Invasion Frustrations

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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.

Fel Knight

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Things happened this weekend and apparently I am playing World of Warcraft again.  Even though this has nothing to do with her directly… I am going to blame Grace for planting the seed in my head that the game is much better once you unlock flight.  Next I am going to blame MMO Champion for having a tool at the top of their home page that showed me that I was literally only a reputation grind away from flying in Broken Isles.  The power of the thing things combined seemingly turned my “someday” into “do this thing now”.  There was a lot of bonus extra credit for folks like Erry and Mort telling me that they missed me, and that I should really show up on raid nights again.  As a result I spent my weekend mostly playing World of Warcraft with brief flurries of Destiny and Star Wars the Old Republic.  Maybe I just needed some comfort gaming, or maybe things really were the sequence of the events above.  Whatever the case I largely enjoyed myself…  but not in that “ahhhh… I’m Home” sort of way and more “this is perfectly okay”.  I think I would enjoy myself quite a bit more on Alts since really I am too well geared to get much use out of the Broken Isles content.

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Probably the highlight of the weekend was raiding with my guild again on Friday.  Traditionally Wednesday night is the super serious raiding time, and Friday is the blow off “lets do farm content” night.  In truth I don’t so much care about the blow off aspect, and more about the attitude of the two different outings.  Raiding stopped being fun for me when everyone got really serious Wednesday nights and stopped having fun.  Maybe I just hit a bad patch there, but when the tension in palpable and everyone is super concerned about squeaking that last bit of dps out of their spec…  that isn’t really enjoyable for me.  What is however is running around like a bunch of nubs and face-rolling content for the fun of it.  That is my jam and I have to admit I had an awful lot of fun Friday.  I had reached this point where once again I felt like raiding probably “wasn’t for me” but if I can repeat the sort of environment again I could be down with doing this on a weekly basis.  I managed to stay alive the entire night…  until we got to Gul’dan.  My eyes glazed over five minutes into a fifteen minute explanation of the fight and I am sure I died to something stupid and easily avoidable.  Regardless I managed to exit the night with a couple of tier pieces, so life was pretty damned peachy.

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The other big thing that I did this weekend was play catch up on a ton of content that I had not touched in ages.  Withered training was one of those things that I just never really cared about… but I now have a quest to do X number of world quests in Suramar and as a result I am looking for quests to do that are not super annoying.  The above haul involved unlocking a bunch of shit that I had never unlocked before, and in theory I will really be able to steamroll the place next time.  My biggest frustration with withered training has nothing to do with the training itself… and more to do with the fact that it is still annoying to get Ancient Mana.  Sure it is easy enough if you are out running around in Suramar to get it as a drip feed while you do other things… but to purposefully try and seek it out is really freaking annoying.  I mean I know there is the Vineyards trick, but every time I go there the lootables seem to be farmed down pretty heavily.  The real win of the weekend through is that I am roughly 1600 reputation away from being able to fly.  The question is if I will actually stick around after achieving this goal.

Level Scaling Tech

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I am in this place with SWTOR Knights of the Fallen Empire where I am honestly not sure what more I can say without my blog turning into a massive spoiler fest.  There are a lot of events going on and many of them have surprised me.  This is a little shocking given that I consume a lot of gaming media and that KotFE has been technically out since October 2015.  I am not sure if I purposefully ignored SWTOR articles… or if I just didn’t come across that many.  Whatever the case essentially everything from Shadows of Revan onward has been a completely new story experience for me without me knowing any of the elements ahead of time.  So while I recognized characters like Theron Shan or Lana Beniko…  I knew nothing about them going into this recent binge of playing the game.  We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but returning to an MMO and seeing years worth of content laid out in front of you is a pretty great thing.  Especially in a situation like SWTOR where they have a reasonable level scaling system.

Yesterday Syp posted something over on his personal blog Bio Break talking about level scaling systems.  His specific discussion centered around whether or not level scaling systems were good for games, which was brought on by his recent journeys in LOTRO.  Over time my own feelings about the systems have changed.  You can scan through the backlog of this blog and find me talking about Mentoring systems, where games allow high level player A to drop down to the level of player B and run content with them.  This seemed to me like the most elegant solution to the problem of being able to run content with your friends.  That was until I encountered Guild Wars 2, and the fact that no matter where you go your character is scaled down to the level of the world.  The concept of evergreen content is a big one for me… because I like when a game expands over time rather than contracts.  While Guild Wars 2 is not the best example of this… because of the fact that there is plenty of content that you will never be able to play again in that game…  it did make me appreciate level scaling as a replacement for mentoring.

The only problem there is that when the world is constantly the same level as you, it robs you of one of the quintessential MMO experiences of leveling up and becoming more powerful.  The world always feels the same to you, because you are functionally always the same relative ability levels to it as you level.  In situations like that the levels themselves feel like a completely extraneous concept.  Why even have a number that goes up if the world is always going to be functionally the same difficulty.  When we started playing Final Fantasy XIV they had an extremely elegant solution for this in the form of their dungeon finder.  Each dungeon had a functional level range from the moment you first were able to zone in… to the moment that it considered was the upper bound of levels.  So if the average mob level in an area was 35, then functionally the maximum level the game would allow you to be was 40, scaling everyone over that level down to that point.  The only negative here is that this ONLY applies to dungeons, and in truth it would have been interesting to see this same sort of system just work out in the world as a whole.

That I guess is functionally what is going on in Star Wars the Old Republic, and I am loving it.  Each piece of content be it planet, flashpoint, or something else… has a functional level range attached to it.  Once again it is functionally along the lines of being five or so levels over whatever the maximum level of encounter for that area.  Then the game rewards you as though you were fighting something your own level in terms of both experience and loot drops.  This means that you can go anywhere and do anything without feeling like you are getting nothing from it.  At launch this was absolutely a problem with SWTOR and it was extremely easy to out level an area, and reach a point where the experience gain was no longer worth the time you spent on a planet.  This was especially true as I remember on Tatooine which in itself was a huge planet with lots of side content.  By the time I “did everything” I ended up several levels ahead of the curve and functionally kept getting more and more over-leveled as I went through the rest of the planets.

Now there is a certain measure of freedom in being able to just go and do the content without having to worry about level… and in many cases gear.  While leveling my Imperial Agent, there were a few points where I went 10 levels without upgrading any of my gear… and really did not notice a significant amount of power drop off.  Then again I did exit the class storyline at level 58… so there was some significant over-leveling going on there that might have been easing the transition.  The thing with this system is however that while you are gaining power and you FEEL powerful… there is never a point where you are just waltzing through  field of enemies gently tapping them and watching them explode.  When you run someone through a low level dungeon in World of Warcraft for example on your level capped main… you can functionally breathe on mobs and they impale themselves in a shower of loot.  SWTOR feels like a happy medium, of letting your power level increase without completely trivializing the game.  Sure most of the time I am not actually afraid of death, but I still feel heroic doing content…  because I am having to use my abilities to take things down rather than a single auto swing.  As a result I have somewhat shifted my focus from user driven mentoring systems…  to seeing more games adopt this sort of level scaling.  The best part about Legion honestly was the way that content has scaled to the player while leveling through it, and if only Blizzard had applied this tech to the world as a whole… it would be a much more enjoyable experience.  I like knowing that I can revisit those areas that I enjoyed so much in the past, and still having an interesting time.

 

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

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Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

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I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

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This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

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I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

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I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Accidentally Epic’d

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I figured this screenshot was appropriate this morning because this if anything else is how I feel.  Ragweed is my direst of dire enemies.  It has always been a problem for me and continues to be this day.  I feel like I am a bit of a walking zombie and I didn’t really know completely why until I watched the forecast this morning.  Sure enough ragweed pollen is spiking like mad right now, which explains the constant congestion, watery eyes… and general inability to breathe.  On a day like today all I really want to do is to either go back to bed and hide from the world, or snuggle up in a cocoon on the sofa playing video games.  The problem with this plan however is that our human resources department is being super bizarre with sick leave.  I have almost 400 hours of sick time built up over the years…  yet they tend to freak out any time someone actually uses some.  What is the point of giving us sick leave…  especially in the hundreds of hours territory while being stingy with actually getting to use it.  So instead of chilling out on a day like today when I am not really a fully functional human being… I am going to shamble in my undead state to the office and mash keys with confused fingers.

One the WoW front however, as of last night I am missing one ring and a belt from being completely purple once more.  The strange thing about this process has been that I didn’t really do anything super intentional to get there.  Through unlocking my class hall, completely its mission… and then spending order resources to upgrade items all the way to 840 I got a big chunk of the way there.  From there it has simply been doing any items that were upgrades each day from the world quests.  The end result has been the least grindy gearing process I have ever gone through.  I just played the game and did the things I enjoyed and before I knew it I was sitting there at 838, a reasonable level to do just about anything available in the game right now.  The truth is I have only actually run two dungeons in heroic, and while I have done a slew of normal dungeons they were always for some other purpose than just grinding.  Either I needed something for a quest or a friend of mine did… and we ventured forth and had a grand romp inside.  It has been amazing just how painless and seamless this entire gearing process has felt.  For a long time I have given credit to the way the catch up mechanics felt in Final Fantasy XIV, but even there you had to have a focus on actually running content to get gear.  This time around it feels like I just did the things I would have done normally… and accidentally got epic’d.

Short and Long Game

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Last night is a perfect example of why Legion is working so well for me.  When I first got home I piddled around for a bit doing the few world quests that actually had upgrades for me.  I managed to pull out another 835 trinket, and a 830 Iron Relic which combined with a 830 necklace that I got much later in the evening takes my overall item level to 834.  For the most part every single night I am doing two things.  Firstly I am knocking out the four quests that are required to get me the emissary chest with whatever faction is highlighted.  After that I check World Quest Tracker to see which rewards might be upgrades, because as my gear level has gone up… the sorts of rewards available to me has also increased.  For example when I checked a few minutes ago before sitting down to write this blog post I had an epic chestpiece somewhere in Azuna with roughly 20 hours left on it.  For those not familiar with the addon, it gives players a similar view to the mobile app in game and allows for the tracking of individual world quests.  This is super handy because when you are tracking one… it then also shows up on your flight map so you can see pretty easily which location is the closest to the quest you are trying to finish.  It also color codes the quests so you can see which ones are expiring soon.  This way if you are trying to complete every possible quest, you can make sure you get those with a short timer on them done so you don’t risk them expiring.

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After hopping on voice chat we organized into a group, because in part we were looking for something to do with Tam who has been working on a Monk healer.  I needed a quest for enchanting from Halls of Valor… because even though I have done this place five times now the staggering of quests meant I kept needing something from it.  The positive is that we could run a dungeon with him… the negative is that because of his “just boosted” gear score we had to zone in manually.  What was awesome about the run last night though is that Grace has done quite a bit of healing on the Monk, so Tam and her talks about which abilities work for which fights as we went through the dungeon.  By the end Tam was Mistwalkering like a pro, and I went from having to largely keep myself alive with Ignore Pain to not really even getting close to dying at all.  The other thing we noticed is just how ridiculous the range on the Monk healing statue is.  It seems to be most of an instance worth of distance… and I am not entirely certain that when it finally stopped healing… that it was due to range and not due to line of sight.  We finished the dungeon successfully and it broke up the logjam that seemed to be my enchanting progression.  After completing that one quest I got four other quests that unlocked a series of endgame neck enchants.  Grace and I were talking a bit about this problem last night, that while I really enjoy the quests… it is going to make tradeskilling on alts a pure nightmare.

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After the dungeon run, the group broke up as Mor and Ashgar needed to go off to bed… or whatever it was that they actually did.  From there Grace and I decided to work on some of the Gold Dragon Wardens quests.  These show up on your map with the traditional elite boss seal around them, and represent tougher group content.  Sometimes these are reasonable to solo… other times they simply hit too hard or have too much life to be reasonable.  While they are not often soloable, they generally speaking can be duo’d with my protection warrior and her mage.  I can keep myself alive mostly long enough for her to burn it down and more often than not when we actually get to a given location… there is already a group starting the fight that we just hop in on.  So I started the post with a statement about last night being a perfect example of why Legion is working so well for me, and all of these examples are why.  I started off the evening soloing, then pulled together a group and ran a dungeon… then continued the grouping in a much smaller scale with tracking down a bunch of elite world quests.  I went from solo, to group, to duoing… all in the same night and it felt seamless and largely effortless to find some objective that felt valuable to do in all of those cases.  Eventually I am sure raiding will be added in to that mix giving me a whole new level of things to do with friends, all the while constantly feeling like I am moving the needle forward.  Legion is doing an excellent job of giving me small term gains, but still keeping extremely long term goals present and making me feel like I am constantly inching forward towards them.  Now I just want them to keep this  up for the rest of the expansion and continue this feeling into the next.

Battered Paw

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The last twenty four hours has been interesting for a few reasons…  most of them not terribly good.  A few days back I introduced you to Luna, and to say her integration into our family has not been going swimmingly is an understatement.  She is quite possibly one of the sweetest cats we have encountered… when it is human to cat interactions.  However as she has gotten more comfortable in the house, she has also become less tolerate and more willing to straight up fight our other two cats.  We are trying to work through this, but occasionally one of us has to try and break up a fight.  Yesterday my wife attempted to break up one of those fights by trying to remove our youngest from the situation.  In a highly stressed and freaked out state Kenzie bit the shit out of her hand.  Now this same sequence of events had happened a few weeks earlier to me… but this time Luna bit me.  For me everything seemed to be fine once I stopped the bleeding because four puncture wounds can really produce a lot of blood.  For my wife however she is having some adverse effects… namely that her hand is swollen, red and fevered.  Yesterday after work she went to an urgent care place here in town, and they too were concerned giving her a shot of antibiotics, and a ten day course.  They also drew a boundary around the effected area saying, if the redness breaks this line… to get to the emergency room because my wife will need a course of IV antibiotics.

Needless to say I am now doing a lot of things for her, given that it is painful to grip anything in her primary hand.  I’ve latched a couple of bras and opened a lot of pill bottles and pretty much anything else that requires grip strength.  I would post a picture of her poor battered “paw” but honestly I am not sure the comfort level folks have with seeing injuries.  When I posted my knee, it looked questionable but there were no open wounds.  This on the other hand feels like it would cross some invisible internet line.  Needless to say it looks bad, and thanks to the irregular line around it…  and the swollen nature of the area… it kinda reminds me of a jellyfish.  On the Luna front, what is ultimately happening is that we have built her a little suite of sorts in my wife’s office with litter, food and water and some comfy places to chill.  She is ultimately staying there when we go to bed around midnight, and then getting back out when we are physically home and able to intervene if needed.  The problem with this is that when I let her out each night she is starved for attention, and it just makes me feel horrible for doing it.  That said I don’t want either side of this squabble to injure themselves further.  Both Luna and Kenzie/Allie have several battle scars already from the past scuffles.  Nothing yet that needs a trip to the vet thankfully, but still I don’t want to encourage more unsupervised “encounters”.  Additionally when we are at home we try and make sure there is one of us on each floor of the house… so that there are clear safe zones that they can stay away from each other.  I just am not sure how we get past this current situation and get to one where they at least tolerate being in the same room…  if not hopefully someday are friends.

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As far as the game goes, last night was a night of doing so many World Quests.  Early in the evening I unlocked a set of quests… the first was to do 30 World Quests, and the second was to collect 30 Demonic Runes.  Somehow I managed to actually complete both of these last night during my extended play session.  With my wife in her current injured state I purposefully tried not to get into anything that I could not also get out of rapidly.  There are so many little things that she just needs help with at the moment, and I didn’t want to inconvenience her or my party by getting into group content.  So I spent the majority of the night running around doing these little vignettes of action, and I guess I caught it at exactly the right time…  because when I finished the first round there were a handful of new ones up popping which allowed me to complete the 30 in total.  This is not the sort of thing I will do often, as in try and do “all the quests” but it was fun to do it at least once.  One of the things that I like the most about World Quests is that I don’t have to worry about collecting a quest… and if I get interrupted having it stranded in my quest log that I will then have to abandon to pick up something else of importance.  I get to enjoy the action while it is happening and then forget about it if I need to get pulled away.  The real shocker of the night however was that I did one of the PVP quests…  admittedly without really intending to.  I was bouncing around the map and noticed that there was a nearby quest with good rewards…. and it was only after I had killed a few mobs did I realize that I was now apparently flagged.  It took a lot of deaths…  not to PVP but just to the density of the mobs, but I managed to complete it and get my shiny bauble.  All in all it seems like these are a way more reasonable and enjoyable form of potential PVP for me…  it is doing an objective that has a clear reward at the end… rather than just killing players for the sake of killing players.

New Expansion Buzz

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Wow-64 2016-09-01 13-29-26-88

I have been having more fun in World of Warcraft than I have had in years.  That at least feels like a true statement, but also one that makes me question it.  Sure it seems like I am having a blast, but it got me thinking…  don’t I always have a lot of fun at the launch of a new expansion?  One of the interesting things about having a blog that has been active since 2009 is that in theory I should have evidence of how I felt at the launch of Cataclysm, Pandaria and Warlords.  Around the launch of Cataclysm I seemed to be mostly focused on grouping and gearing… and grinding dungeons to get to the magical number needed for raiding.  I think I was still very much in my “games are serious business” mode, so there really isn’t any talk about the expansion being fun or not.  In truth remembering that time period I was very much not having fun, and I think in the grand scheme of things that is ultimately why Cataclysm was the expansion that caused me to “quit” World of Warcraft.  The quit is of course a lie, considering that I am still playing the game… and never really went longer than six months without reactivating my account.  The launch of Pandaria unfortunately happened during a serious lapse in my posting, and by the time I start back up… I was on the daily posting kick and talking about casually playing the game.  With the launch of Warlords… I talk a lot about how nostalgic the game makes me feel, but in reality not much actually talking about how I am enjoying it.  This was after all the expansion I had originally said I was going to take a pass on… so this quote makes sense.

I still stand by my original statement that if you have no interest in World of Warcraft, this expansion will do little to change that.

So if I set out to prove that I am always pumped about the launch of a new game expansion…  I guess I disproved that theory?  I guess at least on some level, any infusion of new content is something that I ultimately enjoy.  There are new zones to explore, new quests to figure out… and lots and lots of tasty loot.  However this time around something feels different, and I am having trouble quantifying exactly what that is.  For the first time since the launch of Wrath of the Lich King… I have hope that the best days of the Warcraft franchise are not behind us.  With all of the previous expansions…  I felt like they did a decent job of stirring up nostalgia, but not really doing a great job of making me feel like the game has a new purpose.  This time around so much feels fresh, from the class designs and reworks to the fact that they all seem to be focused on a clear vision of what that class does.  I attempted to talk about this yesterday, but the fact that my airflow was pretty low ended up with the post being a jumbled mess.  To be truthful I am still sick right now, so for all I know this post is also going to be a jumbled mess.  However I love the feel of my Warrior for the first time since I really came into my own as a tanking main during Burning Crusade.  The irony here is the fact that I am not really tanking at all, but instead dpsing my way through the content as Fury.

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The only problem here is that we have just barely scratched the surface, and myself even more so than that.  The game launched Monday night, and we already have four level 110 characters in House Stalwart.  I am very much not one of them… but instead hanging back in the middle of the pack at level 105, having completely finished Stormheim and just started Azsuna.  I have no idea what the “feel” of the expansion is going to be once we all kick off the training wheels and move into that sometimes glorious time known as the end game.  Even Warlords had some really fun moments while leveling, and including some really amazing cinematic experiences.  However once we arrived at the end there was a very hollow game waiting for us.  I guess the difference this time is that with the launch of Warlords I absolutely expected to have bounced off of the game by about the three month mark.  In truth it was a little closer to the six month mark, but the bounce did in fact happen at least mentally even though I don’t think I ever actually cancelled my account this time around.  This time however…  I have a blazing pyre of hope that maybe just maybe that won’t happen.  Ultimately I really like what is going on… with the class design, with the storyline, with the zone creation, and heaven forbid with the lore itself.  The bigger story of Khadgar being Khadgar and Jaina being Angry…  well it can screw off.  However the intricate intra-zone stories are awesome, and I totally want to have reasons to hang out with Havi during later content.  World of Warcraft and Blizzard…  please don’t break my heart this time.

Expansion Retail Forgot

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Wow-64 2016-08-30 20-26-43-87

Yesterday was of course the launch of Legion, or more so the first full day of the expansion.  I have a lot of memories of acquiring copies of World of Warcraft throughout the years.  When it launched in 2004, I was firstly in the “never pre-order anything” camp, and while there was a line out the door and down the sidewalk at Gamestop… I was able to stroll into Walmart at midnight and pick up my copy.  I remember Walmart having this huge display in electronics, the size you would have expected for a major movie release.  With Burning Crusade, getting a copy was significantly more difficult, but I still managed to roll into Walmart at midnight and snag one.  I did however spent the next few weeks going out at lunch trying to find copies for folks who could not for whatever reason seem to get it in their area.  When Wrath was released, once again I did the Walmart at midnight thing… and this time there was actually a line.  I had an awesome conversation with another warrior tank while standing in line waiting on our boxes.  However by the time Cataclysm came around… I believe that was the first expansion you could purchase a digital collectors edition and I did so happily because I was getting “too old” to be doing this midnight madness.  I had reached that point in my life when I just wanted to be able to log in and play, and didn’t care too much about how that happened.

With Pandaria I somehow ended up with another physical collectors edition, and at this point I don’t even remember how or why.  Now traditionally speaking around here… World of Warcraft Collectors Editions rot on the shelf.  Not in a large quantity, but up until recently there have been a couple of physical copies of Warlords of Draenor available at various stores.  I have a second account, and could use a second key… so yesterday I checked a few places to see if there happened to be one available.  The idea was that I would ultimately trade that CE key with a friend who just got the normal copy, given that I already have the digital entitlement on my battle.net account.  That plan however backfired in the most spectacular of ways because no one seems to have Legion in any form, let alone Collectors Editions.  Throughout the day yesterday I heard tales of Amazon switching orders to arrive on September 29th, and listened as several friends had to dodge and weave to get around this delay.  Throughout the day I checked Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Gamestop…  none of which had so much as a single copy.  When I looked up Legion on the Best Buy website, it stated that there were no copies available in a 250 mile radius.  250 miles includes the Dallas Metro, Kansas City Metro, Fayetteville/Bentonville Arkansas area, Wichita Kansas, and Oklahoma City.

I refuse to believe that every single copy sold out, because that just seems impossible.  What seems far more likely is that there has been some massive shipping mishap, that involved delays to the central southwest.  The result however is that it feels like Legion was the expansion that retail somehow forgot.  While Warlords of Draenor was supposed to be this expansion to invite people back that had been gone a long time…  it feels like Legion is actually delivering on that promise.  It is going to be sad if it somehow misses its opportunity simply because the copies of the game are not available.  The truth is… my only interest in a physical Collectors Edition is the fact that it includes the soundtrack.  I wish that they would add that to the list of digital entitlements that you get when you buy the collectors that way.  I can also always use a new mouse pad at work, so there is always that bonus as well.  I however more than anything wanted to walk into Walmart and see a big display of pretty new copies of the game, in the hope that it might entice players to return.  It has been great seeing players coming out of the woodwork for the first time in years, and I guess part of me wants to see that continue.  Pretty boxes sitting on a shelf taunting you when you go to get groceries… seems to be an awesome way to guilt players into coming back.

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As far as the expansion itself…  so far I am enjoying myself.  It is a much slower paced expansion, but that is precisely what I had wanted.  I spent all night playing the game, from the time I got home around 5ish until when I finally went to bed around 10:30.  During that time I managed to make it to level 101 and about 15-20% into level 102.  As I had originally planned I went Fury this time around… which is quite honestly the first time since the launch of the game that I will not be leveling my Warrior as Protection.  I am sure somewhere something is turning over in its grave…  but more than likely it is just the old me that used to take pride in saying “Real Warriors Level Prot”.  Fury is fun as hell, but there was a period when I started on the artifact quest… that I questioned my decision.  I am guessing that maybe these quests are just a little “overtuned”… because I remember in beta thinking they were rough.  I died probably no less than a dozen times when I tried to do this as a Deathknight, and I probably took a half dozen deaths as a Fury Warrior.  Towards the end I was super carefully picking my way through the zone a single mob at a time, and kicking myself for not bringing any food into the quest.  That was ultimately the hardest part was that I had no real way other than bloodthirst to get back my health.  I finished it however and once I started Stormheim… everything leveled out and I have had no problem taking down any of the starred mobs solo.  So far I am enjoying the hell out of myself, but I don’t feel like I have spent enough time in game yet to give it much more than a thumbs up.

Legion Without Rushing

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Wow-64 2016-08-30 06-20-12-21

This morning feels a little odd, for many reasons.  Firstly I got a good nights sleep, when normally in the past I would have made a failed attempt to get up in time for the launch of a new expansion.  In fact there was a point last night where I woke up at 3:30 in the morning…  a mere 30 minutes after the servers went live and thought to myself…  I could get up.  Then instead I rolled back over and went to sleep again.  Always in the past I have felt like I was chasing some goal that I never could quite catch.  I knew I could not take the amount of time that my friends like Kylana did, and push through during 24 hours of solid play time.  In fact when I logged in this morning I was shocked to see that he was only level 102, which seems slow for him.  I’ve heard however that this time around, the process just takes longer and that power levelers who have practiced it on beta say it is going to be around a solid eight hours to get to 110.  Which means for someone attacking it more casually you are looking at ten to twelve hours.  The strangest thing about this expansion is that maybe I have finally realized there isn’t a rush.  In the past I had my reasons… and those were namely an attempt to be a viable tank for folks to run dungeons with while we leveled.  My favorite leveling experience was likely Burning Crusade, because I was a fledgling tank and excited that everyone seemed to need me to be able to run dungeons… which at that time were significantly better experience than doing pretty much anything else.

During the launch of Wrath I remember leveling mostly through dungeons in a similar fashion, but when the change happened to Cataclysm I noticed that worked significantly less well.  It was as though folks just didn’t want to run dungeons in the same manner that I was used to.  In fact I remember going through a bit of an existential crisis at that time because it felt like there was only one dungeon group worth of folks willing to run dungeons at a time.  More often than not I ended up the tank left out in the cold and unable to get groups.  Now the truth is if you asked other tanks they probably would have felt the same, because we went from being the most valuable commodity in the guild…  to one of what felt like the least valuable over night.  By the time Pandaria rolled around I found myself still rushing to keep up… but never actually running the dungeons until I hit maximum level and was desperately trying to gear.  Similarly with Warlords I got drug through a few dungeons as dps, but mostly to knock out the quests as they came available and not so much as a leveling vehicle.  With Legion I am not even planning on leveling my Tank artifact first, but instead focusing on Fury which seems extremely fun to me at the moment.  So since I expect to be leveling almost entirely by doing the content… especially since saving up those dungeon quests can reward 110 level gear at the end, I also don’t feel that need to rush around.

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I logged in this morning long enough to do the teleportation of Dalaran to the Broken Isles and to rebind at the now Gilnean run Inn there.  I completed a few quests but stopped just short of delving into the lengthy quest that will ultimately end in me getting my artifact weapons.  While it was odd to not try and push through it this morning, I knew that all it would end up doing is making me have to rush horribly to get to work.  Instead I will have that waiting on me for when I get home and fight through the now inevitable server queue.  The thing is… that is perfectly okay.  If I am in a server queue that looks like it is going to take some time…  I have other things that I can do.  I can poke my head into Destiny since I have not been there in a good while, or I could go out into the back yard and go for a swim.  In any case I am trying to approach this expansion at a much more measured pace.  In the past I have rushed my ass off to get to the new cap, and with it beginning a lengthy gear grind.  Every time in the past I have always managed to burn myself out in the process to where logging in every night is a misery.  I now have a proper army of alts to tend to… and I fully expect to get each and every one of them to 110 before starting on the next round that have yet to be leveled.  I say all this with certainty… but really in the back of my head I have my fingers crossed that it will work.  I am hoping that I can fight my own tendencies and take things slow.