Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Posts tagged ‘expansions’

Millya of Pandaria

We’ve been in Pandaria for three weeks now! Time sure flies when you have 50 dailies to do every night, doesn’t it? Sorry, I’m being a bit tongue in cheek, I’d better begin at the beginning.

I love Pandaria. I really do. In fact, I probably owe a big ole public apology to Rades because I made such a stink about pandas and now I am eating crow. (Although actually, it’s crow/birds of prey that are eating me – have you ever gone AFK anywhere in Valley of the Four Winds?) I think that so many things are right with Pandaria. Perhaps I wasn’t captivated exactly from the first moment:

Because this happened.

But after I gave up on the idea of leveling Millya right away, I really got lost in the landscape. You see, two of my guildies, Fsob and Supplicium, were aiming to be server first Mage and Warlock, respectively (as well as server first level 90s, period). There is a trinket for alchemists with a 4000 int proc or something similar that Fsob could only get by turning in three Golden Lotus. So I’d promised to help him get them using my herbalist druid. I ended up logging her in and just jumping off the airship into Pandaria and herbing and mining my way all through the Jade Forest. I was on Mumble with other guildies and friends who were leveling so it was far from lonely. I admit that I started to lose steam long before I’d actually found any Lotus for Fsob but I wanted to help however I could so I pressed on. He did pay for me for the lotus too, so it’s not entirely altruistic. It took about four hours to get my herbalism up to the right spot and find the lotus. I was looking mistakenly in the wrong place, assuming lotus would be more plentiful in the later zones. It was Walks who pointed out that he’d seen them mostly in the starting zone, which makes total sense. Because GL are a rare spawn on a random herb node, they would be most plentiful in a place where the herb turnover was high. In Jade Forest, lots of people were picking herbs but very few had the skill to pick the lotus itself. When I doubled back and started combing the Jade Forest for them, I found Fsob’s three within about an hour. Success!

Fsob and Supplicium achieved their server first goals as well, so congratulations to them! I think they had a fair lead on everyone so the lotus was probably extraneous but as Fsob put it, “I like to be sure about things,” which is a good trait to have. Every little bit helps! So that was my first night in Pandaria, and I actually love that my first experience was mostly as an explorer and gatherer. Running through the forest, jumping off cliffs and dodging angry orcs and shadowmelding and using travel form to escape gave me a real sense of immersing myself in the new continent. That sense of danger and wonder only deepened as I ventured into Valley of the Four Winds. I kept exclaiming aloud – giant carrots! Giant turnips! A MOB OF ANGRY BUNNIES COMING STRAIGHT FOR ME RUN AWAYYY!

Pandaria was perfectly and cleverly designed to be seen from the ground. The scope feels epic and vast, there are so many hidden things and little nooks and crannies, corners and waterfalls. It is luscious and beautiful. Once you hit 90 and can take to the air, it’s just as perfect because it’s not too big. You can easily fly most places in Pandaria in a few minutes without it feeling onerous. It even still maintains that sense of danger because of aforementioned birds and other hostiles. I recently went AFK in Vale of Eternal Blossoms and returned to my screen to find myself dead. I have no idea what happened, but it’s definitely an environment that will punish you for inattention.

The Good

Pandaria is beautiful, and there really is so much to do. I’ve spent hours just relaxing and fishing, seeing the scenery, questing through it with Voss, tending to my farm and yes, doing dailies. I’ve also really enjoyed most of the instances so far. A few of them feel a little bland – whichever one has you dropping buckets of goo on advancing bugs, and the one where you fight a boss that blows you backwards with wind – these are encounter designs that probably sounded better on paper than they are in reality – but overall I enjoy them. My favourite is probably Shado-Pan Monastery, much to the chagrin of all healers everywhere because I understand it’s toughest for them. I like the fights and the trash and the length of it.

What I’ve seen so far of the raids has been excellent as well. The first three bosses of Mogu’shan Vaults are all interesting with enough “different” stuff to keep your attention and no mechanics that are really annoying. I have a secret love of fights where I get to go to another “world” as it were, so Gara’jal might be my favourite so far. We’re going back in tonight, so we’ll see!

Farming deserves its own paragraph, I think. I can’t express how much I love my farm. Not just because planting and harvesting useful things is fun and completely self-directed, but because it’s a private space that is entirely mine. I’m not usually one to make a big fuss about player housing (although I’ve missed having my own “place” since my Ultima Online days). Honestly, I often get lost in my own world and forget about the people around me but occasionally you are jarred back to reality that other people can see you or are watching you. Someone who has you targeted in a public place, random whispers, or my guild mates making fun of how I fly – we’re very much in a crowd. Sometimes I do things that are embarrassing. It varies from character to character – because of where I’d put my heroism button, inevitably on my shaman alt I hit heroism as I’m standing at the mailbox. I can only imagine how this looks to other people. Random /CROWD CHEERS and then a giant draenei standing and checking her mail. On my shadow priest banker I keep hitting dispersion as I go into the auction house, and it makes such an obnoxious sound. Hey guys, giant purple cloud come to do some auctioning, don’t mind me! So anyway, my point is, your farm is a place where you can do really whatever you want. If I want to just stand there among my veggies for a few minutes chatting with guildies, I can do that, and there’s nobody else around, period. That tiny solace and reprieve from a dangerous world is much welcome and I think it’s a big part of why I personally love the farming. I’m sure the fact that my virtual veggies are much more successful than my real life ones ever were doesn’t hurt, either!

The other thing I’ve enjoyed so far, and I think everyone should do at some point, is making a Pandaren character to play through the starting experience. It’s head and shoulders above the starting experience for either Worgen or Goblin. It also gives some insight into the inherent conflict between the Horde and the Alliance and why we have such a hard time seeing eye to eye. If you haven’t had time to make a Pandaren yet and you want a break from your “regular” stuff, I highly recommend it. I won’t say more than that, although I’d love to talk about it with you once you’ve done it. I think it is a better setup for Mists as an expansion than the entry quests as a level 85 character, but I’d be interested to know what other people think.

Other things I love include the questing, the grummles, yak washing, air balloons, and fishing. At the start before I could actually fly, I got overexcited and jumped down into the reservoir between Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds to fish the Jade Lungfish pools, not realizing there was actually no way for me to get out of the reservoir again. I was doomed to swim in the reservoir forever like a Sim and die of exhaustion. (Well, I’m a mage so I just ported myself out, but it was still pretty funny).

Also the lore in Pandaria is amazing. I would probably pay Blizzard too much money to have similar “gather the story” quests for Burning Crusade or even Wrath. Run around finding scrolls that each contain a part of a story and then be treated to a little re-enactment narrated at the end? Yes please. I want to hear the story of the flight from Argus or other things from Draenor. In a way, it’s a bit like the Muradin story you uncover as part of a questline in Northrend, only there are more stories and it’s an actual faction. The little flying disc reward at the end is just icing on the cake for lore nerds.

Pet Battles are probably something that deserve their own post – the kind of thing I could easily waste days of time doing. I was surprised by the depth of something that was “just” a mini-game (I never played Pokemon, so I have no other frame of reference). I think it’s a fun addition to the game and jokingly teased my guildies who weren’t level 90 yet but getting pet battle achievements. “Hey, I thought you were leveling! BUSTED.”

The Bad

This is where the nitpicky stuff goes. I’d say for me it’s probably an 80/20 split. 80% I love Pandaria. If you’d asked me before I hit level 90 I would’ve had only good things to say. After the fact, I do have some complaints that have already been detailed by other folks. Here’s my big one: putting Valor Point gear behind reputation vendors. I hate this idea, and I don’t use that word lightly.

I can appreciate that they removed reputation tabards because they didn’t want “double dipping” and reputation tabards didn’t necessarily make much sense in the context of a game world. “Oh, you’re killing me AND you like the Tillers? Fair enough.” So that’s fine. It essentially combined two activities into one so that you could just run dungeons and never interact with a faction you wished to impress. And historically, factions have had desirable items since the Burning Crusade. You could grind reputation with the Cenarion Expedition to get their mount, but they also had some epics and rare items to purchase at various levels, and this was also true in Wrath and then Cataclysm. This model is fine. But having to grind out all of these different reps just to spend VP points to get gear? I don’t like it. It seems like a major throwback to a grindier, more time intensive time.

This complaint feeds into the next, one that I know is shared by many. Dailies. So many dailies. I started out, over zealously trying to do them all. I’d do Klaxxi, Golden Lotus, Tillers, Cloud Serpents, Anglesr, and the Lorewalkers. It got ridiculous. I started to have to dial it back, and so soon enough I was only doing Golden Lotus, Tillers, Cloud Serpents. Now I’m doing Golden Lotus and Tillers, and that’s it. I want to open up Shado-Pan, I needed Golden Lotus for the tailoring epic recipes. Keep in mind, too, that I am someone who likes dailies. I always have. I have diligently done dailies in many quest hubs since I started playing this game, and even for me it’s too much.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that the dailies exist. I look forward to diving into Anglers rep (har) and finishing my Cloud Serpent stuff. But that’s the crux of things, there are so many “mandatory” (ie I need the gear behind them) reputations that it hasn’t left me the time to spend on the fun reps I want to work on. Had the VP gear just been on normal vendors like before, with the slow rate of VP acquisition the gear would have still been “gated” plenty. It feels a little bit like they just wanted to force people into or extend the content that was there, and that bugs me because there’s plenty of content and I would like to do it on my own time. I have yet to do more than one scenario. Challenge modes? They sound like a blast, but who has time? I’m in favour of gating SOME things. Like the way raids have been released – I like that. It’s better to slow it down at the beginning than drag it wayyy out at the end (Dragon Soul, I’m looking at you). But that’s the most frustrating thing about all these dailies. Was it really necessary? I’m inclined to think “no,” although of course you may disagree.

Of course, you can always argue about what is or isn’t necessary for individual people and their gaming wishes and expectations. So for some people 300 stat food is absolutely mandatory for their progression. For the average player, it’s probably not the best use of your time. Some people must gain access to the VP gear from various reps as soon as possible, others might say “Forget this.” I’d say we’re somewhat middle of the pack. Personally, a number of us pooled resources to make sure we got Darkmoon Faire cards when the Faire arrived, but we didn’t expect every single person in the guild to do so. I recognize that it basically comes down to this: you suffer what you choose to suffer, but when you want to maximize your performance, sometimes a little less sufferance might be nice.

For example, what’s up with cooking? I love cooking. I like to put on my chef’s hat and cook up some grub. Yesterday I was talking to Voss about this and I exclaimed suddenly, “I’ve made food in REAL LIFE that took less work than this!” I’m not even kidding. With the 300 stat food requiring x amount of vegetables, one fish, one meat, and one Ironpaw token, it’s a little ludicrous. I could actually cook an honest to goodness stir fry in the time it takes to do a daily to get a token and vegetables and everything, and that’s assuming I am just buying the vegetables instead of growing them on my farm. Granted, in real life I don’t have to go kill a chicken to make my stir fry, but the point still stands. I feel like the mats involved in cooking this should make a stack of food, not just five. It pains me to have cooking, one of my favourite WoW pastimes, become arduous. I haven’t become Master of the Ways yet (too busy selling vegetables) which also gives me a pang. Cooking/baking is somewhat integral to Millya’s character, but I’m going to metagame it for the time being and put her wishes on hold.

The Ugly

My biggest complaint about Pandaria is really the time sink stuff. Right now, trying to do Golden Lotus or Tiller dailies is an exercise in patience. People will steal your vegetables out from under a mob that you are fighting, they will try to tag a mob you are almost standing on top of, and just generally all civility and decorum has gone out the window. Quest givers are covered by stupid flying mobs and it brings out the worst in folks that I don’t much care for. The same has been true of some of the pugs I have seen since hitting 90 – just some really incredibly rude people. Two of my guildies have been kicked out of pugs for shenanigans that didn’t even make sense – a tank aggros three of those Shado-Pan packs and when the group wipes, they kick the healer for being a “scrub”? Um, right. We were in a pug where the healer would’ve surely tried to kick our bear tank because he “wasn’t geared for this/was wearing pvp gear.” His ilevel was fine, his tanking was fine, and as far as I could tell the healer didn’t have trouble healing him at all (despite being all in PvP gear himself, something I hear is hardly a cardinal sin these days). So some people are rude and impatient. Also, I don’t know why they re-introduced the “extra benefit for one daily PER DAY” rule. It was great that you could do your weekly heroics on your own time, now we are back to a daily obligation if you want to cap your VP each week most efficiently each week.

Pandaria is beautiful and overall I love it. Honestly, even the bad is not SO bad because I know it has an ending. We’ll reach a point where none of the gear from those vendors matters. We’ll either have gotten what we need from finishing the reps or from raids or similar. Right now, I’ve just had to make some hard decisions about pursuing fun things or pursuing chores. Millya has more errands to run than I do.

“Okay, I have to reseed the farm, cook some fish cakes for the Cloud Serpents, fish up some Golden Minnows, kill some Mogu in the Vale, free some Pandaren spirits, stomp on some fires, kill some pixies, kill some spiders, kill a big spider, fish up some fish for supper…”

It’s a good thing we are superheroes, because all of these chores won’t do themselves! That’s what I need – the next guild perk should be an assistant hired to take care of all these things! He/she can pick up my dry cleaning, too.

Cinematic Retrospective: A Look At Warcraft Trailers

As most people have probably heard, the Mists trailer is out this morning! I watched it eagerly and I really enjoyed it. I saw some comments going around where people were comparing their “favourite” trailers or rating and numbering them. It seemed like a good opportunity to go back in time a little bit and reflect on the trailers for the previous expansions. It’s interesting to see the evolution in both aim and tone.

Vanilla

For me what really stands out about the classic “World of Warcraft” trailer is that it’s quite ambitious for the time. Keep in mind, I didn’t play the original Warcraft RTS games nor did I watch this trailer when it was current. Based on the way it’s put together, it feels to me as if they really wanted to highlight and showcase the various races that would feature in the game that people knew and loved from the originals. So it’s very, “Look, it’s a dwarf! Look, it’s a night elf! Look now she’s a panther OMG you guys!” That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either!

Something interesting to note for later (if you’re watching the cinematics along with me) is the characterization of the orc versus later orcs. The orc in this cinematic is very much “ROAR” and look there is fire and I am big and scary. To my ears he even sounds more bestial/brutish; if watching this trailer were my only experience with any Warcraft stuff I might think he was a monster rather than a playable, sentient race. This cinematic sets out to get people excited about what they will see in the online version of Warcraft, and is obviously aimed mostly at fans of the Warcraft universe.

The Burning Crusade

This is a trailer I watched closer to when it was actually released. I didn’t have any idea of the backstory of Illidan (Tyrande, Malfurion etc) at the time so I had no idea who the scary guy with the voice was. Watching it now with different eyes, I can appreciate the impact of the Illidan voiceover. You know it had a lasting effect, because how many times did you hear someone make a joke or quote, “I/You/Your Dog was not prepared”?

The blood elves and the draenei are characterized; they did a particularly good job with the female blood elf, in my opinion. Especially the first time you watch this trailer, you’re surprised by her sudden shift in attitude from seemingly innocent to sinister. There is a need in her that’s frightening, which is exactly the story of the Sin’dorei in the Burning Crusade.

Up until this point with the cinematics, Blizzard has been outdoing themselves each time. I’m not talking about the actual graphics of the cinematics (although they have obviously improved, along with technology) but also the scope and ambition. This one shows the Dark Portal with its swirling door – challenging players, even mocking them. “You are not prepared” became a catchphrase because it was so memorable and it hits right at the heart of gamers. You think I’m not prepared? I’m going to show you how prepared I am!

Wrath of the Lich King

This trailer. (Did you watch it again? You really should.) This trailer gave me chills. It’s so cleverly done. The juxtaposition of Terenas Menethil instructing his son on the responsibility of royalty paired with the dark visuals and the true horror and irony of what his son went on to become are nothing less than masterful. I don’t know if it’s because Blizzard had such a legendary figure from the previous games to build upon, but in terms of cohesiveness and impact this trailer blows all of the others out of the water. I can’t even find something to nitpick about with it. It has awe-inspiring visuals, emotional heft, and it also tells a story. Even the music used for it is phenomenal and it lends much to the story itself as the trailer unfolds. It is a tragic lament, an incredibly sad song – in keeping with what is also a tragic story.

The cinematic leaves you wanting to defeat the horrors that are hinted at here. I look at the legions of undead and I still get twitchy even to this day. I really want to kill the Lich King and everything he stands for. And this is knowing that I’ve already done so! This trailer is successful even when it’s an anachronism. Basically, I love it, and I loved Wrath, so I am clearly biased.

Cataclysm

The trailer for Cataclysm is an interesting case. I would argue (and you’re welcome to disagree) that it is much less successful than any previous trailer, even the Vanilla trailer. Oh sure, it has impressive visuals. You get the lava and the forge and the big dragon. But for me therein lies the problem that we’ve been talking about for all of Cataclysm: the story told in this trailer really boils down to “I am a big dragon destroying your Azeroth rawr.” It’s sad because the character of Neltharion has a lot of meat to it, none of which featured in Cataclysm at all. I found myself struggling to remember whether I even heard his voice when you’re fighting him, or if I only read what he said on the screen? The fact that I can’t remember seems eloquent enough to me.

That’s where this trailer falls down. It has some emotional impact, yes, but all of the weight of the trailer rests upon the locations Deathwing is destroying. It relies on you caring about seeing them destroyed. In that sense, it works. Seeing Thousand Needles awash in a great tidal wave is definitely upsetting. But other parts of the trailer just expose the suspension of disbelief necessary for Deathwing to work as a villain, and why he simply wasn’t that effective in Cataclysm. He was STANDING on Stormwind and he didn’t just raze it to the ground. Yes, it’s distressing to see a dragon with his claws planted at the front gate of Stormwind. But you know that Stormwind wasn’t actually destroyed, and then you have to wonder, why not? It took us an entire expansion to take him down, but for the majority of that he was just flying around randomly breathing fire on some things. Someone on Twitter pointed out (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who to attribute this to) that Deathing is basically a griefer. He waits until you are AFK and then ganks you by setting a zone on fire. I know some people joked that during Wrath we saw Arthas a little too much, but we saw him just enough as far as I’m concerned. I’ll never forget running into him in the “dream world” near Utgarde and how he squashed me like a bug. He was a villain who made things personal.

Other people have delved into this more deeply than I want to get into here, but essentially: Deathwing is just a big dragon (yawn) and that’s basically this trailer to me.

Mists of Pandaria

Now we get to the exciting new shiny that everyone wants to talk about! First of all, I want to talk about the orcĀ  here. (Remember how I mentioned orcs earlier?) Notice what a huge difference there is with this orc versus the first orc featured in the classic WoW trailer! This orc is canny. He doesn’t just come lumbering up to the human, he’s watching him for a moment, gauging his opponent, thinking. Oh, there’s no doubt they are going to end up fighting (hello, orcs and humans) but he doesn’t just charge in blindly. When he accidentally reveals his position with a sound, then he’s lost the advantage and he seizes what he has left to him to try and catch the human off-guard.

I really like the way they chose to portray both the orc and the human here. The human is also a grizzled veteran and someone used to command. He’s not going to back down from a fight with the orc, and it’s a great fight scene. As the trailer goes on, the appearance of Chen Stormstout just makes it better. Of course it has all the kung fu movie type tropes (effortlessly dodging attacks and putting both opponents down repeatedly, etc. Although the human does take a chunk out of his hat!) This is basically just a good, wholesome fight scene and it’s enjoyable to watch. There are moments of subtle humour, too – Chen replaces the pedestal the orc broke and then straightens it (you can almost hear him thinking “HMPH,”) and when the human hands the orc the spear their open-mouthed gaping is priceless.

But what about the story, since I was so down on the Cataclysm trailer and Deathwing for lacking a story? Well, it’s an interesting trailer because unlike the previous three expansions (and as Blizzard themselves have made this clear) it doesn’t have a “big bad.” You don’t see any villains in this cinematic at all, unless the humans and orcs are the villains, and we just might be in this context. But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking a story. Chen’s voice over speaks volumes about that with the more philosophical questions. “Why do we fight?” etc. The moment when the mists dissipate to reveal the rest of Pandaria gave me chills just like the Wrath trailer. Again, it’s a completely different approach and that’s what I like about it. It takes several themes – the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance, the nature of the new race we are meeting – and interweaves them.

We know that Mists doesn’t have one overarching villain the way previous expansions did. That doesn’t mean it lacks conflict. The trailer left me with a strong wish to explore this land and get to know its mysterious inhabitants. That is the best place you could hope for a trailer to leave you – excited, anticipatory, and impressed. If this world is even half as beautiful as the trailer would suggest, I am going to be ridiculously happy wandering around it at the end of September.

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