Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009: The First Full Year in Review

Almost every blogger I know beat me to the punch on the "year in review" entries, but I am happy to find a new priest out there and link their blog after seeing a little movement formed by her "year in review meme" entry. so rather than come up with my own way to commemorate the year that was 2009, I'll do it by joining the meme movement!

Here's the instructions from Bible of Dreams:

1. What did you do in the World of Warcraft in 2009 that you'd never done before?
2. What was your favorite new place that you visited?
3. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
4. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
5. What was your biggest failure?
6. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
7. What do you wish you'd done less of?
8. What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?
9. Tell us a valuable WoW lesson you learned in 2009.

1. What did I do in WoW in 2009 that I'd never done before?
There are so many things I could answer for this question because I started playing at the very end of the TBC era in September 2008. One thing that stands out now is finding a focus for my team, that being healing. If the upcoming changes to healing in Cataclysm make that game more of a strategy battle, I'll probably never DPS again unless I'm doing dailies or leveling. And it's not 100% guaranteed I'll go Shadow to level on Ekat. I got her to 80 as Holy, why not 85? But the one thing I had certainly never done before 2009 was tank, and I have enjoyed my little forays into that world with Navar. I'll always be a healer at heart, but it is good to understand the person I keep alive.

2. What was my favorite new place that I visited?
Ulduar, and it's not even close. The scenery in Northrend in general was very pretty, but I also experienced a lot of it during the November/December 2008 time frame for leveling and chasing loremaster of Northrend. Ulduar was my first foray into an endgame raid that was not old to everyone else like Naxx and Kara. Ulduar had so many different types of boss fights and still interests me to this day. Furthermore, I have screenshots where I just look around old Ulduar because the level of detail around you is astounding. It really looks and feels like a castle of the old gods.

3. What would I like to have in 2010 that I lacked in 2009?
Alts at endgame. I suppose there's only one person to blame for not getting on leveling more, but I just cannot shake my love for the priest class. I will be very happy to get Navar to 80 so I can pass the heirlooms over to Biancae and get my Horde-side team going properly. So that's the main 2010 goal, get to where I have the main healer and the alt healer on each side of the Alliance-Horde altar. Right now I'm leaning towards moving Arielae to Horde instead of Clarrissae, but it's totally not determined.

4. What was my biggest achievement of the year?
Finishing off the What a Long Strange Trip It's Been achievement in Hallow's End. It was a year of hard work during holidays, mostly a blast and a couple not so fun. But the 310% flying speed mount is oh so worth it, and will always stand as one of my greatest accomplishments in Azeroth.

5. What was your biggest failure?
Honestly, I don't consider much to be a failure in game. But if I did have to pick something, it would be not really finding a way to play more with my IRL friends or even my guildies. Well at least the ones I like!

6. What did I get really, really, really excited about?
The LFG interface and dual spec. In fact, if it were not for the overwhelming success of LFG and the chance to now do more leveling while healing, it woul dbe the fact that I can easily switch between an efficient DPS spec for dailies and my main spec for healing or tanking depending on the toon. And once my druid and my paladin reach endgame, it will be so nice to be able to queue up as whatever my guild needs for their events. We can always find more DPS, so thanks to dual spec.

7. What do I wish I'd done less of?
Spending time away from dual spec holy/disc. I feel like I was behind the times when I made the switch recently, and Discipline healing is a lot of fun. In my PUG raids the past two weeks I've tank healed instead of raid healed, which is really the first time a group has completely trusted me to take care of a main tank. And with the exception of one error, I have not really stumbled too badly thus far. There's a lot of overlap of course, but the shielding a prevention focus is totally different than the raid topping off and saving of Circle of Healing focused heals. In other words, I wish I'd played less shadow.

8. What was my favorite WoW blog or podcast?
For blogs, Pink Pigtail Inn takes the cake. Early in the year I enjoyed Gevlon a bit more, but PPI has much more solid content and added a second writer as well. Gevlon can grate a bit at times too, despite the fact that he's right 95% of the time. So moving to podcasts, the best on is probably The Instance, but of course I'm biased being a member of alea iacta est. In all reality, I get more joy out of our personal AIE "die has been podcast" than anything else I've tried to listen to in 2009.

9. What was a valuable WoW lesson I learned in 2009?
That some things may never change, like our battlegroup being so favored towards Horde dominance in WSG and Alliance dominance in AV. Too bad I despite AV and love WSG. Go figure! But in all actuality, the biggest WoW lesson I learned is that while this game is a lot of fun solo, there's nothing that addicts me to this game like group play. Hence why I focus on healing, because me healing myself solo is not all that exciting obviously. It's the relationships built that you will cherish after the game is logged out and unsubscribed forever. Just like my previous love Magic the Gathering (where I can still see some of the old guys by going to a tournament now and again), it's the people not the game that makes it special.

So here's to an even better 2010! Thanks for reading and I hope to be on a more regular weekly type of schedule next year. That's my resolution...what's yours?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Taking the Plunge: An Unexpected Side Effect of LFG

So lots of people have been blogging about Patch 3.3 perhaps being the greatest patch of all time for World of Warcraft. The combination of the long-awaited end of the Arthas Lich King storyline and one of the absolute most revolutionary gameplay mechanics changes have combined to make quite a patch. In fact, I believe only 3.1 stands even remotely close, with Ulduar being a very well-designed raid and dual spec being added. But the new LFG trumps dual spec by a nose because it has reinvigorated the game for so many people, whether they are trying to keep up on their mains or level alts. You can now find low-level instances almsot as easily as farming badges, which is now ridiculously easy. Plus we're given a reason to play in the heroics again, most of which are good fun. No offense to the great quests Blizzard comes up with, but WoW is all about instances and they design them very well overall.

Basically I've played a little each day almost since the patch hit, which was unheard of in ym busy schedule before the patch. I can fit in 30 minutes to run a quick LFG on Ekat and get Frost emblems as well as Tier 9 level gear. I actually haven't had time to run a single low-level instance on the three leveling healers because I've been so busy with Ekat and Navar. Nevertheless, I have heard good things from other leveling players and Navar can find a group instantly for his level-appropriate normal WOTLK dungeons. It is so much faster to level doing one quick instance a day for 20% of a level than it is to grind quests. I suspect Navarionae will be 80 before any of the rest of the AE Team gets much more attention.

Oh and before I forget, a blurb on the new Northrend Kaluak fishing contest. I know this gives a nice heirloom 5% ring, but I'm stunned at the sheer number of players interested in a fishing contest again. Very nifty and subtle add for those of us who make some money and have some fun with the minigame that is fishing.

So back to the point: there was a very unexpected side effect of the new LFG. See if you can tell what it is...

Yes indeed, Ekat is now proudly Holy and Discipline dual spec. Remember that I leveled her all the way to 80 as Holy, so I'm not feeling all that gimped by not being shadow. I basically came to the realization that I do not want to waste time gearing for an offspec. I don't particularly like DPS'ing in raids and instances, but I would do it to get a spot. Now that healers can click their fingers and have a group, there is absolutely no motivation to stay shadow. I'll miss Shadowform looking cool and I'll be a hair slower on the few dailies I do now and again, but these are minor points compared to the fun and versatility of finally seeing Penance.

In my first few days as a Discipline priest, I definitely have to adjust to not having Circle of Healing. However, Penance is such an overpowering spell and not having any CD on Power Word Shield is a boon for 5-man healing. In the raids I have run since going Disc, it has been a blast to feel actually effective at tank healing. Holy can tank heal for sure, but not to the same extent as Discipline thanks to Penance (even knowing you have Guardian Spirit every 1 minute). About the only thing Holy has that Discipline does not is the Spirit of Redemption. That's actually a big deal sometimes, but then again...I can flip between Holy and Disc at will so I haven't really lost it. The captain of the AE Team is definitely living her dream, being the most versatile healer she can be and playing the best healing class in the game. After all, that's why Blizzard gave us TWO healing specs, right?

In the end, this really should not surprise me. I have always felt out of place as a DPS in a group. I hate the feeling of being totally replaceable, and love the pressure of being a backbone of the group. I fail, we fail. I want a challenge, and tanking and healing is that challenge. So while I'll gladly level a toon with a DPS spec when I'm questing, that will not be as important now that you can level primarily in instances and battlegrounds. This allows players like me to reach our full potential I believe, and helps us do what we want to do in the limited time frames we have to play. So thanks Blizzard, for finally giving me the push to go Holy/Disc.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Achievement Hunting Vol. 4: Merrymaker

It's the most wonderful time...of the year. There are gnome costumes battling and snowballs for throwing and lots of good cheer. It's the most wonderful's the most wonderful's the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes that's right, we're back for another installment of how to get a Violet Proto Drake, also known as holiday achievement hunting. The in-game Christmas holiday Winter's Veil is a good opportunity to have some fun, see some parts of the world you normally do not visit, and of course, OPEN PRESENTS! This year it appears our gift will be a BB gun of some sort, as that's a Christmas classic (see The Christmas Story movie if you do not understand) and already has an achievement attached. It looks like we achievement hunters will be shooting some opposite-faction leaders for fun and profit.

But since we cannot do that until we have said BB Gun, let's get the rest of the holiday done in the meantime, shall we? While Ekaterinae has her holiday done and looks snazzy in all that Christmas ho-ho-ho gear as I call it, this holiday marks the beginning of the journey for Navarionae towards his proto drake. So I'll be right there with everyone else again this year. Here's the eleven achievements you need to track, in order from easiest to toughest, from a priest perspective of course.

1. Scrooge - All you need to do is toss a snowball at the faction leader where all the holiday fun is going on (Ironforge or Orgrimmar). Snowballs are easy to get, so this is no problem.

2. He Knows If You've Been Naughty - All you need to do is be patient on this one. On December 25, gather around the big tree and open the presents you find underneath. There will certainly be a BB Gun by all indications in 2009, but other little gifts will be there for you too. Open one and this one is done.

3. Bros. Before Ho Ho Ho's - Basically one of the things you must do during the holiday is kiss winter revelers in every major city. You can do this once per hour and you will get snowflakes and mistletoe and possibly holly which changes your mount into a reindeer. So do that for a few times until you get some mistletoe, then all you need to do is travel around to a bunch of "brother" NPC's. Most of them are in major cities.

4. Simply Abominable - This is one of the questlines of the holiday, and it starts with a quest called Stolen Winter Veil Treats. Basically this will only require a trip to Alterac Mountains and a probable wait for the Greench to respawn. Once you have the treats, return them to IF/ORG and you'll get the achievement and a disguise kit.

5. A Frosty Shake - This only ranks up this high because you need the disguise kit from Simply Abominable to become a snowman in Dalaran. Obviously it helps if your character is in Northrend, but your lower level toons can get a portal there and do the snowman dance with someone else doing the same thing.

6. On Metzen! - Another short and fun questline here. You essentially save Metzen the reindeer from a terrible fate, either in Tanaris or Searing Gorge. Obviously these zones are a little rough on low levels, so this is probably a limiting factor for those characters in completing the holiday. Nevertheless, other than a quick trip, this is simple.

7. The Winter Veil Gourmet - Well all you need to do is cook up some holiday fare to get this one. The hardest two parts are getting some Small Eggs, which are easily farmed in low level zones, and then have enough cooking skill for the recipes. If you leveled cooking in getting Pilgrim, this is not an issue. If not, then get cooking as you need 325 skill.

8. Let It Snow - Many of the holidays have something you need to do to 10 unique race/class combinations. This is Winter's Veil version. The snow flakes you need come from the winter revelers, so that part is easy. Although most of the listed combinations are fairly common, you may need some help with Blood Elf Warlock and Troll Hunter. But still, much better than hunting dwarf rogues.

9. Fa-la-la-la-Ogri'la - In the back side of Blade's Edge Mountains, you will find the Ogri'la and some nasty forge camps. In the past you needed to do a couple day's worth of dailies with the Ogri'la to open up the daily you need, which is Bomb Them Again. However, now you can just run right up and do the daily. You need a flying mount and other than that, it's just a matter of learning how to bomb the forge camps without being killed. It's really not too hard, but if you have epic flight, this will be a joke.

10. With A Little Helper From My Friends - in every city there is a machine that will turn you into a sexy gnome in hohoho costume. You need to acquire 50 honorable kills in this getup, but the hitch is that you have to leave a BG to get a new costume as it drops off when you die. Thus, you will want to target places like Wintergrasp and AB rather than WSG and AV to rack up the most kills per BG. From a priest's perspective, just follow a group and heal like crazy. Hopefully people will rack up kills for you, as you are not a great PvP solo class even on shadow.

11. Tis the Season - This achievement is simple on its face. Put on some clothes and eat a fruitcake which comes from one of the quests you did earlier. The clothes come from tailors, the boots from leatherworkers. As for the hats, well you will need to kill one of three bosses in northrend dungeons who carry the hat. Assuming all you want is the hat, Grand Magus Telestra in Nexus is your easiest bet by far. She may even be soloable on normal for many classes, but not for most priests. So just find a group and grind her on normal mode until everyone looks snazzy.

Then you will have the Merrymaker title and another link in the chain to the Long Strange Journey. Nobody will be able to open a present until December 25, so there's no rush. However, you might as well knock out the harder achievements early while you've got time, as the holidays make the last 1.5 weeks of this holiday fly by for most players. We'll see you next time, which will probably be for Lunar Festival!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The PPI "Best of 2009"

Well Larisa over there at Pink Pigtail Inn has yet again inspired a post! Like last year, Larisa is putting together a "best of" list of things in WoW for the year 2009, and this year she's taking nominations and suggestions. I'll be interested to see what she comes up with as she has far more input from a ton of readers. Nevertheless, it's a good idea and I'll put my answers up with explanation for all my readers. Feel free to share your own answers and let me know where I've gone terribly wrong /smile

1. Best raid instance - Ulduar by a mile. Ulduar was visually stunning (have you ever been caught getting background screenshots while your guild was moving onto the next mob? I have in Ulduar), challenging, long, and had a great storyline for some bosses. The bosses are memorable too, as Kologarn with his big arms and Mimiron with the 4 phases of hell, and the vehicle combat that was actually well done. When placed against Naxxramas and Trial of the Champion, this is a no brainer, but Ulduar was almost as good as Karazhan.

2. Least successful raid instance - Trial of the Champion. I'm going against Naxx as a player who never saw the level 60 version, so it was new to me. Trial of the Champion is a nice way to gear up, but it does not feel very epic like a raid should. It's more like a 5-man heroic with more people. Kudos to Blizzard on the faction champions fight though, as that was an amazing change of pace I'd like to see in PvE more often. But that one fight cannot save a mediocre raid.

3. Silliest gold sink - Although it's been out there before 2009, is there a sillier gold sink now than Haris Pilton's Gigantique bag? For 1200 gold, I can get a 22 slot bag. Oh wait, I can buy glacial bags (22-slots) off the auction house from tailors for 400-500 gold. Special mention to the mechanohog drivers out there who pony up like 15,000 gold for a mount that doesn't really fit in with the fantasy world. But at least that looks cool, as nobody will ever see your Gigantique bag.

4. Most longed for instance - No doubt about it, Icecrown Citadel. One of the absolute primary storylines in the Warcraft universe is the rise and fall of Arthas, and this will be the presumable end of that epic storyline that spawned the entire expansion. People wanted Ulduar badly, but not like they've looked forward to this, especially after ToC was such a disappointment.

5. Most juicy guild drama - I don't really know much world-scale drama other than what we see on Guildwatch every week, and that's most loot ninjas. My own Horde guild AIE ran into some problems with their vent server as some alliance member got the vent info and spammed it in trade on our server, thereby leading a bunch of people to cram into AIE's vent and shut it down. Lots of drama ensued.

6. Biggest addition to the game - This is a tough choice between the new LFG interface and dual spec. I'm going to say the new LFG interface because no longer will you have to wait very long to run a random instance, and that's how this system should work. The interface is smooth, has great rewards, and works just like battlegrounds, the most successful PvP aspect of the game. LFG affects every level too, while dual spec is not really useful until Outland level. So LFG gets it by a hair over dual spec.

7. Best quest - Since not many quests were added this year, I will say the jousting quest to defeat the Black Knight. Although many hated jousting, I thought it was an interesting sidebar for the ToC stuff and downing the Black Knight was very satisfying after hearing all about him through all the Valiant quests.

8. Ugliest tabard - Wrymrest on females looks so stupid. Try it.

9. Favorite non combat pet - The demon penguin. Not only is he cool, he represents the Kaluak, which are the coolest walrus Wilford Brimleys you've ever seen. If I had Grunty I might say that as I loved Halo back in the day but for me, it's the demon penguin.

10. Most charming Blizzard employee - Ghostcrawler for eternity. Is there anyone else even in the same ballpark?

11. Best podcast - Might be a little homecooking, but the only podcasts I repeatedly go back to are those run by my Horde guild. The Instance is the best podcast in all the podcasting world right now, and the more private AIE die has been podcast for our guildies is actually decent for outsiders as well. The Instance, all the way.

12. Biggest blog facelift - Righteous Orbs, the joining of Inmysissyrobe and Ideathtard. While Tamarind is more acitve than chastity, both are high quality and their new blog looks much better than their old ones.

13. Most memorable blog post - "I'm coming out" by Arkslaw. I have never seen such a mixture of true confessions meets wow insight. It doesn't hurt that I got cited in that blog entry alongside real bloggers like Larisa, but nevertheless, this is the best piece I read all year.

14. Most noticed blogger breakthrough - Gevlon at Greedy Goblin. He might turn your screws a bit, but he does keep bringing in readers for the politics, the challenges, and the gold making skills. He is the breakthrough of 2009.

15. Most solid content provider - Honestly this would go to Worl dof Matticus, but that site has had some breaks and such which is understandable considering Matt's other responsibilities. So I think it has to go to Pink Pigtail Inn in a close battle with Greedy Goblin. Both provide very regular entries, but PPI is always substantive and always beat me and others to the blogging punch about cool issues.

16. Most hugged blogger - Well it's certainly not Gevlon. I'm going to go with Phaelia over at Resto4Life. While she stepped out of blogging near the beginning of 2009, she went out on a high note and had lots of virtual hugs on her way to becoming a mom. She also got a hug from blizzard in naming a piece of gear after her.

So that's the list. A good year I'd say, and much to look forward to in 2010 with Cataclysm dropping and the end 3 parts of Icecrown Citadel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Achievement Hunting Vol. 3 - Pilgrim

New in 2009, a Thanksgiving themed holiday was added to the seasonal holiday festivals in Azeroth. While earning the title Pilgrim and that snazzy plump turkey shown above are not currently required for the Long Strange Journey achievement, it likely will be added in the next couple of years. As is the custom, we list the nine achievements you need to get the title and run them down from easiest to hardest. My apologies on the timing here, as this will not help you until 2010. Thankfully, this one is pretty simple overall as the holiday only lasts 7 days.

1. FOOD FIGHT - Basically half of this holiday centers around a bunch of Thanksgiving feasting tables outside every major city. So what you do is sit down at one of five seats and hopefully you'll have some other people at the table with you. You can pass the dish in front of you by clicking on the appropriate icon in your action bar, and if you target the person you get this achievement.

2. Sharing is Caring - After throwing food at your mates, switch seats and pass every dish around the table. It's the spirit of caring! Very easy.

3. Pilgrim's Paunch - To get the Spirit of Sharing, you must eat five servings of each of the five dishes at a table. You can get the dishes passed to you by others or you can get up and move around the table if nobody is around. The hardest part of this challenge is doing this in every city, which involves travel and some creative hearthing. Meanwhile...

4. Now We're Cooking - There are 5 dishes you learn how to cook as part of this season. As a sidenote, you can get your cooking up to 350 from 1 on this holiday alone, and you will get cooking up past 300 if you want to do all the holiday. Good time to catch up the skill on alts. Each of your main cities sells one or two types of raw materials and the autumnal seasoning and honey you will need. It's all pretty cheap and the food you cook will be useful for a bunch of regular and daily quests. With two day's worth of dailies, you can get everything you need for the achievements below (A hat, a robe/dress, and 8 turkey shooters).

5. Pilgrim's Progress - As just mentioned, you will need to cook up all the dishes for the various dailies. The hardest part is managing your inventory of goods as you don't want to make multiple trips to each city to get the job done. Stock up ont he raw materials and have what you need when you get there! Again, two day's worth of dailies need to be done, but they are incredibly easy.

6. Pilgrim's Peril - Now we get to the active stuff. In addition to visiting all your own faction's cities over and over, you must pay pilgrimage to the opposing capitals and sit at each table as well. For each side, two will flag you for PVP and will likely get you killed, while two others will not. You will be flagged as Alliance in Thunder Bluff and Undercity. Undercity is the worse of the two as you have to enter the tight passages of the ruins above UC. For Horde, the only problem is Darnassus and it is by far the worst of the lot because you have to deal with the guards in Darkshore and then travel through the center of Darnassus to get to the other side where the tables are. Sorry Hordies, you drew the short end of the stick.

7. Terrorkar Turkey Time - Now we get to the three more difficult achievements. Talon King Ikiss is the final boss of Auchenai Crypts, which is a relatively easy Outland dungeon at level 80. You still probably need 2 people to do this and 3-4 to make it comfortable. You also need to have the Hat along with the Dress, Robe, or Attire on when you kill the King. Not terribly hard but you do need a group in all likelihood.

8. The Turkinator - It's very likely this will irritate you more than most holiday achievements. However, if you know what to do, it's not too bad. Turkeys spawn all over Tirisfal and Elwynn, and you need to kill a string of 40 in a row, killing each in the string within 30 seconds of your last kill. Easier said than done, and pretty much impossible if others are also trying to do the same thing at the same time. Elwynn is much more crowded, so do it around Tirisfal and do it during offpeak hours, maybe even 2-3 days into the festival to avoid others. The other trick is to set up a macro which says /target Wild Turkey. That's all it does, and you run around and click that macro like crazy to find more turkeys during your run. I had the pleasure of losing two streaks in the 30's, but don't lose faith. You'll get it eventually.

9. Turkey Lurkey - And while this is much easier than The Turkinator in reality, it's very much based on finding very low populations of people. You must shoot the 8 types of rogues there are in the game, and Dwarf and Troll rogues are two of the least played 5 race/class combinations in the game. You may need to convince guildies to roll new ones and let you shoot them in the starting areas, as some rogues don't take kindly to this holiday. I stalked a couple kinds of rogues in starting zones and got lucky in Dalaran on the rest. But this could be what stops you from getting the plump turkey and the Pilgrim title.

And that's it! A new title, 100 achievement points, and a cool little pet will be yours. Take your turkey next to a fire and see what happens. Destiny will call. So another holiday in the can and next we turn to Winter's Veil or Christmas. All in all this holiday is pretty well designed and has a lot of upside in the cooking skill ups for alts without hassle. This is one of the better holidays in wow and will be a good addition to Long Strange Journey in the future.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

So who is the most hardcore raider?

Last night I logged in on the desktop and fell in love with the game of WoW again. Now it's funny that such a thing as graphics and computer capabilities could make a difference, but I really am not a fan of this game on my laptop due to issues in Dalaran and feeling less useful in groups on the laptop. The game is so much prettier on my desktop and there's no limits on raiding and such. Well Monday nights is a big PUG night on my server and every server, so I logged in with a couple hours to play and immediately got plugged into a ToC 10 man raid PUG. I was the only clothie in the group, which bodes well for gear. Sure enough, I would come away with a huge upgrade to my wand, which is something I have not upgraded since Naxx. Probably should have picked up a second upgrade to pants as well, but I was slow on the rolls and did not want to give up my tier 7 benefits. Probably a mistake in retrospect, but oh well.

The group one-shot every boss in the instance except for faction champions, which we really struggled to get past. Our struggles against faction champions and other things made me question...just who is the hardcore raider now? The Illuminati has switched to 25 man only raiding now and all I've ever done in ToC is 25 man. Now I've also done Naxx and Ulduar on 10 and 25, but not as quickly in succession as my last two ToC runs. It seemed like a done deal that 25 man raiding was harder because you get higher level gear and you have to manage higher health pools and more people. However, now I'm not so sure.

In a 10 man raid, the "bad things" that happen during boss fights to individuals seem to happen a lot more to you because there's less people to bother. I was really struggling to stay in a healing rhythm thanks to all the distractions and such. Furthermore, your margin for error is much more slim when you have 2-3 sets of healer eyes and ranges on one tank rather than 5-6 sets. If I fall out of range, that's one of the major cooldowns we may need at a critical juncture. Even if these are just balance issues in my head, the faction champs absolutely positively has to be harder on 10 man. You see, it's simple statistics. Six bosses versus 10 means there's over a 50% chance you will be harassed constantly by a boss. 10 versus 25 means less than 40% chance of being harassed (discounting healers on the other team to an extent). For me as the token clothie, the Horde rogue was on me all the time because we were low on CC classes ourselves to take care of the mage and the rogue. There's only so much you can do as a priest against a rogue in PVP style combat. So even if my theory is wrong on other boss fights, it seems like 10 man raiding is way more hardcore for sure on the faction champions. Perhaps it is the 10 man raids who should get the higher ilvl gear for that one.

We did get the speed kill Salt and Pepper achievement as well as the achievement for downing ToC 10, so another 20 points in Ekat's irrelevant total. It might be irrelevant but oh it feels so good. The bag business is back again as my friend Mike sent me a bunch of netherweave cloth from his Outland rep grinding and it reinvigorated the business. So we're grinding a bit of gold up again and I'm ready for the next alt after the DK for epic flight and such. No real news on the leveling front otherwise, but more to come later.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Microtransactions Yay or Nay

Well the big hullabaloo has been passed and here I sit, still thinking about the in game pets on sale for $10 by Blizzard. After seeing some other blog entries and comments, a couple points stand out.

1. This is really no different than offering Blizzcon TV coverage and a murloc Halo pet for $35. You still are paying money for an in game pet, no matter that you are also paying for television coverage of an event so well covered by the internet already. If you are OK with that pet in the game, there's really not a huge difference now.

2. Blizzard is pumping out as much money as they can get from the game. Players demand cool status symbol pets, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Players demand faction changes, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Players demand haircuts, Blizzard delivers (for fee in gold). Players demand race changes, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Players demand server transfers, Blizzard delivers (for a fee). Blizzard is giving you all the play options and customization you want, but if you do not get it right in the beginning character selection page, you will pay for it. This is just more customization in my opinion.

3. Pets are a far cry from gear. Maybe I'm completely wrong and someday Blizzard will be so desperate that they will offer epics or even legendaries for real cold hard cash, but I just don't see it right now. They want more people accessing endgame content and have made the game very easy for a casual like me to at least see the endgame when we want to. This probably is not so good for hardcores, but it is a change that has not made the masses demand epics for real cash. With little or no demand, Blizzard will not be jumping on the bandwagon of risking subscriptions to sell gear.

So yeah it looks like a slippery slope to the end of WoW, but we've heard this all before. Then Patch 3.3 will drop and nobody will remember the fight as we all turn our attention to game content again. Then Cataclysm will drop and we will squeal like fanboys and fangirls, at least for a little while.

Oh and one quick fire...Patch 3.3 notes updated tonight and Oculus is being heavily nerfed to cater to the fact that there's rewards for doing a random heroic dungeon daily each day. Oculus was by far the hardest of the heroics, even probably topping ToC. So while it's not a huge deal, I'm kind of sad that things like Glory of the Hero will be much much easier considering about 1/3 of the really difficult achievements were in Oculus.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Appearances May Be Deceiving

(note that I did write a full-fledged WoW entry below this one, so if you have no interest in personal rumblings then pass on through to the other side and we'll all move on together)

So back in July I went on vacation, and during vacation I discovered that my wife and my grandmother were emailing each other in not such a nice way. Now there's a long bit of history which is not worth going into here, but let's just sum it up by saying my mother and my wife do not get along. They each have made their mistakes and while it sucks for me personally, I've just learned to live with it because some things time may not be able to heal. But anyways, my grandmother started butting in and sending nasty emails to Kelley about the failed relationship. So once Kelley told me about the emails, I confronted my grandmother about it. Obviously not a good phone call to make.

Well I make the phone call and we start off with pleasantries. She told me my grandfather, who was a big father figure in my early life before my mother remarried because my Dad was always 12 hours away, was doing better and was getting in the best shape of his life according to his doctors thanks to bike riding and other activities. She also caught me up on the goings about in my old hometown, and I told her about her great granddaughter. Then I finally had to plunge into the topic at hand. It was at that point that I realized that appearances may be very deceiving. While we were exchanging pleasantries, it was all just a cover on a deep-seeded level of hurt feelings.

You see, my grandparents were upset because I did not call them very often. Now I admit I'm bad at calling family, including my parents who have gotten on me about it over the years of law school especially. Grandparents...hardly ever get contact and that includes both sets of grandparents. Yet the grandparents in Iowa always show unconditional love when I do finally get a chance to catch them up. Maybe it's the distance, I don't know. But anyways, apparently my lack of lots of contact ruined my relationship with my grandparents, as my grandmother tells me "we have no relationship." So while I wanted to just make sure the emails stopped, she plays on her own terms and says if I cannot contact your wife I will not contact you. And she hangs up on me...huge pet peeve. Anyways, I bounced these problems off my best friend and just let it go. What can you do? When appearances are so deceiving even in the same phone call, it's hard to overcome the problem.

Well one month later I'm being Knighted in our one-year anniversary event for The Illuminati and I get a few frantic phone calls from my mother. My grandfather was in the hospital with breathing problems. After 3 weeks of tests and a couple hospital visits on my part, we found out it was pancreatic cancer. This is inoperable but you can always try chemo. So they tried what they could, but 2 months later it was clear his body could not handle the chemo. Last night the struggle ended and my grandfather went on to heaven or whatever you believe is waiting for us in the afterlife. I got another call from my mother last night on my way home from work, telling me that he had a blood clot and that his leg was slowly turning purple, which is a sure sign that the last hours are upon you.

She then asked if I could speak with my grandmother to try and lift her spirits a bit. So I agreed although the wounds from the summer never had healed. On comes my grandmother and she tears into me for not being there with the family in the last hours. She tells me I'm not welcome at the funeral if I don't think he's important enough for a visit now. I simply respond by telling her to be with her husband and that this is not the time to fight. I also tell her I will come if I choose to. Not three hours later, he was gone. As it turns out, I wouldn't have made it in time if I tried. But this nasty conversation with my grandmother brought me back to the summer conversation.

You see, that conversation started as I laid out above, with her reporting that my grandfather was in the best shape of his life according to his doctors. Riding his bike and doing all kinds of activities, my grandfather was in peak health for his age. But just like the emotional relationship with my grandparents, appearances were deceiving on that day as the cancer was already wreaking havoc with his body. However there was just no way it could be detected. So appearances were deceiving on every level of that fateful phone call.

Now while I believe you show your true character at your weakest moment, I do understand that the stress of losing a parent/child/spouse is something that is unimaginable for those of us who have not gone through it. So I'm torn on this latest incident. It really makes me wonder how it will be at the funeral, as I don't know which side of my two-faced grandmother I will see. I do not believe the relationship is salvagable, and for that I am sad because it did not seem anything like this was possible 4 months ago. I want to be there to support my family, but I also don't want to just hang my head and take a beating that I don't deserve.

So I will go to the funeral in a few days and we'll just see how it goes. While I feel bad that my beloved grandfather will not have a meaningful relationship with Paige, I realize that maybe that was not meant to be anyways. It's a sobering thought knowing that some kind of cancer has claimed two of my grandparents on opposite sides of the family, but perhaps that will simply make me more vigilant in checking on my health now and beyond. Who knows where medicine will be in 30-40-50 years but I just hope when my time comes, it doesn't end up like this was. My mother was wrecked for 3 months basically living with her parents and knowing the inevitable was coming, only a few weeks from "the best health of his life." So disappointing and so sad, but I guess that's the way things go.

So I bring you this story partially to vent it all out, but also partially so that maybe you learn something. don't assume everything is OK, as appearances can definitely be deceiving. Cherish every moment you have with your loved ones. I was able to spend some hours with my grandfather in the hospital and we talked about the law (he was a voracious reader and knew more law than probably even me), painting in my new house (he painted as a career for many years), and I showed him pictures of the new house and Paige, knowing he would probably never see them again. I think I brightened his days in that hospital and I know he changed my life for the better as a young child.

We did have the foresight to grab 5-generations pictures last fall when Paige was born with Kelley's great-grandparents (who both passed shortly thereafter) and with my grandfather and his mother. So I do have a picture of my last remaining great-grandmother, my now passed grandfather, my mother, myself, and my daughter all together last year. It's not often you get to have 5 generations together, and it is a picture I will keep close to my heart especially now that there will be no more pictures of 5 generations unless I'm the great-grandparent or great-great grandparent. Take those opportunities when they come as you never know when life will get busy and someone will disappear from your life forever.

The Updated LFG System and a New Passion

Well I believe the ranks of the AE Team may have to add an honorary new member. He is not technically a "healer," but he does have some wicked good self-healing via a little ability called Death Strike (+10% health every few seconds). He is also not a female toon, which is probably a plus as far as my metrosexuality goes. But nevertheless, he is a member of The Illuminati and he proudly wears the pink regalia of the AE Team. His name is Navarionae, my night elf death knight. There were a few factors that contributed to his shelving a few months ago. First, the Outland grind and being so overpowered bored me. Second, the tanking experience did not go well for me on a first try. Third, the new focus on the healer-based AE Team set my sights on goals that did not involve him.

Well a few factors also led to his revival in my sphere of interest. First, in the glow of hitting my long-term goal and getting the Violet Proto Drake on Ekaterinae, I decided it was useless for me to have over 12k gold on the team and nothing to spend it on. My DK was dual specced already, so I took the quick plunge and trained his flying. Yes I mean expert and artisan (epic). Second, I started trick or treating with the epic flight in Outland and was racking up the free experience. Then after dinging 72 on candy, I went back to the Tundra and started questing. Questing in Northrend with epic flight is absolutely amazing. So long story short, I ended up dinging 73 in short 1 day after dinging 72. Now I'm committed financially and emotionally in this character again, and it's nice to have an ongoing concern higher than level 31. So welcome Navarionae to the team.

Between Navarionae becoming a new leveling concern and the heirlooms going BoA across factions down the road (covered a coupe entries ago), Biancae and Navarionae need heirlooms anyways. So I've started doing Champion's dailies again. I must say now that you can get 10 seals per day with all the new quests, the process is a lot more enjoyable than when it was citadel, jousting, and chillmaw all the time. So kudos to Blizzard for making that process easier for those of us who really hated it after a while.

So to the main topic of the day: The Patch 3.3 LFG system. The long-awaited cross realm Looking For Group is going into effect in a few weeks. You can earn extra gold just by utilizing the system, and hopefully the LFG will become like battlegrounds in that you will spend less time waiting to do what you want to do in the game. Here's the basics: you can join LFG with 1-4 people, but the more people you have grouped with you going in (the less random the group as a whole will be), the less bonus money you will get. So there's clearly some incentive to use the system. Furthermore, grouping via LFG will allow you to automatically teleport group members from anywhere in the world to the instance and back to where they left off afterwards. Therefore you can quest while you wait for a group and not miss a beat due to travel times. But if this is designed to lessen the time it takes to find a group for something, why do we need paid to use it? Well that's because there is a downside.

First downside is the grouping function. Now it will supposedly try to group you with other people around your gear level, which is fair. But the system will also put people more experienced with this particular dungeon with others who have less experience. Now while this is a good way to spread knowledge, it also prevents quick zerg runs of the daily where everyone knows what they are doing without any explanation. You also will have the opportunity to vote someone off the group if necessary. Sadly given the ninja possibilities, you may not have to vote the real problems out of the group before they cause the problems. Hopefully people will respect other players from other realms, but I'll believe it when I see it. So this improved risk of bad group experiences and less zerg possibilities will make the system less desirable than it could be. Hence paying us off.

On the whole, I like the new LFG system. Everything that goes cross-realm seems to be a decent idea, as it cleaned up the wait for battlegrounds and also cleared up the instance servers cannot be loaded problem. So perhaps good player conduct will be the rule of the day and everyone will profit from this system. One can hope. If nothing else, you should be waiting less to find people doing what you want to do. Less wasted time in game means more time for what you want to do in and out of game.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Achievement Hunting Volume 2: Hallow's End

Well as you've seen below, the holiday Achievement system is worth your while if you want to see some of the best content in the game that's only here for small spurts at a time. This was the holiday that I personally split over two years due to not being max leveled quite yet in 2008. However, this is definitely one of the best holidays no matter where your toon resides in the levels. There's a cool title on the line, perhaps the best of the seasonal titles "the Hallowed." So let's get to it!

Hallow's End revolves around two things: the Headless Horseman, and trick or treating. Therefore, it's a lot like real life Halloween with scary movies and theme parks capped off by a night full of candy. There's a ton of travel involved, but as a side benefit, completing this holiday will put you mighty close to Explorer and all the flight points in the world, assuming they were not handed to you already as a Death Knight. From easiest to hardest...

1. Trick or Treat - The easiest step of the path to "the Hallowed" is a key part of the holiday. Yet again you will be visiting your local innkeeper every hour to trick or treat. Sometimes you get candy, or transforming wands, or toothpicks, and a few times you get tricked and transformed for an hour or a minute. Do this for the first time of what will be many hourly visits, and this achievement is yours.

2. That Sparkling Smile - Although this is all determined by the luck of the random number generator (RNG) when you trick or treat, you should eventually get a toothpick to clean those filthy candy-covered teeth. Use one and this achievement is yours.

3. Out With It - Just like real life, you will simply have to stuff yourself with so much of the candy you get from trick or treating all at once, and once you barf, this achievement is yours. It only takes about 5-6 rapid candies, so this one is pretty easy.

4. The Savior of Hallow's End - This is kind of like the Iron Dwarf event from Brewfest. You have a set of quests which eventually ends with a quest to put out some fires the Headless horseman sets in a starter town outside one of the major cities. Every hour this happens and if you have enough people putting water on the fires, you will complete this quest and profit with the achievement.

5. Bring Me The Head Of...Oh Wait - You must kill the Headless Horseman. This doesn't require you to be any level really, but only level 75 characters can summon him this year with the update for level 80. Still, the Horseman fight is not very difficult and could be done with 3-4 appropriate level characters. You kill the horseman, then his head, and continue until the head is finally finished off.

6. Rotten Hallow - There is also another line of seasonal quests which will take you up to Southshore to set or clean up stinkbombs and hang out at the Wickerman festival outside Undercity. Nothing complicated here, just a quick trip during your trick or treating.

7. Check Your Head - If you kill the Horseman regularly, you will receive weighted jack'o'lanterns. Furthermore, these are not soulbound and can be traded with friends who have received extras. You'll need 10 of them, and go to Dalaran and place one on each race. For the record, YOU WILL NOT GET CREDIT FOR PEOPLE WITH WEIGHTED JACK O LANTERN HEADS ALREADY! So pick another gnome!

8. The Masquerade - Again, you will need to rely on other people for this one. In the course of trick or treating, you will get one of 7 wands which can transform others into Pirates, Wisps, etc. You cannot target yourself, but you can trade with other people who have other wands. Eventually you convince enough strangers or guildies to do this to you with all the different kinds of wands, and the achievement will be yours.

9. G.N.E.R.D. Rage - As you trick or treat and visit candy buckets around the world, you will pick up a bunch of G.N.E.R.D. candy, which gives you a speed boost. The goal is to get 50 Honorable Kills while under the buff granted by that candy. The only hitch is that if you die in the battleground, the buff is gone for the remainder of the battleground and cannot be recovered, as you cannot eat candy once the battleground has started. Thus, even with the shorter BG's now, you are faced with waiting out the BG or waiting out the 15 minute deserter debuff if you drop. I've heard Wintergrasp is the new best place to do this, but Alterac Valley is a nice place to run because you can get in with the zerg and not likely be killed. When you are a priest, you are really handicapped and have to chase others around to do this achievement. Very time consuming and annoying for non-PvP'ers, but fear not. None of the other PvP holiday achievements are this hard, and sometimes you get lucky and nab 15-20 HK's in one BG!

10. Tricks and Treats of Azeroth - While some will disagree and put G.N.E.R.D. Rage higher, I put this up here because it is more time-consuming and requires a Northrend level toon. You must essentially visit almost every inn your faction has in every zone of Eastenr Kingdoms, Kalimdor, and Outland for the achievement. In each inn there is a candy bucket which you click on for candy and a quest completion. A good way to get gold at 80 (over 6 gold per bucket) or experience at any level (over 11,000 xp at level 70). Even if you want to split this holiday over a couple years, grab the free money or experience that is handy to you and then you'll have less to do next year.

11. Sinister Calling - Ahh, the RNG strikes back! If you are complaining about drop rates on toothpicks from inns, wait until you see the droprates on the Sinister Squashling pet and Hallowed Helm from the Horseman. At least you have a very minor chance to get these from Trick or Treating as well, but the best way is still killing the Horseman 5 times a day in your 5 man group. The only hitch is not only are the drop rates kind of low on each, but you have to win the roll for each item. So it's RNG squared, and can be the real hiccup of the holiday. Roll those dice and hope for the best.

That's all you need to do, and then you may have two new titles in The Explorer and the Hallowed. More importantly, you'll be one step closer to that violet proto drake. Now that most of the real holiday junkies have their drakes, don't get left behind! Enjoy the holiday with all your friends, maybe even set up a big group for PvP with G.N.E.R.D.'s after a big journey across the landy to many candy buckets. Take this time to enjoy the fun parts of the Halloween season, well other than the ridiculous/sexy costumes and drinking if you happen to be on a college campus. But for those of us who are not, viva la Horseman!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009



All the holiday achievements have been very fun to pursue since I was introduced to the Headless Horseman on the last 2 days of Hallow's End 2008. At that time I was level 66 and being carried by friends. Ever since grabbing the free experience from candy buckets and opening up flight points last year, I've been hooked to the holiday events. The fact that there was a big achievement and reward at the end made it so much more worth the while. So above I present to you...THE VIOLET PROTO DRAKE!

So did I have to wait for the RNG to treat me well with the Horseman drops? Yes, but not in the way you think. I had 4 of the Hallow's End achievements left to do from last year. Two were the holiday quests which were easy peasy. I also needed to put Weighted Jack O Lanterns on people's heads and get the pet and hallowed helm from the Horseman. Well I got lucky on the pet and helm dropping the second day of the holiday, but I could never get the Horseman to drop the weighted jack o lanterns. Found out tonight they are tradeable, so a couple guildies sent me some and I got some from night three of Horseman runs. Off to Dalaran, and a few cackles later, the deed was done. Definitely one of the better titles in the game, and by far the best of the holiday titles. Ekaterinae The Hallowed. Now riding around at such a speed it will make you hear sonic booms. Hallelujah.

Here's some screenies of the big moment and the long-awaited payoff.

So the second major achievement dream has been chased successfully, Explorer being the first. Time to set my eyes on some dungeons or Loremaster, or maybe something else entirely. Suggestions welcome, but it better be fun!

In other news, I've been in Onyxia 10 and 25 and Trial of the Crusader 25 twice the past week. I'll give my thoughts on Patch 3.2 and 3.2.2 in a future entry for those who have yet to see the newest content. It's quite a bit easier than the learning curve on Ulduar, but Icecrown is certain to have some serious challenges ahead.

Until next time, may your dream-chasing be successful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Awesome news for one AE Team Member

Well ever since I rolled Biancae the paladin on Horde-side to experience that side of the game, I knew it would be an uphill battle on Biancae as she is a lone ranger on that faction. Unlike Arielae and Clarissae, Biancae has no big bags, no substantial gold (although I am working on that with another cross-faction friend), and most importantly, no heirloom items. This might not have been a huge deal initially, but with champion's seals it is now possible to cut about 17% off the leveling time. When you are talking about 7-8 days in game time, that becomes a significant amount of extra time. So what gets announced tonight in a blue post but the news people like me have been hoping to see for a long time.

Bind on Account (BoA) items will be transferable between characters of different factions on your account. This will likely be released with Patch 3.3.

Boom! There it is, a Friday night bombshell. Not only will you be able to move your heirlooms across factions if you choose to, but it will be coming most likely in the next content patch. Considering Icecrown Citadel raid encounters began testing this week, it is only a matter of a few weeks until Patch 3.3 drops. And then, Biancae will no longer take 17% longer to level. This is just the help the Horde-side of the AE Team needed, and I thank Blizzard for thinking of those of us just starting on our WoW journey.

In other news, it's October and I'm 210 hours off my yearly goal. Hence, I'm working a ton. On the bright side, I have a bit of extra time to work on the new house and enjoy WoW this week with my family visiting others in Wisconsin. So hopefully I'll be on here a bit more. Apologies to my new followers, who have not seen much out of me. Arielae has dinged 31 and crossed into the tough territory of the early 30's. She's headed to Kalimdor for her next swath of leveling, and I hope to report level 40 quickly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brief Note

Congratulations to Eitrin, who just welcomed his first child in real life. Welcome Liam and we can't wait to see you enjoy the gaming world as you grow older! Cheers!

Also, the Druid has been getting my limited playtime recently. She's up to 28, so expect some ding 30's in the near future. As for Ekat, she got left on the sidelines for a Trial of the Crusader guild run, but when the wife and kiddo leaves for a week and a half beginning next week...let's just say raiding is on the top of my list of things to do. So looking forward to heroic Ulduar, which will be good enough to bridge the gap on gear hopefully.

Patch 3.3 is already on the PTR and looking amazing. We have Tier 10, new emblems, Icecrown raid, and three new 5-man dungeons to talk about plus the usual tweaks to priest and other healing classes. Well back to the grind of billing 200 or more hours a month. If you have no idea what that entails, consider yourself lucky :-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Achievement Hunting Volume 1: Brewfest

Although not many people admitted to it before the Achievement system was added to World of Warcraft, we as a playerbase like to chase titles and rewards to feel a sense of completeness or perfectionism. As I'm one of those players with a main and not much else in terms of high-levels, I spend a lot of time experiencing the game on Ekaterinae. She has turned into an achievement junkie of sorts, and I jumped at the opportunity to see all the seasonal holiday events in their full glory. The proto-drake is just a bonus in my opinion. Given when I started playing, this is actually the second time Brewfest has come around for me, but my first real holiday experience was Hallow's End 2008. I was not max level though, so my full completion of the holiday achievements does nto pick up until Winter's Veil. Now that I've seen most of what Blizzard has to offer at least for holiday achievements, I figure it is time to put my two cents in on the achievement hunting process. And so we begin with Brewfest!

Brewfest is an excuse to see the game from a blurred drunken stupor perspective. For those of us who don't really get lambasting drunk anymore or are too young, this is actually a pretty accurate and nifty aspect in game that's not used very much. As far as the holiday achievement-hunting goes, it does not get much easier as far as limited amounts of travel and no PvP, but you will need to do some dailies which is kind of unusual. There are nine achievements on the way to "Brewmaster," and here they are from easiest to hardest (from a priest's perspective):

1. The Brewfest Diet - Purchase a bunch of cheese and sausage from the vendors in the Brewfest area outside Ironforge/Orgrimmar. A couple silver, 10 achievement points, and a lot of heartburn.

2. Strange Brew - Purchase a bunch of drinks from the vendors in the Brewfest area, again a couple silver and voila 10 achievement points. Plus you'll see what drunk gaming looks like as a side benefit.

3. Does You Wolpertinger Linger? - There will be a handful of quests available from the vendors and such in the Brewfest area, and one of them is Catch the Wild Wolpertinger, which requires you to get drunk (you probably already are close from Strange Brew) and then catch Wolpertinger's around the festival grounds with a net. This is like Chicken Party for the Frenzyheart, except you are drunk. Easy peasy and a cute pet to boot.

4. Have Keg Will Travel - In the course of doing the quests and such, you'll get brewfest tokens. These will be saved for later purchases. Once you have 2 tokens, you buy a Fresh Brewfest Hops and turn your mount into a ram for an hour. Again, the hardest part will be doing any of the many quests offered, which is not much to ask.

5. Drunken Stupor - You need to get smashed, fall 65 yards, and not die. This makes the middle of the list because it is very easy for some classes and very annoying for others. For a priest, we have our spot in Shattrath like everyone else where we can jump to the Lower City and fall about 65.5 yards. There may be other locations, but this one is not as easy as it looks. Make sure you take enough booze to get you smashed multiple times in case you mess up and die, like me.

6. Down With The Dark Iron - Back at the festival grounds, every half hour the dark iron dwarves will invade with their little mole-machines and will try to steal all the free booze! So what shall we do? Get drunk on the booze ourselves and throw our empty mugs at them! This is a fun battle that takes about five minutes and you really only need a bunch of warm bodies to do it. The only problem is if your server has a lot of slow periods, but you should be able to log in at some point in 2 weeks and find enough people hanging around to win the battle. Click on the cog that forms at the end of the battle, whether or not you participated, and you get 10 brewfest tokens and 10 achievement points. This is one of the three repeatable quests per day for tokens, so you should probably get to know this one.

7. Direbrewfest - Killing the holiday boss Coren Direbrew is all you have to do. There should be plenty of groups looking to fight him as he does drop some nifty stuff. Coren is a fairly healing intensive fight from what I saw, but there's not a lot to worry about other than burning him down and healing him even though there are some adds. Hardest part should be finding 5 people to group with and making the trek to Blackrock Depths. This is the first moderately difficult part of Brewfest.

8. Brew of the Month - This requires 200 Brewfest tokens. You get a bunch from doing all the quests surrounding the holiday, but you will likely still need to do a couple day's worth of dailies to finish off 200. The dailies are the dark iron fight (for 10/day), a quest to ride around Ironforge/Orgrimmar on a ram and shout about brews (for 15/day) and a task to deliver kegs from Kharanos to the grounds (for 2/keg delivered, about 20-30/day). Look at the front of the camp for the keg delivery task, as it is not a quest that will show up on the minimap. This is just slightly time consuming, which makes it more difficult than the previous seven which could be done in a day. Once you have 200, you go sign up for Brew of the Month Club and you get the achievement.

9. Disturbing The Peace - This requires 350 Brewfest tokens to buy three peices of brewfest clothing. Then you must go to Dalaran and dance while smashed (/dance). What you do after said dancing, that's your business...but you'll nab the achievement. This requires travel and a lot of dailies to get done, so you'll have to be diligent.

Protip - Complete Disturbing the Peace within 2 hours of buying all the pieces of clothing, then return the clothing for your tokens back and use them to buy Brew of the Month membership. This will require 350 tokens total rather than 552 total, which is a difference of about 4 days of dailies. Even in a two-week holiday, 4 days is a lot of time.

All in all, Brewfest was one of the more enjoyable holidays for most with excuses to get drunk, silly fun quests, and easy achievements. The only difficult part is staying diligent enough to do the dailies, but if you are an achievement-hunter, even this is a very small burden. I will be getting Brewmaster tomorrow on Ekaterinae because I did not start the event until five days in, so I hope you enjoy the second week of Brewfest and start collecting those titles and meta-achievements so you can be cool and fly the 310% proto drake with us!

As for the Holiday, I give it a B-. Good, but not great. Now Harvest Festival, that gets an F. Worst holiday in the game, no doubt about it. If you find a reason to care about Harvest Festival (which runs this week BTW), let me know why. I'd love to know.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Whatever Happened to Customer Service?

In the process of moving, the last thing you need to put up with is more stress. Yet that's just what got piled on by a couple companies this week in our first full week in the new house. You see, we closed on Friday and had appointments set up for Saturday morning for the phone/internet company, the satellite TV company, and the home improvement delivery guys (for our fridge). That way we could get those all set up and be able to access the internet when we had down moments and also to tape my college football team's game, the premiere of House, etc. Well despite my best efforts, things went poorly.

Let's start with the phone/internet guy. To say he was not personable may be the understatement of the century. Plus he was weird enough to not want in your house for very long. I was out of the house when he finished up and my wife did not force him to check everything. So come Monday, I'm checking things over and I notice he's jacked one of my phone cords and the internet does not work. So I call customer service and it takes them 20 MINUTES to verify I am the account holder. I had set this account up two weeks earlier for new cell phones as well, so they should have been more than updated. After that fiasco, we go through the hoops to find out something is wrong with the line. So we need a technician, and the first available appointment is a week away on the next Monday. Wha-Wha-What???

Meanwhile in television land, my DVR box, which had been working absolutely fine at the old house, stopped recording shows and would go into major meltdown mode if you recorded anything. So the college football game and more importantly the premiere of my favorite shows...gone. Now one might say I could Hulu these, but I don't have internet at the time either. I called customer service and the lady has to take me through the steps of recording and such to make sure I'm not a moron. When I cannot produce error codes, she complains that she cannot fix the problem unless she knows the error codes. Well I convince her to send out a technician anyways.

Back when these services were being set up, I had left the house to go over to the company that made my garage door. You see, the builder did not put a pull plate on the door because we did not buy a garage door opener from them. So I needed to go get some specialized piece of metal, and they are only open on weekends from 9-12 Saturday mornings. Sigh. So I call them for directions (remember, no internet) and the guy is all huffy on the phone saying "we close in 30 minutes." As I'm about 25 minutes away, I don't see the problem. So he gives me directions, saying that once I get off the highway I'll see a Bobcat dealer on the left hand side and that's Mulhauser Road. Then turn left and we'll be right down the street. Well I get up there with about 4 minutes to spare and follow his directions, and I cannot for the life of me find the place. I give up at 12:10 and decide to figure it out next weekend. Well it turns out that the guy gave me directions TO THEIR OLD STORE! They moved about a block and a half away and sure enough, he ave me poor or incorrect directions.

So in all of this, I wondered, whatever happened to decent customer service? I know it's asking too much for good customer service departments now that most of them have been outsourced to foreign countries to save money and to deal with awful customers efficiently. But I pay my bills every month and always have, and I get crushed by bad customer service. The worst was the internet/phone company, who I think was trying to lose a brand new customer.

What about Blizzard? I've heard mixed reports on their customer service team, and I've only come into contact with them a couple of times. Before I got Levitate on Ekaterinae, I found myself stuck in the digital world a couple of times where I could not get out for whatever reason. Now it is frustrating to have to leave you character, but I just filed a ticket and within an hour, bam, delivered in front of Ironforge safe and sound. Back before epic loot was tradeable for a 2 hour window following the boss kill, I also saw a lot of tickets for mis-looting. It seemed like the game masters took care of these smallest issues within a couple hours, which is pretty nice.

The other impressive thing about Blizzard is how open they are with information. Now when they want to keep a secret, they do a pretty nice job. And they need to, considering the high value of intellectual property they create. Nevertheless, they are so open in places like Blizzcon where they discuss the 180,000 active bugs in the World of Warcraft or they let the actual developers sit there with fans and answer concerns or show how they are thinking through game balancing problems. The other companies I frequent (Sony and Nintendo) for video gaming are never that open about their developments. It's really walking a fine line of too much information probably, but Blizzard seems to have a refreshing take on customer service not seen in these days.

As endnotes, I'll point out that all three companies I talked about partially redeemed themselves, especially the satellite company. The phone/internet company got called again and they set up a much earlier appointment, where someone came out and explained all that the previous guy had messed up, which was a lot. But they got the internet working 2 days after my problem was reported instead of a full week. The satellite company replaced my box even though it had just gone out of warranty, and did not charge me for it at all. Doesn't save my shows from last week, but now I can Hulu them and keep up to date. The garage door company had someone much more competent to give directions on my second attempt, so even though I had to burn a half hour's worth of working time during the week, I got my pull plate. Nevertheless, customer service should not be like pulling teeth.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Your Mark On The World

(not a current picture)

I hope everyone is enjoying Patch 3.2.2 as it dropped yesterday. Of course there was patch day instability according to my friends and news reports, but when is patch day not a big ball of excitement?

Well I am happy to report that the closing on my house went smoothly on Friday and I now am the proud owner of some land and a residence for the first time in my life. I'm fighting with the phone company to get my internet fixed because they did not install the lines correctly or something, so I've been without internet for 5 days outside of work. Thought I'd drop a note here during lunch hour to let you know I've got lots of ideas brewing for posts and should be more rapid-fire once my internet situation gets worked out. Plus, I'm jazzed about finally getting back into game with the Onyxia encounter and Brewfest going on.

Buying a house and beginning the awful process of moving/unpacking had me thinking about a topic that comes up pretty often in WOW discussions, that being player housing. WOW currently has no such housing, but other games have implemented it. While I don't think individual player housing is such a good use of Blizzard's time, I do believe the people who want housing are onto something decent. Basically you want a place on your server that you can customize to some extent and call your own. Just like the pride of owning a home, you can have pride in being able to show people what you've done with the housing and impress them with trophies from achievements or gear sets you've put together.

However, this is a big change from the bags and banking system we have currently, and one could surmise that opening up room on the servers for each and every character or account to have such a house would be a huge burden to developers and servers. They are hesitant to give us character slots 11 and 12 on a server, which I would think is a similar undertaking to player housing. Plus, for every person who hangs out in the housing and shows off their beautiful creation, there will be 100 who don't care. This is not a good ratio, and not one Blizzard is likely to latch onto considering their recent trend towards opening endgame content to all.

There is a middle ground though: guild housing. With the efforts being made to completely revamp the guild experience in Catacylsm, there are now even more reasons to find yourself in a guild. Guilds will have achievements and those can be shown off just like player trophies would be in individual housing. Plus, you could also show off some individual achievements if you wanted to. Presumably you could show off the guild housing to other potential recruits, and a well-kept house would be a great recruiting tool. It would be almost like the many guilds who have detailed and lively webpages, but only directly connected in game. I envision something like Animal Crossing where you could really decorate to your heart's content, showing off gear sets or trinkets or holiday items from various members. If the developers are going to all the trouble to make guilds earn experience and talents, is it that far-fetched to let guilds also have a place in game for socializing, recruiting, and making their tiny mark on the world? As long as you put a minimum number of accounts requirement on the guild housing (like 10 active accounts in a guild to have a house), the load on the servers would be considerably less than individual housing.

Until we see these changes, the roleplaying that happens on my realm and on other realms and the guild fellowship will have to be done somewhere out in the world. There are some nifty places out there like the top of the Twin Colossals in Feralas, so not all hope is lost for places to hold events and get togethers. But one would anticipate with the rise of facebook, myspace, etc., more casual WOW players will really want a place to express themselves and make a positive mark on the server. I think guild housing could get that done.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Today is the Day!

Yes indeed, the process that began with some very cold February weekends, continued through a minor fight with the IRS, and so on comes to an end today. I will be adding a true, honest to goodness mortgage payment to my monthly bills and hopefully saying goodbye to rent forever, or at least for a few decades. Today we close on the house, and then the moving process begins.

It may not be perfect, but it is new. It may not be where I retire, but we'll be there for a long while if I have any say in it. And it's mine. No more landlords. Hallelujah.

Have a fantastic weekend! Oh and Happy Pirate's Day since I'll miss most of it!

EDIT - I realized after putting up that picture that it shows my old UI. I was probably no more than level 20 or so at Pirate's Day last year, so you can see my baseline User Interface. Look at Mind Control sitting on the main bar! Plus the other thing to notice is that I was grouped with Gabranth. Oh Gabranth, my pocket we miss thee.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

A couple of birthdays just passed worth mentioning.

1. My daughter (who you've seen in previous entries) turned 1.
2. I had my first anniversary of WoW-play.
3. I had a birthday today.

So it is a time to add one to the tally, or level up/ding in life. I have logged about 2 hours of gametime in 9 days, which happens because sometimes you bill 140 hours a month at work and sometimes you push up to 160-180-200. That's the nature of the beast. Anyways, I appreciate all of you who do drop by and I've got some ideas a-brewing for the upcoming Brewfest and my return to the game with more gusto following this crazy month of work, hospital visits, moving to a new house, etc.

On a sidenote, I do end up torn when I log in between achievement-hunting on Ekaterinae or leveling an alt. Seems like with limited time windows both are good options yet neither calls to me 100%. So we'll see where that takes us. Until next time, have a great time in Azeroth.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Soon is Too Soon?

So I was perusing through the countless articles and blog entries I've let slip the past few days while I've been on a vacation to work-a-lot land, and there's rampant speculation out there about when WoW: Cataclysm will drop. There are many who think late 2010, and a few others who see that this timeline does not quite add up without another major content patch or two between Icecrown Citadel and Cataclysm. Not only does that seem unlikely based on the trailer from Blizzcon for the new expansion, but Blizzard has publicly stated that they would like to move more towards an expansion every 12 months instead of every 21-24 months. However, I wonder if this is such a good idea for the game.

Blizzard has set the bar high for expansion content, including new zones and leveling experiences. Perhaps part of the solution is to cut this content in half, whch may be happening with only 5 new levels in Cataclysm. However, there's a whole new way to add customization to your character and your guild, and the number of new zones rivals that of Burning Crusade and Northrend, or at least comes very close. Adding in all the changes to the old world, and Cataclysm has just as much content as TBC and WOTLK. Can Blizzard get enough development on staff to keep the game this vibrant and new while refreshing the scene every 12 months? Furthermore, will people pay $40 every year for a game they subscribe to already? These are the tough questions Blizzard must face if they are serious about the 12-month time window.

On the bright side, the storyline for an expansion could really be solidly packed into 9 months or so, slamming out 4 tiers of raiding with a new tier every 3 months or so. While that will keep endgame players refreshed and happy, I don't think there will be time for you to truly experience the total beauty of an expansion at that pace. Of course this all assumes Blizzard keeps expansions at the same high level, which they may not. Two of the huge storylines in the Warcraft universe is the blending of Draenor and Azeroth and the Arthas fall...we've now covered those. While Deathwing is a true villain, I don't believe any other setting can reach the same potential...not even the Maelstorm or the Emerald Dream, both longtime rumored expansion settings. Perhaps it is time for Blizzard to bring out less content in an expansion, but they better believe the box game is not worth $40 anymore if that is the case. I can stay up to date with my other love which is sports games for $100 a year ($50 per game for the newest football and baseball games every year on console). For WoW, the price would jump to $196, and that's if you pay in 6 month increments and get the discount. That's a lot of money even considering it's great bang for the buck.

So it will be very interesting to me to see when Cataclysm comes out. One has to believe we are only a few weeks away from Patch 3.2.2 and Onyxia reloaded now that the Tier 9 Coliseum raid is fully released. Then it's hard to imagine Blizzard would hold Icecrown beyond the beginning of December, which means people will be chomping at the bit for new content by March or April. That's only 18 months from the release of WOTLK, and it could let us infer that expansion content/quality/timing will continue to change. Only time will tell if this is a good business decision, but perhaps by the time these changes become a problem, Blizzard will have out their second MMORPG and will be crushing the market with something else. Dare to dream, Blizzard. Dare to dream.

Do you think 12 months is too soon to experience the content? Let me know in the comments as I'm really wondering if I'm alone in this belief. And I hope to be back to more regular posting soon, but the closing on our house is in 8 days and moving/sportswriting/work have cut my WoW time to about nil. Thus, I have very little to report on now. Thanks for dropping by and we'll see you around!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Countdown is Officially On

We finally have reached week 5 of the Call of the Crusade raid, which means Anub'Arak has joined the fray once more and is dropping like the bug he is. Although many guilds such as my own are not quite done with this Tier 9 raid or even Yogg-Saron back in Ulduar, there's no denying that we are now finally counting down to Patch 3.3 and Icecrown Citadel. It appears we will have some time to gear up and digest the current content, as the 5-year anniversary event with the updated Onyxia raid will be a sub-patch before 3.3 and the anniversary is not for another 3 months. So this appears to be a great time to enjoy what you want in the game before another weekly raiding-fest in Icecrown.

As it turns out, we now know that the world of Azeroth will be absolutely torn asunder by the return of Deathwing. If the trailer for Cataclysm from Blizzcon is to be believed, we will be coming hot off the heels of battling Arthas in Northrend when the world changes forever. Now the changes to update leveling zones and allow flight in lower Azeroth will be very nice changes, this means the old world as we know it is going away. There will inevitably be dungeons (Onyxia), achievements, and quests that will be lost forever with these changes but you have to give up some things to gain something better in this case. For someone just entering the game a little under a year ago, I'm just now seeing the old world on Horde-side and even my achievement-hunting main is far from Loremaster and other old-world achievements. However, I will have nostalgia for zones like Westfall if they change much because that's where the game truly captured my solid interest. Now is the time to start experiencing the old world as it is if you have any desire to see that content.

Thus, many bloggers and even commenters on today are discussing so-called bucket lists for Cataclysm. I have notebook pages from various points along my 11 months in the game where I put together plans for my toons or my team of toons. It's been really fun to look back on things like my initial tries at figuring out shadow priest DPS rotations and Death Knight tanking abilities in the three viable talent trees. So while it may be something that's a bit in vogue just now, I believe it is a good time to see what the AE Team would like to have accomplished before Cataclysm comes out.

1. Arielae, Biancae, Clarissae at 80 - Pretty self-explanatory, I'd really like to have all my team ready for the next steps together in Cataclysm. It took me quite a few months to find out I prefer the healing role over all else, and these four classes give me a little bit of everything on the side as well (tanking with paladin and druid, DPS with priest and shaman). I will eventually experience the new questing content on my achievement-hunter Ekat, and there's no reason to stagnate for a year to wait.

2. Achievement Hunting in Dungeons - I've got a lot of content I've never seen, especially in Outland. Dungeons are the top-line content in the game and one thing Blizzard takes great care to get right. I'm thinking of not only seeing all the Outland dungeons, but also getting high-powered groups together to take on Sunwell Plateau and Sartharion+3 drakes. There's a lot to do and it does not necessarily require full blocks of time to raid, so onward with the hunt!

3. Achievement Hunting in Old World - There are achievements and titles like Loremaster and Seeker that may change radically and/or become feats of strength as entire quest chains go away forever. Perhaps even some of the rep grind achievements will go away. Now I'm not one for reputation grinding or repeatable content, but the Loremaster content is stuff I have never seen and may never see again. This may just be the extra impetus I need to go see WoW in all its glory. After all, I entered the game to experience it all and see how they made it so popular. So I think Loremaster and related things make the list.

4. Get into more PvP activities - This is for Ekat to gain more achievements as well as leveling purposes. PvP may not be the quickest way to level, but it is something different from kill 10 boars. I'd also like to perhaps get an arena team together and see how that realm of the game works. I'll have to find someone patient, but I think there are people in The Illuminati that would put up with me.

That's more than I could ever hope to do before next fall or whenever Cataclysm comes out. One thing on the top of my goal list is get a 310% mount from the seasonal achievements, which I should get at Hallow's End. That's not really a Cataclysm bucket list thing, but it is on top of my agenda other than these things listed. What's on your Cataclysm bucket list? If you have not thought about it, now is as good a time as ever.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The "Dance Studio" Goes Away

Have you been subject to the chat log shown above? If you've played much at all since Call of the Crusade went live, you have probably found yourself jumping repeatedly against the entrance portal to an instance. These efforts are generally futile because you have to catch room on the instance servers opened up when another group leaves their instance. Friends and guildies in both AIE and Illuminati have complained loudly over these past few weeks and this has even disrupted our guild raids. For example, The Illuminati cleared 12/15 in heroic Naxx a week ago but would have had a full clear on night 1 in all likelihood if it hadn't been for full instance servers (and randomly problematic login servers) delaying start time for 45 minutes.

Well for whatever reason, the term "instance dancing" or "portal dancing" started being used to describe the phenomenon of running back and forth through a portal wall repeatedly for long stretches of time. I can't help but think this was indeed the beta testing for the Blizzard Dance Studio they keep promising us! OK, not really. But it did seem like a strange problem to pop up now. I suppose the rush to run instances and such was never quite as high as right after Patch 3.2 because of the changes to emblems and heroic dailies encouraging people to run their endgame toons back through these instances a lot more. There are a lot more toons at 80 now than during the initial rush through the expansion, so perhaps it does make sense...but I still believe we would've seen this problem a bit more in the past if we were on the brink of overloaded instance servers on high population realms.

Well the weekly maintenance list went up for today and at long last, Earthen Ring is on the chosen list of realms for super-duper extended maintenance today. This longer maintenance than the other realms has been going on for a few weeks now and apparently alleviates the instance dancing problem for the selected realms. Or at least the complaining over the whole community seems to have gone down from the absolute fervor we saw at Blizzcon.

So perhaps I will be able to take my limited playtime and not risk the time wasted to put together a group for heroics only to not be able to get into those instances. I have run just enough to buy my first Tier 8 piece with conquest emblems, but I do not have more than a small handful of conquest and/or Triumph emblems left now because I have not been grinding the heroics like others. The mixed blessing with this curse has been my increased focus on my three alts, which have become real substantive fun for me now. While I hope the extended maintenance does the trick tonight, Blizzard has made it clear that peak hours could still be affected even with the current fix, at least until they roll out the second part of the fix to the instance dancing problem: Patch 3.3.

Patch 3.3 will include Icecrown Citadel, but it will also include cross-realm LFG for 5-man instances. Apparently there will be some extra rewards for leading such cross-realm PUG's and it will be interesting to see what those are (more gold, more emblems?). The cross-realm LFG and instances are limited to your battlegroup just like BattleGrounds are now, but there may be potential for wider realm availability or cross-realm raids in the future if this experiment goes well. Hence, we will be the beta-testers for this feature after Patch 3.3 drops, but on the bright side, the instance server overloading problem should be eradicated because low-population servers will then share their unused instance server space with high-population servers that struggle to have enough instance server space.

As a member of a mega-guild on Horde side and a large guild on Alliance-side, I don't have huge problems finding groups, especially since I heal. However, opening the pool of possible group-mates can only be a good thing for more efficiently starting a group and getting into what you really want to do, which is kill stuff and get loot! However, the dark side of this is the risk of ninjas and absolute horrible party behavior because you will not be building a bad reputation on your own server when you mistreat people from other servers. Unless there's a better way implemented with Patch 3.3 to lodge complaints against these misbehving people, I suspect the PUG market will become incredibly more cloudy. To be safe, you should start compiling a list of good PUG players from your own server now so that you hopefully have a go-to list for a good tank/healer/DPS before you have to resort to PUG's.

As shown in yesterday's "economics" entry, there will always be people out there who will try and game the system. Whether it's ninja'ing rare items in PUG groups for dream shards or exploiting the game to get underground and steal mining nodes, they will always be there. I just hope Blizzard properly thinks out a proper framework for easily reporting these people and getting them warned, suspended, and/or banned if the awful behavior towards other players continues over time.

So while I certainly will not miss instance dancing at all, I don't want to risk losing the chance to PUG completely due to these changes either. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst - as always.