Monday, November 24, 2008

Lost Weekend

I've been playing both my druid and my death knight still. Right now I've got the third highest level character in the guild at 76 (or more appropriately, the third closest to 80). I actually did all of the started quests in Howling Fjord and in Borean Tundra. I wanted to do the D.H.E.T.A quest line but couldn't find their camp (plus I was exploring new areas and doing new quests... I couldn't help myself... New content!!!). By the time I did find it, I was close to completing enough quests to get the achievement for quests for Borean Tundra. So now I'm working Dragonblight and the mobs are level 71-72. They die really fast. Particularly with the new rank of Ravage I got critting for 4k and the new rank of Mangle I got at level 75. There are a lot of new quest types, believe it or not. I'm pleased with the variation in the quests (and the lack of collect X of item Y quests with crazy low drop rates). It can still be tough with people spawn camping but I've been able to get through everything. The next pass will be faster because I know where things are now.

As for the Death Knight... Well... She's a problem. My druid would be at 80 by now (although there's still a chance I can overtake the others on the 4th Thursday of November - I boycott the event so I have the whole day free) if not for her. She's been a lot of fun. I plowed through Hellfire, Zangarmarsh, Terokkar and Nagrand. It's a lot easier because I know where everything is. I hit level 68 after a few quests in Blade's Edge and went straight to Northrend. While I'm not getting any major upgrades (I've upgraded my boots, bracers and trinkets and have some shoulders that will be good when I decide to break my PvP 4 piece for my DPS set and some balance upgrandes... No tanking upgrades though) on my druid, pretty much everything piece of plate is an upgrade for my death knight.

Along the way, I did a couple of quests that gave me pretty nice one handers and I tried dual wielding them. I don't like it. It seems to reduce my DPS AND reduces my spell damage - which in turn reduces the amount of healing I get from death strike. Since runes are a limited resource, I want the most bang for my buck that I can get out of them. So after a level of playing with dual wielding (to make sure it wasn't just the low sword skills that were hurting me) I switched back to my axe of killing everything dead (I got a BoE green axe "of the beast" that I could equip at 67 that does 110 dps - it's 70's heroic drop quality) and have been much happier. I hit 70 on Sunday morning and promptly forgot to get her flying mount training. So I went back to Ebon Hold to buy the special death knight flying mount that scales with riding skill. It cost 950 gold PLUS the 800 gold for flying mount training but it's TOTALLY worth it. It's arguably the best mount in the game. And in seven more levels... I'm really going to enjoy it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Week One of Wrath of the Lich King

Big week up here at the lodge...

It's now been a full week (and 8 hours and one minute) since I got Wrath of the Lich King installed and I haven't been posting because I've been busy. Here are some of my early observations:

- Wow. Wow to the scenery. Wow to the details. Wow to Ember Clutch. Wow to the Death Knight quest line. Wow to death knights in general. So far I've only explored Howling Fjord and most of Dragonblight but what I've seen has been amazing - particularly Howling Fjord. Don't go there if you get vertigo. Between the mountains and the outright chasms... I've felt a little nausea a couple of times when I was riding near a cliff or down a mountain. The terrain is incredible. And some of the details... Like the pots of stew in some buildings (and at least one cave) that look like they are actually boiling and the vegetables are moving up and down... And the troughs in Utgarde keep that look like there's water dripping into them. And did I mention Ember Clutch? That just blew me away.

- The are vendors on the turtle boats. Getting around isn't cheap. I've seen flights as high as 2 gold 50 silver so far. So I've been making a point of using the turtle boats where practical and doing the daily quests at each end of their routes. In between, you can vendor and repair. That's a handy little time saver.

- March of the Giants. This quest brings out the worst in people. For this quest, you have to mine the corpses of 4 level 70-71 elites. They're easy enough to kill (OK... If you realize they have a stacking debuff and are smart enough to stay away from them) but the corpses aren't tagged for the person or party who killed them. Any jackass on the quest can just wait for you to kill it and mine the rune - meaning you don't get to do it. This happened to me three times. All three were ninja'd be members of the same faction. When questioned, two of them thought that "everyone got a whack". God... I hate people.

- Potential server transfer. Bloodscalp is one of about 20 servers that can take free transfers to a new server. The guild is discussing moving. I'm mostly against it. Yes... There have been some unfortunate crashes over the last couple of months. Yes, the server is down more often than Garithos. Yes, there have been queues lately. But it also has a vibrant population and I have friends there. I don't necessarily talk to them but I've spent many hours in Karazhan with them and it pleases me to see them running around. We buff each other, wave and move on. I also like that there are enough people in LFG that you can get a group together for just about anything. On my Alliance server, I once watched someone begging for a tank for the daily heroic for 3 hours. It made me sad. On Bloodscalp, I can get a group for just about anything - even if I'm on a DPS character. Plus, you can find just about anything on the AH at any point in time. I'll allow that the performance issues are a concern. But I already feel that some of the guild members are xenophobic and deliberately moving to a low population server would just reinforce that. I've done high pop and low pop and let me tell you... High pop is better. It's a social game. And I believe the queues will die down as soon as some of the excitement about the expansion wears off and people are done leveling and get back to normal usage patterns... And if some people transfer away...

- The first two instances - I've done Utgarde Keep twice and The Nexus three times. So far, I'm impressed. I had another "wow" moment as soon as I climbed the first set of stairs in Utgarde Keep. And the Nexus... It's like... Some weird combination of Botanica, Exodar and a Rubick's Cube. We've pretty much been facerolling those.

- Death knights. The starter quest line is amazing. Just great story telling. My friends with consciences have some problems with the early quests and some others have problems with their reception in the capitol city but on the whole I'd give a 12 out of 13 on that quest line. As for the death knights themselves... I've really enjoyed playing mine. Maybe it's because I'm more familiar with the content so I don't feel like I'm fumbling around as much. Maybe I really enjoy the playstyle. I don't know but I've really been enjoying myself. At first I was just button mashing and things were dying but I had to stop and eat frequently and my UI had hidden the rune bar so I had no idea when or why some abilities were unavailable. It did, however, force me to read my tooltips and I've developed a rotation that allows me to handle 3-5 mobs (although I prefer 1 on 1 fights... Always have... Except on the bear. Particularly now that swipe hits infinite targets. I took out 15 mobs (stood in the wrong place) the other day. But I digress... Death knight. Having a lot of fun with her. She's up to level 65 already and is at 376+ herbalism and 325 inscription. Hooray for the AH.

- Hiahotah is up to level 73. I'm struggling to play him but I suspect that most of that is me not liking that I don't know where everything is. I'll do a quest and then run back to turn it in and find that I had two other quests in the same area... And then there are some chains that just seem to send you marching back and forth between quest hub and the same quest area. Well... That and it takes 60 quests at 25k per to get the 1.5 million XP it takes to get a level these days. It takes me 3 days to get one level but only one on the Death Knight. We'll see. Tanking has been really fun so far and I've been putting up some really massive crits in bear form.

- Last night after we did Utgarde Keep, our mage (who is now 75) ported us to Dalaraan. So I spent about an hour looking around, picking up flight points, doing a daily cooking quest, talking to vendors... You know... Touristy stuff. I set my hearth there and got kicked out of the Alliance section... I wasn't going to cause any trouble... Honest. Why does no one ever believe me? To be fair, those huntards who ganked my death knight (shot me in the back with a mob on me... It is their way) had that thrashing coming... OK... Thrashings... But I didn't start that one and I certainly didn't hover around a the corpse of someone I'd just shot in the back and had outnumbered two to one. It's not _my_ fault that my level 70 paladin happened to be nearby. Where was I? Right... Dalaran. Nice place. I'm not paying 750 gold for a bear mount. I might pay 600... But only if I thought I could get around in Undercity while riding it.

So far... I'm enjoying the new content. I could do without some of the running around and the quest hubs in the middle of nowhere that have 3 quests and that's it but I'm sure that will bother me less the second or third time around.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Position in the queue: 538

I've got a few minutes to kill tonight. There's a queue. Bloodscalp has always been a busy server, but there hasn't been a queue to speak of since the first couple of weeks I played the game. It does, however, give me a chance to talk about that last 24 hours...

I got to the mall at a little after 10 pm and they were being very efficient. They were having people pay for the game early and then at midnight, we would exchange our receipts for a copy of the game. I was about 35th in line so once they started handing them out, I'd be getting it quickly.

The guy running this event takes his gaming very seriously and he was really earnest. Every 15 minutes he came out and threw gifts to the crowd. For really exciting items, he had people do a dance from the game. Some people were into it, but I'd brought a folding chair. I wasn't going to get up for some t-shirt. I already have too many of those.

I talked to a couple of people for a few minutes... Including someone who, apparently, writes for Azeroth Advisor. The woman behind me in line was clearly there picking it up for a child. Kind of disappointing because she was exactly the kind of person I'd expect wouldn't play WoW.

I had my copy and was in my car by 12:06. It was 1:06 before I got logged in. I started a Death Knight and... That quest line is incredible. Lots of new quest types. Great story line. Lots going on. Everyone should roll a Death Knight even if they never play it past that opening line. I played until 2 in the morning before I called it a night.

The next morning, I started right up and finished that quest line. 3 hours. Blues at every slot that are equal to anything I've gotten in Outland so far. 14 slot bags... And an epic mount. Nice. I still don't really have any strategy. I specced her frost and I pretty much just mash 3-4-5-6. Still... I could see how that class could be a lot of fun.

In the afternoon, some of my guild members started logging on and we started doing some of the first quests in Howling Fjord. There's one quest where you have to kill 3 named mobs. Talk about your spawn camping. About 15 people were just spamming AoE trying to tap the mobs. But it was the precursors to a quest for Utgarde Keep, so we stuck with it.

After that, we ran Utgarde Keep. I'm still not entirely sure how to get there. I ended up circling around through what looks like the Alliance starting area. We pretty much facerolled the instance but it was spectacular. That first room... Wow... Just... Wow.

After that people started logging on and it became harder and harder to do quests. My death knight was in Outland and it was pretty much the same thing... But with a bunch of level 70's who didn't have the game yet who were just griefing lowbies.

On the whole, I'm really excited and impressed with what I've seen. And now I'm 7th in the queue so... Back to the grind...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A little pre-wrath downtime

The servers are down so I've got a few minutes to kill. There's a lot of excitement in the guild about the release of Wrath of the Lich King. We're planning which continent we're going to start with and already starting to look ahead at replacing gear.

For my part, I've been thinking about the last expansion. When Burning Crusade came out, I was still in Crucify and the first signs of the impending breakup were in the air. We'd recently gone through a shakeup in our raiding style. We cut down on our number raiders instead of making a second Blackwing Lair run. It was decided that we'd be more successful with a smaller number of more serious raiders. It was the right decision but it caused a little strife and some people left. We hadn't raided in a few weeks because people were busy PvPing (they'd just switched to the new honor for gear system) and just taking time off before the expansion. Our guild leader, a young man I knew as Crazyirish, had gotten a new job so he was unavailable. He was very well liked. He could be a little drunk during our first forays into Naxxramas and we'd be setting up pulls on new trash mobs, someone would ask "what does that mob do?" and Crazy would announce "Let's find out..." launch a frostbolt at it and iceblock. But people loved him so it was OK. When he stopped coming around, people stopped coming out and we couldn't really browbeat people into raiding.

Hiahotah was still a level 38 druid that I never, ever played... Like... Never. So when it came time to go to the midnight release, I didn't have the current local guild to go there with... So I went alone. I got there pretty early so I was near the start of the line. There was a group of college students who obviously played together right behind me. She talked at length about her mage. From the sounds of things, she hadn't done anywhere _near_ the things that I'd done but she loved that mage just the same. But I didn't talk to anyone because I was the oldest person there who wasn't obviously buying it for their kids by about 5 years. I was a little embarassed to be in my mid-30's and waiting in line for a video game.

So... Here I am... Almost two years later. I've pretty much switched factions (although I've been playing my Alliance characters almost exclusively since the release date was announced). I now have 6 max level characters instead of just two. I have a fairly godly tank and a group of people to run the new instances with. I play with a group of local people... People I know in real life.

And yet... Because of real lives and the Gamestop where most people ordered their copies of the expansion, I'll be attending the midnight release alone again. I think this time, I'll try to make more of it. Maybe I'll go through the line and ask people which server they play on. Maybe I'll run into someone I've given a complex over the years. Or maybe I'll just run into someone else who plays a druid and we can just talk about theorycrafting... Like, maybe, the funniest thing you can do to a huntard (there's never a time when it isn't funny to sleep a huntard's pet).

As for what I do after I get the game installed... I just don't know. I don't want to get too far ahead of everyone else because some people I play with regularly won't be getting the game until the weekend. I still haven't decided which one of my characters I'll level first. I could roll a death knight but... So will everyone and their uncle. People will be spawn camping again. I'm not looking forward to those first two nights because there just won't be any mobs to fight. Of course... This year, I've got a group to do instances with... And new bosses with new abilities.

"What does this boss do?"

"Let's find out..."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

360 Degree Threat Generation for Druids

A number of people have been complaining in various forums about the lack of 360 degree threat generation for bear tanks... Which is to say: Swipe only hits targets in front of you. Paladins have 360 degrees of threat generation with consecrate and warritards have... I'm going to say... Thunderclap but bears only get 180 degrees with swipe. I've given this some thought and come to the following conclusion:

I'm OK with that.

And here's why: I've never played a warrior but I have tanked on a paladin - and this was before swipe and thunderclap hit more than 3 targets so if you wanted an AoE tank, you wanted a paladin - and even then, I positioned the mobs so that they all faced me. Why? One reason: You can't parry attacks from behind.

A tank has two dual roles: Threat generation and damage mitigation. If you're going to choose one, it's safer to err on the side of mitigation. If you're low on threat generation but high on survivability then the DPS can just learn to count to three but a tank that can't stay alive for three seconds is of no use to anyone. So while you _can_ tank with your back to mobs on a paladin or a warrior, you're going to want to have them all in front of you so you can parry.

Druids can't parry (or block) but they will want to keep all mobs in front of them to be in swipe range. In my opinion, all tanks should be positioning themselves so that all mobs they are fighting are in front of them: Paladins, warriors and death knights for the chance to parry and druids for the threat generation of swipe.

But if you REALLY want 360 degree threat generation on a druid... Pop into caster form, hit yourself with Barkskin and drop a Hurricaine right on top of yourself.