that I first knew through my horde guild in World of Warcraft.  I guess in theory this made me nostalgic about that guild and planted the idea in my head that I really should level my warrior over there.  When you combine that with the weekend we had which was dreary and overcast…  and my desire to just hang out on the couch in a blanket cocoon and do some comfort gaming and apparently all of that translates into playing World of Warcraft.

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The biggest challenge however is the fact that in the process of uninstalling everything I also nuked my addons.  Playing WoW with the stock interface is just not a tenable solution.  My previous UI was cobbled together out of several dozen separate addon packs that I had to use the Curse Client now re-branded as Twitch to maintain.  I did not want to go through that again so I took this as the perfect opportunity to try ElvUi that everyone has been raving about for years.  It took some getting used to because the set up process was nothing like I was used to.  However I decided to embrace the difference and by the end of the weekend I had gotten used to it mostly.  The thing that likely won me over however was the AFK screen where the camera spins around you and your character dances in the corner.  They didn’t need to do this thing…  but the world is better for them doing it.  Essentially over the last few days I have chilled on the couch and leveled from 30ish to 61 as of this morning.  I am now knee deep in the Burning Crusade expansion content and having a weird nostalgic trip down memory lane.  I have zero clue how long I will be playing or even how often but for the moment I am enjoying myself.

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In Destiny 2 news I can now hit 302 on my Titan and in theory would love to either get in a raid tonight or at least the Nightfall on my Hunter and Warlock to potentially get some additional item level movement.  The biggest problem that is effecting me in Destiny is the fact that I just am not a night owl right now…  and that a good chunk of our clan are now on the west coast meaning they are two hours behind me.  One of two things is going to have to happen, either we break into a early evening and late night raid, or we start actually declaring some night of the week to be raid night.  Thus far everything has sorta been on the spur of the moment with whoever happens to be around, and sure that is fun…  but also impossible to plan around.  Last night for example they were wanting to pull together the raid while I was watching Walking Dead, which is literally the only television show I watch all week long.  Other nights the potential start time would mean I would be up until midnight which is just not viable during the work week anymore.  Had I planned for this and maybe taken a cat nap when I got home then it might be doable, but impromptu raiding just isn’t working for me right now.  I want to raid and I want to get through the content but I just need some structure to it.  Hopefully with the reset we can do a better job of planning raid nights.  In theory I am going to try and get one going earlier in the evening tonight so I can at least get some tokens this week.

For Azeroth

So last weekend was BlizzCon and over the last few days I have been dealing with the announcements made there.  On the morning before the festivities started…  I threw out a flurry of tweets of things that I would have liked to have seen, and then one that was my nightmare scenario.  Essentially…  the nightmare scenario is what happened.  As a result I’ve spent the last few days going through the stages of denial and have finally reached a point where I can talk about it.  World of Warcraft for me is a story about being artificially cut off from a chunk of my friends regardless of the decisions I make.  When the game released in 2004 we had a group of players that wanted to play Alliance and a group that wanted to play Horde, and while we attempted playing both sides after a point folks wound up greatly preferring one over the other.  This was a completely foreign concept to me and felt just wrong to have choosing a side mean you were also saying goodbye to a chunk of your friends in the process.  Everquest had factions but they were all personal choices, and even Dark Age of Camelot had Gaheris the Co-Op server that let us all play what we wanted together without the artificially faction boundaries.

For the last thirteen years I have carried a torch in hopes that maybe just maybe the two sides would get their shit together and realize that there is way more at stake than their own petty grievances.  We have come so close so many times as we worked together with the other side to tackle the big bads of the world, but always we are artificially drawn back in to the big dumb red versus blue narrative.  Battle for Azeroth is doubling down on this tired formula and apparently that is what the player base wants.  I have no real faction pride because neither faction has actually done anything that I am proud of.  Sure the cinematic they released for this game is epic, and there are moments I feel shivers of excitement from each side.  I am just wired to be nostalgic about all of this even though it signals the death of the dream I have held for so long.  The faction wall will never fall, and my friends list will always be artificially segregated.  We could do so much more if we were allowed to work together, and bring our Tauren and Orc friends along with our Dwarf and Worgen friends to do awesome things.  I guess that thing that frustrates me is just how tragic and pointless it always is…  all it would take is some communication between the sides and we would stop killing each other and start killing things that deserve to be killed.  Fuck “For the Horde” and fuck “For the Alliance”…  it should be “For Azeroth”…  because the planet is dying while we are fighting .

All of this said…  there are a lot of things that they are talking about that do excite me, but it has been a lot of soak given the first massive blow.  I love the concept of Allied races because it gives the players something that we have requested for so long…  sub races.  From the moment I first knew that the Dark Iron Dwarves were a thing…  I wanted to play one.  The only only problem is that in my perfect scenario they would have been on the Horde.  In truth in my perfect scenario all of the sub races that we are getting…  would have gone to the other faction.  I want to see High Mountain Tauren fighting along side the Alliance and Dwarven fighting along side the Horde.  I want to break down the barriers between the two factions and blend them all up together to where your faction choices are just that…  choices and not something you are locked into.  Basically I am down for anything that degrades the barrier between the camps of players and lets us all do things together.  Unfortunately I am having to come to the realization that it will probably never happen, but in the meantime I guess I am going to be leveling a bunch of new characters to take advantage of the new races.

The biggest obstacle between me and playing the horde was the fact that I didn’t like most of the races.  The reason why I didn’t like the races was the bestial hunch that the male versions of each seemed to be permanently stuck in.  Apparently there is a posture system that is coming that will allow us to go to the barber shop in game and change this…  and in truth that breathes new life into all of these races that I refused to play.  In theory if I can get an upright Orc like the modern Thrall model…  it is going to feel awesome.  Similarly Trolls and Undead become perfectly viable options for me to play.  The number one problem I have with Worgen is that they too suffer from this forced lurch, and I am wondering if maybe just maybe that might be a thing of the past as well.  I love my Horde family, but what always ends up being a problem is the fact that I have years worth of characters on the Alliance side and a handful of false starts on the Horde.  I like being self sufficient, and only on one side do I have an army of alts that can craft anything that I could ever want.  In theory if I enjoy the races more…  I could start working on the same on Horde side.  The draw to either side is the people who play there… not the story.  I am just frustrated that it seems like I will always have to choose one path over the other when I really want to do both at the same time.

 

RoboSquids Vs Stockade

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I am taking a break from my regular E3 regurgitation and commentary…  to talk about what might be the last ride of the RoboSquids for awhile.  This coming Friday is the launch of Stormblood and with it a lot of us will be working on leveling and get settled into that game.  As a result our time for screwing around on low level characters in World of Warcraft is going to be limited.  As a result we decided to tackle the one that we had all been dreading…  the Stormwind Stockades.  Now normally folks just queue up for this dungeon and ignore the fact that like Ragefire… the dungeon entrance is embedded in a faction capitol.  To recap our rules…

  • Level lock at the minimum level for each dungeon
  • Use whatever means necessary in-between levels
  • Attempt all raids even if we superfail
  • Must compete all dungeons at level before moving on
  • No heirlooms in dungeons
  • Must get to the dungeon naturally and zone in
  • Gear cannot be solved by money
  • Blue quality or higher gear can only come from questing, robo-squid group random drops, or bosses at or below our level lock

I emphasized the rule that is the problem here.  At level 20 we had to make our way into Stormwind and get to the zone in for the stockades on our own.  There were four of us… myself, Grace, Mor and Ashgar.  Like with the Deadmines we ultimately chose to enter through the Grom’gol airship and then run up to Stormwind from there.  Two of us chose to take the land route of… Stranglethorn > Duskwood > Westfall > Elwynn and then go through the front door.  Myself and Grace chose to hop on our water striders and try and make it up the coast and then enter through the docks… thinking that might end up missing some of the guard density.  My ultimate goal was to get to Lions Rest which is the shrine that was erected to replace the big empty area that was formerly the park.  My thought was that potentially this had fewer guards and I could then get closer to the dungeon entrance and potentially rez hop my way in.

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The funny thing about this entire trip is that I had no clue that the graveyard assigned to horde players…  is the Eastvale Logging Camp.  I posted a screenshot for reference, each time we died we had to run where my arrow is currently all the way to wherever the hell we died in Stormwind.  Simply running across Elwynn forest each time ate a bunch of time.  While we were doing this run I decided to start streaming it… and looking back it took roughly 50 minutes for all four of us to make our way into the instance area.  We started a race of sorts as we tried to rez our way across Stormwind… and without really meaning to I won.  I had an absolute lucky break in that I could rez up on a significantly higher vertical surface and bypass a lot of the dock area.  Similarly I also had a lucky rez around the Lion’s Rest area and was able to get into the instance area in about 35 minutes.  Grace who also took the dock route joined me at about 44 minutes and then Mor not that long after… and Ashgar having the roughest time getting inside.  Ash however took one for the team early on as he attempted to use the spirit healer at the instance hoping to hop back up right there.  However whatever faction code is in place caused him to resurrect back at the Eastvale Logging Camp.  The funniest part of the night however was the fact that it took us 50 minutes to run there… and 10 minutes to actually do the instance.

After finishing up the Stockades we decided to go ahead and make the push to Blackfathom Deeps.  The ultimate goal would have been to go ahead and finish up the level 20 dungeons and allow us to start leveling towards the next cap of 24.  However moments after all four of us zoned into the instance…  we got disconnected.  Last night the servers as a whole had a significant issue, where folks either could not log in, could not see their characters…  or simply could not finish loading into the game.  Just about when we were going to give up I managed to log into the dungeon…  and shortly after Grace and Mor were as well.  Ash unfortunately was stuck in a disconnect loop, so we opted to start clearing trash hoping he could eventually make it in.  We had cleared to the first boss and were starting to clear the way to the second boss…  when Grace disconnected.  What was worrisome was the fact that she no longer was responding on Discord as well, meaning whatever issue was happening was on her end… not the server.  At this we finally decided that the world was trying to tell us something, and that we should just call it for the night.  The frustrating part however is by the time Grace got back in moments later…  it seems like the servers as a whole had stabilized.  We are not really sure how we are going to do the RoboSquid content going forward, but we might need to set up an almost raid night happening once a week or something.  At this point we have run…

  • Ragefire Chasm
  • The Deadmines
  • Wailing Caverns
  • Shadowfang Keep
  • Stormwind Stockade

Five dungeons down… only One Hundred Fifty Nine instances left to go…

Mixed Results

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Yesterday I spoke about an idea we had of trying to level lock and run dungeons “legitimately” and as a result slowly work our way through the content as a trio.  I personally went with a Brewmaster Monk, a class I have never really devoted much time to playing.  Grace similarly fell into a familiar role of healing, rolling a Mistweaver Monk.  That left Mor with rolling an Assassination Rogue to be our damage dealer.  We went into this experiment quite honestly expecting to largely face roll Ragefire Chasm.  What happened instead was absolutely not anything even vaguely close to facerolling.  From the first pull we knew we were in for some work, given that firstly…  we were in an assemblage of whatever gear we happened to scrape together making our way to 15.  Secondly we were going in as a trio instead of a full five player group.  All in all given how much we underestimated the content…  I feel largely okay about the evening.  We struggled our way through the dungeon, boss after boss until we sat stalled at the final encounter.  Lava Guard Gordoth has this ability called Seismic Slam, that deals damage to all players within 25 yards of the boss.  There is no cast bar or from what I can tell any real way to mitigate this.  The challenge simply put is the fact that this ability was a oneshot, and we could see no real way of avoiding it.

The problem here is that we are quickly realizing that the content is seemingly scaled for players in Heirlooms… and not necessarily gear that you happen to get organically.  When I am in my full heirloom set of gear like pictured above I am sitting somewhere in the vicinity of 1600 health.  When wearing completely legit questing gear…  I am sitting somewhere around 500 health.  Quite simply put we were running into a hard gear wall that we need to scale somehow.  Because we are insane however…  we are planning on attempting to throw a rope over the ramparts and scale that wall anyways.  The first challenge is to decide what the actual firm guidelines are for this project.  Right now we have a handful of rules written in a spreadsheet where we are attempting to keep track of the item levels for each dungeon.  The rules to date look a little something like this.

  • Level lock at the minimum level for each dungeon
  • Use whatever means necessary during the in-between levels
  • Must complete all dungeons at level before moving on
  • No heirlooms in dungeons
  • Must get to the dungeon naturally and zone in
  • Attempt all raids even if we super fail

What we failed to address however is what exactly is fair game for gearing ourselves to be able to complete the content.  There are a bunch of options that I see and they all sorta have their own pluses and minuses.

Continue Questing While Level Locked

This one is pretty straight forward.  Stay level locked and just keep working on quests, with the thought process that eventually you would get good enough gear to be able to complete the content.  The positive here is that it is entirely organic… at least in a fashion, the the negative is you are functionally making the next level grind a bit harder given that you will need to do more grinding and have fewer quests to rely on.  That said we have already agreed that leveling between dungeon locks in heirlooms is completely fair game.

Auction House

Another thing we need to identify is if we are willing to allow purchasing items from the Auction House.  My gut feeling here is no, especially given that we are currently in the twink PVP bracket and some of the decent options are going for as much as 300,000 gold.  It always just feels wrong to buy our way to success in the dungeons.

Pre-Farming Gear

Another option is to simply run our alts through the dungeon and farm up a bunch of greens then trade them around.  If I remember correctly Deadmines drops greens like candy and they should in theory be in the appropriate level range.  I am mostly torn on this one because this is my gut reaction on how to solve a gearing problem… just throw a bunch of greens at it.  However this also maybe tarnishes the legitimacy of the runs.  Similarly we could simply take turns running each others characters through a zone… but that actually feels significantly worse to me given that you are able to pick up boss loot as well as an assortment of random greens that could have dropped anywhere in that level range.

Battlegrounds

Grace and I actually tested this one out and in the grand scheme of things this seems like a reasonable option to get an assortment of greens.  The one match we played we both got really nice at level cap greens that were sizable upgrades over our questing look.  The negative is that for Grace at least it did not seem to respect her loot spec choice and she continued to get agility gear instead of intellect gear.  Additionally as stated this is the twink bracket which means it isn’t exactly the fairest fights in the world.  However wearing heirlooms seemed to put us on a fairly even footing with the twinklords.

Crafted Gear

The potentially best option is to get a bunch of gear crafted that the characters can wear and start with that as a baseline.  The challenge and frustration here is that Blizzard is generally lousy at crafted gear.  It is nearly impossible to create a full set of gear at any given level, so you still wind up wearing a mishmash of items level 5 to 15 in order to finish enough pieces to get a reasonable set of anything.

Random Dungeon Bags

We have all but agreed this one is out of the picture because the gear that comes from the random bags you get at the end of dungeon finder dungeons…  is scaled pretty similar to heirlooms.  That means we will once again gear way past what our ultimately target goal is.  We are looking to make the dungeons a challenge, but somehow find a happy medium where they are also not impossible like Ragefire appeared to be tonight.  We’ve just reached the point where we need to hash out these ideas and potentially come up with others, and lay down some additional ground rules on how we want to gear these characters.  Best to decide it now because we are going to have a lot of gearing in our future.  The awesome thing about this however is that it is making us appreciate greens that we have been thoughtlessly vendoring for years.

RoboSquid Armada

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wowscrnshot_060717_062752

Myself and a few friends may be deciding to engage in some madness.  The idea spawned out of a discussion about how World of Warcraft would be a more enjoyable leveling experience if it featured the same style of instance level scaling that Final Fantasy XIV does.  For those not familiar, in FFXIV you have a set of levels for a given dungeon much the same as you do in World of Warcraft.  For example Deadmines is generally thought of as a level 15-16 dungeon…  so in this case if it were FFXIV you would zone in and be downscaled to the level of the zone regardless if you are level 25 or level 60.  The other feature of the level scaling is that you are limited to using abilities that exist within that level range… which in itself can be slightly annoying because you might need to do some hotbar swapping.  The experience feels good however and you get to run the dungeons with your friends without necessarily feeling like you are powering them through the content.  For years I have beat the drum of the need for “mentoring” in World of Warcraft, where you can voluntarily drop your level to that of a friend.  While we absolutely know that the level scaling tech could do this… thanks to the Legion zones and Invasion event…  it seems like the Blizz crew simply doesn’t want to add this feature.  So we decided to take things into our own hands.

Years ago they put in a functionality of being able to lock your level and effectively turn off experience gain.  For the most part this was entirely intended to be used by the thriving “twink” PVP scene that flourished during Vanilla and the Burning Crusade expansions.  However some time ago we also used this for the purpose of raiding and I was a tank in a guild called “Years Behind” that attempted to raid all of the vanilla content with level locked 60s.  That derailed a small bit because there was a significant amount of gear that you could equip at 60…  but effectively came from the BC expansion, meaning some of those greens straight up wrecked hard fought purples from the raid content.  Regardless it was a lot of fun to experience the raid content the way it was meant to be experienced, rather than steamrolling it with a bunch of wildly overleveled characters.  The only negative with level locking is that it is a bit cost prohibitive… in that it costs 10 gold every time you want to lock your level… and another 10 gold every time you want to unlock it.  As a result in order to complete this project we decided that we would need a benefactor…  namely the already well geared characters of myself and Grace.  With all of this in mind…  last night we set forth to create a brand new set of low level horde characters.  I myself am playing Belgwyb… a Female Orc Monk with the bluish skintone…  in a slantwise honorific of the best Grand Company leader ever… Meylwyb Bloefhiswyn.  Grace created another Monk but I believe she is going healy, whereas I am of course intending to go tanky.  Finally Mor rolled an undead rogue, which gives us some semblance of proper dps.

The idea is a simple but also probably a slightly insane one.  We level to 15… then lock our level and attempt to run Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines.  If we cannot for some reason complete a dungeon during a fixed level range… we unlock and begin leveling again only to lock later and try again.  The goal being to get through all of the dungeons in the game… especially the vanilla era ones with appropriately leveled and geared characters.  The catch is that we are not using heirlooms at all.  That is for a few reasons… firstly the xp gain boost would make like madness in trying to control our levels and secondly…  using heirlooms is the equivalent of using blue or purple gear all of the time while leveling greatly reducing the difficulty of all encounters.  The other constraint we are placing upon ourselves is that we must run to the dungeon and be able to zone in naturally.  This means for Deadmines we are in fact going to have to do the Gromgol run up to Westfall through a bunch of really nasty stuff that can and probably will straight up wreck us.  I am going to try and convince my companions to let me stream these adventures because I have a feeling they are going to be memorable.  The fact that we are trying things at the right level is increased in difficulty by the fact that there are just three of us doing this, and not a full team of five.  Our first step is to hit 15 however we want… and then we begin the dungeon crawl.  I of course will be sharing our adventures…  good or bad here on the blog.  We formed a guild last night for this process… and named it the RoboSquid Armada because that is apparently what happens when you get the three of us together and tell us to name something.

Invasion Frustrations

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legioninvasions

Most of the time I attempt to remain positive about the games I am playing… and at least a good deal of the time it works.  World of Warcraft is one of those titles that I just have too deep a history with to not at any given time be carrying a lot of baggage.  This generally builds up to the point where I write a big long piece complaining about a myriad of things in the game and tend to be super depressing for a bit until I finally cancel my account.  This is in fact a cycle that has played out numerous times in the history of this blog…  initially around Cataclysm and repeating with every expansion to date.  With the launch of Legion I tried something different…  just fading away quietly whenever the time came that I needed to have a break from the game.  For the most part this has worked extremely well, but there are still some residual frustrations.  The thing is…  I get frustrated with World of Warcraft not because it is a horrible gaming experience, but instead for quite the opposite.  There are so many things that the game does right… that I can see the potential of what it could be with a little tweaking here or there.  So when I ultimately write a frustration piece, it comes from a place of love rather than a place of hate.  But in the past this hasn’t felt that different for any of my readers so in large part I have attempted to avoid them entirely.

There is however something that really frustrates me right now happening in game.  With the 7.2 patch it introduced the Broken Shore questing area, and with it started the Legion Invasions.  Now if you have been with this blog for awhile, you will know that I loved the Invasion feature during the lead up to the Legion launch.  I used and abused this feature to level my army of alts to 100…  but in truth also had a really damned good time doing it.  The concept was simple… every 4 hours some new part of the world would be invaded and as a result you could guarantee that any time you logged in, you would have access to an invasion to go run.  I think this “always on” aspect of the event was one of the things I liked most about it.  My personal time schedule didn’t matter so much, but instead I could simply log in whenever it fit me and go do some invasion content.  Unfortunately the reboot does not work this way but instead is limited to two events per day with widely varying start times.  The above image is a cut and paste job from the WoWhead invasion tracker on their front page… and the in game interface.  The invasion that is going on right now started at 2 in the morning CST and the next one will be tonight at 8:30 pm CST.  These invasions are starting every 18 1/2 hours which means if you just happen to hit them at the wrong time… it might be a few days before you see another one.

Why this is frustrating is that it seems arbitrary and unnecessary given there is already a perfectly reasonable solution in place.  Each morning at roughly 10 am there is the daily reset, that clears all of your heroic locks and resets your access to daily quests and such.  The better solution to me would have simply been to leave a given zone hot for 24 hours and each time the daily reset happens switch zones.  So instead of 18 1/2 hours… you end up with 24 hours…  which sure in the grand scheme of things means that fewer invasions are happening but it also guarantees that regardless of your time constraints you are able to get one in every day.  The only reason why I care I guess…  is just like the pre-launch invasions…  I actually like doing them.  Sure there is a shot at gear on the line, but I find the whole process of doing the quests enjoyable because it feels like I am retaking a zone.  Now I imagine the chief problem with this idea is the fact that the invasions themselves were designed to be limited content with each one providing a limited set of World Quests that cause the normal ones in that zone to de-spawn.  That might be an issue were it not for the fact that I know Blizzard has a reasonable instancing technology as exhibited by the fact that the pre-launch invasions all worked in that they zoned you into a fresh instance of the zone that was in the early phases of the quest.  The Broken Shore invasions honestly should have worked similar, in that you zone into whatever the “hot zone” happens to be and get access to the handful of invasion specific world quests… and then get zoned right back out after you have completed the scenario.

The frustration again is that this almost works perfectly, were it not for the frustrating arbitrary gauge of 18 1/2 hours between invasions and the fact that they expire after 6 hours.  I get that they were trying to spread the times around so that they would at least line up once a week for most players with their normal play window.  The end result however feels like the worst possible solution, because unless you happen to be playing 24/7 or setting alarms just to get up for invasion events…  you are going to miss out on a lot of the fun.  There are honestly a whole lot of design options that would have been better.  I know there are technical constraints at work here, but the version we got just doesn’t feel like the best that blizzard could have done.  The problem with this rant is the fact that it is too late to be relevant…  but I still feel like making it regardless.  The 7.2 patch landed back in March and it is now June when I am finally really experiencing it.  The likelihood that any tweaks are made to the way invasions work is also extremely minimal.  The likelihood that anyone from Blizzard reads my blog… is also extremely minimal.  Legion as a whole has been a very unfriendly expansion for playing alts… and the Invasion system is this weird amazing thing for helping push up your alts and gear them.  I personally would probably end up running every single one of my alts through the invasion, but in order to do that right now I have to either play at really strange hours or hope to hit the start at exactly the right time.  I realize this is not a big deal either way, but just spending time this morning pointing out that it could feel so much better.