Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Garrisons Review - Warlords Beta

I must start this the same way all posts about things on the beta should start.  Beta is beta, it is very possible some of the things I mention here will change before release and some things I have yet to test due to errors.  Over all I do believe I have a decent feel for the only new feature being added to the game that I can now talk about it some more.  Get ready for a very long post and be warned, I still did not include everything in it.

When the expansion was first announced garrisons were something I was really interested in.  Since the originally announcement a lot has changed, as usually happens in the development process, but my interest in it was still high.  Usually when I have high expectations for something be it a movie, a game, anything, I am let down because I set my expectations so high nothing can ever really live up to the hype I created in my own mind.  I am glad to say that although I was looking forward to garrisons and had high hopes for them I was not let down.  Sure they are not exactly what I was expecting and I really think they can do a lot more with them, but I am most definitely not let down by them.

When you first arrive to Draenor you will be tasked to select a sight to build a base to start your adventures from.  Not exactly a choice, so to speak, but you get the idea.  This means, like it or not, garrisons are not only a part of your adventure here on draenor, it is the main base of operations on the planet throughout the expansion. 

It starts off simple enough, you as one of the greatest heroes of Azeroth, lands on this new world and everyone is looking to you for advice on what to do.  You have earned that respect because of your past deeds saving the world over and over.  I believe this is the first time in the entire game you are really treated like the hero.  Usually you are just an adventurer, usually you are an assistant, usually you are helping others, usually you are working under the directive of someone else that takes all the glory.  This time around you are the commander, everything that happens on draenor goes back to you.  From strategic battle plans, to where to go next, to what to do next.  Everything that happens on Draenor happens because you will it to happen.

You really do step into the role as the commander and everyone in your garrison treats you as such.  I must say I think it is a nice touch, something you usually only see in a single player game and not an MMO.  Even if you can invite people to your garrison, it is yours and you are the commander and it is your little piece of an MMO that really is meant for a single player.

What you do there matters, it changes the landscape of the zone.  Admittedly not a much as was originally presented to us, and even if you do build things differently it all still looks the same no matter what, but this is all about the feel of things and you really get that the first time you walk around and the soldiers stop at attention when you pass by or the vendors call you commander, or the big name characters you might remember as important for what they did in other expansion being the commanders themselves ask you what to do next.  This is really your home and your world and you are in charge of everything that goes on around here.  They never let you forget that.

Now that I have, or hope I have, conveyed the feeling of who you are here on draenor and your importance here and the reason you are leading the attack from your garrison it is time to talk about the garrison itself and some of the features within it.  Honestly I do not know where to start.  The things I mention here are going to be from an alliance perspective but being garrisons are the same no matter what side you are on the names might be different, but everything I mention exists on both sides.

The Little Stuff:

I've always been a fan of the little things in games.  I've mentioned that so many times on this blog I could not even begin to count and that is because all those little things add flavor to the game.  There are many little things about the garrisons to like and I am sure I have not noticed most of them.  It is not just about leading your faction into war or building your buildings or working your command desk or collecting followers or sending them on missions.  There are little things that add flavor, sometimes without us even noticing it.

One of my favorite things thus far, being a battle pet collector before battle pets were even a thing, is the fact that our battle pets can sometimes be seen running around our garrison.  At first I thought that it was only the pets you mark as favorites that will make your garrison your home but it seems sometimes even pets that are not marked favorites are seen running around.

It brings a great deal of flavor to the game to see your pets, and if you named them, with your names on them running around your garrison.  These are not some random critters just running around, these are yours.  When mining one day I ran into my amethyst spider and he followed me around while I was in my mine.  When I went over to the fishing shack on my garrison I saw snarly, one of the crocodiles from the BC cooking dailies you can get, just chilling near the water.  When he saw me he decided to follow me and did so for a good 5 minutes as I ran around my garrison.  Then of course, just like any good hunter, I have my tiny sporebat always just flying around my garrison.

Sometimes it works out that you will see something that could put a smile on even the most frown filled faces in the world, a series of 5 or 6 of your pets all walking together through your garrison.  I can just imagine them being some pet battle raid team on a mission.  I think the flavor of them running around, seeing your pets, brings a type of life to the game no one could ever imagine until they see it.

At all levels of your garrison you see it grow and not only in terms of the buildings you make but in the terms of the surrounding area.  When you start there is one tombstone in your make shift cemetery you regretfully needed to make because this is a savage land after all and one of the original people that helped you settle this land must have died while building the garrison and staking your claim to a piece of land on this new world.  As your garrison grows so does the cemetery, which is just a sad fact of war, but it is also a very powerful and meaningful piece of story telling without ever saying a word.

Not only do your pets roam the garrison but there are also many strays that find their way to your land and it seems that your followers like having them around because they built a few little dog houses around the garrison, no doubt for all the strays there.  Townie cats are nowhere near few and far between, you will see lots of them, but there are two dogs that are worth making note of.

Dog, our friend from the farm, made the trip with us and it only makes sense.  He was a stray when we found him.  It is not like he had a home anywhere else.  His home is with us and he should come with us.  His name is still simply dog and you can not change it, but for me after these years with him even if I could change it I don't think I would.  His name is dog and that is what I will call him.

The other dog of note, a rambunctious pug named pippers that belongs to shelly, one of our earliest followers (most likely a different name on horde side) can often be seen running all over the place in seemingly no real direction but if you take the time to follow pippers you will find out something very interesting.  See, pippers is one of those dogs that likes to bury things and the things he is burying seem to be your garrison supplies.  So make sure to follow him around each time you upgrade your garrison and collect the supplies he buried on you.  Even if you don't it won't hurt you, he is a little dog and can't take much, maybe 10 at a clip, but it is still an interesting bit of life going on behind the scenes, something you had nothing to do with, showing the game as a living area.

Then there are even the basic NPCs that are just there for flavor and don't have anything to say that play their role.  From the steward in your barracks that will stop what he is doing even if he is sitting down eating and get up when you enter to stand at attention in front of you while you walk around and inspect the barracks, to the people that work in the buildings you build that will do the same.  Some of the workers will drop what they are doing and walk up to you to see if you need anything.

Then there are some of those old school NPCs, like the panda fisherman that will walk away from you as you are trying to sell stuff to him.  There are NPCs of all types, old school and new school that look at you like their commander and are always ready to serve you.

There is so much more flavor to the garrisons but I do not want to waste an entire post talking about just one thing.

The Buildings We All Get:

No matter what buildings you decide to build on your garrison there are some buildings you end up getting no matter what.  In my opinion these are the most important ones there are.  Perhaps that is why blizzard decided to give them to us as baseline and not make us have to make the hard decision of if we would get them or not.

You will get the farm, the fishing shack, the mine and the pet menagerie. 

With the farm you will grow herbs and unlike with the farm on pandaria you do not need to plant anything, they will just grow on their own every day.  No upkeep needed.  Well, unless you call picking them to make room for more to grow upkeep.  You will not only get herbs from the farm you will also collect draenic seeds which you will need to collect 500 of over time to get the level three plans to upgrade the farm.

Each profession needs different things than we are used to and as such you might need to get some specific herbs.  Say you are a leather worker, you are going to need gorgrond flytraps for your daily.  No need to worry about making your way to the auction house or having a friend help you or leveling an alt with herbalism.  Just set your farm to grow gorgrond flytraps and nothing but gorgond flytraps and you will have all the herbs you will ever need.

With your mine you will be getting draenic stone along with your ore, just like you did with seeds in the farm along with your herbs. Also just the same as with the farm, do not worry if you are not a miner, you can mine your own mines.  You will need to collect 500 stone to get the level 3 plans.

Both have the new gathering surprise of mobs that pop up, sort of like the rabbits or the birds we were used to in mists but these are better.  When you kill them you get some materials.  Makes them less annoying and if you are anything like me, it makes them something I actually like to see as opposed to cursing at the screen every time a damn bird appeared in mists.

The seeds are not used just to get the upgrades either, they are used for work orders, more on that in a little bit however.  Lets move on to the fishing shack. 

With the fishing shack you have a nice little area you can fish in.  Sadly the fish don't really bite there so you will most likely not catch anything, or at least not catch anything all that often, you can still get skill ups from it however, but if you managed to snag some bait while out in the world fishing and use that bait while you are at your farm you can catch that type of fish as well as more bait while fishing in your very own garrison.  Sure some fish still can not be caught there but most of the stuff you will want can be and with bait it is a higher catch rate so it is better then heading out into the world and trying to find pools.

Last but not least from the upgradable buildings is the pet menagerie.  It is once you hit level 2 that some of your pets start to hang out and level 3 is where more start to hang out.  They have their cages there, but they are open door cages.  Who would want to keep them locked up, after all seeing them run around your garrison is half the fun of them.  Also at level 3 you get a new pet battle daily that will appear in your garrison with different match ups each day offering a different challenge.

Battles like you vs stitches jr.  Any alliance player from the pre cataclysm era will remember stitches and how he would be the death of so many hapless adventurers that happened to quests in the area.  Seems his son is now a pet battle and not a push over either.  Ignoring any and all damage that hits for less than 500 per hit and having over 6,000 health he poses as a formidable opponent, just like dad.

You will also get some smaller buildings, ones that are not meant to be upgraded, most coming at level 3 of your garrison.  Such as the tower that gives you a portal to the new city hub outside of ashran.  You will also get your very own set of training dummies.  A damage dealer dummy, a tanking dummy and a healing dummy.  Be careful of the tanking dummy even as a tank because it means near instant death if you are not ready for it.  There is also room for the garrison to grow so who knows what they might have planned for us in future patches.

The Buildings We Build:

I will not get too deep into what each building does because that will be a post all of its own but for the record I will go over what buildings we have to choose from, and a hard choice it will be because there are so many solid options.

You will be allowed to build 2 large buildings and one will be part of a start up questing, the barracks, which means you basically get to add one more.  Although you can remove a building at any time and the barracks seems a little lackluster with what it offers, it might be worth keeping for you, if it fits your play style, but as I said, more on that in another post.

The large building options are the barracks, the dwarven bunker / war mill, gnomish gearworks / goblin workshop, mage tower / spirit lodge, and stables.

You will be allowed to build 2 medium sized buildings and the options are the barn, the gladiator sanctum, the lumber mill, the inn / tavern, and the trading post.  They all have reasons to get them but choosing which ones you want can be a little complex and need some decision making that I will mention in the post about building later, but I will say if you PvP you want the gladiator sanctum.  That is an easy one that takes no decision making at all to suggest.

For the small buildings they mostly revolve around professions and their work orders, which I will talk about next, can really make choosing the right one interesting.  The profession based small buildings are the alchemy lab, enchanters study, engineering works, gem boutique, scribes quarters, tailoring emporium, the forge and the tannery.  There are two non profession based buildings worth considering as well in the form of the salvage yard and the storehouse.

As I mentioned, all buildings of all sizes are good to have, even the profession ones when you do not even have the profession yourself is good to have, there is a lot of decision making to go into it when choosing which ones you want to build.  As such, to not completely take up the next hour of your life while this post is already going to be very long, I will save the deeper information for a later date.

I will note however that you can not only build any building you want, but you can rip any building down.  So there will never be any wrong choices.  Everything will have its value.  The only one that holds no, or more, value is the gladiator sanctum, as it is tied to PvP.  The less you PvP the less likely you will be to like it and the more you PvP the more likely you will be to want it.  All other builds are good no matter what your play style is.

Work Orders:

Many buildings offer you the option to fill out work orders.  Like the farm allows you to make a work order with 25 draenic seeds.  When the order is filled you will get a fair amount of herbs from it.  The mine allows you to make a work order with 25 draenic stone that will net you some extra ore when it is filled.  Things like that, but not really always so straight forward.

Some work orders, like from the trading post, are not always the same.  They might ask for 10 pieces of fur today to make a work order and tomorrow they will be asking for 10 nagrand arrowbloom and the day after maybe 10 ore.  So it is not like you can just stock up on thing expecting to always use it there. No matter what you make a work order for there you end up with garrison supplies. So at least the end result is predictable.

For the enchanters study you end up needing ore to make a work order, but with your mine on premises that should be no real issue.  Many of the profession work orders ask you for stuff that might seem odd at first.  For professions like blacksmith, tailor, leather worker and alchemy, your work orders net you the catalysts you need for so many of the things you craft, as well as giving you a small chance at getting some of the rare but needed sorcerous items like air, earth, fire and water.

With work orders you can take a surplus of one item and turn it into another item that might have more use depending on your building set up.  This puts a lot more importance into which buildings you choose because some interact very well with others.

With work orders you can do one at a time (usually) at level 1 for the building, 3 at a time (usually) at level 2 for the building and 5 at a time (usually) at level 3 of the building.  It takes only 1 minute to fill one work order so if you really wanted to you could convert a massive amount of your frostweed into alchemical catalysts if you are willing to spend the time there waiting on your work orders to be filled.

I honestly do not believe it will go live in its present state where you can make as many work orders as you wish as long as you are willing to spend the time there.  I think blizzard will put a cap on how many work orders you can do per day but if they do not then I would have no problem with that.  I sort of like being able to turn all my extra ore into enchanting materials.  Heck, who wouldn't.

Architect Table:

This is where you build your garrison from and I should have made it the first thing I mentioned, but it really does not have a lot to say about it.  You use this interface to add buildings, remove buildings, upgrade buildings, or assign followers to buildings.

It is worth noting, unless it is a bug, that when you assign a follower to a building they do not get any experience which means they can not level up.  So unless they change that I suggest leveling up the follower before you assign them to work in a building.

For people without alts where they can't have different characters work on different buildings to work on all the achievements I see them spending a fair deal of time here building, upgrading, and then destroying buildings as they hunt after achievements such as collecting waystones for the mage tower and then ditching it after the got the achievements tied to it.  Even at that this part of the garrisons will be mostly unused after you build your garrison the way you like it.  Unless you change your mind on one of your buildings that is.  It is nice to have something like this, so no decisions are life long ones.

In this section it would be worth noting how you upgrade your buildings however.  At level 93, or based on zone progression, you can upgrade your garrison to level 2 and at level 100 you can upgrade it to level 3.  The buildings on your garrison can only be as high as your garrison level, so of course you want to upgrade your garrison as soon as you can.

You can buy many of the blueprints for building upgrades from a vendor, once you are high enough, at the cost of gold in your garrison right next to the architect table.  Do not be so quick to waste the gold however because doing your quest progression you will get items that you can trade in for blueprints, which means you save gold. 

The person you trade them in for blueprints is in our city hubs outside of ashran.  It is worth trading them in and saving some gold because if you buy everything there is really no other use for those items you get from the quests and they can not be vendored.  So they either clutter up bag space for no reason or you throw them away.  Might as well buy your blueprints with them instead of gold if you ask me.

For some blueprints you need to do quests to get them, such as with a leather working building, known as the tannery.  If you want to build that and you are a leather worker, you need to do a quest to get the building.  There are many professions like that, ones that require you to do a quest to get your profession building, but not all. 

For other blueprints you need to meet some achievement requirements.  Like I mentioned with the farm and the mine were you needed to gather 500 draenic seeds or stones each to get the level 3 building.  Something like when you gather 500 draenic stone you get an achievement for gathering 500 stone and in turn that gets you the blueprint for the level 3 mine. 

There are many level 3 plans that tie themselves into the buildings.  But none of them would require you to do anything different than you would be doing anyway.  If you are using the mine you will get the stone and from getting the stone you will get the pattern.  For building the gladiator sanctum you will be PvPing so you will be collecting broken bones so you will get the 4000 needed to get to level 3.  So none of the patterns will require you to do anything different than you would be doing to begin with.

When building a building and upgrading one, you will be using garrison resources.  You will collect them from all over the place.  Quests in the world, rare mobs drop them, you have a treasure chest in your garrison you can loot that collected them up, and as I mentioned the trading post, should you have it, can convert various materials into resources.

Not only are resources used but gold is needed as well.  Some buildings are upwards of 5000 gold, but do not fret, not all are and most have no cost outside of garrison resources.  All building, not counting the free ones, take time to build and after they are finished you need to finalize them.

Quests:

There is the pet daily that I mentioned earlier and there is one more daily quest you can do.  It is one that will send you to some area from your command desk where you need to kill a large amount of mobs.  They do not tell you how many you need to kill but will give you a percentage bar.  Killing normal mobs might get you one percent and killing an elite might get you 5 or 10 percent and if you are lucky enough to encounter a rare in that area you could get upwards, if not more, than 30 percent of your completion on that one mob.  You will get to choose between two areas of the day.  I usually choose the closest one, to get it done faster.  It nets you some gold and apexis crystals, which can be used to buy, and later upgrade, a few pieces of gear.  This is really your only daily.  And no, any apexis crystals you have saved up in your bank from BC do not count, mine are still in my bank and can not be spent like that.  Ah shucks.

However, there are some other dailies but only if you build the inn / tavern.  You will get two travelers visiting each day giving you daily dungeon quests.  You might notice some of the names of the visitors because we have all seen them while questing.  These can be fun one time things because they all give you little goodies for completing them but sadly like everything else this expansion these quests are one hit wonders, once you do them it is really not worth doing them again because you already would have the goodie they offer.

Now for non daily quests.  Sometimes you will have a quest pop up, once a week I believe, I have not been around longer to try it much, and it will send you on a quest line somewhere in the world.  I've done two so far and the second one gave me a mole machine that automatically brings me to gorgrond, which is kind of cool.  I am guessing there might be some other quest lines that pop up in time but I can not say for sure until I see them.

There are also quests for invasions which is another topic so lets get to it.

Invasions:

Not sure if it is just a beta thing or if it will hit this way live (I sure hope it does) but you can do invasions of your garrison over and over.  Invasions can be sort of fun and even more fun if you can do it with friends.  You get some apexis crystals for completing them and the better you do and more bonus objectives you complete the more you get.  You can get bronze, silver and gold medals for competing them and turn them in for rewards.

This could be a fair way to gather some apexis crystals if that is your sort of thing, or a way to waste some time.  There are many objectives in it, but most are just the simple score 200 points, score 500 points, so forth and so on.  You will have NPCs get injured that you can heal by clicking on them.  There will be someone trying to rob your mine that you have to stop, there will be buildings you have to try to keep from getting set on fire, large mobs, small mobs, many mobs, just handle it.

Of course, like with anything else in game, there are many achievements tied to these invasions so I know I will be doing them for those and it could take me a while to get them all, depending on gear acquisition of course and if I can get some friends to help me.

Your followers are all there helping you, so it makes sense to level them all up so they are better at defending your garrison.  Also getting them gear will be really important too.  The better geared they are the better they can defend.  And even at low levels they are not just your basic useless NPCs.  They really do help and they can really handle mobs on their own.  So if planned correctly you can have them protect the gate while you stop the guy trying to rob your mine.

There is a lot of seemingly real interaction in garrisons that show they put a lot of work into them and invasions are no different.  From some of your followers ushering out civilians when the battle starts, to multiple events going on at once, to your crew working on their own and actually being useful doing so.  Invasions are very well written, and at least while new, pretty fun to do.

Followers:

Followers are people that hang around your garrison but are under your direct control.  People who have pledged themselves to your service.  Just like you can get books to trade for blueprints while questing you get the vast majority of your followers through questing as well, even more so if you do not have an inn.  So it is worth questing to get them.

If you have the inn you can recruit one follower a week from there and random followers show up each week to choose from.  In this current beta the follower recruitment screen seems to be broken and is only showing one follower whom I can not recruit.  In previous builds it would show 3 followers and I could choose to recruit one.  I am going to say that is the way it is intended to work and it is just currently broken, but who can say for sure at the moment.

Some followers, like good old leeroy jenkins can be attained through achievements and as you might guess the achievement to get him is tied to the new upper blackrock spire remake which has a new achievement for him.  Other followers, like nat pagle, require you to do a long quest line to get them and meet certain requirements before you even know about them such as having a fishing shack of level 3 and max fishing before you even can consider starting the quest line for good old nat, my best friend, who seems to have forgotten me.  But I guess it is fair, even if he was my best friend from last expansion I never even knew he was a marksmen hunter.  So maybe he is mad at me and that is why I need to once again win him over like I have in multiple expansions now.

Each follower has their own strengths and weaknesses.  Some followers preform better when on solo missions, some work better with a dwarf in the group, some like missions in grassland.  Each follower has their unique set of abilities and likes and using them for the right missions increases their chances of success.

Your followers with their unique set of abilities make up for a team that you send out for special missions directly.  You are the commander and they are your troops.  You can only have 20 followers, 25 if you have a level 3 barracks, but you can dismiss them without worry.  Even the followers you let go you can get back so don't fret, at least that is how it seems on beta and I sure hope that makes it live.  I dread the idea of dismissing someone I find out I would want later on and having no way to get them back.  So I am glad they put that in on the last build, lets just hope it makes it to live.

Your followers start at or near the level of the zone in which you pick them up in.  So for example the first followers you will get will be level 90.  When you level them up to level 100 they will be able to equip items but not the same type of items we use.  They are simply known as follower weapon and follower armor.  You can get things, mostly through the salvage yard (so far that is the only consistent place I have found) and missions that can be used to upgrade them.  Things like +2 or +4 to weapon or 615 armor set.

So now that we know how to get followers and how to equip them, how do we level them.  Lets take a look at missions.

Missions:

Now this is the central focus of what your followers are for.  You will level them through missions and your missions will get you a lot of good things.  The number one thing missions give you is experience for your followers to level but that is not it.

You can get things from missions that upgrade your followers weapons or armor.  You can get other followers from missions.  You can gain conquest points through missions.  You can get gold from missions.  You can get fun toys through missions.  You can even get armor for yourself through missions and who would not like getting a 630 piece really early on.

Missions seem to range from 30 minutes to 16 hours long.  Of course the longer the mission the better the reward as you might expect but also the harder the mission will be to complete.  If you are active early on with lots of those short missions you can level up your followers in a reasonable amount of time.  If you are once a day person it will take a bit longer of course.

Each mission it will show you were you are going and what you are doing.  If you have a follower that is good vs orges and the mission requires you to kill orges it will greatly increase your chances at a successful mission.  Some missions need multiple followers to go on them and having followers that not only match up against the mission they are going on, like someone with beast slaying going against beasts, it will also increase the chance of success if the group works well together.  So if you pair someone that works better with dwarves with a dwarf it will increase the chance of success.

I know that all seems a little over whelming because you need to factor in what you are facing, the class they are playing to counter it, the area it is so you can pick who fights well in that area, and the personal traits of the follower to get the maximum chance at success but it really isn't.

When a follower is good at something it will tell you that, you do not need to go figure it out all on your own.  Things like people who prefer to be alone or like to work with dwarves however you need to figure out on your own by looking at them but the system tells you, very visually so you can not miss it, who is the best person to send on the mission.  So it will not be as hard as it sounds.  And even in failure, your followers will still get some experience.  So even in the worse case, you still win.  You just do not get the objective loot.

Home Is Where The Hearth Is:

One last thing before I leave this post.  When you first get your garrison, you will get a garrison hearthstone, effectively it will be to get you back here and work as a second hearthstone.  When your garrison reaches level 3 you will have a tower that you can teleport directly to your new faction hub near ashran, which means your garrison hearth works like a second hearth truly.  It not only gets you to your garrison, but with a few steps it gets you too your city hub which in turn has teleports to every major city.  So this frees up your actual hearthstone to use anywhere.  Kind of cool right?

Well, there is a more to it, a lot more really.  More things you can win, other things you can do, more people to see, follower to, ah, follow you, but this is the basic idea behind garrisons.  If you are anything like me, this will be your home.  It is the only feature to be added this expansion and even if it has a lot less than it did when we first heard about it it sure is still very well done.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Random Beta Thoughts

- Before I get to beta thoughts I need to spend a few moments venting about live.

- I killed garrosh twice again this week and still no heirlooms.

- For the first time ever I did see a lot fall however.

- First kill 2 out of 10 got one, second kill 5 out of 10 got one.

- Is that insane, 5 people got an heirloom.

- I have killed garrosh a bunch, in flex, normal and heroic and never saw a heirloom.

- Someone in guild got their 5th this week.

- Someone that a guild member knows got his 23rd this week.

- Sorry but the random is random thing does not work with me.

- Blizzard needs are better loot system.

- Now to beta.

- If you read my post about night elf models there was a beta being beta issue with it.

- Night elves do not run with their arms at their side, as I said in the post.

- Was just beta being beta.

- But now with their arms swinging I am thinking maybe they would have been better staying at their sides.

- Just too darn bouncy for a male night elf if you ask me.

- I started leveling another character because I wanted to test things more.

- Also figured I would like to see how the leveling flow was on a lesser geared character.

- And how it was on a character I was lesser skilled on.

- So my rogue it was with his lesser gear and my lesser skill, but at least he has the cloak.

- Note:  If you have the cloak you do not even need gear in the first zone.

- Seriously, I am not kidding.

- My cloak was killing things before I had a chance to kill them.

- Guess my idea of bringing over a lesser geared character to see how they did is not actually going to work if they still have the cloak.

- Either way, still gives me a chance to test 2 more professions.

- Note:  The cloak works up until 100 but does not proc at all at 100.

- I also found that one of the items I found a good use for many times in mists does not work any longer.

- The dagger you use to kill yourself that you get from that one rare in the cave on the isle of thunder (name escapes me at the moment) doesn't work if you are level 91 or over.

- Damn, it would have been a super awesome tool for exploration.

- That is probably why they disabled it.

- So I have completed every quest that isn't bugged, every quest event that isn't bugged, basically everything in the game that isn't bugged.

- Not counting group content of course.

- But it is sad that I finished all there is to do that quickly.

- But it is good, because it allowed me to notice some things I think blizzard should know.

- And of course I am just the elf to tell them about it.

- Having rare mobs that are only rare to you once is a bad idea, no repeatability.

- Having quest events that are one time only things is a bad idea, no repeatability.

- Having activated events (like the brew guy) only reward you once is a bad idea, no repeatability.

- Basically, everything at max level is do it once and then you have nothing to do.

- Bad bad bad idea blizzard.

- People like rare hunting because they are looking for something.

- If you give it to people right away and the mob is no longer rare there is no reason to ever kill it again.

- It also takes away what is easily 100s of hours of game play, for me and many many others.

- How much time have you spent rare hunting?

- Well, gone are the days of that in this expansion, kill it once, get your goodie, no need to ever kill it again because you get nothing from it that a normal mob would not give you.

- My advice to blizzard was this, keep it giving the drop guaranteed like it is now but keep the rare tag on it and allow it, after the first kill, to have a percentage based drop of some other goodie, a BoE version of the BoP one you got the first time, or basically anything you can think of that makes it worth killing again.

- Have it drop small bag of goods at a low clip, and big bag of good at a very low drop, like in mists, because they helps rare hunting.

- Basically the reason rares were so hugely successful in mists was because people wanted to kill them over and over.

- In warlords you made millions of rares (or so it seems) but there is no reason to kill any of them more than once.

- Bad choice.

- When you finish loremaster for a zone you get something in the mail that you use to learn it and it puts treasure chests on your maps.

- Not all the zones seem to have these yet, or it is bugged.

- The two zones I did get it on, talador and nagrand, I went and got all the treasure chests.

- I did nagrand first.

- This kept be busy for the better part of sunday really.

- Lots of running around and some thinking involved.

- Don't worry, I am sure someone will post a guide so no one hurts themselves trying to figure out how to get these.

- But if I could figure them all out on my own I have no doubt anyone else could.

- I got them all, save one, because it seems bugged and is not there.

- There is no place above or below where it could be, and I checked everywhere, so I can safely say it is not there at all.

- Most likely a beta is beta bug.

- All the others are there, and some are amazingly hard to get to.

- Some require a lot of work to get to.

- Some involved some skill to get to.

- And the one that really bugged the heck out of me was so far away and I missed it 4 times.

- I found a goblin willing to allow me to borrow his glider up a mountain side.

- I jumped on the glider and went flying down trying to crash into a tree yet I kept missing it.

- You ever notice the only time you hit a tree with your glider is when you are trying to avoid it but when you want to hit it, you can't.

- Murphys law.

- Worst part is, where I landed was so far away it took forever to get back to him.

- BTW, nagrand is the one zone that is large, nicely sized.

- Smart move if you ask me, this is the max level zone, it should be the largest one.

- If only all the zones were this big it would be nice.

- I managed to get into the tree and get the treasure.

- That was not the hardest one to get, but it was the most annoying.

- I am completely dreading having to do this again when it goes live.

- It was not fun even in the slightest and I can not believe there would be anyone in the world that would say it was.

- What is blizzard thinking?

- The hardest was one on a wall where I needed to use a little creative walk jumping to get to.

- When showing a friend how to get it I manged to do it the first time and made it look easy, but it wasn't.

- The jump has to be perfectly timed.

- It took me a long while when I first did it, was really amazed I got back up there so easily the second time.

- I saw dozens of people running by me trying to get up there and every single one completely missed where you needed to climb up.

- I was amazed there are this many new players to the game.

- It is the only explanation because any older players would have immediately found where to climb up like I did.

- But getting up was half the problem, that jump needed perfection.

- My friend never got it, I told him to die and I just used mass rez and got him up there that way.

- A level 603 2 handed sword that looks freaking awesome.

- Too bad neither of us could use it.

- After I finished nagrand I went to talador and talador did not have as much effort put into it as nagrand.

- Nagrand ones took thinking, planning, looking, most of talador treasure were just easily found laying somewhere that did not take much effort to get to.

- You can tell blizzard designers put a lot of effort into the treasure in nagrand but it looks like they just threw them on the floor anywhere in talador.

- I ran into Hemet, in nagrand of course, where else would he be.

- I love that guy, hunter extraordinaire.

- Doesn't seem too happy being there however.

- I'll let you find him and talk to him to find out why.

- I ran into the mother of all rare mobs while doing treasure collecting in nagrand.

- It had 43 million life and was at the bottom of the ocean.

- And he could not be baited to come up.

- And even if you hit him at ranged and got really far away, he could still hit you.

- Not sure if that is a bug.

- He is also surrounded by level 100 and 101 elites.

- So he will not be an easy kill for sure.

- To give you a concept of how hard he is to kill, the world bosses have less health than he does.

- Yeah, that hard.

- More health than a world boss, under water, surrounded by strong elites.

- This guy will need a raid group.

- Tried to 2 man him.

- Did not go very well.

- So I did all the quests I could, found all the treasures I could, killed all the rares I could.

- All that is left are the dungeons and raids because the expansion has nothing else to offer.

- We need daily hubs, big time.

- Blizzard is over compensating from mists where people back lashed against dailies.

- Word to the wise for blizzard, being they missed it.

- People where not upset with the dailies, they did not hate the dailies, they just hated you gated things behind the dailies.

- If you add dailies and they are 100 percent optional, people will do them as a form of content when they are looking for something to do.

- People wanted you to remove the daily gating, not remove the dailies.

- Sometimes I think the people at blizzard take stupid pills every morning.

- With all that said...

- There is no reason to go out in the world once you do any of those things like completing loremaster, killing rares, collecting treasures, etc, because as I said, there is no repeatability anywhere.

- So warlords, unless they add a hell of a lot more to it, is sit in your garrison, or a city, and queue for stuff.

- Way to move backwards in game design blizzard.

- Congrats on destroying a great franchise.

- I loved that mists never gave me any reason to stay in a city, there was always some reason to be out in the world.

- Gone are those days. :(

- Beta is beta, lets hope they add something to do, change how rares work, add some dailies, something.

- There are other things I could do, but I would not grind them on beta, like the goblin faction reputation.

- Over all, there is not much to offer in this expansion.

- You know all that bag space they opened up for us?

- Well it was nice, when I first logged in.

- Now I have less bag space than I ever had before.

- Blizzard added too much crap to the game.

- And the trading post supplies do not stack, really?

- And the garrison follower upgrade items do not stack, really?

- I have nearly 2 royal satchels filled with that stuff.

- At least when I get a follower to 100 I can use some of it.

- But why pour so much junk into our bags, and make none of it stack?

- They could give me all 100 slots bags and I would probably fill them.

- Can't believe I have only been in the beta 2 weeks, not really going all out or anything, and I am already out of space.

- I do not want to see what will happen on live after I have been playing for a few months.

- LFR did open up so I figured I would give it a try.

- Zoned in on a boss with 7 stacks of determination.

- We wiped and the bosses health did not even budge, it was healing more than the damage we were doing.

- In a couple of attempts we finally got the grove on and started to damage it.

- But we could not do enough damage to kill it.

- We were killed by the enrage timer.

- Even our best attempt we were not close.

- But if there was no enrage we would have done it.

- A least half the raid was wearing a hellscreams downfall title so I would guess these were at the very least competent or capable people.

- And we still could not even get close to downing the boss.

- And LFR is supposed to be easier this expansion?

- Beta is beta, but this is really your first attempt at super easy LFR?

- When mostly heroic raiders can not down an LFR boss there is, without a doubt, major tuning issues here.

- Group fell apart and we never downed it.

- It was not a hard fight, easily really, and even not knowing about it picking up on it was no problem, kill adds, interrupt what you can, win.

- Not as easy as it sounds.

- I hope they give the level 100 mobs loot tables.

- If it goes live that all the mobs in the daily (the one we have) zone drop nothing except the rare crystal here or there, I see a major outrage coming.

- I did write blizzard and tell them, people like to loot stuff, even if they give them a standard junk only loot table with a few silver here and there they need to drop something.

- You can not ask us to kill all these mobs every day, and be really hard at fresh 100 item level, and they all drop nothing.

- Some of these zones I really feel bad for a fresh 100 that is not very good at their class.

- They are strong mobs, they are cluttered in huge packs sometimes, and there are many stronger or elite ones running around.

- Some areas are elite only.

- I see a lot of people dying a brutal death doing these dailies.

- Replaced all my SoO gear already, except my cloak.

- Did I mention the cloak no longer procs at 100, but it still has awesome stats.

- Every time I get a piece of gear with versatility on it I want to punch a blizzard employee.

- Not because I am angry, but because they deserve it for letting that stat get into the game.

- Seriously, how F'N useless of a stat is this.

- They really think this is a good idea?

- It should never be on any gear a hunter would wear, get it off my gear now blizzard.

- I feel dirty wearing gear with versatility on it.

- I feel like a noob hunter that rolls on resto shaman gear while wearing anything with versatility on it.

- It is wasted stat allotment.

- I swear I am going to put a bug report in on live whenever I get a piece of gear with versatility on it.

- Dear Blizzard, I found a piece of hunter gear that is bugged, it has a useless stat on it for a hunter named versatility, please fix.

- It is as useless as bonus armor or spirit on my gear, get it off my gear now.

- Your gear is basically one stat gear if you get a piece with versatility on it.

- We need reforging back blizzard and it should be a 100% change of a stat now.

- Really, just do it blizzard.

- Actually I dare you to do it so I can prove my point.

- When everyone in the entire game changes all their versatility to another actually useful and performance enhancing stat maybe you will realize how useless of a stat it is.

- Then you can use all that data you keep saying you collect to see that no one in the game has any versatility on their gear and you can remove it.

- Who the hell came up with this useless stat idea?

- And even worse, who the hell in their right mind allowed it to be put in the game?

- Does anyone at blizzard stand up and say something when someone comes up with these horrible ideas or are they all yes men?

- No need to answer that, we all know the answer.

- So now that I am done with everything (not group related or waiting on quests to pop up) that there is to do in the game through testing I can tell you the expansion has nothing to offer outside of garrisons.

- But I do like garrisons even if I did expect more.

- Not like they can keep me playing for more then a few minutes a day mind you, but I do like them.

- I plan to make a full post on garrisons later this week.

- Lots of little things to like about it.

- I still have not tested dungeons yet.

- Because to me the game needs to interest me on a personal level, group content is just for the sake of doing it.

- Outside of gear the game needs to offer me something if it wants me to do group content.

- And right now, with mass disconnections and lag, even for testing purposes, doing dungeons is not worth it right now.

- When it comes to live it will be different, we will need to do dungeons to gear up, and there should be no lag.

- But did I mentioned, there is no reason to really do group content either?

- Once you have gear from dungeons or LFR there is no reason to touch them with a 10 foot pole.

- There is no valor any longer, so no need to do stuff to build valor.

- There is no justice any longer, so no need to spam dungeons to get justice to buy heirlooms or convert to honor.

- So dungeons offer nothing except gear which means as soon as you get gear there is never a reason to do them.

- There are no motivating factors to get you into dungeons.

- To reward us with gold?

- I would sooner spend an hour on the auction house and make 100 times the amount doing one dungeon would net me.

- At least now you would do dungeons for some valor, or justice maybe.

- Now there is no reason to do them.

- So now if you queue up for a mists dungeon you will get a tank that will chain pull, because he can, or me who could solo it and does not need anyone, because I can, or many others that just make the run fast and smooth and fun.

- We do it for valor, that is our motivating factor.

- Without that do you know the only people you will ever see in dungeons.

- The people that need the gear from there.

- You are aware if you make a group of only people that need gear from a mists dungeon, it still could be somewhat of a challenge.

- Even more so if they are not even remotely skilled.

- But that is what it will be like, only people that need the gear in dungeons.

- Because there is no reason to go anywhere near them otherwise with no actual reward from them.

- No valor grinding means no need to touch dungeons after the first week of release on my main.

- Bad move blizzard, really bad move.

- So nothing to do at max level solo, nothing to do at max level as a group once you have gear, makes you wonder, do they want people to unsubscribe?

- We are less than 3 months away and they are not looking like they have even considered what people are going to do at max level yet.

- Because there is nothing to do at max level.

- I am not being grumpy, I am not being negative, I am being 100% honest here.

- They need to add content for max level, content that has replayability, content worth doing.

- Lets hope they pick up the production pace and add a hell of a lot of stuff.

- Otherwise I would not be surprised to see them lose another 2M subscribers over the life of warlords.

- I read some treads on a few forums asking, what do I do at 100.

- I would say, hang out in the garrison, that is all there is to do.

- Or better yet, log out and find something else to do.

- Lets hope blizzard reads those types of posts and notices they have their work cut out for them instead of just dismissing them as "haters gonna hate".

- The people complaining there is nothing to do at 100 are telling you what is wrong with the game blizzard, stop dismissing them as if their concerns do not matter.

- People are complaining because blizzard completely forgot to add any real lasting content to their new content.

- Garrisons post will be coming this week.

- What I call the main bright spot of this expansion.

- Have a great day.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Male Night Elves, Female Tauren and Hunters in General

So a new patch was released on the beta last night that gave us, among other things, many new character models to play with.  Two of those character models are of particular importance to me because as luck would have it the two characters I am playing on the beta at the moment are a male night elf and a female tauren.  So needless to say I was happy to see the character models for not one but both of my hunters.  Yes, they are both hunters.

First up I have to say that unlike most people who are complaining about their characters not looking like their characters I am pleased to announce that my night elf actually looks like my night elf.  Sure there are some minor differences but there is no doubt that this is the same character I have been playing for years.  Just in higher detail.  I must admit I still wonder why the detail is needed.  I am always wearing boots, so are having actual toes really needed?  Either way, when it comes to looks I was pleasantly surprised by the male night elf model.

I had not known what to expect because we have not seen an artcraft on the male night elf.  No one could have even guessed that they would be included in the next patch of character models because no one even knew that they existed yet.

Just like anyone else would do, even someone like me that is not all that interested in the character model redesigns, I took a nice close look at my character.  I had to check, I had to make sure if he was the same character I have been playing all these years.  I was worried.  My night elf could have ended up looking like anything and seeing some of the other character models like the male human and his shrek imitation , or the female human and her children of the damned look, or the female troll and their crack head street hooker look.  Night elves could have ended up being anything and I was not expecting much.

Needless to say I was surprised that they were done so well, at least as I saw it.  I am sure some people will have problems with it.  If they do not have any faces that look close enough to what their look was before they will complain, and rightfully so.  I just got lucky that it made my ugly as sin night elf a little less ugly.  But still ugly none the less.  No one ever said that they would see a night elf on the cover of GQ magazine after all, they are not quite what anyone in their right mind would call attractive and I am actually fine with the idea that they still aren't.

I do have one problem with the remodel however, one really big problem with the male night elf characters and it has nothing what so ever to do with the new character models themselves.  Well, at least not the looks of the new character models.

The way it runs is horrible.  He runs as if he just took a dump in his pants and is trying to hold it in while running to the bathroom.  Then his legs loop out a really unnatural amount and he runs basically with his hands at his sides almost.  Please blizzard, give us back the normal run animation.  You know, the one that looks like a person running instead of trying to make it too the bathroom.  The male night elf runs like a 13 year old girl trying to make it to the bathroom in time.  It is sad, beyond sad even.

While the remodels mean nothing to me the way my character moves means a LOT to me.  I would rather they keep the old models with the old run animation than the new model with the new run even if the new models do look great.  Movement matters more than looks to me.  Always has and always will and it looks like they completely destroyed the movement of male night elves.

Now to my female tauren hunter.  We had seen images of them a long time ago.  If I am remembering correctly they are one of the earliest ones we saw after blizzcon had released the first few.  I honestly thought they had already added the female tauren models.  I mean she did look better than on live.  I figured maybe it was just not all that noticeable.  See, if that does not prove how little the character models mean to me I am not sure what will.

But after the patch when I logged in to my female tauren and took a close look I would have to say she is beautiful.  Okay, not exactly sure how a tauren could be beautiful, but she sure is compared to what she used to look like.  The facial details show that she is one the of the earlier ones done, it really is great when you look close up.  She always had this slightly funky look about her but now it doesn't really look funky any longer, it actually looks believable, or should that be believabull.

Unlike my night elf that suffers from a constant need to go potty the female taurens moves actually feel better than they did before.  More fluid, but still a little lumbering which is a problem with taurens because of their size to begin with, but definitely better.  I did not play around with her much last night because of "beta being beta" but from what I saw I have no complaints about the female tauren model.  It looks good, it moves good, and it is good.

Now to hunters in general and another series of nerfs that came down the pipe.  I am just getting a little tired of this.  Hunters are not only being abused, it is a flat out joke now.  From all the reports you hear from people testing things out, top hunters out there, hunters are dead last in DPS.  Hunters are barely beating the tanks and sometimes not even beating them.  Hunters are doing 1/3 of the damage that top specs are doing.  If there is a fight that a mage is doing 90K on the hunter could be pushing 30K, maybe, if they get lucky and play perfect.  Why nerf hunters?  I fail to see the logic of making the worst class out there and making it worse.

I like to try to hold out a little bit of hope and keep thinking "this is beta" but with gap like that and them doing tuning now you would think that the classes near the bottom would be getting constant buffs to get them up to par or the ones at the top would be getting constant nerfs to get them down to earth but it is not working that way.  The top specs are getting some trade offs, to balance their numbers, win some lose some, or even worse, straight out buffs, all while hunters keep seeing their numbers go down.

I am hoping that they are just balancing things out and then going to lift the entire spec all at once after they balanced out how the abilities interact with each other numbers wise.  Kind of how they used to boost us as a whole just by giving us a hawk buff.  Something that boosts the entire spec as a whole.  Right now that is the only thing that keeps me from raging.  They are balancing the abilities, then going to lift them all up at once.  I least that is what I am holding out hope for.

As far as the specs go, and I have played all three now, there really is no question about it.  Hunters are a one trick pony.  We only have one spec.  Do not even consider survival or marksmen.  It is beast mastery or you are doing it wrong.  Sad really.  Mists was amazing for hunters.  Even if there was always a bad spec (read marks) all three could be used unless you were a min max sort of player trying to squeeze every last ounce of the class.  Now MM and SV are not even an option because it is not like "okay I will do 5% less because I like this spec", the hunter specs are not that close.  Beast mastery is in the penthouse of a hundred floor building and marks and survival are hanging out in the lobby in both numbers and play style.

Survival review.

Survival really feels like it is lacking in the one department it had become known to be good at, trash AoE, and in terms of questing, quest AoE.  Survival was a great questing spec, even better than beast mastery in my opinion, because of their AoE.  You could round up a dozen or so mobs, misdirect, drop a few multi shots on it, and then go about gathering stuff you need to pick up for the quests while your serpent spread killed the mobs but it does not work that way any longer.  The multi shot serpent spread has no teeth to it any longer and in the recent patch they lowered the damage of serpent sting which will only make it worse than it already is.

The other problem with survival right now as I see it is that there is no big damage dealer, no execute, no big move, we just start chipping away at the mob and keep chipping away at the mob.  If you attack a rare and want some burst, not going to happen as survival.  Stacking explosive shots for burst really does not work because explosive shot hits like a wet towel to begin with, so hitting 5 times with a wet towel is not going to make it any better.  It might bruise the rare, but it surely is not going to hurt him.

So no burst, no big number ability, neutered AoE and no execute ability leave survival extremely lacking and completely unfun to play.

Marksman review.

For a while there I was so excited about marksmen because it seemed like it would be the spec to play.  It was always my favorite hunter spec and I have not really been able to play it, except for PvP, since firelands.  With the change to their rotation and the change to their mastery they have went from a class that was not played because it was bad, to a class that might have potential, to a class I would not play even if you were playing it for me.  Yes, it is that bad.  It does bad damage, has a boring rotation, is clunky as hell, and is counter intuitive to the way the class should play.

The spec in the current form is, quite frankly, unplayable.  Not even taking into the fact that it does bad damage even for a class that already had bad damage to begin with the spec just does not have any heart to it.  The abilities do not feel like they are working together when you play it, it feels like they are all working against each other.  Like the days when chimera would refresh serpent sting when only marks could do it, or the double steady shot would give you a speed boost, or the stacks of steady could give you a free aimed, when things actually worked with each other, now all the abilities seem to fight against each other.  No doing chimera to help your sting, no doing steady to give you a free aimed, nothing were one ability works with another ability.  All throughout the history of hunters marks had always had the most interaction with its abilities, where one ability helped the other ability and it does not have that any longer.  It does not have its heart any longer.

Each ability works for itself and itself only and they are all fighting against each other for their shot at the spotlight for when you will hit it.  None of them even stand out because of long cast times, large focus costs, and situational damage, perhaps if they would add back something like piercing shots, or give us serpent sting back and let chimera refresh it, which with the cleave of it would be cool to refresh it on two at once (back in the day keeping two stings running used to be a skill), and maybe change the mastery straight out, they could give marks back some life, but as it stands it is a dead spec, a boring spec, and as I mentioned, an unplayable spec.

With no instant focus dumps, no proc or stack to react to or look out for, long cast time abilities, no interaction between abilities, and the need to stand still for a class that is built and balanced around being able to move it just does not feel natural.

Beast Mastery.

The beginner spec, that is what it is refereed to as by many because you can have your pet do most of the heavy lifting.  For someone that never played this type of game a beast mastery hunter is the best first class to try it out.  That is partly because it has always been a pretty straight forward spec.  Even if they have completely dismantled survival and left it with no power and twisted and turned around marksmen so it doesn't even know what it is supposed to do any longer, beast mastery remains beast mastery, the straight forward spec.

It is the spec that lost the least by the wholesale stripping of abilities and it shows.  The spec still plays basically the same way you are used to playing it now if you play it.  Unlike survival it still has nice burst moments with beast mastery should you need it and an execute with the no focus cost kill shot when the mobs are low so it does not suffer from survivals lack of power.  While it has never been overly interactive with its own abilities like marksmen, it now has one more of those abilities than marksmen, which used to be built around that sort of game play, in the from of focus fire ability.  So it stays itself and has what survival needs and what marksmen needs.

Sadly for those that wish to play other specs but I must be the bearer of bad news, this is the only spec worth playing now.  Gone are the days of mists where you could be any spec you want and only needed to be beast mastery if you wanted to be uber leet.  Now you need to be beast mastery if you want to beat the tank.

And that is the over all sad part of this whole review.  The best hunters can do right now is to try and not finish behind the tank in damage done.  They need a lift, a pretty big one.  As a pure DPS class with no raid utility (no fox does not count because it is so situational and will probably be used rarely if ever by most groups) if hunters are not near the top of the charts, they have no chance of raiding.  And if this keeps up with mages and shaman and other doing triple the damage a hunter can do, be prepared to ride the bench.

I would like to see our numbers boosted considerably.  Heck, more than considerably.  To get things in line with where we should be we need to get an indecent increase, an out of line increase, an absurd increase, and we would need to have survival given back some power and marksmen given back some heart (make piercing shots the mastery and bring back double steady's and aimed procs, please, thank you).

There is still some time for us hunters, but it is running out, and it seems the developers are completely and totally blind, because they do not see the sad state hunters are in and as proof to that, in the last patch all we received were nerfs.  How do you nerf one of the worst damage dealing classes?  Not asking to be number one, just don't want to play a pure that can't even beat a tank.  So we now wait for the next tuning patch.  Maybe they won't nerf us again.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

From 90 to 100: The Leveling Experience

My beta hunter hit 100 on the leveling server in 36 hours /played.  Do not let the large number of hours played fool you.  It is actually a lot faster than that.  Once you take out all the countless hours I spent trying to complete quests that were bugged but I could not complete them and all those "beta being beta" disconnects that not only disconnected you but sent you back to stormwind when doing so requiring me to travel back and all those bug reports filled out I would say half that, maybe 18 hours would be a more accurate number.

I believe that number can also be cut down a bit if you move from zone to zone as soon as you are able to.  I did complete zones in an effort to test, hey that is why I am there.  In a way it turned out to be a good idea.  I never stepped foot in the last zone, Nagrand, and even if I had I would have not been able to get anywhere because the lead in quest for the alliance is broken so you can not even start the main story line questing in Nagrand.

So what did I think about leveling?  Read if you wish to know about leveling because that is what this post will be all about.  There will be absolutely no spoilers so feel free to read if you are trying to avoid information because I will supply none, except for how the leveling felt.

I'll start off with my favorite part of leveling in warlords and my least favorite part of leveling in warlords.

Favorite Part of Leveling:

I raided heroic siege last night on the live server and was in exactly the same gear as I am currently wearing on the beta at level 100.  I must say I really did love being able to quest and not feeling as if the first quest reward green I came along replaced my gear.  It was like that in each of the previous expansions.  If it was not the first quest you started replacing your raid gear it was shortly after, maybe by the second zone.  Even heroic gear did not have a long life when the new expansion came out in previous expansions.  I loved, loved, loved and can not express how much I loved being able to use my raid gear all the way to 100.

This time around I was in nearly all normal gear, a few warforged normal pieces, and one heroic piece and I did not need to replace any of them.  I probably could have replaced my AoC trinket around level 96 because AoC was not as big for me any longer as some of the abilities it shortened a survival hunter no longer had, and that was what I was leveling as.  I had gotten 2 trinkets with multistrike late on in questing either would have been a decent replacement but as I got close I wanted to see if I could get all the way with what I had, and I did.

Also, just as a side note as a level 100, even in my current raid gear at level 100 I was able to do the level 100 dailies with little to no problem at all.  So it sure as hell felt nice to have my gear be worth something for once when a new expansion came out.

I must note I did not do the last leveling zone of Nagrand.  I am sure if I had then I would have gotten a few pieces that could have replaced my normal siege gear.  Even more so if I got lucky with a rare upgrade or an epic upgrade from a quest reward, which I saw a few of while leveling.

Either way, lasting as long as it did, I loved the leveling feeling.  It made raiding feel like it was less of a waste late in the expansion because that gear was still useful.  So if you are burnt out on raiding, think of it as gearing up for the leveling process.  I would guess someone fully heroic geared and upgraded could very well not replace anything even if they do Nagrand.

The fact I could just quest and do so in the gear I had worked so hard for instead of replacing it with quest greens was the best part of leveling for me.  A+ work on that one blizzard.

Least Favorite Part of Leveling:

Professions.  I really could leave it at that one word.  Professions are in a word, horrible, in warlords.  From how you learn them, with random drops, to how you level them, to what you need to use to make stuff.  Professions are beyond horrible right now and are something that if you were a solo player that does not want to shop for materials via the auction house means you will be required to either have alts or be active in your garrison to get the other materials you need.

Things like alchemy needing fish, meat, and ore for potions but not needing herbs is stupid.  Sorry I could not find a more politically correct term for it because there is none.  It is just flat out stupid.

Learning your professions will be luck based to begin with as well.  You can not go to a trainer and train them, you need to find random world drops to learn them.  Don't get me wrong, the drops do drop fast enough.  I had most of mine within the first hour questing, but I still think it is a horrible idea.

I include this with my leveling review because I level my professions as I level my characters, always have.  I consider professions part of leveling.  I also consider them the worst part of leveling in warlords.  Professions are probably in the worst place they have ever been in the history of the game in my opinion.

I am not looking forward to the nightmare of archaeology with no flight.   But I guess that is not so much of a problem being I still have not found the damn book that will allow me to get to level 700.  Yeap, all the way to 100 and some and I still have not learned it (I am sure they will increase the drop rate on that book, because they have to).  Yeah, professions suck this time around and are the worst part of leveling this expansion.

The Flow and Feel:

Now to the flow and feel of leveling and it is quite good and somewhat bad at the same time.  The main story line runs from hub to hub as we have become used to in these types of game, even more so warcraft because they have been refining it and making it better with each expansion, or at least attempting to.

You will get to a quest hub and "need" a lead in quest.  That fits part of what I call somewhat bad but it is understandable because they want to keep you on task, so to speak, following the story.  When you turn in the lead in quest they will give you anywhere from 3 to 5 quests that are all nicely grouped together which means no running all over the world for the objectives of those 3-5 quests because you can get everything for them in the same area.  I like this and think it is a fantastic time saver.

What I do not like is that they seemed to all but abandon the pop up turn in quests that had become popular.  There are a few, sure, but not as many as their could be.  There are many quests that send you somewhere, you come back to turn it in and they send you right back where you were.  I thought blizzard had grown out of that.  Really loved the new style of if where if there was a direct continuation that the quest turn in would pop up and the follow up would be given to you without having to go all the way back.  But oh well, it seems in many cases they no longer do that.  The sting however is nothing major.  As I mentioned all the story quest hubs seem to give you nicely grouped quests in the immediate area.  So it is not like the old world quests before the redesign that would send you half way across the world and when you came back they would send you back there again.  Nothing like that at all here.

The extremely small maps also make for a much more enjoyable questing experience because getting from place to place is so much easier on a smaller map.  So easy that most of the time you are better running around on your ground mount than getting on a flight path because being on a ground mount is faster.  And no, I am not kidding.  I actually timed it running back to the same place after they had some "beta being beta" issues that kept putting me back in stormwind.  It is faster to run, even to different zones, than to take a flight path sometimes.  And that is great for questing but also says they need to work on flight paths a hell of a lot if even a ground mount is faster than them.

So as I said, the story flows nicely but what about non story quest content?  There is a fair deal of that.  Mini quest hubs you will come across while adventuring, ones you do not need a lead in quest to do.  Like I can not do the Nagrand storyline because it is broken but I have found 2 quest hubs, nice sized ones, so far.  Each zone is like this.  They have quest hubs that are not story bound that can offer you a fair amount of experience.

So follow the story line or ditch it and look for some of the non story bound quest lines, you have a choice, but that is not the only choice while leveling, there are other things to do that will all give you experience.

Of course there are the old standards like exploring and newer additions like gathering, if you have a gathering profession, to get some experience, but it seems they took the timeless island and went a little, make that a lot, overboard with it in warlords.

There are things you can pick up on the ground that offer experience while opening them.   I've gotten junk from them, gear from them, archaeology fragments from them, gold from them.  They are all over the place and oddly enough even with the new highlighting feature on, they are still extremely easy top miss.  You actually have to pay attention to find them.  Those lucky dwarves that have treasure finding.

There are rares all over the place.  You can not move 10 feet without tripping over one on your mini map and it is easy to be distracted by them.  Killing them will usually net you some sort of goodie like a toy, and most of those toys do not go in the toy boy for some odd reasons so say goodbye to bag space again, a piece of gear, a useful item, or a silly item.  Oh, and they also give you experience, which is what leveling is all about right?  From what I have seen the experience they offer is nothing staggering but still not bad at all even if well below what you would expect for the time it might take to kill some of them if you are solo.

I will make a note that the vast majority of the rares you see while leveling are always up.  So if you miss one just hang out there for 2 minutes and it will be back.  No, I am not kidding.  We do need to find a different name for these however, because they are not rare at all and there are actually rares out there.  Don't want to get them confused.  I'll just call them silver dragons named after the border they use and the addon made to find them.

These silver dragons are only special mobs to you once.  So don't think you are just going to camp one and kill it over and over for experience.  Does not work that way.  Once you kill it the next time you see it the mob will not have the silver dragon border and will not give you anything special, item or experience wise.  There is no reason, at least none that I have found yet, to kill these things twice.  Kill it once and move along.

There are other things you can do while leveling also.  There are events like the ship one and the brew one on the island.  A bug there you need to kill a bunch of her insects so she gets angry with you and flies down to try and kill you, but you kill her instead, or at least that is the idea.  There is a hidden egg in a cave that if you happen to get there during event time for it you can click the egg and then have to fight off mommy hydra.  After you defeat mommy hydra you can loot the egg which will give you your very own baby hydra battle pet.  Thing like that.   Again, not the greatest of ways to gain experience, but still a way to get some, and some goodies too.  I like my baby hydra pet.

Then, last but not least, there are event quests, or at least that is what I am going to call them.  They are marked on your map by huge swords crossing, not like the thin silver ones that show events like the ones on the timeless island and the hyrda one I just mentioned.  This one is much larger and much more colorful and has a lot of killing involved with it.

When you get to where one of these are on your map you are automatically given the quest.  It tells you what your objective is.  Usually something like kill this many peons, kill this many warriors, kill these two big baddies, and collect these four things.  Basically it is like you are doing 3 to 5 quests, same as a quest hub, at the same time without actually picking up the quests or needing to turn them in.

Not exactly sure why blizzard considers this ground breaking because it is not but it does add a little something to the game none the less.  You do not need to find a quest, you can just find the huge arrows on the map which are impossible to miss and go there and be given the quest event.  Like I said, it is like you just went to a hub and picked up all the quests.  When done however, it auto completes just the same way it auto accepted itself and throws you some gold and some experience.

There are a few cool things about these event quests that I think might be something a few people like.  When you leave the zone the quest is in it disappears from your quest bar.  However, when you go back to that area, even much later, the quest pops back up with the exact quest progression you were up to.  Meaning you do not need to do it all at once.  Even getting distracted and going somewhere else, say to kill a rare, will not mess you up.  Oh, and they also offer reputation and we all love reputation right?

So when I am guessing leveling would be half of the 36 hours it took me and be closer to 18 hours for me I believe that to be a fair guess.  Between the standard quest story line hubs, your random quest hubs, your silver dragon mobs, your rare mobs (yes there are some of those too), your events, your quest events and the exploration and gathering factor, there are many ways to get some experience while leveling, so much so that I think you can stumble your way to 100 even if you just run around killing things and doing anything that you come across.  So even questing mindlessly you can still level.  You do not need to follow the main story.

I would suggest however not to just avoid quests even if you do not like questing.  There is a lot to get from them besides story and I am not just saying that as someone that likes to quest.  There are quest line rewards that give you books you can trade in to upgrade garrison buildings which in turn can save you gold.  Either spend 1000 gold to buy the plan or trade in the book you got from questing to get the plan.  Something like that.  And you can get followers from doing questing as well not to mention the reputation doing quests offer.  That is always a plus.

So even if you are like me and wearing SoO or better gear where you will not need anything quests drop all the way to 100 I would say it is still worth questing.  But hey, if you really hate it, there are enough events and silver dragon mobs to move you along some.

Over all blizzard did not reinvent the wheel here because it did not need to be reinvented.  The tried and ture questing system works because it works, there really is no need to change it.  But by adding some things, even as simple as events and silver dragon mobs, they did add a little spice to it.  The event quest things really do not tickle my fancy, not sure why they did not just give you a quest to do those 3-5 quests instead of popping them up as an event, but oh well, whatever floats their boat I guess.

I would say the flow and feel of leveling in warlords is good over all but when comparing it to previous expansions I would say this expansion finishes second to last on the list of which I enjoyed most with only cataclysm and their disconnected zones being a worse leveling experience.  Even with all the spice they added to it the story was still lacking, the questing was still tired, and the "fun" parts were few and far between.  However there were a couple of vehicle quests that were fun, not even close to as fun as running over all the gnomes in uldum, but not all that bad either and something you will actually enjoy doing.

I don't see myself having as many 100s as I have 90s this time around however because the questing just doesn't do it for me here.  Maybe it will grow on me as I get a few characters up and develop my route to level like I always do, but only time will tell for that.  As much as I like questing, this was the first time I actually felt like I just wanted it to be done already.  I blame that in part on garrisons.  I kept wanting to go back to my garrison to send my followers out on new missions every time they finished one.   I kept wanting to spend time there instead of out in the world questing.  Bodes well for garrisons?  Maybe.  Bodes bad for questing?  Definitely.

So that is my take on leveling.  It had a good flow, moved nicely but the story was lacking and I really did not feel the repeatability as I have with questing in other expansions.  I would not say that the leveling was bad however, it was definitely good and the added ways to get experience did give it a little more than a direct route feeling.  I would give the over all questing a B.  It was good and I really can not find much bad about it but there was still room to make it better.

Side note to end it.  I did not mention this in the main post because I think it is a beta bug, but I hope it does not go live.  Way to many mobs drop nothing.  Not even 10 silver.  Not a single thing and that greatly hurts the questing experience.  Getting loot when you kill something just feels good, even if it is junk.  Lets hope blizzard does not let this go live.  If it goes live this way I would lower my quest feel and flow rating to a C-, which basically means, barely passing.

Added:  Because a few people asked I will explain the gearing if you are not in full SoO gear.  For the first time ever blizzard finally designed an expansion correctly. 

It is designed that if you are a new player coming through a year from now and hit 90 at a 435 item level you can go straight to warlords and do just fine.  The first few quests will give you some solid gear, around the 500 to 522 item level.  You will get consistent upgrades, and it is a smooth transition.  

No more will you experience things like going from wrath questing with your 138 item level to cata with their 272 item level and massive gear difference.  Even if you come from mists with your 430 gear to warlords and the 500 gear, the quests that give the 500 gear are meant to be completed by people in 430 gear.  So no worries people, blizzard finally for the first time got an expansion transition right.  You can quest from one expansion to the next and never even notice it.  This is part of the reason I think questing this expansion is so well designed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Feedback on Flight and Travel in Warlords For Blizzard

While leveling in the beta and with the knowledge that there will be no flying this expansion, despite the tiny morsel of hope they give people but will not live up to, I've been thinking a lot about how travel can be made better without actually adding flight because, lets face it, we are going to need a lot of things fixed if they want us to stay grounded and not be frustrated every step we take.

I've already mentioned in a previous post that I think blizzard has done a fair job thus far with designing the expansion with us staying on ground mounts in mind.  There are more direct paths to and from areas of importance and travel from zone to zone is probably more obvious and easily accessible then I ever recall seeing in any expansion but that does not mean that there are not any changes needed.  So lets get on with it.  My lists of suggestions for making travel easier by ground and yes I will be sending a trimmed version of this post to blizzard directly.  Hopefully they can fix a few things in the little time they have left.

1) Connecting Flights Should Not Be Needed.

I've been saying this one since the beginning of time and it still amazes me that blizzard has never fixed this.  Maybe with the old system it is understandable why things stay as they are but this is a new expansion and it can be designed different.  Designed better.

If I have flight point A and I have flight point B that should be all I ever need to get from A to B.  I should not care if there are 1, 2 or 17 other flight points between A and B because those 1, 2 or 17 flight points do not matter to me.  I am going from A to B.  I do not need to know those and I should not need to know those.

There is nothing more frustrating then being out questing and taking a break going home not to be able to get back easily.  So often I would be out questing and pick up a new flight path and hearth.  The next day I log on and go to fly back and guess what?  I have no connecting flight points that connect to that and I now have to waste my time getting back to a place I already have the flight point for.  That is bad design, very bad design.  I've gotten into the habit of clicking on the flight master after I pick up a flight point just to make sure it is connected and I should not have to do that because the coding is bad.

Lets put this is a real life comparison.  I am taking a flight from new york to california.  I paid for a non stop flight.  There are probably dozens of airports I am going to be flying over.  Do I need to know where they are located?  Do I even need to know they exist?   No, because I am on a flight to california.  I do not need to visit every airport between the two before I am allowed to fly there.  I shouldn't need to visit every flight point in the game either.

Some might say, but what happens if there is trouble and the plane needs to land, you would need to know the closest airport wouldn't you.  Actually, no.  I would not need to know.  Even if an emergency happened and the plane was forced to land the pilot is the one that needs to know.  The pilot can land me in a place I never even heard of.  I do not need to know where that is, only he does.  I am pretty sure that this flight path mount knows all the flight points even if I do not, after all being a flight path mount is his job and he has been doing it forever.  The mount is the pilot.  The mount needs to know the other flight points.  I don't.

So number 1 on our list is connecting flight paths.  Lose them blizzard.  As long as I know where I am and where I am going, that is all that matters.  I should never need to know every single flight path between the two.

2) Direct Flight Paths.

Another one of those things that blizzard should have fixed a long time ago.  Every fight should go a direct route.  They are no longer restricted like they used to be by there not being art assets in some areas and they needed to go around them.  Being everything is designed with flying in mind everything has a top, so no need to avoid going over things any longer.

Going back to the point A to point B example from the previous point.  What is the shortest distance between point A and point B.  A direct line.  I am pretty sure every single one of us heard that by 3rd grade at the absolute latest in our lives.  So how come not even one person at blizzard ever heard of that?

Using the most recent added flight point to the live game for an example, the one at the timeless island, I will show how horrible the flight design still is in the current game and in the process give the perfect example of why it needs to be changed.

I was on a character that has every flight point, so it is not like I was missing something, when I logged in, got on my flying mount and started to head over to the timeless island.  Do not remember what made me do it, but when traveling over the jinyu village I decided to jump on a flight path to finish out the flight.  For those that do not know the flight path I am talking about is the closest you can get to timeless island without actually being on timeless island.

So what path did the flight path take me?  Instead of just heading to the timeless island it took me to the highest point in the jade forest and then back down and over to the timeless island.

This is the newest addition to the game in terms of flight paths and nothing has changed since the beginning of the game with the long and winding flight paths for no reason other than to completely waste our time.

So number 2 on our list is direct line flights.  I don't want to go sight seeing every time I get on a flight path.  I want to get from point A to point B.  Just make a direct line and fly that direct line.

3) Misleading Mountains.

There is one thing I hate more than anything else while on the ground and that is thinking I can go somewhere I can't.  The art team does some wonderful work and I will not fault them for doing a good job, but they do too good of a job sometimes.  That make little mountains, little dirt piles, anything that requires running up, all appear so smooth and as if you can just run up and over it.

I hate seeing a path to where I want to go and then while running toward it suddenly I am doing the AFK number lock dance.  You know those guys you see running at max speed into the wall because they went AFK with auto run on?  Yeap, that is what I end up looking like.  Cruising along and going the most direct route possible while hugging the wall and suddenly I am running in one spot.

Please make it so things we can not walk over look like we can not walk over them?  Is that too hard to ask?  I know this might seem petty to most and even I say it is a little petty but with all these jumping games they added where you have to jump form platform to platform or rock to rock or ledge to ledge having so many of them visually appear as if you can jump up on them and yet not be able to is extremely annoying.

So number 3 on the list is please make mountains, ledges, platforms that you can not jump on so they do not appear that they are capable of being jumped on.  God how I hate wasting time trying to jump on to something that apparently is not intended to be jumped on because visually it looks as if you can.  That awesome art team needs to make things we can not climb up and can not jump on look as if we can not jump on them or climb up them.

4) Remove Invisible Walls.

This one goes hand in hand with the previous point to making travel easier.  Be more telling with your art work.

Have you ever been running through the trees and see two trees close together and you get to them and hit space bar and jump right thought them?  We all have.  But it seems in warlords nearly every single set of tress I have seen like that can not be jumped through.  There is some sort of invisible wall connecting them.

Have you ever been running through an area and there is something that looks like you can run right under it so you scoot yourself under it?  We all have.  But it seems in warlords that even if visually you could drive a mack truck under something you will just hit a wall and not be able to do it.  There is some sort of invisible mass under that passage that will not allow you through it.

Have you ever been in an area that was surrounded by a gate you can not jump over so you run around the gate until you find an opening in it and run through there?  We all have.  But it seems in warlords that even if there seems to be a very visual indication that there is a break in the gate at a certain point you still can not walk through it there, you need to run around to the entrance they expect you to use.  So why have that wide open space if we can not walk through it?  Seems that there is an invisible gate there stopping you from getting through.

This coming expansion, more than any place I have ever seen before, has more invisible walls in the oddest of places.  We all like to take short cuts.  We all will go through the hole in the fence, the break in the weeds, the path under the branch, etc to speed things along and it is annoying as heck to hit an invisible wall when there is absolutely no indication that you can not get through that wide open area.

So number 4 on our list is letting the visual follow the actual.  If I can not walk through a hole in the gate or a space in the weeds then do not have a hole in the gate or a space in the weeds.  There should never be invisible walls in the middle of zones, where you can and can't pass should follow the images we see on the screen.

5) Death and the Run Back.

I get that blizzard does not want us flying but they really need to let us fly while dead.  It is not only possible but highly likely that you will find yourself dead at one point or another in a place that you have no way to get back to.  Or a place where you do not remember how to get back to it.  Or a place where it is insanely long to travel to to get back to.

Why not let us fly to get back to our bodies more easily.  So instead of having to go around this really long mountain pass to get to our body in our slow motion dead bodies we can just fly over it to exactly where we are.  And the worst case scenario, dying in a place where there is no way back to your body without flying.  Not possible you say, I say get back to me after it happens to you and tell me it is not possible to again.  There are many quests that send you somewhere that you have no access to unless you are sent there.  How exactly do you get back to your body if you die?

So number 5 would be letting our spirits fly even if you do not let us fly.  It would greatly assist in getting back to our sometimes hard to reach or impossible to reach dead bodies.

6) Stop the Insanity.

I actually yelled at my screen the other day while playing on the beta.  It was not due to beta being beta, it was to mobs being stupid.  I was running somewhere and got dismounted like 12 times in a row all by mobs that I could basically one shot.  I yelled, this F'N crap is annoying, why are mobs that can't even scratch me if I was naked keep F'N attacking me and dismounting me.

I can see some logic to mobs being able to snare, stun, slow or dismount you but nothing is more frustrating than having mobs do it that you can one or two shot.  It is nothing more than annoying and it is a complete waste of time and has no game play value to it.  They are not a threat, if anything they should be trying to avoid me not attack me because they know I will kill them easily.

But I am wrong, there is something worse.  Having a mob that you can one shot dismounting and dazing you AND it drops no loot.   The sheer number of mobs in warlords that drop no loot what so ever is annoying in its own right, but to have my time wasted by something that poses no threat and provides no game play value drop no loot is beyond annoying.  If you are going to waste my time at least drop a couple of silver for my troubles.

So number 6 would be getting dismounted.  Remove this crap from the game.  It impedes travel and offers absolutely no game play value other than to slow you down.  And when you get dismounted and do not even get loot from one shotting the thing that wasted your time it is adding insult to injury.  Just remove the dismounting mechanic completely.  There is a reason it was removed from the older mobs a long time ago.  That was because it is not a fun part of game play.  Did you forget that?

So being we will be traveling on foot and on flight path, those are some of the suggestions I have for making our travels just a little bit better.