The Expansion So Far

November 26, 2014

Thus far, the expansion has been the least fun I’ve had in WoW. I began playing towards the end of Burning Crusade and WoD is hands-down the worst playing experience I’ve had in any expansion, and by a wide margin. Granted, a lot of its problems stem from the same thing – the lack of flight – but that is far from its only problem.

  • Travel is terrible. Being grounded sucks as much or more than I knew it would based on the beta. The fixes they promised never came (there’s a shocker!) and we’re left with a slow, convoluted mess when it comes to getting around. Despite having the smallest zones of any expansion so far, travel takes longer than ever. Flightpaths still weave across the map like a drunken albatross, so it’s just tab out and wait. And they rarely go to where you want them to be, anyway, meaning that even after your taxi lands, you have a long, winding slog through trivial and irrelevant mobs and ridiculously mountainous terrain before you get to where you need to be. False paths and dead ends abound, meaning you will waste literally hours of your life trying to find the right path up the mountain. Oh, and don’t think being trivial means the mob won’t daze or dismount you. It might be green and have no chance of killing you, even with 10 of its buddies, but it will still gladly waste your time in the attempt. It just flat out sucks and there’s no way to sugar-coat it.
  • Jump puzzles are meh, to put it politely. Even if you complete it correctly the first time, the sense of accomplishment/reward is minimal: they simply aren’t that much fun. Sorry, guys, but if you’re left with a sense of frustration after completing the puzzle correctly, it’s just bad game design. And heavens help anyone who makes a mistake. You take 5 minutes to travel from the nearest flight point to get to the dot where the item is supposed to be, only to discover that it isn’t there. It’s really on some other strata of the map, perhaps dangling from a tree over cliff, or hidden in a cave, but there’s no way to tell that from your map. So now you’re going to spend another 10-15 minutes running in circles looking for the cave entrance or the path leading up the mountain. Now that you’ve finally found it, you can actually attempt the jump puzzle. Hope you didn’t mess up, or you’re going to have to run up the mountain to try again. On the bright side, now that you know the way, it’ll only take 5 minutes to run back up. In short, the jump puzzles simply take more trouble than they’re worth, and the effort isn’t the challenging or fun sort, it’s the boring, tedious sort. In the end, it’s enough drudgery to suck even the simple joy of collecting things out of the event, leaving you with something that is, best-case scenario, an annoying exercise in frustration.
  • Gearing is a pain. I was really excited to have hit 100, and after finishing up a few quests to clear out my log, I went to queue for normals. I knew I didn’t have the gear to queue for heroics yet, but I was prepared to start in on the endless chain of normals that I knew I would have to do to get there. Imagine my surprise to discover that I couldn’t queue for normals in my quest gear. No, really. Despite having finshed half of the final questing zone (Nagrand), I was still 12 ilevels shy of being able to queue for a normal dungeon. Really, Blizz? That’s just really, really bad game design. I shouldn’t have to do over 12 hours of questing, grinding, and rare hunting after hitting level cap in order to get the gear to queue for a normal dungeon, but that’s exactly what it took. On the plus side, now that I’m able to queue for normals, the pacing seems quite nice, so kudos there.
  • Mobs hit too hard, swarm too much, and have too much CC while leveling. The relative power level of mobs may fade quickly after you reach level cap and gear up a bit, but they’re not so trivial while leveling. This may simply be a case of having an under-tuned class (my hunter handles swarms easily and barely needs to use mend pet), but I think probably not. While leveling up, my shaman spent as much or more time healing as she did dealing damage in her elemental spec and still died with some frequency. I’m a fairly good elemental shaman, and I used all of my tricks (earth or fire elemental totems, capacitor totem to stun, thundershock to buy time with knockback, hex to CC a mob, interrupt/grounding totem to minimize damage), but quite often it simply wasn’t enough. I would be fine when I could pull small (say 3-4 mobs total), but there were many times that I would get hit with more than that. That’s just ridiculous. And that’s without getting into mobs that have CC or other annoying abilities (shadowstep, disarm). There were a few packs of mobs that felt like PVP because of how much I was being chain-CCed (I’m looking at you, packs of wolves in Nagrand). Those annoying abilities may be mostly avoidable when you are fighting 1-2 of them at a time, but when they travel in a pack of 5 and dismount you from range, that’s not exactly an option. At that point, one stun and you’re chained forever. The next stun will go off before the first is over, and unlike PVP, there’s no rule of diminishing returns, each and every one will hit your for full duration. All I can say is I hope what I experienced was a bug, because if that is working as intended, it’s really, really bad game design.
  • Garrisons are not quite right. Most of what Garrisons are, they do well, but it’s a bit frustrating. Overall, I enjoy them, but they are simultaneously too much and not enough. I think this conundrum mostly stems from how mandatory they are. Garrisons seem to be too big, too involved, and require too much upkeep to be an optional thing, so you can’t fix it that way. But for something that is mandatory, it doesn’t do enough to cover all of the bases. Even adding on a plot or two wouldn’t solve the problem on its own. A big part of the problem is that certain buildings have bonuses that are so good that they’re practically mandatory (Lumber Mill, Salvage Yard, Dwarven Bunker), so that I end up choosing them for the sake of progression instead of things that seem like more fun, but are mostly optional or cosmetic (Inn, Stables). Another is that certain quests require you to complete certain buildings (Barracks or profession buildings) to advance in the garrison.¬† Even if you know that you can change these later, it’s a waste of resources that is difficult to absorb, especially early on.¬†This is a basic design flaw in the decisions process. Choosing between fun and efficiency isn’t a fun or meaningful choice. Instead, we should be choosing which aspect we want to make more efficient, or choosing between which fun thing we want. I think the best solution would be to make some of these buildings (the barracks and lumber mill, perhaps) “baseline,” meaning that they do not count towards your plot limits (like the mine, herb garden, fishing shack, and menagerie). This way you still have the options aspect intact, but your bases are better covered. The other option would be to do more to equalize the usefulness of the buildings, but that’s a much harder thing to balance (as evidenced by how imbalanced they are to begin with).
  • Alt-friendliness is at an all-time low. After the MoP fiasco I didn’t think Blizzard could conceive of a less alt-friendly system, and I had also thought they had learned their lesson on that account and wouldn’t try to do so, anyway. Boy, was I wrong on both counts. There is so much upkeep on a single toon that I am struggling to keep up without ever even touching an alt. I am hoping that this is somewhat alleviated later, when I’m not so busy with the gear grind, but until then, I am simply left to sit here and ponder “good lord, Blizzard, why do you hate altoholics?” Back to Garrisons, again, and we see the problem. The Garrison is such a time sink that it’s hard to keep up with more than one. Having a single account-wide garrison would be too much of a shortcut and leave you with too few options… unless! What if leveling the Garrison on your alts unlocked additional plots to your account-wide Garrison? Perhaps you could unlock access to the account-wide garrison where you would normally unlock access to your personal garrison and then just continue to gain extra plots or perks where you would normally unlock personal garrison abilities. For example, the point where you would normally unlock the mine would grant you access to your shared mine (at level 2 or 3 or whatever it is leveled to) and slightly increase the yield (say 10% or something like that) instead of creating a new one at level 1. Instead of building a new barracks, you unlock access to the shared barracks, and for the same resources that you would have spent to make a new level 1 garrison, you expand your current garrison and increase your follower limit by a small amount (let’s go with 10% again and say 2). And so on and so forth. Granted, these sorts of sweeping changes would be hard to implement now, but I can’t imagine that nobody suggested something like this during the creation process. Why wasn’t this hashed out before launch?

 


Another New Tamer Update

November 7, 2014

I’ve drawn up a 3rd strategy for VonFeasel. This one also seemed to work pretty well, but the usual caveat applies: not tested for RNG. That said, I really liked this one. Enchanted Broom is an awesome pet against Christoph. This strategy shares some similarities with “Dino-Might” in that it uses Minefield to shred the beasts before they get a chance to do much damage.

I think I liked the way the dinosaur handled Syd better, but the Rocketbot/Broom combo handled the beasts better. I may try to find a mash-up strategy that brings those parts together, but I think I’m done doing Faire strategies for this time around. Real life has smacked me upside the head this week and I just don’t have it in me to worry about it anymore this week.

In the meantime, those 3 strategies work pretty well as far as I can tell, so give them a go and see how they treat you. Maybe I’ll be back in the saddle for next month’s Faire.


Transmog Gallery Up

November 6, 2014

I’ve been working on my transmog sets lately, and I’ve decided to put up a gallery of the ones I have completed. There aren’t a whole lot yet, but I hope to have more to come. They can be found through a link on the Characters tab.


New Tamer Update

November 5, 2014

I got the guides updated. Christoph’s guide should now show all the correct values for damage done. There are two strategies posted on his page. “Soft Counter” is the strategy that I know works well and have been using. “Dino-Might” is one I came up with this morning. It seems to work pretty well but it hasn’t been tested for RNG, so be forewarned. That said, I had fun with it, and I think it had plenty of wiggle-room.

I’ll try to come up with yet another team/strategy tomorrow.

Until then, good luck and happy pet battling.


New Darkmoon Tamer

November 5, 2014

After raid tonight, Askevar asked me about the new Darkmoon Faire Master Tamer, Cristoph VonFeasel, mentioning she had some trouble with him. Owing to that, I thought I’d try to get out a rough-and-dirty guide ASAP in case others are also having trouble. I have a very basic guide up now, and I will fill in some missing info (namely the exact damage numbers) when I can get it (my quest is on lockout at the moment).

The strategy I posted is one I know works, since I’ve used it every day of the Faire so far. I’ll try to get other working strategies as the week wears on. It being a limited-duration daily, it will be hard to thoroughly play-test possible strategies, so bear with me in case some of the strats are a bit flaky. If you run into problems, please tell me *exactly* when and where the strategy falls apart for you. Simply saying “it doesn’t work” gives me nothing to go on as far as refining/correcting potential issues.

Thank you, and happy pet battling.


Giving Myself a Boost

October 31, 2014

Now that I’ve finally accepted Askevar’s offer to come join her guild, I’ll be building up her server a bit more. Specifically, I’ll be wanting to get a full support network of professions over there. In the effort to do that, I’ve placed my boosted monk over there, and also faction changed my priest, Heathen (previously a Blood Elf, now a human), along with our storage guild, For the Hoard. She’s a tailor and enchanter, and she brought with her all the lowbie mats that were left on the Horde server from our last faction transfer. It’s a start.

Speaking of the new guild, one of my new guildies was kind enough to make me the transmog belt I’d been missing, free with my mats. I tried to sneak a hundred gold into the trade window when I gave her the mats, but she caught me. lol

Ain’t she pretty?


Multitasking with Lowbies

October 22, 2014

Ok, so my brain is something of a train wreck. I was wanting to work on leveling up some pets. So why not just go do it? Because my brain doesn’t work that way. Here’s how it does work…

First, I thought, “Well, you may as well do the battles on a toon that isn’t 90 yet to get some character XP, too.” So, I did. And guess what? Toons are getting some pretty crazy character XP from pet battling, especially with level 25-ish pet battles. I’m talking about 10-14K XP per battle at levels 85-89 (for comparison, a quest is worth 12-16K at that level). I don’t know if this scaling for pet XP is intended, or how long it will last if it wasn’t. That said, it made it past the first round of post-patch hotfixes unscathed, so who knows?

Anyway, I was pretty happy with my scheme except for one little thing: I’m nearly out of level 85-89 toons to work on. So, then I thought, “Well, maybe you should see if the crazy XP scaling still works on lowbies.” So, I did. Crazily enough, it works pretty well. I was completely surprised *how* well it worked. I took my then-level-36 (now 38) pally out there to test the waters and what I found was that it’s completely viable to level up this way. I’ve been getting 3,700, 4,200 XP per battle (which is about 8% of a level on average). It is perhaps not as efficient as doing dungeons and quests at your level or in appropriate zones, but it does have the added bonus of killing two birds with one stone: you’re leveling a toon and a battle pet. Also, it’s a little something different to do, or at least to add into the mix.

Still not convinced? Bear with me.

Ok, so I know what you’re thinking. It’s the first thing Askevar asked me, and believe me, it was the first thing I was worried about myself. “Won’t you die horribly the second you step out into the world?” Shockingly, no.

One of the strangest things about the stat squish is that even at level 36-37 my little prot pally can take a couple hits from level 85-90 mobs and survive. Now, granted, he’s a tank, so he’s a little sturdier than most, and admittedly he wouldn’t ever be able to kill the creature attacking him, but you do have a few hits worth of time to run away or find help (guards, friendly players, etc.). Yes, you will still have an enormous agro radius, but it could be worse.

Ok, so your chances of survival aren’t as abysmal as you expected, but how about getting around? Isn’t that terrible, too? Actually, not as bad as you’d think.

Granted, toons below 85 will need help getting to Pandaria. I know that a mage portal does the trick. A warlock summon (or instance summoning stone) may work, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for those. At a guess I’d say probably yes to warlock, no to instance, unless they’re a big enough level that they are able to walk into the instance, but again, that’s just a guess.

Once you’re there, though, you have a variety of options near flight paths to do your pet battling. Having a toon with a 2-seater mount fly you around to get the flight paths makes traveling between the spots I mention quick and easy. Once you have them, you’ll be self-sufficient, even on a baby toon.

  • The first is obviously Halfhill. Halfhill, and the bulk of the farming lands across from it, are free from hostile mobs, making it easily the largest safe zone for your lowbie. There is a single pack of wolves that will agro on you if you’re little, but if you kite them into the town, the Halfhill guards kill them for you, giving you an easy passage into the safe zone beyond. As long as you don’t stray too far in any direction, you’ll be fine, and there are plenty of little packs of critters to fight. And I do mean critters. You’ll be facing mostly critters with a few aquatic thrown in. Any beast with Devour (most cats have it) will tear through critters quickly and Devour will keep him healed to full. Simply have a carry pet strong enough to survive a single attack in your first slot, then swap out to the cat to finish them off. Rinse and Repeat.
  • The second is Tavern in the Mists (near the Black Market Auction House). There aren’t as many critters, here, and the zone isn’t quite as large, but there’s still plenty of space to move around. You can actually roam around anywhere from the foot of the big stone staircase in the Valley to the grassy ledges toward the cave separating the Veiled Stair from Kun’lai. Exactly how far you can roam at the top depends on your level, but even on an extreme lowbie there are quite a few pets scattered around. Although not quite as many as there are near Halfhill, they are usually *all* critters, meaning you won’t waste a round swapping to a flyer or doing sub-optimal damage. (The difference isn’t enough to completely make up for the increased travel time, but it helps.)
  • The third is the small pond near the legendary pet No-No in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Unlike the first 2, this one is not near an inn, although he is near a flight path. You can reach him by using the flight path to Serpent’s Spine, and then jumping down off the wall and riding around to No-No. The pets here are mostly aquatic, so you’ll want to counter with a strong flying pet with self-healing. Chi-Chi, Hatchling of Chi-Ji fits the bill nicely, as does the wild pet Flamering Moth. Any strong flyer will work if you don’t have those, but you’ll need some other way to counteract low health in your workhorse pet. You could swap out for a similar pet (moths and birds are plentiful) if you have them leveled, or you could simply use pet bandages to fill the gaps in between your free 8-minute-CD heal.
  • Let me just say up front that, unlike the others, the final spot is not easily accessible. The spot is on the ledge in the Dread Wastes where the legendary pet Gorespine resides. Because it isn’t near a flight path, you’ll need to be dropped off with a 2-seater mount (or else you’ll be doing a ton of corpsewalking) and because it also isn’t near a flightpath, you won’t be wanting to move once you’re parked there. It’s strictly a “get there and camp out” option if you’re a lowbie. I only mention it because the pets gathered around Gorespine are beasts (see tip 2 below for why that is important). Counter beasts with mechanical pets.

 

A few tips:

  • Don’t forget to click your Safari Hat, if you have one. The item is no longer worn. You click it to give you a buff that increases pet battle XP by 10% (for your pets, not you). The buff doesn’t appear to have a time limit, and it doesn’t seem to go away when you log out, but if you should happen to die, be sure to check for the buff and refresh it if needed.
  • Wild pet battles have a chance (admittedly low) of randomly rewarding you a flawless battle-stone that allows you to improve one of your pets to blue quality. These are almost always of a specific type (ex: Critter, Beast, Aquatic, etc.) and the type you get is almost always the type of pets you’re battling (i.e. critters give you critter stones, beasts give you beast stones, etc.). This is why I mentioned the Gorespine spot. Critters and Beasts are the most common types, so they will require the most stones to maximize your collection.
  • To travel between Halfhill and Tavern in the Mists you’ll need 3 flight paths learned: the one at Halfhill, The Grassy Cline (at the foot of the big stone stairs), and Tavern in the Mists.
  • To travel between Halfhill and No-No, you’ll need 3 flight paths learned: Halfhill, your faction’s Shrine in the Vale, and Serpent’s Spine.

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