Dragged it out, but here I am

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Roughly a month after Shadowlands released, here I am at 60. I was in no particular hurry and have probably been left far behind by my guildmates. However, if you gulp you can get indigestion, so I’ve been chewing slowly and steadily.

My approach has been to take one toon up a level, then another, and then another, with a level’s separation between Grimm / Illume / Jasra / Floramel. So, today I popped 60 on Grimm which means when I next level Illume, she’ll pop 59, and so forth.

This has worked pretty well before, but there’s a problem with Shadowlands.

In the past, there has been a barely-visible set of railroad tracks under your feet, but they took multiple paths to max level. In BC we all started in one place, then took multiple paths out of there. In Wrath we started in two different places. Same for Cataclysm, with a reversion to the BC model in MoP and WoD and BfA, and a great multiple entry model in Legion (the best IMO).

But here, in Shadowlands, we’re locked on to very strong tracks, and they will not abide deviation from a given path.  You don’t advance from one zone to the next without achieving certain key points – Maldraxxus is the most blatant, with its five runes.  Get all five and you’re off to Ardenweald.

I do see that there are flight points available to all zones at some point, but I’m not sure if you can actually fly to one out of sequence.  Something to look into.

So, overall it’s been a slice, but it’s been an increasingly boring slice. Hopefully once I complete all the storylines I will have more choice in what I do next, but right now it feels like some bloke in Irvine is playing the game for me. The levelling game feels like it’s been written out of the story so we can rush into endgame.  Seriously, why not eliminate it completely if that’s how you feel? Publish a comic book and be done with.

I’m pretty sure that this game would be a lot more playable for my alts if I maxxed out one character before levelling any of the others, but that basically means I needed to have foreseen this and adjusted my playstyle before I ever played. Pretty stupid assumption if I’m honest.  Never trust a software engineer – or game designer – to be particularly smart.

The most annoying part of this is that Shadowlands would be easily playable as a four-starting-zones game, ala Legion. But they chose not to do it that way. Reflect on that.

It’s the Ninth Annual Finding Jaina Day

Nine years ago, a little kitten wandered across the parking lot right in front of our car as we were headed to work. Small and scruffy and moving like it was on its last legs, there was no way we weren’t taking her home with us. When we took her to a chain vet clinic (you know who), they said she had FIP and wouldn’t last six weeks. And yet, she persisted.

Jaina 2011-12-30
Jaina, week one, Kong kick toy for size comparison

That day was December 21, which we have marked as National Finding Jaina Day. Extrapolating backwards, she was probably born around Hallowe’en, but we’re not sure. We are sure when we found her, though.

This year has been, like for many of us, a year of ups and downs, and it’s been the same for Jaina.

If there’s something that upsets a house full of cats, it’s kittens. And early this year, Monster (you recall I mentioned her last year) got knocked up.  We figured this would be yet another hard to reach litter, and we were concerned that she and Ghost, her mom, wouldn’t get along in that regard since there are only so many nesting spots in the hood.

Monster brought her litter to a shelter we had set up on the back porch. She of course was still coming in for treats, but not as much, naturally. The big surprise came when the missus opened the back door one day and in Monster came with one of her kittens, and she went straight to one of her favorite cat beds.  Mrs G got the hint and set up a tote with a cat bed in it, and went out and got the rest of the litter. 

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Monster and the Little Monsters, in the tote

From that point on, we were fostering four kittens; I think Monster appreciated that we were looking after her,  because this pretty much reduced her to skin and bones. She was too young, really, but Boy Cats don’t care about that (1).

Anyway, three of the kittens were white with calico colors on them; we named them based on the number of spots on their heads – Things One, Two, and Three, or, as I insisted later, Neo, Switch, and Trinity.  The fourth one was your basic stripey kitten who I dubbed Turbo because he was the first out of the nest – in a hurry to get there (2).

Mother and kittens were taken down to the shelter where the kittens were put up for adoption and pretty much flew off the shelf (Weaned and socialized? Where do we sign?). Monster was fixed and we brought her home sans kittens, and she still visits frequently, especially for Greenies. I still miss the Little Monsters something fierce, but there simply was no way we could provide them a good home with all the cats we already have.

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Turbo (and some guy) – she got there on her own.
Neo 2020-05-16
Neo, after romping around on the bed to say good morning
Switch 2020-05-28
Switch, being very curious about something
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Trinity, all worn out after a raucous romp

Sadly, Monster’s brother Mogwai stopped showing up around that time, as well as her older brother Spartacus, who we were hoping to domesticate. We’re not sure what happened but we suspect it was their daddy, Goblin, asserting his territory. It’s a shame, we had Sparty staying inside sometimes for days before he’d go out, and we did dread it when he did since he’d disappear for days after.

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Mogwai
Spartacus 2019-12-07
Spartacus

Their mother, Ghost, gave birth to a litter shortly after Monster, which gave us four lovely white kitties who we are still trying to trap and get fixed, especially the female. The biggest male, who we have dubbed Pinky because of his pinkish ears and pink nose, has taken to coming in for short periods, and he is almost the spitting image of Spartacus(5). His brother Brownie, who is almost identical except he has brownish ears, has also started coming in and appreciates scritches.

Unrelated, Ghost had another litter in the fall and this time we were able to get them. She had six, of which one was abandoned and we didn’t find until it was too late. It died in Mrs Grimm’s hands, just too weak to even take in milk. Another was also abandoned, but we found it in time to find it a home. The other four, and Ghost, were captured and taken to the shelter where they were apparently fostered out together since they all disappeared from the website at the same time – mother and kids. We were asked if we’d take Ghost back if she was unadoptable (we figured she wasn’t) and we of course said yes, so the fact that they never called us back is encouraging.

Finally, our stepdaughter moved in since she’s been out of work since March or so. She brings with her a sweet kitty named Pelna(6) and this of course upsets the order of things once again. They’re all still finding their way at this point.

Jaina still continues to hate Tater with the heat of a millions suns, and will still go after her with no regard for the size difference at all.

But aside from that, she’s doing quite well. She’s discovered that she loves naps in Mommy’s lap and will spend hours there given the option. Sometimes she makes here own options, dropping bigger and bigger hints(3) until Mommy “gets it” and relocates to the recliner. She doesn’t steal my chair that much anymore but she’s started stealing Mommy’s chair, or, most optimally, falling asleep on the arm of the recliner on the off chance that Mommy comes by.

Jaina 2020-12-10-2

She’s still quite the fan of gooshy food but no fan of other cats in general. Mrs. Grimm says she thinks Jaina doesn’t know she’s a cat, and sometimes I have to agree, especially having now seen a couple of groups of fully socialized cats(4) grow up in my vicinity. She still sleeps next to my pillow on occasion but if another cat has slept there for a significant amount of time, she’ll reject it until we replace the towel that she sleeps on (so it doesn’t smell like them).

She has developed a vexing cough, just occasionally, no specific triggers – she’ll just start coughing quietly for a few seconds, then we’re back in business. No throwing up or anything. We’re going to have to get that looked at.  I’m sure the vet’s techs will be glad to see her considering that time she growled so loud that one of the techs noped right out of there and was not seen again. 

Honestly, we’re more worried about her vet; he’s looking pretty run down.  I hope he can take some time and get some rest.  The guy he had subbing in on Fridays was pretty nice, but last time we did a Friday visit, he wasn’t there.

Anyway, if all goes well next year will be the 10 year anniversary of Finding Jaina Day, which will be celebrated with tuna and catnip(7). See you then-ish.


(1) After we got the kittens out for adoption, Monster recovered nicely and is now quite the plump floof cat.

Monster 2020-11-16

(2) Took the name from the movie Interstellar – “Watch that speed, Turbo – safety first.”

(3) Including getting bitey.

(4) Socialized to other cats, that is.

(5) We don’t have pictures yet. And yes, this is out of order.

(6) Also no pictures yet.

(7) Who am I kidding, we celebrate all of them with tuna and catnip!

Hard Times in Bastion

Bastion bothers me.

A friend of mine on Twitter noticed this first, but I’ve seen it, too.  There’s something like a place that makes you shed your identity and turn into a person identical to all of the other people around you of the same gender a bit unnerving. And the words used by these people remind me of a, of a … well, this.

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And then there’s this.

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Here we have one of the cult members (circled, to the far right) “shedding his memories” (all the other circles).  You can see that this blue dude is actually in past life a Tauren, and his memories of his past are deemed “burdens”.

They should have named it “definitely not a cult land”.

Now, a certain major lore character that you saw in one of the animated shorts (not spoiling it) has started a counter cultural movement, and I have to say, while they’re being portrayed as the baddies, I’m kinda rooting for them.

It may be pretty here, but it’s just horrible.

Delayed

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Today we got the news: Shadowlands has been delayed until later this year. And the response has been … well, kinda mellow.

I think everybody involved was kinda aware that, a month out, the beta was kind of a hot mess.  I, personally, can not relate that one way or the other – even though I have a beta invite, I’ve never felt all that excited about unstructured testing of software that hid its design from the tester.  I come from a QA past, and I prefer my testing more structured.

But I digress.

While I was not involved in testing, I hear things. From people that were testing. And those things were along the lines of “damn this worries me”.

And then there’s Blizz’ contribution to the general zeitgeist. While they’re very clearly hiding the design behind very thick walls, they can’t hide the patch notes without, well, just not issuing patch notes – and we’re not there yet. So as each beta patch came out, and they indicated that yet again another system was reset, or tweaked, or redesigned, the mood among those of us that are noting this sort of thing becomes more and more uneasy.

Let’s be clear. A month out from the announced launch date, there should be NOTHING subject to redesign, rebaselining, or reset.  And yet, we’ve seen all three within five weeks of the proposed launch date.  So, let’s be clear, SHADOWLANDS IS A HOT MESS.

This evening Blizz announced via public channels that they were definitely not ready for launch, and via private channels (email) that they’d even refund your repurchase for Shadowlands if this for some bizarre reason caused you major butthurt. (They wrote it more diplomatically but I don’t give a damn about diplomacy so if you have issues with that, take your butthurt ass about a mile down the road and make a left turn into I don’t give a fuckland.)

out of my face

The upshot I have seen from most humans has been positive. They are aware of the issues currently in place (i.e. covenants suck) and are more than happy to wait for this to be fixed.  I agree. The 10% or so against that I’ve seen are basically the entitled asshats that bitch about anything, especially the ones that haven’t pre-purchased. Go demand to speak with the manager, Karen.

Back in the day, Blizz had a “it will ship when it’s ready” attitude. For example, BC was scheduled to ship in 2006, but actually shipped in 2007 when they famously delayed the launch to put in some polish (whereas “polish” means fixing game-killing bugs).  Side note: Day One of the patch was, in fact, a major clusterfuck. I was still levelling in Wetlands and the entire realm crashing when my guildies entered Hellfire was an experience I wish not to repeat.

So it’s nice to see that that attitude still exists.  I have no doubt that somebody will take a fall for this, and when they do, look for Activistion and Bobby Kotick to be holding the smoking gun. That will tell you all you need to know – who the hero(es) are, as well as who the villain is.

I personally am pleased that Blizz is committing to quality over schedule. As a former QA person, I am especially pleased, but, as a customer, I am also pleased. I feel comforted that somebody is trying to avoid pushing rotten code onto my PC.  I have enough rotten code sitting here already, so anyone pushing against rotten code is my hero.

Listen, guys, “later this year” is at most an 8-week delay.  8 weeks is nothing. The year 2020 has been what, 200 weeks long so far? We can do this.

They existed way back then as allies?

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My warlock was bumming around the castle in Stormwind (Classic) and stumbled across this High Elf in the Petitioner’s Chamber.

Wasn’t there this thing about how Highborn / High Elves weren’t a real thing or something like that?

I mean, she could be a blood elf. But that’s even more confusing.

I have two takeaways here.

  • Surprised to find a High Elf (allegedly) in Stormwind
  • Surprised that Blizz didn’t purge her from the system as a kind of alt retcon.

Zero back story on this character, and she’s still around in Retail. Funky factor: 1,000 / 100.

Inscription in Shadowlands: some disappoint.

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Investigating for YOU

I’ve foray’d into the PTR and, if it is accurate, there are zero changes regarding glyphs in the new expansion.

We’ve always previously seen some glyphs dropped, some added, in the pre-patch.  But in this expansion there are zero changes.

This is an incredibly disquieting development (or rather, lack of).  Kind of makes you wonder if we’re seeing the final days of Glyphs.

Okay, so, considering that there are zero changes regarding glyphs – all glyphs that existed before, are still there, and there are no new glyphs – then this is what is what Scribes can expect from the new expansion. Brace yourselves – it’s pretty disappointing.

Inks

We get, as best I can tell, three new inks.

  • Tranquil Ink (green)
  • Luminous Ink (normal)
  • Umbral Ink  (normal)

Each requires a pigment of the same name, plus Aerated Water and Rune etched vial.  Pretty much like we had in BfA – RGB.

Vantus Runes

The same old crap is carried forward.  Rather than per-boss as Legion did, we’re per-Raid as with BfA.  Which is fine by me, but, I need to point out, in these BfA required more in mats than it sold for. So I expect these to be of minimal usefulness.

Equipment

We get a few bits and pieces here. Past experience indicates that this stuff will be quickly outpaced by raiding content.

  • Fae Revel Masque (Cosmetic, so not likely to go “out of style”)
  • Soul Keeper’s Column (staff)
  • Soul Keeper’s Spire (staff)
  • Newly Departed Codex (off-hand) (and might I add, sounds like a Beetlejuice callback)

Darkmoon Cards

The usual dealy here. Crank a card. Get a random.  The Death recipe is the usual deal, except occasionally it produces a blank card of one of the four suites.  That’s where the other four recipes come in.

  • Death – Randomly one of the four suits
  • Putrescence
  • Repose
  • The Indomitable
  • Voracity

Optional Reagents

These items represent a new feature of crafting. Basically, depending on whether you have learned them, these can be applied as an optional reagent to gear you are crafting. I’m not sure if they are soulbound or not, but, if they are, they’re immediately worthless.  It looks like all professions have a version of this, which also means the market will be flooded if they ARE sellable.

  • Novice Crafter’s Mark
  • Crafter’s Mark I
  • Crafter’s Mark II
  • Crafter’s Mark III
  • Crafter’s Mark IV

New item type, ensures an item has a specific spec.  This works similar to the Crafter’s Marks.  From the looks of it, only Scribes can make these, so it looks like this might be a source of income.

  • Critical Strike
  • Haste
  • Mastery
  • Versatility

Contracts

We know what these do. Past experience indicates that these quickly devalued and cost more to make than they sold for.

  • Court of Harvesters
  • The Ascended
  • The Undying Army
  • The Wild Hunt

Books and Scrolls

Not sure why we have to have a codex/tome per expansion for this. Seems pretty stupid TBH. (and thus, Grimmtooth is forbidden early access in the future. Suck it, Blizz).

  • Codex of the Still Mind
  • Tome of the Still Mind
  • Writ of Grave Robbing – this is basically a lockpicking scroll.

Mass Milling

So these are the various herbs that we get to harvest?

These appear to follow the pattern of BfA, more or less, in that particular herbs are not bound to particular zones.

  • Deathblossom
  • Marrowroot
  • Nightshade
  • Rising Glory
  • Vigil’s Torch
  • Widowbloom

Accidental Joiner

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Minding my own business in Dalaran (Wrath version) and this guy appears with a quest icon over his head.  Says I, “this looks interesting” so I clicked on him.

imageAfter that, I looked him up on WoWHead.

Maybe I should have done that first, since he shortly disappeared. Turns out that he’s summoned by using the special mount that you get when you buy the deluxe version of Shadowlands.

So basically the only way I will be able to turn in the quest, assuming it completes, is if someone near me summons him.  I think.  It would be just typical if I couldn’t actually turn in.

I thought about dropping it, but I think I’ll hang on to it and see what happens.

Legion was a Bad Idea

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Okay, hear me out.

Throughout WoW, there was no big bad badder than the Legion. We were told, this was the ultimate goal.  We were even teased that the war against the Legion would continue into Anduin’s old age.

And then came the Legion expansion, and we chumped Sargeras and, somehow (?) the Legion was rendered moot.

Now, we’re in a strange place where instead of hopping world too world after Dem Legions, we’re fussing around with Fancy Trolls and Thicc Bois and blowing each other up. And something something Teldrassil, and “anticipating” an adventure in the land of the dead.

It’s weird. Pursuit of the Legion had enough built in content to keep this game going for decades, with a wide diversity of possible worlds, multiple opportunities to switch things up, and ample opportunities for engaging new races and characters and maybe even classes.

Compared to this, Shadowlands feels – to me – like flailing about wildly for “what’s next”, a Dr. Strangesque excursion into a place that we didn’t really feel compelled to go in the first place.

I’m not sure who’s idea Legion was at the point that occurred, but I really feel “don’t schedule the endgame until you’re ready for the endgame” seems to be fairly rational advice, and I can’t believe nobody gave this advice to that person.

I’m surely giving Shadowlands a fair shake. But I feel somewhat less than excited to do so. BfA at least stirred my blood with the burning of Teldrassil, but this time I feel like, “can we just close the gateway and leave her in there?”

Hey, there are a few things I am truly looking forward to, starting with (and primarily) the new appearance options we’ll get for our characters. But everything else I’ve seen so far leaves me feeling flat.

I wonder how others are feeling about it.  I imagine the hardcore raiders / pvpers are indifferent, as long as they get new raids and stuff. 

#AuctionGate

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Yesterday, June 16 2020, Blizzard surreptitiously pushed a change to the Auction House, forcing a “throttle” on auction activities such as posting or cancelling.

This throttle seems to be around a batch size of 30 to 40, and has met with great levels of unhappiness amongst the masses.

A few items of concern:

  • Batch size too small to qualify as “power auctioneers”, the stated target.
    • For example, I average between 50 and 100 auctions per session, which is mostly glyphs
    • You can easily exceed the limit just dumping mats you salvaged while being totally casual
  • No testing on PTR
  • No feedback gathered from testers
  • Pushed to production with no discernable testing

Basically it works out that if you do more than ‘x’1 actions in a minute, all the actions beyond that value in that minute will be throttled. Massively.

This is less of a patch than a hit.

The outcry was immediate and loud.  We had bloggers, streamers, twits, twitchers all calling this out, and who can blame them. I mean, sure, you wanna tackle certain bad actors, then fine. But honest pizznesmens? Optics are bad on this.

The interesting part of this is, while I was writing this, things changed. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, Blizz backed things off a bit.  I don’t know how far, but I do know that it’s at least as far as sixty actions in a single minute since that’s what I had to test with.

The other guy blinked.

They’re leaving the throttle on cancellations, but I can live with that (even though it really sucks)


1 Where ‘x’ is somewhere between 25 and  40 based on what we’ve heard so far.

Change and Chaos

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Now hug.

8.3 rolled out this weekend, and we are all having Visions of N’Zoth now, I guess. We have it on good authority that this is the last content patch for BfA, so we’re in for at minimum 9 months of no new content, so stretch it out as much as you can.

Which is less of a problem in light of one change that Blizz pushed out with this update.  TLDR – you might not be getting paid for your auctions.

Background

So Blizz started messing around with this several months ago, trying to  resolve the whole “stack size trolling” issue (yes, it was an issue. No, nobody really cared). Basically, people could “troll” honest crafters like you and me by posting thousands of one-item stacks of commodities, forcing the poor, unsuspecting buyer to wade through page after page of auctions in order to make a hat.

(That is, unless they never heard of an addon called Auctionator, which would automate the purchase of the cheapest xxxx items for you, but I guess nobody asked me).

Anyway, some “Goblin”-friendly individual at Blizz decided that Something Must Be Done so they decided that they would make the cost of commodity items (thing that sell in stacks) have a flat deposit rate, which means that if you pay 20c to sell a stack of cloth, and 20c per item to sell a stack of 200, then that should be quite a punishment for the trolls. Honest dealers would not be penalized, and trolls would.

You’re probably realizing the fact that if you utter the words “new tax” you’re guaranteed to get a dozen live-free-or-die trolls fall out of the trees immediately, and that’s more or less what happened to Blizz. They were completely unable to spin it so that it didn’t sound like they were punishing the wrong people.  So, back to the drawing board.

Which brings us to today

Part of the new stuff in 8.3 was a revamp of the auction house.  As of now, if you post a commodity of some sort, it automatically gets posted as individual items, no matter what.  On the other end, commodity buyers just have to tell the AH how many of an item that they want, and they will automatically get the best deal for that quantity, and the monies thereof will be distributed to the individuals that posted it.  No penalties, no addons required, just commerce, pure and simple.

Except …

Turns out, the selling part is working fine, but the paying part is not – individuals are reporting – and confirming – that items that are actually sold do not return money to the individual that sold it.

Yeah, probably six months of testing and nobody bothered to check if the loop closed out all the way.  As a worker in the credit card payment industry, may I just say that this is pretty familiar. (1)

Now, it may not be the auction house itself, because there was another change made – to the mailbox.  Specifically, they made changes to the way that mailboxes display and refresh their contents.  Where before you could see at most 50 items and it refreshed every 60 seconds, now you can see 100 items and it refreshes every 15 seconds.  Great change, I love it, but Blizz states that they believe that the problem with the missing auction money is related to the mail system, which means probably somewhere in the code changes for this.

For the time being, I’ve elected to sit out.  I emptied the mailbox without thinking too much about it, but now I have no room in my bags for questing, so what’s a fella to do?  Fortunately, Endless Space 2 was on sale this weekend, so I’m getting my periodic dose of 4x until this snafu is corrected.

They say there should be a fix in a few days – which is marvelously vague without being too overly pessimistic.

Follow Blizz on Twitter. Watch WoWHead. Just don’t rely on me for news, I may be heavily in battle with angry aliens.


(1) Cash only, y’all.