Blizzard

Mission “Impossible” Accomplished

I was so excited I forgot to take a picture. Compliments of Icy Veins

Well, turns out I don’t completely suck.

Only partially.

And I had little confidence going into the weekend.

When I realized the new Artifact appearances were going away in Battle for Azeroth it was enough for me to resubscribe. One of the issues I have always had with the Bear form of my druid is that you don’t get to change looks that often – and while a lot of that changed with the Artifact in Legion, the Mage Tower was truly unique as it was a were-bear kind of thing (how would you describe it?). This was evolution! No longer would I have to walk on all fours.

As long as I could beat the challenge. Which in prior posts and comments even here, seemed to be reserved for the Mythic+ raider type and not the Joe Isey Casual player like me.

It definitely didn’t start off well, either. I banged my head against it with a 920ish ilvl for Guardian spec until I realized that I needed to focus on gearing up the best I could in the time time remaining to make it easy. So I would do all the weekly events that would give me a chance at a gear upgrade and throughout, periodically, do ten or so tries of the challenge to keep fresh on it and also see how I was progressing.

For those who don’t know the challenge I will link the Wowhead Guide  explanation here – as it is far better written and it would take a lot of space to replicate what is already there. In short, the tanking ones – and the Guardian Druid in particular – are considered some of the more challenging ones. It definitely felt that way. I struggled to get out of Phase 1 fast enough to limit the number of Smoldering Infernos in play (who smash you off the floating island to your instant death) and as such, was recommended to get Luffa Wrappings so I could safely DPS the first phase boss in a safe place. I managed to get three more legendaries (total of 9 on my druid), none of which were the Luffa Wrappings. Still, by the time I won it I had two “better” legendaries that really helped me be successful (along with a 937 ilvl).  Fury of Nature, and Soul of the Archdruid. Both of which will be replaced with greens in a month. Along with the other 9 plus my awesome weapon.

But not my form. I can always Transmog to it now, and now that the base is unlocked I can also take my time and unlock the different color palettes as well whenever I want. You just need to have the base.

Winning for me was the combination of getting really comfortable with the fight, having the right gear and consumables, and last (but not least) using some macros that really limited the buttons I needed to use in order to focus on what was going on around me. It was the first time I had a strong feeling of challenge and the resulting confidence of actually accomplishing something hard in WoW since we were raiding the original Karazahn.

My angst now, is that if enough people complain about it that Blizzard brings it back EZ-Mode to appease those who didn’t get it in time. The effort was well worth it, and they announced it well in advanced so I would hope not. And yes, it would feel like a minimization of my accomplishment due to the fact I had to put in extra time, money and effort and was up against the wall. Dammit, here I am all drunk with elitism and power already.

My conundrum now is whether or not I even keep playing with an expansion so close – especially since the Artifact Weapons are being demoted / neutered in Tomorrow’s patch. I don’t know if there is enough to keep me excited for another month’s token fee. I think I have a few days left to figure that out.

 

Hurry Before It’s Gone! : World of Warcraft

As per my normal modus operandi for World of Warcraft I was done with this expansion. Truth be told this expansion was the longest and hardest (that’s what she said?) I have played a WoW expansion since Wrath of the Lich King. It was a fun, well put together experience overall. Sure, I felt the story went from great (Suramar) to a bit silly (SPACESHIPS!) but hey, Blizzard has never been known for their storytelling. Anyway it is with a bit of shock and surprise to myself finding myself re-installing WoW so close to a new expansion – especially because I always (purposefully) enter an expansion well after launch so things aren’t so crowded and annoying. Heck, I don’t even know if I am going to play Battle for Azeroth at all. What was the impetus? The artifact bear form appearance.

courtesy: Wowhead

Part of the reason why I even bother to play WoW is my attachment to my Druid. With each new expansion I feel like his story deserves to be told until the day he officially enters the Emerald Dream. This has meant some long forays into the game (WOTLK, Legion) and some really short ones (Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor). I usually Bear / Heal as my main specs (not necessarily in that order) and when they launched the new bear form above this year I was really excited to get it – until, it turns out, you have to be really, really good to or have an insane ilvl. Neither of which I am/have. With the news that these forms are no longer able to be attained once Battle for Azeroth starts, and that the time locked mechanic which gates the attempts to get it are now permanently unlocked I knew I had to go try.

Besides, now is the best time – you get a free, maxed out artifact weapon on a simple quest. So the ilvl will climb a bit. While it is good to have a purpose, the short timeline adds a bit of stress and since it is a solo mission I can’t just find help.

This may be my last adventure with my Druid, so wish me luck.

I am Number Four : World of Warcraft

Weird gaming lately. Searching for a mindless, zen like state where I can log into someplace comfortable and advance and repeat tasks. Not really with a fun focus but just a time killing focus. Some may say “wasting”. I can’t disagree with that. I hit my fourth max character in World of Warcraft this morning.

You can see the Demon Hunter is not far behind. I think I am doing the Shaman next though, really tired of leveling leather wearing characters. They all end up looking the same by armor type. As you can see I have no cloth wearing classes at max level and that is also something I want to “fix”. Normally I don’t like playing DPS only classes as it takes out reasonable timeframes for getting into speechless groups and raids (any kind of group or raid, really. I mean, you are a tank or a healer and you have a one minute wait. As a DPS only class you have 20+ often. Sometimes it’s not so bad and you get lucky and get one that’s under 10 minutes.

The Hunter class was my first WoW class, back when everyone was a hunter back in Vanilla. That’s when I switched to Druid as my main and who is my emotional favorite. The Shaman was my other raiding class (from a heal perspective) and the Rogue is just a lot of fun to play. Hunters in Legion took on a new look – the Marksman (what I play) can get rid of their pet altogether. Heck, they even have a melee spec, which from what I understand isn’t that great. Still it was glad to see some changes to the standard in this expansion and since I had never levelled one to max I chose to this time.

I don’t think I am going to bother multi-speccing the class, however. If I want to Melee I will use my rogue, or my Shaman (Enhancement was a long time favorite class of mine). Nice to have the simplicity of one class, one spec for a change. The great thing about WoW is the maintenance mode it is in is very easy to play. Everything is simplified with flying. I log in, do the daily emissary quests with each (once they have 2+ saved up), get the loot, run follower missions for gold/rep, send everything to my bank alt, sell on the AH, rinse repeat. I am a creature of habit. I get up at 4:30 am every day, have a coffee, work out, make breakfast for my family, go to work, rinse, repeat. WoW works well on a schedule.

Great news is that I made enough this month to pay for my next two months so WoW is a F2P game for me. Makes it easy to spend my time there this way.  I am still confused why the sudden desire to have one of every class to level cap. I also want to unlock the new races (for alliance, anyway) but I have little to no desire to level a character from one. Not sure if you can race change or not but I’m leaning on that. Would be nice to get different races on my classes but  not going to level them up from scratch. I have a 70+ warrior on another server that I will transfer. Still, there are cloth wearer at very low levels so perhaps I could start a new race there?

I haven’t had any desire to play WoW and still not quite sure what the draw is here. Any content I now do has been done 4x over and if I do get all the classes to 110 all that means is that I have far too many choices when the expansion drops (which takes a lot more commitment and focus than what I am doing now). Kind of feels like I am playing while half asleep – zombie gaming? Where I am half in, not fully paying attention, but nevertheless pleased with result? It’s odd, but not a bad time. That isn’t really a super high endorsement now, is it?

The class halls, feels and story has been an interesting perspective at least.

This post is as clear as my mind is right now and my gaming.

Making a Generation of Bad Players : WoW

There is nothing like a Timewalking event to make you appreciate old school MMO players and feel bad that newer MMO players haven’t had to learn what used to be “core competencies” in MMOs. Now to be sure – these skills aren’t as important because they aren’t prevalent in today’s gaming but for anyone who grew up when MMOs had a modicum of challenge this will be very familiar territory.

Love the old, ugly, mish mash of levelling gear

The setting was a 5 man Timewalking Dungeon from the Cataclysm expansion – specifically Throne of the Tides. I am levelling my 4th and 5th characters to cap (more on that later) and my Shaman has a heal spec which I spent many years playing so into Timewalking dungeons I go.  Throne of the Tides has some large pack pulls (5+) and very specific mobs that cast greater heal. With the de-levelling and gearing you can’t just muscle through it. You need focus fire, and interrupts, and/or CC. The first run I did of this dungeon was with “newer” WoW players. They just kept full AOE, no interrupts, and we literally spent over 5 minutes bashing our heads against a single pack until we wiped. I, as a healer, was the only person trying to interrupt. Even when I Hex’ed a healer (hard CC) someone would hit it to bring it into AOE fest. I took the time and energy to try and explain.

More ugly gear, my tanking set. Gross. Love it. Orange and Purple should match better.

Not only did they not get it, the Mage didn’t even have Polymorph on her hotbar. I kid you not. Of course, makes sense, because if you never have to use a spell/skill why bother? I remember those pulls “back in the day” and we would do a SAP, POLY, HEX, FREEZE TRAP and prioritize the others, rotating interrupts. When done it was a wonderful coordination and really made you feel like a team. Now it is just gather up as much as you can and AOE it all down. The beauty and intricacies of the genre are completely watered down.

But there is hope.

That group fell apart because people refused to communicate, mark mobs, and try something different. So I requeued up and decided to try again. This time I got a group that cleary was from the Cataclysm era. The tank marked mobs. BLue square was hunter trap. X was Polymorph. Was explained once, and everyone excuted throughout the whole 5 man. It was still the same old, same old WoW experience because no one said a word after the “rules” were set until the final piece of loot dropped (“ty all”, was the crux of it.) but it was a well oiled, experienced machine.

The Shaman class hall, on the edge of the Maelstrom is frightening and beautiful. Waves crash up and spray. I haven’t tried jumping in. Yet.

Rest of the runs were a mixed bag of both which was when I realized that a lot of players either just don’t know any better, or don’t care to put in the effort. All of this means that there is probably less complexity on it’s way in future games and they will continue to be questing snore-fests.

No wonder why nothing really new is coming out in the space “for the masses”, and hopefully the niche titles will try to recapture at least some of the personal responsibility along with personal loot boxes.

Content Catch Up : WoW

Well, that didn’t take long. As of this morning I have completed all the Broken Isles content I had planned too (LFR once through all, got the new flying form, have completed all the main quests). I am also done all of Argus except the LFR raid (and will probably finish that off tonight). It took me three days to go from 7.2 to 7.35. To be fair, I was running pretty good content when I left (Mythic +9, etc.) but wasn’t raiding outside of LFR. My ilvl is 891 and that is a far cry away from the easy to reach 910 from grinding out Argus, so there is a goal at least. I also need to grind out enough material to upgrade all of my legendary items to 1000 but almost have enough for my first just through the leveling process. It’s good to have goals but outside of daily Emissary quests I think I am already out of things to do. So, I started doing my main two alts (Rogue and Paladin) through the Daily Emissary quests for catch up and get them headed to the Broken Shore.  I then started planning out three other characters I want to get to max level (Shaman 94, Monk 56 , Hunter 101 – in that order) when it occurred to me – here I am again, hook line and sinker repeating the content I just completed in a whopping three days to climb in ilvl for no specific purpose. What’s that quote about doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome? Although hard to judge because it was a super fun and comfortable three days. This is how games suck you in.

Really? Maximum of 50 characters across all realms? Who does that?

I’m not a big fan of the new flight form for the Druid. The old one, looks like a scrappy young druid ready for battle. Maybe a bit like a “still able to fly version” of a Dark Crystal Skeksis.

The new version is a grandpa like, “get off my lawn you pesky kids” version.

The bad mustache style feathers and upright neck make it also look uncomfortable. I’m not sure if I will be keeping it, but will give it a chance to grow on my a bit. We’ll see if Grandpa Owl has all the tangible benefits of a real grandparent.

The flying quest had an instance where you had to go support Thisalee Crow to get the Relic back from a big bad Legion guy.  The fun part for this is that I already had Thisalee Crow accompanying me in my adventures in the Broken Isles. So there was a weird moment where her and her clone and I were all hanging out.  Can you say awkward?

Will the real Thisalee Crow please stand up?

Outside of that continuity error – of which I don’t suspect Blizzard really cares – the experience has been WoW through and through. Although I did stop to pause to wonder if “old Blizzard” would have cared of the duplicity there. I know they aren’t into immersion as importance but they have done a lot of good cutscene work and surely someone would have noticed that this was a very distinct probability for a druid character. Of which, a production manager of some sort would have realized that there would be no real outcry, so why bother investing programming time and dollars to find a fix for something that wasn’t going to be noticed or written about by anyone of substance? There was one Argus cutscene moment where I actually said “Wow, that was cool!” and I don’t want to put this post into spoiler territory (guessing I am the last in the world to see it anyway) but take a guess in the comments if you think you know which I am talking about.

Ilvls to grind and alts to level. For now. I have enough for a token for my first 30 days and I made 30,000 on the first day in the Auction house, so the game is free for me for as long as I want to play it. Will see how long it can capture my attention for for now.  The big question is if I will drag my alts through the same experience or if I can stick to just one character.

Flying Not Flying : WoW

Well, with some helpful tips in my last post from Leo and Will my “ehrmagahd this grind is going to suck!” path to flying turned into “really, that’s it?”. It helped of course that I was fully done all the prereqs and had to just slog through a gated quest to get the Legionfall rep a flowing. Yay, I can Crow Form again!

I belieeeeve I can fly. I belieeeeve I can touch the sky.

Yaaaas! Longtime readers with excellent memories (no, I am not going to link all the posts from years gone by) will know how much I love flying in World of Warcraft. Tesh and I would chat about it all the time. Something about the Crow form and just flying around is a complete joy in the game. Which is always why I am upset and confused on why they take it away temporarily in their expansions. It is a core part of the game, the excuses for not being able to fly are completely lame and immersion breaking, and people who care about “seeing the world” will still do that. Some will just do it from better viewing angles, too.

You can be my wing man anytime. No, you can be mine.

So of course I am in the full “pure fly, all the time” camp. Not being able to fly is a severe detriment to my enjoyment of the game. It is kind of like how I struggle with any game that doesn’t have jump (Dauntless, The Division). Being grounded just isn’t any fun at all. Of course in the interest of keeping land masses small and huddled and lowering development costs by stretching out existing content via travel times, we end up with a lie  to excuse not flying every expansion and a lengthy quest to eventually get it. It’s fake content, but it’s all we have. Clcearly with my additional slang and silliness in my writing you can tell how much happier I am and how much better WoW Legion is right now with flying.

While I am still not “done” LegionFall content (there is a new flight form to unlock, and a new bear form, at “bear” minimum. Ugh, yes, the silliness continues…) I quickly jumped to the Argus content so I can get some key upgrades. The super cool awesome new Bear Form is supposedly very difficult to get with low ilvl gear. So I figured if I run through the quest content on Argus then I can go back and sort through how to get that form. More, super guided, super easy planned obsolecence content is not my cup of tea but it is exactly what World of Warcraft is. Argus, here I come!

Oh. f@$k you Argus and your non-flying.

And back to no flying. Birds are now Deer. Or Elk. Definitely not Reindeer, because that would be super cool to fly as a Reindeer. Time to slog through non-interesting and engaging content with my feet flat on the ground. The good news about Argus and the guided quest experience is that – well it’s kind of like – you know, that thing that is sorta – oh damn. Trying to find something positive and fair. Wait, I got it. Comfortable. That is the right word for WoW leveling through a new area. Like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Without the alcohol to zip it up.

What WoW DOES do well is scale. Fighting giant creatures makes you feel pretty epic. I was carefully dodging all of his telegraphed, big attacks until I missed one my accident – and realized that he hits like a wet noodle. I stopped trying to get out of the way and took the hits, mashed some buttons, and pushed the scattered narrative forward.

In comfort, not style.

 

Jumbled Mess : WoW

Well, my return to World of Warcraft wasn’t as smooth, fun, or heralded as I expected. I haven’t used bullet points in a while.

  • First off my guild of the past three expansions was gone. It wasn’t that I was kicked out of it but that it had completely disbanded. I was shocked because even my first guild – from 2007 still exists with a skeleton crew. I know this even though I have long left the server because my Potion Bank Alt is still in that guild (along with my Warrior alt.) I login once in a while to see who is still there and kicking around. I moved servers when I quit being a guild leader and followed some friends who wanted a better timezone for their playtime. Since I wasn’t leading or raiding anymore, the Mountain time zone didn’t matter (I am Eastern Standard) as I was playing WoW super casual at that time (and still am).  So when I had some good gaming friends go to a new server I went with them. It also gave me a good split from a guild that I had loved for many years – but when you step down as a leader it’s hard to be in the wings, and many people send you whispers looking for advice, etc. that is better for the new leadership to handle. You feel like you are in the way. I do regret that move some days, because I left a lot of good people behind and I didn’t support them how I should have. It’s tough when “it’s just a game” and “there are real people who matter” collide.
  • For some reason WoW is the only game I can’t play with the base UI. I had to download, install, update and configure no less than 17 mods to get the base UI to a state I deemed “playable”. Curse used to auto-update this for me but now they are owned by Twitch, so I had to install a  new installer program. Plus, many of my favorite mods were no longer supported or updated so I had to find mods that did a similar thing. It took two of my first full play sessions to even get close to being able to play. I am still not done by any stretch of the imagination but it’s pretty close now. I think this crutch is as much my own issue as the game itself as a past raider the mods you had to have became a part of the core experience. I have had zero issues in DDO, EQ2, EQ1, TSW (etc.) with needing mods to play.
  • At this stage in the expansion and where I was at there is so just so much to do and no real proper or clear path in what order to do it in – the game is pulling me in several different directions that are unrelated. There are quests to unlock new traits in my artifacts – but those traits are already unlocked (I think as a catch up mechanic?). I already spent billions on improving it then finished the quests and became able to do… what I already did. Flying in Legion does NOT have an easy catch up mechanic. I don’t know why the WoW devs hate that so much. Should be easy peasy at this point and not a month long grind. I have daily quests from Argus – an area I haven’t been to yet (want to finish off the flying part first) and they take up one of my three available daily chest slots. I had two of them going at one point. I feel like it should be more streamlined at this point.
  • I did LFR to get some quests done and see the bosses – and it is embarrassingly easy at this stage. I went in without reading a single raid boss strat and killed them all. I am glad they exist. It’s pretty easy to just watch other players and react accordingly. I did some of the new 5 mans too. The best part about LFR over the 5 mans is that people talk in LFR! Sure, it’s only to complain about “noobs” and “I can’t heal stupid” but seeing chat was nice.
  • Oh, I did join one of those random accept guild invites. Guild perks are a thing in WoW for rep and quest grinds in particular. Lucky for me they are chatty and seem friendly. No clue what my long term plans are – I definitely do not want to pay to transfer all my characters to my old home (Whisperwind) but if I can cross account things now to Horde side I may go next xpac as a Horde. I talk about that every expansion but never do it.

I am not loving the return. I am committed to trying to get flying. Curious to level a Monk. Going to start playing the AH to try and preserve a free subscription cost. This may be a short trip back, we will see. I was hoping to be having more fun and be more excited at this stage!

Finishing an Expansion: WoW

I spent a lot of months in Legion last year, and it has been probably my second favorite expansion.  I have a strange relationship with WoW that bounced from love to hate and most emotions in between. It is hard to explain why in some regards – I have had multiple accounts at multiple times, happily paying my subscription fee. I don’t know if there is another game I treat the same way as WoW. For example, when I play it I feel I have to exclusively play it – and play it hard – because I have to “pay” for it. While this is less true now (with tokens I haven’t paid for it the whole expansion) I am still exchanging something for that access more than time – so I feel like I need to be dedicated and focused at it.

Legion lost me at their first real hard gear reset. That was in and around 7.2. I had spent a month grinding out challenging content to slowly inch my ilvl up by 1s and 2s to, well, be stronger I guess. Then a patch came that greatly increased your ilvl for basic tasks and quests and I realized that all the effort I was putting in was wasted. I could just wait for the “last” patch in the expansion, and get easy gear with less effort and time. I don’t even think that this is fair to say because I was having fun – but when you hit the progression wall as a non-raider it starts to feel like work. (Less work than raiding mind you). So I made the decision to stop, and stop all the alts I was levelling, and wait until the next expansion was announced so I could just finish off the expansion and park my characters until the next. We have been at that point for a while now, but I still didn’t have the itch or the push to make WoW “my game” again – I am having too much fun in other games that only need my time.

I am being clear here that I actually think the way I look at and feel about WoW is largely unfair in comparison to how I play other games. I am so emotionally tied to the wonderful and terrible experiences I had in the game that I honestly believe that I owe it to my druid to continue his journey to the level cap with each expansion. Then I start having fun and start getting other characters there (as I love the way many different ones play), and eventually the fun turns into a grind that I realize isn’t making it fun anymore, and I step away. Legion was the longest I stayed in any expansion since WOTLK though as it had hit a lot of good places. Even now I am wondering why I didn’t level a Shaman. I had done my Druid (as my main), my Paladin next, my Rogue, messed around with a Demon Hunter, worked on a Hunter… that is a lot. I can completely see how and why WoW is a permanent home for many. It just doesn’t always last for me.

The tipping point to getting back into it?


Sometimes you just need a little push. Being so far behind and no real goals in site (except experience all the updated content, probably get flying, level an alt or two – fu@k here it goes again…) I probably won’t have a lot to report here, but then again, I always find something to complain about.

Hearthstoned Part 2

The last time I played or wrote about Hearthstone was to explain why I uninstalled it. The coles notes is that in an effort to ramp up revenues they ramped up expansion packs, requiring a bigger commitment to buy new packs and accept new meta strategies to remain competitive and have fun (if competitive is fun for you). Still – it’s not fun to feel like your carefully crafted deck with pacing and surprise is completely destroyed by new, standard decks that take little thought or effort to play – and just require a lot of spending to get those decks. That is – rightly or wrongly – how Hearthstone made me feel at the time. That was nine months ago and I had completely forgotten about Hearthstone and didn’t miss it one bit.

Zubon made a post about Hearthstone near Christmas and truth be told I had also read about the new rogue-like dungeon crawler mode they had introduced and on a whim gave it a go. The playmode takes out the pace of expansion issues I hated when I left – you pick a class and start with a preset deck. Each “boss” you beat, you get random card packs in various themes and you get to choose one of three. There are also perks (double starting health, your battlecries trigger twice, etc.) that become standard for the rest of the journey. The game presents you with three randomly and you choose one. The more bosses you beat the more cards you get and the more options you are presented with to further enhance your deck and chances against bigger and badder bosses.

It is a clever way that takes buying decks out of the equation. There aren’t any rewards either though, except for a card back if you win the mode with five different classes. It is definitely an exercise in randomization and fun elements – remember, I am a huge fan of randomization –  right down to the bosses you face and the perks and cards you can acquire. Heck – there is even an “I win or lose” card with a 10 cost – that casts pyroblast repeatedly until you or the boss is dead. This is an actual fair and balanced strategy in the game mode. Getting that card, however, is also completely random. The randomization is good and bad, depending on how you look at it.  First off – all card games are based on randomization that don’t give everyone the exact same set of cards. Go Fish, Crazy 8s, Euchre – all heavy randomized games. They have more rigidity in their structure so the parameters by which you can play them of course. And as much as I am talking about randomization here there is still an opportunity to build really good decks if given the right choices.


I can’t recommend this game or mode to people who have a hard time accepting that you really could lose even if you made the best choices available to you due to the fact that all the choices you are presented with may not have synergies or be optimal. I have lost rounds on the first boss before. Heck, frequently in the top four bosses! Sometimes the cards you are dealt you just have to accept. The good news is that the randomness works both ways and even with poor choice options through the first three or four bosses your fortunes can change throughout the final few as you head to the final boss. This is exactly how I beat a boss for the first time. I was so focused on playing Priest only, as that is my “main” in this game and I was certain that I wouldn’t do as well with other classes. I went 20+ games with not winning with the priest before I decided that maybe it was the class and not me, and maybe the Priest is under powered in this mode and I should try others. And that I did.

The first class  won with was the Warlock (my lowest ranked class from Hearthstone proper), and then Hunter, and then Paladin. The only classes that are lower ranked for me than those are the Warrior and Mage. This is further proof that experience isn’t necessary in a class and you can pick up any of them and give it a go with a chance of success. Heck I now go in order, top down, left to right, in my attempts as I try to win the mode with each one. It isn’t the best game or game mode I have ever played but the completionist part of me really wants to “win” so I keep playing.

I did try some PvP with my old C’Thun deck and it has held up just fine in the lower levels of Hearthstone but I know I will get trampled on in higher competitive play. It’s an easy game to jump into for 10-15 minutes which is the attraction to it – but I can’t lie when I say I am really looking forward to a more meaningful and deep card experience that I am hoping to get with the new Magic: The Gathering game currently in beta. That is the one I am waiting for to really dive into card/deck building games again.

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!