World of Warcraft: Was Wrath of the Lich King the Best Expansion?

I know a lot of people ended up panning Wrath of the Lich King, with old timers calling people starting in that era “Wrath Babies”. People criticized the instances as being too easy, ICC as allowing casuals to participate, allowing people to purchase gear using badges and even some of the dumbed down quest design. Yet universally when you listen to a lot of people directly, quite a few will admit that Wrath of the Lich King ended up being their favorite expansion. Why is this, why did it happen and what exactly made Wrath an overall better experience than Cataclysm and Mist of Pandaria?

Wowcrendor has a great video explaining why he does not play World of Warcraft as much:

His summary talks about what ended up burning him out on Mist of Pandaria (the dailies) and the diminishing feeling of Cataclysm. The points he made are pretty valid and I think touch on some of most important aspects of why a lot of people dislike the current expansion. But as someone who started in Wrath of the Lich King, I would like to offer my interpretation to describe what made Wrath of the Lich King a great expansion for myself.

Many people point to the lore of Wrath of the Lich King having an incredibly epic feeling since those playing Warcraft 3 dealt with Arthas and saw his evolution into the Lich King. Now, we had the opportunity to take our toons and combat him. On top of that, the continent of Northrend added a huge amount of atmosphere, leading towards the encounter with the Lich King. The two elements really embodied the immersion aspect of MMORPG games.

However, the game was starting to mature overall with the game maker fine tuning ideas in the game like more fluid questing hubs, methods for making gold and allowing raids to become somewhat more accessible. Also, there was just a lot of fun things to do at max level (80) that could be done on a daily or weekly basis. For instance, you had your raid of the week, which attempted to motivate people to do older Lich King bosses. Much of the game allowed you to experience the content in different manners so that you weren’t funneled through a single path each time.

But one thing about the game being more accessible meant that you had more willing people who could come along to participate. That implied getting groups together on your server and create bonds because the content by this point wasn’t as frustrating. It still would require dedication but you had a better chance. And when people are given the illusion of moving forward (i.e. progression) then they will want to try new things out. Overall, I think it was this social experience where you had a lot of friends who felt invested in both the storyline and each other feeling like they can make progress which made Wrath of the Lich King a success.

I think everyone is in universal agreement that Cataclysm was a fucked up expansion. I think the makers looked towards high end loyalist raiders who probably felt that their space was invaded and decided to revamp the game to cater towards them. Of course, I have my little insider story where Cataclysm was going to be the last expansion (which didn’t happen apparently). Yet ignoring the politics inside of Activision/Blizzard for a second, it feels that Blizzard looked at the ICC instances as the new model for instances and adding more mechanics to challenge people.

That began a huge turn off since the casual atmosphere for LFG now was replaced by cynical people who resorted to name calling, thus discouraging a huge group of people. People who once saw the game as something that would be doable by taking an hour or two per night no longer would feel invested because the difficulty ramped up and the people who were running things frequently and thus knowing these encounters were chastising them. Having such a huge barrier to do anything else, there really wasn’t any motivation for the average player to continue.

The other thing about Cataclysm was the destruction of old zones. I think this was such a horrible idea because it prevented new people from experiencing older content. On top of that, I really believe that a lot of people simply were not interested in leveling new toons just to see older content. In fact, I think that by destroying older content zones it killed a lot of the nostalgic aspects that can never be recovered. It really was an act of futility overall.

Lastly, the lore of Catacylsm was pretty drab. You had a few new and old enemies but everything had such a mixed mood. Goblins were like bad comic relief and just an adversary to help annoy the alliance similar to gnomes. But there really wasn’t any emotional investment. Here, randomly Death Wing comes out of the water, nukes half the world, Thrall disappears, we get alpha male as the new undemocratically chosen one and things go to hell around the world (of Warcraft). There wasn’t any continuity nor theme that held that expansion together outside of Death Wing is gonna fry your ass. And it was more annoying than anything (except for those who desired the Darwin Award achievement).

I know a lot of people panned Cataclysm even more because of the introduction of LFR and the last two fights for Death Wing. But I think LFR wasn’t a bad thing, just an idea that needed (and still requires) a lot of fine tuning. The problems that resulted in the end of Cataclysm was probably just the direction of Blizzard. It felt that the company was going through a lot of turmoil both in struggling to keep up with their massive success of World of Warcraft over the years, the release of Diablo 3, the upcoming Starcraft 2 and handling the disastrous results of subscriber loss from Cataclysm. Blizzard’s PR likes pointing to Asia (most notably China) as the cause for subscriber loss, but let’s be honest. The game itself was really suffering in Cataclysm just because of poor decision making all the way through. And it didn’t start to recover until patch 4.3 where instances and LFR made the game feel accessible again.

But why did patch 4.3 get so heavily knocked? People describe the last two fights as being horribly disappointing where you fight Japanese hentai tentacles and Death Wing’s zits. However, I seriously doubt where the real frustration existed. The problem with Cataclysm at that point was that they planned on releasing nothing new because by that point they already were on Mist of Pandaria. To me that was plainly admitting that they fucked up and wanted to erase the memory of Cataclysm. In turn, people ended up farming Death Wing and those of us who relied on LFR, we were forced to deal with assholes who griefed us from time-to-time.  Thus, when you’re forced to handle something for a long period, naturally you’d become sick of it. It really didn’t have much to do with the fights, but the memories of the negative aspects from LFR like loot ninjas, griefing, stupid easy mechanics that people screwed up on and doing these things over and over again until we were blue in the face.

When Mist of Pandaria came out, I think everyone really welcomed the change of pace. The new raids of Mogu’shan Vaults was something new and presented new scenery. Then we would receive Heart of Fear and Terrace of Endless Spring, all of which presented new mechanics, encounters and atmospheres. Yet to get to these points, we had a very long road to grind towards.

And while the first time through Mist of Pandaria was wonderful, the thing is that there is just too much of a funneling, linear experience that takes place. We started to see this aspect in Cataclysm and it looked as though they partially backed away from this. But leveling would become a horrible chore. While the lands of Pandaria were beautifully sculpted, the truth is that once you enter through the experience once, you really wanted to get passed everything so that you could focus on working on end game content.

Yet what Blizzard discovered in Cataclysm with the Molten Front daily system, they decided to go full force. However, if you look at everything Pandaria from the highest view point, people describe it as the numerous gates at almost every level. The dailies gate gear, which are further gated by valor points and the quest givers at times are gated behind other quests or reputation. Everything is just layers and layers of meaningless progression. And they are not exactly things you can do in 10 minutes. But to really maximize just one toon, you’d be forced to play for a few hours to really do everything.

The whole extremely slow progressive system while varied wasn’t something people wanted. They want options, the ability to move quickly and do things at their pace. You cannot argue that Mist of Pandaria lacked content to interact with because certainly there’s a lot. In fact, it’s quite the opposite where you are overwhelmed in trying to keep up. Ghostcrawler’s analogy of “enjoying things slowly like a fine wine” cannot apply because you really aren’t here to enjoy things on a molasses pace. You want to get things done and the way you want it.

I think right now, it’s gotten a lot better because there are more options but I would argue that the speed of progression still can be frustrating and the time investment is still far too high. Still, the damage has been done and when people finish this expansion, they’ll remember mostly the daily grind, long queues and stupid mechanics like Durumu or Garalon rather than a beautifully painted world.

You could argue that the game now favors the solo casual player. This is true but it still isn’t the experience that I feel a lot of people are looking for. I like having the option for both depending on my time allotment. The real aspect Blizzard needs to figure out is the time/work-to-reward ratio which is lacking in this game and balance that around how players can interact with each other. Somehow Wrath of the Lich King sounded like it was the closest in this regard. Of course, that all could be just nostalgia but just based on what I’ve read and heard, this case seems to hold true.

World of Warcraft: (Observed) Characteristics of Players

Originally, I was going to center this post around PVP players. However, the more I thought about the topic, the more I realized that there was no way to write about just PVP players without going into tangents on other players in the World of Warcraft.  So I decided to revise the topic to players that I’ve encountered in the game. By no means is this article a pervasive psychological study of players in World of Warcraft. Instead, it’s my own observations of the different people I’ve met or have watched on a stream.

First, I think it’s good to talk about my own personality in relation to World of Warcraft. I’m a heavy alt-a-holic and someone who primarily focuses on PVE content. I started back in Wrath of the Lich King with a tauren hunter since a friend of mine was playing a paladin. My thought back in the day was to have a ranged fighter type to back his melee oriented class. I started on a PVP server, Ner’Zhul and didn’t know much about that style of play for a while. I struggled initially in learning the hunter class (and it definitely was harder back then), which ended up frustrating me. In turn, I ended up creating a mage and druid, then later everything except a paladin (since that was my friend’s main). Outside of the hunter and death knight, I never reached level 80 on my alts on that server since I ended up quitting just before Cataclysm came out.

When Cataclysm came out, I decided to switch to a PVE server (which unfortunately was on an Oceanic realm as one of my friends supposedly was playing on there). Eventually, I transported my hunter there and ended up with 10 level 85 alts, most of whom I ended up gearing up with the first iteration of LFR. The switch to a pure PVE server allowed me to focus more on the content as opposed to constantly watching my back. However, I think my gaming style is the result of my personality type and what I seek in games.

I think of myself as someone who focuses more on goals in a game and personal achievements as opposed to pushing for world first. I like attempting to max out as much as I can the aspects I enjoy such as LFR, Pet Battles, leveling, etc. to really partake in content that fits my play style. Although I enjoy the social aspects of gaming, I am a loner for the most part in the game since I realize that people may not share my preference for a certain activity most of the time. In a way my gaming preference matches me a professional level too. Although I can deal with people at a job, I feel far more effective in general when I’m doing things at my pace on my own.

Another thing about me is that when I do have a goal in mind, I like to hit it hard. For instance, when I level or want to gear, I really want to focus on that aspect for as much as I can. It can get mentally taxing at times but once I get in that mood, I find the activity to go by pretty fast. The hardest part is just switching into that mode since it’s a major commitment.

When it comes to other players, I wanted to talk about aspects like higher end PVPers. I have a few friends who almost exclusively PVP. The ones who exclusively PVP strike me as people who enjoy the dynamic style of PVP, especially in arenas and BGs. The really high end PVPers have an additional competitive streak in them where they focus on a single class and attempt to master everything about that class to eventually become number one with that toon. They tend to have better overall reflexives and I suspect that when/if they do try another class, their abilities end up being mapped in a way that matches what their main class does sine their memory muscle most likely is embedded with that one class.

However, I did notice that a lot of PVPers really are bad at PVE. And it’s not really difficult PVE but things like questing. The PVP players I’ve seen on stream quite often will admit to having attention deficit disorder, which does surprise me. It feels as though they need that instant gratification and constant, in-your-face action. So questing and level pose immense difficulties for PVP players as they lack the attention span and focus necessary to really handle that type of activity. For instance, I remember when Swifty first started leveling a death knight, he had immense problems just getting through the starting zone. It was pretty embarrassing to say the least watching him since doing the quests just requires a little reading. Then you have someone like Reckful who leveled his druid through just mindlessly grinding away at killing monkeys because he hates questing. Those who level just do it through instance grinding. I’ve been slightly suspicious about this aspect and believe that these players instance grind to avoid world PVP. At any rate, it’s funny too because to me both ends of the spectrum are grindy.

But I think that a lot of people who enjoy high end PVP are those that focus more on the competitive aspects. Gear to them functions more as a badge of honor as opposed to the end in itself. Either that or gear just exist to get you to the next door opening to meet your goals for hitting the high end PVP content. In any case, their personalities demand for themselves to be the best at what they do.

Then there are those who enjoy world PVP. I consider these people the trouble makers. I find these people to be constantly looking for victims. In some ways, I feel that these people have a lot of mental issues, especially those that camp people for hours upon hours on end. In some cases, camping might be the result of getting revenge. However, the ones that just hover or actively seek to cause people grief are the ones that probably need to see a psychologist. Now, I’ve also heard about groups of gankers. These people remind me more of gangs. Considering that the game does promote gang violence and racism (don’t you dare lie to yourself about this either!), it’s easy to see how perhaps people who were predisposed to gang violence or are/were in gangs, might end up utilizing this aspects to satisfy those dark desires. To me this is probably some of the darkest aspects of the game with regards to the player base.

Moving on, I want to return to the world of PVE and talk about high end PVE players (i.e. heroic raiders). From what I’ve seen from streams, the one common thing I’ve noticed is that outside of having that competitive streak to them, none of the high end PVE players ever look happy. I feel like I’m watching a nazi internment camp whenever I watch high end PVE players. There is a lot of stress because one fuck up will cause raid wipes. And you can see those happen for hours maybe even days. When a group beats a boss, it rarely feels like a real triumphant moment. Instead, it feels like a “glad that piece of shit is over; oh well, I guess we get to do it again in a week. People can’t fuck up now!” When I watch high end PVP players, they look like they’re having fun in their activities, even if they’re doing something competitive. But not in the case of PVE.

But when it comes to raiding in general, one thing I have heard is that there’s a certain level of camaraderie in raiding compared to something like LFR, which is what I suspect most raiders dislike about LFR the most. In between the wipes, you have a lot of interesting conversations that go on, especially when it comes to more friendly/social guilds. I think when you have raiders that fit this mode, the idea of raiding ends up becoming a lot more fun, despite the fact that you’re constantly dying.

Then you get some of the quieter players. I consider myself quiet but not entirely anti-social in the game. There are some people who just never respond no matter what. When I see people in my guild like this, I tend to shun them since they really aren’t fun to be around no serve any purpose outside of just getting the benefits of being part of a level 25 guild. Many won’t even do things like LFR, scenarios nor heroics. The ones I’ve seen doing this end up just getting their gear from valor points and quartermasters, grinding out every point via daily quests. Although there’s no real right nor wrong way to play, it kinda makes me sad with regards to these players since it feels that they’re missing out on a huge chunk of the game as a result of their reluctance to interact with others.

Beyond these types there’s also newer vs veteran players. One thing I’ve noticed about veteran players is that some are pretty crusty about things. It feels that because they’ve played the game for so long, they have a certain entitled viewpoint on the game. Not all of them but the ones I’ve heard grumble all the time. However, I feel that some of these players probably just have been at this game for too long and need to take a break to gain a fresh perspective.

New players really vary as each expansion and patches had changed the game in so many different ways. So the later you end into the game, the less you could see the evolution of how the game was designed. Although it can be argued that the game has become simplified over time, I think newer players, depending on the expansion where they started, no matter what will miss out on some aspect of content. This is a terrible flaw that came in Cataclysm where just way too much had been thrown out the window. So now, there’s real way to compare the game unless you go to a private server.

 

Diablo 3: The MMO that Was Supposed to Be

A little while back, there was some controversy between Blizzard North’s founder David Brevik and one of the lead designers in Diablo 3, Jay Wilson, over Jay Wilson’s rather unprofessional comments on Facebook towards Brevik’s views on how Diablo 3 turned out. Further investigation about the matter has shown me that Diablo 3 was essentially scraped as a result of an internal argument between Blizzard North and Viviendi over what was going to be an MMO version of Diablo 3.

Quite honestly, even before this scuffle occurred I knew from an insider that Blizzard originally intended to put all their focus behind the MMO of Diablo 3. There was internal talks about making Cataclysm the last expansion in the franchise for World of Warcraft then moving towards the newer Diablo 3 MMO engine as the company’s primary focus.

What exactly the internal argument between Blizzard North and Viviendi is something only those involved can say. But I think we can look in retrospect at the way things have worked out and draw some conclusions.

For myself, I believe that probably someone inside of Viviendi and/or Blizzard might have saw Diablo 3 as a threat to the World of Warcraft franchise. There probably was internal fights over money (since we all know what a cash cow World of Warcraft has been for the company). Since I know for a fact that there were talks about putting emphasis on Diablo 3, this simply reflects my belief that it was a departmental struggle where one group holding the cash saw the other as threatening their job security.

That said, when you look at Cataclysm, you begin to realize why it was handled in such a manner. Personally, I felt that World of Warcraft had become a victim of its own success, especially with Wrath of the Lich King move the game into its peak. However, the game, as admitted by the game maker themselves, is showing its age and probably needed to be revamped from the ground up.

With Cataclysm, I think there was an attempt. Certainly, there were modifications to the graphics of the vanilla areas to improve upon the basic engine. Also, there was a huge emphasis to improve the smoothness of leveling, since vanilla was considered difficult for casual players.

At the same time, I think the higher difficulty in some quests as well as heroics turned a lot of people off. A lot of the game had been smashed apart such as the talent system, which caused a slight uproar. But I think a lot of this was done for a reason: to push away players from World of Warcraft in preparation for Diablo 3 as an MMO.

I think Cataclysm was, as the title suggested, the end of the series and an internal joke to prevent casuals from sticking around while leaving enough of a game catered towards World of Warcraft’s core base. I mean, if Wrath of the Lich King provided a good formula for increasing viewership, why would a company bother to change up that formula? They ought to have foreseen that their hardcore audience would make up only a tiny fraction of their revenue.

When Diablo 3 the MMO didn’t pan out and the core team left, the game maker went into a panic mode. Obviously, they had to start from scratch, only having the IP to work with. But they had to make money, which probably was the core internal argument in the way things panned out. So Blizzard ended up taking Diablo 2’s basic concept, updating the graphics somewhat and integrating the auction house as the chief bet to make money.

If you really look at Diablo 3, the main reason why it’s been a major letdown is that there has been no innovation whatsoever as a game. You can compare it to Diablo 2 and Diablo 1 even because there is no difference outside of the fucked up talent system and the auction house. They’ve taken the so-called “safe formula” of gear grinding from World of Warcraft and placed it into this system for determining character power. Also, I believe that the main style of game play from the previous was preserved to provide that sanctuary of familiarity for veteran Diablo players.

Naturally, the real question is whether people would’ve accepted Diablo 3 as an MMO the way Brevik’s describes:

We wanted to take that and make that a reality, make that into an MMO experience. Then we had these towns which were not instanced, and they had lots of people in them, and you’re interacting and trading and selling and getting quests. Then you’d go out and have these experiences, but you would create these games and go out and play the game with a group of your friends.

I’ve always considered Diablo 3 your prototypical hack-n-slash dungeon crawler game. That genre takes the statistical parts of RPGs and leaves all the useless role playing dialog out (although there’s still quite a bit of cut scenes and chatter in Diablo 3). That’s why I still can enjoy Diablo 3, although there are still a lot of elements that are left to be desired.

I think if you add the MMO aspects, you start to force people into depending on others to get things done. For a hack-n-slasher, I’m not sure I would entirely favor that as a primary feature. I think a lot of people enjoy playing with others when they have the chance. But scheduling time for gaming can be a real hassle (which is why I absolutely hate the raiding concept)

At any rate, I found that article to be insightful and complimented my understanding of the situation. I still believe that no matter what though, you really need to keep the accountants, lawyers and corporate heads OUT OF GAMING. Please. You’re ruining it for everyone else. Go back to counting numbers but stay out of the game mechanics.

World of Warcraft Patch 5.0.4 Out Today and What to Do

Today is the day for the first major patch in the World of Warcraft since patch 4.3. After several months of no content, this one signifies a great deal of changes, the most important being the talent changes. Having been checking my toons since this morning, I noticed some odd issues such as the change in ilvl (which looked incorrect) as well as the (unfortunate) removal of the range slot. Tonight I’ll start to give the new patch a try.

Of course, this all signifies the move towards the end of this (phail) expansion and into the upcoming expansion and getting people back into the game to check out the changes. That leaves an interesting question: what to do until the expansion comes out?

While I managed to hit my major goals for this expansion, there’s still some room to do more. At the moment, my priest is sitting at a nice ilvl 378. With the conversion from VP to JP and cap removed, you can make a nice push to grab all the vender (397) items using JP. For someone who lacks gear like my priest, I can (in theory) run HoT Heroics indefinitely and farm JP while grabbing any 397 gear. Same thing with my rogue who is at 384 ilvl.

Also, my priest and mage still haven’t maxed out their professions. I started working on my priest’s tailoring. It’s somewhat redundant considering that my shaman already possesses max level tailoring. But the idea is to maximize the amount of cloth that my toons can gather in the future. I found myself resource drained quite often when it came to cloth. So in the expansion, outside of having four miners, three herbalists and two skinners, it will be great having three tailors.

Another thing is to use my existing mats and orbs to craft gear. My guild still is far away from the epic crafting achievement and I’ve probably contributed the most of everyone. But I think it might be worth spending some time crafting items for guildies, especially those that do not have the opportunities to raid or have enough gold to purchase items on the AH to get into Heroics, etc.

There’s been some thoughts to level alliance toons. At this point, with this proximity to the expansion, I think more than likely that won’t happen. It’s just too much effort, although I would like to see the other side’s quests.

Also, I’m considering gearing my toons’ other specs. For instance, I’ve managed to collect quite a bit of gear for my warrior, paladin, death knight, druid and shaman when it comes to their protection (or elemental) side. I would like to try, for instance, my shaman side. It would be great considering that he has quite a bit of gear. So to fill in the blanks on that side might be fun. I won’t go as a tank, but I’ll continue to pick up tanking gear. That’s useful when soloing older instances or when I need to run guildies/friends through instances.

Finally, there’s the PVP aspects. Not sure if I’ll get back into it but I do miss the old Tol Barad events. Most of that was just massive zergs but I guess that’s the real fun parts of WoW.

World of Warcraft: What I Accomplished in Cataclysm

Today I pushed my priest to 85 and geared her to tackle HoT Heroics. I already completed part one of LFR and am waiting on part two as I write this. At this point, I have 10 85s of all classes. I will make an attempt to finish part two of LFR tonight, thus giving all my toons the opportunity of beating Deathwing during this expansion.

Looking back now, I feel a sense of accomplishment as patch 5.0.4 nears for this Tuesday. The main accomplishments were to maximize my toons in terms of levels and professions. Although I doubt I’ll be able to finish gearing them all the way up, I do feel satisfied and confident that once the expansion comes out I’ll have a reasonable time getting through it since all my toons have decent gear.

Another major thing I felt I accomplished was getting the chance to play each class (but not each spec) to the max. It was a great opportunity to get to see each classes’ capabilities and push them  to the end game. I know many people who never make it thus far and only make it to a certain point or drop off entirely. So for me it was a nice challenge.

More than likely, I’ll never have a chance to raid with my guild nor on my realm, Saurfang (except for the occasional BC ones). So for me LFR was the high point in this expansion. And getting to experience that aspect on each toon has been fun. I can appreciate each class a little better, despite having certain favorites overall.

I am not looking all that forward to the patch due to the change in talents and abilities. We’ll still have about a month before the new expansion is released so in the meantime, I’ll get used to the new abilities and see how they work with LFR, etc.

Shadow Priest Now is Level 82

I pushed right through Northrend this past week in trying to hit 85 before the expansion comes out. At the moment, I managed to hit level 82 on my Shadow Priest and am about to start the Deepholme quest chain. Once I hit level 85, it will mark my 10th level 85, giving me the full range of classes at the moment in the World of Warcraft. I decided to blog about my experience thus far in retrospect as I aim towards 85.

First, the shadow priest definitely is one of my least favorite classes in the game. Of course, you might be wondering why I even bothered leveling one in the first place if I disliked it. The point was to experience the class and see if there were any benefits to playing it. Thus far, I found the class to have been one of the least enjoyable overall mostly because other classes surpass everything the shadow priest can do.

Some may argue that the shadow priest’s damage can make them a top DPS in raids. Ignoring that aspect for the moment, I want to focus just on the play style. The class primarily is thought of as a dot class. Some compare the shadow priest to an affliction warlock. I tend to disagree. I found that the class is closer to a boomkin. You’re really just managing two primary dots on a target while racing to get 3-4 long casting abilities up. If anything, the main difference is that the shadow priest can do an AoE heal rather than just a self-heal. So perhaps in that regard, the shadow priest plays more interesting in a group setting.

However, one of the worst things I’ve found about the class is just a lack of AoE abilities until hitting level 74. Sure, we get holy nova, but that really isn’t practical. That made instance grinding a nightmare, especially when confronted with a lot of mobs. Another element that I dislike about the class is the general slowness as a class. Only at the highest levels do you start seeing some movement boosters. But compared to death knights, hunters, paladins, mages, etc. you really don’t get much and often times find yourself running desperately to catch up to the rest of the group.

Another huge problem is mana. For the most part, you’re going to be mana starved. Once again, until you start hitting higher levels, you’ll be constantly waiting around drinking. Earlier today, I was in an instance with another shadow priest. Her mana was constantly depleted and she wondered just how I managed to keep near full. My trick mostly was in one of the major glyphs, combined with a rotation that allowed replenishment. I think once my shadow priest hits 85, the glyph no longer will be relevant so I might start encountering mana problems again (then again certain talents like Dark Evangelism might solve it along with putting more talent points in reducing the cost of instant cast spells).

Next, we really have no interrupts and good CC. If you want an interrupt, you have to spec into one to gain silence. But then why should you be forced to take a dedicated spec just for a few specific encounters? And the CC for a shadow priest really sucks. We do get an AoE fear and a certain glyph will hold our enemies in place. However, we’re required to be close to our enemies in order to use that. In some encounters, that just isn’t practical, especially considering that we’re a ranged class wearing crap armor.

Of course, old school shadow priest will claim that mind control is the ultimate form of CC. Again, I think that aspect is more geared towards PVP oriented play. I have read how some people will use mind control in Heroic Cataclysm instances to manipulate healers. But as a DPS class, I am not allowed to focus on other mobs while channeling mind control. So for me, this form of CC is useless.

The only thing I do like is the Power Word Shield ability. That has saved my ass on a lot of occasions. That to me is the difference maker in many encounters. Combine that with healing abilities, the shadow priest can shine in their own light.

At any rate, I hope that by next weekend my shadow priest will be at level 85. I will try to make it before then as I would like to run Cataclysm HoTs and LFR before the next expansion comes out. My ultimate purpose though is just to get a chance to really play each class to their fullest and see how each class feels.

World of Warcraft Mist of Pandaria Release Date Announced and Preparation Suggestions

The magic date is September 25, 2012. Right now, the PTR is getting ready for what seems to be a major pre-release just before the expansion comes out with a major event to set into motion the next expansion. I believe the first of the raids as well as pet battles have been implemented and are in the testing phase.

So the big question is what to do in the meantime? I’ve outlined some things that you can do in preparation for the next expansion with regards to the current expansion:

  • Finish gearing your toons and alts.
  • Attempt to hit ilvl 390 or thereabouts using LFR, VP if you’re a casual player
  • Dispatch any remaining materials to the auction house
  • Finish leveling up any alts
  • Max out any professions that you can
  • Save up gold for the new mega mount
  • Buying any heirloom gear using your Justice Points

The key factor here is that you want to essentially complete any remaining elements in Cataclysm. More than likely, once the new expansion hits, all the current raids (especially LFR) will become things of the past. Also, your materials for professions will lose a lot of value, especially relating to gear.

The second thing is that you want to ensure that you have a healthy amount of gold for the upcoming expansion. Besides the new mega mount that will cost an arm and a leg, there will be tons of new opportunities for gold sinks such as the Black Market Auction House and the next level of riding (which I believe will be flying on Pandaria).

Finally, I suggest that if you currently are finding yourself Justice Point capped on your toons, you might consider spending those points on heirloom gear. Don’t forget that with the upcoming expansion, they will be introducing a new race and class. I’m not positive what will happen to your current Justice and Valor Points, but more than likely those will be reduced somehow. As a result, you might as well spend them any way you can prior the expansion.

Something else you might consider is just trying something different for the time being. If you find yourself bored, choose another game or get out of the house.

World of Warcraft: Druid Now Has the 4 Piece Set

I got lucky with two rolls tonight on my druid. One, which really isn’t as pertinent, is the Wrath of Unchaining trinket. Someday, I might attempt to gear as feral. Ironically, her feral gear actually is quite good and may make her a contender as a future bear tank. After completing LFR part 2 with a fairly decent group, I got into part 1 and managed to obtain the Deep Earth Gloves, making it her final set piece necessary to gain the 4 piece set bonus.

Although I probably won’t play her again until the weekend to finish up her Valor Point grind, I am quite eager to see the DPS differential. The 4 piece set makes her Starsurge spell increase in damage by 10% (which can be huge) and reduces the cooldown by 5 seconds. That effectively is a huge decrease in time as it makes the overall cooldown 10 seconds as opposed to 15.

Lastly, I managed to pick up the Band of Reconstruction. Normally, this might be considered a healer’s ring. But mastery is a nice stat for druids and spirit works well too as it provides hit. I guess it was a bit of a cheese on my part just to boost my item level. But I figured, “Why not?”

Despite all that, the next phase for gearing my druid outside of hopefully procuring a better weapon and trinket is going to a nasty valor point grind to obtain a better chest piece. I don’t see much of a point in fighting over the LFR ones. If I manage to get lucky on a roll, I might consider it. But there’s not a lot I can see stat-wise that convinces me to make it a goal. Maybe I might attempt to grab one just for my feral spec, but that’s as much effort as I want to do on that end. The remaining pieces for my druid are just her neck and feet. She has LFR pieces but I think it’ll be nice to get the full 397 version to max her out on item level as much as I can.

Hopefully, I have time to run my mage through LFR tomorrow night. It’ll be nice to see her get an upgrade or two as well.

Why Mike Preach is Wrong About Blizzard’s Direction

Mike Preach has a video on youtube explaining his thoughts on why Blizzard’s direction for World of Warcraft is wrong. Part of his belief is that the game is becoming too easy and that by making content harder, it’ll improve the overall player base and attract better players.

Let me preface this article by saying that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Preach as a youtube publisher and as a gamer. He makes excellent how-to videos, generally is positive and does his best to encourage players to be at their best at all time. He is the ideal gamer and the type of person you would want in your guild or at least your party.

What he fails to understand is that he’s working from a very privileged point of view. He does belong to one of the top world raiding guilds, Method. Also, he’s able to convey his viewpoint through his videos. More than that, he (I think) is a professional gamer. As a result, his viewpoint on the subject matter is incredibly slanted.

Now, I do agree that it is ideal for people to step up their game play. However, that cannot be done through enforcing it at the content level. Cataclysm has proved this by returning content difficulty to around he Burning Crusade level. As I have blogged on numerous occasions, the biggest problem has been that the differential between BC to Wrath of the Lich King in the growth of World of Warcraft’s player base has created high expectations inside of Activision. Since at the end of the day, Blizzard/Activision is after all a business, alienating a large portion of the gamer base through creating frustrating content is not an option. The layoffs at Blizzard clearly indicate Blizzard/Activision priorities.

Second, and here’s the big one, creating more difficult content does not necessarily attract better players in higher droves. You’re constantly going to get a hybrid of players where the vast majority are going to sit in between good to mediocre at best. These people may not necessarily give a damn about becoming a better player. In fact, I argue that most will just do the bare minimal to get by. Ever run End Time and notice how people are reluctant to do the hour glass? I ran an instance where a hunter revealed she didn’t want any responsibility. This is what I believe is the average mentality of the normal player is.

Not everyone has a positive attitude and wants to improve upon themselves. Most enjoy swimming in the stench of their mediocrity. Most don’t care if their mediocrity pulls the better people down. Just look around you and ask yourself how people aren’t attempting to do their best for the world. If that were the case, we’d have free health care, no censorship, real etiquette, honor, etc.

The thing is that I feel these mediocre people are the ones driving the better players away. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be players who suck. They can be kids who enjoy aggravating others. Two of my friends, who I felt were certainly far above average players, quit World of Warcraft during Cataclysm not just because of the content, but how the average boneheads would chase them out.

Making the content more challenging does not improve people as a whole. How many times have you ever been in a class where you have a hard ass teacher and the entire class rises to get straight A’s? I’m certain in that situation there will be the 1-2 who get the A and the rest will receive C’s. Similarly, games are like bell curves and in a social environment like World of Warcraft, you will see that the vast majority are C’s and below.

I think World of Warcraft suffers at the moment and in general for a few reasons. With regards to the current content patch, I see it as a test drive for Mist of Pandaria. Hence, why the content is relatively simple and why Blizzard more than likely is putting its resources into that rather than creating new content for the current expansion (in truth, Cataclysm was an abysmal failure as an expansion; I don’t know anyone who really enjoyed it). Second along these lines, there simply wasn’t enough end game content. The HoT instances pretty much are limited so it’s easy to grow bored once you’ve done them 3-4 times. The same can be said with Dragon Soul. But of course, beyond farming gear for your alts, if you really are bored by the content, why not find something else to do?

The other stigma that World of Warcraft suffers from is the mentality of raiding that it has created. I don’t think Blizzard initially intended raiding to be a competition. So progression raiders are the only ones that really care about acing through content. But that’s part of the problem and that’s where you more than likely are hearing the most vocal audience.

When I say the mentality of raiding, I think that people need to understand why it’s a huge issue. The biggest problem with end game raiding, imo, is the time commitment that raiding guilds can demand from their raiders. Professional gamers won’t care about this aspect since their lives only exist in the gaming world. But not everyone is privileged like that and many of us have major time commitments to families, jobs, schooling and whatnot.

This is why LFR is so important. For all the complaints, LFR is a great tool because it allows people to experience content that they may not necessarily get to see. I like it because I can join on my own schedule. I’m certain if I had plenty of free time and a more stable schedule, I could do regular raiding. But I really need the freedom due to various problems in my life.

However, I’ve seen raiders look at LFR as a slap in the face. They call the gear drops welfare gear and denounce LFR as not being “real raiding.” I think LFR probably is more frustrating than raiding in that your groups vary tremendously and that you have to deal with a great number of immature assholes. But to denounce it is a problem with the whole raiding mentality.

Here’s the thing about raiding. You need to deal with other people with a great deal of variance in skill. So making raids “hard” just drives off people. If you’re lucky, you’ll belong to a good guild that can help carry you through. But I think most people simply don’t want to belong to one and prefer soloing the game. After all, I think any people just play games to relax on their spare time. The social element, while being nice, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Unfortunately, Blizzard makes raiding too much of their bread-n-butter when it comes to World of Warcraft. But I think the system itself is old, which is why I’m interested in the whole PVE Scenarios. Still, I think that more content should be individual based with options to allow for groups. For instance, why should LFR be 25 people? Why not give a handicap for long queue times? Let’s say you can’t find healers (the biggest problem). So instead, provide a buff to reduce the damage to the party as a whole. The problem should not reflect the available resources (or lack thereof). Or why not do more quests like the last one in Mount Hyjal where you fight Ragnaros? To me the game should be playable either by individuals or by groups.

Honestly, I think there’s no easy way the game is ever going to find that right balance of difficulty that can satisfy both sides of the equation. But the game does have to strike enough of a balance to retain its player base.

World of Warcraft: Add My Rogue to the List

On Sunday, my rogue hit level 85. Unfortunately, because it was kinda late, I did not have a chance to run through the entire HoT Heroics to build up enough Valor Points to get her throwing weapon nor procure enough gear to hit LFR. However, the good thing was that the reset occurred today so I simply ran the gauntlet until I managed to grab enough gear to enter LFR. At the time of writing, my rogue sits at ilvl 373. Still has a few crap blues but she’s managing to pull off reasonable DPS. I’m pretty impressed by the combat rogue so far. The playing style is very straight forward and I’m actually having quite a bit of fun compared to Assassination.

What was cooler was that I could open all the chests I saved up. I must’ve had at least 32 chests. That gave me a ton of gold. Unfortunately for my rogue’s sake, I ended up passing it along to my mage. But it went to good usage as I ended up finishing leveling her enchanting. Although my shaman is my primary enchanter/tailor, I had been working on that aspect for my mage for a while. It really made more sense giving those professions to my mage rathrer than my shaman, but that’s another story altogether.

Going back to the chests, I was able to obtain quite a few greens. Most went to my mage to disenchant but I kept a few for my rogue to sell. The great thing at this moment is that all my 85’s now have mastery riding. So any remaining gold is just going to remain in their pockets. That’ll be great for Mists of Pandaria, especially when it comes to the mega expensive mount.

Main thing now is that I have all the professions covered. There isn’t a single thing I cannot do, except heal. But I consider that more of a play style preference as opposed to a more utilitarian role.

The only goals I have left for this expansion are 1) gear up my toons through LFR and VP; 2) help my guild hit a minimum of level 20; 3) buy the BoA helmet for my priest; 4) level up my priest post-guild hitting level 20.

It is nice seeing all these different classes from level 85. In reality, the game is just the game. But the trick is figuring out how each class manages to handle the same situation using their abilities. Classes seem to overlap at times in terms of similar abilities. For instance, slice n dice for a rogue reminds me of a Paladin’s Inquisition. Similarly, sinister strike is comparable to Crusader’s Strike, except that the cooldown time is shorter.

I figure it’ll take around 8-10 weeks to finish my rogue. Hopefully, the time is shorter than that. I really want to do something different just before MoP comes out.