The Rebirth

The Founding

Back in 2004 House Stalwart was born out of a bunch of friends getting together and planning a community for the launch of the newest up and coming MMO…  the World of Warcraft.  Over those years we’ve had a somewhat bumpy and often storied past, but at the core the guild remained based on a few core tenets and a shared sense of ethics.  It was a set of values that spanned from game to game, and some of my proudest moments were when one of my random guild members would do something awesome out in the world… and news of it would get back to me.  I had built a really awesome thing, and people were happy in it.

The problem was that at the time I was not really happy in the game any longer.  The yoke of leadership was chafing, and towards the tail end of Wrath of the Lich King, the guild pretty much went on autopilot.  With the release of Cataclysm we went through a lot of major changes, as the shift of focus went away from a non guild based raid, to actually raiding as a guild.  In the process we gobbled up four or five different guilds that had been feeding the Duranub Raiding Company.  As a result of this upheaval was a lot of social strife, as various groups that were not entirely used to sharing the same guild had to cohabitate.

The Fracture

As this happened I got more distant myself, because I simply was not enjoying the game anymore.  When I got into the beta of a game called Rift I grabbed on with both hands, and tried my damnedest to recreate the magic of House Stalwart over there as well.  There was a big leaving as folks flaked off to join me in Rift.  It didn’t last of course, but it was enough to pull a good number of people away form the WoW guild.  When Star Wars the Old Republic released another big chunk of players flaked away, and each time something new came out the cycle would happen again.  I had set the events in motion and it had left the guild in a state of chaos.

In many ways House Stalwart was somewhat of a failed state when I returned for my brief stint during the launch of Mists of Pandaria.  Guild chat was deathly quiet, there was a significant fracture in the guild forming that I talked about the other day, and as a whole the entire place was filled with people that did not know who I was.  The number of things I would need to do to fix what was wrong with the guild just felt staggering.  I did a few minor adjustments, but for the most part I assumed that since the guild was running itself, that this must be what the players had come to expect.  The place no longer felt like home, so after a few months of personally getting bored with WoW again… I left.

The Hope

When I came back recently something had changed, either in me or in the guild itself.  I saw a glimmer of the greatness we once had.  Additionally I saw a lot of problems that I thought could be fixed.  I was reluctant to take back the yoke of leadership, because quite simply I was not sure if I would be around for long.  I expected this stint in the game to go much like the last, with me getting tired of it all and going elsewhere.  I had daily conversations with Rylacus the steward I had placed over the guild after my return during Pandaria, and almost always they ended up with some discussion of me taking back the leadership.  To be truthful when he handed back the highest rank on Monday I was still very reluctant to do so.

When Rylacus agreed to take over, it was to keep the lights on and things moving forward.  We had an agreement that if any of the heavy lifting needed to be done, or any drama arose that it would be me that dealt with it.  Over the year of him at the helm, he did a phenomenal job of maintaining the status quo and keeping the guild moving forward.  I would honestly say that the guild itself experienced a bit of a renaissance with his hands off approach, and we are more active now than I have seen in years.  However as a guild on autopilot for over two years, there has also been a lot of discord and resentment that had set in.

The Problem

The other night a long time guild member sent me a tell in game and wanted to talk to me, as the founder about the guild policies.  He said that he wondered about the recruitment policy, and whether or not we ever looked back and reflected upon whether or not an invite was a good one.  I spouted off the well rehearsed lines I have always said, but as I was saying them… I realized that no really we did not any more.  Then he hit me with a statement that cut through to my heart like a razor.  He wanted to talk to me about the “falling guild standards”, and I guess I had realized this was happening but until he came to me and talked to me about it… I was in a bit of a state of denial.  Things were in fact far worse than I had let myself believe.

In particularly a lot of the recent strife has centered around a recent invite, the nephew of a long time member.  Generally what happens in this case is that I bring up the issue with the sponsor, and if they cannot deal with it we remove the person from the guild.  I had gotten lax to be honest, and without that guild master tag… I imagined that it is no longer my duty to police the guild.  The reason why I took up the tag in the first place all those years ago, is because no one else was going to create the type of guild I wanted to exist in.  As I sat there over the weekend, I realized that once again… no one was going to step in to fix the wrongs in the guild if I did not step up and do it myself.

The Solution

After much soul searching, I accepted the guild leadership of House Stalwart in World of Warcraft on Monday night.  I had originally intended to ease my reforms into the guild, but last night things reached a crescendo ending with the quitting of a long time member.  I managed to talk the member back from the brink and they rejoined… but as a result my first act was to lock down a few of the functions in the guild at least temporarily, and to remove the most negative of the influences from the guild.  Over the coming weeks I will be identifying every single one of our  869 current members.  I want to know who they are, where they came from, who they are connected to… and most importantly if they are a positive influence in the guild.

I had already been working hard with mixed results on trying to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots, but I feel like there is a lot more work to be done on that front.  I am trying to exist in both worlds and get the two sides talking and interacting regularly… and in some ways this is working, but in others… there is still a lot of resentment to work through.  When I kicked the questionable member from the guild last night, I had a chorus of private messages thanking me.  Many of the members simply thought that no one cared about that sort of thing anymore.  No one had been complaining about anything to myself or Rylacus until that one brave member stood up and said “this is a problem” and shook me back to reality.

The Rebirth

My ultimate hope is that we can turn the tide and bring back House Stalwart to its glory days.  The chapters in the various other games that I have founded have clung tightly to the original tenets, but the original guild strayed from the path.  My biggest hope is that in writing this, and reaching out to the members… is that they now know that I do care, and I do want things to be better.  I want players to interact and communicate regularly filling my screen with happy green spam.  I think last night I took the first steps along a long path that will usher several positive changes.  I hope that folks now realize that my door is always open, and if they have any issue… be it game related or otherwise that they can talk to me at any time.

We used to jokingly call ourselves the “Little Guild that Could”, and over the years that “Little” part changed drastically, but I feel that spirit remained in place.  It felt like as a whole we were pulling towards some shared goal.  This is the magic that I want to revitalize in the guild, the fact that we are not just a tag to wear over our heads but instead a large extended family.  This tapestry is woven out of so many different personalities and play styles… but together we have always been something more.  I am back, because I love these people and I have missed them.  I want to be the leader I used to be, the leader they deserve.  I played WoW for over 7 years without fail… and after two years of wandering around nomadic… I have simply gotten tired of all the jumping.  I feel like I have come home, but there is going to be a lot of work to return the guild to the home I want it to be for us all.

The Messy Breakup

Winter Wonderland

Over the night we got another dusting of snow, and as a result I had to once again dig my jeep out before coming to work.  Firstly… Cold is not one of those things that Belghasts do best… especially a 70 lb lighter Belghast.  This morning as I was getting ready the weatherman said something to the effect that it has been over 150 hours since we had been above freezing.  As I was clearing my vehicle it was 20* outside with a wind chill of significantly less.  I realize this is nothing like the –27* that my Canadian friends have been experiencing this week, but still…  it is in the realm of “effing cold”.  I have been wearing a fleece jacket and then a big winter coat on top of that.

All of the car clearing caused me to get up and around significantly later than I had planned, and as a result I am getting this started significantly later.  Supposedly we will experience some melt this afternoon as temperatures finally go above freezing.  Thursday is supposed to be in the 40s… which seriously feels like short and t-shirt weather as compared to this.  There is no way I could actually survive in a Winter climate.  The irony is… as much as I dislike snow in real life, I tend to love zones that have a winter theme in games.  I love Winterspring, Icecrown and Storm Peaks.  I feel like I would enjoy snow if it were not for that whole cold thing.

The Messy Breakup

The other day I talked about how I may have been wrong to avoid the looking for group tool and pugging in general.  From 71 to 80 I had a really great run of 26 dungeons without much issue at all.  It was a clean and efficient way to level.  However upon entering the Cataclysm dungeon queue system that all changed.  The first group I got was Blackrock Caverns.  Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and was more than geared enough for the content.  As a result it went quickly and smoothly and I thought that maybe just maybe my luck would hold until I was able to level into the Pandaria content.  This however was not the case, or at least not the case for very long.

My next queue was Throne of the Tides, and within moments of stepping through the doors we began a horrific wipe fest that ended with most of the party rage quitting after the tank failed miserably at the first boss encounter.  As a rogue I ended up tanking most of the adds, and was able to pop cooldowns and all that wonderful stuff to at least down both of the casters.  However the tank just seemed to lack the hitpoints and avoidance/mitigation to survive in the instance.  It was not until the third, fourth and fifth bad queue of Throne of the Tides that I started to notice a pattern.  They were all wearing the 1-80 Heirloom gear.

Public Service Announcement

2013-12-10 07_30_58-Item Comparison Tool - World of Warcraft

Simply put… the heirloom gear that caps out at level 80 is simply not viable for tanking the cataclysm instances.  The problem is that Heirloom gear is itemized for the previous expansion.  At 80 it is itemized like it is a low ilevel Wrath of the Lich King blue, which is significantly worse than the lowest ilevel Cataclysm green.  Essentially the quested gear you get early on will be better than anything but epic gear from Wrath, and even then on most of my characters I was changing put purples for greens left and right, especially for tanking where the stamina matters so much.  The above image shows the Polished Breastplate of Valor as compared to Hardened Obsidium Breastplate.

Taking away the fact that the Valor breastplate contains zero tanking stats, it has 391 less armor and 100 less stamina than a Cataclysm tanking green.  The tanks that I see rolling into the level 80 dungeons wearing full heirloom gear simply do not have enough hit points to survive the level of damage that is being dealt by the encounters.  That is even with getting out of all the things they are supposed to be getting out of.  Essentially if you are reading this blog and leveling an up and coming tank, please god do not queue as a tank until you have switched out your level 80 heirloom gear with green quest gear at a minimum.  Granted I am generally more diligent than the average player, and I did not queue at all for ANY dungeons until I had swapped my heirlooms out for quested items. 

Gear Changing

To be truthful I logged in my leatherworker and crafted a full set of gear, and logged in my smith and made two blue axes…  but that is probably going above and beyond what anyone should be expected to do.  However in each expansion, that first zone gives you a complete set of gear including weapons and trinkets within the first few quests.  Over the course of the evening you can go from relatively crappy gear to greens that are better than most of the raid content gear from the previous expansion.  You can maybe limp by as a dps, but especially as a tank, the Cataclysm content is brutal on anyone who has not shifted out their entire set of items. 

I seriously doubt that any of the offending tanks I ran into will actually read my blog, but here is hoping that maybe I catch a few people who simply did not realize that heirlooms are not itemized as the new expansion until you ding 61/71/81/86 etc.  This is the problem with the “mudflation” that has set into blizzards system, there is always a massive jump in stats between expansions, and in the case of Wrath to Cataclysm… it is simply not sustainable for dungeon running.  Hopefully in the post “Item Squish” world the change between expansions will not be nearly as traumatic to the player base.  I am hoping once I managed to get to the next tier of dungeons this problem will for the most part go away, and I can once again return to leveling through instances.  However in the meantime… I am questing my way through Hyjal for what feels like the billionth time.

A Tale of Two Raids

Ending Hibernation

I had to vary up my morning routine today, as today is the first day back after snowmageddon.  Until yesterday afternoon we had not left the house since Thursday evening.  Mostly we got out yesterday just to see how the main roads were.  If we based things on our neighborhood we would think the world was still under a solid sheet of ice.  However as we got out and about we saw that the majority of the major roads were well travelled.  That is not to say that I did not drive slightly under the speed limit on the way in, and not to say that I still did not slip and slide quite a bit.  However I made it into the office without issue.

It is funny how quiet the office is.  I expected to see more people here, however it is just me and one of the server techs.  The irony is that while we are both in the office, we have been chatting over our in office instant messenger rather than face to face.  I guess that is a sign of our lines of work, we are used to doing everything remotely.  Had they not made a big deal about having “no remote work” policy, I would have simply worked remotely on Friday, and potentially this morning as well.  However as to not give the impression that I was getting away with something untoward… I simply took a day of vacation on Friday.  Not wanting to take a second one, I made the commute in this morning.

A Tale of Two Raids

Wow-64 2013-12-08 20-00-04-09

Last night was a pretty interesting night.  Since we had not really left the house since Thursday, I lost all touch with what day of the week it was.  I had been living in a haze slowly poking away at leveling my rogue, which ended the long weekend almost 82.  So when I was messaged by my raid leader to ask if I would be attending the raid, it was honestly a bit shocking.  I had completely lost track of the fact that it was in fact Sunday, a night that we normally raid.  Earlier in the week it was uncertain if we would even be able to make the raid happen, but we managed to pull in a friend of mine to dps for us.  While a bit rusty she is improving with every single boss fight.

Stalwart has had something odd going on with raiding for some time.  Essentially the guild has been a Tale of Two Raids.  The non-guild-based raid group Duranub, had a pretty even mix of extremely high performing serious players, and not serious at all players that just wanted to raid for the sake of having fun.  This lead to more than a few dramatic moments, so as 25 man raiding dissolved the groups fractured along those lines.  During Cataclysm, we had no less than 5 ten mans that ranged from the super hardcore to the super casual.  As attendance waned and folks left the game, myself included… the two groups that managed to hold together were that of the super hardcore, and the super casual.

When Pandaria released I quickly leveled Belgrave and Belgarou, and when it came time to raid I chose to bolster the super casual raid with my dps.  The problem with that notion was the fact that the super casual raid lacked any form of reliable tanking.  That unfortunately is one of those roles where you need your most talented players.  Without a solid tank you get nowhere at all, and that is precisely what happened… they made little to no progression for a very long time.  Seeing this floundering from a distance was a bit heartbreaking, but at that point I just did not have the patience to stick around and try and help out.  I left wow once again, but this group persevered through sheer will of heart alone.

Warrior Returns

In the time I was away from the game, the Leftovers as they call themselves managed to recruit a stable tank Gamad, and the progress they have made was entirely thanks to her determination… and much drinking to manage to get through the struggles of working with the non-effective tank.  Upon coming back I thought to myself… of all the groups that could use my help it was the Leftovers.  So I have worked my little butt off to get geared enough to take a primary tanking slot.  At this point I am sitting at 522 ilevel and for the most part can handle tanking almost anything out there right now.  In the time I have been tanking with the group we have now cleared two new bosses, and are starting too work on a fourth.  While we are still working our way through Throne of Thunder, it is nice to see steady movement forward again.  At this point we are now done with the first wave of the dungeon and started work on the Tortos encounter last night.

This progress however might not have been.  The under performing tank is back and available for raiding… and due to seniority and the fact that Gamad can out dps a good number of our dps…   the Raid leader decided to put me with the under-performing tank for the night.  Now I have to say, that the tank has some medical issues and is heavily medicated at all times.  That said… it was still like trying to tank an instance with an easily distracted toddler.  He was always off doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, and when it came time to do the first tank swap on the Troll Council fight… he was off dpsing something else.  I have so much renewed appreciation for Gamad and what she has struggled with to this point.  I have to say that if I have to co-tank with the other warrior very often, I will probably stop raiding.  I knew it was bad, but I guess I had forgotten just how bad it was.

Slow But Steady

Wow-64 2013-12-08 20-02-29-79

Thankfully the raid leader also saw how untenable the situation was, and quickly swapped the warrior to dps and Gamad back to tanking.  From there we made a few attempts, each with their own adjustments and managed to kill the Troll Council.  During this time sadly, the warrior had swapped specs but not gear… and ended up fury dpsing with a sword and shield.  Basically when you are this inattentive it is time to just hang up your spurs and bow out of raiding for the good of the group.  The leader whoever has struggled to make the group about family and friends, but there comes a point where keeping certain individuals hurts the overall spirit and morale of the whole.  This is the sticky stuff that made me hate being a raid leader.  There were many nights when I slotted people I didn’t really want to slot for the sake of social reason… not wanting to make a wife raid without her husband etc.

To be truthful this level of stress over variables you cannot quite control is much of the reason why I refuse to be a raid leader anymore.  I got my fill of it over the three years I did it, and I commend the raid leader of Leftovers for his diligence to this point.  That said the warriors return was a comedy of errors, and essentially if he is unable to pay enough attention to keep from charging headlong into the boss while we are clearing trash, it is probably time for him to stop raiding.  That is not to say that I don’t think we should start doing something else that he CAN attend.  I am thinking maybe a world boss night would fight the bill of letting the people who just do not have the ability to pay attention during raids, to feel like they are making progress along with family and friends.  I don’t think we will ever be a progression based raid group, but without two stable tanks we might as well just do something else with our evenings.

A Positive Note

I feel like I have dwelled a lot on the bad during this post, but I want to end it on a positive note.  Since my time in the raid we have completed two brand new encounters, and while we failed miserably at the fourth, we will do some adjusting next Friday and hopefully beat it in the face.  Each of the wins has felt like it was sustainable.  On the try we downed the council, no one actually died other than the hapless warrior.  We completed it a man down, and everything felt very maintainable.  This is a testament to just how good the high performing players in Leftovers are.  I have no doubt that we will continue to progress our way through Throne of Thunder and hopefully complete the instance, gearing each of us to a state where we are ready to take on Seige of Orgrimmar before the expansion is released.  I am personally pretty happy where we are, and how successful we have been.

Matter of Perspective

Unexpected Route

Yesterday I set out with the mission of running the rest of my characters through LFR, but after some frustrations with a couple of bad tanks… I decided to retreat into the comfort of leveling.  The problem is…  leveling through Wrath content feels extremely slow.  The way they lay quests out just is not conducive to burning through them.  I began the day at 71 and after a  few hours I had finally dinged 72, so I figured I would take a break and run a dungeon.  Apparently somewhere along the way I had forgotten just how good Wrath era dungeon experience was.  I quickly shifted from questing my way across north rend to chain running dungeons.

Wow-64 2013-12-07 19-35-42-79 

I am generally the most anti-pug person you could imagine, but for whatever reason as I said the other day… if I am dpsing I have the patience of a saint generally.  What I found surprising however was just how painless the whole event was.  We had one tank rage quit because we did not clear the optimal number of mobs, and someone aggro’d one pack too many.  After calling us all noobs and leaving we got another tank within seconds and completely the dungeon without issues.  We had another tank that did not know which way he was going in Gundrak and after going swimming with the angry fishes for an extended period of time several of the people afk’d out of the dungeon, and I joined them.  Other than those two instances… I had 26 instances of success.

At times the group was chatty, other times they were utterly silent.  In all cases however we succeeded without much effort.  It feels like they have nerfed the dungeons to the point at which anyone can run them without much thought.  As a rogue I pretty much spammed Fan of Knives as we pulled huge packs of mobs.  I found it surprising how quickly I hit 80.  Thanks to the handy dandy statistics inside of World of Warcraft I know I ran exactly 26 dungeons to get from 72 to 80, which was the better part of a day.  However this is definitely the express elevator through wrath content, and I feel like I will do this with pretty much all of my alts that have yet to clear that hurdle.  In fact I am considering today once I have gotten a bit of gear, to do the same with the 80-85 climb.

Matter of Perspective

Maybe my fear and loathing of pugs is unfounded?  Maybe it really is a simple and efficient way to level?  Maybe chain running LFR has just given me a perspective on what I should expect from others?   In any case it was not nearly the traumatic experience I had expected.  I figured I could stomach anything for a single group, however I found the experience rather refreshing.  It may simply be that at this point everyone knows the wrath instances like the back of their hand, and can pretty much run them on autopilot.  In any case I might have to revise my opinion of pick-up groups.  That’s one of my good traits however is that none of my opinions are so intractable that they cannot be changed.  After all I had sworn off World of Warcraft for years, and now find myself enjoying the hell out of it again.  Just like everything in life, I feel that it is all a matter of perspective.

Transmutation

Trolls of Thunder

Wow-64 2013-12-06 12-43-01-88

Yesterday went pretty much as I had intended it.  I hung out around the house and ran first my Paladin and then my Shaman through a bunch of LFR.  Things went a bit slower than intended since I kept getting in on the end of a run and having to queue again to catch the first boss or two.  I managed to get both characters up into the 480ish range.  Still no real luck with the weapon drops, which seem to be the issue with catching characters up enough to be able to do Siege of Orgrimmar.  As a result my warrior, paladin and shaman are all using 450 level weapons still, and I have not really had much luck with getting spirits of harmony on the smith to be able to bump those up to 463.

Of the options I have at my disposal for weapons, none of them really seem palatable.  I could queue for heroic dungeons and have a random chance of getting the dungeon that drops a weapon… and a random chance on top of that of getting the weapon to drop.  This would only take me to 463, so not really great in the grand scheme of things.  I could farm timeless isle coins, but it takes 10,000-20,000 to be able to purchase a weapon…  and in those cases the weapon is only 476 which really doesn’t help that much.  So the best option still seems to be to queue for Throne of Thunder each week and hope, all the while trying to accumulate Spirits of Harmony for the smith.

Transmutation

Wow-64 2013-12-07 09-40-25-66

With all of my crafters going, I have really felt the lack of my alchemist.  There are some pretty sweet items you can make as a blacksmith that are 502 ilvl but they require lots and lots of Living Steel.  Once again the only way to get living steel is to get it transmuted by an alchemist.  As a result I have been directing my extra effort towards leveling Gloam my rogue high enough to be able to raise his way through the Pandaria alchemy.  Currently he is capped out at 450 and cannot progress again until I level 75.  As a result I have been working on quests out in Borean Tundra and I almost have him up to 72.  Thinking about just making a serious push to try and get him to 90.

Rogues are way squishier than I remember, and while they have recuperate it doesn’t seem to offer the level of survival I am used to with my other characters.  As a result leveling the rogue has been less than enjoyable.  I am not really a stealthy person, and I have always played my rogues more like a swashbuckler than an assassin.  However the only time combat goes really smoothly is if I make sure I stealth up and get my opening attack.  Hopefully with time I will get back into the swing of playing one, as in the past… burning crusade especially my rogue was my favorite alt.

The thing I find most humorous is that Paladins now kinda play like rogues.  I have been doing a lot of Retribution paladin, and the mechanics are almost exactly like a rogue.  Thing is in many ways it works better.  Instead of everything being based on 5 combo points, all of the attacks seem to be based on 3 even though your bar can fill to 5.  I keep thinking that rogues as a whole would benefit if most of the combo point dumpers capped at 3 as well.  I think this is why I enjoyed my warrior in rift so much as opposed to my rogue.  The three mechanic just seemed to work better, it made the game play feel more “in the moment”.

Too Many Choices

Right now I feel absolutely deluged with choices anytime I play the game.  At this point i have yet to run Siege of Orgrimmar LFR on Belgrave or Belgarou my two best geared characters.  I am 4 coins away from getting all of my sigils of power and wisdom, so I would not mind finishing that off so I can continue down the legendary cloak line.   I have not even begun to work on Belghast, so in theory I could get his gear in order and start doing heart of fear or something like that to get him high enough to queue for Throne of Thunder.  Additionally I really do want to get my rogue up so I can have a transmute spec person again.  I spent a good amount of last night prior to our 10 man catching his herbalism up so he can now at least harvest whatever I come across in northrend.

In the past when I have quit the game I feel like it has been because I lost sight of the things I wanted to complete.  I feel like I almost need to create a World of Warcraft Bucket List.  There are so many little things that I forget about that I do want to complete.  There are so many pets and mounts that I could be spending my time farming.  The entirety of all of this is really almost overwhelming.  I have never completely loremaster for example, and that’s a thing I have always wanted to do.  I doubt I will ever work on the Insane title like Rylacus, but I am sure there are hundred of other little bullet points that I would actually enjoy.  I feel as though if I had a list of these all, it would be much harder for me to lose sight of the progress I am making towards the total.

As a result I think I am going to add a new section to my site, similar to my beta list for my WoW Bucket list.  As I think of more items I will add them to the list and then as I complete them…  I will check them off the list.  Probably will keep it as a google spreadsheet for ease of use.  I’ve seen a few other players with these and I thought they were pretty cool.  All I know for certain is that I am having a blast with all the players that seem to be back from their own hiatus.  It is wierd to see my battletag/realid lighting up with players I have not seen in years.  At the end of the day, this game really is about the people you play it with.

Hot Coffee and LFR

Snowed In

Good morning everyone, hopefully you are staying warm out there.  Here in the central part of the country we had a mass of ice and snow dropped on us.  Generally my point of reference is when two school districts on opposite corners of town call schools the next day, I decide I am going to stay home.  Since this happened I put in a day of vacation for today and slept in.  Apparently my absence was noticed, since I have already received tweets saying that a snowstorm was no excuse for not posting.

I think we probably got an inch or two of ice last night and then over night that got covered up by three to four inches of snow.  Which to the northerners probably doesn’t sound like much, but here in Oklahoma we get glaze ice that is nearly impossible to drive on.  Additionally we really do not have the infrastructure to remove large volumes of ice and snow…  since we only go through this at most once a year.  Over the last three years we have had really mild winters that never really produced much in the way of an ice storm.  While this is nothing like the 2007 or 2011 storms, it is far more significant than anything we have seen in years.

Hot Coffee and LFR

Wow-64 2013-12-01 11-26-26-29

As a result I am snuggled up on the sofa with my fuzzy pants and my fuzzy blanket and a thermal shirt blogging away on my laptop.  I just finished off hot oatmeal and some hot coffee, and the only thing of any substance I really have planned today is to play some World of Warcraft.  I have five 90s in various states of gear and the easiest way to get upgrades for them is through the LFR system.  As much as I have railed against pugging in the past, something odd happens if I pug as DPS.  I simply stop caring much about the success or failure of the group.  As a DPS I can compartmentalize things and focus only on what I am doing and stop caring that the group is burning down around my shoulders.

As a Tank or a Healer… I simply cannot do this.  I have to care about the group and how stupid they might be acting.  My job relies on them doing their jobs.  When playing one of those group roles I simply cannot stomach pugging or lfr, it ends up stressing me out way too much.  However apparently as a DPS I have the patience of a saint.  I keep plugging forward towards the goal and right click reporting anyone who is too abusive.  It all seems simple and pure, and in an odd sense relaxing.  It’s like I have reached into my brain and flipping me into DPS empties me of “fucks to give”.  That is not to say that I don’t care about me keeping up my end of the bargain, but I simply don’t care as much about others not doing so.

So my intent today is to run as many LFR instances as I can this week to try and get my tribe of alts gear.  The hardest thing seems to be weapons, and as a nice side benefit from these runs my blacksmith seems to be getting quite a few motes which will help him upgrade the weapons of those who have not gotten their turn at the LFR treadmill.  That is still one of my biggest frustrations that I hope they will address in WoD.  Crafting resources like Spirits of Harmory should be bind on account.  I like the feeling of all of my characters working towards a bigger goal, its like I have my own little imaginary guild.  Anything that adds to this feeling is a positive for me, since you have earned the item on one character already.

Trove Patch

I am sure at some point today I will be hopping into trove.  Yesterday they seem to have had another patch.  I am really impressed at the speed at which they do updates.  This one seems to be mostly a patch full of tweaks but one of the more interesting points is that the block destroyer is no longer an item and no longer works in adventure mode.  This could have some odd ramifications since I know I used it in adventure mode quite a lot.  Another needed note is that they reduced the quantity of treasure chest spawns in the desert and frost biomes.  Normally nerfs like this meet a groan, but this one was really needed.  There were times I could see 6 treasure chests on screen at a single time. 

I wasted so much time chasing these down because seriously…  you cannot bypass a treasure chest.  I figure at some point over the next few days I will be making a new video as I am sure the server has reset again and I will have to collect more weapons and gear.  If there is anything you would like to see me cover let me know.  I am not above having a purpose for my videos even though they are mostly just me roaming aimlessly around the wasteland.  I hope you all are safe and happy and warm, and that if you did get the snow and ice I did, you also had the presence of mind to take a vacation day.

Trove Crafting

First Winter

One of the things about weight loss that no one really told me is the fact that I would go from being very hot natured, to freezing all of the time.  This is the first winter after losing roughly seventy pounds so far, and I have to say it is a pretty miserable thing.  I am absolutely living in this Carhart black zip up hoodie.  I pretty much wear it over everything, because it keeps me at least somewhat warm.   I keep hoping that eventually my internal body temperature will regulate and I will get used to having less insulation.  It is essentially the same feeling as you have when you have just gotten a long overdue hair cut… but instead of my head being cold it is my entire body.

I am not complaining, the weight loss has had many other tangible benefits.  However as “snowmageddon” barrels down on my area I find myself shivering quite a bit.  We are supposed to get all manner of icy nastiness dumped on us around noon.  I am hoping that either it gets delayed long enough for me to get home tonight, or that it is not nearly as severe as they are expecting.  I am not really looking forward my normally fifteen minute commute turning into an hour and a half as everyone suddenly forgets how to drive.  At least my coffee helps warm me up.

Trove Crafting

 

Released another Trove video yesterday, this time covering the brand new crafting system patch.  I have to say I am impressed with the game so far.  The biggest thing for me was the addition of the ability to craft health potions.  This has enabled me to make some really bad decisions and survive.  I think over the course of the evening last night I much have gone through 30-40.  Each time I saw a bottle plant I made a beeline for it just so I could make some more.  Right now everything tends to drop monster parts, which I am guessing is a generic placeholder material that will eventually be updated to be various specific things.  Currently a Health Potion is 1 bottle from a bottle plant and 1 monster part, which makes them extremely easy to craft.

Similarly they have made bombs extremely costly to craft, and as a result the world is not nearly as marred with bomb holes.  I don’t even make them anymore, because really I don’t find them that useful even in combat with monsters.  In the video I could not figure out for the life of me why I was unable to make bombs… but then upon re-watching it I face-palmed over the fact that I simply could not count.  I want to say I was missing fire flower parts, or something like that.  The crafting system is actually really efficient so far, and I like it overall quite a bit more than I did the Minecraft one..  especially when it comes to bulk crafting.

Acheesements

2013-12-05 06_18_20-Achievements - Community - World of Warcraft

Since today is ending up a bit of a mixed bag update post, I figured I would also talk a bit about what I am doing over in World of Warcraft.  A group of friends and I have been knocking out the various achievements needed for Glory of the Pandaria Hero.  I am within a stones throw now of completing it, but at the same time we are catching up a player that has next to none of them.  What is going to be most time consuming I fear is finishing off Polyformic Acid Science.  Right now I think I have 3 of the 6 kills.  However I just found out that you can go into normal mode, solo the instance, get the vial and then hold onto it to give you double the amount of time to get through all the mobs for the achievement.

Past that I am working on farming Motes of Harmony on my Paladin to make weapon upgrades for my various characters.  That is the glaring flaw I have seen so far with the timeless isle.  You get really nice gear to catch you up, but it lacks anything even remotely similar for weapons.  The weapons you can buy off the timeless isle vendors are only ilvl 476, which are the same as the epic weapons that drop from the early heroic instances.  I feel like what we are missing are the Icecrown 5 mans.  They were a really good way during Wrath of the Lich King to help catch alts up, and the weapons there were viable enough to raid with, at least until you can get something better.  As a result I have several 90s with full timeless gear, but walking around with a 450 blue weapon simply because there is no really effective way to improve that.

I am not looking forward to working through the halfhill farm again, but I am thinking that might be something I just need to bite the bullet and do on my characters that seem to be mote starved.  At least that way you get roughly one spirit of harmony a day guaranteed.  I really wish blizzard would apply a patch and make Spirits bind on account.  On Belgrave for example, I have 5 stacks of them in the bank… because there really is very little you can use them on as an inscriptionist.  However every other crafter is starving for them, and ends up spending them on something the moment they get more.  I hope in general as we go forward into Warlords of Draenor that more things become bind on account.  I feel like the ability to trade items freely between characters can only be a net positive.  The more alts someone rolls, the more time they spend playing the game…  which in generally makes them less likely to unsubscribe and go elsewhere.

Quintessential Quintet

Farewell to Arts

 

I did another really quick video yesterday since we are supposed to have an impending server reset.  In the holiday weekend since the last restart folks have filled the server with all sorts of nifty stuff.  So I thought I would do a really quick video showcasing some of the cooler things.  The highlight for me is the alligator.  I am wondering who built it, because seriously it was perfect.  The server has essentially exploded with pixel art everywhere, some of it seeming to be freehand which is pretty amazing.  While this is all interesting I am hoping soon we get a bit more substance.

It was rumored that we would be seeing a new patch today or tomorrow and in it I am really hoping they introduce two things.  Firstly I want to see the crafting system and all the nifty things it can produce.  This is likely going to be a massive thing because this also means they will likely change they way the blocks work so that we actually harvest them instead of just destroying them.  Currently the game works a lot like Minecraft creative mode, where you have pretty much unlimited resources to place at your disposal.  While this is cool for free range building, the game however right now is lacking a “game”.  Wandering around and exploring, engaging in combat is fun but I feel like we need something to give us a sense of purpose.

The second thing I want badly is the cornerstone concept, aka your plot of lands that persists to each server you play on, and that no one else can disrupt.  Part of why I have not built much of anything yet is the fact that we still have way too many mad bombers on the server all to willing to destroy your hard work.  In fact I railed on Shawn Shuster of Massively a bit in the video as in his walkthrough that was posted yesterday… he was all too happy to blow up other peoples creations. 

There have already been some pretty epic works of art destroyed by some idiot who would not suppress their inner poo flinging monkey long enough to appreciate what had been created.  While I realize this is a side effect of having a game with no rules yet, it still depresses me to see the world as Swiss cheese.  I am sure once the new patch has gone life I will do another quick video showing off what it added.  So stay tuned to my channel and I will post something up there as soon as it is available.

Quintessential Quintet

WoW-64 2013-12-03 06-24-42-38

Also last night I managed to push my paladin Exeter to 90 and with it came an achievement that I was not expecting.  Apparently Quintessential Quintet is a thing?  I cut an odd path on this one, by the time I left Jade Forest I was already 87 thanks to all the mining nodes.  From there I made a beeline for Kun Lai, and critpathed my way through the zone until I reached the quest chain that lead to Townlong.  Similarly in Townlong I quested my way through the Shadopan chain until I reached the jumping point for Dread Wastes.  All of which was to set myself up perfectly to be able to start working on Klaxxi quests as quickly as possible.

Why you might ask?  This is my blacksmith, and all the nifty things you can create seem to be on the Klaxxi vendor.  Namely I wanted to be able to start creating masterwork weapons for all my other characters as I get them to 90.  That seems to be the big weakness as it comes to the Timeless Isle content.  You can gear your alts up with 496 extremely rapidly, but you have a few glaring holes…  namely your weapons.  Also I seem to have a much harder time getting Curios for trinkets, and the neck/ring slots to drop on the Timeless Isle.  So as a result I have ended up spending a fair amount of time trying to remediate their gear just so I can be able to queue for something.

Timeless Isle is nifty, but I really miss the equivalent of the Icecrown 5 mans.  I wish there were heroics that I could run that actually provided something viable for filling out a set of gear.  I feel as though they should really have put in a new 5 man that dropped 496 weapons to go with all the gear they are handing out like candy.  Even with epics…  a crappy weapon is still a crappy weapon.  Right now my paladin for example is using the treasures of pandaria BOA one handed sword that you find on the ground.  Which is better than anything he has gotten yet, but at least being able to create the masterwork hammer will be something slightly better.  I think those are 463 ilvl which is essentially what the heroic gear is.

What Next?

WoW-64 2013-12-03 06-39-31-95

I have to say getting Exeter to 90 was a pretty cool thing.  He technically was the very first character I created, and my intended main.  For years my internet handle was “Exeter” and quite honestly “Belghast” was my main over in DAoC, and it was not until late in Vanilla that I started to play that character as a main.  All the while through vanilla my main was Lodin the hunter, and it was an almost accidental occurrence.  I had a death in the family that pulled me away from Warcraft a few weeks after the release of the game.  As a result I got rapidly outpaced by the rest of the guild, and back then soloing a Paladin was a truly painful experience.

Hunters were the gods of soloing, so I started leveling Lodin just to be able to keep up with my friends.  Within a very short amount of time I had caught up, and when we hit 60… I got drafted into the raid group of a guild member as they wanted to replace a troublesome hunter.  I had no intent to actually play a hunter as my main, and in truth I am not terribly suited for the class… but I did for almost all of Vanilla because it was my “Raid main”.  Once you start playing a character in a raid group you are pretty much committed to always play that character until they no longer need it.  The positive effect however is that I met so many life long friends through raiding, and that the Late Night Raiders hunters were all such amazing people.

As soon as Burning Crusade was released, I saw this as my opportunity to leapfrog Lodin in gear and start playing Belghast as my main.  That is the awesome thing about expansions, the gear reset lets you change your focus.  From that point until the tail end of Wrath of the Lich King, I was a warrior main tank.  It was not until I needed a break from the hot seat that I switched focus to the Deathknight and fell in love with it.  All of this time I felt horrible for leaving Lodin abandoned in the dustbin.  It was not until Cataclysm that I actually managed to level him out of the outlands.  During one of my last sessions playing I pushed him up to Pandaria levels, so I feel as though it is probably his time to shine again.  I pretty much permanently run around in Giantstalker transmog in honor of the fun times I had with him raiding during those early days of Vanilla WoW.

A Guild Divided

Nostalgia Won

Wow-64 2013-12-02 06-07-51-21

If I remember correctly the last time I wrote a real post before my Nano recess, I was talking about the upwelling of nostalgia brought on by playing Hearthstone.  I fought valiantly to resist but before long  I was staring at the account section of the battle.net page and renewing my subscription.  I had put this off because really I assumed this decision would end in tears.  The odd thing is so far it has not.  I have been enjoying the hell out of playing, and have even resumed raiding a bit.  I don’t want to jinx it by saying I am back, but so far it feels like at least a possibility.

One of the awesome things about coming back at the tail end of the expansion is that Blizzard tends to give players many different ways to catch up gear wise.  I have spent a ton of time out on the Timeless Isle and have been collecting sets of level 90 heirloom gear for each of my alts I intend to level.  Since coming back I have caught my Deathknight Main Belgrave and Druid Belgarou up a bit in gear, leveled my Shaman Tallow and Warrior Belghast to 90, and am within a stones throw of 90 on my paladin Exeter.  There is part of me that wants to push as many toons to 90 as I can before the release of Warlords of Draenor.

I have to say despite all of the negativity flowing around it, I am really looking forward to the expansion.  They said during Blizzcon that the majority of the content would work more like Timeless Isle, and that was pretty much music to my ears.  I love the way the content on the isle works, and I can spend hours both there and on the Isle of Giants tearing about the mobs with Belgrave.  I think my happy medium is a mix of quests to give me purpose, and then found objectives along the way to force me to stop and smell the roses.  If they can strike a balance, I think the content will be just about perfect for me.  Not to mention that Garrisons sound amazingly fun, like a mix between player housing and the crew skill system in SWTOR.

A Guild Divided

WoWScrnShot_111706_223520

At the beginning of Cataclysm I got a serious case of wanderlust.  I would like to think it was because Rift was so amazing, but in reality I think I just needed a break from WoW.  At that point I had played it for almost eight years straight without significant pause.  But the sad thing is, that while I played it for seven years, I have yet to play a single game since for more than seven months.  When I wandered off so did a lot of other guild members who were feeling a similar drag on their time.  The untold story however is the fact that the vast majority of the guild stayed in World of Warcraft and in spite of my recruitment to other ventures… seemingly thrived.  In fact I would say that right now Stalwart WoW was experiencing a bit of a renaissance with folks coming back that have long been dormant.

You can say this is the “Blizzcon Bump” but it seems a bit different for some reason.  On my server Argent Dawn, I am seeing people showing up on my friends list that had disappeared years before I left the game.  Even seeing familiar names popping into channels that out of nostalgia I am still joining.  As much as I wanted to deny the fact, World of Warcraft is still thriving at least in pockets of players that have kept the embers of the community burning brightly.  In my absence Rylacus has done a phenomenal job of “not messing with things” as he puts it.  He has always been one of my closest and most loyal friends, and as I have been gone he has simply tried to continue on with what he thought I would do.  It seems to have worked, because on week nights we tend to have 20-30 or more people online and active in doing something.

The only problem is that this maintaining the status quo has only caused to further some divides that started back in Cataclysm.  When I said “A Guild Divided” in the section heading, I was not referring to the nomad gamers and the wow loyalists… but instead a rift that was always there but has deepened in my time away.  Essentially our guild right now is a tale of two raids, the haves and the have-nots essentially.  One raid has thrived clearing content and racking up the loot, while the other has floundered struggling to fill.  There has been no intended malice, but the lesser performing raid has lost a lot of its brighter members to the better performing raid as folks sought out the path of easier loot.  As a result there is more than a bit of bitterness and bad blood that has developed towards the alpha team.

Cleansing the Way

WoWScrnShot_010510_214627

In the past I had served as a bridge between the two worlds, a bit of a buffer to lower the frustrations and aggressions.  Rylacus has tried hard to fill these shoes but he simply does not have the volume of playtime that I do.  Now that I am back at least for a bit I am trying my best to bridge this rift and hopefully mend the way between.  As a result I have started tanking for the lesser progressed raid, and it seems like I am the difference between failure and success.  The first week we downed new content, and it seemed so easy that I had no idea it wasn’t already on farm.  The other tank is amazing to work with, and I am adjusting rapidly to this whole new concept for me of “no main tank”. 

Additionally I am trying to attend the events sponsored by the alpha team to build the social equity there.  The “big kids” have been gracious enough to host an open flex raid night on Mondays and this is getting betters of both teams in the same space.  It is a bit awkward at times, but so far I think it has been an overall positive experience.  The flex gear will help bolster both raids.  The holidays have taken a big chunk out of our schedules, but I am hoping this week we can return to normality.  In a sort of serendipity… several of my blogger and twitter friends have characters on Argent Dawn or are rerolling there.   Going to try and get as many of them as I can into the open raid nights.

When I had come back for Pandaria the guild felt wrong to me.  No one talked, no one worked together… and I really did not know how to fix it.  Now coming back things are just different.  Guild chat is full of lively conversation.  Folks seem happy, and willing to help one another.  Stalwart had survived all these years on a shared spirit, a feeling that we were all working together towards a greater good.  During Cataclysm it feels that this spirit lost its way as we absorbed so many of the smaller satellite guilds that made up our non-guild-based raiding alliance.  It feels though that in the midst of all of this a strong community has evolved.  Here is hoping that I can be a catalyst towards solidifying this community into something truly great.  If nothing else, I have been remembered and I still very much feel loved by my WoW family.

Nostalgia Won

Crackception

WoW-64 2013-10-29 16-51-01-30

That’s right… you are seeing the above image correctly.  That is two in game npcs in World of Warcraft playing Hearthstone.  The game that has caused such an upwelling of nostalgia… is being played in the game I am nostalgic about.  I feel as though they are missing an amazing opportunity here however.  If you could ACTUALLY play hearthstone inside of World of Warcraft, the same way you can play Legends of Norrath inside of Everquest 2… it would quickly become the ultimate piddling around waiting on someone experience.  I can remember how amazingly popular the bejeweled and peggle became as pre-raid activities and those were just addons.

It would be amazing if they wove hearthstone into every aspect of the game.  Peggle loot was a thing that existed, and while it took forever it was an extremely fun way to settle loot disputes.  Would be equally cool if you could do something like that with hearthstone.  However that would also be a sure fire way to derail the gameplay, but still an enjoyable one.  I guess the hearthstone game board feels all the more enjoyable… when you see it in a three dimensional table top version in the above screenshot.

Nostalgia Won

WoW-64 2013-10-30 06-15-00-46

The fact that you are now seeing fresh World of Warcraft shots on my blog means that I lost the battle with nostalgia.  I caved last night and renewed my account for a month so I could get in and satiate the urge to play that has been brought on by hearthstone.  I go into this knowing full well that this decision almost always ends up in tears of frustration, but I felt like it was something I needed to “get out of my system” nonetheless.  I have to say… once I got past the extreme awkwardness of seeing people I had not seen in years, that the overall gameplay was rather enjoyable.

I spent some time piddling around Timeless Isle and managed to find a chest with some purple shoulders in it.  Of course my friends immediately told me those were “not good”, but hell when I left the game I was still in blues.  I did not manage to stick around for much raiding at all in Panda-land so anything I could get was a massive upgrade for me.  I liked the concept of the timeless isle overall, the fact that you could get decent purple gear just by killing random stuff out in the world.  Additionally apparently there are lots and lots of chest out there that have the random chance of dropping something that can turn into a piece of gear like I found.

Similarly I had quite a bit of fun leveling Belghast.  For whatever reason post Wrath, Belghast has not really seen any action.  Right before the release of Panda-land I managed to push him up to 85 only to stable him again.  For whatever reason it feels somehow wrong to have Belghast NOT be at the level cap for an expansion.  Even though I pretty much transitioned to playing my Deathknight in Wrath, I would like to see him at least hit the cap here.  The game is always enjoyable when I still have quests to do, but once that slows down I am sure I will get bored with it yet again and wander off in another direction.  I know for certain that I am not back fully, because even if I end up landing for awhile… I will be gone once again when Elder Scrolls Online comes out.  Right now every game that is not ESO is just a placeholder.