100

Beyond The Dark Portal

Beyond The Dark Portal

I started playing Warlords on launch day – November 13th – during the day. I took my time with it. Regardless of my decision not to blow through the content, I didn’t have much of a choice anyway. In real life, I work retail, and during the past month-plus the place has been devouring all of my time and energy. As such, I started playing that Thursday, spent the next week doing little more than a few quests at a time when I could snatch an hour to play, and finally hit 100 eleven days later, on Sunday the 23rd.

(And here I am, nine days later, finally writing about it. Yeah.)

I had a good time. The game looks beautiful; I took more than 2800 screenshots along the way to 100, both to have a record of quest progress and to simply capture the beauty from time to time. I read the quest texts, and will re-read them the next time I take a character through.

An ancient road in Gorgrond

An ancient road in Gorgrond

However, now that I’m 100, I don’t know what to do. Since I am not raiding, I’m not trying very hard to gear. The only real post-100 gear that I’ve been going after, very occasionally, is PvP gear. More on that in a moment. I’m basically spending time at 100 doing Garrison dailies, a little bit of PvP, and trying to decide which toon to bring to Draenor next. And that’s about it for now.

Anyway, here are some of my early thoughts on the expansion…

Gearing for Leveling

So far, only Mushan has stepped through the Dark Portal, so I can only vouch for how this worked for that character. However, I can tell you that early-Pandaria heroic dungeon gear is more than adequate for leveling on Draenor.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started WoD with an item level of 471 (upgraded Heroic dungeon gear). I kept every piece until I was a good way past 92, at which point I picked out the best pieces I had gotten from quests and rares and equipped those. This brought me to ilvl 511. Then, I kept all of those pieces equipped until I was 95, at which point I swapped gear again and bumped my ilvl to 543.

Second gear swap on Draenor

Second gear swap on Draenor

So halfway through the leveling process, I was still basically wearing gear roughly equivalent to Siege of Orgrimmar flex, before upgrades, with no set bonuses.

Before I go further, let me also mention that I did the first couple of levels without a pet. My first use of a pet was during my first Garrison invasion, before which I tamed a wolf because I felt that it was time, and because I did not know what to expect during the invasion. Before that, though, I did the group quest where you kill the elekk elite near your fort by myself, with no pet. I took some hits, but I managed to kite it well enough that I was able to persevere and take it down with little problem.

Anyway, I kept that gear until I was level 98, and when that swap was complete I was up to 580 and had finally eclipsed my top Mists ilvl.

Third gear swap on Draenor

Third gear swap on Draenor

 

I rode that gear until I hit 100, and then I made my final mass-swap and jumped up to 604. I haven’t built much upon that since, although I haven’t had any real problems out in the world with that gear.

I like that I was able to get some use out of the gear acquired through leveling. I enjoy that part of the leveling process – getting gear as I progress – and I believe it helped me appreciate the enemy encounters along the way much more than if I had Husqvarna-ed my way through Draenor with SoO gear.

It was also nice not banging my head against the wall in SoO over the last couple of months trying to get gear and the heirloom weapons (or legendary cloaks for my alts). I got weapons at regular intervals throught Draenor, as I had suspected I would, and they served me well. It was a much less stressful way for me to play.

PvP

After hitting 100, I went to check out Ashran.

After about an hour and a half of play there over three occasions, I don’t have many thoughts on it, other than that the same two bosses always seem to be engaged, and that the fighting always seems to be taking place on the road in the same place. The zone is pretty cool – I’ve enjoyed exploring around – and has been compared to Wintergrasp, but my early impression is that it doesn’t hold a candle to Wintergrasp. I’m pretty disappointed overall. I still want to try out Southshore vs. Tarren Mill, and get my feet wet in some other BGs again. But overall, my time in Ashran has caused me to be more interested in leveling my next toon than in PvP.

Garrisons

I’ve enjoyed the Garrisons more than I thought I would have. I’m glad that I didn’t fuss over them extensively before the launch. It was fun to have the ins and outs revealed to me as I progressed.

I decided to go with the Barn and Tannery to supplement my Leatherworking and Skinning. This has turned out to be beneficial, since I don’t really have time to go out and acquire mats for the daily cooldowns. I also went with the Salvage Yard, Stables, Storehouse, Barracks, and Gladiator’s Sanctum. I’m still leveling my buildings, since I missed a lot of days leading up to and during the holiday. It’s fun, but it also seems like a lot of busy work.

I like having followers. There are some cool people hanging out at my Garrison now: I really like having Admiral Taylor, Rulkan, and Lantresor of the Blade around. I like doing missions, although I’m somewhat handicapped by the fact that I have no followers who can mitigate spells. I’ve got, like, 37 rogues, 12 priests, 15 warriors, and 26 paladins. At least, it seems that way. For now, though, I don’t really mind. I’m still not done doing everything in the game yet, like some of the quests and all of the dungeons, so we’ll see what happens.

I just wonder what spending time in my Garrison will look like six weeks from now…

Dungeons

As much as I love dungeons, I haven’t gotten into any of them yet. I got invited to one last week while I was partially afk, and didn’t have time to do it. Other than that, though, I’ve only been doing content that I can leave at any time, because, as I mentioned, I’ve been very busy, and when I get home from work, I am usually extremely tired.

Story (Alert!! Possible spoilers below, if you haven’t finished all of the questlines yet!)

A couple of random story thoughts…

- Deaths. AU Velen, I was feeling a little shocked, but I understood and admired his sacrifice. Maraad, I was quite saddened by. AU Orgrim, I thought to myself, “oh shit, no way!” but that didn’t affect me like Maraad’s death, and I was just glad that AU Durotan was still alive.

However, I absolutely loved the cinematic at the end of the Nagrand storyline. Dude had it coming, and he got his in epic fashion!

- At the end of the Auchindoun questline, we defeat a demon, and then take the gate to Auchindoun, where Exarch Maladaar and Soulbinder Tuulani seem to have different and somewhat bizarre reactions to the disappearance of Gul’dan and Teron’gor…

The Exarch is happy that we slayed several baddies. His reaction is completely without regard to the situation on the ground, or in Auchindoun:

Yay, we won! :P

Yay, we won! :P

Meanwhile, Tuulani is saddened and mystified:

What happened?? :(

What happened?? :(

Apparently neither really knows how instance portals work…

Generally, the leveling story was pretty good, but I felt there was something important missing at the end of this questline. Any normal player/hero knows that they jumped into the instance, which took them out of PvP. Right? And Teron’gor is a boss in the Auchindoun dungeon, so… yeah.

It just didn’t seem written well at all.

Huntering

Man, I miss Scatter Shot.

I also kind of miss Arcane Shot as Marksmanship, but I’m okay without it. In Warlords, it would have made rotations smoother. But I generally enjoyed MM for leveling: the Aimed/Chimaera double-whammy was nice on single mobs. And while Multishot seems terribly ineffective, Explosive Trap is awesome when you pull a bunch of little podling b-holes…

As I said, I had no problem leveling with no pet for a while, and with simply using the leveling gear.

Closing

There are a lot of words in this post, and not a heck of a lot of substance. Oh well. I hope you don’t mind; I just wanted to check in since I have a rare day off and the servers are down for maintenance. I’m still here, and checking the game out a little bit at a time.

I’d like to decide today who I want to take over there next. I’m actually thinking of starting more than one: I have a mage, warrior, and death knight, and I’d like to see which of them I want to take to 100 first. The problem with the plate toons is that I don’t know if I want to level them as tanks or damage specs. I’ll probably stay Blood/Prot, because ultimately I’d like to tank some dungeons once the holidays are over and I (theoretically) have more time, but we’ll see.

If I get all three into Draenor this week, I can start on their profession stuff, which will be nice.

Until next time, hope you’re all having fun!

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Follow me on Twitter at @MushanEtc. Comments are welcome!


Mushan’s New Journal: Preparing for the Iron Horde

Mushan, awaiting orders in Stormwind

Mushan, awaiting orders in Stormwind

Hello.

My name is Mushan. In order to protect my online privacy, I will not be disclosing my surname.

I am a hunter. I can do almost anything that hunters around the world can do, but I specialize in pinpoint marksmanship, and I always have. To be certain, I have spent more than my fair share of my time working different magics into my arsenal, but lately I have been trimming the fat from my shot selection. In my opinion, there is nothing more satisfying than eliminating an enemy with carefully aimed, heavy, devastating shots.

Recently, I received a summons from King Varian Wrynn, and so I reported for duty in the Blasted Lands. For those who are not familiar with the situation there, Orcs calling themselves the “Iron Horde” are flowing from the Dark Portal, which is now red. Interestingly, they are attacking both Alliance and Horde alike. They allied with the ogres in the region, and took both Nethergarde Keep (killing several friends of mine) and Okril’lon Hold. I was charged, by Vindicator Maraad and other Alliance officers, with a variety of missions designed to weaken their offensive, destroy their commanders, and, from what I understand, allow us to begin to set up a defensible situation there.

Once I had completed those missions, I reported to King Varian, who recognized that this incursion by the Iron Horde is a serious threat. I left him to come up with his plan, and assume that he will be contacting me within the next few weeks with further instructions.

Since then, I have been preparing for the worst. I am not privy to the king’s thoughts, but to my mind, the “worst” is likely to mean that he will be sending Alliance forces through the Dark Portal again. It has been years since I was there last, and I have no idea what is on the other side. I assume that Outland is our destination, but without having walked through it yet – and, assuming that the Dark Portal is still a two-way portal… and that I come out on whatever is on the other side alive – I cannot say for certain. However, as I mentioned, I am preparing for whatever journey the king and his commanders deem necessary.

Preparations have included many tasks.

First, I cleaned out my bags. I will take what I need, but I intend to travel light. In addition to not knowing where I will be going, I will not risk losing valuables in a possible trip through the Dark Portal.

Once the bags were ready, I prepared food packets to take with me. I do not expect that I will not be able to provide for myself wherever we go. After all, I am a hunter. However, without knowing what kinds of fish and game are available on the other side of the portal, I could do worse than having dried noodle soup available when I need it. Perhaps by now the entirety of Outland is completely devastated like Hellfire Peninsula was years ago. If that is the case, I cannot rely on the availability of boar, talbuk, clefthoof, and other game.

Nevertheless, I took some time on a recent Saturday to clean, oil and test my bow and supply my quiver. I also made certain that my tackle box was well-stocked. If there is still fishing to be done over there, I will be fishing if time allows.

A major decision that I made was to jettison the armor that I picked up during the Siege of Orgrimmar. If you have yet to see what was available there, it was heavy gear that made me look like a cyborg. I prefer something far more more lightweight, for both comfort and style.

I packed various supplies into a couple of bags. I have bandages and potions, thread, leather and other supplies for repairing my gear and skinning beasts, traps, a charm that will allow me to breathe underwater, various other charms and gadgets that could prove useful, an anatomical dummy for target practice, my inflatable fishing raft, various tools, and writing materials. I also packed extra bags, since they have a variety of uses in a pinch.

Everything else I will leave at home or put into storage.

I have several pets, but I will not be bringing them along with me through the Dark Portal. It is simply too dangerous. I am willing to put myself at risk to defend the lands and citizens of the Alliance, but I will not put my friends in danger. They will be in good hands. This weekend, I am going to hire someone to look after those that choose not to simply wander the land while I am gone. I consider myself capable of defending myself against Orcs, and will be better able to do so with the peace of mind that comes from not worrying that my pets could be ripped to shreds by potentially unstable forces during the journey through the portal. If there are beasts to be found on the other side, I may tame one there.

Of course, I have also been practicing my marksmanship and woodcraft, running and exercising, and trying to sleep well. With so much uncertainty about the near future, I will treasure the remaining nights that I am able to spend sleeping in a bed.

This entry does not do proper justice to the amount of effort I have put into making preparations for my imminent journey. However, I intend for there to be many more entries, and thus more details.

Until then, Ishnu-alah.

* * *

Editor’s note: Dear readers, this is the first journal entry that Mushan has ever given me. I didn’t even know that he journaled; however, I’m happy to pass along whatever he is willing to share with you.

Sincerely, “Mushan at Mushan, Etc.”

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Follow me on Twitter at @MushanEtc. Comments are welcome!


Thrall’s new top knot

This past weekend, we were treated to some new models – including several beasts, ancients, pets, mounts, and some faction leaders – from the Warlords of Draenor alpha, courtesy of Datamining. One of these is a new Thrall model.

My first impression was that, in general, I liked him. Upon reflection, however, there are definitely aspects of this new model that irritate me, and cause me to have questions that will probably never be answered to my satisfaction.

Much has been made (correctly) of the male-centric-ness of this brutish new expansion that we’re awaiting. The announcement page at Battle.net has a header with seven male orc legends on it, and further down there is a “meet the big bad (or good) dudes” section, which features ten males: the seven orcs, plus Prophet Velen, Vindicator Maraad, and Khadgar. It’s like the ‘The Stone Age meets the Steroid Era in pro baseball’ expansion, with a couple of good guys thrown in. Oh, and there’s ONE (1) female Draenei paladin Champion that we don’t know much of anything about. Things are very male and barbaric and stuff, at any rate. Hopefully that imbalance will be alleviated somewhat once we get involved, but I’m not holding my breath.

Anyway, with that in mind, here’s a picture of Thrall’s new model (via MMO-Champion):

Thrall, WoD Alpha (via MMO-C)

Thrall, WoD Alpha (MMO-C), April 2014

For comparison purposes, here’s a model from April 2011, from Blizzard’s 4.2 ‘Elemental Bonds’ preview:

Thrall model, Elemental Bonds preview, April 2011

Thrall model, ‘Elemental Bonds’ preview, April 2011

This second model is the one we saw for a good portion of Cataclysm’s life cycle. He appears in basically this form in the Elemental Bonds questline, the Hour of Twilight dungeon, Dragon Soul, his wedding to Aggra, and at the Maelstrom, striving to hold the world together.

Finally, for the sake of further comparison, here is a picture of (the old) Thrall at the Argent Tournament (screenshot taken by Jocelyn at DK Diaries):

Thrall at the Argent Tournament (via DK Diaries)

Thrall at the Argent Tournament (via DK Diaries)

In between this time and the second shot above, Thrall went to Outland and met Aggra and began his growth/ascent into less-Warchief/more-uberShaman-ness, and ended up holding the world together at the Maelstrom while we found the pieces to the pillar in Deepholm, and so on. He emerged at the beginning of Cataclysm in his new shaman garb, with upright posture and some long braids. This is the Thrall the vast majority of us have known since he ceded his position to Garrosh and went on to address the bigger, more urgent problems that Deathwing caused.

At the time, the old model was fairly impressive, although artist renderings were more impressive than his in-game model, which was a very common Orc model with unique Thrall trappings. The Thrall of the past two expansions has been more reflective of his new position in society – a hero to all in the world (rather than just Orcs/Horde) regardless of faction, a shaman of great power, the substitute Earth Warder – as well as his visibility and importance in the game.

As for this new Thrall, I can only speculate.

I can tell you one thing: I miss the long hair/braids. This new shaved-head-with-top-knot look does nothing for me. In fact, if we look at the WoD Orc faction leaders that I mentioned in the beginning, three of the seven – Kilrogg Deadeye, Ner’zhul, and Grommash Hellscream – also have top knots. This leaves me to wonder if there is some explanation for this.

Does Thrall travel to the old Draenor and decide that he wants to look more brutal? He seems to have dropped some, but not all, of his shaman garb and slapped on some, but not all, of his plate armor. Perhaps he anticipates more hand-to-hand combat, and wants to be prepared… or, perhaps he thinks he looks more intimidating this way, with plate armor, a weirdly-hemmed cloak, and his top knot.

Honestly, if that’s the case, I would have left the hair the way it was before WoD, ditched the cloak, and definitely equipped the ol’ black pauldrons, because that would have looked way more badass than this does. But if he (or someone advising him) thinks this is both more impressive-looking and more statesmanlike, then so be it. I don’t personally know any old-world Orc leaders, so I’m not sure what impresses/intimidates them.

* * *

@gloriaboboria wrote a post this weekend called Thrall – What Happened, Man? over at Corgi Island, lamenting Thrall’s descent into Human-ness. In it, she describes Thrall’s new WoD alpha model, and compares it, side-by-side, with the new Orc model and the regular human male model. (Her post is a great read, by the way – check it out!)

And she has this to say about it (with visual comparison below):

“The model is of a vaguely orc-like looking guy in a trenchcoat…robe…thing. The outfit is interesting, but now Thrall stands completely erect. Shoulders back, neck held high. The main thing that marks Thrall as an orc at this point is his green skin. He actually looks more like a human than an orc. If you don’t believe me, here’s a side-by-side image comparison of the new male orc model, Thrall’s new model, and Gilbert the improverished (. . .) human warrior.”

New Orc / New Thrall / Human comparison, via @gloriaboboria

New Orc / New Thrall / Human comparison, via @gloriaboboria

The picture illustrates how well Thrall stands apart from other Orcs, while looking more like a human (in the general male, He-Man-ish way that males tend to look in WoW anyway).

However, while @Gloriaboboria and others express dismay at the new model and its Human-ness – and while I see her/their point – I would argue two Things:

1a) The new model is structurally almost identical to the old model – the one we’ve seen for the past three years. His straight back, high neck, slender-er torso, etc., are evident all over Cataclysm in the places I mentioned in the beginning of this post, and in the picture from April 2011. It can also be seen in this rather recent video (WARNING: Siege of Orgrimmar spoilers…):

1b) As such, his “Human-ness” looks exaggerated in the new model because the old “new” model was already so human. Rather than having the Roid-lats and hulking shoulders that the common Orc model has, Thrall circa Cata and MoP has a very Human body as well. Add all that thick plate armor – sans shoulder plates – and that hulking appearance is lessened even more. Take a look at (Human) King Varian Wrynn, another faction leader and warrior (via WoWWiki):

Varian Wrynn in 5.1 (via WoWWiki)

Varian Wrynn in 5.1 (via WoWWiki)

This isn’t the best pic for this illustration, but I’m currently on break from paying for WoW, so I grabbed this one for convenience’s sake. It shows something that I’ve noticed about Varian for a while, which is that the combination of his belt and chestplate serve to somewhat smooth out the tapered-torso/huge lats/big shoulders (Varian’s huge shoulder plates notwithstanding) look that many of the male races sport in WoW. His torso also seems to stick out in the front a bit more than I think it should, but I’ve always chalked that up to the cartoony-ness of the game.

In a similar way, on top of Thrall’s established (Cata-forward) model, Blizz took away his hood, gave him a trench-cloak, slapped his plate back on him, and gave him (something of) a midlife-crisis hairstyle. Upon putting that armor on, Thrall’s silhouette evolves even closer to a cylindrical shape, and less orc-like. Here’s that new-model picture again; in particular, you can see what I mean in the image on the left:

Thrall, WoD Alpha (via MMO-C)

Thrall, WoD Alpha (via MMO-C)

(I personally think it makes him look short…)

(I also think his huge boots make him look like the Hero of Oakvale in the first Fable game… but I digress.)

So, I would argue that, other than refined textures and new armor/hair/cloak, Thrall’s basic model is actually the same as it has been for the past three years. Of the in-game models, I personally like the current in-game shaman look best.

 

* * *

I like Thrall. He’s a fairly polarizing character… and his wedding annoyed me because I was thinking “Why isn’t other, more interesting lore about Thrall in the game instead?” And also because it basically marked the beginning of the end of players interacting with Aggra, who I think could be written as a prominent, enduring, strong female character. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we will see that for a while, from what I’m reading…

But despite Thrall’s many critics (and critiques), I still enjoy learning about his life experiences and seeing what he will do next in the game. That holds true for Warlords, in spite of all of the likely social justice-related mis-steps in the expansion that are bound to stick out like awkward boners. I still like Thrall. But I think his WoD alpha model looks a little stupid, and that’s in part* because Blizzard’s artists didn’t flex his figure (OR his armor) to make his wearing of plate look more proportionally appropriate. (To me, humans and Thrall and others sometimes look like they’re wearing huge shields on their bodies instead of custom-fit chest armor.) In this instance, not doing so diminishes the silhouette and the general figure of Thrall as we go forward.

But who knows? Perhaps the design will change between now and Warlords. There’s always a chance…

*And in part because of his hair. Did I mention his hair?? :P

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Revisiting Outland with a new hunter

Ah, the low level greens

In my “free time” – which, in World of Warcraft, generally constitutes time spent “not advancing” my level 90 characters or professions in some shape or form – lately, I’ve been leveling a new hunter.

Now, there is no need for me to make a new hunter, at least for the sake of hunters per se. I already have three hunters on my realm, and two of them are max level. However, I do love the class, and so when the time came to work on a new project, it was a fairly easy choice for me.

Anyway, I’ve got this new hunter. And this hunter has a purpose. Due to this purpose, it’s extremely likely that he will never reach max level.

* * *

If I think about the history of my experience in WoW, with an eye toward my favorite parts of the leveling experience, something interesting happens.

Some people love(d) Vanilla WoW. And, the truth is, I did too; I didn’t start playing WoW until the month after TBC launched, but I did spend a ton of time leveling through the “Vanilla” parts of the game when I started playing – I didn’t have my first level 70 toon until just over a month before Wrath launched! And while there were frustrating and faulty aspects of that part of the game, I have a lot of good – fuzzy, but good – memories from that time.

However, that part of the game is gone. Forever.

It’s not 100% gone, of course: there are areas of the game that survived the revamp (the “kill 10 Young Stranglethorn Tigers -> Stranglethorn Tigers -> Elder Stranglethorn Tigers”-type questlines come to mind, for one), but they’re relatively few in number. As a whole, the Vanilla WoW experience no longer exists.

As such – and this is the interesting thing that I realized – the earliest “nostalgia-era” content that is still available in anything collectively resembling its original form is The Burning Crusade. And Wrath follows that, of course… and those two zones are the reasons that I made this new hunter.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, as well as some of those from before, you may know that I’m at something of a crisis point as far as the game goes with me. A lot of times, what’s needed in these situations is a break from the everyday endgame experience (or lack thereof), and that’s what I’ve been looking for lately. Looking at the game, I realized recently that I had no characters that could play in Outland at-level – seven 90s, an 85, and two toons at or below 30. One of those lowbies is a hunter, and the other a shaman. I don’t enjoy the shaman as much as I had hoped, and the other hunter is reserved for a different project, should I ever return to it.

Anyway, I decided that, while I’m not a fan of leveling the revamped content on Azeroth, I wanted to take another toon into Outland and Northrend… and I didn’t feel like leveling a second DK (not that that isn’t fun, but my DK is the last toon I leveled, so I’d like to give DKs a bit of a rest for the moment). So, hunter it was.

But, why Outland?

When I look back at the past few years and think about the toons I’ve brought to max level, starting with Mushan and including a (now deleted) mage, warrior, replacement mage, second hunter, and DK, I realized that my favorite zones to revisit during the leveling process are Outland and Northrend. They were the continents/expansions that I played before I raided, which means “back when I sucked.” Back when I had no idea what was going on, or how to play. Back when the world was a complete wonder to me. When things were scary and new.

For some reason, nostalgia brings me back to those zones, to those expansions’ content. To a simpler time. That’s the number one reason. The revamped Vanilla content was okay for the first play-through, but there are certain aspects to the leveling process that make the experience uninteresting to me, including the lack of virtually any challenges along the way and the updating of the content to the current-as-of-Cataclysm time period.

* * *

I’ve set some parameters to encourage discovery, exploration, and learning… and also to ensure that I do not simply blow through to the higher levels like I usually do.

Heirlooms

No heirlooms past level 58. I did use several heirlooms through level 57, because the goal here was absolutely to zip through large chunks of the pre-58 content at a time. Once I hit 58, I did away with them, replacing them with quest greens I had saved for exactly that purpose. I even equipped a level 15 (ilvl 22) cloak as I prepared for Outland, because that was the last one I had saved. Not that that mattered – everything has been nerfed, so the simple fact that I had something appropriate equipped in every slot ensured that questing would still be very easy.

I’m also not in a guild, for guild perk reasons (including the bonus XP perk).

Locking XP

Based on past (post-4.0) experience, a player can hit Hellfire, Terrokar, Nagrand, and SMV or Netherstorm, run a couple of dungeons along the way, and easily be 68 (and ready for Northrend) before completing any zones, and skipping the vast majority of the Outland content. My aim with this toon is to spend time in Outland, so skipping content is anathema in that scenario. Therefore, I went to Wowhead and looked up the required levels for quests in each zone. For instance, virtually all of the quests in Hellfire are available by the time players hit 61; thus, when I hit 61, I lock my XP. This means that, once I finish the zone, I can unlock my XP, move on to Zangarmarsh, and continue gaining XP until I get to 62 (when all quests in Zangar become available). Then, when I finish Zangar, I can start Terrokar with unlocked XP and re-lock it again at 64 for Nagrand. This preserves some semblance of “I’m playing at-level,” which is another goal that I have. I could do each zone and run each dungeon without locking XP, but I would quickly outgrow each zone well before I finish it if I did it that way. I’m likely going to spend more time in Outland with my XP locked than unlocked, but that’s ok.

By the way, I discovered the other day that locking XP also interrupts the accrual of “rest,” which, for these purposes, does not disappoint me. Knowing that I won’t be out-leveling a zone quite so fast makes for more fluid progression within the zone than 30 bars of rest would – to a point, of course.

Mounts

Ground mounts only. Some people may think this is crazy, but I’m determined to play it very much like I did when I first took Anacrusa through it in 2007-08. And I couldn’t fly back then. Taxis (flight paths) are allowed, of course.

Additionally, while I do have a vendor mount, I will not use it with this toon.

Dungeons

There are quests in zones, once you get to a certain point/level, that send you to a dungeon that corresponds with the story; in Hellfire, it’s Hellfire Ramparts. In the interest of playing through the story, I will run the dungeons. However, I will only do this while XP-locked.

It’s fairly clear, at this point, that managing the throttling of XP-gain is a large part of this endeavor. Part of this is an experiment to see how it affects immersion; I’m of the opinion that while going back several times to Stormwind to (un)lock XP is a slight annoyance, it’s no more immersion-breaking than any other non-core activity in the game, such as doing my farms every day on max-level toons, or raiding the same instance every week.

* * *

It’s an imperfect science, obviously: there are several aspects of the game that are impossible to recreate. LFD didn’t exist back then, there were group quest elites, stats and specs and talents have been revamped, glyphs have been added, and things have been heavily nerfed. There’s no way to go back 100%, but that’s something I was fully aware of as I began the project.

The goal is to immerse myself in Outland. Revisit and enjoy the lore, and experience it as authentically as possible from a playstyle perspective. Revisit some memories of formative times in my WoW-childhood. There really isn’t a way to completely and accurately replicate that experience any more, but I can do things to mitigate the hyper-leveling paradigm that plagues** old content.

** “Plague” indicating a certain perspective; I know that there are many who are absolutely done with Outland in every way, but I also know that there are a lot of people who love TBC and love spending time there. So for my purposes, leveling quickly is the opposite of what I’m interested in. However, for others, it’s a necessity.

At any rate, along the way, I am taking a lot of screenshots, reading quest text, and completing each zone the best I can.

By the way, I’m leveling as Marksman on this hunter, which is what I leveled Mushan and Ghilleadh with back in the day. I don’t play Marks anymore on those toons, but it is absolutely killer for leveling. I approach the mob. I plant, and (unglyphed) Aim, and Shoot. 95% of the time, the mob either dies from a single shot or is critically injured (and is subsequently finished off with a Kill Shot). For elites or higher-level-than-me mobs, I do the “Aimed/Chimera” combo, and if it doesn’t kill them, it usually does serious damage. Even without heirlooms, the damage is punishing if it crits, and with Careful Aim, that happens quite often…

Playing this way makes me feel more like a ranger than just about anything else in the game. And that’s a fun aspect of this project, too.

* * *

As I mentioned above (and in a previous post), there’s no way to 100% accurately replicate the experience of playing WoW or a new expansion for the first time – once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. However, there are ways to revisit it. I’m a leave-my-poor-arms-at-the-emergency-room-afterward raider, but I also love leveling, and I love some of the old parts of the game. It’s fun and relaxing to lose myself in my new character, imagining him seeing this content for the first time and experiencing that wonder and awe with him. I’ve seen it before, but I also like seeing it again. And perhaps I’ll learn something new along the way.

Of course, this dovetails somewhat nicely with the idea that it’s nice to see Outland as it was a couple of years ago on the eve of Warlords of Draenor, since a great deal of that lore (along with that of the relevant books) will be somewhat pertinent to that expansion as well…

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Women and Warlords

Friday evening, 11/15

I haven’t posted anything about Warlords of Draenor yet. The reasons for that are fodder for another post; suffice to know that I’ve been both very busy with work and otherwise distracted regarding the game.

I have, however, had a chance to check out the updates on MMO-C, as well as several blog posts and discussions on the changes, the new content, and so on. I haven’t been as active as usual around here lately, but I’ve also not been living under a rock, in that respect.

One of the recurring subjects of some of these posts has been women – or rather, a lack of women – in the presentation of the new expansion. The reveal video featured a female Frostwolf encountering a male Dreanei hunter, a tribal-dancing Orc female, and a female Draenei protagonist… and a bunch of brutish Orc males from Draenor-past. In giving us a whiff of what we will encounter – obviously, an orcstosterone-driven, warring society, where Orc-men waged war and everything else, including Orc-women, were of lesser importance (and worse: read Unbroken for a picture of the devastating shit that went on) – Blizzard introduced us to the warped and primitive Orcish society in WoD.

The “Story, Heroes, Villains” page at Battle.net shows us seven male Orc leaders from old Draenor, as well as Vindicator Maraad and Prophet Velen – both powerful male Draenei – and Khadgar, the Human male wizard. We also find out that Thrall will be going to Draenor, but Aggra, his wife will not. And so on.

There’s a lot about this expansion’s story – which will be told throughout the expansion – that we don’t know. But what was presented to us was that we’ll be fighting quite a bit against a literal horde of male Orc entities.

The lack of strong women portrayed in the general introduction to WoD has sparked the aforementioned discussion about women in the new expansion. I’ve read a small handful of posts over the past week that discuss it to some degree or another, and I’ll point out a few of those posts now:

  1. First Impressions – Alternative Chat, November 9th
  2. First Thoughts on Warlords of Draenor – Harpy’s Nest, November 10th
  3. Lords of Draenor: Where are the girls at? – Restokin, November 14th

And I know I’ve read others that I am failing to remember at this point – please forgive me if I didn’t include yours! I haven’t really been on Twitter or listened to any podcasts in a while, but I’m sure that there have been many interesting discussions in those formats as well.

At any rate, I read the above posts over the past week. I found them to be interesting, and their points logical. Reading them again tonight, I didn’t find any of them to be ranty or ravey. Lissanna’s article – the only one I’ve linked above that is a complete post on the subject – does a great job describing several points of concern about the lack of women in the presentation. Lissanna has never, in my memory, written a post that is less than extremely well-written, or failed to make her points in a compelling manner, and this post is no different…

…which is why I was struck by a succession of reactions – surprise, disbelief, revulsion, and so on – this morning, when I read this over breakfast: Massive Offensive Rant: The Story Belongs to Blizzard by Big Bear Butt. I was so strongly moved that I desperately wanted to stay home to write a response. I had to go to work, so that didn’t happen. But the topic stuck with me all day, and the more I thought about it, I was glad that I had been forced to think about it for a shift before writing this.

In his post, BBB comes flaming out of the gate with the following:

I’m seeing a lot of bitching, pissing and moaning among the community of active players about the story and characters revealed at BlizzCon.

Hmm.. Let’s see what happens. Well, he repeats the “bitching, pissing and moaning” part again – his quotes, by the way. OK, so that’s been hammered home. We now know that something has struck him as pretty offensive. If I hadn’t already had a bad feeling about where this could be going because of the feminist nature of some of the discussion I’d seen lately, I might have been thinking that this could be good. But instead, I was thinking “uh oh…” – and “uh oh…” is what I got.

“Oh no, I don’t see any strong female leads to base my existence off of and to inspire my daughter to be a whole person!”

“Oh my, all the characters in the story are male, it’s a big boys club, I feel so excluded!”

“Oh, there’s a token female Draenei they mentioned, but she’s described as being like Joan of Arc, and nobody knows what that really means so I’ll make tons of assumptions about Blizzard, the other players, the story, the characters who will be in it and everything ever based on my worldview and prejudices.”

“And then I’ll go rant about it and tell Blizzard how they’re doing it wrong, and need to change things to be more like what I want.”

So at this point, we know exactly what this is about.

His major issue, as he tells it, is that Blizzard are the creators, and we are the consumers, and if we don’t like what Blizzard is feeding us, we can fuck off.

However, there are telltale statements in his post that indicate other motives. The fact that he chooses to “bitch, piss and moan” specifically about the feedback from community members regarding the apparent lack of strong females in the story, and to characterize them so – as opposed to, say, people who complain about no flying until 6.1, the timey-wimey concerns, ‘do I have to do Garrisons?’, how PvP has been broken, no new class or race, etc. – tells me that his real concern is that he is tired of hearing people complain about the issue. And by people, I mean women.

And you know what? I’m tired of hearing about the issue, too… but that’s because I’m tired of it being as much of an issue as it is. Look around, read up, listen to some podcasts on the subject, and you can find all kinds of problems with the presentation of women in the game: past, present and future. It’s a troubling subject. It’s a subject so very worth all of the discussion that it has gotten lately – and more – that I’m surprised that Blizzard doesn’t seem to have processed the message very well, yet.

So I do get tired of reading or hearing something Apple Cider Mage or Erinys or Anne Stickney or Tzufit or someone else brings up from time to time… but when that happens, it’s not because they brought up the subject, or because they brought the subject up, but because they bring to light /SMH examples of what-the-fuck in the game. Because it’s 2013, and a very important part of the community (and that includes males and females, of course) is continually disappointed with how the game depicts women in various situations.

And hey, I’m as male as a male can be, but that doesn’t mean that I have to vomit out some angry, offensive piece in order to get my point across.

What I find somewhat hilarious about this post is that while he spends it “bitching, pissing and moaning” about people who are “bitching, pissing and moaning” about feminist topics relative to the expansion – somewhat ironic in itself, as the sensational nature of his outburst makes his post hard to read and weakens his point – I can’t say that anything I’ve read on the subject by any of these other bloggers even approaches B,P&M. They’re not even in the same time zone as B,P&M. But the posts I’ve seen, which I found to be thought provoking, he finds “sickening.” He says that “people I normally respect and admire . . .  (are) ranting and raving about it in public.”

It seems like there is a disconnect there. The most ranting/raving blog post I’ve read since Blizzcon was his post. Maybe I’m missing something in those other community members’ text, but I don’t think so.

Many of us are critics of the game. I’ve criticized aspects of the game in the past. And so has almost every every blogger that I’ve ever followed, to some degree – even BBB himself. So the idea that criticizing and presenting feedback to the devs is wrong falls flat. We’re all intelligent people, and we all have points to make and things to say, and constructive criticism is a part of that. And the vast majority of the discussion that I’ve seen on the feminism topic has been constructive indeed – far from ranty and ravey, in fact.

And – to top it all off – the devs want this type of feedback! They’re always interested in hearing constructive criticism, presented fairly and respectfully:

So, I don’t know. I was taken aback by BBB’s post. I didn’t expect it from him, first of all, and, as I thought about it throughout the day, I became more concerned about the mixed messages that the post conveys, that it’s ok to rant and rave about people who present critical feedback to the devs of World of Warcraft – and to dismiss an entire set of perspectives themselves as “rants” and “raves” – because that problem seems intended to be trumped in his post by the over-arching premise that you don’t demand This or That from the creators, which is a fallacy in multiple ways in this case.

It’s really unfortunate that his “respect the purity of the creator’s intent” argument was so particularly-targeted, belittling, and disrespectful. I hate seeing people I respect and admire thrown in the mud, and I also hate seeing it done, with so little maturity, by someone that I have long respected and admired.

Thanks for reading this post.


New hunters: where to go for help/advice/info

On Monday, I got my first ever hit via Reddit.

Wait… what?

That’s what I said to myself when I saw that. As far as I know, I have never been linked on Reddit before. Since I was curious, I followed the link back, and it was to a thread by someone who is new to the game and chose to roll a hunter.

The link to Mushan, Etc. was put there by my friend Cheap Boss Attack, who referred to my blog as “a nice hunter blog.” To which I say, thanks! and /salute! @ Cheap Boss Attack. :)

But at the same time, I was troubled, for two reasons…

1) While this may be a decent blog – and perhaps even fun to read from time to time – I don’t know that I have much specifically helpful hunter content to offer a new hunter here; and

2) There is no longer quite as long of a list of places to send a new player/hunter for advice.

Nonetheless, in case other brand new players come to my blog looking for guides or whatever, there are a few places that I can, in turn, recommend.

Resources for new hunters/players (Not a complete list by any stretch!)

Scattered Shots – the hunter class column at WoW Insider

WoW Insider is a wonderful site. It’s extremely active, with many new posts a day concerning most aspects of the game. There are weekly class columns for most of the classes, including hunters. WoW Insider is also a great source for up-to-date news, lore, commentary on the design of the game, daily Breakfast Topics to promote reader discussion, raiding and PvP columns, a weekly podcast, and much more. It’s a site with something (or many things!) for virtually everyone, and has a very large base of active commenters. Additionally, there is information in the form of new-player “getting started” guides there for new players (of any stripe), which can be very helpful for someone just beginning to explore this huge game.

Scattered Shots – specifically – is the hunter class column. It has been written by different people over the years, and went through a long hiatus during the spring and summer between columnists. However, it is currently active and is being written by Adam Koebel, who seems to be doing a great job. The previous columnist, Brian Wood, wrote Scattered Shots for several years until this spring, and although the game tends to change from patch to patch and expansion to expansion, the pre-Adam posts are definitely worth the read if you’re looking to get a feel for the history and culture of the class and the hunter community.

WoWhead

If you’re looking for a site that is chock full of information on gear/items, quests, NPCs, professions, loot tables, and more information than I am willing to categorize in this post, WoWhead is your place. It’s a massive database/news site/blog that has a just a ton of info on just about anything you could need to find. Definitely a place to bookmark and visit often.

Icy-Veins

For good basic guides on how to raid with your class once you hit the max level – as well as dungeon/raid boss guides, news, forums, reputation guides, lengthy quest lines, etc., Icy-Veins is a great resource for any class.

The Brew Hall

Darkbrew (The Brew Hall) not only blogs about hunters, but he’s a co-founder of the Hunting Party Podcast, which is the podcast for World of Warcraft Hunters. He posts each episode on his site, and you can also find podcast information at OutDPS!, which Darkbrew recently took over when the podcast’s co-founder, Euripides (founder of OutDPS!), retired. The Hunting Party Podcast is both entertaining and informative, and listening to back episodes can provide a further look into the history of the hunter community, and of the game itself.

MMO Champion

For all the latest news, datamining, first looks at new gear/quests/mounts and pets/blue posts and changes, etc, MMO-Champion is a great site. Not only do they have frequent posts (and updates to those posts) with info on the game as it changes, but there are also forums with helpful guides to many aspects of the game. Additionally, in the past couple of years they’ve put together a great site in WoWdb, which is, among other things, a comprehensive item database with some excellent search-filtering features. Another great resource.

Petopia

Have a question about hunter pets? Wondering what special abilities certain pets have, which pets are best in certain situations, or which pets bring which buffs to your group? Want to know which food you can give your pet without him spitting it back at you? Petopia is your one-stop shop for pet info!

El’s Extreme Anglin’ – World of Warcraft FIshing Guide

Fishing can be both an enjoyable and profitable activity. If it interests you, or if you need to find certain fish, or have any other questions about anything fishing-related in WoW, El’s Anglin’ is the top resource. He cover’s fishing, cooking, achievements, and related topics on his site.

WoWpedia

WoWpedia is the wiki source I use whenever there’s something I want to know about the game that I feel they might cover better than most. There’s information on almost everything – I tend to use it most for lore and history, but over the years I’ve gone there for information on just about anything you can think of.

Ask Mr. Robot

Looking to optimize your gear and character for end-game raiding, dungeons, or PvP? Mr. Robot can help you gem, enchant, and reforge your gear, as well as find upgrades, and also has an in-game addon for all of that. There’s a lot to explore on Ask Mr. Robot – I use it all the time. Check it out!

As I noted above, this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of resources. There are also some important links to resources that I didn’t include on this list at the right side of my blog, so feel free to check them out. Additionally, check out resources you can find on other peoples’ blogrolls, and links to great sources of info in articles on the sites I mentioned. There’s a lot of info – and fun stuff to read – out there, and I don’t even know about all of it!

World of Warcraft is a big game – and by that, I’m not referring to how many copies it sells or subscribers it has. What I do mean is this: we’re four full expansions past the game’s release, and looking at possibly a fifth during the next year, which is also the 10th anniversary of the game’s release. That’s a lot of lore and history and community and commentary to discover: you could theoretically lose yourself for hours on some of the sites I mentioned above, and for days on others!

I hope that someone finds this post helpful. I’m not a guide-writer or a theory-crafter, and I’m not even a nine-year “been here since WoW-beta” veteran. But I’ve been around a while, and have found all of these tools useful. Hopefully, sharing them with you can open your eyes to new things as well.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!


“World of Warcraft: 100″

Mushan, the "Golden Lotus Hero"

Mushan, the “Golden Lotus Hero”

I’m just sort of winging it here…

The past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a bit about the next expansion and how I want to approach the opening week(s) of play.

With the past two expansion releases, I made increasingly concerted efforts to get to 90 quickly. In Cataclysm, my druid went first, leveling as a tank, and my hunter came second, leveling as… well, as a killing machine!

(/queue a Joe Swanson “YEEAAAHHHH!!! LOCK N LOOOAAD!!!”).

Hunters! Anyway…

The druid took longer, obviously – I finished on Friday after playing almost non-stop other than sleep and meals since the Tuesday morning of that launch. The hunter wasn’t speed-leveled, but it took less play-time regardless. In MoP, I reversed course, leveling my hunter in about 30 hours and finishing on the Thursday, after starting at about 6pm on the Tuesday of that launch. The druid and warrior soon followed, but the speed-leveling was done at that point.

The reason I leveled the druid so fast in Cataclysm was because I wanted to devour the content. In retrospect, I should have done that on the hunter, but I wasn’t thinking about it that way at that point. In MoP, however, the reason that I speed-leveled the hunter was because I wanted to be ready for raiding as soon as it was available. I was chomping at the bit to start raiding, without a doubt.

So, how did that go?

Well, it had its positives and negatives.

I had fun leveling on Mushan, because it’s the toon I would have the most fun doing most things with anyway, but I also blew through content that I could have enjoyed more, particularly given the speed at which we actually started raiding. (For those not in the know, it took us more than six weeks to get into Mogu’shan Vaults.)

In light of those general facts, I’m contemplating different leveling strategies for BC2*. More on those later in the post.

In addition to the 90-95 or 90-100 grind that is forthcoming, I’ve also been thinking about the leveling game as a whole recently.

Right now, I have seven 90s. Of those, one raids, two can do LFR whenever I want, and the others are currently in various states of “profession mule”/”play when I feel like”-ness. In addition to these, I have my 85 scribe druid – and I am loathe to level her right now (although I probably will sometime before the next xpac, because I do like having a scribe) – and low-level (25-30) hunter and shaman.

I usually enjoy leveling, and had some good fun leveling my death knight during this expansion. But I can’t get into leveling either of my lowbie toons right now.

This is a somewhat sad thing for me, because I remember a time just five years ago when the game seemed much bigger. There was so much that I didn’t know about it: I was leveling my druid, and having so much fun. The quests were awesome (if painful at times), there was no way to fly around and air-drop into quest spots, there were a ton of materials and items that I had to figure out what to do with. As this was my first MMO, and one of my first RPGs, there was a lot to learn about crafting and questing and the like. I made my way through this completely huge world in constant awe of everything before my eyes, which is something that I miss – indeed, it’s even something that’s easy to forget when you become a jaded veteran, which is what I sort of consider myself.

These were the days before I was a raider. The days when I was scared shitless just thinking about PvP. When I got stuck on some quests in Dragonblight and got so frustrated with questing that I grinded Crystalized Water at The Mirror of Dawn (to sell on the AH) for two-thirds of a level so that I could just skip to Grizzly Hills… which took me for-EVER…

Yes, you read that right.

There is something terrifying and wondrous about being a complete noob and learning new things through the sheer experience of encountering them in the game. It causes you to work through problems in your own way, even if your solution seems completely asinine to others or upon reflection – like what I did back then in Dragonblight. It causes you to tread with care, to learn by trial and error what you can handle and what you can’t. It causes you to make mistakes – like using a rare crafting mat to make something that maybe you don’t need, or wearing something from the wrong armor class because you thought it might help, or spending your gold on something dumb and then not having enough to buy your first mount – and to learn to both live with the consequences of that choice and to get by in spite of it. This all comes in addition to the constant joy of new discovery through exploration and interaction.

In some ways, those experiences are both irreplaceable and unrepeatable. You can look back nostalgically, and revisit, and even still learn new things, but the first wave of eye-opening is a powerful thing.

Back when things were new... (remember Fox? lol)

Back when things were new… (remember Fox? hehe)

There’s one time you can do this again (without rolling a toon on the opposite faction, which is still an incompletely new experience), and it comes every couple of years or so: when a new expansion drops. And even then, it can’t be a completely new experience, because there are elements of the game that are the same as they’ve been since the beginning, and you’ve already experienced them to some degree or another.

Regarding what I said toward the top of the post, I’m thinking about these things as I imagine Week 1 of BC2*.

*BC2, for those who haven’t read me lately, is my attempt at a semi-humorous working title/reference for the next expansion, which may, or may not, be about the Burning Legion. Your mileage may vary… and we’ll find out in about a month what’s really going to happen!

There’s not much that we know about it at this point. There’s speculation, based on the tooltip for the heirloom weapons in Siege of Orgrimmar, that the next expansion will feature a level cap of 100. Presumably, this will mean that individual levels will be achievable more quickly, since the last thing many people want is an even more brutal leveling experience..

Beyond that – and that there will be many changes to how we play the game – not much has been confirmed. But it’s pretty much certain that there will be new zones to explore, new characters to meet, and so on.

My current m.o. is that I prepare and conquer, but I’m not so sure that that’s the way to go in “6.0.Whatever.” Based on my experience at the beginning of MoP, there probably wasn’t much value for me in getting to level 90, and getting geared to the teeth, as fast as possible. I sat and waited – impatiently, I’ll admit – for six weeks before we started raiding. And it took a long time for the raid team to come together even after that.

Oh, there was definitely value in being as geared as possible when we made our first foray into raiding. That extra preparedness on my part certainly didn’t hurt our efforts to kill the first boss or two in MsV. Being 90 in less than a week meant reaching the Valor cap the first week, being able to do LFR on schedule, getting the long rep grinds underway, getting the legendary grind started, and so on. But was it more fun than the alternative?

At the time, I spent a sizable portion of my time stewing over the fact that people weren’t leveling as fast as I thought they should. Several people had talked enthusiastically about raiding, but then disappeared, or whatever, and while there were several of us that were getting there, ready to go, there were others that took longer than I liked or even fell off the map. And the key here – given that switching guilds isn’t really an option that I’m interested in, since I’m playing with my friends (Period.) – is that I spent time resenting people when I could have been enjoying myself and my game-time more.

So the value was there, but I think I went about it the wrong way. Perhaps the uber-intense Mushan isn’t the best Mushan for Mushan’s guild.

We’re a casual guild – like, hard core. And I think that I’d like to embrace the opportunity that that can afford by enjoying my leveling time and experience in the next expansion. I’d like to complete more zones, get into the story a little more, and not worry about being the first to everything, the most heavily armored, one of the best-geared peeps on the server right away; that sort of thing.

I think that taking a different approach to this next expansion can help heal some of the malaise that I’m feeling about the leveling game right now. If I’m going to raid with good players / friends in a casual guild – in due time – perhaps I would have more fun if I allowed myself to enjoy the process of getting to that point.

I know this is all sort of general and abstract, but hopefully it makes sense.

This morning, I talked with a Pandaren NPC. Of course, at the end of the encounter, he left me with “Slow down. Life is to be savored!” I thought to myself that, given what I am contemplating for the next xpac, there’s a certain irony that I’m thinking of “slowing down and savoring” my experience a bit more, but an expansion late.

Ah well, better late than…

P.S. I’m going to suggest that the new expansion could be called “World of Warcraft: 100″… not that it should be, of course! But “100” and level 100 both go with the 10th anniversary kind of well, do they not?  :)

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan by Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


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