Thursday, December 30, 2010

WoW Holiday Songs

What would you do for a Moonkin Hatchling pet?  Would you be willing to sing?

When I was in college, the snack bar at my dorm complex offered free milkshakes (more like Blizzards) to anyone who would come in and sing the entire fight song during Homecoming Week.  I learned the song quickly as a budget-conscious freshman.  (I liked combinations such as raspberry-peach with shortbread cookies or blackberry Oreo . . . don't knock it until you've tried it . . .) By the time I was a junior and a resident assistant, I sang the song every day of Homecoming Week, just to say I had done it.

So with that background, is it any wonder I would be willing to sing for a Moonkin Hatchling pet?

Remember the Dreamstate Doomkin/The Moonkin Repository contest I mentioned?  I entered not once, but five times.  (I knew some were better than others, but hey, tastes vary.)

And I won!!  I won both first and second places!  (Second place prize was the Moonkin Hatchling.)

Cheezy lyrics incoming . . .

Chase the Tank

It Is Winter Veil Again
(This is the one, by the way, about which my daughter said, "Mom, it's so corny, it's funny.")

They told me later on that, to be honest, I was the only entrant.  (Good thing I entered five times:  it gave them something to judge.)  At first, the news really dampened my enjoyment of the situation.  I have a host of first-place ribbons from our county fair in categories where I was the only entrant.  (Peanut brittle, bobbin lace . . .)  But, in the end, I did get my Moonkin Hatchling, which was my goal, and "Chase the Tank" was prize-worthy, anyway.  (According to my husband, and he has a nose for these kinds of things.)

And after all, as I've mentioned before, the true satisfaction in these sorts of things is the process of creation.  (I had soooo much fun writing it all!  My kids laughed, my co-workers laughed, and I realized I have a very expressive face when I looked at my recordings . . . now I know where my eldest daughter gets it . . .) Thanks to Dreamstate Doomkin and The Moonkin Repository for setting up such an awesome contest!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Three More Points

The Dungeon Finder tool tells me I need a gear level of about 329 to queue for Heroics.  Yesterday when I started playing, I had a score of 321.  By the time I finished, I was up to 326.

I consider that pretty good progress.

After running two Halls of Origination randoms and seeing two "Need" rolls go in favor of the Shadow Priest in the group, I was pretty frustrated.  So I finally sat down, took a look at what I had, and decided which pieces specifically needed to be upgraded to acheive the requisite score minimum.  Then I pulled out Wowhead and listed some acheivable upgrades and where they could be found.  (Justice Point upgrades are not achievable yet.  I need to get IN to Heroics so I can start accruing points at a decent rate.)

One achievable upgrade I decided on was the helm which comes from the quest Brann Bronzebeard hands out in Halls of Origination.  But, to my chagrin, I discovered there was a long quest chain to do before he would hand out that quest.  /sigh.  So I picked up my Harrison Jones quest chain and just started grinding it out. (One of the things which annoys me is that at this point, I view any questing without being able to raise my guild rep to be wasted questing . . . and I'm capped . . . until tomorrow . . .)

The funny thing about that quest chain is that it ends up feeling more like a movie with some mini-games thrown in for fun.  But at last, I had completed the quest chain, seen the desert blossom like the rose, and met up again with Brann Bronzebeard, who told me to meet him in Halls of Origination.  (Hooray!)

In the process of doing the quest chain, I managed to get some legs from a quest reward (good thing, as I was still wearing my T10), and as I was running the Halls of Origination to complete Brann's quests (how did he get past all that trash without us there to help him?) I also picked up a shoulder upgrade.  And, of course, at the end of the dungeon run, I finally had my new helm.

My next goal is the gloves from Hyjal rep, as well as earning my head enchant.  Then I'll need to work on my Earthen Ring rep for the neck . . . unless somehow I make it into a Lost City run, which hasn't happened to date and the necklace actually drops . . . and a priest or someone else doesn't get it.

When all else fails, make a plan.

(To be honest, I have a plan once I start Heroics . . . I just didn't realize it was going to be so difficult to get there . . .)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Time to Look at the Positive

I confess that Pollyanna has been sleeping lately.  I look at the drafts I have for blog posts, and most of them are complaining about one thing or another.  Operating on the old idea that you weep alone, but the world will smile with you if you smile, I'm going to take a different tack on this post.

I'm excited that I will be able to buy the recipe today for some Intellect food made from Deepsea Sagefish.  It's kind of a pain that this particular fish does not school, but it means that when I come home on lunch hours or something and just want to do a little fishing, I will not have to pay too much attention and can stream "Murder She Wrote" reruns off Netflix while I'm fishing.  (Seriously, I like "Murder She Wrote".)  It's also great that my guild master gave me a tackle box for Christmas, so the variety of fish I catch while fishing in open water is not a problem, either--it all goes straight into the tackle box, with no need to sort it out.  Kind of handy.

I finally purchased some Justice Points gear.  I made a sort of tactical error in being point-capped before the expansion started (although I could hardly avoid it, to be honest), and I was unable to spend them to any useful purchase before dinging 85.  So now I have a spiffy new chest and a nice new belt (one of the items I did not find a replacement for on my way up), and I have plenty of room to acrue Justice Points in my daily dungeons.  In addition to that, I can now run a daily dungeon guilt-free because of the Justice Point acquisition, instead of feeling I have to solely quest in order to raise my Guild rep.  And since I will be running level 85 dungeons, there is a ghost of a chance that some of my other guildies will want to run with me, thus completely eliminating any guilt about Guild rep.

I have discovered the delight of reforging.  So much of the gear I have received which have been reasonable upgrades have been loaded with mastery or crit.  (Or both.)  I now have the habit, when I equip a new piece of gear with such stats, to immediately head to the Reforger to get some of those less useful stats changed to Spirit or Haste.

Although I was not gaining Guild rep from the random dungeons I was running while leveling, I was able to gain a better understanding of how the Resto Druid heals now, which is probably more valuable for me at the moment.  Unfortunately, it's less about HoTs and more about direct healing . . . but hey, the HoTs are not completely unused, either.  And it's ALL about using mana efficiently.  (Blizzard ought to be happy.)  Rule number one is keep a Lifebloom running.  It's most useful on the tank, of course, but for the purposes of Lifebloom as a mana battery, it really doesn't matter who is carrying it.  Rule number two:  if the Lifebloom carrier is taking damage, cast Nourish or Healing Touch, as they will heal damage and refresh Lifebloom.  (If he isn't taking damage, just cast another Lifebloom--cheaper.)  Rejuvs can be used, but not liberally spread around.  Wild Growth can be used, when everyone has damage.  Regrowth is for emergencies or when Clearcasting procs.  And I'm not exactly sure right now when Tree form is optimally used, except in dire situations when everyone is taking damage quickly and the Druid has an almost full mana pool.  (Regrowths cost so much that tossing out a lot of instant-cast Regrowths chews through the mana like crazy.  It's more practical to toss out a bunch of Lifeblooms, in my opinion.)  It took me a while to get used to seeing people with half-full health bars and feeling all right about it, but I have learned.

There is a contest for Druids to make up holiday-themed, WoW-themed songs and submit them to The Moonkin Repository.  I have three bright ideas already, some better than others.  I will probably submit my favorite one, when my husband stops critiquing it . . . or maybe I'll just ignore his critiques and submit it, anyway.  I love writing silly things, I enjoy performing, and I like competition in these areas, so the contest is right up my alley.  I will probably not win, but the joy is in the creation.  And my favorite idea has already made several WoW players laugh, so it's already achieved the largest desired result, anyway.  (Ok, so the comment from my eldest daughter was something to the effect of, "Mom, it's so corny, it's funny!")

And I'm now in the process of helping some Dwarves get ready for a wedding . . . at least that quest chain seems to be funny, unlike the absolute torture of Vash'jir, which I have completely abandoned at this point.  I thought composing the song for the wedding was a hoot, and I can't help wondering what the song would have looked like if I had not chosen the "romantic" options . . . (I can probably find it if I do a little research.)

I'll be honest:  Christmas is a difficult time for me to be positive.  (Pressure to do everything "right", so many potentials to let people down, etc.)  New expansions are difficult for me to be positive.  (Not being able to level as quickly as those who can take time off and have few family responsibilities makes my leveling path very lonely and makes me feel marginalized.)  Having both happen simultaneously was a recipe for disaster.  But focusing on the good things helps to minimize the bad and brightens my attitude toward the situation in general.

Now I think I can face those two Christmas parties today with a smile on my face . . . (But I don't think I'll be fishing at lunch time today; I need to practice "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" on the piano for tonight.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My husband was talking with one of our WoW-playing co-workers the other day, and she asked him what level he had reached.  She was surprised to hear he had only reached 82.

He embarked on a long discussion of the history of MMOs, concluding by saying he just wasn't interested in playing WoW anymore, except to play with his wife and daughters.  The main reason, he said, was that everything had been dumbed down so as to make it accessible to the largest variety of players, and there was no challenge anymore.

I protested, saying that some of the dungeons I'd been running had been challenging, mostly because I had had to relearn how to play my character, given that a lot of rules had changed.

"No," he said. "You've been able to make it through the instances all right.  What you've been doing is not relearning how to play your character, but learning how to play your character efficiently."

He stated there were no situations in which players had to strategize, thinking about how best to use their characters.  The suggestion that that was what raids were for did not fly. The encounters were too formulaic.  Once you learned a few basic principles, you were in.

"You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in and you shake it all about,
You do the hokey-pokey and you get the boss down."

And that, he said, was what it was all about.

I can see his point, in that there are things which are formulaic.  I'm sure there are only so many ideas developers can come up with before they simply run out and start recycling.  How many times have experienced raiders compared a mechanic in a new fight to a mechanic in a fight they did three years ago?  When I explain the 2nd boss strategy in Stonecore to players new to the instance, I simply say, "Stay out of the stuff on the ground," and everyone knows what I mean.  We've seen it before.

But I've also seen enough encounters in Cataclysm dungeons to know it is not all facerolling.  There are trash packs which will flatten a group if not managed properly.  (The stars in Vortex Pinnacle, for one . . .)  And there are boss fights which still require thought to succeed.  So I can't completely agree with him that everything is too formulaic and simple.

In addition, from what I hear, Heroics will provide a good challenge.  I'm finally getting the hang of current Druid healing, feeling more comfortable with my triage skills.  I still have a ways to go before I will be Heroic material, but I'm looking forward to it.

Postscript:  Tuesday night, my husband entered Stonecore for the first time, with me tagging along to heal him as tank and to explain everything I knew about making it through the instance.  (Which in Stonecore, is quite a bit . . .)  Everything went pretty well until the final boss, where I kept dying to adds.  After a few iterations of this and some brainstorming by the group (two of whom said they had lousy AOE and the third of whom said he didn't dare open up on the boss because he pulled aggro), we managed to get the boss down with two dps alive and my husband's tank barely hanging on to a tiny sliver of life.  As he rezzed me, he told me he was revising his opinion of the Cataclysm dungeons.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Shame of the Game

Some time ago, when I discovered artistic screenshots in WoW, I sent a few to my family members.  I was excited to be using the same principles for artistic photography to record something I enjoyed so much, and I was becoming interested in machinima, as well.

The response was not what I expected.  My father sent out an e-mail to the family, stating that our family did not need such time-wasting activities.

I suppose I should not have been surprised.  I had been taught growing up that role-playing games were evil, more or less, or at least, an inappropriate activity.  When I had asked why, it was answered that some people get too involved in them and go overboard.  (This is true, but it is also true that a good percentage of players do NOT get too involved and go overboard.)

I did not argue with my father.  But to avoid causing my parents any more stress and concern about me, I stopped talking about WoW to anyone in my extended family.

That was several years ago.  I'm pretty sure that one day or another, it will be discovered (probably through my children) that I still play, and I will have to face my parents and justify my activities.  (Fortunately, I have more arguments now . . . everything from learning about economics and social dynamics to practicing leadership skills to developing a "can-do" attitude . . . Not to mention the benefits of writing this blog (or my silly poetry!) or the emotional satisfaction of being recognized for accomplishments . . .)

I confess usually feel awkward about mentioning to other people, as well, that I play, and when I do, it's either apologetic or defiant.  I think part of that is because I'm not a young college student and so presumably should not be taking the time.  Another part may be because of the reaction of my parents.  And yet another part is because I know most people would not understand what on earth I was talking about or think I was being irresponsible.

But you never know . . . I found out unexpectedly that one of the regular customers of my company--a man who is driven to succeed in the IT test world--has played a warlock.  One of the few other WoW players in my company told me that in a recent exercise, she passed by one of the customers during downtime, and he was leveling his Blood Elf on his laptop.  And one of my more mature acquaintances in this business, who comes from a rather exciting government background, has a group of friends with whom he gets together on a regular basis to play Everquest.

Maybe someone should write a book someday on the secret gaming lives of ordinary and exceptional people . . .

Which brings me to The Guild . . . In August, they posted a Bollywood-style music video which addresses some of these feelings.  I only discovered it today, but it has made me laugh so much.  They've pulled in just about every single Bollywood cliche out there, but more than that, I can identify with a good deal of the sentiment.  I guess it makes me feel less alone.  Game On!

I think I'll go home at lunchtime and run my dailies . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

Adventures in Archaeology

/cue Indiana Jones music

I've spent some time leveling up my professions as I've been leveling my character, and I've made some real progress.  My Herbalism is maxed (yay for herbing xp), my Alchemy is on its way, and my other professions are at least showing signs of progress.

So yesterday, when my 12-yr-old daughter asked me, "Mom, why haven't you trained in Archaeology?  And how does it work, anyway", I blinked.  I hadn't trained in Archaeology because it hadn't occurred to me to do so.  (How I thought we'd learn Archaeology without training is beyond me . . .)  And I had no idea how it worked.  Fortunately, my daughter knew where the trainer was, and a quick trip to Wowhead was enough to find a brief description of the Archaeology process (Thank you, Kirska, for listing the steps . . .)

The first step in Archaeology, aside from looking up how to spell it correctly, is to open your map at the continent level.  You will see little shovels where your dig sites are located.  There will only be four on each continent, and after you excavate one, another will spawn.  A good thing to know is that these are YOUR dig sites.  Nobody can steal your dig site and make off with your treasure.

When you open the map of a zone where a dig site is located, you will see the general digging area shaded.

Once you arrive at the dig site, you use the Survey ability learned when Archaeology was trained, which looks like a shovel on the icon.  (Note to Druids:  you cannot do this in Flight Form, but you can do it in Travel Form.)  If you are not at the location where your Archaeology fragments are to be found, you will see, not a fragment, but a surveyer's telescope and a little light on a stick.

The telescope points in the general direction the fragment is located, and the light on a stick tells by its color your distance from the fragment.  (This is sort of like that "hot and cold" game you probably played as a child, in which if you got closer to the hidden object, the other people in the room would say, "You're getting warmer," and if you were moving away from it, you were getting colder.)  If the color is red, you are pretty far away from the object.  If it is yellow, you're getting closer, and if it is green, you're generally only a few steps away.

Once you get your bearings, move in the direction indicated by your instruments and try the Survey ability again.  This can go on for a few times, depending on how far you are and how well you can guess what your instruments are really trying to tell you.

Finally, you reach the location of your fragment and unearth it.  Yay!

The fragments end up as "currency", but they are not located on the Currency page.  If you go to the Professions page and click on Archaeology, you will see a display of the different types of fragments you have collected.  Clicking on the icon for a particular type will tell you how many of that type you have and how many more you need to make a discovery.  (So far, my discoveries are common and sell for about 5 silver.)

You can excavate fragments three times at a particular dig site before it disappears.

When I told my daughter I was going to write about this, she said, "Be sure to mention that you can get xp for it."  When rested, the xp I am receiving as an Apprentice, per find, is about 23k.  Not rested is, of course, about half that.  As a matter of fact, when I was collecting screenshots this morning, this happened:

Grats, me!  Have fun with Archaeology!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cataclysm Progress and the Family

Anachan is now 82.  Considering that a decent percentage of the raiders in my guild are now 85 and starting to think about Heroic instances, that isn't terribly impressive.  BUT, when you take into account that I have a full-time job, five kids, and Christmas, along with the fact that I've been catching the whatever-it-is-which-is-going-around-the-office and so have felt completely flattened the last two nights, that isn't too terribly bad, either.

On the bright side, I'll be awake this weekend, when the rest of them have crashed in exhaustion.

I always said I would start leveling in Hyjal, because, well, I'm a Druid, and that is definitely the Druidic path to take.  But I haven't managed to progress very far there because I wanted to quest that area with my husband's pally.  (He chose to level the pally first.  I was actually kind of surprised, thinking he'd rather level his mage. He likes all his characters; I think, however, that he does not have a deep identity with any one of them, unlike me with my Druid.)  Unfortunately, my husband has been out of town this entire week, and while his hotel Internet connection was there, it was cripplingly laggy.  (He told me several times that if he had been questing alone, he would have probably been dead in several situations.)  So after the first night of struggling through a few quests, he postponed our adventures until he could get back home, and I moved on to Vash'jir and instances.

It didn't help things that the second night, I was starting to feel ill.  (That could also be why I allowed my temper to get so worked up about that group which didn't communicate . . .)  By last night (yes, it's only been three nights), I was really feeling awful, and to make matters worse, Vash'jir was producing crippling lag for me.  Just Vash'jir.  No lag in Stormwind.  No lag in Hyjal . . . but . . . my husband wasn't on-line . . .

What's a girl to do while waiting in 15-minute queues for instances in a zone where she is postponing questing and while feeling like she's going to fall over?  Raise professions, of course.  I spent the evening's queue time flying around, herbing and fishing.  (When I wasn't staring blankly at the computer in a daze, willing my medicine to start working on my headache.)  Unfortunately, my Alchemy has raised to the point where Hyjal herbs do not help advance my skill, but as Cinderbloom makes a nice little Spirit elixir and was still giving me Experience and Herbalism points (until a few points ago), I felt the time was not wasted.  I've cooked up some lovely Haste food, along with the Spirit food I made from the Blood Shrimp I picked up in Vash'jir.

I also ran through the Maelstrom event and discovered the entrance to Stonecore, so the next time I queue, I'll have another option which might actually have an upgrade or two.  (OK, I have picked up a potentially good trinket and some boots, so I can't say the current instances are totally useless.  But they weren't dramatic upgrades . . .)

My husband should be home this evening, so with any luck, if he gets home at a reasonable hour, we'll be able to go do some Hyjal questing.  And, since I've pretty much raised my Herbalism as far as I can do in that zone, he can have all the herbs to himself.

While my husband and I had upgraded our accounts before the Cataclysm release night, we had not upgraded my daughter's account.  Part of me wondered why we would:  there's only one 80 on the entire account, and it didn't seem worth it to upgrade the account solely for the purpose of allowing her to create worgens and goblins.  But she and her sisters have been begging, and since they have been spending quite a bit of time since 4.0 in little adventures, my husband and I have finally decided to go ahead and upgrade that account.

There's a catch, though:  they have to clean their room first.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Communication in Randoms

Last night, I queued for a random Cataclysm dungeon.  As a matter of fact, I queued for two.  The first one was an "in progress" Throne of the Tides.  It was my first time in the instance, and I was delighted, but it was pretty tough.  The DK tank was a bit squishy, and I actually ended up with mana problems on one of the bosses (Innervate and potion!).  I felt a little wrung out by the end, when the achievement flashed across my screen.  I left group and requeued.  (15 minute wait as a healer.)

After that ToT experience, I was rather relieved to see my next random turn out to be Blackrock Caverns.  I had successfully run Blackrock Caverns three times the previous night, with no real issues, so I looked forward to relaxing a bit more.  However, this was not to be.

All four of the other people in my group were melee in the same guild.  The fact that they were in the same guild did not disturb me.  The fact that they were all melee--a pally tank, two DKs and one Enhancement Shammy--was a little disconcerting.  Having all melee means that every time the boss does a close-range AOE attack, everyone takes damage.  It is much easier to heal a group with mixed melee and range players, where, as a general rule, not everyone will be taking the same kind of damage at the same time.

So we started on our way.  Trash went down fine, and the tank seemed reasonably simple to keep up.  (No desperate repetitions of Regrowths, as I had to employ while healing that squishy DK tank . . .)  Surprisingly, but not impossibly, the tank decided to pull the first boss right away into the hall, instead of trying to clear some of the room.  All was going well until the boss cast his chains.

I had read the strategy, and I knew those chains needed to be dps'd down quickly, so everyone could run away from the immediate vicinity of the boss.  Even as a healer, I had done my part in previous runs, so I targeted the chains, hit Moonfire, and started throwing Wraths.  There was only one problem:  I was the only one doing anything to the chains.  As a healer, I could not dps them down quickly enough alone, and upon the boss' AOE cast, all but the pally tank lay flat on the ground.

Thankfully, I remembered how to run back to that area from my Vanilla WoW days (Thank you, UBRS), and was back in the instance quickly.  I asked the group, "Who else was dpsing the chains?" but there was silence.  I was a little annoyed, thinking it most likely they were talking in guild chat, but not bothering to type in party chat.

This time, the tank decided to do a little clearing first.  Accordingly, he ran to the left and picked up the group there.  This would probably have been a good plan, except that somehow, someone managed to pull more trash, including a caster across the room who decided I was the ideal target.  (I believe that was healing aggro, as I had just cast something on the tank at that moment.)  With the pally tanking the melee and me tanking the caster, there was a lot of healing to be done.  But the real problem began when the boss came back around the corner and saw the caster busily trying to kill me.  Yep--you guessed it.  Boss pull.  Wipe.

Still, I only heard silence from the rest of the group.  No suggestions.  No "oops".  No "Gee, I should have gripped that caster before the boss came around the corner."  I was really getting miffed.  Did these people think I was some sort of automaton?  It was pretty obvious to me that they had not researched the fight a lot.

/sigh.  Ran back again.  I think the Shammy ankhed,  because by the time I returned, the rest of the group was all alive.  With the trash pack from the side gone, the tank went ahead and pulled the boss back into the hallway.  Things were going just fine until--figure this--the chains.  Again, I dps'd the chains, and again, I could not take them down alone in time.  This time, we were all flattened.

As I ran back, I chewed them out in party chat.  (I'm a nice person, so my chewing out wasn't really terribly harsh.)  "You've GOT to dps the chains.  I'm the only ranged, and I'm the healer.  I can't do it by myself."  (I might have clarified, saying, "Even if I do not need to heal anyone, I just don't have enough dps power!  You should see me killing naga as Resto . . . the only reason they end up dying is because they can't kill me . . .")

This time, I was getting really mad.  Even if they did not feel chatty, at this moment we were presumably engaged in a common endeavor, and a little communication on strategy, mistakes, fixing mistakes, etc., would have been in order.

Suddenly, in shock, I saw something appear in party chat.  It was the tank.  He said, "Sorry."  Then he left group.  When the option came to requeue, I declined and left group as well.

It's a given that everyone expects communication in 25-man raids.  But with the ease at which we've been able to accomplish Wrath Heroics lately, people have become accustomed to simply saying, "Thanks for group," as the extent of communication in randoms.  But this is Cataclysm, and it is a whole new ball game, as the saying goes.  Groups are going to have to communicate, and four of the group communicating in guild chat while the healer hears nothing is insufficient.

I think, in future randoms, that I will greet the group at the beginning.  If I see they are all in the same guild, I will tell them up front to please communicate in party chat, as I cannot read their guild chat.  (Obvious, but I think some people need reminding.)  Perhaps if I make the first move, others will feel more free to communicate, and nobody will be left stewing in the dark.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The New Armory

At the suggestion of Saniel at Primal Precision, I took at look at the new WoW Armory.  I had known it was there, but had forgotten the potential implications for bloggers (i.e., broken links).  As luck would have it, I do not have any links to the old Armory, so there are no old posts I need to update, but I took another look at the new Armory, anyway.

The first thing which strikes me about the new Armory is that it, like the new forums, has a lot of orange.  /sigh.  I don't really like orange, but it's not my design, and I understand the implication of flame, etc., associated with it, so I'll live with the new scheme.  (As if I had any alternative . . .)

The next interesting thing is that my character is posed in some sort of battle stance.  Whether it is intended to be aggressive or defensive, I cannot say (initial impression is defensive, from my ancient lessons in martial arts), but it looks sort of funny to see a Restoration Druid brandishing Val'anyr and her Sundial of Eternal Dusk in front of her.

One new and interesting feature in the new Armory is the capability to have Simple or Advanced view.  The Advanced view shows details of the character's gear right there on the page, including name, ilevel, gems, and enchants.  There is also a consolidated list of the gems, enchants, and reforging activity below the character display, as well as an audit to check for empty glyph slots and other simple ways in which the character can be improved.  I think I will stick with Advanced view, as it tells me more of what I am trying to see, anyway.  (And, at level 81, no, I haven't replaced anything yet.  My Recent Activity shows that I picked up a new healing mace from Blackrock Caverns--on a Greed roll, I might add--but it doesn't strike me as being good enough to relegate Val'anyr to the bank.)

On a totally off-the-wall note, my Recent Activity also shows that I picked up Crepuscular Shield from Blackrock Caverns.  I knew Crepuscular rays are those rays which stream through the clouds and evoke images of God talking to prophets, but how that related to a shield, I had no idea . . . until I looked up the word in the dictionary.  Apparently, Webster says it means "of, relating to, or resembling twilight."  Well, considering that Blackrock Caverns is all about the Twilight Hammer's clan, it suddenly makes all kinds of sense.

There is also a Raid Progression display at the bottom of the page.  Interestingly enough, it doesn't seem to make the distinction between 10 and 25-man raids in its display.  I can see this because I know I have not seen Anub'arak in 25-man ToGC die . . . in fact, we tend to deny his existence . . . but it shows that I have seen him die 21 times in Heroic.  It would have to have been in 10-man.  Again, in Ulduar, it says I have seen 2 kills of Algalon.  That is true, but one was in 10-man (the Herald run) and one was in 25-man (the last boss of the last raid of the Wrath expansion.)  So while it's fun for the "Gee Whiz" factor, I'm not sure how helpful this feature will be for me.

Oddball ramblings aside, I do like the new features in the Advanced view of the new Armory, and I think it will be helpful when I am evaluating either my own characters or applicants to the guild.

Note to self:  Must pick up Moonkin Hatchling soon . . .

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New and Improved Redridge

More lore questing!

To be honest, Redridge was a zone I had done once with my main and vowed to avoid whenever possible.  I hated the orcs which ambushed me from behind the big rock to the north . . . or was it south?  I hated the concentration of bad guys EVERYWHERE.  And the quests were just plain mind-numbingly tedious, so I found every opportunity to quest elsewhere.  (There wasn't always a good alternative . . .)

These residual emotions of revulsion made me a little hesitant to tackle the zone, but as Westfall left me with a couple of quests directing me there and on the recommendation of a former guildie, I decided to give it a try.

Some of the early quests felt a bit familiar, in a mind-numbing sort of way . . . Ho hum . . . But then I discovered the underground fight club at the inn, and everything changed.

If there is ever a quest chain designed to make you feel powerful, this is it.  (/flex)  Not only that, you get to do it with powerful, motivated, and enthusiastic friends.  (Which is clue #1 that they are NPCs . . . just kidding.  I do have enthusiastic player friends . . .)

Again, like the Westfall quests, I found myself becoming so wrapped up in the story line that I did not feel time ticking or take note of the number of quests completed.  I was focused on the mission, which sometimes required me to remember my sneaking skills (who am I kidding?  I'm a Druid!), sometimes inspired maniacal laughter while assisting in extreme violence (I don't play FPS games, so the whole extreme violence thing doesn't usually appeal to me), and made me giggle in sheer delight watching things go boom.  (IRL, I live in a place where we make things go boom . . . on test ranges . . . /giggle . . .)

The ending was nothing short of epic, combining bittersweet emotions with a blaze of glory.  It might almost have come out of Hollywood . . .

If I ever find myself leveling a lowbie Alliance character again, I don't think I will avoid Redridge.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Motivation to Play

The other day, a co-worker wanted to chat about WoW.  She told me she had taken a character and gone to check out the new quests in Westfall but had been disappointed.  According to her, the quests required too much thought and guesswork.

"When I play after work," she said, "I play to relax, not to have to use my brain."

Of course, she emphasized, she enjoyed the challenge of raiding, but that was different.  She didn't want challenges in her questing.

"I'm just not sure I want to continue in Cataclysm, if the questing is going to be like this," she told me.  "I guess I'll give it a month and then decide."

I don't know what micro-expressions manifested themselves on my face, but I'm sure they displayed something to the effect of incredulity.  Sure, I don't like quests which make me beat my head against the wall, wondering what the objective is, but these days, few quests fall into that category.  After all, objectives now sparkle enough to be seen 50 feet away, and the Blizzard interface has the option to show the general location of objectives, as well as confirm the identity of the target mobs when mousing over them.  (She is still complaining about the demise of Questhelper, by the way.  She says the Blizzard interface isn't enough.  I'm not sure what she's talking about, as I think the Blizzard interface is more than adequate.  But I digress . . .)  If the quester is confused even slightly, websites like Thottbot or Wowhead are there to clear everything up.

I had flashbacks of reading multiple players' complaints on forums throughout Wrath that WoW had become too easy--that the developers had catered too much to "the casuals".  Considering that casual players still pay the same subscription, but may not actually use the resources as much as others, I would think they are better money-makers for Blizzard, so it would make sense they would work to appeal to casual players.  But I had heard the developers had listened to the less casual players, as well, when they worked on designing Cataclysm, adding more challenges.

Personally, I think that overall, Blizzard has done a pretty good job of finding ways to appeal to players with a variety of motivations to play.  (Obviously, or they wouldn't be up to . . . however many million subscribers now.)

The evening after I spoke with my co-worker, I took my Druid out to Westfall, to check things out.  I hadn't really considered working on Loremaster-type achievements, but I was curious to see what kinds of challenges she had faced and not enjoyed.  I found that, yes, many of the quests were linear, meaning that one quest led to another, rather than picking up a half-dozen quests to do at the same time.  And some of the earlier ones did not say exactly how you were supposed to accomplish them, which may be what frustrated my co-worker.  (They said something to the effect of "find the clue", without giving as much detail as, "kill the murlocs until you find the clue.")  But the story line quickly grabbed me, and before I knew it, midnight had come and I had to call it a night.

Unlike the previous quests, which had been something to the effect of, "We're in a war with the Defias, so kill a bunch of them.  By the way, pick up some food," there was more reason to fight things.  Sure, there was some food-gathering, but it was to feed the hungry refugees, and the drop rates were more sensible and consistent.  Sure, we picked up red bandanas, but it was to provide clues to a brutal murder.  There was more purpose to the quests and more cohesiveness to the storyline.

The next night, I went back to Westfall, even before I considered running a random to complete my Gnomeregan Exalted reputation.  I continued on with the quests, following the story to its conclusion, marvelling at the outcome, and getting the Westfall quest achievement.

I don't consider myself hard-core.  But nobody goes into healing if they do not like challenges in their game-play.  Even more, I do like a good mystery or puzzle, so the quest line I found was very satisfying to me.  (After all, I played the Myst games way back when--talk about beating your head against a wall.)  If this is the sort of thing we will be finding throughout Cataclysm, I suspect I will be paying much more attention to the lore than I have hitherto done.

I'm actually looking forward to doing more lore questing now.  Some, anyway.