Vanilla vs TBC vs WOTLK vs Cata

Gotta love the debates that go on regarding how old time World of Warcraft players complain in nostalgic sense about what post-TBC players have missed. As a post-TBC player, it’s very hard to get a sense of what Vanilla and TBC were like. However, having read a bunch of forums, I’m starting to get a sense of where World of Warcraft has been hurting.

Community

If there’s a really huge issue at stake, it’s that the WoW community has slowly been on a decline. I think part of the problem seems to have manifested in WOTLK where the dungeon finder was introduced. As a result, you no longer needed other people to run instances. Since many of the instances in WOTLK were pretty easy, most players could handle them. However, the loot rewards and badges coming from farming Heroics seemed to stab at the hard cores and older community. The challenge no longer was there and bad players would be “carried,” causing a great deal of friction.

Thus, Cataclysm was born, which took the complaints of the hard core loyalists and attempted to amend the mistakes from WOTLK by making instances harder, requiring people to really learn their classes and use the full range of abilities, as opposed to simply AoE’ing down mobs. Of course, the tougher stance has created a decline in WoW subscriptions (either that or old players just are giving up).

However, the real damage had been done by removing the community/social element. Certainly, the changes to the guild system theoretically would focus or amend part of the community element. Realistically though, this is not the case. It seems that people simply find the highest level guilds to reap instant benefits rather than looking at a guild as something special for a group of people with similar goals. It’s not like the LFG will disappear in a day and the harder instances really are designed for guilds to work together.

In my case, I haven’t seen much of that. I’m not certain if my lack of exposure is a result of being on a PVE realm, but part of me does not think that is the case. It might be that my current guild is a casual/social guild. But thus far, I’ve seen little to no social interaction and very few achievements beyond vanilla instances where the guild has done much together. Again, it might be the fault of my guild master or just the way people are in my guild.

Still, I think there is some missing camaraderie that even WOTLK had. These days, I rarely speak to anyone in my realm, except to occasionally help people. Maybe it’s again because I’m on a low population PVE realm. Most people there I have met are those with jobs. It could be that most players are on the opposite side of the world so that I can’t do much to interact with them. But the community is quite lacking and something that I imagine hasn’t really improved since WOTLK.

New World vs New Content

The best way I can explain this is like this. The first time I went to Japan, it was one of the most exciting times of my life. No matter how screwed up the situation (getting lost, backpack breaking on the plane, overly heavy suitcases, can’t read signs, barely any friends, language problems), everything was new and bold. The second time I went, it still was exciting but I knew how to get around. The third time I arrived, I wasn’t as excited and started feeling bored.

Then I moved to Japan and my first few months was just a blast. The second time I moved to Japan, I was still excited, but more to see my friends again and just be part of that odd little world. However, I knew where everything was and I got used to the stupid questions people would always ask me (“Are you Chinese?” “How come you can’t speak Japanese?” “Why are you fat?”). The only thing I would look for at this point were extremely hot girls or restaurants I’d never been to. But frankly speaking, I got bored pretty fast of the usual spots like Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ebisu, etc. The excitement that I had felt my first time there was completely gone and my enthusiasm slowly was being drained, but I wasn’t as aware.

What I was aware of was that I liked being there for some odd reason, despite all the issues of living out there and stress. Something keeps pulling me back. But once I’m back, the boredom creeps up and I quickly tire of the same spots that people have me go to with them.

I think the same thing goes with WoW. Your first month into WoW is just an incredible experience. Everything is new and it’s really not like anything you’ve ever experienced. You’re just learning the ropes so you feel this excitement as the system is being defined. However, once you get used to that particular system, you find yourself getting angry when it gets changed (and just read about all the nerfs that circulate every patch to see how many people QQ on the forums).

I personally think that the point of entry into WoW is the best. Your first few months are great because it’s the first time you’ll be doing things. But what happens once you hit 85? What can you do? If you’re lucky and get to be part of a raiding group, then there’s plenty of options for you. Or if you enjoy PVP, you can try BGs or Arena. What happens when you create that second toon? Sure, you can go through the process again and there’s plenty of areas to try out. What happens when you’re on your 5 toon? It gets pretty boring even though you pretty much can figure out when and where to use your abilities.

One of the game makers faulted the game’s age as being the chief killer. In other words, there’s only so many things you can still do in WoW. They’ve tried to boost the game by creating mini games (e.g. the wanna-be Joust or Plants vs Zombies), but you’re still in WoW. Expansions add more content, but that’s more or less like seeing a new girl you’d like to fuck or finding a new bar. That doesn’t change the main elements of the world.

Hardcores vs Casuals

This is such a hotly contested area and a landmine field for Blizzard. Whom do you pander for? Obviously, in the end, Blizzard is going to pander to their shareholders and accountants, which is an extreme shame. So every decision will involve them to some degree.

Still though, in order to make money, you have to focus your attention on this divide, which seems to grow all the time. The bet for Cataclysm to appeal to the hardcores was a huge gamble. That gamble didn’t seem to pay off from a subscription point of view as it has been cited that the game has lost a huge number of players. But is the loss really not a loss? Is this a way of Blizzard trying to make a statement? What if Cataclysm ends up being WoW’s last expansion (where I’ve heard that the possibility is very likely)? If that’s the case, then would Blizzard prefer to put their money into their hardcores who they know will stick by?

Even if this part is true, there’s still a major issue at stake. And that issue is whether the casual player will ever trust Blizzard again. That’s a huge stake at risk. A company’s image is everything in a situation like this. I’m a very casual player. However, I feel that WoW has done a pretty bad job of giving my money’s worth. If I pay money as any other subscriber to the game, don’t I deserve to partake in all content? If I can partake in all content, what sacrifices will I have to make in order to experience that content?

In reading these posts, it’s clear that this divide is created as barriers to entry by the hardcores/elitists. Even for people who are capable of raiding, it seems that the way the game is structured in terms of seeing end game content (e.g. raiding), you must practically participate at the moment when everyone else is doing it. That means that only a small percentage of people will get that opportunity. Unfortunately, it also implies that you will have bragging rights. Is this the right thing to do?

I’ve already stated my theory on what should be done, but I need to constantly reiterate the problem at hand. I think in the context of this post, WOTLK was fair to the casual player. I want to say that I enjoyed it for the most part. I had the chance to get close towards the Lich King fight. I thought that was great. Right now, I’ve done no Heroics thus far and only two Cataclysm instances. I remember reading how after Firelands came out on trade chat one night how people were already asking people to describe the Firelands trash mob tactics before letting others group up. Other people retorted that person, but it’s pretty clear the kind of mentality that has come about. To really spell out this mentality, here it goes:

To raid, you pretty much need a certain gear level (item level), which means you need to grind either in randoms (or if you’re lucky) with friends/guild members for points. If you’re doing randoms but don’t know the fights, prepare to get slammed or even kicked because, of course, other people don’t want to carry you. So you have to already have done research on these fights by watching Tankspot videos or other guides online. So let’s say you’ve done all this preparation work, sacrificing an enormous amount of personal time (and probably your self-esteem) to get to a point where you might be able to join up in a raid group. You end up having to master ZA/ZG just to get enough epics to finish up the first few raids, which probably are not happening anymore, or someone is nice enough to let you in to do Firelands raids (not to mention that people complain about how “epics are given away in these instances” because these people couldn’t gear up when the first raids and heroics came about). But again, you have to do all this preparation work to go raiding. That goes the same for the other 9 people in your group. You go after your first boss and spend the entire evening wiping. People get pissed, leave, holler at each other and so on. You keep trying and finally manage to find the group that gets your first boss down. But he doesn’t drop that piece of loot you need, so you have to do it again next week, when another person wins the roll on that loot and you keep doing this for the next few months, say goodbye to your waking hours and personal life.

Now tell me. Is there something wrong with that picture?

I was reading from one poster how end gaming raiding was about the thrill of the kill. Well, if that’s the case, why care so much about the other shit? Why worry about item levels, preparation videos, etc.? Why not just go in and keep doing things for fun? Isn’t that what games are supposed to be?

Then there’s the whole nonsense about what epic loot means. For the hardcores, they believe that epic means only we get it so we can brag to people in Orgrimmar or Stormwind. Isn’t the point of epic loot also to provide extra abilities to make it easier for people to participate in raids? Are we simply seeing another form of elitism going on?

If that’s the case, why not charge the hardcores an extra $15/month? I say if you go raiding and you want all that bragging rights, pay extra money because then you can go complain to the developers that you’re not getting your money’s worth. If I pay $15 a month, I am entitled to participate in all the content, just like everyone else. It’s not like using a service like Facebook and complaining that they changed the feed. And this just isn’t about me vs Blizzard. This is me vs hardcore players, who apparently have quite a bit of voting rights with the developers.

At any rate, what I described above is NOT indicative of a healthy gaming environment. Just saying, “Well STFU and QUIT!” isn’t enough. Game companies need to be responsible to their players as well. Yes, they need to think of both the hardcores and the casuals. Usually, Blizzard does a pretty good job at this, but with WoW, it’s a lot tougher because the game is participation based.

That said, here’s what I think highlights the good/bad points of each expansion (plus the original)

  • Vanilla – Good: New world. Best community. Everything was being defined. Easier to get into large raids. Earning something meant YOU EARNED IT. Bad: Poor questing, too much grinding, glitchy (for better or worse), horrible time sync, 40 man raids were ridiculous, probably the hardest.
  • TBC – Good: Improved questing. Best raids. Gorgeous world. Great lore. Dailies as a way of making money. Bad: Really hard raids (Sunwell). Harder to get into raids. Arena creating massive nerfs and balancing issues. Allowing paladins to be Horde and shamans to be Alliance (meaning lacking uniqueness to each faction). Male Blood Elves.
  • WOTLK – Good: Vastly improved questing. Lots of great new content. Ulduar. LFG (for accessing instances quicker). Very casual friendly. Easy to get gear. Height of subscriptions. Vast continent to explore. Bad: Gearscore. Achievements to enter raids. Community at a low point after Coliseum came out. No longer a challenge to get gear. Lack of raid progression because of some instances and badges.
  • Cata – Good: Return of challenging content. Re-focusing of questing zones to be more cohesive. Attempt to focus on the social aspects via changes to the guild system. Allowing more opportunities for solo players. Bad: Loss of subscribers. Challenging content might be “too challenging” for the casual player. Guild system may not have worked as intended. Way too little content. Too much genericizing of classes and constant nerfs.

There you have it. Now, these enumerations are merely my opinion based on what I’ve read in forums. Since I wasn’t around in BC nor Vanilla, I can only speculate and attempt to grasp at what the nostalgic praise those two versions have received. I have read from people who played in both saying that game has improved, so there’s clearly a disconnect in perception.

Hard to say what the real disconnect is outside of preference. Perhaps, it’s the fairness in world PVP? Maybe it’s the community or the shared experiences that some people received? Could it be the epic events occurring? How about the fact that the game was hotter when it started especially in the consistent online people playing it simultaneously?

At the end of the day, it really boils down to the individual’s experiences. I’m guessing the truth lies some where in between (like everything).

World of Warcraft Patch 4.3 Thoughts

Right now, we’re getting a pretty good preview on the upcoming 4.3 patch for World of Warcraft. Of course, the biggest thing is that this patch will allow players to finally down Deathwing, who is the end boss of Catacylsm, of course.  Leading up to Death Wing will be some uber raid bosses along with three new instances, similar in a way to how WOTLK had three instances that set the stage for the final encounter at the Ice Citadel. Along with this new content, we will see the Transmorgrification aspect making its debut, Void Storage and a new zone dedicated to the Dark Moon Faire.

In looking at this patch, my interpretation is that most of the content here is designed almost exclusively for high end raiders. Obviously, Deathwing is a major challenge and something that has been on everyone’s minds since the release as he is the primary adversary in the game at this moment. The three instances will probably be designed to allow people to gear up quickly just like WOTLK and how the revamped troll raids provided gear to allow people to start raiding. By introducing these three new instances though, more than likely the older raids will probably be nerfed and seldom worked on, if history has demonstrated.

The transmorgrification in all honesty is just about bling. They’re toting it as something that allows players to further customize the look of their toons. Of course, part of the purpose is for people to possible return to old raids and instances to pick up loot, making that content somewhat valuable again. Alternatively, players who have managed to hold on to their gear could use them for enhancing (or going retro) their gear’s appearance.

Void Storage seems to be partly along the lines of transmorgrification in that people who have played for a long time and are running out of bank space can in theory pay for more bank space. The cost is said to be low, but the screenshots may indicate otherwise.

At any rate, the features presented here seem to cater towards long time players and high end raiders. So the only possible interesting aspect for other players is the Dark Moon Faire zone. This zone apparently can provide some goodies and profession improvements. There’s not a lot of details on the goodies, but it sounds like more grinding.

I personally am hoping that there’s still room for Blizzard to consider solo players beyond the Dark Moon Faire. Patch 4.2 introduced a nice alternative to raiding for solo players wishing to gear up through the various dailies in the Firelands. The grind fest for the Firelands for me at least horribly monotonous. That said, it does provide someone like me an alternative from raiding, at least to get some reasonable gear.

On a side note, as I’m developing my own game, I realized that WoW does not have a skill for swimming. Some classes and races (or rather just the Foresaken) have a clear underwater advantage. Yet if you’re a Tauren Paladin, you’ll struggle during any underwater quest. I think if they expand the game any further, they ought to add a new secondary skill for swimming.

Lastly, looking at the way this current patch is being set up and with a lot of people quitting the game (I read something that said around 900k subscriptions had been lost), I have to wonder if there would be any further expansions. A friend of mine mentioned that he heard from the rumormill at Activision that this will be the last expansion. WoWHead had an interview with some Blizzard folk that made it seem that the game’s age is showing.

However, the game still has a fairly large following and with all the work that had been put into our toons, I seriously doubt Blizzard simply can pull the plug at any day (and if they do, I’m certain there will be a nasty lynch mob waiting outside). In talking to a few players, there is an expectation (or hope) that future expansions will come down the line to at least progress people’s levels up to 100. If that were the case, how can a game that is said to be “showing its age” be able to allow for new content? What will it mean to be level 100? What will this allow characters to do?

My interpretation is to keep things fairly simple. Continue allowing people to spend points on their talent trees. Scale hit points and other stats accordingly. Focus on adding new content in the game rather than new ways to play the game. Perhaps, add more races and classes (at least 2 more classes and 2 more races). I wouldn’t mind, for instance, adding more “open raids” like the bosses seen in the Molten Front dailies.  I like that idea rather than lock-in, 10 man or 25 man raids.

What about new abilities? Honestly, outside of the same-old, same-old, I can’t see much in terms of new abilities. More than likely anything new would have to be damage, CC, healing, etc. related. Maybe let people own their own siege vehicles. Or add support for NPCs to permanently join one’s group, thus allowing for more solo experiences.

First Pass Glimpse At My Classes

As a hobby, I’ve been designing the basic rules for an RPG system that I’ve always wanted to build/play. Taking from all my favorite games, I’m trying to concoct a system that is very character focused with an emphasis on variety. I’ve played one game, Elder Scrolls 4, which provided an incredibly flexible system in designing a character. In their system, you could either utilize a pre-defined class, or allocate points and skills to a dream class. While the level of customization does, indeed, make for an interesting game in terms of character generation, I found that the lack of focus did little for the game itself. Of course, the game was designed for a single player, so by using that premise, one would need a character capable of handling numerous situations.

However, one thing I’ve learned about so-called “all-classes” (that is, where you try to give every single ability under the sun to a class), they generally are either overpowered or overwhelmingly confusing. In a single player or character environment, I can understand. In my case, I’ve always felt partial to party systems, whether it was multiplayer or a single player controlling multiple characters. As a result, the so-called uber customizable system just never had a ring for me.

That all said, I wanted to share the various classes that I’ve defined up until this point. Now, there might be one or two that have little to no description. That’s fine. Part of what I have done is enumerate as many character classes and overlaps from the various games I’ve played over the years in an attempt to see how many I could come up with. More than likely at some point, I will remove some classes because they are too specific to a particular game (for instance, Bard’s Tale 3).

Without further ado, here is my current list of classes:

Fighter/Warrior – Tanking, Can use all weapons, armor, weapon specialization. Some inspirational leadership. Abilities geared for damage reduction from armor knowledge, increased number of attacks faster than most classes (per level), unlimited tactics (other partial classes may have limits on tactical combat such as fighting in the open vs sneak attacks)
Berserker – High damaging fighter, no shield, dual weapons, use lighter armor. Fast strikes that can encompass multiple enemies. May lose control and damage comrades. Immune to mind control during enrage. Recklessness makes berserkers vulnerable and more susceptible to damage.
Gladiator – Famous fighter. Sponsored by a patron. Receives periodic gifts depending on success in arenas. Reputation/social status play crucial elements to a gladiator’s elevation. Periodically, the gladiator must confront tougher challenges in order to progress further and receive benefits from their patrons. Besides random gifts bestowed by the patrons, gladiators may request from their patrons specific items that scale as the gladiator improves in levels. Can rally more followers because of his high reputation.
Barbarian – High Hit points, can use all weapons, use lighter armor, some magic resistance, fast movement. Limited rage. Jump assault, high evasion (for tanking) or massive single target damage. Requires more space for fighting. Decent food gatherer. Poor etiquette and may receive hostile treatment in towns/civilized areas. Limited stealth in uncivilized settings.
Paladin – Holy warrior, Wear all armor, melee fighter, minor buffs, limited healer, cannot use ranged weapons. Possesses abilities to thwart undead and demons (evil). Tanking capability involves heavy armor usage, shield blocking, resistances and self healing. Can wield special holy weapons that provide bonuses against evil enemies. Must follow strict ethos (PVP oriented?)
Knight/Cavalier – Noble warrior, wear heavy armor, melee fighter, cannot use ranged weapons. Inspirational fighter. Immune to fear. Shield comrades from fear. Tanking involves heavy armor usage, shield blocking, front line tactics. Higher level knights/cavaliers have best recruiting capabilities.
Ranger – Woodsman, wear heavy armor, dual weapons, ranged weapons. Limited nature spell power. Receives bonuses in natural surroundings. Best food gatherer and tracker. Some stealth ability, only in natural settings while wearing light armor and having no companions.
Hunter – Ranged assassin, focuses on traps, single shot damage. High understanding of anatomy provides best ranged critical hits in the game.
Archer – Ranged fighter, uses moderate armor, short melee weapons. Bonus with ranged weapons but generally specializes in a single ranged weapon.
Beastmaster – Ranged fighter, uses light armor, pets do primary damage. Can utilize more pets simultaneously at higher levels. Pets are trainable and can level. Pets can provide a tanking function.
Mage/Wizard/Magic User – Spell memorization. Requires concentration, verbal and physical components to cast spells. Moderate lore abilities. Increased enchanting capabilities. Very limited weapon and armor selection (cloth only)
Warlock – Demons, damage over time, curses
Conjurer – Summon creatures, create items. Manipulate matter (move walls). Conjured creatures provide tanking and other utility functions depending on the type of creature summoned.
Necromancer – Summon dead creatures, deals with death, convert dead bodies into personal army (percentage of abilities as in real life). More powerful undead types can be created from the dead as the necromancer increases in levels. Raised creatures have limited duration.
Monk – (Wis, Con) Martial arts expert, no armor, no weapons (primarily), some thieving, some priestly abilities. Improved immunities as the monk increases in levels.
Sorcerer – Spell Power. Regenerates over time.
Illusionist – (Dex, Int) Relies on trickery/deception, physical component, mental soft damage. Some thieving. Extremely powerful crowd control type of abilities (blinding, deafness, mesmorization)
Thief/Rogue – Stealth fighter, wears lighter armor, dual weapons, some range, advantage when fighting from the rear. Can construct traps of varying power. Usual thieving capabilities (pick pockets, detect/disarming trap, pick locks, stealth, climb walls, other forms of detection). Has some knowledge of poisons through alchemy.
Assassin – Evil thief, focused on killing, poisons. Bounty hunter. Some alchemy. High critical melee attacks while in stealth mode.
Swashbuckler – (Str, Dex) Combat oriented thief, focused on dual weapons and evasion
Acrobat – (Dex) Thief focused on evading attacks through agility. Very hard to hit in combat. Minor illusionist spells.
Bard/Lark – (Dex, Cha) Limited melee fighter, power from singing, light armor, light weapons, limited illusionist spells. Spells are invoked via singing.
Geomancer – (Str, Int) Earth warrior/mage. Limited melee, earth elemental magic school. Can wear heavier armor.
Chronomancer
Alchemist – (Dex, Int) Relies on potions for effects, cannot be silenced, requires physical components. Requires a lab and beakers. Moderate healing capability but no resurrection abilities. Ranged AoE type of fighter. Can simulate a number of spell realms (except holy/unholy and arcane). Not a true spell caster. Therefore can wear light armor. Use specialized weapons (launchers)
Psionic – (Int, Wis) Mental spell caster, cannot be silenced. Requires that enemies have intelligence for efficacy. Light armor. Typically ranged fighter. Requires high degree of concentration for efficacy. As long as
Cleric/Priest – (Wis) Cannot use sharp weapons, moderate armor. Defensive magic and healing. Limited offensive spells. Holy power.
Druid – Nature priest, shapeshifter, can use sharp weapons, limited armor (non-metallic)
Shaman – Paganism, Elemental powers, melee fighter, totemic powers. Performs rituals with other shamans to boost powers. Offensive buffing and minor healing capability. Light armor
Death Knight – Unholy power, anti-paladin, no shield, disease, frost. Assaulting enemies drain power and transfer to the death knight. Induce fear, coercion (as opposed to inspiration). Limited necromancy. Code of contact is similar to a paladin’s in that their behavior is quite strict. However, this strictness is defined by their willpower, something they gain through increasing in levels.
Demon Lord – Demonic fighter, unholy power. Limited demon summoning (gate). Moderate melee fighter, utilizing hordes of minor demons to wreck havoc on their foes.
Samurai – Eastern knight, immune to fear, penalties to using non-eastern weapons, armor. Does not use a shield. Induces intimidation.
Kensai – Weapons specialist, no armor. Focus on a single weapon. Can dual wield with that weapon without penalty. High initiative. Cannot use ranged weapons. High parry and dodge. Limited multi-person attack. Extremely high single target damage as a result of concentrated attacks.
Bushi – Masterless warriors
Yakuza – Large gangs, information specialist
Ninja – Assassins of the shadows, specialized weapons, some alchemy
Sohei – Priest warriors of monestaries, can use heavy armor and weapons, but do less physical damage as a result of inability to specialize. Can use faith based spells
Shukenja – Eastern priests
Wu-jen – Eastern mages

Seriously Considering Quitting the Gym

My whole purpose on joining the gym was to lose weight. However, I’ve slowly come to hate my gym because the people are pretty obnoxious, it’s too crowded, stinky and the equipment sucks. The other thing is that I’ve slowly lost my motivation to go anymore. I feel that going to the gym is futile for me and that no matter what I do, I can never lose the weight I want. Liposuction would be a better solution if I did not hate doctors.

Either way, I think as long as I live in LA working and/or working as a developer, going to the gym is a complete waste of time and money. Most of the reason to hit the gym was to get into better shape and improve my self esteem. However, I just don’t feel that my self esteem can improve these days. Also, I don’t really care anymore to be in shape. I don’t have any desire to get into a diet.

Further along these lines, my purpose was to lose weight to look good. However, in thinking about my situation, I realize that if a girl does not care about my personality in the first place, then going to the gym is pointless.

I’m getting older and want to have more time just for myself. Without the same level of energy that I had several years ago and the fact that almost everyone I like(d) got hitched in some way, I’m pretty certain that I’m wasting my time. I prefer spending my time on me and trying to make myself happy. Not trying to fulfill an image of happiness defined by others. Not trying to make other people happy. I’ve done little in this regard so I think I’m going to start.

My Requests If I Die

I do not like thinking this way, but I don’t have any official type of will. So I decided to post something here to make it official in case something ever happens to me. My main request is that if something were to happen to me that I would like to buried with my stuffed animals. They are the only true friends that I’ve ever had in this world and I want them to come with me no matter what. Please make sure that Giraffe, Duck1, Duck2, Duck3, Cat, Kitty, Hippo are next to each other. If I’m away from my home, they will be located on my bed, the little black shelf next to my bed and a few more will be in my dad’s room. Do not burn my body or I will haunt you and curse every living relation to you and continue for as long as eternity last.

My other requests is that if my mom is still around that she receives my money and car. That includes my savings account, checking account, retirement and the pennies left  in my Japanese account. Thank you.

Finished Thor and Iron Man 2; Awaiting the Avengers

Having been recommended Iron Man 2 and being somewhat bored lately, I decided to check Iron Man 2 and Thor out tonight. Iron Man 2 alluded to Thor as being in the next chain of events in this Marvel series, piquing my curiosity at the end of the credits. I have to say both movies were quite compelling and had reasonably decent direction (far better than the crappy/campy X-Men reboot). However, the hook for me is just the continuation that seems to lead to the first Avengers movie.

I’m not a huge comic book buff but I like continuity and linking stories together. The Avengers is slowly shaping up to be an all-star type of cast and super hero scenario. The writing for the most part between the movies involving the characters for The Avengers has been decent, so I’m hoping that the glut of star power and super heroes won’t detract from a good storyline.

Iron Man 2 did a decent job at re-establishing Robert Downey Jr.’s overly egotistical character, yet introducing weaknesses of his super powers. You gotta hand it to the actor who practically has lived up to the image he established in Less Than Zero because it seems as though nothing has changed. Hopefully, the added humility demonstrated in Iron Man 2 through his personal issues both with the suit, his lack of faith in his friends and his private insecurities that he battled similarly mimicked (mimics?) how he handles himself in real life.

Thor was a change of pace from the cybertronic, high tech imagery in Iron Man 2 since it delved into the Norse mythos to engender its lore. In scenes reminiscent of a He-Man type of science/magical universe, the world of Thor blended both, providing some stunning imagery of what the realm of impossibility could look like if we halted our doubts about the way the universe operates. The character of Thor himself was quite likeable and managed to convince me of his slow transformation/growth from the arrogant/high tempered son to a more cautious individual who becomes more aware of vulnerabilities because of his transient banishment to the mortal world. During his banishment, Thor still remained noble of character, despite occasionally demonstrating conventions of etiquette that most people would probably consider “rude.” These qualities gradually won me over from his hot headed disposition.

In examining both movies as well as the ambition of adding some major super heroes to the Avengers movie mix, I think that the director needs to be cautious in avoiding the dilemma posed from the X-Men movies, which was the limited character development and difficulty in providing enough screen time for each character. On the other hand, the positive aspect in producing each of these super hero movies separately has been being able to create a few back stories to help pre-familiarize audiences before diving head first into the story and forcing on screen character development in unnecessary haste.

At any rate, 2012 May looks to be an ambitious month. Can’t wait.

Leveling Alliance Toons

For the second time, I started a Draeni Protection Paladin and managed to hit level 18 with her. My path for questing goes from the Draeni starting zone, garnering level 6 or so, before moving her to Stormwind to pick up the human quests. Why this route? The quest rewards are better generally speaking in Cataclysm and I want to improve my reputation with the humans to get a better deal with mounts. Also, a nice little added bonus is that by completing the human starting zone, you’ll be level 7, giving you a slight edge as you quest in the Elwyn Forest.

Since this is my second real time doing the quests in this zone, I came to notice a few things in comparison to the Horde. First, there’s a LOT more mobs packed together closely. My guess is that there’s an expectation that more people will quest together as Allies. Second, there’s a horrible amount of walking. The Westfall zone was terribly put together. I can’t be certain, but it felt as though some of the quests might’ve been leftovers from Vanilla. For instance, the treasure finding quests. That was ridiculous in having you scour the map to try picking up all the different pieces. Yes, I understand that it’s a “treasure finding quest” but you had to do an immense amount of walking that just felt unnecessary.

Next, there’s not a lot of fast moving aids compared to the Horde when moving from one spot to another. One thing I like about the Horde now is that the amount of walking in many zones has been drastically reduced by introducing elements that will take you to the next questing zone. I can’t comment about the other Ally races since I’ve yet to try others. But I certainly hope that Blizzard has introduced mechanics like that.

Another thing is that Stormwind is just HUGE. Orgrimmar feels pretty easy to get around once you get used to it. But Stormwind feels incredibly large by comparison. Not as easy to access some areas compared to Orgrimmar, where everything practically is at the front of the gate or in the rear.

Not sure how anything else will compare. I might try leveling up a Death Knight afterwards just to make me some quick gold. However, things will be tough considering I’m starting from scratch again. Not having any gold, bags and missing professions make things a real challenge. But I like the fact that everything is new.

Already, I started focusing on making gold as I level by taking up mining and selling ore or linen cloth. Copper bar and linen sell quite reliably on servers. However, I definitely need to get a faster mount if I want to do any significant farming. Either that or start my Death Knight sooner and start farming things like cloth, copper and whatnot

Ghostcrawler: A Failed Game Developer

I was reading through various posts about the upcoming 4.3 patch on some different forums and it seems that not many people like this guy. I read his justifications for death knights (for instance) and my impression is that this guy is just reactionary in terms of how he approaches class design. Meaning that these small fixes, which don’t seem well thought out, exist to pacify a small percentage of people in the game.

What was more interesting was reading on a wowhead forum how this guy came from Microsoft and screwed up the Age of Empires series. I don’t know exactly what that was about, but I’m not getting a good impression of him as a game developer. Perhaps, he has the unenviable duty of acting as a buffer between the game community and Blizzard/Activision, but I’m not impressed by the results thus far.

Apparently, he got the baton when Cataclysm came about. So far, I’ve been less than happy with the vast majority of the game changes that continually go on. A lot of it I would have to say could be directed at Ghostcrawler because he’s the lead developer on this thing so he needs to take responsibility for the garbage that is being put out. For instance, his vision of “fun” is basically making people jump around more in the game. Sure, the original version of WoW was kinda stale in the basic mechanics, but now it feels more like a 3rd person shooter as opposed to an FRPG (which is what my impression that the game ought to be).

Not surprisingly, the game has lost subscribers. I think once they started to make an attempt to appeal to old time veterans, they narrowed their audience considerably. So rather than expanding on the game content, they focused mostly on re-doing how the game should be played. This to me was a HUGE mistake. I think the game itself was fine with WOTLK, minus the emphasis on gear.

What Cataclysm needed was an emphasis on content. The content thus far, though revamped, seemed more like stupid pop cultural references that demonstrated what a bunch of no life, movie watching fat geeks Blizzard/Activision employees are as opposed to people who have great insight into what makes an excellent FRPG.

Content, not gear, not game mechanics, and immersion are the two key elements that make a successful FRPG. Right now, there’s very little to get excited about in Cataclysm except more grind fests. That’s why the game has taken a serious plunge. Doesn’t Blizzard/Activision have good FRPG visionaries?

Either way, I don’t think Ghostcrawler knows a lot about FRPGs. That’s why the game is suffering big time. The game shouldn’t be an action oriented game. The idea for this type of game simply should be what the old AD&D Friday night games was: just a bunch of friends getting together to have some fun. Jumping up and down and making continuous pointless changes to a game just to appease corners of a limited community are not what FRPGs and a good Friday night is about.

Gadhafi’s New Career

I think Gadhafi is definitely fighting a losing battle in trying to suppress insurgents in Libya. However, after seeing this latest picture  and reading some quotes from him, I realized that he should start a new career: a rockstar! Seriously. His words are similar to something from a Megadeth album and the guy is just naturally blinged out. Can you see this guy on tour with Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones? Dude, why bother being a dictator when you can get people to head bang for you and chant lyrics! Wrong career man!