Monday, 17 March 2008

The Staff of Multiple Violations Remains Unseen...

Soulbound Horde got its first full clear of Karazhan this weekend, and it was a rather eventful run - spanning two days, several hours, wipes in unusual places, and loot and badges aplenty. A full accounting after the break!

We started off slow on the first night as everyone attempted to synchronize their vent apps up. I've been unable to get on any kind of voice chat because my university's server seems to block external servers such as those used for ventrilo, xfire, Team Fortress 2, and so on. It's odd that I can still play WoW using it, but I'm not going to look that particular gift horse in the mouth.

We started the pulls up towards Attumen uneventfully, me main-tanking and feeling very pleased with how my snappy new Darkmoon Card: Vengeance was working out and our holy paladin Askana off-tanking. So we get up to Attumen and... promptly wipe. Quickly! Reshuffle, reorganize! Attumen take 2 sees the horse-lover down with three minutes to spare on respawns, and we quickly rolled up the stairs to Moroes.

We one-shotted the tricksy bastard - but it was messy. Very messy. One of our priests had trouble with his interface and couldn't shackle the mortal-strike warrior whose name I forget... so he basically ran around killing clothies before me and Askana realized that this wasn't just a normal string of resists and ran back to contain the rampaging mob.

With Moroes on 4% and with just one healer left, it was looking touch and go - with the Crowd Controllers dead, I had to tank Moroes and his cronies, Baron Rafe Drueger and Lord Robin Daris. I blew all my cooldowns and the five remaining raiders finished off Moroes just in time for me to buy the farm. Askana jumped in and managed to tank the remaining two long enough to die heroically after Daris went down... and the remaining DPS succeeded in kiting Drueger to his untimely end while the remaining healer struggled at almost 0 mana.

All that, and the stingy bugger didn't even drop my pocket watch. Sigh.

After this, we rolled on up to Maiden, who we summarily one-shotted. Finally things smoothed out, and we steamrolled the Opera event (our fourth time round with Oz). Upper kara went just as well - Nightbane went down with no problems whatsoever, and Curator was almost a joke. At last we got to Shade of Aran, who stymied us for two wipes before we hit the magic number and polished him off. That's where we broke for the evening, with, of course, a great number of paladin plate drops along the way. Seeing as how we only roll with two paladins, the sheer number of plate drops in Karazhan weigh heavily on the minds of our many clothies.

The next day we picked up where we left off and realized we were two raiders short with no explanation. The first day we'd had two extra 70s clamoring to get in that we didn't have room for - and now we were two short. As an aside, one of those 70s (a warrior who I shan't name) /gquit because he couldn't get in the raid group that day. If he'd been patient enough to wait for his chance - and I'd like to note that he'd have been guaranteed a spot in the second Kara group once it got going - he would've been in Karazhan for the second day, on which no less than two items of warrior plate dropped. All of you who've recently joined a guild but haven't managed to get into runs yet: keep this in mind. Please.

In the end we managed to PuG two helpful raiders, a mage and druid (who happened to have an abysmal set of gear, I might add), who stayed with us through the Illhoof and Chess events - during which time two of our guildies, thankfully, materialized to safe us from potential raid death.

And this is where the title becomes relevant. For the third week running, I have been denied my Staff of Multiple Violations.

Give me a moment to regain myself. Tears are awfully bad for the keyboard.

Okay, I'm good now.

So this was where another "zomgwtf" moment appeared - we one-shot Illhoof like the ten champions we are, and clear up to Chess.

Where we...

I can't even say it. It's... too shameful to comprehend. We... we...

No. I can't say it.

So after that farce, we got our two substitutes in and rolled on up to the Prince. Someone must have brought the win sauce that day, because he went down in one attempt as well.

With all going near seamlessly (a few minor upsets, but we weren't having trouble with anything major), we had one boss left to conquer - Netherspite, he of the confusing portal mumbo-jumbo. The last time we'd encountered this particular monstrosity, we just couldn't get the hang of killing him without someone screwing up and not noticing that a void zone had opened underneath their feet and was consuming their very soul, or suddenly realizing that, hey, I've got the green Nether Exhaustion but the green beam is still... oh crap. Yep, that happened. Twice in one attempt. So we'd had to call it off.

But this week was a different story; the void zones might as well have been nonexistent; both tanks danced in and out of the red beam flawlessly (thank yew, thank yew) and Netherspite was dispatched with relative ease on our first attempt. It was all rather epic.

So there we have it; Soulbound Horde's first full clear of Karazhan, with one-shots and strange, strange wipes because of silly mistakes aplenty. In the spirit of Octale and Hordak Versus the World:

My /salute goes out to everyone who's stuck it out for the past couple of months, right from that very first run where we were wiping on Moroes and Maiden but managed to down Aran anyway, to that run where we just couldn't get past Curator no matter how many flasks we burned.

My /spit has to go to everyone who doesn't have the patience, gumption and persistence to achieve their goals and expects their rewards to be handed to them on a silver platter.

The Penguin signs off!


Continue reading 'The Staff of Multiple Violations Remains Unseen...'

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The World of Warcraft comic...

... and why you really shouldn't waste your money on it.

Herein is contained my review of the World of Warcraft comic that’s still being released. A quick synopsis of the plot: a mysterious human washes up on the shores of Durotar, suffering from amnesia; discovered by an enterprising arena master, he is thrust into the fierce world of arena battles, to fight for his life even as he struggles to regain his true identity. He also has a sexy pair of elves to back him up.

Disclaimer: the views expressed in this review are mine and mine alone. I may say some strong words in it, but you’re free to disagree with them if you so choose. If you do, please try and keep your comments civil (although if you disagree with the review enough to insult me, I’d actually have to question your tastes, but that’s another matter altogether).

The full review begins after the jump...

Well, one thing about this comic: it made me laugh a fair few times... although that was not, perhaps, its intention.

I was reading it again just now in preparation for this review, and – okay, let me tell you the first thing that made me laugh. Four pages in, when our erstwhile human gladiator-to-be has just finished off a crocolisk that was intent on devouring his leg, a large and vicious-looking orc shaman looks down at him and asks, “Who are you, human?”

The expression on the face of the human in the next panel just cracked me up. It’s an expression worthy of a manga comedy series.

On the very next page, the human once more proves to be the source of amusement. He wakes up in the cage with his two fellow gladiators, looks at one of them, a blood elf female named Valeera Sanguinar, and goes, “You’re to be a gladiator? But you’re a child!”

The very next panel reveals that the elf in question has a bust that’s nothing short of prodigious and thighs that would make a grown man weep (and then head swiftly towards the bathroom to “relieve himself”). YEP, SURE LOOKS LIKE A CHILD TO ME, HYUK HYUK.

But that’s not all. If you’ve played World of Warcraft as much as I have, you’ll have noticed that blood elves have ears that go straight upward, as opposed to night elves, which have ears that sweep backwards majestically. Not this blood elf, apparently – her ears stick straight outward, as if they’ve been on the wrong end of a falling anvil a few too many times.

So the first issue of this newest of Blizzard’s forays into the graphic novel medium was turning out to be something of a laugh riot. By the end of the book, however, I had developed a firm idea of just what was up with this comic.

My first reaction was, “this is utter pap and drek. How on earth did this even get cleared for release? It’s awful!”

And indeed, it is awful. The plot is so derivative that it could pass for satire if you changed some of the dialogue. Walter Simonson’s writing is, in a word, weak (if you hadn’t already picked up on that). Ludo Lullabi’s art is uneven, at times wrenchingly unsatisfying and downright confusing, with sparingly few highlights. The inking and colouring aren’t bad, but they aren’t enough to save the comic either.

We have our three main characters – the unnamed human, dubbed Croc-Bait by his captor; a night elf druid named Broll Bearmantle with a bad case of antler-head; and the aforementioned Valeera Sanguinar, whose particular “attributes” have already been mentioned. Oh, and she happens to be a rogue. There’s also the orc shaman, Rehgar Earthfury, who’s basically their manager. Why a shaman would be managing an arena team, I have no idea.

Attempts to generate friction between Broll and Valeera through the use of banter prove predictable, and aren’t executed particularly well. They pretty much just insult each other. A bit of cutting wit wouldn’t have gone amiss, but as we’ve already seen, wit is in crushingly short supply here. Broll is your quasi-mystical night elf. This is pretty much the only character with potential for interest in the whole cast; how did a druid end up as a gladiator? Shouldn’t he be out doing druidy things, like picking flowers, hugging trees, tanking Prince Malchezzar fights, that kind of thing? This hasn’t yet been explored to its fullest potential, but if the plot keeps on going the way it is now, I smell a clich├ęd “I lost everything in that last big war thing, and now I have lost the will to keep fighting for my ideals and so have turned to being a gladiator, yet the strange appearance of this manly, manly, masculine, manly human will surely return me to my true path!” kind of road.

Valeera is also a tad one-dimensional. She’s bloodthirsty and fiery, and wears what appears to be a red swimsuit with a built-in wonderbra. Honestly, it’s very difficult to take her seriously when the combination of Lullabi’s “artwork” and Simonson’s “writing” have turned her into what is essentially glorified eye candy. Her few panels of backstory are underwhelming and hackneyed. This is a damn shame, as the blood elves have a lot of great storytelling potential behind them. The destruction of the sunwell by Arthas in Warcraft 3 was nothing less than an epic turn of events, leaving the entire nation of Quel’Thalas shattered and broken, and its inhabitants even more so! Yet they’ve risen from the ashes and are a power to be feared in the Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft, and Valeera doesn’t represent this in any way that isn’t blindingly predictable. Sure, she’s sassy, she’s fierce, and she can kill you if she really wants to, but there is so much more that could be done with a blood elf character.

The concept of the human is similarly malnourished. He has amnesia. He broods, he scowls. He is, being the main character, privileged to completely destroy every single one of his opponents without so much as breaking a sweat. The glimpses into his past that are given throughout the story (usually at a rate of one convenient flashback per issue) fail to interest. He might be the secret love child of Thrall and Jaina, but he’d still be boring. After reading three issues of this comic, I have not yet developed any kind of attachment to him (unless disdain counts as emotional attachment).

What about the artwork? Well, Ludo Lullabi certain has a distinctive style, and that’s something that the Warcraft universe has done exceedingly well – it is instantly recognizable. However, Lullabi’s attempt here falls flat on a few accounts. First, it is such a far cry from the delicious cover art that a stab of disappointment hit me when I saw the very first page. The cover is dynamic, it’s powerful, it’s awesome, and I would’ve loved it if the cover artist had done the entire book. Ludo’s work has spunk. It’s distinctive. But it’s also lacks consistency.

There are many aspects of the art that just strike me as downright lazy – such as the sausage fingers on Croc-Bait when his arms are so muscular and generally anatomically correct, or the way Valeera’s upper arms are almost skeletal compared to the overabundance of flesh on other parts of her body. And then you’ve got things that are just plain wrong, like Valeera’s ears, or the shape and length of goblin limbs. Or the way male limbs and torsos are almost always drawn very well, whereas Valeera’s limbs tend to distort and twist in ways that defy the laws of physics

As you might be able to tell, I am extremely dissatisfied with almost every aspect of Valeera’s portrayal in this series – she’s one of the main characters, and characters that only appear for a single issue are almost always drawn with a greater degree of anatomical correctness than she is – it’s just confusing, and contributes to the impression of sloppiness that Lullabi’s work tends to give off.

Moreover, he doesn’t appear to have gotten the art of acquiring a dramatic angle down; it’s difficult to understate the importance of angle in this particular medium, and Lullabi sometimes fails to deliver the sense of drama and urgency that can make a well-drawn comic positively thrilling. As if this weren’t enough, sometimes you just don’t know what the hell is going on. Some of the combat scenes are so busy and full of lines that I just didn’t have a clue. One moment you’ve got a few characters standing around looking angry, then there’s a few panels of confused lines flashing all over the place, and the next thing you know the human is standing over his defeated foe.

Having said that, he does have some very good moments, such as the conclusion of the main fight in the second issue; but these also contribute to the feeling that the art just isn’t very consistent. It has panels that make you smile, it has panels that make you cringe – but sadly, the former are greatly outnumbered by the latter.

My final gripe has two points. Firstly, the whole comic displays blatant notions of human supremacy, to the extent of defying previously established lore in the manner of a retcon. What the hell does that statement mean? Well...

The races of the horde are portrayed as savages for the most part, with little of that noble quality that shone through so wonderfully in Warcraft 3. Once again, it feels one-dimensional (and I know that I’m using that term a lot, but it is applicable throughout). At the end of the first comic, Broll and Valeera are overpowered in a brawl, and Croc-Bait summarily dispatches all of their opponents and then steps up to the last one, an orc blademaster, to announce, “Back off. These elves are under my protection!” How heroic. How manly. What the hell was Simonson thinking when he put that line in? Was he thinking at all? Did I miss something here? Orc blademasters were loudmouthed but honourable characters in Warcraft 3, reminiscent of samurai; and yet in this comic, this particular blademaster casually steps up to Valeera and breaks her arm, despite the fact that she’s lying on the ground, clearly in no position to fight.

Let me put this in capitals to emphasise how put off I am by this: THIS IS NOT THE PARTICULAR BREED OF WARCRAFT ORC THAT BLIZZARD HAS CREATED. And this isn’t even what their humans are like, either! Hell, there are so many human questlines in World of Warcraft that have you exposing just how damn corrupt the Alliance is that I’m surprised the entire race of warcraft humans hasn’t committed the honourable thing and drowned themselves by now. It strikes me as imbecilic posturing, placing a human at the forefront as the best and brightest in the whole wide world, standing strong against the mean old Horde. Quite frankly, it’s rather pathetic.

Now, I’ve already taken my subscription out for this comic, so I’m going to have to sit through it for the time being – but if something utterly miraculous happens and the comic does a complete one-eighty, I will be sure to let you know.
Continue reading 'The World of Warcraft comic...'

Friday, 22 February 2008

Implications of Attunement Removal (and other large and intimidating words)

This is the thing that everyone seems to want to talk about with regards to the upcoming Patch 2.4, and after listening to several viewpoints of various people since the patch 2.4 notes were announced, I feel prepared to write a post on the subject that considers more than just my own opinions. Keep in mind, however, that I'm with a guild that is still in Karazhan, doesn't have enough members at present to seriously consider starting a second Karazhan group, and contains a great deal of people who have only just had their first taste of raid content (I am one of these people).

First off, what exactly is this "attunement removal" thingy? Well, one of the changes in patch 2.4 is that you will no longer need to complete a lengthy attunement quest in order to enter Mount Hyjal and the Black Temple.

What do these attunements require as of patch 2.3? The Hyjal attunement requires that you've completed Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep: The Eye. The Black Temple attunement requires that you've completed Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, and Mount Hyjal. This means that there's a clear line of progression. Serpentshrine Cavern/Tempest Keep rolls into Mount Hyjal, which then opens up Black Temple.

The overall order of progression goes something like this:

Karazhan

Gruul's Lair, Magtheridon's Lair, Doomwalker, Kazzak, Zul'Aman

Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep

Caverns of Time: Mount Hyjal

Black Temple

With guilds moving down the list, starting at Karazhan and finally ending at Illidan (or disbanding at some point in the middle). After 2.4, people will not necessarily need to do any of the bits in the middle.They could, for example, go straight from Gruul's Lair into the Black Temple. They'd wipe on their first trash pull, or, if they were really lucky, they'd bang their heads against Naj'Entus until they beat a bit of sense into themselves, but they could still do it.

There are arguments for and against attunement removal, which I shall attempt to summarize here.

What are the arguments for attunement removal? Well, an acquaintance of mine is in a 5/6 SSC, 3/4 TK guild who have gotten Vashj down to 63%. He was talking to me about his guild's progress, and happened to mention that they would use gear from Mount Hyjal to down Vashj. The attunement change would help guilds who are stuck on Vashj and Kael'Thas to progress by giving them a gear boost that would be somewhat easier to attain.

The attunement removal will make raid content more accessible. This can't be a bad thing - Blizzard obviously wants as much of its consumer base to experience that endgame content as possible, and making it easier obviously means that people will progress through it faster. This makes it easier on players who are new to raid content to achieve their goals before Wrath of the Lich King comes out, and increases the likelihood that players will be able to enter Sunwell Plateau at all.

Accessibility has always been one of WoW's greatest strengths. Any idiot can pick it up and play it - just look at your last PuG to see how true that statement is. The death penalties are trivial, the learning curve is gentle - hell, the game practically leads you along by the nose in the starting areas, especially now that you can see questgivers on your minimap. Therefore, any move to make content accessible is logical, considering that accessibility is one of WoW's biggest selling points in the first place.

Moreover, the fact that you can waltz into Black Temple and Hyjal whenever you please gives players more choice. Choice is a wonderful thing. I like that we can skip a few bosses in Karazhan to get to Prince quickly because our main healer is on a tight schedule (although I would've liked to have had a shot at getting my tentacle staff of molesty doom last week, but downing Prince was a huge morale booster). I also like the fact that we will be able to, say, spend one night in Hyjal and get a gear upgrade or two to help out with the whatever boss we happen to be stuck on at the time. I would love to have even more choice, in character customization for example (and that's one of the reasons why the introduction of Inscription in Wrath is one of the things that interests me the most).

However, it's not all roses and fluffy kittens that poop rainbows. There's the argument that comes from everyone who has already completed content that gets subsequently nerfed: "It's unfair that they get to go right into Black Temple when we had to do the attunement for it!" It's along the same lines as people who completed the attunements for SSC/TK before they were removed too - and people who killed bosses that later got nerfed.

Personally, this isn't too much of an issue for me, since all those people get bragging rights: i.e., "I did it when it was still hard, noob!" Things get changed. I would be irritated if all my hard work was rendered void too, but think of it this way: all those people who are already in Mount Hyjal/Black Temple are way in front of guilds that aren't in terms of gear, teamwork, co-ordination, ability to deal with technical encounters, and so on. Not only have you progressed further, you have proven that you are capable of getting into the hardest raid content without the need for Blizzard to unlock the door for you.

This is the problem I have with it: skipping bosses. Guilds will be skipping bosses until they have farmed enough gear from the first few bosses of the next raid dungeon until they have the gear to make the fight they are stuck on easier. Some guilds will skip Vashj and Kael altogether - hell, even Archimonde - and just try to get all the way up to Illidan without downing any of the other main bosses.

Guilds that try this will fall apart when they get to the point that there is no easy gear for them to leapfrog over to. That, or they will have to admit that they have to pull their act together and learn how to do a technical fight without going, "oh, this is too difficult, let's go do an easier boss with better loot instead."

And the people who do attempt to gear up by leapfrogging, but actually do go back and take out the bosses they were stuck on. On the one hand, this seems cheap to me - getting better gear and going back to blaze through content, like doing heroics with a group all in Karazhan gear. On the other hand, it's still easy to wipe if you don't know the encounter - like in Heroic Mechanar, when you don't know that standing next to someone with the opposite polarity will be deadly. Gear, after all, is no substitute for skill and knowledge. Put someone who's never played the game before in full tier 6 and a lavender mageweave shirt and enjoy the show.

On the other hand, I use flasks and other consumables in my current raids. Is that 'cheap'? Of course not. Getting a few pieces of gear is just fine - it might give you that extra edge, like a flask of fortification, that lets you down the boss. What I would have a problem with is if we, say decided to only do Prince Malchezzar once we'd gotten Black Temple/Hyjal gear. That would be cheap. So, say a guild is stuck on Vashj and decides to farm the first few bosses of Tempest Keep, mount Hyjal, and Black Temple... then, once they've got six or seven bosses' worth of gear, they come back and trounce Vashj. Is that cheap? Is that guild going to fall apart as soon as they get to Archimonde because a gear check isn't good enough anymore? It's interesting.

Having said all these things, let's consider that Gruuls' Lair, Magtheridon's Lair and Zul'Aman are all without attunement, while Karazhan does still have an attunement. Are people going straight into Zul'Aman, Gruul's and Maggie's? No, of course not, they'd get trounced without Karazhan gear. Having said that, most (edit: changed from "all") of the bosses in Karazhan are manageable even by a guild that's never raided before. The fights in Gruul's, Maggie's and Zul'Aman are all much complex - whereas Winterchill is an easier fight than Kael'Thas. There is no temptation to go straight to Zul'Aman because doing Karazhan is the logical step. Is farming Hyjal and Black Temple gear now going to be 'the logical step' now? We'll see how the raiders handle this once Patch 2.4 comes out.

may be progressing through 25-man content by then - at least I hope we will. It will be interesting to see how we deal with the change. But we will not, by any means, be killing brain cells on Naj'Entus the day after 2.4 hits, I can tell you that for a fact. Continue reading 'Implications of Attunement Removal (and other large and intimidating words)'

Monday, 11 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

So as I sit here on my own at 4 AM on the 15th of February, lamentably alone (I WEEP) after just listening to Casually Hardcore live (THE PAIN) and wondering whether it's even worth getting up tomorrow morning (IT HURTS MAH SOUL SO BAD MOMMAH) I figured I might as well do something at least moderately constructive and update my blog (THE PATHOS). After which I stumbled upon this hilarious video posted by the Big Bear Butt Blogger, whose site I visit with at least moderate, though certainly not regular, frequency (NEEDS MOAR COWBELL?!). Please, listen to it and be merry (TEH AGONIEZ).

So what's today's topic you might ask?

Patch 2.4 is up on the PTRs, and of course WoW Insider is giving us extensive coverage of many aspects of it.

What bits of it are relevant to me? Let's see.

What have we here? "
The Sunwell Isle is now available for play. This area includes a new quest hub and 5-player and 25-player instances. Join the Shattered Sun Offensive in shutting down Kael’thas’ nefarious operations. This new force is comprised by both the Aldor and Scryers and is led by the Naaru. Players will take part in claiming Sun’s Reach and setting up a larger base of operation to stop Kael’thas and the Legion." I like this. This is made of win. Progressive content is interesting, and I'll enjoy seeing just how it progresses.

Intellect-based mana regeneration is being introduced. This is good for all caster classes, as they'll be getting a big boost to mana efficiency. I wonder, however, how large the bonus will be. How much of an issue will mana conservation be after this patch? Are caster classes going to have their worry over mana reduced to the point where it is no longer an issue? Will Blizzard nerf existing mana regeneration to stabilize things? Will this make Warlock's health-to-mana mechanic less appealing in the long run? Downtime overall will be reduced for caster classes, making trash packs more palatable, wipe recovery quicker, and soloing easier. But will it be enough to make a visible difference? The good old elitist jerks have posted a theorycrafting thread wherein they speculate as to the differences to mana regeneration the change will have. It goes way over my head for the most part, but perhaps you, gentle readers, may be able to make something of it?

Spell haste affecting the global cooldown - great. Can't wait to play around with this when Jinvasha finally gets to 70 and starts getting spell haste gear.

Druid-specific changes! I love this section. What are we getting? Standouts for me are: Lacerate is getting a buff to the DoT component: it will now scale with AP. This will be great for when I have a stack of lacerates on a target and become incapacitated somehow: there will be a greater chance that the mob will stay on me instead of running after some juicy but slightly overeager fire mage. More threat = happy bear.

Mangle (bear) now triggers a 1.5 second cooldown as opposed to a 1.0 second cooldown. I hadn't even noticed this until I read the patch notes and then took a close look during a tanking session. I'm anticipating that the increased threat from lacerate may have been a move to cancel this slight nerf out. No real biggy anyhow.

When a druid in cat form pounces it will now properly animate. I never even knew we had a pounce animation... so I had a look on the WoW model viewer and found that we actually do have a pounce animation. It will be good to actually see what causes the pounce stun and DoT as opposed to just crouching there while it's magically applied through no visible means.

PvP: no diminishing returns on honour. I don't recall the exact math, but this multiplies the potential amount of honour you could gain from killing the same repeatedly by ten. In addition, honour is calculated instantly as opposed to being estimated and then totted up and added to your character once a day. This will be great for farming the PvP items I need to cover armour/weapon slots that I haven't got decent PvE gear for on upcoming characters, lessening the amount of time I need to spend in the battlegrounds getting stunlocked by rogues and chain-feared by warlocks. All good.

FISHING DAILY QUEST. Need I say more?

Herbalism: we're getting a greater chance for a fel lotus to drop from just about all available herb types. However, any herbalists know how, when herbing an ancient lichen node, you'll occasionally get an uncommon ring, about level 56? They're replacing those will fel lotus now; this is a shame in my opinion, for the rings added real flavour. Now, the rings were pretty much useless seeing as how, at that level, you'd be hitting the outlands and getting green rings that far, far outclassed that ancient lichen ring you just picked up - but it was cool to get them.

Moreover, I can now herbalize Warp Splinter's corpse in Heroic Botanica. That drove me crazy, seriously. I loved herbing him in normal mode, and it was gutting not being able to reap my rewards in heroic as well.

The number of patrollers on the Ata'Mal terrace has been halved. Thank goodness. I died more times on that damn terrace than I did in all of Shadowmoon Valley. And if you don't know what I'm talking about? When you get there, and experience the horror for yourself... you shall know. Oh yes, you shall know the terror of multiple corpse-runs and a ridiculous repair bill.

Increased the slots on Old Blanchy's Feed Pouch to 8. All I can say is: OMG. Thank you, Blizzard. This... this just made my day. Excuse my while I weep tears of eternal gratitude.

Non-Corporeal Undead and Mechanical creatures are now susceptible to bleed effects. Okay... fair enough. Maybe the undead bleed essence or mana, or something? And I can see that getting a nasty rip would perhaps damage circuitry, cause a feedback loop in a giant robot's system, cause a quantum singularity in the mega overflux capacitationating hyper overdrive negation duct. I like this, since it means that my cat-form DPS will be greatly increased in Karazhan, which as we know is full of undead.

Right. That's me done for tonight before I fall asleep on the keyboard. Tomorrow I'll clean up and finish off the topic that has noobs all over Orgrimmar aflutter in a tirade of angst: the removal of attunements and Black Temple badge loot.

Until next time!
Continue reading 'Happy Valentine's Day'

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A New Reason to Gank Fandral Staghelm

Extra! Extra! News from Computer and Videogames (and a comment on it at WoW Insider) about the upcoming expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, for millions of WoW fans around the world to devour greedily and, as they lick their bloodstained lips, raise their bloodshot eyes and howl, "MOAR! MOAR! MOAR!"

So what do we have here? More talk about inscription and how it will work, exactly. Great - more ways to pimp our characters. I like it. It's good. Stuff that's already been mentioned, too - the new CoT instance, which I will surely love; the PvP world zone which gives faction buffs... sure, not too interested in PvP, but I might give that a try. New hair styles and dances - gaming gold, people. Gaming gold. Especially if the new dances aren't race-based, so you can have all the races standing next to each other, or perhaps in a circle, and doing the exact same dance move, in sync with each other. I can see the machinima already...
And the mightiest of their warriors did stride forth and, facing off in a geometrically precise line of battle, prepared themselves for the epic confrontation. As one, the warriors of the Horde began to moonwalk. The Alliance clenched their teeth in trepidation. This was going to be a tough one.

Okay, what else? How about a new Hero class? What's that you say? Archdruids? Excuse me while I handcuff myself to the bed so that I do not accidentally throw myself out of the window with glee.

Seriously though - AWESOME. Now, if you haven't read the news that I linked just now, I am going to be an incredibly kind-hearted soul and quote the bit about Archdruids for you. "with any luck, we'll see more Hero classes some time after release, the hot Zitron tip being some kind of Archdruid quest directly connected to Malfurion Stormrage and the much-anticipated Emerald Dream."

I'll give you a few seconds to deal with this. Go on - go shout "ZOMG ARCHDRUIDZ" at a family member, pet, or passing vehicle. I'll wait. Okay, done? Great.


Speaking as a druid, I'm very interested to see what they could give Archdruids that would distinguish them from "normal" druids. Perhaps they will be a kind of further evolution of the class, sacrificing some amount of their versatility for increased prowess in one of their roles- such as becoming more proficient shapeshifters and unlocking different forms, or becoming a bigger, better, faster, stronger oomkin (goes oom 20% faster!), while distinguishing these roles from their main class counterparts even more.

That or they could go the other way and be even more versatile than druids already are, blurring the distinction between them and their animal forms - perhaps being able to cast certain spells in animal form, such as Remove Curse or Barkskin - or even the other way around, such as having Frenzied Regeneration continue to have effect even after you shift out of bear form.

I'd like to just note here that if Archdruids get the ability to customize their animal forms, I would be far more willing to make the Archdruid my main. If they are unable to use animal forms at all - a la Malfurion Stormrage in his Warcraft 3 incarnation - then I will be tempted, but will certainly not abandon Ukwende (Actually, Blizzard are going to have to do something nothing short of earth-shaking to make me abandon Ukwende, so it's pretty much a moot point anyway).

Along the Emerald Dream side of things, perhaps they'll be able to manipulate the real world through the Emerald Dream - that would be very, very cool thematically. In the druid quest for Swift Flight Form, you have to fight manifestations of nightmares that have emerged from the emerald dream. They could, then, become another minion-based class, managing one or more emerald dream manifestations; or even gain the ability to channel the spirit of an emerald nightmare and gain a new Nightmare form or Dream form. I already strongly suspect that druids will be getting a new animal form in Wrath, and that this new form will be in the Feral tree - since the first talented form was the Balance Boomkin and the second was the Restoration Redwood (Okay, I know that tree form isn't a redwood, but I couldn't think of a direct synonym of 'tree' that began with the letter R).

What I really don't want is for archdruids and druids to be homogeneous, with no real difference between them. I can't imagine Blizzard going that far, but it will probably be a fine line to tread between distinguishing them as druids and making them unique. However, Blizzard has shown that they are willing to homogenize with the Burning Crusade adding paladins to the Horde and shamans to the Alliance, eliminating the only real difference between the two factions in terms of gameplay mechanics. Moreover, they have also shown that they don't mind making old content obsolete - really, how often have I seen "LFM MC" in the LFG channel since Burning Crusade was released? Oh that's right, I haven't.

Now granted, they're bringing back Naxxramas in the expansion, but how much of that endgame raid content is never going to be seen again? I've made one foray into UBRS and a few into BRD. I've never set foot inside LBRS, I'm probably never going to see MC, Onyxia's Lair, Ahn'Qiraj 20 or 40, Zul'Gurub... the list isn't endless, but if you consider the amount of time legacy raiders spent in those instances, that is a massive amount of content that's just sitting there not being used. Granted, some of it was pretty terrible - I've heard all kinds of horror stories about Molten Core ("Will you loot the freaking core hounds already?!"), not to mention the infamous Onyxia's Lair attunement quest, as well as C'Thun's eye beam of instant gruesome death.

I would still, however, have loved to see that content - and I bet lots of pre-BC raiders would love to see it brought back and updated so that the rewards for actually doing them aren't completely worthless. Would it be too difficult to retune the encounters for 25 or even 10 players? Heck, MC has been cleared with by three! Of course, that kind of rehashing old content is unlikely, as Blizzard has stated that they aren't interested in it. And I can understand that - it wouldn't be fun to have all the instances in Wrath be like, "Sethekk Halls... but TEN LEVELS HIGHER!" Seriously kids. Say no to Sethekk Halls. And drugs. And deranged, carnivorous, homicidal birdmen who want to KILL AND EAT YOU. Seriously. Common sense here.

Of course, doing the same thing with an entire class would be... very surprising. I don't think that there is a real danger of it happening.

No - Blizzard won't make the Archdruid just an overpowered version of a druid. That would be insane. What I think is a danger is veiled homogeneity. Take my earlier speculation about what the Archdruid's abilities will be. If they took all these different ideas and applied them to the druid formula... what would you get? Perhaps you'd get the Nightmare, Dream and, I dunno, Delusion, talent trees. The Nightmare talent tree - you are able to empower your animal forms using the Emerald Dream; the Dream tree - you can enter a Dream State, in which your healing abilities are greatly amplified; the Delusion tree - the very essence of the Emerald Dream flows through you, allowing you to bring its wrath down upon your enemies.

So you've got a slightly different form of the Feral, Restoration and Balance trees, perhaps with different talents and models for forms, but with essentially the same base class. And there is even room for overlap. For example, I just said "Dream State" - can anyone say shadowform? Can anyone say enraged shadow priests and exploding WoW forums? Then again, this overlap problem is also true of the Death Knight.

How do they get around this? By designing an entirely new class mechanic, as they have done with the death knight's rune system.

I could go on speculating indefinitely, but this post is becoming a tad lengthy, and so I believe I'll wrap it up here and save some of my speculation points until more information on this Archdruid class comes to the fore.

Signing off! Continue reading 'A New Reason to Gank Fandral Staghelm'

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The Penguins of Eternal Damnation are out to get me.

So here's another blog on the internet, that vast series of intartubez clogged to the brim with hatemongering idiots like a drainpipe overflowing with rotten sewage. Really, the number of people we have on the internet that don't appear to have more than two or three brain cells to rub together is simply astounding. Maybe I'll get onto some reasons for that in a later post, but for now let me just say that I will try to put out material of a quality that does not drive you to gouging your eyes out with a rusty spork. You're welcome.

Now, what will this blog be about? Probably whatever happens to occupy my mind when I update it. The majority of it will be about World of Warcraft, since that's my biggest current time sink and, after one and a half years of playing it, I feel I know enough about the game to perhaps be able to enlighten a person or two. Indeed, this will also be a forum in which I can ask questions of the readers, and learn new things about the game (in lieu of going to the WoW general forums which, as we all know, are a cesspit of festering intellectual decay).

I've got a few things lined up for this blog. I have my first few posts in mind, and I'm going to be doing my banner for the top of the site so that it doesn't look completely blank. I'm going to look at setting up some audio content in the form of a possible podcast, if I can get the hardware, software, and whatever other wares I might need to start up, because A) My rants would be far more effective if delivered in a form where listeners could hear the emotions (mostly annoyance) behind them, B) Because the warcraft radio sites have spawned inspiration in me (go check out wcradio.com if you haven't already, and listen to their variety of shows, every single one of which is worth listening to - SHAMELESS PLUG SHAMELESS PLUG) and C) Because I just love the sound of my own voice, and I wouldn't want to deny my audience the chance to love it either.

To round off this introductory post, I shall introduce my Azerothian avatars.
Ukwende, level 70 Tauren druid
Jinvasha, level 30 Troll mage
And a variety of alts who I may or may not decide to level at any given time.
I'm currently part of the guild on Aman-Thul US. Come look us up if you feel like it, for we are a wonderful, wonderful guild. As you may or may not know, Blizzard recently opened up the realm Caelestrasz, and people on Aman-Thul got the chance to transfer over there, free. A great deal of Soulbound Horde's members decided to jump ship, which crippled the endgame for a few months. Last weekend, however, we got back into Karazhan and, despite the fact that over half of the raid (including me) had never even been in there before, we cleared all the way up to the Chess event before it bugged out on us and we decide to call it. Yay us!

That's it for now, and I'll be looking to push out some more posts in the near future. (Note that, although Ukwende is my main, people have a lot of trouble actually pronouncing that - so I'll be signing the posts as Jinvasha, because it's easier)

Continue reading 'The Penguins of Eternal Damnation are out to get me.'