Friday, 22 August 2008

Is There Someone Else Up There We Can Talk To?

(The Battle for Alterac Valley has begun!)

(The valiant Alliance forces ride south to Frostwolf Keep.)




"... hello?  Who is it?"

"It is King Bronzebeard, and these are my officers of Stormpike.  Whose keep is this?"

"This is the keep of my master General Drek'Thar."

"Go and tell your master that we have been charged by Blue with a sacred quest.  If he will give us food and rested XP for the night, he can join us in our quest for the Honor Token."

"Well, I'll ask heem, but I don't think he'll be very keen.  Uh, he's already got one, you see."

"... What?"  "He says they've already got one!"  "... Are you sure he's got one?"

"Oh yes, it's-a very nice!  (I told them we already got one!)  (sniggers)"

"Well... erm... can we come up and have a look?"

"Of course not!  You are Dwarvish-types!"

"Well what are you, then?"

"I'm an Orc!  Why do you think I have this outrageous accent you silly king?!"

"What are you doing in Alterac?"

"Mind your own business!"


"If you will not show us the token, we shall take your keep by force!"

"Youuuu don't frighten us you Dwarvish barstools!  Go and boil your bottoms you hairy subterranean wombats!  I blow my nose at you so-called Magni King; you and all your silly Stormpike hhhhhhofficers!"

/target King Magni Bronzebeard



"What a strange person..."

"Now look here, my good man..."

"I don' wanna talk to you no more you... empty-headed animal food-trough water!  I /fart in your general direction!  Your captain is a hamster, and your daughter smells of elderberries!"


"Is there someone else up there we could talk to?"

"Uh, no; now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!"

"Now, this is your last chance.  I've been more than reasonable..."

[Orcish] "Fetch the Tauren."

[Orcish] "Huh?  More work?"

[Orcish] "Fetch the Tauren!"

"...if you do not agree to my commands, then I shall..."

(Boing!)  /moo


(Sound of a Tauren landing on a heavily laden gnome, quite possibly causing severe bodily injuries.)




(Sound of Blizzards, Rain of Fire, Frost Traps, Snake Traps, Consecrates and lots and lots of belligerent orcs chopping up the Alliance offensive as it pours into the narrow path into the keep.)

"A.F.K!  They're turtling!"

This really happened the other day.  Granted, it may not be exactly word-for-word correct, but that was the general gist of it.

Every AV game I've played has been about the offense.  We rush to Vanndar, they rush to Drek'Thar; whoever kills 'em first wins.  But the other day was the first time I'd ever seen the Horde turtle.

To be honest, the offensive games are a bit boring.  We take some ground, we lose a little, we take some back... the majority of the fighting basically boils down to running into the fray and trying not to die really, really fast to AoE.

This time, I randomly decided to go on defense (I tend to split it 70/30, with the 70 being me going on offense.)  A scant few followed me in to the keep, and I dutifully set my trap and flare down and waited.  As time went on and the Alliance forces began engaging the Horde stragglers, taking graveyards on the way, more and more Horde started coming to my side of the battlements.

By the time our last tower outside the keep fell, I'd say about 25% of our forces were on defense inside the keep itself, with most of the others fighting scattered battles outside.

Wave after wave came at us.  Rogues kept sneaking past and trying to cap the relief hut, or take out the two towers either side of the gate, but we kept pushing them back out.  Eventually, they forced almost the entire Horde army inside the gates.

For a while, it was nail-bitingly close.  I don't think we were more than 40 or 50 reinforcements ahead of the Alliance.  And then the worst happened.

They summoned Ivus.

Now, I don't play a lot of AV.  I've certainly never seen the elemental dudes spawned.  So I was under the somewhat erroneous impression that Ivus was our guy.  I rode out to see him flatten the Alliance forces.

"Oh crap.  Giant, angry tree.  Run away.  Very fast.  Entire Alliance army behind him.  He has a 3-stack of Lifebloom.  We're boned."

But someone had a plan.  Not, on face value, a very good plan.  "Kite him to Drek!"  This, to me, seemed like a fairly iffy plan; wasn't that what the Alliance was trying to do?

But kite him they did, with the sea of red text charging behind him.  I put down a Frost Trap; I really can't say whether it helped or not.

Into Drek's room he went.

And then the Alliance made a horrific mistake.

I don't know what happened, but from where I was standing, it looked like they waltzed into Drek's chamber and started breaking out the celebratory crackers and cheese, patting themselves on the backs for a job well done.

They didn't appear to notice the Horde forces standing in the middle of the room turning their healers into smears on the wall.  They just stood there while we tore them apart.  And with their healers toast, we turned on Ivus.

Incidentally, Drek makes an awesome tank for a Shammy.

And Ivus went down.  All that effort, and we just creamed him.

At this point, the Alliance went limp.  I killed a priest outside the keep who just stood there and took it.  I think I might have gotten a point in 1H Sword skill.

Then we rode out of the keep, took back our graveyard thankyouverymuch, and won by a fairly considerable margin.

It was the damn longest AV I've ever been in, but it was an absolute blast.

And you know what made it all the sweeter?

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Beta Impressions: Welcome to Northrend

No, I'm not going to be posting about the beta exclusively from now on.  This is just a result of nothing of interest [1] happening on live this last week and a bit, while lots of interesting things happened in the beta.

I've decided not to post much in the way of concrete details on the beta content.  I want to keep this blog relatively spoiler-free; to the extent that instead of describing the details of a quest or NPC conversation, I'll probably just mention the general concept and move on.  Maybe the odd landscape screenshot or the like, but nothing really spoilery.

One aspect of that are the letters from Northrend; they let me poke fun at the beta content without having to explicitly talk about it.

So, impressions of entering Northrend for the first time; what can you expect on day one?

Crash, Bang, Boom!

Hopefully what you do not experience are error dialogs telling you that the data files are corrupted, that they cannot be repaired, and you have to sit through an hour and a half install again.

For the eighth time.

Because that's how many times I've had to reinstall Wrath so far; that's not even counting the times that I tried to install and had it fail.  I don't know what Blizz has done to their installer, but it's garbage at the moment.  It looks like it's not bothering to validate that the files it installs are actually valid; so when you get to the latest patch an hour later, you find that a random file's been corrupted and you have to reinstall.

(Incidentally, that's what Its' "fainting" problem was a symptom of.)

For now, I appear to have a reasonably stable install, which is nice.

Welcome to Northrend, Here's Your Axe

The first time you step into Outland, there's a real sense that you're not in Azeroth any more.  Outland is weird and alien; that made it exciting the first time, but nowadays the only Outland zone I still really like is Nagrand, which is ironically the most "normal" zone there is.

Northrend is completely different.  It doesn't feel out of place in Azeroth; Blizzard could have shoved it in next to any existing Azeroth zones, and it would have fit right in.  The difference is that the Northrend zones feel more... polished.  More epic.  Bigger and better.

Outland's zones were, I think, better designed, but suffered from a very alien art direction.  Northrend is even more well-designed in comparison to Outland, but returns to a more classic Warcraft art style.

It also, as I said, feels more epic.  For example, the first time I flew from Orgrimmar to Warsong Hold, I had to wonder whether the hold had been built into the side of a massive canyon... only to realise I was just in an utterly colossal building.  There's also the conversations with the NPCs themselves.  As your character "grows up," you are very much a nobody.  You're not a big hero like Jaina or Thrall.  You're just a freelance warrior among the multitudes.

But there are times in Northrend where the NPCs stop and say "wow; I can't believe you really did that.  You're awesome!"  When you have the leader for the Horde forces in Northrend praise you for your efforts, organise an honour guard for you and give you one of his wolf mounts to get you to the front lines, you start to feel like an actual somebody.

And it's bloody fantastic.

"I seek the holy grail!"

Quests are also much better in Wrath than in either vanilla or BC.  Sure, there's still the "kill N of X, Y and Z," "gather Q of J" and even a few dreaded "escort M back to N" quests in there.  But they feel more polished.  I'm yet to come across a quest where I groaned and felt like putting off doing it because I could see it being a real pain.

Take the kill quests for example: normally you get something along the following lines:

Deathstalker Biggles wants you to kill 5 Fluffy Penguins, 6 Harmless Penguins and 14 Baby Seals.

But now, most of the quests look like this:

Deathstalker Biggles wants you to kill 20 Fuzzy Defenceless Critters.

There's still a number of the "old style" there, but they tend to be much easier to accomplish, and won't see you running around half the zone trying to find the type of mob that, inexplicably, only spawns about 5% of the time.

And then there are the vehicle quests.  I've seen a number of people complaining that the addition of vehicles is going to turn WoW into a glorified online Halo clone, but it's simply not true.  Do you know what the first "vehicle" I encountered was?

A horse.

Seriously; there's a quest to steal yourself a horsie.  You go up to it, and it has the "enter vehicle" cursor on it.  You click on it, and your character jumps on (quite literally, I might add; you don't just appear on its back in a puff of smoke) and you ride off with it.

Really, the vehicle system is just a way for Blizzard to make it so that you can hop on or into some other object in the world, be it a mount, a vehicle or a structure, and use special abilities that apply to just that object.

And unlike the bombing quests from BC, each of the vehicle quests thus far has been different.  I've ridden on the back of a stolen horse, driven around a field of battle on a tank, flown on a wyrm, and manned a static gun emplacement.

I also want to go out on a tangent briefly in order to highlight a moment from Wrath.  This has very light spoilers in it, so I'm hiding it in a little spoiler box.  If you want to see it, click in the box (you'll need JavaScript enabled) or simply disable styling on this page.

You're down on the beach near a small outpost with a scant few tents.  A much larger outpost lies just up the coast, shrouded in mist.  The place looks completely abandoned, and you're told that it was attacked by some nameless force.  The Tuskarr near one tent seems reluctant to name the attackers, apparently out of fear that invoking their name will summon them.

You are tasked with getting back some of his possessions, as well as the standard death and destruction that goes with attempting to recover any outpost.

But before you go, they tell you to be careful: they've already sent a number of people into the mist... and none have returned.

So I'm standing there, thinking that this is just a load of rubbish.  Thanks to my goggles with built-in zoom feature, as well as Eagle Eye, I know the place is deserted.  Maybe there's some sort of debuff for entering the mist?

Ah, who cares?!  I run forward, figuring on just running around to grab the quest items and...

...and then my vision narrows, the corners of the screen whiten out, and the NPCs disappear from sight.  Everything goes slightly foggy and then I see... something moving in the mist.  What the...

I back out of the mist; the NPCs return, and whatever was in the mist disappears.  OK, so Blizz is trying to mess with me, are they?

I head back into the mist, and carefully make my way in to meet the enemy...


I have to say that whilst not the most original idea ever, the execution of this particular enemy species is exceptionally well done; especially with the spooky atmosphere!

So those of you out there who love questing, I think you're going to be very happy with Wrath.

Lowbie Tanking Ninja Turtle

Another thing I can't help but have noticed are the changes to Hunter pets.  I won't go into excruciating detail on these right now, but I wanted to get this out:

My turtle is not only usable, but arguably a better levelling pet than my cat.

Here's the thing: back in vanilla and BC, turtles sucked.  Yes, they had excellent mitigation, but that couldn't offset their laughable damage output and threat generation.  They basically couldn't hold aggro off a baby kitten.

They couldn't tank in instances, they couldn't out-dps a fairy with a slightly damp tissue, and no one ever seemed to sell food they would eat.

Which is probably why Bisque ended up falling about 20 levels behind.

However, with the changes to Hunter pets in Wrath, Bisque is now a better levelling pet than Tiddles for one simple reason:

I can't pull aggro off him.

And he's two levels below me.

Tiddles' threat generation is more or less on-par with what he currently does, maybe a bit higher.  But Bisque's is through the roof.  Unless Wrath has bugged out and re-enabled Cower again (oh, how I hate that) or I've started going all-out before he got the first hit in, it's really hard for me to pull aggro.  The little guy just keeps on truckin'!

And he's got a lot of awesome toys now: a taunt, intercept and of course his shield.  Tiddles still blows Bisque out of the water in terms of damage output, but Bisque can now actually hold a mob's attention.

As I said, Tiddles is still pretty much still Tiddles.

There have been a few major changes to my Dragonhawk, Smaug.  He now has a focus dump, so he does decent DPS.  Fire Breath still makes me a little nervous in crowded areas, but he seems to make a pretty decent levelling pet.

Replacing Skill With Button-Mashing

And then there's the Steady Shot change.  Let me just say first off that it had to be made.  Hunters were penalised more than any other class based on their network latency.  But manually weaving my shots was part of what made being a Hunter exciting for me; knowing that I had to actually get my timing right to maximise my DPS.

And before you say it, no a macro would not have worked just as well.  Using a macro led to a 10% loss in DPS; please leave your raving zealotry at the door.

But with this change, Hunter DPS really does just boil down to "mash X until it's dead."  I know Blizzard isn't finished with our class yet, but I really hope they come up with some way of complicating our DPS that doesn't depend on network conditions or some other factor outside our control.

On the whole, Wrath looks to be shaping up really nicely.  Blizzard are clearly raising their own bar on this one, improving (even if in just a small way) on pretty much every aspect of the game.

Also, if you have any questions about Wrath, feel free to ask them, and I'll do my best to answer them.

[1]  I didn't think a Kara run that got called on Moroes, a Gruul's run I didn't go on and farming Mudfish for a few hours qualified as "interesting."  :P

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Northrend Letters (Part I)

Dear mum and dad,

Well, I seem to have landed up in the less-entirely-hospitable-than-I-would-have-liked continent of Northrend. You see, I was approached by some representatives of our mighty Warchief Thrall, who asked me if I would be willing to participate in a little scouting "expedition."

The first warning sign should have been the way they said "expedition," complete with air-quotes. They do not appear terribly accustomed to subterfuge. In any event, they made their case and I agreed.

Also, they gave me sandwiches. Really nice ones with pork and just enough gravy so's you can taste it, but not so much that the bread goes all soggy.

The zeppelin ride over was largely uneventful, apart from when a gang of pirates attempted to board us. This did not go so well for them considering that we were in a zeppelin and they in a boat. But I must give the Bloodsail Buccaneers credit for enthusiasm, if not for deductive reasoning.

After several hours of flying north, we arrived at the Forsaken port of Vengeance Landing in the Howling Fjord. Various persons had informed me that this place represented the first look at the Forsaken's own style of architecture, and thus was an important milestone in their cultural development.

However, I cannot help but think that they did not design their buildings with conventional properties such as structural integrity or aesthetics in mind. It appears they designed each structure to provide the maximal electrical conductivity. One cannot walk from one end of the settlement to the other without having to comb one's hair.

Upon arriving, I noted that Tiddles' fur was standing on-end. At first, I surmised that he must have detected the odiferous scent of cheese nearby, for you surely remember Tiddles'... aversion to cheese.

I changed my theory when his tail spontaneously caught fire. He now refuses to go anywhere near the town lest he combust again.

Sadly, I am yet to go out into the wilds and assess the situation here. There appears to be a problem of some kind whereby any time I attempt to walk south of Vengeance Landing, I suddenly pass out and wake up later back at the town.

Last time it happened, I woke up with a damn pencil stuck up my nose! Personally, I suspect those bloody apothecaries; they're always up to no good.

In any event, I shall make sure to write to you both again when I have more to say. If the fainting issue cannot be adequately resolved, I shall likely go to Borean Tundra and try my luck there.

Your now and, for the foreseeable future, present son.


Paper texture courtesy of BittBox.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The Advantages of Being an Addon Developer

Please don't hate me...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


Big Bear Butt recently posted about how there's an awful lot of content out there in vanilla WoW that most players haven't seen before.  Every time I log on, I see people complaining about how they're bored, and that Blizzard needs to hurry up with Wrath because there's nothing to do.

To paraphrase BBB: rubbish.

A few weeks back, as I said previously, I joined OathBound.  Within 60 seconds of being invited in, I was asked if I wanted to come to ZG.  Yes, Zul'Gurub; the guild was having a fun-run.  ZG was one of the few raid instances I'd done back in vanilla WoW, so it wasn't like I hadn't done a few full clears.  And it's not like there's much of anything you can get from ZG that's still useful at 70.

But I went along, and I had a blast.  I can't describe how good it felt to not just one-shot Bloodlord Mandokir, but to completely destroy him.  Fighting Hakkar again was great fun, and I even got to kill Gahz'ranka, who I had never seen before.

The week after, the guild was in Molten Core.  We only got as far as Baron Geddon before calling it, but again it was just so enjoyable to run around tearing these once-feared bosses to ribbons.  I remember having to decurse the Lucifron fight on my druid.  On dialup.  Without Decursive.  Needless to say, it's a hell of a lot more entertaining when you're just in charge of bringing the pew-pew.

And this week, the guild headed over to the Dread Citadel itself.  Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.  The major issue seemed to be a lack of people.  With no upgrades for them, most didn't seem interested in coming.

I was absent for an entirely different reason: I'd reached my broadband quota a few days earlier, and was speed-capped.  Which means that while I can do just fine on a Kara run, I was disconnected inside Naxxramas within 10 seconds; instantly if someone entered combat.

I'd really love to see Naxx.  And BWL.  And AQ.  All the places and fights I never got to see back before BC.  I suppose I find it hard to understand how someone can invest time into this game and not want to see and do as much as they can.

Sure, there's no upgrades to be had from MC or Naxx.  But those pieces of gear that drop out of BT or Sunwell; the ones you covet so much... WotLK is going to make those obsolete.  You'll be back at the bottom of the food chain again.  If all you get out of playing WoW is better gear, then you'll have nothing to show for all that effort.

On the other hand, I'm coming away with something worth far more; something you won't find on any loot table: memories and fun.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

I Think I'll Go For a Walk

You're not fooling anybody.

So, I was just standing there when a spaceship full of Fire Bears flew down and abducted the 'e' key from my keyboard.  Unable to form a complete, correctly-spelled sentence, I was left unable to blog until I was able to order a replacement in from Norway (where they grow keyboard keys in large underground caves.)

What are you looking at me like that for?  Don't you trust me?  Would I lie to you?

Ok, yes, I would.  Great big whoppers, at that.  But at least you can always tell when I'm making stuff up!

Not at all suddenly changing the subject:

Two weeks ago, I finally changed guilds.  The old guild, <Fury> was more or less a social levelling guild that had kinda fallen apart as the higher-level members started moving over to raiding guilds.  I'd stayed there because I wasn't sure whether I was going to be transferring Its to another server soon or not.  In the end, I decided to stay and applied to <OathBound>.

A few days of waiting, a few quick questions online, and I had a new tag.

A week ago, I got in to my first Karazhan run.  As in, ever.  Despite getting my first toon to 70 within a few weeks of BC's launch, I never ended up raiding for a variety of reasons.  It was a huge thrill to head in there for the first time and see all these bosses that I'd read about and seen in videos.

And I only died a few times!

It was quite fun; even when we got to Opera and the rest of the group said we were going to do the "hunter thing" as a form of "initiation."  Luckily, the event was Big Bad Wolf, so I didn't die and I got to laugh at their failed attempt to get me killed.

As for the bosses, we managed to two shot Big Bad Wolf  (on the first attempt, the order of Little Red Ridinghooding went Main Tank, Off Tank, Main Healer, Other Healer, One Of The Tanks Again which made things somewhat unstable.)  We had to take four tries at Aran [1] before he went down, and a bad infernal drop combined with marginally inaccurate positioning caused us to wipe once on Prince.  Aside from the optional bosses (which we didn't end up having time for,) we one-shot everything else.

Oh yeah, and this dropped:

Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle
Binds when picked up
Ranged Gun
149 - 278 Damage Speed 2.70
(79.1 damage per second)
+15 Agility
Durability 90 / 90
Requires Level 70
Equip: Increases attack power by 32.

The other hunter was a troll, and was holding out for a bow, so I ended up getting it.  I'm still adjusting to the change in weapon speeds; I went from a 1.74s shot rotation to a ~2.0s shot rotation, so I still hit Steady Shot slightly too early some times.

One other final bit of gloating, though: I went in to Kara with one purple ([Surestrike Goggles v2.0],) two greens ([Core of Ar'kelos] and [Leafbeard Ring]) and with the rest of my gear being blue.  The rest of the party were in, more or less, Kara or higher epics.

(In the interests of full disclosure, those meters are from Curator on.)

Damage meters aren't everything; but to get up there on my first run with "crappy" blues... I'm a happy little hunter.

(Incidentally, there was going to be a funny picture of Its posing with the Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle, and Tiddles thinking about how Its is probably just compensating for something... except WoW Model Viewer doesn't seem to like my new machine.  You'll just have to imagine it on your own.)

  1. And no, I didn't move during flame wreath! ... I just got caught in the blizzard repeatedly...