Monday, April 25, 2011

Revamping the Hero class: A better alternative than free max level characters

Spinks recently covered the interesting topic of providing veteran MMORPG players max level characters. On its face, this seems to make a lot of sense. There are certainly two games, at least in WoW, 1.) level grind and 2.) max level, instance-based gear chases. You might separate a third, guild-based, end-game raiding. I, like many who live in 2), would like to be able to play the second with characters I haven't been forced to take through the first.

But *POOF* max level chars seem an ill-thought out money-grab (see UO's advanced characters). Hero classes, or even just plain heroes (high level chars from the start) in conventional classes with their own quick intro quest lines -- combined with alternative and/or class-specific, sped-up quest progressions through old content -- is a better way to go.

So, for instance, our guild needs another tank, and I started a Death Knight this month because I can't stand the thought of leveling from scratch. The DK intro zone was great. Good lore, questionable morals, admittedly, but a decent intro to DK specific talents and abilities.

But what if we had needed a healer? Right now, it's, "Hello, level 1." Imagine starting zones for "hero" druids, pallies, warlocks, etc that are like the DK zone. Give folks just enough time to learn some additional lore and basic class playstyles. It's not a bad compromise.

That said, though the DK was an interesting, mostly successful compromise for Wrath, now running a DK through Cat, I can clearly see that the class has obviously lost some of its prime positioning. A DK starting at a level somewhere between 65 and 75 makes more sense now, and to do it, you're only making minor revamps the starting gear and area. Beautious.

As a DK in Outland, however, it's current the same ole same old. I really don't want to run Zangramash again. That's not compelling. At least in Cat I can run the quest chains I skipped while leveling my main. I took him through Hyjal and Therazane and quickly ended up at 85. There's lots of Vashj'ir and the Egyptian-styled zones I never touched, and I'd like to take a look.

These clearly parallel quest chains in Cat were obviously by design. You could leap from one to another, or you could run them twice. Similar is the literal cataclysm's changes to level 1-60 progressions. Both the parallel quests and remade zones are pretty obvious "New Game+" fixes. I've found myself thinking that Cat's forked quest progression approach to New Game+ might be better handled by one that allows DKs (and other classes) a *class-specific* (or even race-specific) alternative route through Outland and other once-and-done content.

And there's a lot of waste in these "New Games". If I've run both forks in Cat, now what? Also, if I just started WoW, I get exactly zero from the cat-impacted starting zones. Are these progressions better? No, not really, my re-experience of levels 1-14 tells me, it's just new. In a sense, the Cat paradigm for remaking 1-60 is wasted time. You give old players a partial excuse to run 1-60 again, once, but new players are still stuck. Overlaying progressions, Choose Your Own Adventure style, make more sense. Putting the 1-60 revamp work into new 70-80 hero quest lines cut by class and/or race would have been a better use of time.

The heirlooms (and access to gear via shared account gold) sorta provide a Rich Man's alternate to the old grinds, but only in that they make the progressions shorter and share the same logic as instant max level chars. That is, a max level char would skirt the issue completely/take heirlooms to their obvious endpoint. Spinks' comment that, "it's certainly easier than revamping the entire lower level game," is a heck of an understatement, and lets games off too easily. There are better solutions than giving max levels to everyone that allows them to completely skip the often single-player, PvE learning experience.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Strange Trees in the DK quest line

I've already mentioned that I really appreciated the DK starting quest line. The amount of lore for Wrath that's in there is wonderful, and retroactively makes what Jal did in there make a lot more sense. As I've hinted in comments, I've got some "moral" issues, though that's too strong a word, with some of the forced killings -- the quest lines are really on rails, and there's no alternative to taking out screaming, pleading civilians crying for their wife and kids. I understand it fits, but it'd be better if you could RP a bit, start getting your moral compass back a little early, and find another solution than pulling out the skulls of your kills to drop into a cauldron.

I'll come back to that complaint, as it's probably worth another, longer look, but thought I'd register this one first.

RLY? That's my disguise? A cardboard tree from the scenery of a high school play? And it works? That's just horribly unimaginative. It's not funny or cute, just dumb.

Still, if, after the killings, that's my biggest complaint (next up would probably be the dumb messenger "costume" you wear), I guess we're doing pretty well. It was a good, instructive zone. Now I can't say the same for Honor Hold. I'm waxing the crud out of everything that walks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

DK-OT: Gear buying guide

Now this Death Knight Shopping List is the sort of thing I wish we had more often, or at least that I could find more often and easily. I mean, even if it's not perfect, it's going to be an improvement over just questing around, and it's going to save a lot of time over doing the mathes yourself.

So Jalyndrine, with a "y", is done with the Death Knight starting area. I'll post more Death Knight-Off Topic about it later. Overall, though, it made Wrath make a ton more sense. In a way, the DK starting area was an extended intro to Wrath lore, and should have been a required exercise for anyone playing over the age of 13. (Under 13-14 might have been surprised at some of the, um, questionable things your DK was doing.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Heirloom enchants

WowWiki has an excellent list of enchantments that work on heirlooms:

Heirlooms can be enchanted only with enhancements that will not bind the item to the character. The items are treated as item level 1, and as such can not use most Burning Crusade or higher enhancements, which included Death Knight runes until 4.0.1. Also worth considering is the fact that some of the enhancements that can be used will not actually take effect unless the character using them is of the appropriate level. [Chart that lists enchants follows]

We recently tried a guild heroic run, and it was capital F fail, largely because we didn't have quite the dps we needed, but also largely because we only have four 85s and none are tanks. If we had a tank in-guild, I'm betting they'd be patient enough as we learned how to bring down each boss.

(Probably didn't help that we had three boomkin. Not the most varied set of buffs.)

Anyhow, I've been considering going death knight. There's no way I'm leveling from scratch to 85. I'm almost too lazy to go 55 to 85. But with the right heirlooms, things will go 20% more quickly. I recently heirloomed an alt that I let a friend play as we did recruit-a-friend, and the one +INT enchanted hammer on their druid made it seem like we were cheating.

I know what you're thinking -- just regear Jal to bear for off-spec. I'm considering it, but I haven't heard much bear love recently, and haven't run an instance with a bear tank yet in Cat. I'm betting there's a reason.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rep Ding! Exalted Therazane

What's new with Jal? Not much. I've been running daily normals for Justice Points, and wearing my Therazane tabard for rep. The daily rep quests were boring enough that I've been traveling up in Winterspring grinding Wintersaber Trainer rep instead as I wait for LFG, in part because I saw that, come 4.1, Wintersaber Trainer rep is getting nerfed, and when I say nerfed, I mean homogenized. I should also admit that I spent hours and hours in vanilla farming rugged and other leather from the frostsabers under the rock without ever knowing the trainer was up there, scowling at me killing the wild cats. It was a great place to farm. Rarely anyone there, and nobody really taking down the sabers, who would respawn very quickly. If I'd only known. I did wonder what my mount, a frostsaber, thought about it...

Even so, it didn't take long to get exalted with Therazane. After a few runs, I was just a few hundred points of rep away, and I went back for a final quest. That apparently makes for five exalted reps. Funny, I'm not sure what they are offhand. Therazane (shoulder enchants), Wildhammer (great rep gear for Cat), Sons of Hodir (LK shoulders)... um... (runs to Armory) Apparently the Alliance Vanguard and Stormwind. Who knew?

That said, who really cares? What a payoff!

Wow. Now you know why swag motivates workers, I guess. I remember when I worked at a shop that gave out bonuses for each additional billable hour you clocked, but if you did the math, the percentage of each hour you were bagging dropped after a certain point. If your own company doesn't value each extra hour of your time more, why should you want to give them? Well, that never stopped the company hawks. Anyhow... Looks like I'm susceptible after all.

And for those reading hoping this'll serve as a sort of guide, next is Tol Barad commendations for the Stump of Time, though I'll probably get the frostsaber mount first.

During my daily runs, I'm gradually performing better. The below Recount for Halls of Origination (I came in part-way) is pretty good, and I was off-healing much of the time for our ungeared Shammy.

Shammy follows:

It's not a big deal, and I don't mind our three wipes (!), but I was surprised to feel my own reaction when I saw the lack of enchants and gemming.

Though I didn't have a violent reaction and am actually happy to pull along newbies, I see now why people get so irate when undergeared folk try running heroics. And it's much easier to carry undergeared dps (not that I've been yelled at, as I've only run one heroic) than healz. She just couldn't keep up. So I went elven for a while and threw around some resto-ige (still spec'd balance) and had fun. I also have to take some grief for not knowing that Void Seekers heal themselves if you left two stay close to each other. Whoops.

In other news, Spinks has stopped playing. No big deal. I think it's funny to hear someone trying to figure out the distinction between quitting and quitting for a while. Goodness knows, if you've read this blog at all, you know I take breaks for months at a time. Blizzard expects you to at this point, I believe. Doesn't want you to, but expects it.

Ah yes, I also dodged the temptation to buy a MSI R6850 Cyclone PE/OC Radeon HD 6850 with a gig of VRAM for what's now under $170 with rebate. I decided this was what I wanted when I put together my new rig, but I've been sliding by with what's almost a four year-old card. I mean, look at the roller coaster heatsink! Still, $170 is just $70 shy of what I paid for a quad-core AMD Athlon II at 3 GHz, a new mobo, and four gigs of RAM. Crazy.

The only other thing I've got is that the Frostesaber Stalkers really have it in for the bunnies. I mean, wow. They'll leap four times their body length, it seems, to take one down, and then they don't even bother eating it. See the pic of three going after one at once. INSANE. ;^)

That last one looks stepped on.

Collage brought to you by the fine folk at Microsoft Paint.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Belated April Fools

On: Winterspring Frostsaber Mount Grind Changed in 4.1 - The Wowhead Blog

More of my comment crossposts. I've started running Frostsaber rep now 1.) to pretend I'm protesting and 2.) because I'm bored out of my mind as I wait for a PUG to show up.

Winterspring Frostsaber Mount Grind Changed in 4.1 - The Wowhead Blog:

I don't understand the point of this change.

Why this obsession the new dev team has with homogenizing everything?


There was a time when you could argue that a set of of Nature's Wrath gear was a good poor man's tiered armor for a boomkin. Then it didn't matter that Wrath was Nature dmg and Starfire was Arcane. Resistances nearly disappeared. Instead of type-specific spellpower boosts, it was just "spellpower." Then "of healing" was the same as "of spellpower".

This might seem unrelated, but it's the same sort of homogenization. Gear standardized. Rep runs standardized. Is it really wrong that the Alliance can get a crappy but pretty ground mount in a day and Horde can't? Dude, I farmed frostsabers for weeks for leather in vanilla and never even saw the guy on top of the rock. If 80% of the Alliance don't know he's there, what percent of the Horde care?

I wonder what percent of WoWers depend on and similar, outside of the game, help sites? Doesn't anyone play casually? Why pander to either type of player (casual gamers who don't want to learn the difference between healing and spellpower, and hardcore gamers who don't want cross-faction mounts to be different. At all. No matter what.) to the point that the whole game is watered down? Does "of Nature's Wrath" or grinding rep really kill the game?

If anything, they should put the rep right back like it was in vanilla and make it a serious, long-term grind that only the truly crazy complete.