Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Alt appreciation

I am an altoholic. I have at least tried to play all classes and aside from tanking, have played nearly all of the available specs. I love my alts, and my play schedule for a given day often depends on scrolling through character screens and choosing whoever appeals to me at the moment.

Laeleiweyn of World of Lae has begun an alt appreciation project, with prompts to wax lyrical upon a particular class each week. This sounds like my kind of thing!

This week's class is the Death Knight. I have one, Nachtmystium.

I started Nacht as soon as I had another character at level 55, so very soon after I began playing. I had heard that DKs were super overpowered and I wanted to see what that was like (I was playing a rogue at the time). Needless to say, Nacht wasn't OP in my hands. She died a lot in Hellfire Peninsula, and after being repeatedly slaughtered by naga in Zangarmarsh, I gave up.

At the end of Cata, I decided to try the DK again. Armed with some actual knowledge of how to play the DK from various web resources, I race changed Nacht from worgen to tauren for a fresh start and began anew.

Oh my, so much fun! Armed with heirlooms and a frost spec that I semi-understood, I began by killing everything in Nagrand. She did damage! She wore plate! She had good self-heals! A couple of levels down I knew I was going to make it to level 85 this time.

Right before Mists of Pandaria, Nacht made it to level 85 and even ran a few heroic dungeons. At this point I was seriously considering taking her into Pandaria first and making her my main toon.

Eventually though I went with my enhancement shaman, who is still my main today. I didn't get back to Nacht until a few months ago, right after the 33% nerf to Pandaria leveling XP. She made it through the leveling content pretty effortlessly and did very well in heroic dungeons. She's up to ToES LFR now but I've kind of burnt out on playing her again. Maybe it's because I can't seem to upgrade her 450 ilvl weapon, but her deeps in LFR are pretty pathetic. It could also be because I just can't seem to get the hang of the rune system; I just mash buttons and generally feel like I'm flailing away. Of all of the classes, this feeling of not understanding the basic mechanics is the worst with my death knight.

What do I like about death knights? I like the lore, the unique skin and hair colors, the concept of being a face-smashing necromancer, and the survivability while leveling (once I actually figured out a rotation). What do I not like? The incomprehensible (to me) rune system and the apparent loss of self-healing efficacy at level 90 (does Death Siphon not work at all at max level? Or am I doing it wrong?).

I still run Nacht through LFR now and then, but then quickly return to another toon. As much as I like her as a tauren, I may try race changing her. Sometimes that's what I need to rekindle my interest in a class.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

As summer draws to a close...

...I finally feel the motivation to start posting again! My ridiculous altoholism has abated somewhat as I've realized that 1) I really want to complete this expansion's content at least once while it's current and 2) that's really only doable on one toon. So while I'm still playing many alts, I've become a bit more focused in the past few weeks.

That one toon has been Wapsi, the defected-to-the-Alliance enhancement shaman. I have to say, as much as I liked her tauren form, dranei sure do look snazzy in their gear. I've finally gotten into running the ToT LFR regularly, and Wapsi is missing only the chest piece from the tier set, which I think looks fantastic. I love the Shado-Pan Assault eyeball belt too!

So where to start... basically, I really want to get the legendary cape on one toon, and since Wapsi had progressed the farthest in the legendary questline, I went with her. The first thing she needed to do was win a couple of PVP battles. No problem, right? Uh, no. Apparently Silvershard Mines is awfully hard for Alliance to win. But after 24 battles spread across 4 or 5 days, she finally got her win. While in the PVP mindset, I started doing the PVP quests for the Kirin Tor Offensive. Let me say right off the bat that the main reason for this is so she can use her honor points to buy PVP fist weapons from past seasons. The second reason is that these quests are so much quicker and easier to do than the PVE ones. I don't really care for the Isle of Thunder, and being able to grab quests, complete them all in one place, and turn them in in a half hour was the only way I could grind Kirin Tor Offensive rep and get my dinosaur.

And this is now my favorite mount aside from...

The Shado-Pan tigers...

Or the Golden Lotus cranes..

Or the August Celestials thundering cloud get the point. While waiting for all of those LFR queues so she can collect Secrets of the Empire for Wrathion, she has been farming her way to exalted with all of the original Pandaria factions. She's exalted with the Klaaxi too, but is still saving money for the scorpion mount, in part by farming up ore and transmuting it to living steel which she can sell on the auction house for as much as 600 gold each.

I've been trying to get all of Wapsi's business (LFR, farming, auction house) done by Friday of each week. Then I'm free to play alts, most of whom have had the ulterior motive of working on Loremaster while they level.

Gallore has also defected to the Alliance, and I was pretty motivated to get her to 90 so she could collect some Pandaria pets. She doesn't have any rares yet, but I've wanted a Klaaxi scorpion since I first saw one so I'm pretty happy. In the process of leveling, Gallore finished the quests in Kun-Lai summit as my final zone for Pandaria Loremaster. I found finishing Kun-Lai to be as painful as some of the Outland zones or Vash'jir. Sooo very loooong, I was very happy to finish and know that I would never have to do all of those quests again.

Speaking of Outlands and painful questing, Petrusian finished Terrokkar Forest and is now off to Northrend. That was an awful zone full of quests sending Petrus all over the place and back, but not quite as bad as...

...Nagrand! I dusted off Goetia, my first level 90 toon, as she had made the most progress here of all of my toons. I also had leveled her to 87 in Pandaria and didn't like dying constantly, so it seemed it would be more pleasant to just queue her up for dungeons while she finished up questing in low level zones. First things first though, since I am on a faction mount kick, she spent a couple of days finishing her Sha'tari Skyguard rep so she could get all of the nether ray mounts- I have wanted these since I first began playing, they are in my opinion some of the coolest mounts in the game!

She also had a little transporter accident and, uh, she's now a blood elf. And I had to change her name to Goesha because I moved her to another server. Somehow though it seems more appropriate for a sneaky backstabbing rogue to be a snooty blonde girl.

So that's about it for my summer in WoW- I've logged onto other characters here and there for an LFR or a bit of transmoggery, but that's it. So some random pictures of those below, who knows, but next week I might be playing one of them again!

Monday, June 10, 2013

What if I don't want to join Vol'jin?

Nacht made level 90 quite easily by Saturday, so six days of easy playing to get from 85-90 with the Pandaria XP nerf. Given that this was my fifth time through this content, the faster rate of leveling was much appreciated. Nacht made plenty of gold questing to purchase Pandaria flying, and is now camping the rare spawn Klaaxi two-handed sword in Soggy Bottom. Hopefully she'll be the first there after server restart tomorrow.

So now she's on the heroic train, but since I have no faith in RNG, her first goal was to get her 502 boots from the Darkspear Rebellion questline added in the latest patch. Her second goal is to purchase the 502 necklace from the Shado-Pan Assault with all of the Valor she accumulates running heroics and not winning any rolls. Grumpy death knight is grumpy!

Anyway, the Darkspear Rebellion. Since Nacht jumped into the fray without participating in the Dominance Offensive or the Sunreaver Onslaught, it felt awfully abrupt for her to throw her weight behind Vol'jin and his burgeoning rebellion against Garrosh. Just a week ago she was hanging out in Orgrimmar without a care in the world about Vol'jin. It had me wondering how difficult it would have been, development-wise, to add a parallel questline in which the player chooses to stay loyal to Garrosh. Because although I imagine Nacht as a tauren first and foremost, I think the choice to join an effort to overthrow Garrosh would have given her serious pause. I have to admit the story for Alliance to join Vol'jin in the overthrow attempt was much more plausible from a lore perspective, although it was still told through a linear questline at the end of which the player's choice is a foregone conclusion. In the end, just a little disappointing, although I can still see an epic ending on the horizon.

In other news, Wapsi finally got her Guardian of Cenarius title running the AQ raids, and made exalted with the August Celestials through farming and scenario rep. I think the contrasting deep blue of the Celestials tabard looks quite nice with her Tier 3 AQ armor, and the sha-touched fist weapons are pretty stunning as well. I haven't been too excited to run ToT LFR with her, but it's been a lot of fun doing the old raids. I'm already thinking about which one to run next, possibly Onyxia's Lair, although I haven't decided who to do it with. Whoever gets the coolest gear for transmog, most likely!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Testing the 85-89 leveling nerf

Oh my short attention span! After spending last week doing 115 quests in Dragonblight for Loremaster, I needed yet another change of pace. I can only take the dreariness of Northrend in small bites. I greatly enjoyed playing my feral druid, though, making me hopeful that she will eventually make it to level 90 some day! I also enjoyed meeting some celebrities at the Wyrmrest Temple, although I don't remember Krasus being such a giant in the books. He looks like he could just about palm little Chromie there in the background!

So yeah, something new. With 5.3 and the rise of dissent within the Horde, I finally felt like it was time to play the Horde storyline again. My tauren death knight seemed like a good choice, since I can imagine her being a warrior for the Horde but perhaps having some qualms with Garrosh's heavy handed leadership. So I did a little reading on Icy Veins, reorganized her action bars, and sent her to Pandaria to journey towards level 90.

First off: OMG death knights! Even being rusty on the rotation and having never really understood rune management, she is a killing machine (ha!). Nachtmystium is the first of my toons to be able to kill rares while leveling, which aside from the XP nerf for Pandaria leveling, as provided her with even more XP. So she got to level 86 before she finished the whole Riko and Kiryn storytelling questline, and to level 87 before she hit Halfhill. I was thinking of finishing all of the Kun Lai quests with her for Loremaster, but since she's already halfway to level 88 and hasn't finished the second quest hub yet, I think I'll just send her right into Townlong at 88. In summary, she's made about a level each day (2-3 hours playing each day), with questing and a couple of rares and dungeons each level. I would say that's a pretty significant acceleration of the leveling process, although we'll see about the last two levels.

Although I don't play the WoW TCG, I pick up a pack of cards every time I go to a discount store because I like the artwork. I got the above card the other day (picture from the WoWTCG Browser), and it really gave me the backstory for beginning to play my death knight again by helping me to make sense how the tauren culture and the history of a death knight could be combined. The flavor text says "I hear the cries of our ancestors, for I walk between worlds, between lives." I imagine Nacht, despite her killer death knight instincts, still having a strong allegiance to the tauren and their way of life. She'll eventually recoil at the treatment of her people and the other races of the Horde by Garrosh, and his destruction of the the world to fuel his war effort. Despite her transformation, her ties to the tauren are strong, and her allegiance lies with them and their ways. She'll be fighting for her people, and if it involves undermining Garrosh's Horde, so be it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Faffing away!

I've borrowed that word from Tome of the Ancient, as it is a perfect descriptor for what I've been doing in WoW this past week. Apparently my attention span is so abysmally short these days that I can't be bothered to play a single character for more than an hour at a time. So I've been bouncing back and forth between Wapsi, my current go-to decently geared level 90, and whatever leveling toon I feel like hanging out with. For example, I decided to work on my Loremaster Northrend zones with my feral druid (above), who has been sitting at level 70 since MoP dropped. Questing as feral is fun, especially with heirlooms, so I figured I would run around as a kitty for awhile until the dreary questing in Dragonblight drives me screaming to another toon in a sunnier zone. Before doing so, however, I needed to do some transmogging and buy some glyphs and buy her fast flight form etc etc. This tinkering and preparation is one of the things I like about playing many alts.

Wapsi oh Wapsi! Hitting bugs in the face with Stormstrike feels so good! Wapsi has been through both Ahn'Qiraj raids twice now, and is halfway to exalted with Cenarion Circle for her Guardian of Cenarius title. She's beaten the bugs until they exploded with goodies that she turned in to the quest givers at the entrance for her lovely new outfit.

Bug mounts! Bummer that she can't use them outside of the raids, they're pretty sweet. She got all of the colors, including the red one for the achievement.

For once, I felt like doing some new patch stuff as soon as it was available. Wapsi went on the new 5.3  scenarios and into Durotar and the Barrens at the bidding of Lorewalker Cho, and by the end of the evening had a nice new pair of boots. This is what I have been asking for- a little more frequent reward for effort in game. Grind + RNG is the motivation killer.

It was interesting to return to Horde territory with Wapsi, having recently defected from that faction. It felt good to work with the Darkspear trolls plotting Garrosh's overthrow, but even though I've turned my back on the Horde this expansion, I still think Orgrimmar is a more beautiful city than Stormwind. I miss the red and orange and brown color palette, the zeppelins, the tauren and trolls and blood elves. But I don't think the future looks too good for my favorite city, and I'm curious to see who the new Horde leader and capital city will be at expansion's end.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Achievements ahoy!

And now Kalimdor and Cataclysm zones are completed for Loremaster! My baby night elf warrior Marrion finally finished up Desolace and I was happy to get her out of there. For the previous loremaster zones, I've often finished up the questlines to see what happened, but the Desolace questline seemed awfully scattered and I was just ready to be done with it. In contrast, I really enjoyed Darkshore and Stonetalon Mountains. Playing through them as a night elf I felt particularly invested in the story of the destruction wrought upon their lands seemingly from all sides. 

Having done their part for Loremaster in the old world, my lowbie warrior and hunter will now be hitting the dungeon queues and working on their professions until they can make the journey to Outland at level 58.

My other achievements this week were with Wapsi, because after struggling through leveling and getting ganked on the PVP server my lowbies are on, it was nice to run around on a geared toon and without fear of sneaky Hordies.

Wapsi's working on her farm to finish getting to exalted with the mainland Pandaria factions. It'll take awhile but I'll take it over the dailies. She's halfway through honored with Kirin Tor Offensive so she'll want to finish a few dailies with them as well as running ToT LFR for Shado-Pan Assault. I'm in no hurry to get her through this content, but I will do it eventually to see how the story plays out.

Wapsi also finished up the final questline she had left in Valley of the Four Winds- the Nesingwary quests. I hated them. The Nesingwary quests of the past have always been notorious for asking you to kill lots and lots of harmless creatures, but this iteration seemed particularly bloodthirsty and meaningless. So having completed the Valley quests for the achievement, I can safely say I'll never be visiting Nesingwary in Pandaria again.

I've been wanting to get the Guardian of Cenarius title for awhile too, and since Wapsi already reached exalted with the Cenarion Expedition for the hippogryph mount, she's now working for the Cenarion Circle in Silithus. She completed the Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj this week, and I'm going to try the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj although as an intended 40-man raid I assume it will be much more difficult. Still, the Ruins were a faceroll so I'm hoping she can get through most of it.

I've been enjoying logging in each evening and just playing however I feel. Having a bunch of alts means that each one of them offers a little something different, so I'm still feeling like I have a lot that I want to do. Getting out of the endgame grind for awhile was a good choice for me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

WoW losing subscribers

Down 1.3 million in just the last quarter, according to MMO Champion. I've read a lot of blogs today that discuss the meaning and implications of this decline, and for the first time the majority of comments don't consider this a minor loss for a game with a still-heathy subscriber base. Players of all types seem to be considering that WoW may not be healthy right now. What differs, however, are opinions regarding the cause. Everyone seems to be discontented with a slightly different aspect of the game as it stands now.

Speaking for myself, I have felt over the course of this expansion that endgame play is enjoyable only in small bouts. Rep grinds and dailies + the RNG of LFR make level 90 play feel too much like a job. Perhaps others feel this way too, as reflected by the statement, also on MMO Champion, that many players charge through content and then unsubscribe until something new is released. The current endgame model cultivates burnout.

I still play in part because WoW is the best MMO option for a Mac user, but primarily because I love the lore and the visual aesthetics of Azeroth. I love the way the game interlocks with the book and comic series, and I think this is completely unique among the current MMOs. Due to this fact, WoW is also the first game I have ever played where I have been able to become personally invested in my characters, a feeling that builds as they explore the vast world from the starting zone to Pandaria. I really enjoy acquiring new skills and better gear, as well as improving my own skill through leveling. I am a 40-something woman with a stable career and home life, with bills to pay and pets to feed, and the role this game plays as an outlet for my imagination plays a big role in my day-to-day stress relief. But this feeling is lost when my toons reach level 90, and I feel they are no longer exploring but slogging through repetitious tasks for little reward. Just like a job, and a crappy one at that! Soon I give up on them and start another toon so I can return to feeling like a simple adventurer out in the world but destined for bigger things.

In the games I play, I'm looking for a beautiful world full of novelty and excitement, where I can imagine I'm part of a larger unfolding story. Leveling through Azeroth provides that in spades. If I engage in a grind where the novelty is lacking, I at least want it to provide reliable rewards at least every time I am able to log in each day and devote my time to the task. Questing is excellent for that, but repetitive dailies are not, and LFR failbags are definitely not.

I'm finally working seriously on Loremaster right now because adventuring and exploring all of Azeroth is more appealing to me than doing one more daily quest, even though I've just barely touched the Isle of Thunder story on my level 90s. And I've already thought more than once that when I have that title, aside from checking out some of the older raids, I might be about done with what I want to achieve in this game. Once I've explored everything in the world, and if new content continues to consist of endless repetitions at endgame, I find it hard to see my interest in the game being sustained.

It's hard to offer potential solutions to these issues in my gameplay, because as I said at the beginning, everyone enjoys different things, and based on this, everyone has different ideas for what needs to be changed.

So again, I speak only for myself in saying that the number one thing that would improve my enjoyment of endgame would be to increase the frequency of rewards. Each day when I complete my dailies with one faction, I want to get a letter from Jaina or Taran Zhu, like we got during the Shieldwall/Dominance story, but including some substantial reward (as in, not 28G 50S). Each LFR I complete with no drops I want a similar letter. I want to feel a sense of accomplishment, both in terms of participating in the story and in terms of acquiring something that will help my toon do her job in conquering evil.

The novelty issue is more difficult. The current model of frequent patches consisting of repetitive content is a recipe for burnout and is clearly not working. Switching among alts might keep things fresh, but despite the changes made for alts grinding faction rep, it's still a long haul and coupled with the frequency of running a week's worth of LFR without a single drop, and the gating of faction rewards with valor as well as rep, not an enjoyable way to spend one's gaming time for more than one toon. The endgame content as it stands is just not repeatable. There are few options for generating novelty across multiple toons, but realizing there are limits to just how much new content Blizzard can put out, I just hope that someone smarter than me (and smarter than the current dev team) figures out how to put a new shine on the endgame.

That's about all I have on the topic. I'll be merrily playing my Loremaster team through the upcoming weeks, and then we'll see where I go from there.