Warlords of Draenor cinematic, release date, and other miscellaneous thoughts

It’s been quite a while since I chimed in here…

But now, with November 13th now solidly penciled in on the calendar, we have some long, long,

LONG…

-awaited closure with respect to the Warlords of Draenor release date.

As I mentioned back in March, the 11/13/14 release date means, since it is indeed after October 21st, that

“Warlords will have both A) taken the longest time-after-previous-expansion to release of any expansion in the game’s history and B) given players the greatest amount of down-time after the previous expansion’s final content patch in the game’s history.”

So, we’ll have to see how this expansion unfolds, with respect to measured content updates and shorter downtime between final patches and new expansions. That will be another year or two (or more). Blizzard says that they are already working on the next one, but we’ve heard that before. They’re still bleeding subscriptions, and they failed to solve that problem this go-round, so we’ll see.

The question is, how many of us will see…

* * *

Anyway, how about that cinematic? I have to say, I loved it, in spite of the exclusion of anything other than male orcs and a demon. The setting was compelling, the production spectacular, and the action was thrilling. I absolutely loved the flying-Grommash-axe-to-the-head killing of Mannoroth.

I’ve watched the cinematic approximately twenty times. It makes me want to do two things: re-read Rise Of The Horde, and read all of the books post-The Shattering – in particular, War Crimes. That’s something to put on the list of things to get done within the next three months.

It was quite possibly the best cinematic yet. As good as Cataclysm’s seemed at the time, this and the trailer for Mists absolutely destroy it, in my opinion. Wrath’s was awesome too, and I loved the original WoW trailer as well. Darkbrew published a list of his favorites, and mine would be similar.

Here’s a recurring thought I have every time we get the expansion trailer: Blizzard should make a complete movie with CGI. I’m willing to be impressed by the live-action movie that will grace us in a couple of years, but I would love to see something killer like the past couple of cinematics become a major motion picture. Perhaps the cost/risk would be too great – I don’t know about these things. But hey, a guy can dream, right?

* * *

I’m still playing, although I basically stopped raiding near the end of June. My job has been stressful, and I wasn’t finding it a productive use of my time to come home from work and promptly beat my head against a wall until a couple of hours after midnight, particularly when I would have to be back at work early the next day.

In fact, I’m becoming convinced that my raiding days may be behind me. Barring a change of circumstances, I’m not going to have the time and focus to commit to raiding and raiding well. Real life comes first, and I am at an age and in a situation where I can’t let structure in WoW interfere with my future. The idea of not raiding can be a painful one, but the way I’ve felt the past few months, I don’t know that I can do it going forward.

With that (and other things) in mind, my plans for Warlords have been shifting over the past couple of weeks.

I had already planned to not race to level 100. What’s shifting may surprise the socks off of some of you…

I’m thinking of leveling a different toon first. As in, not Mushan.

* * *

Why not Mushan? I know, it seems anathema to lifelong hunters out there, but I’m not the average WoW hunter. I’ll be honest: I’m not terribly happy with what I’ve read about the changes to Survival. It seems like it’s a shadow of its former self. I know that’s a simplified way to look at changes to the spec – and I’ll certainly try it out when Patch 6.0 goes live – but I’m not feeling it right now.

And, while I feel a little better about Marksmanship than SV, it seems like, pre-numbers-pass, Beast Mastery is the way to go. And (here’s where I know I differ from other hunters) I don’t enjoy BM. To me, it’s like being a guy with a water gun and a remote-control car, and you shoot your water gun and remotely control your car, which sometimes gets stuck on a rock in the dirt or some other protrusion and ends up getting stepped on. Perhaps this reflects the true lack of skill I have in the game, but I’ve never enjoyed playing a hunter less in the post-mana era than when I went BM for Council of the Elders in ToT.

Anyway… *washes hands of the issue* I’ll be able to better make a decision on that when the patch goes live and I’ve had a chance to try out each spec to see if I like one of them.

* * *

As for what I’ve been up to in WoW, there hasn’t been much of note.

I’m steadily making cloth for Royal Satchels: So far, Mushan and my druid, Anacrusa, are fully Satcheled-up, with a few other Satchels on various other toons. Now that we have a release date, I’m certain that I will not have full Panda-bags on each of my main toons, but I won’t need that space immediately since I am not racing them all to 100 ASAP, so I will probably leave Modhriel (my Tailor) at Halfhill for the foreseeable future while that project is going on.

I’ve taken up PvP on my druid, which has been interesting. With a gear set largely composed of Timeless Isle gear, about a week ago I stepped in and started losing a lot of random BGs. Compounding the gear problem was my inability to play the spec well, and vice-versa. It’s been a long time since I PvPed regularly on my druid – three years or so – so there has been a lot to learn. I felt a bit guilty for holding my teams back, but I shouldn’t have – I wasn’t the main problem. Most games, we were getting crushed. Ana in full Prideful gear wasn’t going to turn most of those matches into wins, believe me.

Along the way, I’ve picked up a few pieces of Grievous, and the weapon will be next (and a huge upgrade). Things are getting better: I’m getting the hang of the spec, which is my #1(a) goal, with #1 being to have fun doing something that is both old and new.

Aside from that, I’m casually grinding Valor on my warrior, druid, DK, and paladin. My mage has had horrible luck getting a weapon to replace his T14 Sha-Touched sword, so I’ve basically given up on that (and on grinding other gear and Valor) with him. When he finally gets to Draenor, he’s going to destroy mobs anyway, so I’m not terribly worried about it. Frickin’ guy has a 544 ilvl, so I think he’s going to be just fine, even in spite of his 491 weapon…

I’ve also been hitting up some old raids on Mushan. A couple of friends and I went into Ulduar last weekend and wiped the floor with 25-player mode, which scored me a boatload of achievement points. Before that, we did the same in ICC-25. I also finally completed my Valorous Cryptstalker set on my hunter (at least to a point where I could use the gear), which I may talk about in the near future.

* * *

Without making this a book, these are just some miscellaneous bits from the world of Mushan.

Etc.

More, soon. :)

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


My favorite raid encounters as a hunter in Mists…

All of them.

Ok, well not really – that’s just my own predilection for hunters shining through!

Today, The Grumpy Elf wrote about his three favorite raid encounters as a hunter in MoP, and Delirium followed with his top five. As I read each of those great posts, I got to thinking about some of the fights I particularly enjoyed because I was playing a hunter, even if I wasn’t in love with the fights themselves. Here then, in no particular order, are some favorite moments/mechanics:

Imperial Vizier Zor’lok

  • Disengage to the furthest shield during Force and Verve on Platform 1? Check.
  • Continue rotation uninterrupted – by casting on the move – while avoiding discs during Attenuation on Platform 2? Check.
  • Quickly change targets to burst down Converted players on Platform 3? Check
  • Combine all three on the floor in Phase 2? Good fun.
  • Jump-Disengage from platforms –> Deterrence to avoid Pheromones of Zeal damage when transitioning between platforms? Check.

T14 was a butt for my raid team. We struggled to get past certain bosses like Stone Guard, Elegon, Blade-Lord, Garalon… yeah. It was rough. But I had fun on Zor’lok.

I used to try to Disengage directly into my assigned shield during Force and Verve. The first time I did it, I called it a ‘three-pointer,’ although it was more like a hole-in-one. It’s the simple things, right? Not an amazing feat, but fun nonetheless. But while Zor’lok wasn’t necessarily a ‘use all the tools in your toolbox’-type of fight, I really appreciated being a hunter on that fight.

Lei Shi

Let’s see here… how about I start with running while casting during Get Away! ? Yeah, that was great. I enjoyed that benefit while playing my hunter, but my appreciation for cast-on-the-move grew when I took my frost mage and resto druid into ToES. What a difference.

I also got to use Wyvern Sting to CC Animated Protectors during Protect, because it was instant / more reliable than Freezing Trap.

On the other hand, one of the more annoying things was having virtually nothing to do during Hide. Watching mages and warlocks rain down ice and fire made me nostalgic for good ol’ Volley in that case. And, in general, that fight was a pain with all of the phase changes and so on, so I didn’t necessarily enjoy it. However, being a hunter certainly served me well against Lei Shi.

Thok

Thok has “hunter fight” written all over it. Both Grumpy Elf and Delirium wrote about how great that fight is for hunters, and with more detail and expertise than I could. Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned here. Casting not interrupted? Jump-Disengaging with Posthaste when Fixated, while still damaging Thok on the move? Tranq Shot if necessary on the adds? The fight is a lot of fun for hunters. I’ve only ever done the fight on one other toon – my resto druid – and it’s a complete pain in the ass. But for hunters, Thok is definitely a good time.

* * *

I could continue with my list, but most of it would just rehash the posts that inspired it. I have to agree with Grumpy Elf that Sha of Pride was great for hunters. Additionally, I absolutely love his ‘welcome’ speech:

“Come, face me. Give in to your pride. Show me your ‘Greatness’.”

So, so condescending. I love it.

So many other fights were good for hunters. Gara’jal, Tsulong, and Immerseus come to mind immediately when I think about taking out adds in something akin to a turret-style manner. There are many abilities one can use during Will of the Emperor for add-control. Disengage is handy in so many fights, from Feng to Sha of Fear, Jin’rokh to Lei Shen, and throughout SoO. I’ve used Deterrence a lot on Stone Guard, H Jin’rokh, Dark Shaman, Lei Shen, and so on; Concussive Shot on Tortos, Will, Immerseus…

It’s been great to be able to interrupt/silence, slow, root, and otherwise impede mobs in raids – while almost continuously dealing sweet, sweet damage – throughout this expansion. It’ll be interesting to see how that kind of thing pans out in Warlords with a less diverse toolbox. In the meantime, it’s fun to look back and remember how, in spite of variable class balance *cough*, Mists has been a pretty fun expansion in which to play a hunter.

Thanks to The Grumpy Elf and Delirium for the inspiration for this post, and for sparking some good memories!

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


500 Valor

Upon logging in on Friday, I was surprised to see a new buff amongst the normal ones on one of my characters: Heart of the Valorous.

This, after I logged in on Tuesday on my Resto druid and promptly spent 30,000 Timeless Coins to get my other toons (who are somewhat more “Offense-ive” or “DPS-ish” characters than my healer) the Valor of the Ancients buff.

It’s all good. It’s all good. Friday was a good fine whatever time to plop that buff down…

Seriously, though, it’s a crazy good buff. It’s even better when you add it to the Valor of the Ancients buff. The first toon that I finished the Empowering The Hourglass weekly with, Mushan, on Saturday got 500 Valor Points from it!

Here’s how that works:

Heart of the Valorous = +100% X (Normal Valor Reward 200 VP): you get twice as much Valor;

Valor of the Ancients = +50% X (Normal Valor Reward 200VP): you get 50% more than base Valor.

The (probably unnecessary) ‘equation’ looks something like this (where x = 200 VP in this case):

2x + x/2 =

500 Valor Points for turning in a quest.

It was awesome!

Think about it: it’s kind of un-frickin’-believable. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never seen this (a potentially 500 VP turn-in) before in WoW. I remember when the Barrens weekly was active; I posted something on Twitter about how I VP-capped my hunter, which allowed me to get 300 points per turn-in on my alts; someone replied that I was a genius… (You could also do something similar with the weekly Champions of the Thunder King on Isle of Thunder for 225 points with the buff.) But this is different. This stacks, so any Valor you earn once you have both buffs is 150% more than usual.

With this buff, along with the initial use of Deeds of Valor to cap my druid on Tuesday, I managed to cap five toons this week without too much effort. I killed one raid boss with my hunter on Friday, finished single LFR wings on my mage and DK, and otherwise earned the bulk of my VP by doing the Shaohao daily (leading up to Empowering The Hourglass, of course) on Timeless Isle. With the mage and hunter, this is a piece of cake, and with the warrior and DK tanks, it’s still not much trouble. It was nice, considering the current incentive provided by the extra eight ilvl upgrade points available on 5.4 gear.

* * *

I should qualify the apparent noobishness of this post by saying that I’m reading WoW news about once every week or two. I can’t hang daily on Blizzard’s every tweet/reveal… I just can’t: I don’t have it in me to do so when there are so many months left before Warlords becomes a reality, and there isn’t even a beta yet. So when the Heart of The Valorous buff arrived in my interface, I had little more than a vague recollection of reading about it somewhere, whereas it turns out that most people I follow were expecting it with 5.4.8, or any day now…

Oh well. I guess that’s part of what comes from being willfully ignorant in the face of nothing new being playable, for all intents and purposes. It was certainly a nice surprise.

A couple of days later, I learned that this buff was temporary; apparently it ends during maintenance on June 10th. So this week is the second and final week that I will cap five toons with very little effort. Once the buff drops off, I’ll resume cherry picking which toons I want to focus on, which will likely vary since I don’t have clear outcomes in mind for any but Mushan (cap upgrades, start killing some heroic bosses when/if possible). My alts are gravy, so at that point I will probably go back to spending more time with my new hunter on the different server.

In the meantime, this week is about capping those five toons. One will be via Coins. The others will be via those two Timeless Isle quests, for the most part. I’m glad I happened to be back during the time that this was happening, since it’s like I can ‘make hay while the sun shines’ with respect to the upgrades without burning myself out again.

Hopefully.

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


I’m still here

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Hi all…

I’m still here. I haven’t written here in five or six weeks. But I’m still keeping up with everyone’s blogs, and I still have plans for this blog, although if I do end up going a while before that manifests itself in the form of posts, I won’t be surprised.

I can’t do the squeeze-whatever-news-and-speculation-I-can-out-of-every-day thing, which is why I’ve kept quiet. I simply can’t justify budgeting the time and emotional energy into “waiting and hoping” for, and writing regularly about, a launch that is looking increasingly like it could actually go all the way to the end of – or even pass – the December release window.

(To those who are doing so, by the way, kudos and thanks!)

So it’s highly likely that posting will be sporadic for the foreseeable future.

However, a couple of things are happening.

For one thing, I recently returned to the game after a two-month break. I’ve actually raided with some friends a couple of times – although I have no weekly commitment – and I’ve done some other things here and there with my regular toons. But the majority of my time over the past couple of weeks has been spent leveling a new toon on a new server.

He’s a Marksmanship hunter, Skinner/Herbalist, and I’m enjoying leveling him all by himself, with no guild and no other toons from my account on the server (so far). As such, he has to manage bag space and gold as he levels. I’m having fun dealing with these rather mundane issues.

Additionally, I recently got a promotion at my job, so I’m spending a lot more time at (and thinking about) work.

As it’s taking more of my time, any WoW-related activities – and considering the conditions I discussed above (the waiting game) – consist of either playing the game or reading about it. Nothing terribly important is happening in my WoW-world, so there’s little for me to write about. I’m leveling a toon, and that’s basically it. It takes me back to earlier, simpler times.

There is a good chance that I could take another break before Warlords of Draenor manifests itself. I haven’t decided, or given it much thought; the fact remains that we could be six-to-eight months away from a ‘go-live’ date. So we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hello!

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


My alt and profession mindset for Warlords part 3: Alpha

Blacksmithing, soon to be going bye-bye.

Blacksmithing, soon to be going bye-bye. Oh, and Dimples. :D

Back in December and January, I published speculative posts regarding my toons’ professions in Warlords of Draenor: which alts I might level, what their professions might be, and why.

I have seven level 90s (all home-grown), but lately I’ve been thinking that – depending on how much I decide to actually play once my initial new-xpac buzz wears off – there will be a maximum of five that end up making the journey to 100. Could be a lot less, of course.

At any rate, at the time I noted that there were certain motivations for wanting to switch things up, and that there could be more on the horizon. As of last weekend’s Alpha info dump, one of those motivations has been clarified. So, with those in mind, I give you the factors that will play into how I play profs in WoD:

  1. I don’t know how many toons I will level because a) I don’t know if I will continue to be a serial subscriber in WoD, and b) even if I am, I am determined not to burn myself out like I have in the past.
  2. I want to make it easier to level profs on my main toon (and possibly others).
  3. I don’t know if I will be raiding, so optimal prof usage might not be important.
  4. I already have plenty of gold, so if I never sell anything on the AH for the whole xpac, I’ll still be fine. I have absolutely no need for a ‘job’ (or several) during WoD.
  5. Flying might not be a Thing in WoD for a while (or even the whole xpac).
  6. Alpha news: Professions will no longer provide performance bonuses (stat buffs / weapon bonuses / extra sockets / exclusive enchants / better gems, etc.).

#6 on that list was revealed in the Alpha patch notes, and answered a question that I had related in one of my earlier posts in the subject. As of 6.0, profession bonuses will be no more. Which basically negates any concerns raised by #3 on the list.

So, looking at my main, Mushan (hunter/LW/BS), I can tell you right now that he will be jettisoning Blacksmithing and picking up Skinning. Before the notes were released, this was already being seriously considered; now it’s a no-brainer. I have another max-level Blacksmith (Droignon, warrior/BS/Mining) anyway, and Mushan was really, obviously, just using Blacksmithing for his own advantage, and Blacksmithing is such a nice person who deserves better than a one-sided relationship… I don’t know, I try to stay out of it as much as possible (it’s complicated).

In all seriousness, after leveling Mushan in MoP as a LW/BS, I’m looking forward to being able to gather my own resources while I play him in Warlords. I have big plans for leveling him (which may or may not… OK probably will be revealed at a later date), and the main theme is going to be that I will immerse myself in playing him, as opposed to racing to the cap. I’m not going to worry about getting him capped ASAP, and then hopping on the druid to skin a bunch of dead things, and then hopping on the warrior and riding around mining everything I can in Jade Forest and leveling out of the zone before I do many quests from all of the gathering XP…

/breathe

…like I did last time. All to get those crafting profs maxed on Mushan, who for the past two expansions has been able to craft amazing stuff, but somehow is incapable of gathering his own materials himself. This time will be different.

Skinning also fits Leatherworking hunters better in my opinion, lore-/immersion-wise.

#5 on that list (no flying) sort of puts the kibosh on possibly changing Ana’s (druid/LW/SK) profs. Without the flying advantages, changing her to an Herbalist, as I mentioned in a past post, has no appeal for me. She’ll remain a LW/SK, unless I decide that I really really want to change her into an Alch/Herb, which I’m doubtful will happen.

The list (updated @ Alpha)

There are no other changes that I can think of, with respect to how my toons will approach profs in WoD. With that, here’s my list:

  1. Mushan (90 hunter/main): Leatherworking, Skinning (new)
  2. Anacrusa (90 Resto/Balance druid): Leatherworking, Skinning #
  3. Droignon (90 Prot warrior): Blacksmithing, Mining #
  4. Modhriel (90 Frost mage): Tailoring, Jewelcrafting *#
  5. Saldrahn (90 Blood DK): Engineering, Mining #
  6. Abenadari (90 pally): Alchemy, Herbalism **
  7. Ghilleadh (90 hunter alt): Enchanting, Skinning **
  8. Mydnas (85 druid bank alt): Inscription, Herbalism ***

Notes:

# Mushan is the only real concern for the time being. The rest will happen only if fun-times permit.

* With all of the forthcoming stat changes, I’m not particularly enthused about JC anymore, but then again, it’s not terribly important (see previous note), is it? As for Tailoring, that should be fairly straightforward to level, since killing equals gathering in that case.

** These toons will most likely not make the journey. One or both may be deleted for future character slots, unless they ever get around to connecting my server (grr..).

*** I don’t care a lick about this toon or Inscription anymore, but she’s the bank alt, so she stays for now. But I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t mostly gather dust.

* * *

So, really? Hundreds and hundreds of words, and there are only two actual changes to my mindset compared with my previous post on the subject?

Yeah, sorry. That’s how I roll, usually. But this post comes from the fact that I’ve been spending portions of cold nights in an easy chair under a blanket, in my pajamas, making plain text notes on my iPad. I’m casually working on a grand plan for my foray into Draenor, and prof changes were on my list of prep questions. I can now go back and edit those notes, which will give both my prep and leveling expectations more clarity. It’s all part of a process that I am determined to enjoy as fully as possible.

Is it self-indulgent? Hell yeah it is. So is the vast majority of the rest of the stuff I post here. :)

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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!


Beta/launch dates, “killing” the Greench, and what I’ve been up to

Mushan surveys the mess created when the Greench shoved Christmas into this cave.

Mushan surveys the mess created when the Greench shoved Christmas into his hole.

With the holidays in full swing, raiding has been on hold since Thanksgiving. As such, things haven’t been very exciting for me in WoW, and I’ve consequently been playing less. I’ve also been playing less because work becomes very stressful (and the hours more extreme) this time of year, so my life around the game is something of a cycle of boredom and fatigue. “Not much goin’ on..” and “Don’t really care.” It’s weird, but it has felt like we’ve been in the pre-expansion doldrums since October, and my real-life commitments haven’t helped to alleviate that feeling for me.

Anyway… I was, for some reason, uncharacteristically excited about a holiday for once. I’m a Christmastime baby, and have always loved the season, so perhaps that partially explains why I was looking forward to The Feast of Winter Veil so much this year. That, and that there’s not much else going on.

I haven’t been that plugged in to the community lately either. Yes, I’ve read blog posts; and I’ve hopped on Twitter on occasion, but Twitter seems to be becoming so much like Facebook lately that it’s.. it’s just difficult for me. So I’m not as in the loop as I’m accustomed to being, but I am, somewhat.

At any rate, I am playing a little bit almost every day, when I have the energy. I’ve been writing, too, and some of those posts may survive and be published at some point. In the meantime, I have some thoughts to share about topics that are getting old at this point (because I’m usually late to dinner when it comes to putting in my two cents).

Beta speculation

One thing that there has been much excitement about since Blizzcon has been speculation on beta and launch dates for Warlords of Draenor. In my small world, The Godmother has been the most vocal about it, recently organizing a pool of sorts, where people could pick release dates. She also writes consistently about the expansion at her blog, Alternative Chat. From what I can tell, she is both a proponent of a quick release schedule and believer that it is likely to happen. It’s all fun, and speculation is just that, but I tend to be much more skeptical about such quick roll-outs than (I think) she is.

After Blizzcon, I read people who wondered if a beta would release before the end of the year, or, at the latest, early January. Spring 2014 for WoD to drop. Faster patches, faster releases! I could never catch that excitement. I’m just not a believer. I’ve spent too much time over the years, pining for something new to happen “sooner-than-later” – to no avail – to now, all of the sudden, think that Blizzard is going to start pumping out expansions at anything close to their stated goal of one per year. And yes, this is in spite of the fact that it sort of seemed that Blizzard pumped out content for MoP faster than in the past…

I’m going to have to see how the cycle for the Warlords xpac pans out.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at “recent” expansion-release history:

Cataclysm cycle

  • Announced: August 21, 2009
  • Beta testing begins: June 30, 2010
  • Expansion released: December 7, 2010
  • Beta-to-release: 160 days

Mists of Pandaria cycle

  • Announced: October 21, 2011
  • Beta testing begins: March 21, 2012
  • Expansion released: September 25, 2012
  • Beta-to-release: 188 days

Warlords of Draenor cycle

  • Announced: November 8, 2013
  • (speculative) Beta test begins window: mid February to early April
  • (speculative) Expansion release window: mid-July to mid-October
  • (speculative) Beta-to-release: 135-180 days

Here’s the not-very-scientific way I came up with these vague predictions:

A) Once the holidays are over, players will be chomping at the bit to get into the beta. Given the experience that we have – historically – prior to every patch, beta, and expansion release, we’ll get to sit and simmer through two-to-four months of “When is beta starting??” “Soon(TM). Not yet, but Soon(TM).” So with the goal a quicker turnaround, but without sacrificing quality, I can see them getting some basic beta features up as early as mid-February, but I’m not holding my breath.

B) Based on the last beta period, which lasted a full four weeks longer than the beta for Cataclysm, I’m predicting that the best that Blizzard will realistically be able to accomplish from beta to release will be about 150 days, or approximately 20% less time than the MoP schedule. Allowing for them surprising me, I’m giving them a 15-day margin of error on the early side of that, and for the skeptic in me, I’m allowing for an extra month on the long side of that “goal.” Thus, the rough release window that I’ve given above.

More thoughts on beta speculation

While I have doubts that we’ll see Warlords in the spring or the beginning of summer, it’s not only because of the history of recent releases. To me, there are some features that don’t seem very fleshed out yet.

Those features include – to name a few – the player character model revamps, garrisons, adjustments to professions, and class mechanics changes. Some of these things will likely be refined and completed during the beta period, of course. However, it seems to me that the slow pace of updated model reveals could be indicative of how long it could really take to see the beta.**

I could be wrong: it’s quite possible that the beta will come out with just a few character models, with added models as the beta period progresses. But it seems that they would want to have a majority of the models playable at the start of the beta in order to facilitate a quick release rollout, rather than dripping them in periodically and asking for feedback over and over again.

**I say this about model updates, because it seems that they’ve been in development for so long that it’s unlikely that they’re going to whip out both sexes and all of the variables for all eight original models in a rapid-fire fashion at this point. After all, they announced that they were actually working on such a revamp in October of 2011 originally, so apparently a lot of work is going into them, and that doesn’t seem like something they can just finish up, publish, and move on from in a quick and efficient fashion.

So much is unclear about this and other features – which is par for the course, by the way, but doesn’t seem to be par for a faster schedule. It’s likely that information will come out much more quickly after the holidays end, but meanwhile, time continues to tick. Right now, with no beta announced, we’re just nine months away from the two-year anniversary of Mists of Pandaria. In terms of the history of WoW expansions and their beta lengths, that isn’t much time to cut the turnaround time from MoP to WoD by a whole lot less time than previous launch cycles.

The Greench

This may seem kind of mind-blowing, but this year was the first time I killed The Greench since he was revamped a couple of years ago. Hence, my photo at the top of this post.

When they revamped him, I was so uninspired (for whatever reason) by the idea of going to kill him like a world boss that I never even took the “You’re A Mean One” quest to kill him, rescue Metzen, and recover the Stolen Treats. I just never even thought about it.

However, this year, as a result of my excitement over the coming of Winter Veil, I decided to take the quest and see what it’s all about.

I got the quest in Ironforge, flew up to the Alterac Mountains, and found the Greench’s lair. There were dozens of players around, but no Greench. His cave was there, and as I landed, I got quest credit for freeing Metzen… without freeing him. All I did was arrive, and nothing else.

“Okaaay…”

There were several sparkling bags around, so I looted one, and got the Stolen Treats. I looked up at my Quest Tracker: the quest was complete. I didn’t have to kill the Greench at all.

“. . .”

I did anyway. I waited for him to respawn, he went down fairly quickly, and then I flew back, turned in my quest, and got my achievement.

But I was disappointed. While I understand (I suppose) why the quest works that way, I was disappointed that I didn’t even have to “face him,” as the quest text suggested. It sort of killed any kind of excitement and immersion that could come from such a quest.

Having done it a few times now, I don’t know if I’m going to do it any more. I don’t really care about the pet, and going up there and finding a dead Greench and a virtually completed-for-me quest has no real pull for me.

What I’m doing right now

Lately, I’ve been doing the following: leveling my new hunter, hitting up the Timeless world bosses on my hunter and druid, farming old-world mats as part of a hare-brained scheme that I may write about in the future, helping my girlfriend in old raids from time to time, and writing posts or post ideas and not posting them.

I’ve done LFR a couple of times over the past few weeks on my Resto druid as well. She’s up to 534 now, isn’t working on the legendary quest (because I can’t be bothered with the grind), and is fun to play when I do play her. And that’s what it’s all about at this point – having fun – so that’s been rewarding, particularly as one time I was with my friend Somb, who’s always a blast to play with.

I’ve also been playing other games. I picked up a bunch of cheap used games recently for my 360, and I’ll be bumbling around*** in some of those over the next couple of months as the spirit moves.

***Truth be told, I’m not actually a very skilled gamer.

As for what the future holds? Who knows… raiding is officially on hiatus until January, but we have unresolved open spots on the team. So all of that’s up in the air at this point.

We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’m not sure that I’ll write a separate post on Christmas Day, so I’ll say to you now: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, my friends. I hope the season is treating you wonderfully.

***

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


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