Thursday, July 17, 2014

30 Minutes of Beta

img: Blizzard
I freely admit I'm a bad beta tester. My wish for new content is in direct conflict with my desire to avoid spoiling the story before the expansion actually drops. It was the same with with the Mists beta: I played through the entirety of the Pandaren starting experience, logged in on a max-level copied character once or twice, but didn't do much beyond that. This time around, I've reached a compromise: I've played through the starting experience on my max-level Orc shaman decked out in fully upgraded Normal SoO gear, then used the template system to create a max-level Dwarf shaman to play through the Alliance starting zone.

Surely there are game-wide spoilers to be seen with the completion of Shadowmoon Valley, but I'm hoping I'll be able to shield myself from some of the Horde-specific ones until launch. So far, I've only played for about 30 minutes: through the Tanaan Jungle with the Orc, and partway through again with the Dwarf. Still, I've seen enough to share a few observations and opinions.

Squint to See the Squish

I've grown accustomed over the years to playing with combat text turned off; I'm not so much a big numbers guy, more a is-the-raid-alive-and-the-boss-dead guy. Unless you're looking for the stat squish, you won't see it: this change doesn't affect how the game plays one bit. In full-out raid gear mobs vaporized before my shortest cooldowns refreshed. With the templated shaman, it wasn't much slower.

Selectively Enchanted

I saw enchants for necklaces, cloaks, rings, and weapons, and they added secondary stats like Multistrike, Readiness, Spirit, Armor, Haste, etc. I haven't yet seen what end-game professions will look like, but Blizzard being more selective with which armor pieces can be enchanted gives me hope that we might see some really unique (and cool!) enchants at max level. 

UI & QoL Upgrades

There's that glow (red, green, sometimes yellow) that surrounds an NPC when you mouse over them indicating their level of hostility towards you. When I was told to find some guy, he was easily spotted from a distance because of the soft yellow outline that enveloped him. I understand this feature can be turned off if the player desires so.

Quest items no longer taking up inventory space is another welcome change. When I was instructed to put the Iron Horde's huts to the torch, there wasn't an item in my inventory, but when in close proximity to the huts an Extra Action Button popped up in the middle of my screen where it was easily clickable.

The Toybox feature is neat and provided a bit of relief to my overstuffed inventory, but I was surprised by some of the items that were deemed unworthy for the Toybox. Also, if you're super anal about how your bags are organized, take care before you push that "Clean Up Inventory" button. 

See It to Believe It

The visuals so far are stunning. The character designs remind me a bit of what Blizzard is doing with Heroes of the Storm, and that's not a bad thing. My Orc shaman feels like there's more substance, more weight to him when he runs or swings an axe. There are some really nice spell effect upgrades that grant a new sheen to spells many of us have been using for years.

I did bristle at the face Blizzard gave my Orc shaman, and at this writing I'm still not fond of it. It doesn't match up with the way I've come to view my shaman, my main character since the Burning Crusade. It is my deep, deep hope that Blizzard is going to surprise the hell out of all of us by offering a robust variety of face customization options. Given the vast array of choices players are given by Blizzard's competitors, I just don't see how they couldn't.

Hear It to Believe It

At last year's Blizzcon I attended a panel on the sounds of Warcraft; they've not only updated elements of the game visually, but they've also attacked the audio. Part of what I experienced may have came via the sheen of new content, but things sounded more immediate and more chaotic when running through that first zone. Some of the new spell effect sounds are plain badass.

The Ability Prune

Clearly, some classes are seeing much more than others. Enhancement shaman received a few tweaks, but no large overhauls. For enhancement, I feel the changes didn't go far enough, but the ones they've made I completely agree with. However, that's a subject for another post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Letting Go of the Loot

Two weeks ago, history was made. Though the significance of such can vary from person to person, and I suspect you, the reader, have little vested interest in what took place, this history involved both a personal milestone as well as a guild milestone: we ran our first 25-player raid, each slot being filled by a member of Sapere Aude. For me, it was the first time I'd actively organized a raid of that size.

And it was work. Normally, we run a 10-player and a Flexible group that tends to skew into the high teens. While I've had experience working with a larger group, there was one element I hadn't considered: loot distribution. As leader of our raids, and since my role as a damage-dealer wouldn't be terribly missed for a couple of minutes, I never gave a second though to not dishing out loot myself---until we encountered the increased amount of loot drops in 25s. Distributing the spoils became more cumbersome, and then there was the task of tracking who won what so that our loot rules could be properly enforced. That, in addition to making sure the run continued on without delay.

The group is at the point where it can pretty much run itself through SoO. Still, come Warlords of Draenor, we'll have new challenges, new packs of trash, new bosses and possibly a greater need for raid direction in the immediate aftermath of a boss kill. I realized it was time to find a new Loot Master.

It was a small yet significant change, and I don't miss handling the loot one bit. I'm freed up to keep the raid slashing its way towards the next encounter while another player loots the boss, calls for rolls, distributes and tracks loot. You know those times when you discover a new way of doing something, and after the discovery you can't believe you'd been doing it any other way? Yeah, this is one of those times. I'm an advocate of the non-Raid Leader Loot Master, and feel every organized raid should have one.

How does it work in your raids? Are leading and loot two separate domains, or does your leader shoulder both responsibilities?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Massive Update to Free Pets!

I was torn, for a moment.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine indicated he was quitting Warcraft. He might come back for Warlords of Draenor, but likely won't, he said. Tired of paying for a subscription but not playing, he said. Oh, and did I want his extra pets?

Inside I'm all fuck yes but outside I offer a humble sure! and he then spends the next hour caging and mailing me his tradeable pets---twelve parcels packaged to the brim with battle pets. Once I saw the collection, my jaw nearly hit the floor: max level Anubisath Idols, a max level Crawling Claw; rare world drops; duplicates of the Pandaren Spirits; a Hyacinth Macaw.

This was no ordinary pet collection. It was then I realized the gift was worth well over 200,000g as the market currently stands. And that's why I've sat on these additions for so long. I wanted to decide what would make me the bigger idiot: selling the lot, or giving the lot away.

As you've probably gathered, I've decided to add them to my Free Battle Pets. I went ahead and cleaned up the list so that pets purchasable with gold via vendors are no longer included. Additionally, you'll see a handful marked "on hold." Those I plan to offer friends & guildies first before I make them available to the general public.

Hit me up on Twitter, leave a comment on the post or add my battletag if you're interested in any of these. As usual, I'd like people to limit themselves to two pets.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bashes With Wolves: It Begins!

Bashes With Wolves is a semi-regular feature that takes a look at the duel-wielding badassery that is the enhancement shaman: news, tips, reviews and more. Is there something you'd like covered? Feel free to drop me a note. Elements guide you!

Just this morning I happened to check WoW Insider earlier than normal and saw the article stating shaman weapon imbues were going passive---just like I'd suspected they would be. I commented about that on Twitter and shared a post from last summer where I looked at abilities I felt should be considered when trimming button bloat. Looking back at that post, there are some suggestions even I don't agree with anymore, but in a conversation with @unlimitedblack and @mishaweha, I mentioned how I'd like to see shields changed in a way similar to imbues.

Imagine my surprise when four hours later, Community Rep Rygarius confirmed Water Shield was gone:
Well all right then. I noticed quite a few of my fellow shamans in shock at this change. While the shields themselves don't really provide compelling gameplay in my opinion, I can accept the argument that this signals the removal of an iconic shaman ability, though I believe it's a minor one. I think there are ways Blizzard could remove the actual toggling of the ability while still keeping the effects in-game. For instance, make it passively trigger and/or add charges with every critical hit. It wouldn't take long for any of the shaman specs to get their shields up.

But obviously, there's a reason game designers have decided this ability no longer fits into their system, and though what we know now says Water Shield is going away, that could change. Either way, I don't think we have enough of the bigger picture to understand what the removal of Water Shield truly means.

Really though, Water Shield isn't meant to be the subject of this post. It's the fact that these few tidbits mean we can expect to see some sweeping changes to all shaman specs, and soon. Personally, this is a bit of a relief to me, as prior today the patch notes we've seen thus far have left shamans relatively untouched.

I'm eager to see where we go from here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The River

img: Blizzard
by Javier Heraud as translated by Timothy Allen at MPT Magazine

I am a river, going down over wide stones,
going down over hard rocks,
my path drawn by the wind.
The trees around me are shrouded with rain.
I am a river, descending with greater fury,
with greater violence,
whenever a bridge reflects me in its curves.

I am a river, a river.
A river: clear as crystal every morning.
Sometimes I am tender and kind.
I slide smoothly through fertile valleys.
I let the cattle and the gentle people
drink as much as they want.
Children run to me by day.
At night, trembling lovers stare into my eyes
and plunge themselves
into the stark darkness of my ghostly waters.

I am a river.
But sometimes I am wild and strong.
Sometimes I have no respect for life or death.
Cascading in furious waterfalls,
I beat those stones again and again,
I smash them into interminable pieces.
The animals run. They run.
They run when I flood their fields,
when I sow their slopes with tiny pebbles,
when I flood their homes and their meadows,
when I flood their doors and their hearts,
their bodies and their hearts.

And this is when I come down even faster:
when I can reach into their hearts
and grasp their very blood
and I can look at them from inside.
Then my fury turns peaceful
and I become a tree.
I seal myself up like a tree
and I turn silent as a stone
and I go quiet as a thornless rose.

I am a river.
I am the river of eternal happiness.
I feel the neighbourly breezes,
I feel the wind on my face, till my journey
– across mountains, rivers, lakes and prairies –
becomes endless.

I am the river that travels
along banks, past trees and dry stones,
I am the river that surges
through your ears, your doors, your open hearts.
I am the river that travels
by meadows, by flowers, by tended roses,
I am the river that travels
along streets, across earth, under drenched sky.
I am the river that travels
by mountains, rocks and burned salt.
I am the river that travels
through homes, tables, chairs.
I am the river that travels
inside men – tree, fruit, rose, stone,
table, heart, heart, door –
everything turned over.

I am the river that sings to people at midday.
I sing before their graves.
I turn my face towards those sacred places.

I am the river become night.
I go down by the broken depths,
by the forgotten unknown villages,
by the cities crammed to the very windows with people.
I am the river,
I flow through the prairies.
The trees on my banks are alive with doves.
The trees sing with the river,
the trees sing with my bird’s heart,
the rivers sing with my arms.

The hour will come
when I will have to disperse
into the ocean,
to mix my clean waters with its murky waters.
I will have to silence my luminous song,
I will have to hush how I babble a hallo
to the dawn of each day,
I will wash my eyes with the sea.
That day will come,
and in those immense seas
I will no longer see my fertile fields,
I will never again see my green trees,
my neighbourly breeze,
my clear sky, my dark lake,
my sun, my clouds,
I will see nothing,
except that immense blue heaven
where everything is dissolved,
in that vast expanse of water,
where one more song or another poem
will mean nothing more
than a little river trickling down,
or a mighty river coming down to join me,
in my new luminous waters,
in my newly extinguished waters.


Be at peace.