Blizzard

The Overwatch Conundrum

My son and all of his friends play Overwatch. Typically that style of first person shooter (spammy, jumpy, TF2-ish is probably a fair description) has never been high on my list. And yet, I find myself playing it. The oddity of this isn’t the fact that I am playing it (I play all sorts of games) but the fact that I am playing it and still haven’t figured out if I like it or not. It is a strange beast. After 10 hours or so and getting into online matchmaking there are some things I know I DISLIKE about it, but I am having a hard time putting my finger on the things that I DO like about it.

compliments of razerone since screenshots are hard to port over from PS4

I dislike that you can change characters upon death. While that makes sense for matchmaking purposes, I find that it helps the winning team more. As soon as you switch thinking you are bringing a counter to the table to balance it out more the other side just does the same thing. There is no strategy behind this and it becomes a guessing game of who is going to pick who. I would change this to the losing side can only change at any given time (to balance it out) or not have it change at all. Of course, the game is not up for changing something as fundamental as that design choice. It is pushing me away from the game. I yearn for a mode like League of Legends where people pick one at a time and stick with it.

I also dislike the lack of customization options. The skins, for the most part, are just re-coloration on the low end and things like tags and voice lines you don’t get to really enjoy. If you stop to check out a cool tag you are dead, plain and simple. If you are paying attention to interesting or fun in game speak you are dead. The game is too fast and spammy to enjoy the majority of the loot box items – emotes, voice overs, and tags. The only weapon customization that I have seen is golden guns which feels like a HUGE miss.

I dislike the lack of strategy. Things happen so fast that there is no time to work out any sort of fundamental strategy outside of spam here and spam there. Objectives are won and lost so quickly that it’s simply run back, try to find a group, and spam/shoot away. I know you are probably thinking “well duh, that’s the beauty of it!” but I don’t see it that way. I wish there was more to it but it feels very shallow in so many ways.

And yet, I play it. I don’t know if it fits in mindless zen grinding for loot boxes territory (which I do like, actually, but think you should get one for every match – not level – as a B2P game it’s a bit crappy) or the semblance of semi interesting characters (albeit devoid of story or purpose). There is definitely some sort of hook to it that I just can’t put my finger on. Maybe someday soon I can explain, if I continue playing it.

Enter the competitor, Paladins.

Izlain over at Me Myself and I made a post that included Paladins and when I checked out some reviews and videos it hits a lot of the check boxes of things I dislike about Overwatch. Player is locked in for the match, but they are further customized by cards you collect as well as in game gear you can buy (much like League of Legends). There is a loot box pathway in the game that doesn’t also charge you a box fee. The gameplay and characters also look varied semi interesting. I also have nothing to lose by trying it, so I will. Will be interesting to comp the two.

easy peeyzy lemon breezy

Bonus here, as a PS4 noob that I could get the game and download it to my home PS4 from the PS store in my browser at work. I didn’t realize it had that functionality and quite frankly, that is awesome. I was honestly thinking that I wished I could do that from here, and tried it for the heck of it, and sure enough it worked. Makes so much sense and removed another barrier to purchase. This could end up being a costly and dangerous feature for me.

What do you think? Do you play either? What do you love about it? I am going to continue to explore this further and any tips or suggestions would be helpful.

I Uninstalled Hearthstone Today

Hearthstone is a card game that I have had some great enjoyment with. The pace of the expansion packs has felt really rushed and clearly in the past three months they have been pumping out “I win” cards with each. This is somewhat understandable in a free to play format where they want to get paid. I do believe that you need breathing room for the playerbase to earn these cards “the old fashioned way” so they feel they can still play and be competitive with the whales.

Historically, the expansions have came out (in average) every 241 days – but not the new one. Pushed by declining revenues (my guess) they released the latest in half the timeframe – 126 days. I was just starting to feel good about competing with Gadgetzan decks. Now a whole new expansion is out, with new win conditions. I played a game last night that finally made me decide to stop playing. I was playing my C’thun Priest, a not very popular deck but a fun one if you can keep the game going a long time. With this deck I have been as high as rank 16 (the top 25% of Hearthstone players are rank 15 or above) so on that bubble of not being entirely terrible not really great either. I don’t play the meta-decks, I don’t play “competitively”, but I was having fun.

Last night I hit a warrior – I normally don’t like warriors to begin with – their “hero” power works (+2 armor) even if there is nothing on the board, where a priest needs damage against to effectively use the hero power. Turn 1, he plays this:

I have never even heard of that card, but it rewards this:

And that card is basically an “I win” card. I am also playing an “I win” card deck (C’Thun), but really, I need to get to the 15th round or later for the most part to make it happen – and I have to dig it out of a deck of 30, so it’s a late play. How many rounds could it take for them to get to their “I win” condition?

Six. Six rounds. There are so many taunt cards, and even more low taunt cards that he was able to play 7 taunt minions in 6 rounds.  IF it was possible to do enough damage (with an aggro deck, or whatnot) then maybe there would be an effective counter. Except they are all taunt cards, which means you have to clear them before doing damage to the player. You have to have a specific deck able to clear faster than he can play taunt cards before hitting his I win condition. In six rounds.

(Granted, six rounds is probably not normal, but it was still my experience so others are probably having it as well). Soon as he hit it, that early, and seeing what I had in my hand I knew the game was over. I just looked at the board and my hand, saw what was going on and realized there wasn’t a possible way for me to win. Not even if I was completely lucky. The kinds of cards that could help me in that situation (Reno, Brann, Sylvanus) were “retired” from standard play with the new expansion. I realized that this game is pushing too hard on revenue and not hard enough on preserving the experience or value of existing decks. This was somewhat obvious on the Gadgetzan expansion, but completely clear with Un’Goro.

It’s a shame – I paid over $60 for the game this year as I was having that much fun, so now they lose my long term, steady stream of revenue for the short term big sprints. I would have paid more if I had felt they were focused on improving the game. I like paying and supporting companies who earn my gaming dollars.

Seems I am not the only one.

Can anyone recommend a good, other card game to play on my phone when I drink port and smoke cigars in my garage? Hearthstone expanded itself right into an uninstall.

24.9% More Important

Well, I caught up to my F2P Jedi as a full subscribing Jedi (completing chapter one of the Knight story line) and I shaved 3 hours off of it. That is a decrease of time of 24.9%. This was completely non scientific but most of that time was saved by being able to use quick travel, and having a better land mount to zip past mobs to quest completions. That number is too close to 25% to not assume that the masters of the galaxy decided that a subscriber should have a 25% more efficient time of playing. I know it is anecdotal and such but still, so close to what would seem like a logical conclusion that it is hard not to draw.

Screenshot of my riding my speeder (on my old Jedi, with the non-toggle-able hat unless you pay $10 option).

SWTOR does a good job of immersing you in the Star Wars Universe and the single player campaign is fun. I typically don’t play many games with sound but hard not to do it in SWTOR for the light-saber sounds alone, not to mention familiar riffs in the background as they set the mood as you transition to different story arcs. I am a big fan.

The sudden drop of World of Warcraft was “just because”. I still praise it as the best WoW expansion since Wrath of the Lich King but I was in that rut of nothing really to do but grind out the daily quests in hopes of yet another legendary. My sub dropped at the same time I dipped my toe in SWTOR  and the amazing XP gains are too hard to ignore. I have long waited for the opportunity to zip through the single player stories there.  I will most likely go back to WoW in a future patch (or two) as I want to play out the story campaign there as well as getting that cool new druid form. It looks as though the Token is settling in around the 80k mark for the next little while and I am remiss that I didn’t buy the tokens at 25k (or 60k). I don’t see what sort of other announcement can make the token price jump further (free pizza with a WoW token?) and I am curious if it will drop if/when subscriptions start dropping. With the rate of content being pumped out and planned I know there is plenty to keep most WoW players subscribed.

I’ll be back when the whim hits me. I have the next 60 days to play in a galaxy far, far away

New Metrics – WoW Sub Edition

I remember fondly when bloggers and gaming media roasted Turbine for reporting the millions of characters made in gameto show how successful they were doing.

Then Activision reports this gem:

World of Warcraft MAUs for 2016 grew 10% year on year, with fourth quarter MAUs spiking to 20% year on year growth. In terms of hours played, the MMORPG saw figures better than Legion’s launch month, and better than any non-launch month in the franchise’s history.” (courtesy link here, italics are mine.)

In terms of hours played – the new subscription metric! Sorry, made me giggle. Just say how many active subscribers you have by region, will you? I am sure it is a hefty number that will make everyone proud. Especially investors.

That number is going to go down by about 10-15 per week as I am now finally completing story missions in SWTOR since they have upped XP gains by 250% until April 10th – even for free to play accounts. I finished Tython in about 1 hour yesterday. Looking forward to seeing how many class story lines I can complete in the time frame – it’s my dream single player RPG outside of Mass Effect. I like Star Wars. And old Bioware single player games. This XP boost makes the game playable for me as the way it always should have been.

Happy Friday!

Blizzard is a Currency Manipulator

Yay, a faux Donald Trump quote as my title! Finally! Dreams do come true.

Yesterday Blizzard launched their fake in Azeroth money for other fake Blizzard games / item money pyramid scheme and the value of the WoW token exploded. BOOM!

Yes it crashed right back down to earth quite quickly but last night when I checked at 11pm and it was pushing 100k I was disappointed. I have around 250k saved up, and in normal token times that is 4-5 months of subs. To see that evaporate to two and a half months did not make me happy. Things seemed to level down this morning. If you were on top of all the Blizzard news and views and had a ton of 50k tokens saved you literally could have doubled your fake money with Blizzard.

I know real money comes into play at some point (for me, I paid for my first two months with cash and have played “free” ever since) but I still don’t trust the token system. There is no regulation. Blizzard can do whatever they want with it, they can inflate the price, flood the market, etc. etc. They are not real goods that they can ever run out of so I find it hard to believe that every token bought is a token sold by a player. It makes more sense that they are just made digitally by Blizzard on demand to ensure the cash sales can keep flowing.

If I was a market person (I am not) and if I didn’t care about not paying a subscription to play WoW (I do) it could have been a fun moment to take a shot at a big gamble. I bet some players did, and at bare minimum this is a good lesson to pay attention to what Blizzard is doing with their token to gain some personal benefit. I have totally screwed this up – I had enough gold to buy 6 tokens at 30k, before the market jumped and settled in around 60k. Who knows where it will settle in now? If it goes back to 60k I’ll probably unload my gold into tokens to make sure it doesn’t climb again and stay. I keep expecting it to fall to some other level as at some point subs should decline, but I suppose that won’t really happen until content slows down. As it is, with another wing of LFR open this week, there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Rescue Time

In my last post I talked about how Tuesdays were a fun day in Azeroth, and made some claims about my play time. Prior to that thought I had already installed “Rescue Time” on my laptop which logs all of your activities while actively using your laptop. I assumed that doing everything I had planned listed would take me around 10 hours a week. I was pretty close!

Yes there is no Sunday or Monday (which is because it wasn’t installed  at the time  and funny to see how big Tuesday is for me in game. The rest of the week it seems I spend between an hour to an hour and a half per day, which would but my weekly time (last week, anyway) at closer to 11.5 hours. I will also run it this week to have a look to see how accurate my guesstimate was.

As for the program that tracks this itself – it is free. It breaks down your productivity and gives you visibility on where you are spending your time while on your device. You can also install it on multiple devices to get your full aggregate. Think you check Instagram just a few minutes a day? This will break it down for you exactly. It doesn’t seem to measure idle time, so a program in the background that is not being worked on / read / used doesn’t count (I tested a few things to see. multiple windows in the background, Excel, Tableau, etc to gauge how it measures.)

They assure your privacy, whatever that means this day! (FBI if you are reading this, this is my gaming computer *mostly*, I promise I do more work on the other one!) Pretty big eye opener on where I spend my time on the computer – a few minutes checking something here and there adds up. It even tracks how much time you spend on websites. Outside of my post on Monday, I only spent 16 minutes 44 seconds on my own site the rest of the week. Mostly because I use it as a launching pad on my blog-roll updater to read my favourite posters when they write something new.

Oh, and not because it would affect you, but because you are probably just curious, for you know, your cousin or something…. by default it does not track anything on adult websites. Again, so I hear… I don’t even know what those are anyway. It was mentioned in some sort of pop-up window/option.  Figured you might want to know.

Christmas Tuesday

Tuesdays are a wonderful day in the world of the (filthy!) casual WoW player.

First off, you get your Class Hall chest (free lootsz!!) for completing Mythic + the 7 days preceding. There is joy (and misery) as people open their chest and link to their lastest and newest legendary item. Much like Christmas, many groan as they get yet another piece of coal (or worse, a “utility” legendary. Which is stupid by all means, but that is an argument for another day…). The other joy is that the Raid ID resets which means you can run your LFR Raids again. This is much like a class trip where you don’t particularly like or know many people in your class, but you get to go see something neat and interesting and maybe get a reward just for showing up. If that doesn’t scream “fun” I don’t know what does.  There is a new World Boss up to kill for other, basically free loot. It’s a joyous day.

Okay, sure,  it is just another day where the casual check boxes get unchecked so you get to check them again. And that is why I love Tuesdays in the WoW world. All of my level 110 characters are past running Emerald Nightmare or Trial of Valor for good chances at loot but Nighthold does have more effort-efficient upgrades. Last week I ran Nighthold on all of them on Tuesday. That left a lot of gaming for the week to do. Unlike the author of this article (to save you from reading it if you don’t want to – he argued that because you CAN do something in the game, in this instance, grind AP, that players feel compelled to do it, so Blizzard has to change it because players have no self-restraint. I engaged him – to deaf ears – that I prefer having too much content and the onus is on players to play responsibly. He did a bad food analogy, I did a better one, he is stubborn, I am enlightened, blah blah blah. It’s all there if you want to read it, but after realizing he was not open to any contrary viewpoints I disengaged. ) I only do activities that grant me a chance to upgrade my character. This means I have a weekly routine to my gaming.

  1. Do the main story line quest, on my main (Couchon) to stay up to date on the story (currently finished, until 7.2)
  2. Do daily Emissary Quests for a legendary chance (Druid, Paladin, Rogue)
  3. Do weekly World Boss
  4. Do weekly quest (Druid, Paladin, Rogue – Druid only if it is PVP based)
  5. Do LFR wings (last week only the first week was only one wing – Druid, Paladin, Rogue)
  6. Check to see if there is a Mythic + in LFG (Druid, Paladin)
  7. Level alts with Rest XP, until Rest XP is gone (Shaman, Monk, Demon Hunter in that order currently)

That is my systematic approach to WoW currently. Last week I did exactly that, and burned through all of my rest exp on those three alts. Once I get a few more of them to max level I won’t be able to sustain that playtime but it will be nice to have options.

Add to that I complete the daily Hearthstone quest and keep chests rolling unlock in Clash Royale, plus I eat, sleep, work out and go to to work. My life is very scheduled.

All of this will come to a screeching halt when the new Mass Effect game comes out, which is the release I am most looking forward to in *years* for a game. Here is to hoping the recapture the magic of the first 2.5 in the series.

Enjoy your WoW Christmas today, may the legendary items rain from the sky. Peace on Azeroth and goodwill to all player kind.

Character Immersion

I have mentioned before I have a stable of alts in every level bracket and that current Legion content has not given me a ton of time or focus on them – although mechanics exist to help them “get into the endgame” activities quickly, there is so much to do that on my play schedule I only have time to play one or two “seriously” at any given time. Right now that is my Druid and Paladin, with my Rogue taking a backseat. I still have a lot of interest in experiencing other Class Hall quests and especially the expansion from the Horde side view and last night I started thinking about leveling yet another character. While pondering, I realized that I am more connected to my characters that in a fantasy sense I can “be”. I play both female and male characters and I naturally am more attached to my male ones. Taking it further down this thought path, I have an awesome new Gnome Death Knight with the name “Shiver” (which I think is awesome and appropriate for a DK!) and I have a hard time playing him because, well to be blunt, I have a hard time being a Gnome in WoW.

I am starting to realize that more and more  I “am” my characters in my games, I am not playing one. I like to imagine that I am the Druid, shape shifting and saving the day. It is *me* in the game. This is very different than being able to roleplay any race or combination that may be on your whim. I feel this is limiting and am not sure how to break out of that mindset and enjoy some of the different characters I have built and played with specific ideas in my head as to their personality. My Worgen Coosh (female) hates being in Worgen form out of combat. She is in human form in neutral cities and on flight paths. It was something about who she was when I created her, and I have her human form hot-keyed so I revert her back to that form outside of combat. When I play her, however, I default that the things I am experiencing and the decisions being made are of me, the human being, behind the keyboard. Which is a reality struggle since I am not a werewolf nor a woman. At least, not last time I checked.

It’s odd for me to think about because I don’t believe I have always limited myself to this in the past. In EQ my main was a Troll warrior, and I am neither stinky or green or naturally “evil” in real life either.  My other characters in EQ were often Gnomes, because I loved the starting area. I wonder if this is something I have developed as I have aged, as I moved away from pen and paper role-playing games and into online ones that the sights and sounds of controlling a character more directly has changed my mindset in how I play them. I am not  fully defaulted to being my characters though as I do not want to race change my Draenai Paladin due to the nice, 20% racial heal, and I dislike the male Draenai models enough that I keep female. The flavour and toolset of the Paladin class really speaks to me personally though which is why I enjoy playing that class. Historically I have always liked playing the protector. If you can’t tell, I am uncomfortable trying to sort through how I feel about all of this. Am I limiting my potential enjoyment?

Very think aloud post for me this morning as it struggle through the thought process.

When you play a character in a video game, do you become them, or do they become you?

Better Late Than Never

During  my regular WoW playtime this weekend and paying attention to what is coming down the pipeline in Legion patches I realized that Blizzard has been doing an awful lot to ease-in playing alt characters. Make no mistake about it – there is a TON to do with just one character alone – more than most could ever accomplish if they truly wanted to do “everything” WoW has to offer. Still, this alt-realization hit me when doing the Weekly quest on my Paladin (alt). First off, the weekly quest was “time walking” Wrath of The Lich King 5 mans, which is a whole lot of love for me.  WOTLK was one of my favourite expansions, I was still involved in the end game – raiding – at the time, and 5 mans are still my favourite MMO activity. So much win in one event for me. Bonus to this happiness is that it drops gear around the 830 item level, and my 820 (ish) Paladin could use pretty much all upgrades.

Before embarking on the time walking dungeons I did my daily Emissary Cache quest – and got a legendary item. WoW recently buffed all new legendary items to drop at item level 940. Originally they dropped at 895 and then got a free boost to 910. My Druid has three of those. In order to get your old legendary items up to 940 you have to run a quest that, with my play time/style, will take 2-3 weeks per legendary – so I am a few months away from upgrading those items on my main. In comparison, my Druid who has done all current quest content, LFR Emerald Nightmare, LFR Trial of Valor, Mythics weekly (up to +6), Emissary Quest daily, Weekly quest weekly (basically, all non-raiding content available) sits at an 872 item level and gets another single digit on progress every week or two. I have played a lot of good old Couchon and it has been a blast.

After my Paladin got her first Legendary item and did the Weekly quest which granted an 885 belt as the Nighthold (newest raid, not open for LFR yet) chest as the reward, she jumped from 820ish to 852 (including other drops from the instances). Heck, she had 790 shoulders until yesterday. Also, with the Artifact Knowledge catch up mechanic her main weapon is almost with full traits. – something that Couchon just accomplished himself after months of work playtime.

It dawned on me after all of this that there is a real good possibility that if I play Couchon and Isee equally that Isee will surpass him in item level due to the new mechanics and available drops that are now in game. Couchon needs to catch up on his legendary growth and the odds are the Paladin will get a second before that happens. None of this couldn’t have been accomplished if I didn’t have a max-content character to begin with but it did make me realize that getting alts up to speed for current content is much easier than I expected. Keeping them current is probably going to be the real slog. Item level isn’t everything but I do enjoy progressing – this is a part of MMOs that I enjoy. Whether it is through story content, leveling, PVP or gear as long as I am moving forward I get satisfaction from the game.

I don’t remember this being the case in WoW in the past but it definitely is keeping me enthusiastic to keep playing and building up my stable of characters in the game.

Vacation Catch Up

The Vacation

I was on vacation last week, somewhere sunny, on the ocean, with 30 degree (Celsius) weather everyday. I had started to write up some posts to auto-post during my vacation but the whole point of why I blog is to interact with people – and doing so in an absentee fashion seemed counter to why I am here in the first place. So I let the joint go quiet and enjoyed my vacation. One thing that I struggle with in the Caribbean is the abject poverty you see on your way to your all inclusive, glutton-fest  five star resort. I actually start to feel guilty as the bus shuttles us in and around broken down towns and shacks, to the safety of our secured resort where luxury awaits. I know that if I didn’t go that would pull out a good chunk of money out of their economy, and their jobs, but really, where does the bulk of my money go? Not to the locals, that much is for sure. The resort we were at also had a very strict no tipping policy to the point that the employee would get fired if they accepted tips.  I felt conflicted, but overall had a wonderful time. Did some Scuba diving, sailed, swam, ate, drank, relaxed.

The Druid

I won my druid! He is artifact level 25 which unlocks the alt catch up mechanic and is the current max. I have my main spec weapon (Guardian) completely filled out on traits as well as my secondary spec (restoration).

Claws of Ursoc

G’Hanir, The Mother Tree

There is a lot of Artifact Power flowing with nowhere to put it (reasonably, you can jack them up still at almost 2,000,000 AP a pop) but I have been spending them on my third and fourth artifact weapons as you can flesh those out quickly. I still don’t even know if I am going to play either spec but might as well get them prepared for if that happens.

I have also been fortunate enough to 3 of the 4 hidden appearances. The one I am missing is for my main, and it drops off the first boss in the Emerald Nightmare (a raid) which is available in the LFR. I can do it once per week and I also feel bad a bit for this because I queue up to tank the raid but there is no point in my continuing after the first boss, so I drop. A lot of druids are doing this (most likely looking for the same thing) so it is a bit of a Druid dance. Here are the three hidden appearances:

Of the three, my favourite is the Scythe. It is pretty cool looking in my opinion.

The Paladin

Isee finished the Paladin quest line. It was pretty neat and involved spaceships and unexpected allies. I am not done the Order Hall but I have seen most of what I have needed to with the Paladin. I will probably muck around on her to finalize the Hall upgrades but I do not have much of a plan to continue regular play. I will need to get the Hall fully upgraded (as well as the followers) to get the big money missions, which are giving 2000 gold per hit.

The Rogue

Coosh is on the back burner too now – I keep enough game play on her to keep order resources to keep pumping out gold. I continue to enjoy the Rogue playstyle and World Quests go by quickly. It feels like a management sim right now with Couchon the Boss, staying up to date on the main quest line and latest content and my go to everyday play. Coosh is second in command and Isee is climbing the ranks of middle management. That just leaves my new hire, either my 100 Hunter or my 101 Demon Hunter. They are the closest and will be the next to join the ranks of Couchon Inc. Gold Collection and Free Subscription Provider-er. Spelling error intentional.

The Blog

For some reason my “Blogs that Feed” sidebar is not working on my end – is it working on yours? Everything in the internal setup is pointing to it working correctly and I haven’t changed anything else (and everything is updated.) Let me know if it is showing blogs updating for you. I love it as it keeps me up to date with all the community links that I follow regularly!

It’s nice to be back and writing again. I hope you didn’t miss me too much.

Old Dog, New Trick

I know I am not fooling anyone here anyway, but I am really not a “cool” gamer.

I am a (filthy!) casual. No RAID OR DIE, max content pushing here.

World of Warcraft is my current game of choice. And I don’t hate myself for it (I used to in the old days, when I hated what it stood for and what it wasn’t, before NAMASTE)

I am a (rotten!) keyboard turner. There, I said it. They say acceptance is the first step…

Except I don’t accept that anymore! (The keyboard turning part, anyway). Due to the Weekly Quest mechanic I found myself doing Battlegrounds and Arena skirmishes over the past month. They were a lot of fun and I am Honor level 24 now. KBTS (key board turning syndrome) is a debilitating syndrome in PVP. Thankfully for the most part I heal in PVP and since I use Clique and Grid I don’t think KBTS hurts as much in that situation. I tend to just leave my back to the enemy and heal through it even though that is not optimal – even in LFG PVP. I need to get better. Plus, I do want to do Damage in PVP at some point which will require a change in how I control my character . Tanking is a joke and healing (while fun, and a game changer) is a bit repetitive after awhile. I like flavour and different ways to try things.

I am going to train myself out of KBTS.

I read some articles and I get the idea behind it – move with mouse, keybind everything else.To best accomplish this I think I should just level a new character. Hopefully via that mechanic I will get some comfort and confidence in it and I can start implementing that style of character control into my max level characters in solo activities, then onto group PVE activities, and finally, onto group PVP activities. I have no clue how long it will take me but I am dedicated to learn.

First, I am going to turn my hotkey bars from this:

To this:

This layout will help as a good reference for me while I am playing. The left side of the grouping is my hotkeys – with my hands on the keyboard (SDFG) I can comfortably reach one key on either side (AH), which gives me 6 actions on my main line. I can also reach the six above it (QWERTY) comfortably and easily. The 6 below aren’t as comfortable to reach – X especially. ZCVBN aren’t so bad. Based on that I know my main hotkeys go in the middle, secondary on top, lesser used on the bottom. I laid them out offset just like a keyboard.

The 9×9 grid on the right is my mouse. I have 12 buttons there, but can comfortably and easily reach 9 with my thumb – so those are additional keys I can use. It’s WoW, if I cant get by on 27 keys then I am failing. Well, 25 I guess plus strafe keys, which need to go somewhere.

I am a bit nervous about this for the sole reason that I know it will feel unnatural. For over 20 years I keyboard turned. This is definitely out of my comfort zone.

Do you Mouse turn or Keyboard turn? If the former, do you have any suggestions for me to make this as painless as possible?

Third Time’s the Charm

So, this happened on the weekend. Quite by accident, and I was somewhat not trying to, but being so close to it I figured I might as well put in the effort and level up my third Legion character.

Notice the awesome Bumblebee helmet and the mismatch of all the other gear from questing, time walking dungeons, etc. The thing that pushed me over the edge to finalize the level and get things rolling with my Paladin was rooted in the thought that I could actually make money in Warcraft. Not real money, mind you, but gaming money. With Couchon (Druid) and Coosh (Rogue) at max level, appropriately geared for all content I am interested in, with legionaries (2 and 1 respectively) and fully upgraded class halls, they are now making me in game money through the app. That’s right, I am pulling in around 3000 gold a day just by using the app. That is enough to pay my sub monthly and then some. Also, with the rumour that the WoW token will soon be able to be used for other things, hopefully other Blizzard titles, I am making my own virtual sweat shop of 110s.

Hitting 110 is no small feat, as it is the beginning of doing some “work”. You need to update your Class Hall, and followers, and have a steady stream of Order Resources to print the gold. This means doing daily quests when needed to stock up on OR. Coosh is in this pattern. Couchon is my main, who is on top of the storyline and running the major content.

The other good thing is that I get to finalize the Class Hall and Paladin campaign, which is my true motivation. Oh, they even have an achievement for this!

I am not sure if that is new for legion or if it was always there. I don’t really pay attention to achievements.

Blizzard was nice enough to give you your flight whistle and world quests immediately upon hitting maximum level if you already have a character at maximum level. There is just one small drawback to that…

That’s the map, and I have none of the flight paths. It is not a huge time killer or major gripe but you would think that by this point there isn’t even a good in game excuse to not have all flight paths unlocked. There is nothing new to discover, the Alliance and Horde are working together to push back the legion, they might be open minded to share where the transportation is. They might as well build in that quality of life improvement.

With every new alt at max level this gives new meaning to WoW life. My next step is to sort out which Horde character I am going to take to max level. I was going to do the Demon Hunter for the short trip but I have an itching to do a character that can do it all which is pushing me to my monk. I like to tank. I like to heal. I like to DPS. Having the full suite on one character will be helpful on a side I have no friends on. In the meantime, I am off to combat the legion from yet another viewpoint.

Cool Feature – Destiny

Remember that Bah Humbug the day before? Well, it still rings true. I did find something cool about Destiny quite by accident while surfing Tales of The Aggronaut – that Destiny has a web browser to look at your characters, stats and stuff. They have your characters done in a stylized cartoon way that really works  that was probably done for poly counts and load times. In game the models are much more realistic and high def. Since I found it (Thanks Bel!) here are my three Destiny characters.

My Character Sheet(s)


Titans are the big brutes in the Destiny world, heavily armored and an in your face kind of combatant. My Titan currently has my lowest light level (*316)  as I haven’t played on him much in the expansion. Although, I have played with him the most overall. Time Played counters have a way of making you feel like you haven’t dedicated enough of your life to something else. Two days I’ll never get back. But hey, at least it helps provide compelling content to readers! The interesting breakdown on my time played is spent is Strikes (3 man PVE instances) and Story (around 50%). The PVE is great in Destiny and that is what I enjoy most in game.

I actually share the account with my son, since you need a Playstation Plus membership to play online. He didn’t like Titan but made a Hunter instead.

Maybe somewhat embarrassed to see he has played almost a full day less than I, but it is interesting to me to see that the far majority of his time was spent in strikes – roughly 50%. Whereas mine is 25% strikes and 25% through the main story missions. Fun to see where he gets his most enjoyment. Hunters are medium armored, agile fighters.

Once both of those characters were Maximum light for us (Raids were out of reach) we both started sharing in on one character since we figured we might as well round it all out with the third class, the Warlock.

The Warlock is a light armored casting class. There are no true healers in Destiny but at least they covered the three DPS types. Warrior, Hunter, Mage. This is the character I have chosen to play more of in the Rise of Iron expansion which is why he has the highest light level. Also interesting is to see the balance of how Story mode takes precedent over Strikes when you are in new content/leveling mode.

Destiny feels similar to Legion WoW in terms of loot – you get items (engrams) that are blue or purple and get decoded into a Rare, Legendary, or Exotic item that is close to your overall light level. There aren’t too many giant jumps in gear in Destiny it is more of an incremental, slow climb. Each rarity of engram does have a cap. Sometimes when playing and I catch a familiarity from one of Blizzard’s other titles it makes me wonder if they are talking to one another with best practices or if it is pure coincidence. That’s a whole other post, however.

There is a little flavour on the style and look of Destiny, through I has PC’s customization style.

Bahs and Humbugs

Ghost of Christmas Past (Tis The Season!)

I haven’t really been a holiday season type for much of my formative time here on earth.  It was a life made up of phases. Kid phase, awesome of course. The presents, the mystery, the joy. Young adult phase, awesome too. Parties with friends, travel, excitement. In my second year of University, disaster struck. I had three friends die over a 10 day period, and I spent my Christmas holidays going from funeral to funeral. One suicide, one accidental, one by sickness. The third was somewhat expected at some point but that didn’t make the pain any less – remember, at that time in our lives (low 20s) we felt absolutely invincible. This made the holidays not a fun time of year. Not based on cheer, but loss. Looking back of course it was silly to allow that to ruin the holiday season for my but youth, and lack of wisdom, and all of that.

It was hard.

Of course, when I had my own son  I got to relive the joy of the holiday season through his eyes and actions. Looking forward to seeing him party it up and travel with friends as he turns into a teen (few years left!) and then hopefully he skips the sad phase and goes straight into his own adult phase. It has made the holiday season much better.  I had a good holiday, but I have some gaming humbugs out there that I am in the mood to get off my chest. Call me Scrooge.

Ghost of Christmas Present (Destiny)

My son We got Destiny: Rise of Iron for Christmas. I had a great run with Destiny but held off on this expansion. My serial nature of gaming, and being waist deep in WoW leaves little extra gaming room. I was excited to play it, spent about 3 hours doing the main quest line only to realize this is probably the worst expansion I have played for any game – ever. While that is scathing (it is meant to be) the expansion didn’t improve on anything about the game. In fact, it just feels like a re-skin of old areas and a new mob type and exactly the same otherwise.  I know they are working on Destiny 2 but they should have put some resources into this. It’s terrible. Maybe it gets better (?) but not sure if I will be playing this long enough to find out. The Taken King felt like a whole new game in many ways. This feels like a new side mission. They didn’t even expand the classes.

The story, sucks as ever. It’s so frustrating. This could be a fantastic, amazing universe to be a part of. Instead it makes no sense, it’s confusing, and it is largely incoherent.  I know there are great writers out there that given the time and investment could fix all of that even in its current state.

The shooter elements are slick. The classes are unique and fun. The PVE nature of it is incredible. The game fails for the sole purpose that it doesn’t come close to realizing it’s potential and this expansion was a gross cash grab. I believe Titan was cancelled because it would have beat out Destiny because the shooting elements were there, but story as well. Activision was worried to lose / split such a huge pile of cash so turned it into the lobby competitive shooter it is. If another PVE shooter comes along I will ditch this game in a heartbeat. Oh, there isn’t anything? Oh, sure, I am still playing it. There is nothing on the market better than it in what it does. Yes, irony or some-such. I can hate it and play it at the same time, given the alternative. Plus three hours is not a ton to judge a whole expansion on. Those are just my first impressions.

Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Game Designers of My Generation)

With Smedley’s closure of Pixel Mage is there any doubt that game design is as much luck and timing as personal ingenuity? I grew up in awe of Lord British (UO: Revolutionary. Tabula Rasa: “fail”, Shroud of the Avatar: too early to tell), Mark Jacobs (DAOC: Amazing. Warhammer Online:”fail”. Camelot Unchained:behind schedule), Brad McQuaid (EQ:Best ever, Vanguard:”fail”, Pantheon:too early to tell). “Fail” is in quotes because some of those games were important to some gamers and had some success, but they did not have the same commercial and critical acclaim that their initial offerings and what was expected. Version three of all of their work may be the triumphant return as they have “learned their lessons”, or it may be final proof that lightning doesn’t strike twice. My generation (40’s) that grew up on those titles have held expectations.  It’s frustrating to see them fail, and I hope the best for them in their new titles. I just have little optimism. That may be unfair, but in my current mood I am not overly optimistic.

There, the lumps of coals are out. I will now return to my cheery, regularly scheduled programming. I hope you had an awesome holiday seasons sans Bahs and Humbugs!

Carrots and Sticks

The mere participation of the activity should be the reward, right? Unfortunately that always isn’t true. There are parts of our gaming that we have do to in order to participate in the parts we enjoy.

The most glaring example of this is leveling in itself. This has manifested itself in the World of Warcraft era with most of the engaging content locked behind max level. In Everquest grouping and leveling itself was the reward (it was also really the only efficient way to play). I didn’t make max level in EQ. Expansions hit faster than I could reach the cap. There wasn’t a whole lot of alternate character play back in those days for myself either. Back then alts only happened when your friends were playing their alts. Falling behind and not being able to contribute much to your group was a thing back in EQ. This was motivation to stay current and play a lot. That was a stick.

I don’t have an issue with this because if you take away those bits then you might as well have a lobby style game. I know WoW is perfectly suited for that as well already but that isn’t my point. My point is that I am at that stage in the WoW expansion where I either have to fundamentally change the way I play (which is tough to do) or I need to start finding my own fun. My own fun initially was to start leveling alts but that is turning out to not be as much fun as I had hoped. The issue with leveling alternate characters in WoW is that you are doing the same content you did before – and the only reward at the end of it is to do more of the same content you are doing on your main – albeit your preferred content. The carrot here is that intertwined with the 95% repeat content is the 5% Class Hall unique content. That is enough to keep me going (for now).

Couchon, my Druid main is pretty much fully up to date on the Suramar story line and is actively keeping up with it (carrot) while on my Rogue it is pointless as I have already experienced it (stick).  Emissary Quests, with their low Legendary drop rate is a stick on Couchon (867 ilvl, 2 legendaries already and almost maxed out on world reputation) but a carrot on Coosh (more upgrades still available, only one legendary). Still – the change of gear upgrades is so slim that I am starting to not even enjoy doing the Emissary quests at all – but I still do them everyday on my two max level characters because.. well… because I am supposed to I think?

Isee (level 108 Paladin) I started doing the main quest line on to see if it was faster than dungeon leveling (it’s not) so that was a short lived carrot experience that quickly turned into a stick.

I started levelling my Demon Hunter – on the Horde side. I have no clue what the experience is like as a Horde player. I saw the cutscenes when Greymane fought Sylvanas – is it the same perspective from the Horde side? I want to find that out by experiencing it. I am worried I will do all the quests to get up there only to find out it is the same. What is the motivations of the Horde? Why did they leave the alliance hanging on the Broken Shore, causing the death of the King and leader of the Alliance? These are unanswered questions for me (carrot) but ones I can probably find out faster via google (stick). I am not going to spoil it for myself (yet.)

The biggest interest for me right now is the Class Order Hall stories. My Hunter is at her class hall. Level 101. She may be next. My Shaman calls me. I rolled a Death Knight (for the first time) and a Mage (have never played past level 30). I started their journeys and parked them in zones and areas where they can start building rest XP. With Heirlooms and 200% rest XP that will make the experience that much better. Mage is under 10, Warlock is in her 20s, Monk is mid 40s, DK late 50s, Priest early 60s, Warrior late 70s, Shaman late 80s, Demon Hunter late 90s, Hunter at 100, Paladin at 108, Rogue and Druid at 110. I have a character in each leveling ‘decade’. This may be the expansion I get them all to 110 for the Class Hall alone (carrot) but to do so, I’d have to abandon regular play of my higher level characters to make the time (stick).

I have done all the Dungeons including Karazahn, and all the raids via LFR. I have the two hidden artifact appearances for my druid for the specs I do not play (Boomkin and Feral) so a weekly Ursoc run for the Guardian version for Couchon is a must do (carrot) but the rest of that raid is a waste of my time (stick) and I feel bad dropping after the first boss.

Raising the artifact weapon gets faster and easier by time and grind alone. If you sit back on the time part and wait to get more artifact knowledge it also makes the grind more manageable. Big carrot there to not play…

Sorry for the very rambling Monday post. I was fleshing out this idea of Carrots and sticks when I was doing some Battleground PVP. There was a Weekly Quest to get 4 wins in a Battleground. It was a big carrot! I have gone 1-25 as an Alliance member which is driving me nuts. Some rounds I will have 4x the healing as the next player on either team and we arent even close to being successful. I have actually quit mid rounds because the teams have been so bad. The ‘stick’ for not staying in a losing match is that if you get a 15 minute deserter buff. The issue is, there is so much to do, I’d rather find something more fun to do for 15 minutes than sit through 10 minutes of terrible teamwork. It became so unfun – queuing up for a Battleground knowing that you had no chance – that I just gave up on the quest altogether. The carrot of the Weekly Quest ultimately became a stick.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? One person’s carrot is another person’s stick?

(Latest version of WordPress broke full justification of paragraphs. It looks ugly and I hate it. Hopefully they fix soon!)

Hearthstone Expansion Launch

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

Despite a silly little bug forcing card duplicates out of the pack (which has harmed pretty much everyone who bought a 50-deck starter pack) I have to say I love the way this expansion launched.

Before the good, the bad is that I love the illusion that there is a fair RNG shot at legendaries and really good cards just by playing away with no need to buy tons of packs. If there are x number of cards, and y number of legendary cards in my mind it’s a clear ratio of y/x for my chances.This “bug” totally ruins that illusion for me. Of course they make legendaries harder to get, so you have to buy more to have that chance. Of course they have swung it in their favor to make more money. I just like living under the illusion of fairness. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

That being said they were really generous with their launch of the game and ‘free’ pack giveaways. There are three different factions in this expansion and in serial order you need to complete quests for each. The quests are as simple as win 3 games with a, b, or c classes (solidifying the launch of the new system of multi-class cards) and each quest completion gives you two packs. 6 packs for just playing a range of classes is better than most of the morning quests I get each day. It was fun to do that.

I had also saved up a bunch of coin to buy the new packs and I received one legendary out of the 8 or so packs I had, which seemed above average considering some of the 50 pack buyers were saying they received 2-3. I am not sure what the ratio should be. None of the new cards seem game breaking yet but I also haven’t ran into full decks as designed to use some of the new mechanics. As such, I am reserving my right to complain about pay to win at a future date. As a gaming blog that right should just be implicit anyway, right?

Alt-itis Rears its Ugly Head

At the conclusion of the Rogue Class Hall quest I started leveling my Shaman. I have written (and read plenty elsewhere) that this is not a very friendly Alt expansion – and I still agree with that. This perspective really depends on how much you love your main character as well. I am not maximizing my main experience, but log in everyday to do my Emissary quests. Rep is almost all at Exalted. The main quest-line portion that is available is just about complete. I am now 850 ilvl with my Rogue and also do the daily Emissary quests but not much else. I am interested in the story from other character’s perspectives. My Paladin is at 106 and is moving along nicely on the Class Hall quests and I just wanted to dig in on getting a character up for the next experience.

My Shaman, while only 87, is one of my favorite classes of all time thematically, even though they have watered down the play style over the years. I still don’t want to get too far ahead with my alts until they fully unveil their plans for alts to catch up, but i have a hunter at 100 and plan to get some others up to the 100 threshold using the 200% rested XP gains. At this point I just want options. As a gaming blog that desire should just be implicit anyway, right?

My Enhance Shammy in action

Clash Royale

Because I need another daily phone game distraction I started playing. Kids on my son’s team play it a lot so I became interested. It is fun and I am already shooting up the ranks of the team’s clan. It’s weird with kids and games and social media – many have Instagram accounts (etc.) at 11 and when they request the add I always follow back. Fun to see what is important to them but because of the age gap and what not, I do find it a bit odd and it took me some time to get comfortable with it. It does make me more mindful about what I am posting of which is probably a good thing. The kids all asked me to join their clan and find it “cool” that I play. They love beating me in a friendly and can’t believe an old guy can beat them (when it actually does happen). I wonder if the teenage years will make it yet again not cool to ‘hang out’ with a dad, but we’ll see if the new digital age makes kids more inclusive. I’ll be fine if they end up kicking me because it’s not cool anymore. In the short term, its fun to see the way the interact and play these games.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Hey Good Lookin’

I finally transmogged my Druid. At ilvl 867 upgrades are few and far between and the parts that I hated about transmog (having to redo it every piece everytime there was an ugrade) is most likely slowing to a crawl for me. I have never been one to worry about costume sets and the look of my character(s). I fondly remember the early years where you wore your best no matter how much it mismatched the rest of your gear. Gear was survival, after all. There were two things that pushed me over the edge on my transmog. First, was that I became exalted with the Nightfallen faction which gave me class hall armor shoulders. The red and yellow velvety smoothness of that gear clashed horribly with the purple and brown spiky setup the leather armor currently is. Here is the leather set (on my Rogue – it’s basically the exact same on the druid)

While not terrible in itself, I have been staring at the exact same armor set on both of my main characters since Legion basically launched. Check out the wicked Outlaw cutlasses though, love that design. Still, I had enough. Here is the Druid Class set, fully transmogged to get away from the base leather look:

I feel like it fits the druid well, and is so opposite of what I have been staring at that it was a nice ‘mog. It also looks great when I have my bear claws on instead of my healing staff. Funny thing is, in game, I was getting a texture error on the chest for a while until I re-logged. Felt like an undershirt or something.

I found it amusing that it wasn’t just a solid texture,  Blizzard even used branding on their mistakes.  What is it with Blizzard and purple this expansion?

What I dislike about the transmog system in WoW is that if you get an upgrade you have to do it all over again. I should just be able to pick my look and have it stay regardless of new gear. I had transmogged earlier in the expansion to my Malorne set but with daily upgrades it became a pain to maintain. I know there is a whole sub segment of the Blizzard population that loves to ‘mog, and I hope they improve the way it works in the future. Otherwise it is purely an endgame activity for the impatient such as myself.

My Rogue is already ready to hit Mythic dungeons although I suspect getting into one of those PUG groups will be far more challenging as just DPS. I did finish her Class Hall campaign and am already looking forward to the next Class Hall campaign I plan on working on – my Paladin. I keep struggling with my desire to hit my alts with so much to do on my main, but the Class Hall quests are just such a fun thing to do – to experience the expansion through the different perspectives is too good to give up. My Paladin has a long way to 110 still (sitting at 104) but after seeing her Class Hall armor that acts as another enticement.

compliments WoWhead.com

I mean, I always wanted to be Bumblebee from Transformers….

I guess this blog is a WoW blog for now. I am fine with that.

Becoming a Well Rounded Azerothian

And not by voting, because they don’t have that yet in game. What is the Azeroth equivalent to the Donald? Leeroy Jenkins?

Worlds Apart

I continue to be torn between the world of ‘Mains’ and the world of ‘Alts’. Couchon (Main) is at 867 ilvl which means he can do all of the pug content out there.  I started looking at things in game I couldn’t do solo – not for lack of ability, but lack of effort – and found a couple key areas I was missing. First, is that I don’t cook. Back when I was raiding I was an alchemist so I made pots, and elixirs for everyone and received my food for free. As I push into more advanced content I am thankful I can provide my own mana/health pots and flasks, but never have stat food available. Since I do not raid in my guild I do not want to ask. Auction house prices are rediculously inflated, permanently (I know this because I am easily playing for free, and make more money than I spend each month. AND I have been hording all my materials..) and I am disinclined to buy. If I can’t pay for my sub in game I will stop playing. Time to learn cooking.

Cooking is fun in Legion because you load up on ingredients and get Nomi, a panda chef, to discover recipes for you. I am not even in the cooking phase but I have a ton of stat food from Nomi and am getting some nice discoveries. I get a lot of meat ingredients naturally by my world quests but also notice a lack of fish, which seems to be a popular ingredient, so off to learn fishing I go.

Fishing is very zen-like in game. i actually quite enjoy it. It is a good non-distraction when you are on a conference call or other time at work where you don’t really need to focus, but need to be present.

I do all the freebies on Couchon to ‘advance’ my character. I have two legendaries (one of which came from a world quest chest) and I hit up profession world quests and all the checkoxes every week for the chance to get just a bit better. I have full confidence in my gameplay as both Healer and Tank in game. One nice weekly feature Blizzard added was a weekly world quest that has included some fun things in the past – Mythic dungeons, Timewalking dungeons, Heroic dungeons. The reward is a chest and Artefact Power and it’s a nice focus for the week. This week it was Arena Skirmishes. PVP. I haven’t done PVP since The Burning Crusade expansion, and was hesitant. Meh, what to fear? Off to PVP I go!

They “fixed” PVP finally by not having a secondary gear set, and separate PVP talents. I know (knew…) in the past that a good healer is critical in a team PVP environment so I queued up as Restoration. I needed 10 wins in the week to get the chest. I forgot that PVP was hard. Very hard. I went 1 and 15 on my first 16 matches. I did advance and get some PVP talents along the way – and most importantly learned A LOT. I also started switching around my non-PVP talents to fit better for burst healing and survivability. I also had to better prepare to use many spells and talents I can skip on using in PVE. Slow improvement lead to getting into a good group of three where we had 4 wins in a row. After one loss that group disbanded. A couple of groups later we had 6 wins in a row in a random group that stuck together. More importantly I was having a lot of fun. I do find it funny that when you have some success in a group they only stick together until the first loss. Soon as you lose one the group breaks up. That was very interesting to me.

I have spent less time on my Rogue and more on my Paladin as of late and I have been getting a huge pull to my Shaman (used to be my main, the past few expansions). The Paladin is easy because instant tank 5-man queues, which I thoroughly enjoy. Running regular 5-mans as I level up has actually helped my Mythic runs on my druid with pathing and mob density.  I hope Blizzard introduces more mechanics to encourage using alts – they hint that it will come so that in itself acts as a barrier to playing them (which put in 100% effort now when you can put in less later for faster results?)

Legion has pulled me into new things and I am becoming a far more rounded citizen of Azeroth. Trying new things has been enjoyable and I am glad I have put some effort into them. I really like PVP (turns out) and that is something I will continue. Fishing and Cooking are good time investments and improve my character for the other styles of gameplay I frequent more often.  About the only thing I haven’t tried is Pet Battles.

Hey, even I have standards.

Hearthstone

Return of the Cardigal Son

I started with Hearthstone when it first launched and then abandoned it completely. I only recently I started playing again. The resurgence came from when my son came back from camp this summer. Camp has a very strict ‘no electronics’ policy and the kids were there for two weeks  –  a great unplugging for their young minds. Of course, one kid brought a bunch of Magic : The Gathering cards and it was a great way to spend evenings in their cabins and rainy afternoons. He came home very interested in the game and we bought some decks and started learning the game. I then of course checked to see if they had a phone app – which they do, but it is absolutely terrible and unplayable. This in turn reminded me of how slick and smooth the Hearthstone app is and I reloaded it to show my son. I have been playing it ever since.

When I last played it was at launch and I was really far behind – solo games, a few expansions, and tons and tons of cards that I hadn’t seen before. It is a great game for me because it has a daily goal – beat the quest – which gives you coins which in turn you exchange for packs. I had little desire for the PvE component and started playing 1-5 games a day to earn new decks. This gave me some comfort and practice with learning what was out there. I started getting new cards, new decks, and even found one that I really enjoy playing and have had interesting success with some Priest decks. I say “interesting”, because I am not nuanced enough in the game to know if it is a good deck or not. My playtime with it is odd – multiple wins in a row (sometimes as high as 5 or 6) followed by by multiple losses (sometimes as high as 5 or 6). It is either an amazing deck that gets hit with bouts of bad luck, or a terrible deck with consistent good luck. I haven’t quite sorted out if it is the most balanced card game (EVER!! <cued ridiculous claim) or if the game is solely based on luck. I am definitely not a top player as I bounce between a player ranking of 18-20.

Poor Motivators

Usually the daily quests are ‘win X games with Y class’ and this was always a fun way to play a class you weren’t used to. Lately, however, I have seen mostly ‘Play Y class cards’ and the efficient player in me just loads up on all low to mid class cards of the daily quest (along with cards that get you more cards) and I focus less on winning and more on playing as many class cards and surviving as long as I can (to play more cards). There isn’t any incentive to win here – if I can lose and play 50 class cards in two games that is more time efficient than having to win four times to play 50 class cards. Since they aren’t my best decks often (random class) I do not play ranked anyway. I appreciate they are trying to mix it up a bit but having incentives that may be contrary to the primary game’s purpose (winning) can make the game less fun for everyone. I can tell when I play someone on a similar quest by the odd chance that they quit early along after they have met the quest goal. Often I will be playing someone who is clearly beating me (because I am trying to play the most cards I can, not win) who suddenly quits mid play after laying down what was obviously the last class card he needed to.

Pay to Win?

Hearthstone did get $20 out of me, well deserved too with the amount of games I have played as of late. It was so I could get a single card, one that seems like a must have for standard play. Every time I faced this card I would lose. The card is Prince Malchezaar – a 5 point card that gives you 5 random legendary cards. It is ridiculously powerful. Everyday when I opened my cards I was hoping for it to stay in the game, to be competitive. Then I took the time to google which deck it came from in case I was choosing the wrong packs, and learned that it was from a PVE only deck Karazahn.

To get this card, all you had to do was beat Karazahn. To beat Karazahn you had to have Karazahn, which cost $20.  Is that a good example of the term ‘paywall’? Funny thing is, once I got the card I actually started losing more because the C’Thun deck I was using now had to compete with 5 other normally high level cards in the deck – delaying when I would get my C’Thun and also increasing the chances I would start with too many higher level cards and not get enough early plays to stay in the game. I will have to sort through that. I will, eventually.

It remains a fun and easy game to play. I do wish Magic TG had a more slick app that was easy to play. I would like to explore those complexities at some point. With daily quests to do, and an expansion on the Horizon I forsee keeping this loaded on my phone for when a break is called for. It remains a nice distraction. Hopefully at some point I figure out if I am any good at it or not.

Leather Fetish

My World of Warcraft journey continues to be fun. My druid is ilvl 860 and equipped for Mythic +4 (that is where my confidence stands) as a healer – I still don’t know the fastest routes through a lot of the instances to feel comfortable tanking. My tanking set is, of course 859 with the synergies that now exist in gear and while I have done a Mythic +2 as a tank it was in a guild group – so I had a lot more confidence that I could be carried through it. I did fine, and as I practice more I am sure I will end up tanking more often. It wasn’t my keystone and I wasn’t prepared to screw that up for someone.

Leather Fetish

As the title of this piece indicates I recognized that I had this. With my main on cruise control, and my Rogue also in maintenance mode I started looking at a yet another alt to bring to 110. My two favored choices were Monk and Demon Hunter because I wanted to try something new and I wanted to be able to tank and/or heal – role unity continues to be a pain point with my Rogue. I started with my monk (starting at 40) and realized that if I went that route, I would be staring at the exact same looking gear sets for the journey. Same with the Demon Hunter. That is a clear and large lack of differentiation and I decided I needed to go another way. Back to my Paladin it was. I am also tired of the quest line after two runs through so I decided to test a full XP dungeon run as a leveling opportunity. I have read it wasn’t a thing in Legion, that it isn’t xp efficient. Turns out 25% to 30% of a level at 102 isn’t so bad. I really enjoy 5 mans and zero queue times. I can have my cake and eat it to.

{Filthy} Casual

I joke around here that being a {filthy} casual is my new lot in life and I am fine for it. Maybe even all the better! Then I started paying attention to my gameplay and motivations and realize perhaps I am not all that casual after all. Sure, I am not raiding or tackling top tier content but I am doing things very uncasual-ish (new words for the win) and have very uncasual results. For example:

  • Pretty much every 5 man I lead in DPS when playing a DPS character. I push to maximize my output. Often against better geared teammates.
  • I have healed the group through damage they should have died through. They say you can’t heal stupid. Seems that isn’t entirely accurate as I have done a lot of it in PUGS.
  • I flask, rune, use stat food, etc.
  • I read healing, tanking and DPS strategies. Watch videos. Read class forums. Optimize my talents and gear for my favored activities (5 mans)
  • When healing, I do DPS when I have excess mana and a safe group. I try to assist on things such as roots on adds. I use my full kit.
  • I use cooldowns on trash mobs. Most are 1 to 2 minutes, so why save them for bosses only? You can use them to speed up the run and they are still available for boss.
  • I pay attention to DPS, HEAL, interrupt counts, meters etc.

I’m not sure if everyone is doing those things or if it is just the ex-raider in me that pushes that forward. I do do all of that really friendly – I am one of those players that realize everyone is here for fun at their own pace. If I am in a group and someone is pulling terrible DPS I don’t really care – it’s not the end of the world, just 45 minutes of fun if I let it. I realize my own efforts can make up for the lack of someone else’s and hate people calling people out. I haven’t gemmed or enchanted my gear yet but I am replacing pieces daily, so feel like that would be a waste of cash at this point. Maybe that is the one big thing that points to my casual-ness. One of the reason why I run meters is so I can make good decisions. If two people die, who am I using my battle rez on? The 300k dps’er or the 150k?

Pretty Pictures

The world in Legion is beautiful. World designers did a lot of little knick knacks throughout to make it feel believable. From a shoe at the top of a mountain, to beds with night side tables, there is just a lot of lived-in going on. This is the first expansion I have noticed these things, and have taken some shots of things I found that I appreciated. Click on them to make them bigger!

 

 

DPS Disadvantage

Playing a pure DPS class is quickly proving to be a major disadvantage in this expansion than a class who can tank or heal. I am just noticing this now because I traditionally haven’t mained a pure DPS class. The game has been moving this way over the years with only 1/3 of the classes unable to tank or heal. The thing is, there really isn’t any reason for it outside of design planning and effort by Blizzard.

The crux of the issue is that Tank and Healing classes are in high demand. I can get into any group I qualify for basically instantly whereas pure DPS classes have to wait up to 40 minutes for the same activity. This is mostly based off of math – there are three DPS classes for a typical event (5 man) to one tank and one healer. The Custom queue is full of 0/0/3 (tank/healing/damage) groups just waiting to be blessed by the presence of a “necessary” character. The thing is, pure damage characters are fun and have great fantasy flavour with the archetypes. It is also a class segment that has less responsibility and quite frankly, less impact. A great tank or healer can carry a group through an activity – since there are fewer of them, their impact is far more noticeable. If you have two damage classes doing great damage and one doing poor (along with average tanking and healing) you will still be successful. A top end damage class still can only move the average so far since it is blended along with two other damage classes as well as the damage a tank does. Smart things such as interrupts is where a good damage class can really shine.

What to do? First off, is to acknowledge the terrible design decision that there are pure damage classes to begin with. Every class should either have a healing or tanking option. The second, is to acknowledge the equally terrible design decision to have some classes that can tank AND heal, while some have neither option. Better design would be to have every class with a damage and a heal OR tanking option, (not necessarily both). Historically you aren’t going to be able to take away those options without a pissed off player base, but still, no reason why you can’t add more options to the other classes. They figured this out with the Demon Hunter by only giving them one extra option.

Let’s look at what the classes offer (T=Tank, H=Heal, R=Ranged DPS, M=Meelee DPS. Double letters means double the specialization in that style)

  • Death Knight: T, M, M
  • Demon Hunter: T, M
  • Druid: T, H, R, M
  • Hunter: R, R, M
  • Mage: R, R, R
  • Monk: T, H, M
  • Paladin: T, H, M
  • Priest: H, H, R
  • Rogue: M, M, M
  • Shaman: H, R, M
  • Warlock: R, R, R
  • Warrior, T, M, M

12 classes, with the following specialization breakdowns:

  • Tanking:6
  • Healing:6
  • Ranged:11
  • Melee:13

First off – just noticed how it doesn’t quite balance (should have one less melee and one  more Ranged, for “balance” purposes) – still, there is double the amount of “non-essential” classes vs “essential” (12 to 24) and that breaks out to a 1:1:4 ratio. This creates a natural bottleneck on those required classes. Instead of breaking current classes a simple solution would be to add either a healing or a tanking specialization for every class that doesn’t currently have one of those options and remove double specs  (so if you do melee DPS, only do one kind.) Some ideas that don’t totally break immersion:

  • Death Knight loses a melee spec (-1 melee)
  • Warrior loses a melee spec (-1 melee)
  • Hunter: Tanking via a Pet, replacing the new Survival specialization. (-1 melee spec)
  • Mage:  Healing via arcane magic (-1 ranged spec)
  • Rogue: Tanking via avoidance / parry,  (-2 melee spec)
  • Warlock: Healing using Demon energy (-2 range spec)

Check out that math. 8 tanks, 8 healers, 8 ranged, 8 melee. Equal amounts (16 to16, 1:1:2 ratio) instead of double the amount of DPS classes. Should be easier to balance out a 5 man group. 10s and 20s wouldn’t be so bad either, because classes have more options to fill those required spots.

This change would give people more options. The way loot works now in Legion is perfect – you *pick* what spec you get loot for. So even if you love dps, and want to improve that loot, then simply choose it. If you refuse to tank or heal this doesn’t change anything for you, stick to your dps spec and enjoy the game you want. The other benefits of this kind of cleanup is that now you are only balancing 32 specializations  instead of 36, a ~10% reduction in developer class balance work.

I do realize a change like this is highly unlikely. It is never too late to change and it would be an interesting move. I know for a fact it would help my game play and would give me options to support the greater community (via tanking or healing) if I could do it without having to switch to a different character. Blizzard made some major changes similar to this already this year (look at the hunter changes) so it isn’t completely out of the ordinary. It would take some guts, some good planning and some good research.

It would also require a new expansion.

See, win / win.

Enthusiasm Reborn!

So much for the waning. All it took was a teensy bit of of self effort.

Let me set the table a bit.

Part of the frustration I was feeling was that I had gone as far as I could, except for a couple daily routines. To make matters even worse on those daily routines they are the same for each of your characters – meaning if I wanted to just do the 4 Emissary Quests each day per character, that was doing the same quests over and over. This made little sense to me considering there are world quests available in every zone at any time and also because it wasn’t the most fun way to spend mytime. It’s still a step up from dailies. There was a path to continuing on my progression journey but it came at a cost – not a huge cost, but a minor inconvenience. A modicum of effort. While that sounds pathetic to be humming and hawing about, this is the game that has removed all modern incoveniences after all.

Except this one.

I had to ask for help. From other, living, human beings.

I am in a guild. To be fair, it’s not the typical guild I am used to being in. I was always very active in guilds – from my big entrance I inherited from my first guild “YAR!” (yes ,all caps, all the time) to side conversations, to getting to know people on a very personal level. I led a guild. I spent hours on the guild forums daily. I had side conversations. Met people in real life. Fully invested. Gaming 40 hours a week PLUS all the offline connections. That part of my life I have had to lead behind (RIP Raiding!) and as a (filthy) casual player now, I tend to login, do my thing, and logout without much interaction. I am sure the guild I am in has great people – I know the leadership (they were old guild mates of mine) as some of the best people I gamed with for that intense period over a decade ago, and I know they like good people… I just have changed and mostly stick to myself.

Until the past weekend. More table setting. My wife is out of town. She hates it when I game “disconnected” – ie: headset on, not able to talk to anyone, zoned out. She doesn’t  mind me sitting on my laptop while she watches shows as long as I can communicate and don’t get involved in something I can’t pause and walk away from. This takes away a lot of the challenging content for lack of communication to begin with. But, she is gone, and I can game “old school” this weekend. I honestly didn’t know how to get started. I have been in this guild the whole Legion journey and only knew three people in it better than a stranger. I logged in, and did my solo quests in the morning unlocking the last two dungeons I didn’t have – Arcway and Court of Stars – both are available as Mythic only (for non WoW folk – no auto group finder, more challenging content, etc.)

I needed help if I was going to experience this content. I know I am a competent player, but in that veteran sort of way. I am not up to speed on all the latest dungeons and tricks, and which trash mobs you can skip, and gemming, consumables etc. but I know how to play my characters and their specialties.  So here went nothing.

/gu Morning! Anyone interested in running Arcway or Court of Stars? I need them for my Suramar quests!

That wasn’t so hard, was it? Of course not. We put together a group of 2 guild mates and two of their non guild friends and I had my first Arcway run – which was VERY challenging, but we didn’t hit many snags. In fact, I felt very refreshed. I actually was challenged to play hard and play well in Warcraft again. Last time that happened was… WOTLK?

I thanked the group. I felt closer to my guild. I had so much fun. It was such a win win.

It was early (the guild is CST and I am EST) and the guild mates logged to do family things, my son was still in bed. I was brave and confident and checked the custom group finder for another Mythic. I have heard horror stories about this but I had nothing to lose. Time to do Court of Stars. Not only was it successful (less clean, more deaths, but the group was surprisingly patient and understanding) but I also received my first legendary.

click to enlarge epeen (or pic)

I spent the day doing Mythics, including an all guild Mythic +2 run (WoW has gamified dungeon running – you get a keystone for a specific, random dungeon and if you beat it by a certain time you get better loot, and a keystone to another specific, random dungeon at a +4 rating – meaning it is harder still. This goes up to +10). We were successful and by the end of the day I had received the “brokenly epic” achievement, which meant I was wearing gear all ilvl 840 or higher. I had progressed further and faster in a day than the previous week. Simply by counting on people.

Somewhere along the way I forgot that games were about the people you played them with. Gaming for me turned into “see the story” or “complete my part of the world”. I have to admit it felt damn good to enjoy some multiplayer action with some really good people – old and new friends. This should carry my enthusiasm for sometime.

Waning Enthusiasm – Legion.

It was bound to happen sometime, right?

My Rogue finally hit friendly with all the factions and was able to do a world quest. This was where things would get exciting for me, I was certain. I had three queued up (it does that when you first get world quests) and I rattled off the first – for an 805 blue. The second – another 805 blue. Of course the third time wasn’t any sort of charm and I saw myself staring at boring, non-epic lewts. The excitement of iterative gear scaling had taken a huge step backward for and it actually felt…. unfun.

I had a momentary thought about starting another alt, but then realized I had my duties to do on my main and now duties to do on my alt, which left less time for yet another alt. My routine is still pretty consistent but now duplicative:

  1. Do World Emmissary Quests (Daily)
  2. Do World Quests with gear upgrades
  3. Do World Quests with profession materials
  4. Do Champion quests with Champion XP or Gear upgrades until maxed out (Druid has no more xp leveling to do with his champions, just gear)
  5. World Boss (weekly)
  6. Do LFR for gear upgrades (3 wings now, weekly)
  7. Play the Auction House (daily) for free subs and profits.

That is my standard to do. Listed like that it does seem a bit like “work”, right?

I still have options – I haven’t even finished the main Suramar questline on my druid yet and that will unlock two more instances for me. I also have some Mythic dungeon quests that I’d like to try, but there is no LFG system which means that will take effort to put a group together (the horror.. the horror…). I do get a ton of Artifact Power now and could load up a third (or even 4th spec) for my druid which would be completely new for me – I have never tried Feral or Balance spec.

And of course, if all else fails, I could try another alt. I really do enjoy the class story lines as much as I do not enjoy repeating the faction content that needs to be done to drive the levels to do the class story line. The fact that I am thinking of my next step shows I am still invested. The fact that I am trying to find the next step to retain my interest illustrates that it is indeed, finally, waning.

Miscalculation

Legion is still the most fun I have had in gaming in years. There is always something to do, there is measurable and frequent progression, and the game play is smooth and nuanced. It’s not boring to play but not too difficult, and you can weave in complexities to your actions to make the rotation and combat just a bit more fun. Like most things it seems you get out what you put into it.

My druid remains in maintenance mode although I did add the LFR (Looking for Raid) activity into my weekly rotation. I had left WoW long before LFR was a thing – and the old raiding snob in me sees it as a complete dumbing down of content / loot pinata, while the [filthy] casual in me is very thankful that I can progress in some of my quests, see bosses I would never see this expansion, and also get some sweet sick loot. I received my first ilvl 850 loot this morning on a raid that was less challenging than completing a heroic dungeon. Truth is the more that are in an activity, the less the individual contribution matters. I can live with that. I still push myself to be on the top of the healing charts for the sole fact that I know that will make it easier on others, and hey, I still want to “win” – even though I am just playing a largely solo experience. That means I only have to beat my own expectations.

My rogue, on the other hand, is now friendly with every faction and ready for world quests. Except that is where my miscalculation arrived – you can’t do Suramar (the 5th faction to unlock world quests) until you hit level 110. I am not sure why I thought I could level via World Quests but that was a goal I worked towards that I now can’t complete. This is disappointing because going through the story line a second time is as un-fun as watching a “just ok” movie over and over. DPS classes definitely get a raw deal here as dungeon queues can run 40 minutes plus so questing is the only real method to advance.

I have 37 problems and a tank is one

This is a minor gripe and the same one DPS classes have been struggling with forever. The Outlaw rogue is my *dream* spec. I LOVE the flavour of the class and the abilities. It is less convenient for me to do dungeons and fun things but I enjoy it enough to find new ways to play. The Class Hall quest line fits really well – without spoiling, you become a member of a shadow council who operates in the background of society and not leaving things to chance. Kind of like a secret society, pulling strings from the shadows. I wasn’t sure how the rogue would translate over in this manner as the Druid and Paladin quest lines work well on a big scale (heroes of the light / forest) – how could a stabby class compete? It does this well, albeit a bit standard fare.

Racism alive and well in Azeroth

I have actually been pleasantly surprised with the tone and attitude of the player base, and then this smacked me in the face the other day (names blurred out)

I have seen far worse, but actually I haven’t seen ANY talk of this nature in a long, long time in WoW. That is the small positive I will take from this, that it is clearly improving. The sad part is that it still exists at all. Whether or not it is really improving or only *feels* like it as people take it to less public channels I have no clue. It was a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go both as a gaming community that hides far too comfortably behind anonymity.

Legion Casual Hurdle

I like being efficient with my time. If I have three stops in town I try to pick the route that makes the most sense to get to each of the three without much backtracking. Why go back and forth when you can find a clear path? This changes somewhat if buying groceries is one of the three stops because I don’t want my groceries sitting in the car while doing other shopping / appointments. I just rearrange the trip to factor that in. Same if I have to be certain places at certain times. Might as well think through things for a minute before racing off and wasting part of a day.

I find myself in the same predicament with Legion now. The first hurdle.

Recently my posts have been arguing that there is too much to do – and this very true, to an extent. There are things to do but how efficient of my time is it to do them? Now that my character is ilvl 834 I have some limits on what I do to move forward effectively, and I am now in maintenance mode with my “main” Couchon. My Class quest is done as far as I can (Raid is the next step). My tradeskill quests are done as far as I can efficiently. My Artifact(s – my main and my offspec (Guardian and Restoration)) are as high as they can be efficiently with both being rank 15 (~12,000 AP to level up).

My daily routine now consists of this:

  1. Do World quests for treasure chest (chance to get a legendary). The quests are ok but the rewards are below what I need right now. Typically gives 700(ish) gold plus an 810 item (below what I have in every slot) but a chance for a legendary. 30 minutes of playtime.
  2. Do World Quests for Herbalism (if they are up) – I need a TON of mats to get to the next alchemy step and instead of flying  running around to collect mats (I would do it if I could fly..) I wait for any quests that award me 20/40 herbs and are saving them up that way.
  3. Do daily Heroic if there is a reward for queuing as healer or tank – I don’t have many upgrade opportunities in heroics but I still enjoy 5 mans – I still haven’t received an upgrade through heroics that I can recall
  4. Do world quests for gear upgrades (if there are any) – there are some 835+ gear options through world quests if you pay attention, so that is what I look for.

If there aren’t any of the above, I have nothing to do. Grinding artifacts at~12,000 per point when you get 90 to 410 AP for quests / world quests is highly inefficient. If I wait a few more weeks my Artifact Research (currently level 4, 140% of AP gained) I will get double or even triple that. So why grind it out slowly when with some patience, it will come much easier? The shot at a legendary is so difficult, that even that seems like not the best use of time – but going for that shiny orange gear is too good of an opportunity to turn down.

None of this is a complaint. This is where I am at as a player until such time I can try LFR or something else, major happens. This actually makes me happy because now I have an even better excuse to go play my Rogue.

Rogue-ing It

I was so tempted. So VERY tempted to buy another boost to 100 for my Rogue, since I wasted mine on what I thought I wanted to do with a ranged Hunter. WoD content was dry compared to Legion and my time is at a premium. I was also justifying it much so because I have 4 months of free wow ($60) from playing the game already with the WoW Token. It made sense to boost in my mind but I had a tingling in the back of it – what if I hated this boost as well? I needed to play more of the Outlaw rogue before making that commitment. I had full rest XP, level 92, and a night off. I went to work.

I was fortunate that my Garrison upgraded to level 2 as there is a 30% XP boost potion to buy, for very cheap resources (100). As I was flush with cash from my Legion antics I also upgraded all of my Heirlooms to go to level 100. I didn’t bother with quest texts and did my treasure hunting during my travels in Draenor (nice touch on the rogue, and 40,000 xp per find (7% at the level I was at)). The result was surprising. Level 97 in two hours. Plus I don’t even have flying in Draenor. With three levels to go and a lot of potions left I am really glad I put in the effort it because I DO love the Outlaw Rogue mechanics (yay Randomization as a core game mechanic) AND I saved myself $60. Patience can be a virtue after all.

Blizzard Fanboy level +1. Just don’t tell my EQ friends.