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.

* * *

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


Warlords of Draenor’s release is a long way off

All we see in the near future is Pandaria. Many are disappoint.

All we see in the near future is Pandaria. Many are disappoint.

Hello, everyone.

It’s been a month since I announced on these humble pages that I am taking a break from World of Warcraft.

My time away – an admittedly short one, at this early point – has been good. Things have been busy at work; the new blog has been fun to work on; I’ve gotten plenty of Fable-playing time logged; and I’m just getting started on a virtual stack of books that need reading. Because I had become thoroughly exhausted with the game in the months before my break started, my playing time had been steadily withering, so making the transition from “very little WoW” to “no WoW” has been fairly pain-free.

One thing has not changed throughout all of this: I still love the flippin’ game, and there have been times when I’ve missed it and wished for a moment that I could log in. But I quickly realized that what I’m missing is not the game as it stands today, but rather as it was in the past, and how it will be again later this year. Specifically: expansion time. Leveling time. The time when everything is new again.

As part of my effort to not completely lose touch during these next few months, I’ve determined to read the WoW section of my blog feed once per week, and to periodically check up on the news. Usually, this happens on a Sunday.

This week, I decided to make an exception, because of speculation that the beta – the arrival of which is already late in the minds of many – could be happening. I’m curious about the beta start date, because it has been written about so intensely since Blizzcon, and because it was expected as early as December, then January, then February…

In catching up on last week’s blog posts this past Sunday, I noticed that anticipation for a beta was particularly high. It was this excitement that I remembered as I casually opened up MMO-Champion this morning, and swiftly found myself in a fierce battle to keep the orange juice in my mouth from destroying my keyboard and monitor when I read the following:

Once I had managed to get said orange juice flowing safely in the correct direction, I read on. There was little other information of interest to me, since the level 90 boost has little appeal for me at this point, and I will “only” be purchasing the regular edition of WoD. There was also no mention of a beta launch, which was the information that I came to the site for in the first place.

At any rate, given that the xpac will likely see a fall release, that puts the earliest launch date at September 23rd (if we take “fall release” literally). September 23rd is a hair short of two years since the launch of MoP, while September 30th is just a hair longer. Of course, “fall” is probably an approximation, so it’s possible that if everything goes awesomely in Irvine, CA, we could see a release on the 9th or 16th. However, if we get much later into the fall – October 21st or later, to be specific – 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.

And if we do get into December before it’s released? Well, then we’re talking about what I would already categorize as a giant misstep on the part of Blizzard.

It turns out that I picked a good time to take a significant break from the game. When a company provides fairly regular content updates for a game – some would say they came too fast, and I have to agree with that sentiment – and then gives players little more than a new PvP season in an extended final patch, there is little to keep my interest. Late 2012 and the first three quarters of 2013 consisted of “content content content.” 2014 is doomed to consist of “waiting waiting waiting” for much of the year, until this thing (WoD) happens.

So… what happened? Over the past couple of years, we’ve gotten a lot of talk from Blizz-folk about faster content, and we saw some evidence that that was a priority. Mists arrived chock-full of things to do at 90 – repetitive, grindy-as-hell things, to be sure – and with “move the story forward” patches in between raid patches, there certainly was plenty of content for about a year…

And now we have this Nothing. We’ve been told that there are different teams that work on expansions… so did the Mists team significantly outpace the Warlords team? Did the Warlords team bite off more than it could chew, like they supposedly did when they remade the world for Cataclysm?

Somewhere – dev team to dev team, or Blizzard to players, or whatever – the message went off the path. And I think that, at this point, Blizzard does itself and its players a disservice when it says that it would like to release expansions on a yearly basis, because then players believe that the company – this great company, which has made such a great game and done so many wonderful things – was actually working hard toward making that actually happen. All evidence at this juncture shows that it either is not doing so, or is just wildly failing to make that happen.

I was skeptical at the time, because those comments at and around the time of Blizzcon were comments that many players took and ran with, in spite of Blizzard’s history and lack of actual promise. Those stated best intentions were believed by many to be modus operandi, and they are proving not to be so. I, like everyone else, wanted Blizzard to be what they said they intended to be. I was skeptical, but if they had dropped a beta on December 10th or January 8th, I would have been happy. If they had announced that WoD was arriving on May 20th or June 17th, I would have been happy. I also would have been surprised.

This doesn’t surprise me. At this point in the history of WoW, this has become the norm, and it seems that Blizzard – as much as they purportedly intend to change for the faster – has become entrenched in this two-year cycle.

As such, I believe that they should just stop talking about it. They should just stick with “It’ll be Soon(TM),” and “It’ll be out when it’s finished,” and stop talking up what has become a pipe dream for everyone. I’ll be finished playing WoW for a while before yearly expansions become a thing.

I was skeptical, but that does not mean that I’m not disappointed by this news. What do I want? I want to play through some new content. Of course. I find myself daydreaming about past new-xpac leveling experiences from time to time, and that is what I want to be doing again, sooner than later.

It looks like it will be later.

I’m already mentally extending my break. Originally, I was thinking about taking three months or so. However, with this news – and barring extremely unlikely “let’s get the band (raid team) back together” overtures from my absent friends – four-to-six months or more is looking more likely. There are good things about this: no WoW means more time for other adventures elsewhere, both in and out of gaming worlds. But ultimately, I am disappointed… although I’m glad that Blizzard finally came out and confirmed that my skepticism wasn’t unfounded.

Yes, I could still be playing. But right now, Blizzard has no new product for me. I’m not paying $15 per month to wait for half a year or more. I can do that for free.

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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…

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


Psynister’s heirloom guide (pre-Warlords)

For anyone who’s interested in leveling alts between now and when everything turns upside-down for Warlords of Draenor – and hasn’t seen Psynister’s heirloom guides yet – and is looking for information on “what to buy” when picking up heirlooms for power-leveling an alt, GO HERE:

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'Guide to Heirlooms_ Mists of Pandaria I Psynister's Notebook' - psynister_wordpress_com_2011_05_02_guide-to-heirlooms-4-1

[Psynister's Guide to Heirlooms]

Amazingly enough, I recently started a new dwarf Protection paladin (to the complete/genuine shock of the entire world, I know…), and I immediately went to Psynister’s site for heirloom info. Psynister, to my knowledge, doesn’t play WoW on a regular basis anymore, but he has made attempts – at least, up through the enchanting changes in 5.3 – to keep his heirloom guide up to date.

Psynister is a long-time leveling aficionado, whose articles I have devoured for a long time. He loves leveling, and it was through him that I learned (after a short hiatus from everything-WoW) about the Ironman Challenge (after it kind of had already happened…) in 2011. Every piece of heirloom gear in this post is linked to Wowhead, which makes it a very nice resource for checking out the pieces for yourself and finding the vendors and required currency for said items.

I generally don’t use heirlooms – particularly during what is, for me, the leveling sweet spot of questing (TBC/Wrath) – but I’ll often use them to get to that point. Whatever your PvE-leveling method, Psynister’s site is a great resource for gear info, so I thought I’d pass it along. Check it out!

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Thanks for reading this PSA 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!


Leveling the new-xpac playing field via self-nerf

In Tallhide garb with Keepers of Time tabard: a potential throwback transmog.

In Tallhide garb with Keepers of Time tabard: a potential throwback transmog.

Late last month, I mentioned a plan to abandon my recent “habit” of reaching the level cap with all deliberate speed at the beginning of an expansion, when Warlords of Draenor arrives. Since then, I’ve been putting more thought into this idea.

In previous expansions, the “race to max-level” generally involved playing through a zone until I reached the next level and could go on to the next zone, skipping the rest of the content until a later date. Higher-level zones equal more experience, after all. My first toon through the leveling gauntlet has historically been geared to the teeth (to whatever extent that toon had raided in the previous expansion), blew through the opening levels, and powered through the final zones in order to get started on daily quests and heroic dungeons. Later on, in moments of down time, those other zones were finished in order to complete achievements or get started on reputation grinds.

Having done just that in Mists of Pandaria, I found myself with plenty to do, but no reason to have done it so quickly. It took my guild more than a month after I reached 90 to start raiding, and that left me with LFR, dailies, the legendary quest grind, and so on. I spent way too much time being antsy to raid, frustrated with guild-mates and fretting over our inability to get ten people together in what I considered to be a reasonable amount of time.

With what has happened over the past year-plus, my perspective on the experience has changed. While I’m looking forward to WoD, I’m not going to hold my breath that people will come together quickly at level 100 – nor will I race to be first to that point myself.

. . .

With that changed perspective, I find myself looking forward to jumping into WoD with more of an interest in the story taking place on the ground. I used to be guildmates with a couple who level together at the beginning of each xpac, completing each zone as they go. While that approach didn’t resonate with me at the time – not because I didn’t understand the attraction of leveling that way, but because it seemed like a less efficient way to gear for raiding* – I find myself looking back with envy and regret that I didn’t approach things that way at the beginning of Mists. So this time I’ll probably go about it that way.

*And there’s my old tunnel vision, coming back to repeatedly bite me in the ass…

The old way: geared to the teeth, overpower early content, build to better gear, power through the end zones. Gear up. Raid.

The new (for me) way: Play the story. Enjoy the journey, because once it’s over, it’s over for that toon – and that first toon gets to see it when it’s brand new. Take your time, read the quests, relax and have fun. Worry about raiding when you get to that point, and not before.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

. . .

But what about the gear?

As it stands, if I never raided SoO again, my ilvl going into The Squish would be 563**, including the Legendary cloak, great weapon (not the Garrosh heirloom – more on that later – but still very good), CD-reducing trinket, and so on. Even if I hit the ground walking, so to speak, I’m still going to be able to handle enemy mobs with little thought in such gear. This, of course, contributes to blowing through quests, which contributes to faster leveling and forgetting why I’m there.

**Note: 563 is a full 100 ilvls above launch-period heroic dungeon gear. Holy crap! And I have… let’s see… exactly zero heroic SoO pieces to my name. The gap is massive.

But what if I didn’t have that gear, to start with?

I’m actually considering downgrading my gear for Warlords of Draenor, in order to somewhat level the playing field between Mushan and Mushan’s enemies (which will presumably be numerous…).

At first, I thought about replacing it with gear one can purchase from the likes of Trader Zambeezi, but that gear is ilvl 372, which is essentially level 85 gear, so that’s out of the picture. I don’t really feel like hitting level-91 mobs with level 85 gear – this route I’m considering isn’t intended to be a semi-Ironman, extreme soloing adventure. So then I thought, what if I spend the next few months farming heroic dungeon gear? If I could put a full set of that gold-ish looking stuff together (and transmog the crap out of it, of course, because, seriously… that gear does not look becoming on a night elf), it would make WoD a real adventure at the beginning, methinks. And I already have Tempestuous Longbow in the bank, so worrying about a weapon would be a non-issue.

Then again, despite my earlier professions of love for the dungeons we can choose to run nowadays, I am getting pretty sick of them, in all honesty. I’m not sure I could stomach farming them for some hare-brained scheme now that the flow of new gear has stopped and I haven’t needed Valor Points in a while.

My other thought was something a little more interesting and easy: a full set of gear from the Timeless Isle. I made a set for transmog purposes a while ago (although I don’t think I can wear it in all seriousness… I was just checking it out at the time), and of those pieces there are two that have two whole secondary stats per item. However, I have a bunch of unmade pieces sitting on an alt, and I figure that since I’ll probably farm Ordon b-holes at some point until I get to Exalted with Shaohao on Mushan, I’m likely to get more.

Once 6.0 drops pre-xpac, with The Squish and stat/gear/enchant/gem changes in effect, I can make all the pieces until I get serviceable ones (“or die tryin'”). I can combine 496 Discipline of Xuen with my Darkmoon Trinket – 484 Relic of Xuen*** – to fill the trinket slots with all kinds of Xuen… and I can use my 491 Sha-touched weapon. I have an absolutely sick number of Timeless cloak tokens, and a few rings, so I think I can make do with this kind of strategy. I just don’t know if it’s enough… ah, who am I kidding? All things being relative, this set would be way weaker than what I’m wearing now, but would still be “last-xpac-current” enough that I would feel competent.

***Due to bag space concerns, I’ve deleted so much gear this xpac… it’s kind of sad. But I did keep the Relic. For some reason, I have a hard time deleting Darkmoon trinkets. I didn’t delete Greatness for a long time, and kept Hurricane until sometime after I was deeply involved in the Pandaria campaign.

This is, of course, assuming that The Squish won’t diminish the relative power gap between SoO gear and Timeless gear. I’m assuming that it won’t.

. . .

You may ask, And what about that heirloom bow?

In all honesty, at this point, if I never get the bow, I don’t think I’ll care. In addition to the fact that I feel less and less inclined to care much about killing Garrosh, the heirloom bow would work against what I’m thinking of doing anyway.

OK, how about the Legendary cloak?

This is where I pause…

…because one of the things that interests me is how far I’ll go into the mid-90s or later before my first and only legendary becomes irrelevant. I’ve never, ever had one before. So I’m torn. I may just keep the cloak equipped, for fun and for pride. Removing all set bonuses/CD-reduction gear and the rest of the current raid gear will be a massive self-nerf as it is, and would likely put me exactly where I want to be, which is not overpowered vs. the first couple levels of mobs on Draenor.

. . .

As shown in the screenshot at the top, I’m also looking at going in with a nostalgic look via transmog. I’ve spent so much time leveling alts through places like Nagrand that I thought it might be fun to wear this simple Tallhide Mail set for that throwback feeling. I wore the Gryphon Mail set for most of MoP, although for the past several weeks I’ve been rocking a T7 Cryptstalker set, which reflects my (recent) darker mood regarding the game while also looking like I mean business.

A small part of me thinks that going into Draenor wearing something that looks badass would be more appropriate in the larger scheme, given that we’re chasing after a warmonger who doesn’t know when to quit. However, on a personal level, I’m intentionally entering WoD not as an end-game raider, but as (possibly) a Timeless Isle-equipped adventurer who will get caught up in events that, as usual, I wasn’t (supposed to be) expecting. Thus, a simple transmog like this – tied to so many memories of picking up Tallhide BoEs in Nagrand – lends somewhat to the immersion level, given what I’m going for.

. . .

So, what do you think? Full Timeless? Heroic dungeon gear? Is there a better idea that would make what I’m aiming for more interesting?

Or do you think the whole notion is preposterous and stupid? I think it could be fun and challenging, but maybe you think I’m off my rocker.

One thing that I’m well aware of is that, like previous expansions, it’s likely that I’ll replace this gear as I go through the campaign in WoD. That’s ok. Like I said, I don’t necessarily want to make this into an Ironman thing, where I’m fighting a constant uphill battle while being massively undergeared. I’m just looking for a different experience, and upgrading from, say, a Timeless-dominated set with quest greens and dungeon blues from Draenor will be a more natural extension of that, as opposed to wearing all of my current gear until 94 or so (and wondering if I’ll ever really be challenged).

Anyway, let me know what you think!

. . .

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.


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