Grind to a Halt

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When we last visited my Orc Warrior on this blog I was just about to start the Warlords content, and this week when I have not been poking my head into Destiny I have spent it pushing forward in World of Warcraft.  It’s honestly been a shock just how fast leveling went until I hit Legion content.  The old world was a confusion slog where I jumped zones each time I saw an exclamation point show up on the adventure guide.  This meant I was constantly jumping zones every few levels and most of that journey was a complete blur.  When I started Outland I did the majority of Hellfire Plateau then jumped over to Terrokar Forest for a little bit before finishing up the grind in Nagrand.  From there I jumped to Northrend and did a good chunk of Borean Tundra before jumping to Grizzly Hills and doing most of it and finally leaping over to Scholazar Basin to finish the run out.  From there we entered the Cataclysm zones and did all of the 80-85 grind in Vashj’ir without actually completely finishing that zone.  Then came Pandaria and I managed to do the entirety of the 85-90 grind without leaving Jade Forest.  From there I went to Draenor where I managed to hit 98 by doing the entirety of Frostfire Ridge and finishing up with just a tiny tiny bit in Spires of Arak.

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This is the point where the express elevator has come to a grinding halt and I’ve been confronted with normal speed leveling because all of my heirlooms petered out at 100.  I chose to do Stormheim first largely because it is both my favorite and least favorite zone at the same time.  All of the Norse themed Vrykul bits are awesome, but all of that faction nonsense is not.  It did give me access to another Order Hall champion quickly however so I am down with that.  At this point I have finished both the main story arc of the zone and the faction bullshit arc and am likely to move on to the next area.  There are a lot of things I have noticed… not the least of which is how ridiculously huge this shield is on my female orc warrior.  It is as thought they scaled the shield for the insanely bulky male models and then just called it good enough for the female ones.  The second of which is how much more intricate and slower paced the Legion content is compared to Pandaria or Warlords.  When I leveled through the content it seemed really quick, but what makes things slog a bit in comparison to what came before is how fragmented the quest hubs quickly become.  This might also be an aspect of the map itself feeling so busy with so many world bosses and objectives hidden out there to slow your journey down.  I cannot resist wasting a few minutes to find a chest that is nearby or going after a mini boss, and as a result my leveling pace has gone to hell.

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At this point I am contemplating investing in a set of Heirlooms which will set me back quite a bit of gold.  It isn’t as much about leveling quickly, it is more about not outpacing the gear I am wearing…. and also not looking like I am picking up scraps from the battlefield while I level.  I’ve liked making outfits for my character up until this point and then progressing my way through the content without having to care too much about swapping out items.  In a perfect world Warcraft would have heirlooms for every slot and I could simply level my alts without ever having to worry about swapping gear out.  With the new races coming in I fully expect to be leveling a lot more alts, and in truth investing in plate 110 heirlooms now will probably helm in the long run given that I tend to play plate wearing classes more than any others.  I am still really bummed about the direction they are taking with artifact weapons.  I would have loved to see them turn them into leveling heirlooms much the way that the items that dropped off Garrosh in Pandaria served this purpose.  It would have been a fitting end to a really awesome chapter of the game to be able to then use those weapons to level your alts.  Still having a lot of fun but I am also ready for the ride to be over and for my character to get geared up.

Memory is Fleeting

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

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

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

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

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

How I Should Have Done It

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This is a post I had planned on making for awhile, and now that we are a little less than a month away from the PC launch…  I figure the timing works fairly well.  At this point I have leveled and geared three characters through Destiny 2 on the PS4 and during that time I have sorted out some of the things that work and some of the things that don’t.  My first trip through any game is a meandery mess as I let myself get distracted by every little bauble that comes across my path.  Quite honestly…  this is fine because I enjoy the hell out of that first trip.  If you also like to sometimes revel in being inefficient…  then by all means please ignore anything I am about to write.  However more than anything this is my game plan for how I intend on leveling during the PC release and how I intend to claw my way back to the relative positive I currently am on the PS4.  This is going to be a much different experience for me than someone starting out in Destiny 2 for the first time.  Not only did I have the experience of playing over 500 hours of the first game… I also now have this bundle of experience playing on the PS4 which I have sorta used like a beta test environment.  When I pulled up my Warlock and Hunter I tested out some of these methods, and have reached a point where I think I am good with a clear path going forward.

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The natural path through the game is to follow the main story quest and then add in as much side content as you can along the way.  My first trip through the game I did all of this and dinged 20 well before finishing the main story arc.  My friends however focused on only the main story and wound up beating the game around level 15 leading them to do a bunch of grinding to open up the end game.  Firstly you have to understand that grinds are more or less fun for me… and Destiny 2 has a grind that is better than any I have seen in a long time in the form of the Heroic Public Events.  Public Events spawn at regular intervals and as you open a planet up you are going to notice that at least one is up at pretty much all times.  Titan the second planet you reach seems to have the best public event grind available, largely because Titan as a whole is very small surface area wise…  but has a bunch of added complexity in the form of overlapping Z axis areas.  There are three public event areas that spawn in the planet…  One in Sirens Watch and two in the sections known as The Rig.  These are either going to be Fallen Weapons Exchange… aka Fallen Walkers or Witches’ Ritual.  Both of these are extremely easy to convert from a normal Public Event to a Heroic, and I highly suggest you check out the guide I posted some days back on how to convert each event.  In addition to public events there are five or six high value target spawns that appear in this relatively small area as well as countless chests and harvestables making Titan an amazingly compact farming destination.

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So my goal come Destiny 2 PC release is to push my way through the European Dead Zone as fast as I can, and then get to Titan.  After a mission or two the planet opens up completely and instead of following the main story…  I am going to farm my little heart out on Titan until I hit level 20.  Now I just did this method on my Hunter that I leveled on Saturday, and through level 10 I was managing to get a full level off of each Heroic Public Event.  From 10 to 20 it took roughly two events per level, but considering you are able to hop back and forth between the events easily this went fast as well.  During the bits of downtime I hunted chests and high value targets…  basically anything that I thought might give me some blue gear drops, glimmer or experience.  Now the reason why I grind to 20 on Titan is that it is extremely fast, but also pushes me into endgame power levels as quick as possible.  I noticed while playing the main story content, that these missions seem to drop a significant number of pieces of gear…  considerably more than just wandering around the open world.  Ultimately the name of the game is trying to get to 260 power as soon as humanly possible from blue drops.  Putting my leveling in on Titan lets me start doing this as I work my way through the rest of the story quest.  The other benefit of this process is that it gives you a nice stack of faction tokens that you can cash in once you actually hit 260…  in order to boost you to 265.

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From there we start to enter the dark territory of the slow endgame grind.  The primary means of jumping over this is going to be utilizing the “powerful gear” quests that are available once a week and give you luminous engrams.  The other primary means of defeating this curve are to find pieces of gear that have legendary mods installed in them.  Hoard these like they are the most precious thing in the universe, because until you get to 280 power your only means of getting them is going to be pure dumb luck from either a random legendary gear drop… or from turning in weapon parts to get packages from Banshee.  Once you have a full set of items with legendary mods… you can begin to start infusing your way to the next goal which is 270.  It is my intent not to turn in any luminous engrams until I have reached 270 on my first character.  This is likely going to mean a bunch of grinding to get items with legendary mods in them, but ultimately I am trying to get as high of power as I can in that first week… and there are limited number of luminous engrams that I can get per character.  You can get one for each of the following activities…

  • Crucible Call to Arms – This has taken between 8 and 10 Crucible matches on average for me.
  • Clan XP – Get 5000 xp… if you follow this method the first one will be a gimme since all of the story missions will count towards this.
  • Flashpoint – Do 3 Heroic Events on the weekly planet…  or 6 regular events or a combination of them.
  • Nightfall – This is not always the easiest of engrams but if you have a group capable worth doing.
  • Raid – This again requires a full team of six players, and is just a bonus to the actual reward which is raid loot.

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The other part of my plan…  is to push up my Hunter and Warlock as quickly as possible… potentially before I even start decoding Luminous Engrams on the Titan.  I would love to be able to keep all three classes at roughly the same gear level so that I functionally get three times the engrams each week.  With the PS4/Xbox One launch there were a bunch of players doing a thing where they created three of exactly the same class so that every piece of gear could transfer to the new character and keep pushing the total power levels higher.  That trick has been officially broken by Bungie because their intent is for us to play individual classes instead of duplicates.  However in my experience after running Titan, Warlock and Hunter together is that the luminous engrams seem to benefit all three.  Sure the armor pieces won’t transfer over, but the weapons absolutely will…  which will allow you to start getting higher gear to drop…  which will allow you to start slowly infusing up the gear you already had on that character.  In truth, once I hit 265ish on the Titan I plan on starting the Warlock and pushing it to 20 as soon as possible then handing over the weapons I have been using on the Titan to help push up the new characters power level faster.  Once again when I get the Warlock to 265…  I plan on doing the same to the Hunter and then and only then once I have a trio of characters…  do I intend to start decoding those luminous engrams.  The piece of knowledge that we have learned since the launch of the PS4 is that you can let those engrams sit on the vendors up to the point of the reset…. and then instead of losing them the game just automatically decodes them for you.  Basically you are at no risk of running into issues by letting them sit there, and waste potential power levels if you decode them too early.

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Ultimately my goal is to exit that first week of Destiny 2 on the PC with a Titan, Warlock and Hunter completely leveled and farm up three sets of luminous engrams.  This might be insane and it might be a hell of a lot of work…  but considering how fast the Warlock and Hunter went…  that initial character seems to be the challenge.  The other benefit I have going into the PC release is that I already know which weapons I like and need to hold onto… and which ones I can shard because I just don’t enjoy whatever it is that weapon is doing.  Similarly I know which pieces of gear I should probably go after on each class, and what talent trees I favor to unlock first.  I carry into this new release a bunch of ancestral knowledge that is going to hopefully make the transition path smoother.  Now everything I said today…  I ultimately suggest you ignore on your first time through the game.  I had this amazing voyage of discovery when I first set forth into the new areas of Destiny 2, and I don’t want to rob anyone else of that experience.  That said…  I have had that moment and I just want to push up characters so I can be ready for everything that the PC release is going to offer.  I’ve had my moment of wandering around in awe of everything… and am ready to buckle down and push like mad to get where I want to be.  My goal is to break the 280 light barrier in that first week, which is going to depend on a lot of luck.  Considering four weeks into the game I am just in the mid 290s…  it is probably going to be a challenge to get there again but one I am ready for.

 

 

 

 

Leveling DPS is Butts

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One of the best parts about Final Fantasy XIV is that you can literally be every possible class be it crafting or battlecraft on the same character.  One of the worst parts of Final Fantasy XIV is that for the most part leveling alt jobs has been a pretty grindy proposal.  When you first set down to level in Final Fantasy XIV, you have all of these side quests and main story quests to keep the game feeling fresh and keep the content moving forward at a decent clip.  Unfortunately when you sit down to level any of your other Jobs you find out just how much of your original quest experience came from that unrepeatable main story.  As always I leveled my Warrior first because well…  like it or not I am a tank at heart and for three expansions now I have not deviated from that mission.  There was some brief flirtation with potentially going Dark Knight, but in the end Warrior just suits me best.  However now I have reached that point where I have functionally geared the warrior as far as I can without the aid of Omega drops, and as a result I have turned my attention to trying to run my first DPS up.  You can tell by the above image that my DPS of choice this go round is the brand new Samurai job.  The only problem there is…  quite honestly leveling as a DPS without the aid of the Main Story Quest…  is butts and highlights some of the problems that Final Fantasy XIV still has when it comes to a lack of reasonable alternate leveling paths.

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Previously in A Realm Reborn era especially… I used to hop in a FATE grinding party and move on with life.  There were fabled zones like South Shroud or Northern Thanalan that were largely devoted to groups of players running around and trying to kill the FATEs as fast as possible.  Unfortunately with the transition to Heavensward, there was a massive nerf of FATE experience and with it the grind party devotees started to disappear.  When Palace of the Dead was introduced it gave us a ladder to follow to slowly bring those alts up to speed through grinding sets of 10 floors at a time.  Unfortunately however the PotD experience is pretty horrible with the bar barely moving at level 61.  There is a bit of a FATE presence in The Fringes, but everyone is fairly disorganized with no groups available through the party finder.  There was some talk over the weekend of maybe starting up a guild FATE party just to get all our various alts leveled in a reasonable manner.  My current MO has been to queue for a dungeon or roulette and grind FATEs until it pops and in the grand scheme of things this has worked well enough.  Over the weekend I went from 60 on my Samurai to 65 as of last night, which a huge chunk of that happening during recording the podcast and simply bouncing from FATE to FATE until we finished.  I remember that is also how I leveled my gathering professions, since while I am podcasting I can seem to grind something without even noticing it.  I would also try this with Palace of the Dead, but before long I would find myself running circles in Quarymill while we recorded…  much the same as I used to run circles in Dalaran.

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I honestly thought I was being clever in this expansion, and after the end of Raubahn Savage…  I found myself up enough in experience that I started attempting to ignore every side quest and only push through with a laser focus on the main story.  My thought was this would ultimately help out the first alt that I leveled, and over the weekend I returned to Ruby Sea where I had dozens and dozens of quests to complete.  Unfortunately…  these quests provide next to no experience and simply only add bits of story to help flesh out the world a bit.  I spent about an hour and completed a dozen or so quests… when I realized that my experience bar had moved less than if I had gotten gold in a single FATE.  Hell to be truthful just wandering the world grinding random mobs seemed to be better experience than the side quests were providing.  In the past this would be the moment that I would start leaning heavily on Battlecraft Leves…  but unfortunately much to my frustration it seems that they simply do not exist in Stormblood.  There are crafting leves in Kugane but neither there nor Rhalgar’s Reach have anything for the battlecraft jobs.  I mean leves were a horrible experience in Heavensward and the thought of having to keep popping back to the Foundation between rounds was maddening.  However they were there if you got desperate and there were many times I got desperate enough to see some steady progress on the experience bar.  There are hunts of course, and I have been doing my daily hunt logs but again… while they are an excellent source of seals…   they are a pretty crappy source of experience.

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If I am playing a tank or a healer… then this whole question of how to level becomes moot.  You simply queue for dungeons and ride the constant string of instant queues until you hit 70.  However there seems to be something missing to help the DPS get a leg up.  Now the leveling roulette and 50/60 roulette seem to go significantly faster than queuing for a specific dungeon.  Over the weekend leveling roulette seemed to be about a 10-15 minute queue for dps, and 50/60 somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes…  with queuing for an individual level and gear appropriate dungeon taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 minutes.  If I was able to run FATEs while waiting on the queue to tick down it did not feel too horrible, or at least it felt like I was making steady forward momentum.  However if I happened in one of the patches where the folks were not touching the FATEs at all…  it was noticeably dragging.  Compare that to the experience of playing a healer or a tank… with their push button get dungeon mechanics and it just feels lousy.  At least with Palace of the Dead providing reasonable experience, you could skirt a lot of the issues and get by just fine with four dps parties in there.  I am not sure where it is on the roadmap, but I am really hoping we see the next iteration of Palace of the Dead launching with 4.1.  Until then… I think once I finish leveling the Samurai I will probably focus on my other tanks and my healers before returning to the DPS queue hell again.  This is also why I have been trying to offer my short tank queues whenever possible to the free company…  because leveling DPS is butts.

Deathlord Rises

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For those not in the United States… apologies for taking yesterday off from the blog.  I had an insanely busy weekend, and it was about half way through yesterday that I finally realized that it was in fact a Monday…  and not a Sunday.  Extended holiday weekends always feel a little odd, because it just seemed like I had two different Saturdays.  One of the Saturdays we went to Oklahoma City in a whirlwind trip to hit the three Half Priced Books they have…  in an attempt to get there and back before the tornadic storms hit that evening.  Thankfully for the most part all we got was some rain…  and not the grapefruit sized hail that they had been warning us about.  Then Saturday number two…  aka Sunday…  we spent the day deep cleaning the house and working in the backyard.  I once again have flower babies, that are going to need to be watered in a few minutes whenever I finish this post.  I am going to give them some time to acclimatize to the back yard before taking any photos.  Additionally right now our pool is a lovely shade of green because we are fighting an algae bloom…  so hoping that clears up as well before I snap some photos.  Then of course yesterday was me hanging out and doing nearly two weeks worth of laundry…  because we were lazy as hell last weekend.  I wound up going to sleep around 9:30 last night instead of the usual midnight…  because maybe the crazy weekend was catching up with me.

In gaming news… I played a silly amount of World of Warcraft.  Like I am not really certain what is going on but much like Grace I find myself in a mini renaissance with the game.  It is funny how when I didn’t have flight I didn’t think I really missed it.  I have always been one of those people who espouse the philosophy that not having flying during the early days of an expansion is a better thing.  It forces us to get down in the weeds and not to skip quite as much content.  That said… it is funny just how much more enjoyable the game has been since I could zip around wherever I wanted to go.  I had zero desire to play alts prior to getting the Legion Pathfinder achievement and flight…  and suddenly afterwards its like the skies have opened to a whole new day.  I had mentioned before that I am now working on my first 100+ hordie and choosing to do it on this low population server that Grace has the majority of her horde characters on.  That in itself has been an interesting experience.  The challenges have been that there simply are not that many people out in the world so when you encounter something you cannot solo… it might be a bit before another player happens to wander along.  The benefit however is that there are always plenty of ore nodes to mine and I figure when I start Broken Shore I will have zero issue finding treasure chests.  I figure if I am going to stick around for long… I will have to at least level my tanking weapon so I can solo things a bit easier.

For the moment however I am loving being an Unholy Death Knight.  Last night I managed to get about halfway to 109, which I hope means that I can push across the finish line to 110 tonight and begin properly gearing my character.  I am completely caught up in the Order Hall quest line, and to the point where I have to be 110 to get the next step.  I am sorta fast tracking my way through Stormheim at the moment, and if need be I will do the same in High Mountain.  Years ago I compiled a list of the order in which you should do SWTOR planets and bonus series in order to get the most bang for your buck…  and if I am going to do more alts I feel like I need to come up with the same sort of thing for classes and the order hall campaign.  Grace has a good idea in that she waits to do the order hall dungeon steps until she has opened up that zones quest as well.  Had I done this… that would have meant starting Highmountain First and not Azsuna like I usually do.  As I have a mountain of alts still to level it would be nice to have some sort of a guide to go off of… and most of this information is available through a series of other sites…  but not really written out as plainly as I would have liked.  So that might be a little bit of homework going forward.  I know that when Stormblood hits I am going to lose a lot of my gusto in World of Warcraft, so I guess in a way I am trying to get the most out of this moment.

Side Note:  You should totally check out our AggroChat where we talk about the May game of the month Wolfenstein New Order

 

Listless

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The past week was hyper focused on a single goal… getting Belgaoh my monk from 53 to 100.  The weird thing about this process is that once completed… I am finding myself drifting a bit without purpose.  The above screenshot is unrelated to anything, but I thought it looked cool so you are getting it with this mornings post.  Starting yesterday I begin finally running my stable of characters through the Broken Shore content.  I managed to snag all of the toys, and troll shoes transmog from my single leel 100 horde character, and on my second time through on an alliance character successfully got the bonnet cosmetic item.  I am assuming that tomorrow there will be a new step on the quest chain being patched in, and this time around we will actually do the moving of Dalaran to the Broken Isles bit.  Tonight is our Final Fantasy XIV raid, so that means I will go into this weeks patch not having run Broken Shores on the bulk of my characters.  At least in theory the content isn’t going anywhere so I shouldn’t feel that much of a rush to push through it.  I think this content will essentially be the “welcome to Legion” content for everyone from this point on wards.  I will say it was really strange buzzing right past the quest starter for Cataclysm, Pandaria and Draenor on the monk.  I think I have all of the quests sitting in my log, because they are given automatically when you zone into Stormwind, but I am not sure when if ever I am going to do them.  At this moment I am contemplating using the Timeless Isle port to get to Draenor, but then again that would mean I need to open up Pandaria to get to it.

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Even though I have completed one journey to 100… I am finding that I cannot seem to quit the Invasion Event.  A good chunk of yesterday was also spent running characters through the event trying to get the last few 700 items for each.  I managed to finish off Lodin and Tallow last night, which leaves Gloam, Exeter and Belglaive all needing a single item slot.  Belglaive is a little more complicated because I used that character to purchase the pet, and as a result he is still missing several of the purchased pieces of gear.  I just need to run ANY instances on him to get that finished off.  I do have his Glaives upgraded to 725, and I have started a second set mooching off of everyone else’s spare tokens to upgrade them for my eventual Horde demon hunter.  I wish the other weapons worked like this, in that they were bind on account and you could pass them around as needed.  Some characters I have gotten more than my fair share of weapons… and then others like Exeter have yet to see a single one.  I have this feeling that ultimately it is going to be Ex my Paladin that I will continue to run events on, as I try and get three weapons for him.  The other big thing that I need to accomplish before this event is over is to try and find the Demon that spawns in Orgrimmar and Stormwind and get a Fel Spreader toy.  I failed to get one the two times I tried it yesterday, with the one in Orgrimmar bugging out and running back to the Doomsayer and fading.

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The big thing I have learned over the years is that I have a lot of fun playing World of Warcraft, so long as I have a goal in mind.  For example this last week has been a blast as I leveled my way through to 100 doing events.  In theory I could pick a Horde character and start doing the same, but I don’t really have any that are nearly as close to finish as my Monk was.  Doing the event without flight was a pain in the butt, and I am not sure if I want to go back to that frustration right now.  If I was going to pick a character on that side of the fence I would probably pick my Warlock since I have really enjoyed playing my Alliance lock… and I have full cloth heirlooms.  Similarly I have full leather heirlooms, but of the leather classes the one I am most likely to play… is the Demon Hunter, which is easy as hell to get to 100.  I do however have the cash to just go ahead and outfit my plate heirlooms up to 100 and then push something else that I would likely play.  My Orc Deathknight is sitting at 60, so flight is possible, even if it is a slow version.  I might be fun to be able to use this event to play with one of the other specs like Frost or Unholy.  If the next goal is NOT the event however… I need to pick something be it Mount Farming or Dungeon Achievements because so long as I can keep a list of things I want to do… I will be able to stay engaged in this game.  I really am having a lot of fun being around all of these people again.  It is a bit like a reunion, because everywhere I turn on Argent Dawn I keep running into familiar faces from the past.  I know we have roughly a week until the official launch of Legion, and with that comes a whole new set of goals so I just need to keep busy in the meantime.

The Top Floor

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Off and on throughout this event I have used the “elevator” metaphor to explain how the experience bonus of the invasions has felt.  It started off as a steady elevator, and then took a bunch of detours for maintenance.  However at the end the final version felt like it was picking up speed as I finished the climb towards the top.  The other day Devolore made a comment about this invasion that I think is worth sharing.

devolore_comment

While I realize the goal of the event was not to level everything to 100… that is precisely what I set out to do.  Before the initial change I managed to get my Priest from 92 to 100, and then turned around and got my Mage from 90 to 100.  That left only my little monk that starting last Wednesday was sitting at only level 53.  In the last four days I have finished the climb to 100, finally dinging off of an invasion last night after we wrapped up recording the podcast.  It was a wild ride filled with pure madness, but overall it was an enjoyable one.  This is the feeling I have been chasing for awhile, going into an expansion knowing that every single character on at least my primary server was ready to go and awaiting the next content release.  There are a bunch of things I learned on the trip, and I took care last night to log some of my findings.  The rest of this post is likely going to be a bunch of bullet points explaining what all I found out.

  • It took a total of 49 Invasions to go from level 53 to 100
  • I was wearing full heirlooms the entire way, so adjust accordingly
  • That makes it .95 levels per invasion completed
  • I saved 97 loot boxes while doing the even, 49 Blue, 48 Green.

The Loot

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This is what 97 loot boxes from the event looks like sitting in my bank.  I saved every single one from the moment I started climbing from 53 to 100, in a large part because I wanted a bunch of information to be able to draw conclusions from.  On a whim I ended up opening all of my Green chests first, and they my Blue chests… which caused me to notice a pattern.

Phase 2 – Small Legion Chest – Can Contain

  • Bracers
  • Gloves
  • Belt
  • Boots
  • Weapons

Phase 4 – Large Legion Chest – Can Contain

  • Helm
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Pants
  • Weapons
  • Coalesced Fel

In the course of the events I ran I got 118 items to drop from the chests, and around 2000 nethershards… but I was not keeping as good of track on that number as I did the others.  As I opened the boxes I recorded the what dropped and divided up level 700, 710 and 720 drops in the hopes of being able to pull some percentages together on the chance of each.

Level 700 Item Drops

  • Helm – 9
  • Shoulders – 13
  • Chest – 10
  • Bracers – 11
  • Gloves – 11
  • Belt – 8
  • Pants – 9
  • Boot – 6
  • Weapon – 14
  • Coalesced Fel – 9

Level 710 Item Drops

  • Helm – 2
  • Shoulders – 1
  • Bracers – 2
  • Gloves – 1
  • Belt – 3
  • Pants – 1
  • Boots – 5

Level 720 Item Drops

  • Shoulders – 1
  • Belt – 1
  • Pants – 1

So in total I got 100 level 700 drops, 15 level 710 drops, and 3 level 720 drops.  Using some quick and dirty math that means that I got a Warforged 710 item 12% of the time, and a 720 item 2.5% of the time.  In any case… my Monk is likely going to be my best geared character once I complete the Broken Shores content and get my ring and trinket.  Leveling through Invasions was often times frustration… but overall it was an extremely enjoyable experience.  I would love to say I would do this same rough on my hordies… but with only nine days until the launch of Legion I just am not sure if I have that sort of grind in me.  More than likely I will be focusing on filling the gear holes in my various characters, and pushing them all through the broken shores and follow-up content.

Elevator Broken

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Fun While it Lasted

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On Monday I wrote about riding this new Legion Event to 100 on several of my characters, and how holding chests allowed me to instantly have viable level capped characters upon dinging.  At least the second part of that statement is true now, but sadly the first part…  not so much.  It seems yesterday they patched the servers to increase the spawn rate of events, but greatly decrease the experience gained from each.  While this is technically a net gain… it is also a whole lot of busy work to gain it.  Previously on my Monk in his 50s/60s I was gaining at least one full levels worth of experience from each event I participated in.  So that mean’t every four hours, I could run two events with him and then still have time to swap in some other alts for gearing purposes.  As of yesterday I was getting a little less than half of a level of experience per event participated in.  That means during the same four hour window, there are now a total of six events, instead of two…  and as a result if experience stays roughly half a level that means I gain 3 levels instead of 2 before.  The gotcha however is that you spend almost every second of that four hours either participating in an event or travelling to the next one, and in my experience I had no real time to swap in that many alts to also attempt to get gear.  Given how fast experience is gained through questing, it also feels like during that same four hour block I could probably do significantly better than three levels.

What made the “elevator” nice is that I could more casually swap in my lower level alts, and still have time to do the ones I was trying to get gear for.  Now instead I have to make a choice between getting the gear from the event, or leveling.  I mean I get why they did this, because they really want folks to focus on the gear and not the easy ticket leveling.  I am just glad that I managed to pull my Priest from 92 to 100, and my Mage from 90 to 100 before the elevator broke.  As a result I am tabling my Monk for the moment, at least until I finish getting all of the rest of my stable of 11 characters fully geared in 700 or better items from the event.  Technically Belghast my Draenor main has the least stuff from the event, but he also has 700 or better in most of his slots already.  Other than that my rogue really is the one missing the most gear, so I will be working on him next.  Exeter my Paladin is missing a weapon, Lodin my hunter Shoulders, and Tallow my Shaman a handful of items.  Instead of focusing entirely on the Monk I am going to work on getting these characters the last of the missing pieces so that they are in a better state to be prepared for leveling them in Legion.  I have this feeling that 700 is essentially the place they are expecting us to be at for the new content, and even though we will be swapping all of it out for better gear almost instantly it should at least ease that transition.

Unknown Main

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I am hoping over the next few days to be able to reach a point where I am completely okay hopping off the event train.  While it has been a fun ride chasing the skulls around the zones, I have to say I have neglected other important things during the process.  For example I have yet to complete the Broken Shore quest chain in live on any of my characters.  While I did it a bunch of times in Beta and have since seen the cinematics I missed… with the patching in of more quest content I feel like I need to get on the ball and start in with this.  More than anything this expansion feels really different, and in a good way.  I like the way that they seem to be easing us into the content with the invasion, and the head start into Broken Shore or the Demon Hunter experience.  It feels like we are having this rolling soft launch more than waiting for the 30th to flip the switch and have everyone rush into doing exactly the same stuff.  My hope is this is going to allow us to have a more staggered experience with different groups of people progressing through the content at different speeds.  I know personally I will likely be starting the new content in Stormheim, but that is largely because it feels like this great big love letter to Northrend.

The biggest challenge however still yet to be solved is… I have zero clue what my main is going to be.  There are a bunch of different classes that I really enjoy right now.  I love Vengeance Demon Hunter, I think in part because of its mobility and the ability to get places due to double jump and glide which comes in super handy in the new content.  I also am completely in love with Lodin my Hunter… because I am finally getting to play out that fantasy of being a melee hunter.  Belghast and Belgrave are both strong contenders because well… I tend to level tanks first, but in both cases they don’t necessarily feel that new or fresh but more the same.  I am also loving Tallow my Enhancement Shaman and Gloam my Outlaw Rogue… but they will more than likely be relegated to the back burner.  The character that I love that I am shocked to admit it though is my Demonology Warlock.  It is actually a really strong contender for getting leveled quickly, because I have enjoyed playing it so much.  Now however you can see the problem… I am loving this game at the moment because I am loving a lot of my characters at the same time.  There however has to be a first… and I am still completely up in the air as to who that is going to be.

Scrap Collector

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The Wastelands

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The Rift resurgence continues and this time around I find myself working on tradeskills.  Every so often I find myself stuck in a loop, that winds up with me leveling one thing like mad.  The focus currently is pushing as many trade-skills up as I can manage…  and honestly afford.  I went into this little mission with roughly 1600 platinum, and as of last night I had dropped under 500.  Please not this is just on reagent costs and pattern training costs, as I have been going out into the wild to gather materials on a pretty regular basis.  The above image was taken on one of these many trips, this time to find Rhenium nodes in the Steppes of Infinity.  I am not sure if this is even the best place to look for these, but I figured the highest level zone in Storm Legion would probably have the highest chance of these nodes.  Currently I am working on Artificer which as of last night is I believe sitting at 360 of 450, but thankfully it was one of my lowest trades.  When the game went free to play, one of the things that I spent a bunch of my “free” currency on was adding tradeskill unlocks to my main.  The goal is to eventually turn Belghast into an omnicrafter, which is a term that is common in FFXIV but not possible in most games.  Currently my trade-skill load-out looks a little something like this…

  • Armorsmith – 450
  • Butchering – 450
  • Foraging – 450
  • Mining – 450
  • Outfitter – 450
  • Runecrafter – 450
  • Weaponsmith – 450
  • Dream Weaver – 390
  • Fishing – 375
  • Survival – 375
  • Artificer – 370

So like I said Artificer is the lowest of my skills or at least the last of my “make gear” skills so I have been focusing on it.  Fishing and Survival hopefully I will be able to level in tandem as I have done in the past.  Dream Weaver I probably have more than enough material to start pushing it up there in level given that I salvage every single artifact that I get that I already have…. which at this point is a considerable number.  The worst part of the artificer grind right now is trying to acquire gemstones which is namely why I am out in the Steppes farming Rhenium for those every so lucrative Heavy gem nodes.  The only problem I foresee however is that a some point soon I am simply going to run out of money, probably long before I actually hit the goal of leveling all of these things.  I am also lacking one tradeskill on this character, and that is Apothecary the one I have never actually successfully leveled on any character.  At some point I will end up picking up one more tradeskill unlock and start working on that, but I think that will ultimately happen at a later date.  The only real disappointment so far is that apparently this awesome 38 Slot Cosmic Bag pattern that I picked up can only be crafted with a drop from Tier 3 raid bosses, with no other way to acquire it.  That is a bit of a kick in the pants…. but hopefully they will add it to the cash shop or something at a later date.

Low Key Activity

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I think that after coming back from our whirlwind birthday weekend… I have just needed something super chill to do and crafting became that activity.  The biggest problem is that if I keep on this course I am going to ultimately bankrupt myself.  Tonight is going to be a night of fiddling with my desktop upstairs, because in theory I should have a shiny new graphics card to install.  If I can manage to get that done in time I will probably end up participating in the FFXIV pony farm and miscellaneous activity night.  If I do not get finished with machine upgrades until after the start time, I will likely just piddle around in Rift.  I need to get back to doing some Intrepid Adventures because it turns out that they are still a pretty damned good source of upgrades.  I also need to get some more Expert dungeons in, as in a perfect world I would do at least seven a week so that I get all of my currency bonuses.  As far as raiding goes I am still up in the air as to what I want to do there.  There are supposedly a good number of pick up raids, and I would love to see some of the content at least once… namely the new Comet of Ahnkhet raid.  I would also love to get some of those bag reagents to craft up a few 38 slotters… but I would imagine that even now those items are in high demand.  I wish they dropped form the Mind of Madness bosses in Intrepid Adventure, but as I have not seen one yet… I would assume that is not something that happens.  For sheer gear acquisition Hammerknell seems way faster for getting cache drops, but then again that could simply be that people are just more used to those encounters.

At some point I also want to begin leveling my rogue, but in the past my key reason for doing this… was to have a bag maker.  Since going all omnicraftery that reason went out the door so ultimately I need to find a spec that I can really enjoy.  I somehow down the “grandpa build ” is still as effective as it once was for soloing content.  For doing Instant Adventures I am currently running around as Marksman, because standing back and plinking tends to require less focus than getting up close and personal with the mob encounters.  Similarly at some point I do want to level a character on the European servers, and I have gotten my Zaviel character up to 22.  Right now I am largely just opening patron caches on him every day in the hopes of getting extra loyalty, but at some point I want to start pushing him in levels again.  At some point I left the tracks and entered the Instant Adventure zone and it is unlikely that I will ever return to proper leveling with quests on that guy.  The IA is a bit of a trap… in that the experience you gain seems so much faster than anything you can get while questing…  but as a result it ends up with you being severely under-geared for your level.  It also make sure that your tradeskills are woefully behind, and at some point I will have to go on a gathering binge to even begin to catch up.  In any case…  its been a little over a week now since my return to Rift and I am still finding so many of the things compelling.  Even more so I have dove back into the community and am hanging my hat on discord, so if you have any interest in Rift I highly suggest you check it out as well.

 

Contagion and Chill

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Sofa Time

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It’s been a shockingly busy week for me, and most of it was completely unexpected.  Monday through Wednesday I had my boss out, which means I get to not only be myself…  but also him for all purposes.  Which means my “general and administrative” time goes through the roof while attending meetings, and juggling things from the other managers in our department that need resources for this or that.  On the gaming front I was equally busy, with Monday and Tuesday largely being either prep time for the raid or actually raiding.  Then Wednesday night we had the World of Warcraft raid, and while it didn’t actually make I was ended up getting pulled into tank some Mythic Dungeons for Valor.  So when I got home last night, that was the first night of the week when I didn’t already have something planned.  After doing a round of exercises in our newly reclaimed home gym in the garage…  I plunked down on the sofa and spent the rest of the evening playing The Division.  A whole bunch of stuff happened that has greatly improved my outlook on the coming levels.

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Firstly I did in fact move on towards the higher level areas, and there I started getting either upgrades for just green drops like crazy.  The other big change is that I have started vendoring most of the stuff I get because I am simply not getting enough blueprints fast enough to be able to keep myself outfitted in crafted gear, namely not the weapons.  Because of this influx of cash I managed to pick up a nice new marksman rifle, and a brand new LSW that have greatly improved my ability to kill things.  The biggest splurge of the night was a purple chest piece I found on one of the vendors that has over 250 armor.  At the end of last night I was just shy of level 17 and have been cleaning up on the higher level stuff.  I unlocked a security tree perk that allows me to see all of the intel that I missed along the way once I complete all of the side missions for an area.  As such tonight I will likely be poking around and picking these up for quick and easy experience boosts, and start cleaning out the low level zones again.  I had been concerned about how roaming the low level areas meant I was only going up against lower level mobs… but then I quickly did the math and realized that the bulk of my experience is coming from quests and objectives… and grinding mobs is next to meaningless.  I kinda miss the days when grinding lots and lots of mobs was a viable means of leveling…  since that is ultimately my instinct anyways.

Focusing In

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Right now I think my best path is to try my best to push through to level thirty.  I want to run around and spend time in the Dark Zone, but I feel like that is largely useless until I get somewhere near the cap since the items dropping won’t be staying with me all that long.  I also noticed that before I upgraded to the 15+ DZ area the mobs were dropping level 11ish gear which really wasn’t that useful.  Now that I have moved up to the next tier, everything is way over my level and simply not doable without a group.  The fact that you get zero leveling experience while in the Dark Zone really makes me want to avoid it at least until I have capped out my character.  So as we go through the weekend I plan on slowly prodding along and picking up as many levels as I can.  Now that I am almost 17… 30 seems significantly closer and given that I went from 15 to 17 in essentially a single night.  Tonight I plan on picking up the rest of the intel that I missed, and then focusing on going back to higher zone questing.  I’ve completely most of Central Park, and then will move on the higher tier zones after that.  The side missions and encounters all seem to go pretty quickly, it is the missions that are ultimately the ones that I end up having to rez multiple times while doing.

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The game is honestly much more difficult than I expected it to be, especially as a largely solo player.  The gear really matters, and when I got the two new weapons I am using… I saw a massive increase in how successful I was in completing encounters.  The thing I struggle with right now is how much I like to snipe and how hard it is to remain in cover when there are a bunch of mobs gunning for me.  I’ve never tried the turret but I am contemplating using that as a way to draw fire away from me so I can get off a round of head shots to whittle down the opponents quickly.  In truth there are simply a lot of time with the Rikers folks that I have better luck just bobbing and weaving in and out of cover while firing my light machine gun.  Really it is the other snipers that are the bane of my existence, and the folks who fire off a heavy machine gun.  Though the last is largely due to my impatience and not wanting to always wait for them to need to reload.  I am still very much enjoying the game, I just wish I had more time to play it.  I hope this weekend I will have some more time to just hang out and chill out on Sunday and can maybe get into some grouping time with friends also playing.