Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Part Two of the MoP Pre-Post Mortem: Raids

Disclaimer: Still in Suriname so I can't go around taking pics to make the post fancy /cry

Raiding...in LFR

Hah, yes it's laughable isn't it? The grand majority of raiding I've done in this expansion was with LFR. What was left of Adrenaline was able to finish Mogu'shan vaults, then we managed to down the first two bosses in Heart of Fear. After that the guild had to permanently end official raiding activities; we just couldn't get the people together again.
Back in Burning Crusade I wasn't able to raid due to the time difference and my stubbornness of not wanting to switch to the EU servers. I get very attached to friends, you see. Very attached. But I know that in TBC I wanted to see the raiding content to wrap up the stories told while questing and doing the dungeons. I constantly wished there was some way I could experience those things, and any kind of streaming video service couldn't really provide either.

So now with LFR in Mists, I wasn't too sad about losing raids. Once I get back home I'll probably re-up for a month to see the rest of the Siege of Orgrimmar and wait until the next expansion comes around.

But I'll tell you what, I definitely miss 'it'. Yeah, 'that'. If it's one thing I've managed to realize for myself from this it's the essence of why I love raiding. The story is definitely a part of it. Watching a 'tube video of all the bosses going down, with any RP that goes on between NPCs and the like is one thing, but experiencing it for yourself just brings in that DIY element you can't get elsewhere. 
But 'that' is the learning experience.

I suspect that the element dulled on me because I consider myself to be quite competent at raiding. I suck at a lot of video games but I've seen WoW as being a relatively easy game to play when it comes to execution. I learn pretty fast, and I'll admit that it was kind of frustrating when after 25 wipes across multiple raid nights the strategies still don't click with everyone to complete an encounter.

But now I know that what I love about raiding is the social experience of learning things together. I remember now that, despite how high school went for me, I loved to learn stuff. Always a sponge for learning new things. And after an expansion full of LFR I think I'm not the only one that has seen through this. I'll touch on flex raiding a bit later on. First...

What I didn't like and still don't like

I get that professions should have some roll in the game, but honestly I've always disliked consumables. Heck, if there's one thing I'm bad at in MMOs it's handling cool downs. I'm a pretty conservative person IRL (not in a political way) so I feel very walled up when it comes to using buttons with longer cool downs. But that's not the point, I can learn to use that stuff. I'm still pretty horrible at it but I have improved.

What I hate is the preparation. Getting the gold/mats together for flasks, chanting new gear, gemming, food. All this nonsense. I just want to get to the meat of the game. LFR lets you do this, but to my knowledge you need all these things to be in tip top shape for every other form of raiding.
But in regards to this, I must say that Mists has made the best effort to make this part of the game somewhat enjoyable. When being level 90 meant you were hip the game was insanely overwhelming, professions included. But the facilities were there to make your outside-of-raiding-life easier. And for that I'm thankful.
I'm curious to see what they'll do in the future to support these systems. I'd love it if they continue to use the Pandaren farms, it gives the continent that much more relevance in the future of the game. And let's be honest, Pandaria is a pretty cool place to be!

Flex Raiding - Our Savior?

"And they said unto the Lord: "How the hell did he do that?"..."

Really, hats off to Blizzard. Once again the introduce some ballsy system no one thought would work. Flex raiding has, for the relatively short time it's been out, been heralded as a saviour of raiding and probably even guilds. It fundamentally taps in to the philosophy of bringing the player. If you wanted to do 25 man raids you needed 20-23 really good players, 25 if you want to do the more challenging heroics. Now a system is in place that allows you to forgo a diluted experience and instead make something aimed at a very pure experience. This is quite a good development. 

When I return I really want to make an effort to do a Flex raid to try it out. It should bring back the element of learning encounters (hell, even trash!) and interacting with people in a more consistent structure. And when it comes to preparing consumables and the like I will just have to bite through the sour apple. That's a dutch expression, in case you're wondering.


Well I'm actually a little stuck on whether or not I should do another part. I don't do PvP. Perhaps I'll dive in to the Legendary quest series once I actually manage to complete it. I've had horrible luck with those Runestones!
If there's a system you'd like me to cover in WoW, I'm totally up for writing about it in more depth. That way we can have some active discussion! Perhaps a question like "Why did Blizzard do this? Change that? Implement this crazy thing?" I love those kinds of questions; I see on fan site forums and the official forums plenty of people that don't get the picture of why Blizzard at least tries certain things out.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

NBI: Poetry Slam

Lady Syl comes up with some interesting ideas sometimes.

If I was at my desktop right now with an active WoW susbscription (it ran out) I would post a screenshot of the lovely poem she sent me. I sent her a wonderful Christmas present in the mail with a an equally adorable poem attached to it. She replied in a suitable manner.

Here's a handful of things I've come up with. I had a damn good haiku in the plane to Suriname but I was sleepy and didn't bother writing it down. A familiar mistake I make all too often with composing music, too.
So without further ado, here are my contributions.

A Wind Waker at Sea
Sailing upon a vast sea
An innocent Bokoblin stands
Who does he think he is, with that silly spyglass?
"Give me your Joy Pendant!" I plea


Warcraft Behavior

Bustling city here
Much to do and see in town
Just stand and idle



In a Galaxy, far far away
There was a Mon Calamari
who healed and played music each day
Always running with a carbine at hand
Always jealous of the Teras Kasi band
A harvester here, a harvester there 
the burden of being a Combat Medic had him grow hair!
This fish ends his tale in a humble house called home
where memories of planets and hunting can be found in a tome

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

In Suriname

Hello everyone,

I've not been able to post anywhere near as much as I want to,  I apologise I will be in Suriname (a small country in South America) until November 4 for work. But I will be posting as much as possible despite the situation.

As Mr. Iwata says: "Please understand."

Being late to the party in Wotlk Dungeons

So, I'm going to start of by saying something a bit strange about wotlk's dungeons: they were hard. You may have had a different experience, but they were actually challenging. Of course, this is assuming you didn't have that fancy LFR buff I think they implemented sometime (or was that Cataclysm?) or you're decked in epics. Mostly the latter.

How it all began

So here I am, freshly leveled Paladin at the lovely new cap of 80.  I did what you had to back then, get decked out in blue items and whatever relatively easy to get epics you could. That basically meant crafting and 5 man normals. So far everything's cool. Once I was fully prepared for doing heroic five mans...I apparently wasn't.

"OMG this is taking forever. You suck."

In I go, tanking gear at the ready. I actually do quite well, making normal pulls that I feel comfortable with. Unfortunately, everyone else is decked out in epics and is only interested in getting to the end a.s.a.p for their precious Justice/Valor. Here's an example, I remember it vividly.

In Halls of Stone - yes that dreadful place - there is a room with about three sets of dark iron dwarf pulls. The room itself is like a hub, splitting off to towards 3 different wings, the tall lady, the cave place with the giant dude and the exhibition of Brann's poor hacking abilities.

Now, I don't know about you, but these pulls hurt. When the game was fresh, I remember you had to line-of-sight pull each one separately. And to pull two or more packs either meant a lot of cooldown usage, stress and panic, or a timely demise. And it's from this perspective that my Paladin should be played. Of course, by this time the norm was to pull the whole room. Anything less is unforgivable, a clear lack of skill and it is made clear that you are a blight among the community of WoW players.

"Well do a run with guild mates then!"

Yes I wish I could have. Unfortunately the reality doesn't allow this. At least not in Adrenaline at the times I played. And chances are there was a fat chance of it happening in your guild either. Most of our guild members didn't log on outside of raid times, and I sure as hell am not quitting my most beloved guild and healing team because I can't have some fun with my alt(s).

To sum it up

So there you have it, the story of my life. Well not really. It comes down to this: if entry level content is kept relevant to highly geared characters, the effective balance of the dungeons breaks as you get characters of the entire gear level spectrum trying to do them. This, in my experience, leads to an almost disgusting after taste. In fact, so far the only other thing that has really felt revolting to do in this game was the PvP quest of the legendary series of this expansion where every second of just having it in my log was blegh!

But I have to wonder, was I alone in this? Because that was the other awkward thing: I seemed to be the only one with this problem.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Pre-postmortem on Mists of Pandaria

I have spent a considerable amount of time in Azeroth. A lot of that time raiding, some of it leveling alts and not raiding at all and for a while I even PvP'd.
I am fascinated with game design philosophy, and WoW is arguably the game that interests me the most. So while I've only done core 10 man raiding for the very beginning of this expansion I'd still like to give my own premature postmortem report on Mists of Pandaria. I will admit upfront that it's incomplete due to inexperience but try to see it as a different perception.

I will be discussing several systems spread across a series of posts.


 Overall I feel that Blizzard has done an excellent job at taking feedback about questing from Cataclysm and creating a fluid questing experience. Story telling through questing is better than before with far less cut scenes where you lose control of your character (I'm looking at you Ulduar!) and a lot more voice acting than ever before. After having spent a considerable amount of time playing SWTOR I knew that one of the best ways to enhance an MMO'S narrative is by using voice acting and this concept was confirmed to me in this expansion.

As for keeping folks grounded, it's a mixed bag. I totally loved being grounded to the world and I really think Blizzard should continue to do this in future expansions as flight effectively negates any form of level design. I do feel for the folks who are leveling their eighth alt and probably don't care to be grounded anymore.
Still, I think there is a way that you can be deprived of flight but still have an ok time leveling so many alts. I'm not really convinced it's all that bad but hey, I didn't play many alts this time around.



Too few! If you take a peek at the dungeons via the Dungeon Journal it's instantly apparent.

Mists is currently in an awkward place when it comes to dungeons. They served their purpose early on in getting people the items they need before raiding, and they all tie up loose ends on the stories each zone have to tell. But ever since 5.2 their role has dropped significantly. And now with the Timeless Isle I don't think anyone cares about dungeons. If  they started the expansion with ~12 dungeons they wouldn't have gotten any attention now.

Obviously we can all assume that there is a direct relation in the quantity of dungeons and their relevance to the game in the long run.
The Burning Crusade and Wotlk expansions had even more dungeons but Blizzard also made them relevant to a great number of players. Especially in Wotlk the five man heroics were important as you could accumulate valor points to get those oh so valuable Tier piece tokens.

Personally, I'm actually kind of relieved to see 5 mans the way they are. It is sad to see so few of them, but I like that they're very easy. There's a bit of a long story to tell as to why that is that I absolutely want to share with you, but that will be another post - possibly the next one before the next post for this series!

Dungeons have returned to their most basic form of fun, and those who seek challenge can find that in the challenge modes. Those haven't quite entirely turned out the way some had hoped for as you still hear stories of people just following along for the free shiny loot, but I found them to be quite challenging. Anything is relatively more trivial if you obsess with min-maxing, after all.

The really interesting point of discussion however are Scenarios. Until next time!


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Meeting the Jazz Panda!

Hello one and all and welcome to my blog! I am a humble gamer and Jazz pianist by profession and education. An odd combination certainly; I've yet to find one like myself in this aspect.

Rather than giving you an extensive introduction to who I am, my likes and dislikes, I will simply mention what I'd like to write about in the future on this blog. You can get to know me along the way!

As game design philosophy fascinates me I will be sure to write a piece or two with that theme in mind. World of Warcraft and Diablo 3 are recent favorites, but it's probably safe to say that I'm generally interested in (MMO)RPG's.
Fun fact: I used to be one of Syl's slaves healing buddies in WoW in our guild, Adrenaline.

Furthermore I'll be writing about gaming in general and music. The music stuff could get slightly technical, but that's just because I tend to geek out when it comes to Jazz. Naturally, these elements (music and games) will be mixed together. Occasionally you will see me post one of my creations/covers from my youtube channel and you might be familiar with one that, while extremely old, has apparently been viewed many times! The channel is very rusty but I'm trying to breathe some life in to it.

Jazz and pandas are two of my favorite things in life, and just how the combination of jazz and games is a bit odd, this blog is sure to be more of the same odd stuff.