Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Hunt Begins

(written from the perspective of Ekaterinae)

Another long day of training done, I sat down at the fireside of the guild hall of The Illuminati. Although all I wanted to do was sleep, there's always work to be done when preparing to tackle the greatest menace Azeroth has ever seen in the Lich King. Tonight there's some stitching that needs to be done to repair my robe, as well as a few pieces of armor to enchant for my fellow warriors.

Two of my closest friends joined me at the fireside. Cazaldora curled up next to her favorite companion Cicero, while Gaurin popped into the chair next to me after another shapeshift. As Cazaldora worked on some gemstones with her simple grinder, Gaurin began sharing tales of taking on all the trials of our latest triumph in the Trial of the Crusader. Although the primary lieutenant of the Lich King Anub'Arak had finally been dealt with once and for all, I knew Gaurin was just trying to cheer us up from the days of drudgery since that triumph. However, all that will change as the newly formed Ashen Verdict is poised to lead us into Icecrown Citadel for the final battle.

Just then, a hooded figure veiled in shadow came bursting through the doors of the guild hall. "I come seeking The Illuminati."

Ruach, a fellow healer and one of the leaders of our guild stepped forward. "Aye, you have found The Illuminati. What is so important that brings you to our halls?"

The mysterious figure paused briefly, "The Leadership of the Alliance has a special assignment that must be completed, and they believe The Illuminati is the right group for the task. You must go back into the mighty halls of Ulduar and..."

Ruach interrupted the visitor - "Ulduar? But we are making final preparations for the most important battle in the history of Azeroth! We cannot turn our backs once more to the Lich King and play with the keepers of the old gods. And who are you to order us away from our destiny?"

Although you couldn't see her face, I could read the frustration growing in the visitor's voice: "Well to be honest I don't know that you are up to the task, but when the kings of the Alliance insist, you do not say no. While the Lich King is a grave threat, the entire existence of Azeroth is at risk from a far greater enemy."

Cazaldora looked up from her newly cut rubies to say "A far greater enemy? This whole time we have been tracking down and eliminating all the agents and friends of the Lich King. The first minion Kel'Thuzad and his necropolis Naxxramas have fallen. Arthas's closest ally Anub'Arak has been slain. And even the old god Yogg-Saron has been killed, cutting off the endless supply of corruption and Saronite Ore for the Scourge. Why would we ever need to go back into the prison of a dead old god who poses no threat?"

The visitor snapped back "You are supremely arrogant if you think you've killed an old god for good. but that's neither here nor there. The entire world may be destroyed thanks to the careless actions of your group in taking down Loken, and although your own stupidity is to blame"

Cazaldora jumped into action with Cicero bounding towards the visitor...

"SILENCE!" The room fell as quiet as death as Vowain, the esteemed leader of the guild stepped into the front of the room. "While you shall not come into our halls and insult us, please explain what the leaders would have us do."

Continuing on, the visitor explained: "Although Loken was indeed the Watcher of Yogg-Saron who became corrupted and allowed Ulduar to fall, he also served a more important role than any of the other watchers. You see, Loken was in constant communication with the Titans who imprisoned Yogg-Saron. The Titans allow us to inhabit Azeroth and keep any corruption in check. When Loken was slain in the Halls of Lightning, that connection with the Titans was severed, and they have sent Algalon the Observer to determine if Azeroth has been overcome with corruption. With the Lich King's minions all over this continent, Algalon will certainly re-originate Azeroth to remove the corruption forever unless we can stop him."

Cazaldora, having calmed down slightly, now looked upon the visitor with genuine curiosity. "By re-originating Azeroth, do you mean wiping all life off the planet?"

"Yes" the visitor answered sharply. "As you can see, there is just slightly more on the line than the battle we face in Icecrown."

Vowain inquired "so Algalon is residing in Ulduar?"

The visitor shook her head. "Not exactly...Algalon has set himself up in the Celestial Planetarium, which is only accessible with the blessing and sigils of the remaining Keepers Freya, Mimiron, Thorim, and Hodir. Unlike when you faced these Watchers before, now you must convince them you are worthy of the task of taking on Algalon. To do so, you will need to defeat the bosses of Ulduar again, this time in such a way that impresses them."

Ruach stepped in "But how do we know you are not just making this story up and working for Arthas instead of our kings?"

With a heavy sigh, the hooded visitor slowly pulled back the hood covering her visage. A hushed gasp filled the room as the light revealed the face of Averlaine, a holy paladin who previously joined and left the ranks of The Illuminati.

"You? How can we trust you who left us on the steps of the Crusader's Coliseum?" whispered Vowain.

"I do what I must for the improvement of Azeroth, whether that is directly assisting the kings of the Alliance or leading warriors of the Horde into battle. The Light does not discriminate about the means to the end, and you of all people should understand that Vow."

Although Vowain was clearly hesitant to commit himself to the words of Averlaine, some of us were quite a bit closer to the paladin and could tell the honesty in her voice. With a quick glance at Gaurin and myself, Cazaldora stepped forward once again. "I trust you as always Averlaine. I will lead this battle on behalf of the the Alliance and The Illuminati, and I am certain we will be proud to lend some of our very best warriors for this highly important task while Vowain continues to prepare for the siege upon Icecrown Citadel."

With a surge of pride and renewed purpose, I jumped up from my stitchwork at the fireside. "I indeed will join Cazaldora in this battle to save Azeroth. I know with the power of the light and the holy spirit, we will prevail over this Algalon."

If only I could be so sure in my heart of hearts. But putting on a good face to support my close ally was crucial. I turned and prayed for support from other members of the guild. Sure enough, a few other proud and strong warriors stepped up immediately behind Cazaldora and myself. Among them were Arturias the warrior, Graystreak the mage, Atleen the paladin, Rhodaria the shaman, Lucivelle the mage, Miraelle the druid, Sihnon the hunter, Allastra the warlock, and Eukari the death knight. All of a sudden, I knew we could succeed.

With another quick nod to Gaurin, I turned and gave a quick wink to Cazaldora.

The Hunt Is On...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Money-Making Game Changes

Patch 3.3.3 surprisingly jumped onto the PTR (public test realms) this week, and there are quite a few spicy changes. None of these will come as a huge shock to those who've been around long enough to see a full expansion cycle through, but many people like myself jumped in right before WOTLK and so this is new to us. Basically, towards the end of an expansion many things which required rep grinds or many craftable items that had big cooldowns on them lose these rep requirements and cooldowns. This happens because not only are these items very outclassed by the gear you can grind up quickly at the end of an expansion, but also we are preparing the crafting professions for being powerleveled through by new artisans. After all, can you imagine the grind of having to wait on cooldown cloth to level the last bit of vanilla tailoring, and the same for BC, and the same for WOTLK, before you ever got to Catacylsm tailoring? Well that is what is going on.

More specifically, the four day cooldown on specialty cloth (Spellweave, Moonshroud, and Ebonweave) is being removed. Also, the one day cooldown on Titansteel is being removed. To balance one item that would become too cheap otherwise, a SEVEN day cooldown is being added to Glacial Bag, which requires 4 Moonshroud and 4 Ebonweave to make. My initial reaction to these changes was kind of gut-wrenching, because I've been replenishing the gold pile I spent (probably 10-12k) on Navarionae with Titansteel and of course continued specialty cloth production. But on the other hand, these items have cooled down significantly since their high caused by the ICC Patch 3.3. So it is not like these were raking in ludicrous amounts of money anymore. In any event, if you have stockpiles of these items, there is absolutely no reason not to post them on the AH in moderate amounts over the next couple weeks to get your cooldown profits before they disappear.

For my own personal money-making game, I realized I had become too robotic again in relying on cooldowns. Now that those are going away, I started investigating what else I could do, other than the sporadic Netherweave Bag market. Well my handy dandy new 450 JC toon has a ton of options. He did wait until being able to buy the pattern for Chaotic Skyflare Diamond to level JC to 450, but he just exhausted his supply of those from leveling. Those bring in about 20 gold per cut on average, and they sell in decent amounts. I decided to take a shot at the moon with a caster skyflare diamond (Ember) that is really the best for casters. If it sells as the market indicates, it will be a monster 70-80 gold per cut.

Furthermore, I will keep on grinding the JC daily to get tokens for some recipes, but in my needs for Ekat and Navar I pretty much have two of the best selling epic patterns already bought (Solid blue for stam, which every tank stacks; and Runed red for spellpower, which many casters stack). Just by being in Dalaran yesterday at the right time, I was able to cut two Runed Cardinal Rubies for someone and they tipped 60 gold. I also have been trying to run WG on Ekat because Navar needs the last elder to open up for the Lunar Festival, and she always ends up staying for 10 minutes to fish afterwards. Fish Feasts sell like candy too. So in my own ways, I will continue to profit without the use of cooldowns and you should too.

Another 3.3.3 change that's coming is a Frozen Orb vendor. Yes, all those Frozen Orbs that have been useless for months now will be spent at a vendor for any eternal or upgraded to upper level orbs. I have vendored the vast majority of mine, which now turns out to be a mistake as 5 gold is less than what eternals are worth. On the bright side, this should crash the eternal market slightly on the more expensive eternals (sorry transmuting Alchemists). However, the dark side to this is that ninja need rolling on Frozen Orbs will jump significantly. It's already happened to me twice this weekend after only happening 2-4 times over the past few weeks. So be on your guard, because the greedy will be rolling need a lot more now.

On the team front, Arielae has now dinged 45 and Biancae 32, so the alts are back into play now that the first alt is pretty well-established as an 80 tank.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Achievement Hunting Vol. 6: Lunar Festival

Well this is just a crazy time of year, with Love is in the Air running simultaneously with the Lunar Festival. However, last year was a lot worse as the last week of Lunar Festival coincided with the 6 day Love holiday, and people went crazy trying to finish both at the same time. Thankfully with the changes to Love is in the Air, you should have been able to clear that out in the first week. If not, a few more daily quests should get the job done over the last 4 days of that holiday. The Lunar Festival is bar none the most straightforward and time consuming holiday there is, even topping the travel fun in Hallow's End. The basic idea is going and respecting a bunch of Elders who appear in spotlights all over the world. Let's cover the achievements in our usual fashion.

The holiday can be started in any major capital of either faction. You will find an elder and a starter quest that asks you to set off some fireworks to celebrate the occasion. These cost a handful of silver, but not much for any toon, even low leveled. Then you will receive an invitation to Moonglade, normally the home of druids only. In Moonglade you will find a festival area and a festival vendor inside the town. You should head this way early in the holiday, espeically if you are low level for reasons set out below.

1. Frenzied Firecracker - you need to purchase 10 firecrackers for some silver from the vendors in the major cities and then set off the firecrackers within 30 seconds. You do need to target the ground somewhere for each one, so it is better if you put the firecrackers on your action bar. Still, very easy to do right away.

2. The Rocket's Red Glare - if you finished Love is in the Air, then this will be familiar. You buy 10 rockets and set them off in 25 seconds. The rockets just cost a few silver from the same city vendor you got the firecrackers from, so again, you should have this achievement in a minute.

3. Elune's Blessing - Although Omen is a level 80 dog in Moonglade with tons and tons of health, the first week of the festival is full of people summoning and killing him. All you have to do is be around when Omen is killed, as everyone in the vicinity can walk into the moonglow spotlight when he dies to receive Omen's blessing, finishing the quest and the achievement. Thus, go to Moonglade this week, as Omen is very hard to see killed in the last half of this very long holiday.

4. Elders of the Alliance - This is speaking from Alliance perspective, so if Horde just swap the factions. As mentioned above, there are elders all over the world you visit and each gives you a Coin of Ancestry. There coins can be used to buy firecracker packages and six colorful outfits in Moonglade, but you'll only need 30-35 for all that fun. However, there are 75 elders to find and the four in your faction's capital cities are the easiest.

5. Elders of Eastern Kingdoms - There are 17 elders hiding in nearly every zone of the Eastern Kingdoms. There are slightly fewer elders here than in Kalimdor and the flight paths for both factions generally put you in better position to get to these elders. Probably the hardest elder to get to in this lot is Moonstrike in Scholomance (outside the instance).

6. Lunar Festival Finery - You need to purchase a dress or suit for 5 Coins of Ancestry. It's probably a good time to take a break after doing Eastern Kingdoms and before tackling Kalimdor, as the grind of travel is easy to wear on you. Plus with the brightly colorful clothes you can be styling as you ride your ground mount all over the world.

7. Elders of Kalimdor - This is the same grind as Eastern Kingdoms, with 21 elders instead of 17. And a couple of these elders are incredibly hard to get to if you have never opened up the zones and flight paths. The most difficult is Elder Brightspear in Winterspring, as you need to have the tunnel opened to you in order to get there a first time. Hopefully you have enough time to get on this right away, as nothing should hold you back with three weeks to get things like this done.

8. 50 Coins of Ancestry - If you've been following along this path roughly and getting some instance coins as well, you will hit the last of the coin of ancestry achievements and the one you need for the meta, which is 50. This just happens by a function of you needing to get all 75 anyways, so this is a throwaway.

9. Elders of Northrend - There are 18 more elders in Northrend, and I guess elders don't visit Outland because it's not Azeroth proper. In any event, these are probably easier than the previous ones for high levels because you can use your flying mount. If nothing else, these will go quicker.

10. Elders of the Horde - This would be the opposite faction, which you should do during the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor runs. However, each of these are a real pain, especially early in the holiday where PvP players will be griefing those trying to get the elder coins. These are also right in the busy holiday sections of each city, so it will be hard to not run into people. Nevertheless, this is easier than most PvP holiday achievements overall.

11. Elders of the Dungeons - And now we come to the meat of the matter. As you travel around the world, you also need to drop into some instances and tear through them to find Elders hiding somewhere inside. Seven of these dungeons are in Northrend and you can run most of them on normal, and six more in the old world should be easy for level 80 characters. You will need to be level 80 anyways because one coin is in Utgarde Pinnacle and another is only available in heroic Gundrak. These will be the hardest two coins to get, and I have a friend who failed to get these coins last year, which led to them wiping out all his achievements this year and he's got to do it all over again. So beware, don't take on the task unless you are ready to commit the time to finish it.

And that's all there is! This is so straightforward it is hard to jazz up 7 straight entries about "go find coins". But nevertheless, you will not be alone. In fact, my two tips are these. First, you should travel with a buddy if possible to keep you company. If that person happens to be a hunter who can make you move faster, so be it. The second tip is although discovery on your own is fun, this holiday is really one you should follow a guide so that you don't waste time backtracking. The best online guide is Wowhead as usual: However, there are also a couple addons that can help as well. Use the guides, save some time, especially if you are crazy enough to run this holiday on more than one toon. I will be completing this on Navar, but it has not changed from when Ekat did it and I wish you the best of luck. Congrats to new Elders and to those who finish Long Strange Trip on this holiday for their drake.

Again, let me know if there are any non-holiday achievements you want me to speak about, especially considering we have a long break to Noblegarden. See you next time!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Building A Successful Guild Part 4: Secure Your Valuables!

Welcome back to the Successful Guild Building series! In part 1, I described how the foundation of a guild is the guild leadership, who must be strong or else everything else crumbles. In part 2, I looked at the parallels between framing the different rooms in a house and in a guild, setting up proper avenues for members to enjoy all the various aspects of the game. In part 3, I detailed how the outside appearances of your guild caused by your website and current member conduct affects recruitment and retention of guild members. Now we come to the fourth part of this five-part series on how to build a successful guild, and more specifically, securing the guild.

One of the most crucial details in constructing a house is figuring out what provisions you will make to secure the valuable possessions and people inside the house both when you are home and when you are away. You can have a beautiful house with well-sized rooms and a good foundation, but without some sort of security system, all of this can be for naught with just one bad guy. Continuing the metaphor, the same is true of your well-constructed guild in Warcraft. One only has to look on the major websites covering WoW or the official forums to see many tales of guild drama and people stealing loots from groups and guilds, also known as ninjas. Just like the robbers and burglars in real life, the ninjas are in your realm and they are always looking for a chance to strike at your weaknesses. So how do you keep them out?

The first step in securing a house is installing door sensors and window contacts to communicate with a security system controller. This way, you know when things are moving in and out of the house through all the possible entryways. In a similar fashion, guild leaders must set a framework for protecting guild assets, usually held in a guild bank. Thankfully blizzard has programmed in many ways to keep track of guild banks so that guild leaderships can implement security procedures easily. The first thing you will notice is the log tab on every bank tab the guild purchases. This is not a thing to be ignored, as you can check every day or two and see which members in the guild are removing items from the guild bank. Ideally, you will have an officer who takes care of keeping the bank organized, and that person needs to check the logs to ensure any suspicious activity (a toon always taking things out of the gbank every day, taking high-value things, etc.) is noticed and brought to the attention of the officers immediately.

Additionally, limits may be placed on how many items you can let a character remove from a guild tab per day. This can range all the way from unlimited to no access at all, thereby allowing you to tailor your level of security. Another method of protecting the guild bank is limiting access to trial or new members. Whenever a member joins a guild, they join at the lowest rank. You should, at a minimum, organize your guild into three ranks: officers, full members, and new/trial members. Full members have moderate or normal access to the guild bank, while new/trial members should have zero access. This can be set in the bank and guild settings for each membership level you have set up. Taking these simple steps when setting up your guild can stop most ninjas right in their tracks.

One example from my days with The Illuminati illustrates this point nicely. We had a new member come in on a Saturday morning a few months ago, and they were talkative and generally nice in gchat. The person even ran a couple instances that morning with other guild members to try and start building relationships. Then just a few hours later, he asks in gchat "why can't I pull these mana pots from the guild bank?" So I and a couple of officers explained the no access policy during the new member period, and the guy flipped out in gchat. "I don't want to be a part of a group that doesn't trust people...this is just not the right fit for me..." He then quit the guild shortly thereafter. It was so painfully clear that the whole time, he was hoping to loot the guild bank and run off with the generous contributions of many others. But just by putting the security system in place, it kept a disaster from happening.

Once you have the contacts and sensors installed in a house, the next important step is USING the system. You'd be surprised how many people forget to turn their security system on at the keypad before they leave the house. In fact, when my car was broken into in real life a few months ago, the cop was surprised that it was an actual break in because he had not had any thefts where the doors were locked in six months! For a guild, that enforcement is easy because once you set your guild bank security settings, they stay in place. However, the use of an officer to organize the guild bank and make sure items that need to stay in "Request Only" tabs do so. However, just like in my story above, you have to make it clear to your officers that these bank rules are to be strictly enforced at all times! There's a reason you went to all the hassle of protecting these digital goods in the first place, and you do not want to waste that effort.

There is another kind of ninja thief in Warcraft, and that is the account hacker. Whether by shoddy account-sharing or dealing with gold sellers, even your full-fledged members and officers can become prone to this hacking phenomenon. When it happens to an officer in a guild, the guild bank is just as vulnerable as the personal bank, AND Blizzard is less likely to replace an entire guild bank worth of goods because you failed to protect them. Malicious people may also try to take over your website and use your ventrilo server, so you need to be careful with who is entrusted with guild information. Thankfully blizzard has provided an easy solution to this problem as well.

This little guy here is a Corehound pet, and he is only active on accounts with active authenticators. The authenticator requires an owner to put in an extra 8-digit code while logging in, and this code changes continuously for each authenticator. This makes accounts with an authenticator nearly unhackable. Therefore, anybody with full access to the guild information and supplies (and the ability to invite members who may turn out to be ninjas) all can be secured from intrusion by requiring an authenticator on every office account. This is not much of a burden as the authenticators are cheap and the corehound can be checked every month to ensure the officers continue to use the authenticator. Full members may get hacked, but the damage they can cause is hopefully limited to a few stacks of items in the bank, and usually a hacked member will inform guild leadership within 1 day of the hacking. However, I highly recommend requiring officers to use authenticators to fully enable the security provisions you have put into place.

With the size of both of my guilds, the security systems are in place and working well to prevent an attack of the ninja. In AIE, the guild bank is not a huge focus of the guild because there are way more people in the guild than a practical guild bank can handle. However, to enter AIE you do have to go through a trial period where you have little access to guild chat and no access to the guild bank. AIE also purges the guild roster of inactive people after a period of time, and recently placed the Authenticator Requirement into place for all officers. Thus, even in a guild of thousands of members, AIE is protected from the smallest ninjas that may try to wreck the guild.

The Illuminati works on a much more reasonable scale of membership, but this guild is more than big enough to be a valuable thing to steal from. The Illuminati has a full six guild bank tabs, and the guild bankers organizes the items into those tabs from raw materials to pre-northrend to northrend and then to high-value raiding materials. Full members are allowed to take 3 stacks per day for the low level items, 1 stack per day of the northrend items, and must request any epic gems and eternals. New members have no access whatsoever, and this keeps the guild savings protected from any ninjas or hacked accounts. While I am currently unaware of any officer policy for authenticators, the guild roster and officer roster is maintained by removing inactive members in each field. Therefore, The Illuminati also deters the potential thieves from looting the guild's bounty.

So with just a few easy steps, all the hard work you have done as a guild building gold and materials to help raiders and new toons can be protected. Security might seem like something unimportant you can get around to, but you never know with people coming in and out of the guild when a ninja will arrive. Like the guy who tried to ninja the bank if The Illuminati, sometimes they are the nicest people and start off building relationships with guild members. Always stay vigilant and keep your officers vigilant as well. Keeping your guild out of the drama threads on the forums and news reporting websites will help ensure the continued success of your guild.

We only have one more installment of this Successful Guild series, and I hope to have that finished up very soon. Until next time, keep your guild safe and secure!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Achievement Hunting Vol. 5: Fool for Love

Valentine's Day is but a few days away in real life, and Blizzard also celebrates this Hallmark holiday. If you want to complete What A Long Strange Trip and get your 310% flying speed mount, then this is just another step on the way. Many people failed to finish this meta achievement last year, but the event has been radically updated. I would go so far as to say this event is twice as good as the previous incarnation, maybe more if you are trying for the meta. The RNG luck is largely removed, and thank goodness. Let's jump into the 12 achievements you now need to become a fool for love!

1. Charming - one of the quests that you can find in any major city will require you to give a charm bracelet to the local faction leader. You will receive a care package that allows you to harvest charms from all mobs you kill of a non-gray level. So basically you have to harvest 120 charms to make 12 bracelets, which you can use for a couple other achievements along the way. This is simply a farming session of level appropriate mobs, and find your own favorite spot. I might suggest going into normal mode CoS if you are an endgame toon and just avoid the spawned elites in the first wave. The zombies continuously respawn and pop charms at the best rate I've seen for easy-to-kill mobs. And it wouldn't be Valentine's Day without some zombies!

2. Nation of Adoration - After making a bunch of charm bracelets, now you can put them to use. Every city has one of those daily quests to give a bracelet to the faction leader. A quick journey by boat or by airship to all four cities will get you 20 Love Tokens (which are important as explained below) and this achievement.

3. Sweet Tooth - The basic way the holiday works now is that there are seven daily quests you can do for 35 Love Tokens a day. The 4 bracelets, spraying 10 people with perfume, killing some mobs in Crystalsong Forest, and killing the new holiday boss in Shadowfang Keep. You can buy a box of chocolates from the vendors in every city for 10 of these Love Tokens, which gives you at least one of four different kinds of chocolate. Eat one of each and this achievement is yours.

4. Shafted! - And this begins the many awkwardly-named achievements this holiday season. You can also buy 5 Silver Shafted Arrow from the vendors for 5 Love Tokens. You will need 10 total, so 10 Love Tokens necessary. Then you shoot 10 random people who do not have a noncombat pet already, and the arrow will provide them with a miniature goblin cupid pet. This can be done very shortly by hanging around the vendors.

5. The Rocket's Pink Glare - this should be familiar if you have done other holiday achievements which require you to buy rockets and shoot them off. Here you will need to pay another 10 Love Tokens and shoot off the 10 love rockets within a 20 second time frame. Best to do this one away form the vendors and lag-prone zones to ensure you get it done on the first try.

6. Be Mine! - This was the bane of many in Love is in the Air 2009. You see, last year you had to go to a guard every hour and get a random gift from them, of which you needed things like the candy bags you can now purchase for 2 Love Tokens. Instead of being stuck on RNG, you can easily buy 3-5 bags of these candies and be almost assured of getting all 8. Plus, these are tradeable between players. Therefore, this went from one of the hardest achievements to get to one of the easiest. Or at least as easy as all these others where you buy and you are done.

7. Lonely? - This is sort of analogous to the Frosty Shake in Winter's Veil. you need to sit with someone who has laid out a Romantic Picnic Basket (10 Love Tokens) and eat a Buttermilk Delight from the box of chocolates you bought earlier. This is pretty simple, but you do need to be in Dalaran and you do need to coordinate with someone else to get the achievement. Still, it's not much more than the other 10 Love Token achievements.

8. Flirt With Disaster - The next purchase you need to make from the vendors is 15 Handfuls of Rose Petals for 15 Love Tokens. As you can see, you will need some serious daily completion, but it's not as bad as it could be (Noblegarden comes to mind). You will need one of these handfuls and some liquor from your local inn or pub. Then you get smashed and throw the handful on a traveling vendor in Ironforge or Undercity and then /kiss them. If you liked Bresfest, you'll enjoy this. By the way Horde members, don't try to buy liquor in Undercity, as they don't have it apparently.

9. Fistful of Love - Hey now, keep the fisting to a minimum! This is the stereotypical do something to 10 race/class combinations, in this case throw a handful of rose petals on 11 combinations. I have not completed this yet on Navar, but Troll Rogue is definitely the one that will drive Alliance players up a wall. No matter, with 2 full weeks instead of 6 days in the holiday this year, you should be able to handle finding all the necessary combinations in time.

10. Dangerous Love - Now we come to the achievements you need to be near level 80 to complete. At the end of the major quest chain for the holiday, two daily quests pop up for high level toons. One of these is Crushing the Crown, which requires you to take a quick flight down to Crystalsong Forest and kill 5 mobs and throw a bomb into a wagon. Very quick and simple, and you will fight lag more than the mobs.

11. I Pitied The Fool - The PVP achievement this holiday is actually very easy and not all full of PVP. You have to buy 5 Love Fools or share them with guildies and friends (they only last a few seconds), and at 10 Love Tokens apiece, it's probably easier to find help than grind it out. In any event, once you have the Love Fools, you must go to five places and /pity them. Arathi Basin blacksmith, Battle Ring of Gurubashi Arena in STV, Wintergrasp, Culling of Stratholme, and Naxxramas. You do need to form a raid with a friend to do the Naxxramas one, but that's not a huge deal for most. More travel than anything.

12. My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose - Just like the Winter's Veil hats, you will need to obtain a bouquet of red or ebon roses from a boss in a 5-man WOTLK dungeon. these can be run on normal mode so that you can farm a boss five times for everyone in a group. Prince Keleseth is the first boss of Utgarde Keep and is the easiest to farm. The other two bosses which drop roses are the Maiden of Grief in HoS and Prince Taldaram in Old Kingdom. Both of these bosses are harder to get to, but if you have luck in your daily heroic, you may not need to farm these separately.

With the redesign to the holiday, you can be done with the dailies if you are diligent in just 3-4 days. No random RNG, no annoying hour long debuffs to wear out, you are always doing something. Also, the new bosses drop some nice level 226 neckpieces which I picked up on both my 80's on day 1...and the bosses also have a pet and a mount like the Headless Horseman. This set of bosses is quite a bit harder, requiring either CC or at least two tank-capable toons per group and good cordination of neutralizer elixirs and staying out of puddles. Two thumbs up to extending this holiday to two weeks and all the changes. On the whole, this is also one of the easiest holiday meta-achievements to get finished. So go get it done, as the second week of this holiday coincides with the first week of Lunar Festival this year, and you'll want to jump into that quickly if last year is any indication.

If you have any comments on this or any other achievement hunter entry, please comment. Also, if there's another achievement that's not holiday related that you want to know about, let me know and I'll find time to fit it in for you! Until next time, cheers to the achievement junkies!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Auction on the Go? Oh no...

Well it's not often in recent times that something drags me out of the cave to write during the week. But today in all the jumble of the final part of the last content patch of WOTLK coming out, Blizzard dropped casually some mighty big news. Continuing with the line of paid services that have rolled out over the past 12 months, blizzard is now developing Auction House capability for the Armory online and the Armory app on iphone. Here's the full announcement for reference:


Since the launch of the World of Warcraft Armory, we've been regularly releasing updates and new features designed to help players stay connected to the game even when they're not logged in. Today, we wanted to give you a heads-up about a new service now in development that will let players access the Auction House directly through the Armory website or Armory App for iPhone or iPod touch.

While there are still plenty of details to be worked out, we're designing the service to offer auction functionality similar to what's available in-game. Players have been requesting -- and we've been hoping to implement -- a feature like this for a long time, and we're excited that the Armory and the game have evolved to a point that makes it possible.

This is a fairly complex service to develop, due in large part to its unprecedented integration with the game, so we don't have an exact release date yet. It's important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based, which we'll go into more detail on once the service functionality is finalized. As with all of the services we offer, we plan to integrate the Auction House and Armory in a way that won't disrupt the gameplay experience, and we won't release it until it meets the quality standards that we've set for our other features and services. You may be seeing bits and pieces of the Auction House service pop up in the test builds we use for the public test realms as we go through the process of internal testing. We'll have more info to share with you here and at as we get closer to release.


So what we have here looks very cool on the surface. For any budding WoW businessman, now you can jump in and carry on your business when you are riding the train to work, or during a lunch break without needing to install Azeroth on a work computer or some other covert operation. You can become the Greedy Goblin you've always wanted to be! In fact, Gevlon may never get any real life work done again as he conquers the servers via his iphone or the online armory. I have to admit, I'd love to take care of the business aspect of my gaming in down moments, but then again, I don't have many down moments with the career I chose. In any event, this is bringing more convenience to the game.

However, there is something slightly troubling about this announcement. The first thing is the fact that this is different from all the other paid services. You see, race change is just changing some minor racial abilities and appearance, faction change is pretty much the same thing on a slightly larger level, pets are completely non-functional additions, server transfer is simply a change of venue for those with friends or other reasons to move. The point is, everything you can currently pay for does not affect the game in any substantial fashion. Despite this, the people (including myself) questioned if these microtransactions for real money were a trip down a slippery slope. Perhaps today shows us that indeed, if this is a slippery slope, we're headed right down it on a big old sleigh.

Being able to access the auction house with full functionality from out of the game takes a substantial part of the game and provides access to it for a fee. This "premium" service is another microtransaction, but one that has serious effects on the game world. Rather than just changing your outward appearance or your companions, now you can buy and sell gear and goods at any time you have access to your iphone, which means these people will have a serious market advantage over those who play the market and do not pay for premium service. Make no mistake about it: even if you are not active in the auction house economy, lots of people on your sevrer are and it drives the valuation of all the items you collect in the game. Giving some people more market access on this level could radically change the economy of tradeskills, a vital part of the game.

Furthermore, this is just another way for the gold selling companies to easily sneak their transactions through the system. Rather than needing to farm up gold on various different servers, they can just sell via online out-of-game transactions now that they have access to the auction house without logging in. If Blizzard tries to stop these sham-type transactions, it will completely kill legitimate passing of cash between your toons on opposite factions via the neutral auction house and the help of one buddy. Furthermore, it undermines any deterrance Blizzard currently has in going after gold sellers and account hackers. Perhaps mandatory authenticators and accounts will help this, but the gold sellers have to be rejoicing over this, and that is not a good thing.

Yet again, we come back to the slippery slope. You see, the argument for Blizzard in the earlier microtransactions was that these cash for play items were not affecting the game and making players better than one another based solely on their wealth out of the game. Make no bones about it...the battle daily in the markets is a fun game to play and I take part. But if someone wants to pay extra money to have extra market access and run everyone else out, then they will be the kings of the game as they will set the prices for many important in-game items. This leads to real advantages in the game, and is not all that different from paying cash for epic gear. In fact, with this system in place, there's no stopping Blizzard from moving towards a pay for epics model. While it's their game and their choice, this type of game is exactly what many people playing WoW believe makes Azeroth better than many competing MMO's. Real world wealth has no meaning in Azeroth, but that's about to change. Let the slide down that slippery slope continue.

Only time will tell how this new feature of the digital world comes to pass, and just what Blizzard means by premium. Perhaps Blizzard thinks this is the next step to keep people happy, or maybe they are like a winner at the casino who is cashing out while they still can before moving onto the next conquest. Let's hope for the former and pray against the latter.