World of Warcraft: To Disenchant or Not While Leveling in Mist of Pandaria

Enchanting traditionally has been one of the hardest and most costly professions to level. One of the most popular things to do is combine tailoring with enchanting, thus allowing you to disenchant the items you create through tailoring with your enchanting skills. This works well while you level. However, you can also use your questing items to create materials for enchanting, but you’ll find yourself short on gold in the long run.

When you get to Mist of Pandaria, your questing items will give you quite a bit of gold on top of the regular gold rewards. Yet unlike previous expansions, there’s a guaranteed method for getting enchanting materials in Mist of Pandaria: your farm. So while it’s tempting to use your questing rewards for helping your enchanting, you really are far better off just waiting a little bit and making gold from any gear you acquire along the way. That isn’t to say this is 100% necessary but I would try to make as much gold so you can afford Pandaria flying.

Obviously, this is all discretionary. You can try just using gear you craft (if you go the tailoring/enchanting route) for your base materials until you get your farm. And naturally the amount of materials required for leveling up enchanting at a reasonable rate will still take a fair amount of time, something that just using the farm alone may prove unsatisfactory. However, it is a distinct possibility to give you a bit of a hand, especially if you’ve been struggling with making gold with these two professions.

Another thing you could do if you have multiple 90 alts is just collectively use all your farms to create those materials for your enchanter. Right now as I level my mage, I’m thinking at the possibilities of having 8 90s in the near future with full farms being able to mass produce any type of material for whatever profession I choose to work on. It’s a great idea that I’m looking forward to once I finish this alt off.

World of Warcraft: Easy Gold Making For Levels 80-85

Unless you quests heavily and/or do a fair amount of gathering as you level, you might find yourself lacking gold at lower levels. Once you hit 80, you probably want to get Artisan Flying and start thinking about Master Riding. But unless you have gold lying around from alts, you’ll probably be far off from the 4-5k gold for making the purchase. So how can you build up some gold early on?

One of the best ways I’ve discovered is to do some Outland instances. Places like the Blood Furnace, Hellfire Ramparts, Mana Tombs and even Shadow Labyrinth can be decent places for making around 100g/run. As an 80, you should be able to handle most of these (although Shadow Labyrinth might pose a slight risk depending on your gear). I tend to do Hellfire Ramparts and Mana Tombs as they aren’t too difficult. Hellfire Ramparts are great because it still drops Runecloth, which can fetch a decent price on the Auction House. Most of the money is made through the drops in these instances and selling them directly.  In that sense, the gold is fairly reliable.

Once you hit 85, you can run Halls of Lightning which nets around 100g/run. But the great thing is the decent drop rate of Glyph of Mastery. Also, these places drop Frostweave, which still can fetch a decent price on the Auction House. Lastly, you could farm the area in Icecrown where the groups of mobs drop Frostweave.

Overall, I tend to prefer questing to make gold as I level up. If you instance grind while leveling, you can still make gold but not nearly as much as questing at least in my experience. Both the quest rewards and drops from mobs tend to provide better gold. Yet if you want some quick gold at this point, running those instances mentioned here will go fairly quickly.

 

World of Warcraft: Why LFR and “Welfare Epics” Will Stay

There’s been an incredible amount of heated debate on the World of Warcraft forums where two factions have essentially created two stances around terms of LFR and the notion of “welfare epics.” The issue here is that one group (also known as “casuals”) are the ones that, of course, want these items while the other group (also labeled as “hardcores”) want the end of LFR and the supposed hand-me-downs of gear to the casual groups. The bottom line is that LFR and the gear drops from LFR (nor those you can purchase from venders) are not going anywhere from Blizzard’s viewpoint. This blog will attempt to discuss why neither will be removed.

Quite possibly, one of the chief bread and butter products of World of Warcraft (and many other MMORPGs) are raids. Raids consist of large groups of people who form to take down bosses. They often times represent so-called “end game content” where people who have managed to successfully level up their toons have an option to participate in this form of content. A lot of time and effort go into developing the mechanics, graphics and environment of raids, where companies like Blizzard see as ways to continue to get players to participate in the game once they hit their maximum level for a given patch/expansion, since leveling stops. Instead of progression through leveling, the game becomes progression through raiding and is measured typically through the content that a player can down in these raiding bosses for a given period date.

Naturally, high end raiding is very competitive, where top guilds from around the world try to hit world first or server first for various categories. Other guilds might use raiding as a form of self-progression in demonstrating their abilities as well as seeing raiding as a form of a social event. At any rate, raid bosses in general are designed to offer a degree of challenge as the mechanics require a lot of coordination, patience and time allotment to successfully beat.

Part of raiding and progression involves receiving gear through downing a boss. The gear that drops is random and forces players to return to better their characters and remaining competitive. Thus, the idea of farming bosses plays a key role in how the game creates an artificial barrier in content consumption, which, of course, provides companies like Blizzard to stretch out content while developing new content and/or fixing existing content. Not to mention just sitting around and collecting hefty dues from people who do this form of a grind month-to-month.

Prior to LFR, you pretty much had to belong to a raiding guild in order to obtain gear and progress further into the game. Depending on your server, this process could be easy or incredibly difficult. Take low population servers as an example where people might have an impossible time finding the people with the ability and schedule to handle regular raiding.  While you can probably find good skilled players on any server, finding equally competent players on a low population server at a certain time might be frustrating, causing certain realms to perhaps have no progression whatsoever.

On top of that, because of the time and skill requirements for raiding, a lot of these guilds would create barriers to entry such as enforcing a certain level of skill, ability and history in order to participate. And even for those successful enough to join such a guild, there is no guarantee that they can participate in raids. Yet even more distressing can be guild drama where people might argue over loot, raid participation, people who have problems handling raid encounters, etc. In these cases, without the ability to progress oneself in some meaningful way, people would end up quitting, feeling that there is no real purpose in being able to experience new content or improving their characters somehow.

Enter LFR and “welfare epics.”

Since patch 4.3 LFR was introduced as a means to allow anyone to participate, using only a toon’s ilvl and the occasional progression status as requirements. It is the ultimate pugging tool, pooling from as many realms as possible to fill in a group algorithmically. At the same time, in order to allow for completion LFR was designed as an “easy” version for raiding as certain mechanics might be missing from a fight, hit points and damage lowered and making many encounters doable in 1-2 tries. The idea here is simple: given that random people are grouped together, attempt to minimize the frustration and allow a successful rate of moving forward given a certain level of effort.

Part of the idea here was to allow for people who normally could not raid or those who had various issues with raiding to move through content. Since a huge portion of the game is designed around raiding, it would only make sense for Blizzard to ensure that it could appeal to a broad enough audience that they are spending tremendous resources on.

Yet to sweeten the pot, Blizzard added reasonable gear drops that were slightly less powerful than their more difficult level counterparts. By doing this, Blizzard has worked a way in which to create an incentive for continuous raiding at the LFR level for this new audience. In short, getting people to play the game the company is spending resources on. People who wanted to fully gear their toons would still farm these LFR instances to get valor and pieces and that situation could easily take months as the rates for drops were set fairly low and mostly random.

To make matters more interesting and complex, with newer LFR instances coming out such as Heart of Fear, Terrace of Endless Spring and Throne of Thunder, we have minimal ilvl/gear requirements to enter on top of making previous raids (or sections) a prerequisite. Again, Blizzard sets up numerous barriers so that content isn’t consumed too quickly and creates a subliminal (or perhaps even not-so-subliminal) desire for people to continue pushing and paying for the game.

Hardcores though will complain about letting these so-called casuals receive similar rewards, something the hardcores believe  should be earned. Admittedly, I will say that there is some level of truth to the ideas behind what the intentions of the hardcore gamers might say. The problem though is that the design of World of Warcraft is, in truth, not a very good one in that you have a system that depends on the notion of farming. Progress in this game is like molasses and not very gratifying overall. It’s main requirements are time and patience for dealing with the grinding and that aspect is extremely controversial on an individual basis. I believe a lot of people do not want to devote their lives to a single game but still want to enjoy it on occasion. And even in this instance, the time and patience requirements are pretty stringent at best.

At any rate, I doubt that Blizzard will change this model of World of Warcraft as it’s one of the things that probably keeps the game alive, despite the engine starting to age badly. Yet in order for them to even maintain the non-hardcore audience, they pretty much would have to continue to cater towards a certain level of effort and time requirement so that people feel rewarded enough to continue playing. And that’s why neither LFR nor “welfare epics” won’t be going away in the near future.

 

World of Warcraft: What Mist of Pandaria Got Right/Wrong

Now, that patch 5.3 had some time to settle in and with certain talks about 5.4, I think we can say that the expansion probably is getting close to the finish line. Everyone expects the Garrosh raid to most likely be the finale for Mist of Pandaria in terms of content. If that’s the case, then we can use this time to look back at the expansion and see the positive/negative elements….from my point of view, of course.

Positive Points

  • Large continent with tons of quests, lore and flavor. You have to love the sheer size of the new continent. Some areas were done exceptionally well such as the Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds. The entire place adds a great deal of depth into the game and there’s lots of opportunities to explore and discover items, rares, treasures and whatnot.
  • A huge number of things to do once you hit level 90. Once you hit 90, you cannot say that you have nothing to do. There’s always something you can turn your attention to whether it’s dailies, LFR, scenarios, pet battles, farmville, rares, PVP, etc. Seriously, I doubt there’s ever been a time in World of Warcraft’s history where you had this many opportunities to accomplish something within the game.
  • Varieties of ways to obtain epic loot. The game has done a decent job of providing ways for people to get loot including Heroics, Scenarios, Heroic Scenarios, LFR, raids, honor/conquest points, dailies (from valor), defeating rare mobs, rerolls, world bosses and crafting. You really get to choose the path you want to take in terms of gearing yourself and can focus on your play style.
  • Lots of corrections to LFR, including the recent bad luck streak rolls, the improved loot chances for older raids and loot specialization. Most of all the got rid of the ninja looters.
  • Plenty of raid bosses, including (thus far) 4 new world raid bosses. If I’m not mistaken, there are currently 37 raid bosses, with one specifically targeting heroic raiders. If you just did LFR, you still could fight against 36 bosses total on just one toon. Not including normals and heroics, but that’s a lot of fights.
  • Pandaren cooking! I love how they revamped cooking into something incredibly useful. It’s great how they made leveling so much easier and gave cooking all these buffs so that it’s worth putting the effort into this profession.
  • Easier methods to level up professions in Pandaria (if you never bothered beforehand). They have done a lot to make leveling professions like blacksmithing, mining, herbalism, etc. less of a chore if you had focused exclusively on leveling. I think it’s great because hopefully it’ll encourage more people to take up professions and contribute to the economy.
  • Pet Battles – This possibly is one of the best features by far added into the game. It’s fun and simple with some cuteness added into the equation. Just today I started working it again and caught myself an undead squirrel. I just loved the animation on the poor little thing’s face! You could tell the people who made this part of the game enjoyed themselves. But that’s why I think it’s such a great addition.
  • Lootable pets from older raid bosses – Along with pet battles, you now have an extra incentive to do old raids since you can potentially find a mini pet from certain bosses.
  • More soloable older raids – Eliminating the raid party requirement and tuning down the older raids have given new life to older content. Add the incentive of transmog and you’re allowing people to experience older parts of the game on their own, sometimes even challenging themselves.
  • Voidbinders for upgrading items – Despite the high cost originally, the idea behind Voidbinders is great. Let’s say you found an awesome weapon that is the best you’ll probably get. Now, you can make it kick even more ass by adding a few more ilvls. It’s just another thing to help those with extra valor or those that need a small boost because they’ve had poor luck in finding a solid replacement for their current items.
  • Base resilience for everyone, thus narrowing the gap for new PVPers – I know certain members of this crowd will always moan over this aspect. But it’s something that was absolutely necessary. I think when Blizzard introduced PVP gear, they made a huge mistake in creating something that was completely off balance. I mean, I recall seeing this alliance Death Knight in Ogrimmar who just killed everyone near the auction house. She survived because she had top PVP gear. No one could scratch her, even when everyone ganged up. This scenario made absolutely no sense and illustrated the problem in having a ridiculous, arbitrary stat in the game. So this recent change gets my vote as a huge positive.
  • Numerous ways to earn gold – I heard originally gold in vanilla was a real commodity. The advent of dailies solved part of this issue. And with the number of dailies and no cap in this expansion, gold is pretty much easily obtainable. In fact, you could do a combination of dailies, LFR and what not and easily hit a few thousand gold every week, even if you don’t do everything all at once.
  • Farmville – A very interesting and cool aspect added to the game. And it’s not specific to your profession nor anything. You can just use your farm to grow anything, whether it’s hording all the materials for just one guy with a single profession or spreading it equally so that every toon with their own profession can get all the mats they need for the day.
  • The Brawlers Guild (haven’t done this yet). I will say that this probably is a positive since it offers hard core players to really challenge themselves. It’s not for everyone but I do think it has an audience.
  • Legendary quests for everyone – I think it’s great that they opened up the notion of legendaries so that everyone can obtain them. I haven’t gotten to the second half yet but I do enjoy the idea that you have that option.
  • Challenge mode heroics – Again like the Brawlers Guild, I haven’t done them. But again this is something that is good for hardcore players and a way for them to test their mettle. While not everything should be viewed one way, it’s good that you have this segment so that these people can demonstrate how uber they are.
  • Scenarios and recently heroic scenarios – Just new types of group content without the silly requirements of roles (although I heard healers are necessary for heroic scenarios). With faster queue times and reasonable rewards, scenarios offer just another way to get some quick loot while the heroic version once again offers hard core players the chance to push it to their limits.
  • Loot rerolls – Now this was a godsend! I have been extremely fortunate to get the various items on my toons through this mechanism. The fact that you can occasionally get two items in a roll is just awesome.
  • LFR Raid Style Progression – Patch 5.2 was a real test to see whether or not the LFR style raid progression would work. The problem was that traditionally raid progression had been particularly difficult for those who couldn’t keep up or started late. Fortunately, people still are using the pre-Throne of Thunder LFR raids to gear up and the queue times haven’t been as horrible. So there won’t be a necessity for a catch up style instance just to meet gear requirements.

Now, let me address the negative aspects.

Bad Points

  • Dailies. Or more specifically unending dailies. If there’s one consistent gripe about Mist of Pandaria it’s that the game entirely is made up of dailies. Too much has been locked up behind dailies, including reputation, gear and other dailies. When you run out lesser charms, you end up returning to the dailies, although they’ve added more methods such as mobs and pet battles to acquire those charms. Still the monotony, the work-to-reward ratio and sheer number really made this system a massive failure.
  • Talent tree removal – Of all the things done, this had to be one of the more anti-RPG moves done to the game. It made leveling seem even more meaningless. One nice thing about pre-Cataclysm leveling was looking forward to spending that one talent point you earned for that level. People complained about talent trees as either cookie cutter or far too restrictive. But it was a nice vehicle in giving the illusion that you were progressing somehow. And in some ways you were really customizing your character. The talent tree as it stands now only has a few uses and even today there are still cookie cutter builds. It felt like something cheap so that testing can be done in a far easier manner.
  • Time management – There’s just too many things to do. It’s quite overwhelming really when you look at all the various things you can accomplish on a single toon. All of it is optional but there’s a lot that requires a huge amount of time investment. I think one of the major oversights in this expansion is asking how much time should players be given to do a certain number of activities. It feels as though no one bothered really investigating this idea nor setting a standard. This is something that I liked in Cataclysm’s patch 4.3 with the Hour of Twilight instances. The developers described them as something you could do over lunch break. The game at that time was far more manageable than it is now. Hopefully, Blizzard learns that you can’t spend every second in the game and that sometimes people want to split their time up in certain activities.
  • Still no way to correct ninja pulling in LFR. They griefers continue! I doubt this will end but it’s something Blizzard drastically needs to address. It’s one of the main things poisoning LFR right now.
  • Funnel vision. The game designers think too linear in the way they view how players will handle things. This is an internal problem in Blizzard and they need to do even more to make the experience open and dynamic.
  • Leveling. This had been a huge issue in the funnel vision design. The fact that you would redo the path for each toon that you leveled really grated on many people. There wasn’t anyway to avoid the paths of questing and the quest themselves quickly became monotonous. I think they needed to do more to split up the quest hubs so that certain ones were optional. Most quests ended up being the same old same old without any real meaning. The average player will not take time to read the flavor texts so why inject that many useless quests into the game? Also, why create arbitrary walls in quests, especially those that can turn out buggy or just flat out lame? Sure, we have the 30% experience decrease for leveling at the moment, but that really doesn’t change the layout of the quests themselves.
  • Too much visual BS in raids. I don’t mind mechanics but I mind situations where I just can’t see things because of horrible design. I appreciate the fact that the fights are more dynamic and complex but certain ones just went overboard. Again, Blizzard needs to establish standards in these situations to prevent burn out. And quite honestly, it doesn’t matter how complex a fight is; eventually people will just get burnt out over time so it’ll be too easy or lame.
  • Effort-to-reward ratio is still skewed. It’s gotten better over time but I think people want to really see something for their effort. This is another aspect that Blizzard needs a standard formula.
  • No flying in Pandaria until 90. Not even BoA flying. And the removal of automatic flight paths. Just overall inconvenience that serves no purpose outside of “hey, we really want you to see this world we created!” Well, we saw it once now we’re bored as shit. Stop funneling us through this narrow Disneyland Small World Ride. It’s not fun. It’s just tedious. Eventually, it won’t matter anyway so why try to put a stop to this?

Overall, I would say my biggest gripe is just the time management issue. I felt that this expansion I put just far more effort without really feeling much gratification. Usually, I just feel really exhausted and mentally burnt out after playing. And it’s so time consuming too. Not in a positive nor productive way neither. Along side that, my motivations for logging in is simply to continue to keep up. That’s not really a positive reason. I want to log on because I want to do something fun or accomplish something. Not be part of a rat race. The game talks about “slowing down” and developers describe the experience as “enjoying a fine wine.” I feel neither. It’s more like try to get every little nibble you can from an exploding cake before it hits the floor. Savoring the experience would be allowing me to log in once a week, play for a few hours and then leaving with a sense of accomplishment. Then I can muse over what I would want to accomplish the following week. I shouldn’t have to think just about tomorrow or the next second. That’s not savoring. That’s just wasteful time consumption.

World of Warcraft: Boss Mechanics, Farming and LFR

When patch 5.2 hit, I felt that the game went in the wrong direction, hence why I quit for a bit. One thing I noticed about the fights were the general increasing complexity. While making fights more interesting can be a good thing, I think the developers are wrong because they don’t really understand their audience that well.

The biggest issue involved in pugging in general is not knowing the other members of your group. This can be extremely detrimental since you have varying degrees of knowledge in a fight. With the various personalities in a pug, you have to cater to the lowest common denominator. I’ve stated this on numerous occasions and apparently the developers over at Blizzard just don’t have a clue. The fact that they have to include a ton of nerfs demonstrates that they cannot gauge the level of their audience and work on a responsive level as opposed to a proactive level.

With that in mind, the biggest issue is that LFR can be quite daunting to the uninitiated. People view it as a tool to get in and get out. As a result, you really need to have a baseline in terms of standards/guidelines in designing encounters to ensure that people don’t get easily frustrated and leave. Right now, I seriously doubt that they have any kind of guiding principles for the way LFR works and I feel that’s hurting game play quite a bit.

The first issue I think in the design is that there’s no introduction mode. Technically, LFR is now considered “easy” or the introduction mode to raiding. But for me, LFR still pretty much requires you to read up on fights or watch videos. This is a MONSTROUS issue when it comes to new players who do not spend the time reading every little tidbit or playing on the PTR to get ahead. And Blizzard needs to start assuming that the people entering LFR won’t be doing these activities.

Blizzard partly attempted to cure this problem through the creation of the Dungeon Journal. The Dungeon Journal is a perfect example of how awful World of Warcraft’s interface is. First of all, who really is going to sit in an instance reading a lengthy doctrine? No one really cares if a monster does 100k damage or if they receive a 20k DOT. If a person doesn’t bother reading WoWHead nor checking youtube videos, why would they even bother attempting to read a novel in the midst of an encounter?

The Dungeon Journal really is only useful for people who do normal raiding, but at the LFR level it’s honestly junk and a cheap, wasted effort by Blizzard. Something better would’ve been adding small video clips for each ability so that players can at least preview what a certain ability looks like. They already do this in Starcraft 2 where you can see small clips of upgradable abilities for your units, so it’s not like Blizzard does not have the technology nor technique to add this into the game.

Also, why not have a tutorial mode that people can toggle on/off for the first time? Some people will point to add-ons like Deadly Boss Mods for handling these situations. But Deadly Boss Mods only acts as an alert. It doesn’t really tell you what to do most of the time. Second, you can’t assume that people have Deadly Boss Mods installed.

People might complain “well if you offer a tutorial mode then that’ll dumb the game down even further!” That’s not the point. The point is that there isn’t anything that allows an individual to easily be slotted into an LFR situation. If the game was just tank and spank with a few “move the fuck out of the way” type of scenarios, I would agree with this assessment. But the problem is that the game is adding more mechanics that really are just confusing and don’t work in first time situations. The Durumu encounter is a perfect example as well as Lei Shen. While Lei Shen should have some level of challenge, the Durumu encounter when it first came out just was horribly thought out. Part of the problem again in those encounters is that they simply are really confusing for the first time or two (and honestly, if I were Blizzard I would fire the people who created those encounters and ensure that they never can return to the industry ever again).

Another aspect that I noticed is that the game is just becoming a huge clusterfuck. It’s like the developers over at Blizzard snorted a ton of coke just before coming up with these ideas (better start taking urine samples of your employees Blizzard!) I mean, there’s just too many effects going on. Sometimes the game gets so bad because of the ancient engine that’s attempting to keep up along with all the other shit going on that my game just boots me out. And I know I’m not the only one. Then when I heard about color blind people having issues with the Durumu encounter, I realized that Blizzard really has been inconsiderate towards their disabled audience. I think part of the problem with the game is that there’s just too much shit going on. It’s not really epic; it’s more like a stupid MTV video. Epic fights to me are like Minas Tirith in Return of the King. This is more like GI Joe the Movie or a Michael Bay movie where you had all types of explosions occurring all at once but never having the ability to digest anything. It’s not really enjoyable but just a big fucking mess.

But you see, I wouldn’t complain so much about the way these encounters are designed if they weren’t meant to be farmed. This is where the game loses a lot of the appeal. Tank and spank works nicely for farming because it’s intended to be mindless. But going through these encounters week after week and not getting the loot to progress further is where I feel the game really demotivates a lot of people. Add to the fact that the groups you’re with changes constantly and you’ll slowly find that there’s not a lot of positive to the game.

For me, the Sha of Fear and Grand Empress Shek’zeer were perfect for LFR. The mechanics weren’t bad, the fights were mostly reasonable and there wasn’t a lot to really assume for your group. They weren’t the most fun fights but they didn’t demand a lot for someone just joining. You could fuck up with one or two people and still finish without too much frustration.

Again the thing to me about creating encounters is understanding how to create a mix of fun, challenge, timing and understanding of how random groups of people deal with each other. I think most people just want to mindlessly zerg and pull DPS out of their pants.

World of Warcraft: 1.3 Million Subscribers Down

That’s a pretty large number and is comparable to the population of Burning Crusade, except that it’s getting lower. The two main things people seem to point to are game age and Asia. However, I know that saying the game’s age is a common issue, but I feel that it’s too high level and generic of an excuse. You have to look more into detail about the aspects of the game which makes the game feel aged to understand what might drive customers away. This blog post will attempt to de-construct the game age myth and delve deeper into the various aspects of what might be driving customers away as a result of the generic game age label.

Questing Mechanics

For the most part, the vast majority of World of Warcraft’s questing mechanics are extremely primitive: talk to NPC, kill monster, loot XXX items, kill monster for XXX items and escort missions. There have been attempts to introduce slightly more advanced questing mechanics like vehicles, stealth quests (aka Call of Duty Black Ops missions), advanced escort missions, timed events or cut scene quests. But most tend to fall within these missions.

The problem with the questing aspect is that it tends to grow old really fast. In fact, considering how leveling is more focused on questing for experience and later on dailies for reputation gain and valor, it’s easy to see how people can burn out quite quickly. And once you complete your leveling, you can do it all over again or better yet face the daily grind.

Considering that the vast majority of Mist of Pandaria focuses on questing progression, it’s no wonder why many people might feel burnt out after a few months.

Farming

I’m not talking about the in-game Farmville that they put in (although that also counts). I’m talking about how a vast majority of the end game is simply farming. Whether it’s materials, valor points, conquest points, gear, etc., the end game progression race is mostly just farming. In short, repeated content with an extremely slow sense of progression. Discoveries in astrophysics feel faster than your character’s progress in the end game.

The excitement of discovering new things, killing new monsters, conquering dungeons, etc. quickly diminish once you realize that you are extremely limited in what you can do. The only excitement is downing raid bosses, PVP and the new piece of gear you can obtain. But the rest is just building up to the point where you can accomplish one of those three goals.

Yet that’s the farming aspect. It’s just rinse and repeat until a new content patch comes out or you work on a different character. But then again it’s just the same process with different labels.

Limited Progress

Perhaps, the most frustrating aspect of these games is the sense of slow progress once you hit max level and obtain most of the gear you want. RPGs to me are always about progress of ones character. It’s about growth in a way that you cannot in the real world. So we use an alter ego to accomplish these feats.

The argument for MMORPGs is that progress is slowed to prolong the life for content in a game. Older RPGs like Bard’s Tale, Might and Magic, etc. had methods to prolong content like long leveling processes, mob zones that regenerated after a certain point, etc. But for the most part they were far faster in terms of the grind, mostly in part because they did not have to deal with the consequences of being online all the time and other real participants that could unbalance a game (such as those who had extreme amounts of time, money and/or means of automation to do farming or leveling for the owner). So for non-MMORPGs, progress could be instant, especially if the game had its own set of cheats or if there was a trainer.

Creating a sense of balanced progress is a real challenge for any game designer. How much leeway do you give players without making it seem too frustrating or easy? This question determines the level of satisfaction that players can receive. But it’s a tricky subject since the range for this is quite huge and depends exclusively on the type of audience.

In the case of World of Warcraft, the audience is quite vast. Even when the game is down by 1.3 million subscribers, it still boast 8.7 million subscribers. And it’s worldwide. So you have to find a good median.

The thing is that I think the game has gotten to the point where progression feels quite overwhelming. The game requires a lot of dedicated time to really get the full potential for the money. But I think that the recent changes with the latest expansion and especially the dailies aspect is that people can no longer keep up. Some try but it’s really difficult. The game can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to time sinks. As a result, you feel like you no longer can grow in any meaningful manner. And that can be truly demotivate a person because you end up constantly asking your, “What’s the point?”

A Very Divided Community

With the game’s age, comes a very mixed batch of people with all types of expectations and desires. And despite losing people, the game also constantly gains new people. The problem is that it’s very difficult distinguishing players because there are few tools in the game that allow people to mix in with whom they want.

The end result of this mixed community though has become the whole “casual vs hardcore” battle. But I argue that it’s far more divided than that simplistic outlook. The game has people who grew up playing since day 1, workers, families, people with busy lives, celebrities, people who became celebrities, kids, even cartoons. And this can be further broken down and you can keep breaking these lines down.

The thing is that I see the game dying through its inability to segregate players towards the groups they want to play with. I’ve stated numerous times that the game really needs to focus on the social aspect. The game itself is entertaining to a degree but it depends mostly on being with others to accomplish one’s goals. Yet if you’re isolated, the game can be quite intimidating and the people are quite unforgiving.

Some people just blame hardcores or elitists as creating the poisonous atmosphere. I think it’s more than just that. For instance, you have people who figure out ways of exploiting situations like LFR or griefing players. As these situations continue, many people end up feeling discouraged and just quit. LFR and LFG, while being great for people who lack friends to play with, can also be a horrible experience when you encounter griefers.

Time Sink and Dangling Carrot

Progress is all about knowing that you will arrive at a certain point for doing certain things. RPGs for the most part are built around this premise (there are those that actually want to roleplay but I honestly think those are the vast minority, especially in an online computer gaming environment). For a paid game to succeed like World of Warcraft, you need to add the time sink and dangling carrot aspects to make the environment work.

However, the dangling carrot trick, as the analogy goes, only works as long as the victim continues believing that they can obtain the carrot. For World of Warcraft, as the game ages and people meet certain goals (or don’t), they eventually lose start realizing that the carrot never really is in their grasp but placed further and further out. Worse yet, is that when a person finally gets to nibble on that carrot, they find out that the carrot has gone bad or has been replaced by a new carrot that is pushed out to the point where it looks like an orange toothpick.

That’s the state of World of Warcraft. The game designers themselves want you to just be playing the game and not doing anything else but focusing on the non-existent carrot. Eventually, you figure out that the carrot doesn’t really taste good and that a good apple hanging from a nearby tree will satisfy your craving and taste buds a lot better.

I believe that a lot of people may not come to the same epiphany but certainly the sentiment. That’s why 1.3 million people kill their subscription. While the game is fun, it’s better in spurts. But the game itself does not allow for spurts. You’re either with the game or out of touch and far from the progression race.

The game should not just be a progression race but a more open ended environment. The way the game is designed at the moment is that you’re probably going to focus on the high end content like raiding or PVP. You don’t really see end game questing nor lore. Even when the designers told people that Mist of Pandaria would not have a traditional end game boss, they still focus a lot of the content effort around raids and Garrosh. So what else can one do if they’re isolated and not interested in that type of content?

At any rate, I’m certain there are many other reasons. For instance, I know a lot of friends who just graduated from high school that got jobs. They barely have the time to play the way they could back in high school. Other long term players also just ended up burning out or wanting to try other games. You can’t play the same game forever and that’s just a fact of life. Certainly, there have been elements that the game has introduced in an attempt to keep it interesting, but I think when you look at the overall issues I presented here, it’s easy to see why people slowly will be inclined to quit as a result of the so-called “game’s age” syndrome.

 

Diablo 3: Tempest Rush Monk Thoughts

I’ve been doing a little bit of paragon leveling with my tempest rush monk. So far, I managed to get him to level 10 (and I haven’t even completed all of Inferno yet!) Mostly, I’m focused on doing Alkaizer runs and have been doing them on Monster Power 1.

I would say that I might end up dropping the Monster Power down to nothing because I find myself dying quite frequently. I believe that the issues are that I do not output enough damage and my life is just too low. It feels as though I should have roughly 30-35k base life to avoid getting one shotted (which is the primary issue) and probably should be doing around 90k damage minimal.

In fact, I’ve done a bit of reading to figure out how I can optimize myself a little better. First, I discovered that the best follower is the templar for the resource (i.e. spirit) regeneration capability. I do not use One With Everything as I tend to favor spirit regeneration passives with Exalted Soul, The Guardian’s Path and Chant of Resonance. That might be hurting me slightly since I’m pretty much too focused on All Resist gear rather than finding a cheaper alternative. With the templar acting as a spirit battery, it might be worth re-examining using Guardian’s Path instead.

Next, I simply need better gear. I’ve been doing some BoA crafting on occasion but haven’t found anything capable of beating my Vile Ward shoulders. After that I have to get better bracers and gloves. Unfortunately, I have a few Increased Attack Speed items, which I’ve read end up hurting your spirit regeneration. My gloves might be easy to replace but I use Lacuni Prowlers, which in reality are probably better for a different spec. I also employ Natalya’s Reflection but I find that the 7% critical hit bonus from the 2-piece bonus worth the penalty.

That all said, I really have mixed feelings about the Tempest Rush monk right now. It can be a really fun build in that you’ll be zooming through areas non-stop (unless you meet a waller or jailer) and just nuke zones really fast. However, the glass cannon aspect is pretty discouraging. The biggest issue with the build is that it’s horribly gear dependent and you sacrifice a lot of stats to bump your spirit regeneration to make the build viable. People say that it’s the fastest paragon leveling spec around, which I can see, as well as a reasonable farming build. However, you can definitely feel all the weaknesses in higher monster powers.

With that in mind, I hope to some day return to my barbarian. I did like the whirlwind build idea but I donated my gear to a friend. Some day, I would like to work on him again to compare that build against the tempest rush monk. I think that the whirlwind barbarian might end up being more durable, but I need to get a few more pieces of gear before being able to give it another go.

World of Warcraft: Thoughts on Making Gold in Mist of Pandaria

There’s numerous guides on making gold in World of Warcraft, most of them involve heavy amounts of farming. While having gold in the game is critical to performance, I view it as a residual of what you do in the game as opposed to a focus. As a result, I tend to not be bothered by intentionally farming to make gold. That said, I’ve found gold to be something plentiful but I believe it’s the after effect of how I play.

My theory on making gold is simple: work on numerous alts. On my realm Saurfang, the Auction House tends to be overpriced compared to my old realm Ner’Zhul. When I discovered this aspect, I decided to work on numerous alts for professions. Eventually, I found myself with 10 85s, having every profession covered and then some which were redundant (like tailoring or gathering professions). By having numerous alts, I never found myself towards the end having to spend as much on the Auction House compared to when I started. For instance, bags were a huge issue to me when it came to starting out. Having accumulated a ton of cloth, I ended up hording it all and reserving it until my tailor was of sufficient level to hand off all that cloth to him.

By doing this, I managed to save a ton of money and utilize all the materials I would gather over time. Of course, I occasionally would hit the Auction House for the rare times when I lacked some materials. But  this was not a frequent case. Most times, I ended up having an excess of materials like cloth or greens. So I simply gave them all to my alts.

With regards to Mist of Pandaria though, the daily quest system has provided a mechanism for easy gold. Pretty much you’ll be doing dailies whether you want to or not (unless you’re a strict PVP type). The gold you receive from dailies will net you anywhere between 600-800 per day on a single toon. Eventually, you’ll find yourself with a fair amount of gold quite quickly just in grinding out faction reputation, charms and supplemental Valor Points.

Now, here’s where having tons of alts start to come into play. As you level your toons through Mist of Pandaria, the quests chains will provide a fair amount of gold. I think you can possibly receive up to 4-5k worth of gold by completing all the primary quests while leveling. If you had already maxed out your flying through the previous expansions on your alts, then the only thing you probably will buy is the 2500 gold Pandaria flying skill. That still will leave you with a reasonable amount of starting gold. Collectively then, if you level multiple toons, you will have a large pool of gold to share among your toons.

Next, as each toon breaks through the 90 level barrier, you’ll probably put them on the reputation and gearing track. It might seem boring initially, but having numerous alts doing dailies will increase that pool of gold quickly. You won’t be able to complete all dailies if you have 11 alts maxed out, but you should be able to do between 2-3/day to a reasonable degree.

My theory behind alts is pretty simple. The goal is to gear them enough to do things like LFRs. So I put them on “tracks”. That means, I’ll focus on a few toons for a bit. Once one toon is maxed out gear-wise, I’ll slow them down and eventually phase them out of my rotation. Eventually, they end up acting in a support role such as my paladin who has blacksmithing and mining. For him, I mostly am picking up ore to hand off to my alchemist for transmuting into Living Steel. Eventually, my alchemist returns the Living Steel to my paladin while he acquires Motes of Harmony. Eventually, he’ll use those components for creating epic armor for my warrior, death knight and potentially put back on the Auction House. Setting goals like this is critical since it’ll give you a road map for your toons and how far you’ll want to take them.

The other thing I do is attempt to have them employ the farm. Since cooking is quite easy to level these days, I feel that every toon should try to max out their primary attribute side of cooking. When you hit 86 or 87 and get your farm, you definitely should utilize that as much as possible. Even if you stop leveling a toon, I would suggest parking that toon at the farm so that you can easily plant crops every day. This is especially helpful once you start to hit the upper limits of cooking and need to push that extra few points out. Don’t bother spending money on the Auction House since it’s a waste of money. If you have a profession that isn’t dependent on things like Motes of Harmony, consider utilizing the farm for cooking components for your alts. Don’t forget that making gold sometimes is about not spending gold.

As you gather up materials from farming, especially in doing the dailies, consider setting up a pool for your farming residuals. Dedicate a bank alt (or toon with tons of bank space) to hosting your farming materials. Since the Auction House tends to overprice materials, use those excess materials for the purpose of selling them back. I’m not a big advocate of buying from the Auction House, but I’m certain that the Auction House will always be full of over priced materials. So take advantage on occasion when you see that you have excessive materials to make some easy coin.

Fishing also can be a great source of income within Mist of Pandaria. By having alts, you can level up your fishing skill as you discover ponds. I heavily suggest this. For instance, the Jade Lungfish are a pretty critical component and there’s a lot in the starting zone. Taking the opportunity to do some fishing while leveling can net you some good gold. On my server, the Jade Lungish are quite expensive and probably way overpriced. So I ended up selling mine for an easy 50 gold, which undercut my competition by a huge margin.

If you do this and manage to hit a reasonable amount of fishing skill, you can do the dailies for the Anglers. Two in particular are quite difficult for people with low fishing skills, but the effect of this is acquiring a lot of Golden Carp. With the new path of cooking, Golden Carp become a huge necessity. Don’t throw this away if you find yourself with an excessive amount. Either horde it for your alts or put it on the Auction House. Either way, you’ll save a ton of gold or make an extra buck or two using this method.

Lastly, do all the LFRs as much as you can. It might be disappointing to receive just gold especially when you’re searching for that critical piece of gear, but don’t give up on it. More importantly, do LFRs if you’re not a die hard raider but have managed to acquire all the gear for a toon. The Valor Points and gold still can add up for an activity you can pull off in a night’s worth of work. I think without rerolls, you can possibly earn 600-650 gold doing full clears of the current LFRs. That’s not too bad if you’re trying to save up Valor Points.

One thing I will admit is that gold is an investment in itself. Meaning that in order to make gold, you’ll have to spend gold. Certainly, you can find gold sinks like mounts or other vanity items, but gearing up quickly can be tough if you shy away from instances. But don’t be afraid to plunk down 10k for some high end gear if it helps you along the way. Gold in itself is useless without an output. Don’t just horde gold for the sake of having a lot. Use it to improve your toons when you have the opportunity. It’ll come back easily.

Diablo 3: Potentially Good Gold Earning Run

Tired of Alkaizer runs for Act 3? Want to change it up a bit? Here’s a run that I’m starting to use. First, you must have the Staff of Herding from Inferno mode (yes, we are going to hit Whimseyshire as part of this run). So before you proceed with this article, make sure you have this.

The idea behind this run focuses on the premise that Horadric Hamburgers and Spectrums can potentially make you several million gold. The reason is that these items can do ridiculous damage for anyone from level 30 and up. Essentially, they’re the equivalent of heirloom items in World of Warcraft, except you can sell them. However, the trick is to find ones that deal at least 300 DPS minimal. At best, Spectrums can roll up to 600+ DPS, which is huge for people at lower levels, hence why they’re considered so valuable.

Once you procured the Staff of Herding, the first thing I suggest is building up 5 stacks of Nephlam Valor. Usually, I’ll start in the Drowned Temple’s waypoint and earn 5 stacks via the elites in the Festering Woods. You generally will find 2 elites and possibly a quest (if not you’ll probably find 3 elites). Then the two mini dungeons will contain one elite per. That will give you the necessary 5 stacks.

For the next part, I’ll hit the Fields of Misery to do some key farming. Optionally, you can do the entire area as well as several of the dungeons and encounters that provide additional loot. You can probably find around 6-7 encounters that will spawn some good loot, so you can go for it since you’re in the area.

Lastly, I’ll port back to town then fight my way up to the entrance of Whimseyshire. I’ve heard that it’s not required to have 5 stacks of Nephlam Valor in order to obtain Spectrums, etc. However, my feeling is that it doesn’t hurt to build up some additional stacks since you’ll be grabbing loot regardless. I’ll clear the entire zone since you don’t want to leave chests, elites, etc. unturned.

Now, this run isn’t necessarily a great XP run. The purpose is to easily farm heirloom-like items and possibly grab a key along the way. I clear most of the areas I enter just to maximize the loot I can get in these zones. Also, this helps change up the environment a little from the usual lengthy Act 3 runs. It’s fairly short probably taking about 20-30 minutes at most (I haven’t timed myself)

Thus far, I’ve only done this on Monster Power 1 and it’s a pretty easy clear. I’m using a Magic Find amulet (+40%) so it takes my DPS down a little. I might try it on Monster Power 2 to see if the drops improve. I haven’t found any Spectrums thus far, but I feel it’s mostly a matter of time in terms of farming. I’ve heard someone getting one after 8 hours of farming. But I don’t know what his Magic Find rating is nor Monster Power.

World of Warcraft: What to Do While Waiting for Instances

Queue times in the World of Warcraft are extremely painful. I know in the past I would just run around in a circle in Dalaran for a queue to pop. Since I no longer play on a PVP server, I’ve found other activities that are far more productive.

First, most people will say that while leveling, you should combine questing with dungeons. I absolutely agree. I’ve found instance grinding to be the fastest way to level. But depending on your level and the time you start a queue, things can take anywhere between 5-10+ minutes. So rather than just sitting in Orgrimmar looking pretty, you can hit up quests. I prefer to do quests that have higher XP and loot rewards. Also, I try to do things where I run lower risk of being attacked once I leave a queue. Make sure that you’re not in a place where some mobs will spawn right on top of you once your instance is finished.

Alternatively, you can go farming. For this activity, you can do it with any level toon. This is particularly effective once you hit 85. I tend to run around Twilight Highlands with my miners and herbalists while waiting for queues to pop. If I want to max out my Valor Points for the week on a single toon, I find myself spending maybe 1-2 hours while waiting for queues to pop. As a result, I can get up to 200-220+ worth of ore/herbs. With the ore, if I smelt and vender everything, I can easily gain between 300-900 gold.

For tailors and skinners, it’s a little tougher since you have to find a good farming spot. In the case of my tailor (an enhancement shaman), I hit up the little dwarf towns and just kill the mobs. I usually can take them down in 2-3 shots and the respawn rate in that zone is pretty high. For my skinner (a BM hunter), I’ll go to Tol Barad and kill spiders until a minute before my instance pops.

I like this strategy because I am able to procure a lot of materials and not feel bored just farming. Having the queues around gives me time in between instances to gradually gather up materials as opposed to being bored out of my mind doing each activity separately.