Monday, August 30, 2010

Wrath Retrospective - Raiding

I'm going to start this post with a big fat disclaimer. I am not really qualified to comment on the entirety of Wrath raiding and I am definitely not qualified to discuss how it measured up to vanilla or BC raiding, as I was but a nub in the BC days. To give you some perspective on my raiding experience; my first ever boss kill was Onyxia (the level 80 version), I finished about half of Ulduar before we completely out geared it, I completed ToC although much later than most guilds, and I am currently 8 of 12 on ten man (although my guild is 10 of 12) and 6 of 12 on my occasional 25 man.

Now that that is over I'll get on to what I do have to say about Wrath raiding. Ulduar was is by far my favorite raid. The setting and lore behind it was incredibly epic. The fights were varied, and even when you out gear it, a wide variety of entertaining and challenging achievements can help to beef up the difficulty level. As for Naxx, I don't really have feelings either way. I know that some people were upset at Blizzard's re-purposing of this raid, but if it allowed them more time for the developers to focus on other things than I am fine with it. It also was a good starting raid for new raiders in that the difficulty level wasn't too high on most bosses, but there was a wide variety of mechanics to help indocrinate new raiders. Moving on to ToC, I think most everyone agrees that this was a bit of a failure as a raid. From the no trash, one room style to the four different raid lock outs ToC left many feeling bored and burned out. The fights themselves were actually quite interesting with Lord Jaraxxus being the only boring boss. I have to admit that when ICC first came out I thought I would never down a single boss in the place. Eventually, about the time of the 5% buff, my guild began to make slow and steady progress in ICC. The so called "pity buff" is a bit controversial, but I firmly support the buff. Blizzard learned from BC and buffed players instead of nerfing the raid and did it gradually. The pity buff helps a greater percentage of players experience if not finish the raid that culminates all of the expansion's story lines. And while the buff is certainly very helpful, it does not make things "easy mode" as some people allege. Anyone who has been in a pug who can't seem to CC Lady D's mind control, or where the melee attack the blood beasts knows this. Finally we come to the red headed step child of Wrath raiding, Ruby Sanctum. I love the idea of bridging the story in Wrath with the upcoming Cataclysm in the form of a raid, but for whatever reason no one, at least on my server seems to give a crap about RS. My guild attempted it once, and I haven't seen a single person getting together a group for it in trade. It seems to have slipped entirely under the radar for reasons I don't quite understand.

Having successfully become "a raider" in Wrath I am looking forward to Cataclysm raiding. Changes to lockouts and the way that 10 and 25 man loot works have been talked about to death so I will leave that alone, except to say that I generally am in favor of the change, but I understand why some people are upset. Instead what I want to talk about is the relatively newly released detail that raiding in Cataclysm is returning to the BC style in that raids will be in the 4-7 boss range, with the first tier of raiding consisting of 3 medium size raids. In my opinion this is a great change. For non-hardcore progression guilds like mine it is difficult to nigh-on impossible to finish a 12 boss raid. While we do have a core group of raiders the remaining spots are filled with more casual raiders and therefore we almost never save raid lock outs making it extremely hard to progress through long raids like Ulduar and ICC. One raid in Cataclysm will be about the perfect amount of raiding for one night for most guilds. In addition it will provide much need variety. So thats my 2 cents, happy raiding!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Achievements and Pavlov's Dogs

(Today's screenshot is actually slightly relevant to today's post, /cheer! It was taken while getting my recent Karazhan Achievement.)

The other day I stumbled across a new (to me) blog called The Underachiever where the author is documenting his efforts to earn every single achievement in the World of Warcraft in a single year. It seems like an impossible task, but he is doing well so far and I wish him the best of luck. After reading all of his back entries it got me thinking about the relatively new achievement system in WoW.

The achievement system was implemented with the 3.0 pre-Wrath patch, along with things like UI updates to get everyone ready for the new expansion. Some people went crazy with it, becoming the quintessential achievement-whore. Others enjoyed mocking the achievement system and anyone who would stoop to /hugging someone before they release just to get 10 virtual points that you can do absolutely nothing with, except perhaps stroke your epeen. I was somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed browsing through them, and going out of my way to pick up the occasional achievement, but I as time went on, I switched mains, began raiding, and pvp-ing I have grown more and more addicted to that magical dinging noise and flash of light when you get an achievement. It doesn't matter if its something as ridiculous as My Sack is "Gigantique", as time consuming as Guardian of Cenarius, or as difficult as The Champion of Ulduar, the feeling when I get my achievement is addicting.

Of my lengthy list of things to do before Cataclysm I'd estimate that about 75% of them have something to do with achievements. The question is, why are fake points so alluring. Outside of the occasional vanity reward, there is no tangible reason to pursue them. To answer this question, let's go to my favorite blogging format; The List, with Bullet Points!

  • Part of it is all in our heads. First of all its called an "achievement," the name itself makes it desirable. And I know I'm not the only one who craves the beautiful noise and graphic an achievement brings.

  • Achievements also allow us to distinguish ourselves from the crowd by going after a particularly difficult/rare achieve or title.

  • Another great feature is that it allows a certain level of character systemization. Whether you play on an rp realm or not, the kind of achievements and titles that your character earns can help to define what the character is all about.

  • While raiding is usually considered the end game activity of choice. Many players can't or don't want to raid. Achievements give them something to pursue and earn at end game, instead of killing internet dragons for their purples every week.

  • The last reason, and most important for me, is that achievements provide an incentive, however small, to do something I've always wanted to do. Before achievements I always wanted to become exalted with random, mostly useless factions like Timbermaw hold, or complete all of the Classic Dungeons I missed while leveling. Achievements make pursuing those activities go from waste of time to worthwhile. Isn't it amazing what fake points in a virtual world can do?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Random Pimpage

(As always, screenshot unrelated)

Today I want to draw your attention to two awesome, yet not really related things. The first is the awesome videos of Jesse Cox, or OMFGCATA, over on Youtube. He makes great Cataclysm beta videos with real time voice overs that are laugh out loud hilarious. He real life job is that of a voice actor and it shows in the voices he provides for the characters. He has a series on the beginning worgen, goblin, troll, and gnome starting areas, and he is currently filming his way through all of Mount Hyjal. Other videos of note include the "Don Quoixte" quests in Un'goro, Garrosh's "You are Dismissed" storyline, and of course the most bad ass quest of all time, Punching Deathwing in the Face! He also posts mash-ups of random requests he receives. Unless you are some sort of anti-spoiler goof-ball, go subscribe!

The second pimpage I have today is an addon called GupPet. It's a simple addon that calls and randomizes (if you want) your mounts and non-combat pets. When you first set it up a button will come up that you can click to call mounts/pets, unfortunately its hideous. However you can turn the button off and easily bind call/dismiss pet or mount to a key. In the mount pane you can choose which mounts you want it to use and which ones you never want to see again (I'm looking at you felsteed). If you really want to get into it you can select which mount or mounts you want to use for cities, battlegrounds, or zones. When you press the key you bound mount to it will automatically call an appropriate mount; flying mount if you can fly, ground mount if you can't, and even the turtle mount if you have it and are in water.

Non-combat pets have a similar functionality. I choose which pets I want to use and which ones I don't and it will automatically call me a pet whenever I don't have one out, no button required. This is the feature I got this addon for as it's a shame to spend all the time and gold collecting pets that you never bring out. You can choose how long you want a pet out before calling a new one, and set limits on pet calling for when you are in a raid or battleground.

This addon also comes with a great little feature called "Collect Me" for both mounts and pets. In the Collect Me tab of the interface it shows all the pets or mounts you haven't collected yet. There is even a filter option off to the side so you can hide pets or mounts that are no longer attainable, require loot cards, require pvp, etc. The absolute best feature however is that when you mouse over a vender that sells a pet or mount, or a creature that has a chance to drop a pet or mount, it will display it on the tooltip. There have been several times since I've installed this addon that I've discovered a vendor or creature that dropped a pet that I would have had no idea about if it wasn't for the addition to the tooltip. The only downside is that I now feel compelled to kill any whelpings or oozelings I ride by, convinced that this time they will drop their damn pets.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Making Gold for the AH Impaired

As we gear up for a new expansion many people are squirreling away a gold supply in preparation for whatever gold sink the developers throw our way, or just to ensure you can pick up the fanciest, shiniest, new things in the expansion right away. Playing the Auction House has become quite an elaborate mini game for many, and even a majority of the fun of WoW for some. I enjoy the game of gold making quite a bit myself, but I know that many of you just don’t have the time or interest in seriously playing the auction house for maximum profit. For you I offer some ideas for picking up some pre-Cataclysm gold that anyone can do without any special knowledge of markets and the Auction House. Many of these methods I’ve paired with achievements to keep things fun.

Turtles All the Way Down – I just recently picked up this achievement myself, and along with my shiny turtle mount I also easily netted over 1,000g. The elusive turtle has a very small chance to be caught in pools of fish in Northrend. Even if you have never fished before you can do this because you will never catch junk when fishing from a pool. In order to better locate these pools its best you go get Fish Don’t Leave Footprints first. Generally the most profitable fish are Glacial Salmon and Dragonfin Angelfish so these are the pools you should be fishing in. Selling your catch until you find that adorable turtle mount will earn you a tidy sum.

The Argent Tournament – Remember that place in Icecrown, with the ponies and the jousting where all of your server was everyday 2 patches ago? Well get your butt back there. If you aren’t a Crusader, get working on it. If you are a Crusader, go do your dailies. The plethora of dailies in close proximity, plus the option to choose more gold as a reward for some quests make this an easy and garunteed way to pad your bank account. Additionally you will be earning all those Argent Crusades badges which you can either turn into gold by buying the pets and selling them or pick up things like the argent pony, heirlooms, and mounts if you want.

The Soul-Crushing Grind – If you are prone to psychological self mutilation go farm up one of those ridiculously rare companion pets and sell it. While this can be mind numbing it’s not too bad if you are watching T.V. or listening to a podcast. Prices will vary widely but some very rare pets that sell for big bucks are the Captured Firefly, Hyacinth Macaw, Disgusting Oozeling, and the various Whelplings.

Loremaster of Northrend – If you have a lot of unfinished quests in Northrend you might want to go back and finish those up. I could give you a huge list of nerdy reasons why you should be a quest completionist, but I’ll just stick with the one; it’s a gold mine. Let’s do some rough math for a second looking at only the Icecrown zone. In order to earn Icecrown: The Final Goal you must complete 140 quests. We’ll say that each of these quest reward 13 gold at level 80. 140 x 13 = 1820. Then let’s just guess that half of these quests also give an item of gear as a reward. The vendor price of these gear rewards varies, but I’ll assign it a conservative average of 10g each. 70 x 10 = 700. That’s an estimate of about 2500 gold from the zone of Icecrown alone! Add to that quests in other Northrend zones and any herbs, ore, gems, or leather you gather along the way and you’re looking at a very nice chunk of change.

P. U. G. –ing – That’s right, I said pugging. Running random heroics, especially at the breakneck speed a well geared group will run them these days can earn a nice sum of gold. Obviously tanks or healers can just chain them. Dps-ers can sit in the queue while you work on one of the other gold making strategies above. Running your first random of the day will get you 26g and 2 frost badges, all additional dungeons that day will earn 13 gold and 2 triumph badges. The gold for completing the dungeons can add up quickly especially if have tank or healer queues. The disenchanted mats, or vendor price if you’re unlucky, will add to your gold gain. Add in vender junk and any leather, cloth, herbs, or ore you gather and the gold per hour starts to look pretty nice. On top of that you will accumulate a slew of badges, and assuming you don’t need the gear, those badges can be turned into heirlooms and or epic gems to sell.