Tuesday, January 22, 2008

AFK'ing out...

No, unfortunately this isn't a rant on the honor-farming afk'ers in battlegrounds, rather a short note to the 3 or so readers I've garnered in the short while I've been attempting this blog habit. I'm starting up class this week, and with the added strain that will put on my free time, coupled with the slow-down of gameplay due to the same, I fear my WoW-blogging days might have come to an end, at least temporarily. I have another project in the works, related to my new CompSci studies (game development), which I'll link to here when I've gotten it up and running.

In the meantime, I greatly appreciate the attention and comments my little corner of the blogoshpere has received, and know I'll continue to keep tabs on your Azerothian shenanigans.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sweet mother of Elune, where was I?

Cue the self-inflicted guilt of not posting for nearly a month. Thank you holidays, you've given me extra weight and guilt. Well, that and new shiny toys (I'm 24 and got a nerf gun for Christmas among other more appropriate things...my wife is awesome). Anyway, on to the posting of new material.

For some reason, my character signature at the top of the page hasn't updated since level 46, it seems the website that hosts the banners is having technical difficulties, or something. In it's place: I'm now level 50.

The real bent of this post wants to be my personal stance on RMT, or for the less acronym-savvy or blogosphere-contextual, paying real money for in-game advancement, be it through game currency, specific items, or any kind of leveling service.

The short of it being that I don't condemn it, but I won't participate. The long of it is the explanation of the second half there.

As I see it, the wife and I already pay $30/month for the permission to play WoW. This 30 dollars is spent in the pursuit of fun, and is also pretty close to our allowed "fun" budget for the month that isn't spent on a nice dinner out once in a while. Even if we did have additional money hanging around, I have several problems with dropping extra cash on any game I've already payed for.

  1. The advancement in current MMO models more or less IS the game you're playing, so if you're now paying to skip some of that content, you're paying extra money for less game. I won't even begin to delve into how this designates bad game design or the need to move on for the player.
  2. I've learned to separate myself from the immersion of MMO's enough to realize that any value some item or achievement has in game context is completely negated when you log out of or turn off the game. Therefore, you're paying money for a contextually valuable return, and that value is entirely based on how much time you have to spend using said return (be it a special mount, heaps of gold, or a higher level character). Since the claim of most RMT proponents is that they have less time to put into the game and therefore want to spend their extra money to compensate, I find this a little contradictory. (Less time available to play devalues the purchased achievement the customer just made).
  3. Knowing that the value of an achievement in the game only exists IN the game, I can't bring myself to pay extra REAL money (which translates to: utilities, food, new clothes, etc) for something that I can achieve with a little patience in a system that I still enjoy progressing through. If I despise the rote and repetitive nature of achieving what I might instead pay money for, the game isn't worth paying the initial access fee.
I understand why people use the RMT system. The end-game content (especially in WoW) truly is a whole new ballgame compared to the leveling game, and I certainly look forward to reaching that cap. However, the leveling game is still a game, even if viewed by most as a pre-requisite to the "actual game." I still enjoy the pre-game, and since I'm looking to maximize my return on investment, which in this case is more time having fun per month, I'm in no hurry to reach that cap. If a person finds the grinding of their MMO-of-choice deplorable, boring, or just an impediment to their fun, I wonder if the game is really worth the time to said player, or if they're tricking themselves into thinking that there is indeed fun around the next corner, or just a different flavor of grind. Then again, that could just be my personal view that paying for advancement gives you an entirely hollow and un-deserved victory. *shrug*

I guess my opinion boils down to the simple matter that I don't value a video game's content any higher than the initial purchase price (or monthly fee in terms of MMO's). If I can't achieve an item, wallet size, or level via my own playtime, then that achievement is simply beyond my abilities. I certainly don't want an epic mount or flying mount enough to pay extra cash for the ability to afford it, but I'll gather/kill/quest to get the money for it while said activities are still enjoyable for me.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Azshara is full of hate

Yes, hate. And birds. Hateful birds.
Well, not really birds, those thunderhead hippogryphs (or as I thought of them: Blue Lightning Death(tm))
So hate, and Death(tm), and rock giants, and angry furbolgs, and ridiculously strong deer, and angry Naga, and and and...


Let's see, that's...1 for 7. That means Azshara is scoring a 14% on my scorecard. Last I checked that isn't passing.

Honestly, Rasaiel and I were out there for a hunter quest she picked up at level 50 (we're leveling way too fast it seems...more on that later) and both remembered quite quickly why we hated the zone so much. Blizzard did a great job in creating a "boonies, middle of nowhere, ends of civilization" type area with Azshara, because you fly into the area about 10 seconds from the border to Ashenvale, and that's your ONLY CONTACT WITH CIVILIZATION, for miii~les and miles.

...of painful dragons, and hippogryphs, and elementals, and giants, and naga, and insurance salesmen, and the kids in the shopping mall that whine at parents who have long since tuned it out, and cell-phone hawkers, and tupperware parties. Yes, they're all evil.

If I were to make some kind of "top ten things I learned from Azshara," I think the first 2 would be nice comments on the herbs and scenery ("oo, perpetual autumn!"), and 3-10 would all be "run! get away! fly in to take a picture and then flee!!!"

On Leveling (and dungeons)

The one thing that's stood out to Rasa and I this time around is just how fast we're flying through the levels. Granted, we have an awesome 2-person makeup working, it's let us handle plenty of dungeon runs at or close-to our level, and up to 5 par-level nonelites at a time. But we both distinctly remember our last play-through taking much longer (even without the 2.3 experience change) and focusing on a lot more dungeon play. I think I've only picked up one dungeon loot item so far, and that was a ring off of Thermaplugg back in Gnomer. With simple AH greens we've been flying along just fine, and with 60 coming up I think we're really starting to see the changes that BC has brought.

Last time around, 60 was it. When you landed at 60 you started gearing for the big and bad, so the 40's was when you started gathering your blues early. ZF and Mara, Sunken Temple, BRD, and so on. At least... that's how we rolled.

This time, knowing that at 58 you can hop through the door to a magical world of epic-level quest rewards that take 10 minutes to accomplish...it kind of makes you ask "what's the point?". Why gather up a team of 5 and bust our humps on Sunken Temple and Black Rock when we can get more than enough xp from quests to push through to 58 and hit The New Content?

Which, again, makes us both pine for the earlier days, when we learned just how easy BRD became on it's 17th run, when we'd charge in with our 3 closest WoW buddies and grind the arena event, when DM was a near nightly run for a while...the full effect of the new 60+ quest rewards is definitely striking us. I just hope the BC endgame areas are as full of level-cap non-raid fun as the old world was. Things we'll miss:

-Rasa's old hunter would team with a mage friend and clear Scholomance for the challenge.
-Druid teams stealthing to the spider boss in LBRS for our purple boots of awesome.
-Knowing how to weave through the first chamber of dwarves in BRD to reach the arena with no combat.
-Teaching novices how to lava-hop to the Molten Core attunement stone, as well as how to weave and wall-walk to the DM library.
-"I have no idea what to do until the raid starts, wanna run Inner Mara?" *Waterfall dive!*
-Kiting Drakk
-Getting mind controlled in Strat by the Banshee boss, or killing the squishies accidentally with DoT's when they got MC'ed.
-Never being able to complete the timed Strat challenge for the Tier0.5 set.

I think the thought that there wasn't more world to go find, that this was where all the biggest challenges were, put a lot more focus on the instances at the top. With the shift that BC has made, I wonder if Outland will be a pretty sparse place come WotLK, save those grinding up to 68.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

10 Things I learned in Tanaris

From the journal of Pathos, which is currently being written on the back of a pirate hat:

1. Never try to steal some water from the spring fields. There's some kind of membership due to be able to drink that stuff, and when you approach without a member's ID, the locals get really hostile. Note to self: look into membership, they were all pretty lean and tan.

2. Squid is a food. I was trying to catch a pile of floating debris when I reeled in a big purple tentacled mess, which I quickly beat into submission with my staff. The cook in Steamwheedle Port said it would actually taste good fried up with some seasoning. I wasn't a huge fan, but it put some extra spring into Rasaiel's step, so I gave the leftovers to her to have later.

3. Ogres + 90 degree weather + 0% humidity + obesity = don't take any cloth they might have had on them. You don't want to know what it's been used for. I don't care if I could "boil it and make it into bandages, silly", I'll stick to open-air wound healing if that's my only alternative.

4. They're called "dew" collectors, regardless of how the goblin pronounced it. Also, even though they collect shiny morning cactus droplets, that doesn't make them any less of a bad-ass elemental pile of pain.

5. Just because the hyenas are laughing doesn't make them friendly. Note to self: keep taking those purification potions until the bites heal, someone mentioned rabies.

6. And you thought the bugs were big in the Wetlands!

7. Pirates are decent interior decorators, and love collecting portraits. If I ever visit that nice camp town again, I'll be sure to bring the painting of my dad to add to their collection. And they have plenty of hats. TOO many hats. I think one of the doors in their moored ship just said "hats" on it.

8. There's thorium here. It's bright blue, sticks out of the ground, and is not in fact a "giant Otter Pop." Note to self: bring more water next time I venture that far south. Hallucinations are embarrassing.

9. Wear. Sunscreen.

10. Plan the next vacation somewhere nicer. Winterspring perhaps.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I'm Spamming my Blog

Took this picture a while back. A nice glitch in the system occasionally renders the ground texture invisible. It's a known bug that's been around for a while, only pops up every other month or so, and a reboot fixes it. Anyway:
"What do you need?"
"Clutter. Lots of clutter."

2 = 5?

Rasaiel and I decided to have some fun after a series of errand quests, and poked our heads into Razorfen Downs the other night. The goal was to "see how far we could get" and possibly get a piece of loot. However, what we didn't expect was a complete clear of the undead portion. Complete to the end lich boss.

With just the two of us. Well, and her kitty.

This was rather surprising to me, seeing as how she and I were 42/41, and the quest to kill said lich was rated as a level 42 group task. In dungeons, I assume "group" means 5 people. I know everything in the instance was around level 35-38 elites, so we had some leverage with our levels (levelage? That just sounds like bad ESL), but I was truly surprised that we cleared the whole way there. I wonder if the levels used to go higher before 2.3.

Regardless, I love my Shackle. I think next on the list of suicide dungeon runs is Uldaman, which could prove hairier since I won't be able to convince a trogg to stand still. Guess I could always play with mind control again...

No! BAD Pathos! That never ends well. Something about becoming some blue alien's battle puppet reeeeeeally ticks off the local humanoid populations.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hardcore something-or-other.

I bet that title pulls up a host of search engine hits that have nothing to do with WoW.

Anyhow, in the times I'm not in-game, I sift through a lot of blogs and forums online that have touched on (at some point or another) the whole hardcore vs casual debate, the various flamewars that occur, and it always seeds a desire to talk about this scene, giving my current WoW mentality.

Like I've mentioned in a post a while back, my wife and I used to be in a raiding guild in WoW. When the game stopped at 60 (or as some would say, "started" at 60), the raid scene seemed somehow more epic to me than it does now. Molten Core was daunting, and getting 40 people together made you feel like an army, marching forth to victory. Or repeated wipes, that happened a lot too.

"Yes Mr. President, we're making some headway in Iraq, but the 3rd division keeps wiping on trash near the Saudi Border. We're going to replace two of their tanks with some more support units and try some different tactics."

The point is that I've been witness to the 'hardcore' raid game: following the plans, reading the strategies, signing up on calendars, farming for gold and raid materials (we stocked up on a LOT of fire protection potions for Onyxia), and so on. So I understand the existence of that camp. I also completely grok the casual game: log on, play for an hour, none of your friends have logged on, so you log off and find something else to do.

At least, that seems to be the general idea of how hardcore and casual are divided: length of play sessions. I've been online strictly for an Ony run that lasted a mere half hour, then logged back off. I've played for 8 hours straight on a Saturday where, along with my wife and a couple friends, we completed nothing more than a quest or two and wasted more than half the time simply talking with eachother. And yet there seems to be a strict dichotomy for argument's sake: if you're not a hardcore, you're a casual.

Hardcore "what," is what I'm asking. I think there needs to be a set of sliders that identify the individual (and that aren't static, to boot) on a number of topics. I envision the categories falling as such (and granted, the majority of your playerbase will fall in the middle of most):

  1. Min-maxer: How close do you watch your numbers? Do you get a new weapon because it increases your overall DPS by 0.5, or because it's shiny? A casual (0%) min-maxer gets new stuff when he realizes it's been 20 levels since he last upgraded his bland-looking chest-piece, while a hardcore (100%) min-maxer hunts WoWwiki and the Armory for every possible upgrade, and gathers a group if he needs to in pursuit of that new dungeon-drop axe that adds 1 extra agility. I suppose die-hard theorycrafters would fall on the 100% end.
  2. Economist: On the casual end, she doesn't care about the cash so long as there's enough to buy what she wants. The hardcore economist hunts the AH for all the best deals, makes sure to fine tune her sale prices, keeps an eye on the trade channel whenever possible (and uses it for it's intended purpose) and can't see a high enough number next to her gold icon.
  3. Roleplayer: It is an RPG after all, despite the genre making the move to drop letters 4 and 5 from the acronym. This is pretty self explanatory: a casual RP-er leaves well enough alone, might even make fun of the hardcores. They more than likely picked their race/class combo based on best racial abilities. A hardcore RP-er can not only be found writing character bios and comparing with lore for accuracy, but LARPing warcraft wherever they can get away with it. Their character choice had everything to do with geography and backstory, which they'd be happy to share with you.
  4. Loot Luster: 0%: "Why is this item's name in blue? Oh, neat. Hey, where's the next quest go?" 100%: "God, I haven't gotten any loot in a whole week! We need to raid more frequently."
  5. Achiever: The OCD must-complete-all-quests-in-this-area, get-on-thottbot-I-think-there-were-more-last-time-I-played-here player? Yea, hardcore. If quests and collections are simply a means to more xp or a nice side-effect of playing? Muy casual. This would also include your desire or lack thereof to max tradeskills (*cough*fishing*cough) and fill in maps.
  6. Socializer: At 0%, you play the solo game. The rest of the player base is there to buy up your auctions and give you someone to show off to at the mailbox. PuGs are an evil necessity since you can't afford to 5-box through dungeons to finish your questing. At 100%, you wouldn't play if your friends left, or you'd quickly make new ones. Joy in the game for a hardcore socializer comes from helping out new players, collecting mats for a friend's enchant, guildchat sessions, and so on.
  7. PvPer: This one's pretty straightforward. The top-rated arena teams and the honor-capped are at the hardcore end, the casual pvp'er might never fight another player, or pops into the occasional battleground because it sounds like fun that night.
This list could go on and on and delve into all the niches of such a wide-reaching game (I've already thought of some smaller aspects of the game that people get wrapped up in) but I feel most elements can be wrapped up in these seven points. This might be a better system of categorizing yourself than the boiled down hardcore vs casual system. For example, I know I'm a hardcore S, a huge portion of the fun for me in the game comes from being able to play it with my wife. However, having previously been through raids, I'd say I've lost a lot of my loot lust, so would rate as a casual L. If you capitalize anything you'd put yourself over 50% in, you can play with the acronym like so:

I play with numbers to a good degree, figuring out mana efficiency and such (M). I love playing the Auctionhouse game and enjoy being a "wealthy" character (E). I don't really roleplay, though I try to pick a decent name at character creation (r). I've lost a lot of my loot lust, knowing good gear will come with questing and dungeons whether I pine after it or not (l). I love checking quests off the list, maxing out skills, and feeling "complete" (A). The social game is huge for me, I wouldn't play this game if it were single-player (S). I've pvp'ed, and enjoyed it, but I take it in small doses (p).
The beauty of this system is that it isn't specific to available play time in a day, which seems to dictate the current casual/hardcore definition. I've known great raiders that barely had an hour out of the day to log on due to life constraints, and people with nothing happening in their world but WoW that lived in questing greens and had never seen the raid group interface before (nor had the desire to).

What's also nice is the ability to apply this system to the stereotyped hardcores and casuals. As most conversations would put it, the hardcores are MErLasP types, while the casuals are meRlASp, completely opposite. Obviously a flawed system, but it seems to be the grounds for most flame wars.

And now is that time when my brain drifts off and I'd lose points on this if I handed it in to a lit. professor for lacking a solid conclusion. Ah well, the glory of writing my own blog entries: I can just decide "it's done enough" and post it.